Move laterally to move up?

Move_laterallyQ: If I accept the lateral move, my colleagues will see it as a step back not a step forward.  Am I making a mistake?

A:  You are only making a mistake if the offer is not moving you toward your career goal.  A lateral move can be a great way to get new experiences, have more visibility and expand your portfolio of clients, products, and services. Before considering how your colleagues feel, be secure in your decision by answering the following critical questions:

  • What are the specific skills, knowledge, and competencies that this opportunity will provide?
  • Will this opportunity take you off the promotion track or enhance your promotability?
  • Will you be better positioned for the future?
  • Will this lateral position move you toward your goal?

The answers to these questions are essential to effectively steer your career and avoid getting derailed.

Now, for your colleagues:  Develop a compelling elevator pitch that succinctly communicates the benefit of this lateral move and the excitement, passion, and energy that underlie your decision.  Don’t skip this step!  You are moving laterally and will soon move up—keep friends informed and always nurture your network.

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Remembering a quiet hero: Keith Phinney

Today is a day to remember and to be thankful for the men and women who put their lives on the line to safeguard our country.   Returning from war zones to home these veterans return to their communities and resume their lives usually without fanfare.  So, I am pleased to share with you today about a quiet hero–Keith Phinney — and how he made a difference in my life.

I had no idea that he was so much more than my music teacher and choral director at Bedford High School.  In that role, Keith Phinney was a maestro:  he commanded the attention of even the “townies” who tried to goof off by standing in the back row.  He was amazing—he would conduct and reprimand all with the same hand, and we excelled as a Glee Club.

I loved to sing and Mr. Phinney cast me in the role of Peep-Bo, one of the three little maidens in Gilbert and Sullivan’s Mikado.  This was an extraordinary achievement and in retrospect I can see how courageous—maybe unconventional—Mr. Phinney was.  He choose me, a black girl, to play a key role, while outside the music room my color kept me from being a cheerleader and my gender prevented me from running track.

I must admit that as a teenager I viewed teachers as teachers—not as individuals with rich sets of experiences that shape their teaching styles.  At the time, our knowledge was limited to married vs. not married, lives in Bedford vs. some other place.   We knew that Mr. Phinney was married and had children but what I didn’t know until I attended his memorial service on April 17 is that that I—we—were the beneficiaries of his exemplary service as a B-17 bomber pilot in the United States Army Air Corps during WWII.  I learned from his son Keith’s eulogy that Mr. Phinney completed over 25 sorties during the war.  That takes courage, discipline and focus.  Now I understand how he was able to command our attention and keep us in order.

His memorial mervice at the Congregational Church in Chelmsford included beautiful music, of course, and the gathering of his close-knit family.  Oh the stories his son shared!   And it ended with a formal presentation of the American flag on behalf of the President of the United States to his wife Elizabeth for his service to our country.  As the sound of “Taps” filled the air, I had a richer appreciation of Keith Phinney the man, and I am so thankful for the opportunity that he gave me:  to sing my song. I am not alone in my sentiment

Melinda Lopez, BHS ’82, is an award-winning playwright whose work was cited by President Obama in a recent speech. “Mr. Phinney  — he was never, ever Keith — was a remarkable man. A superstar, European in his manners, and precise in his teaching, he was all glamour. His posture, his attitude, his speech– he was like a character out of a 1930s Hollywood movie, and I adored him,” she recalled. “He was a great teacher, and inspired me to believe that a career making music, theatre and beauty in the world was possible.”

Melinda continued. “He didn’t stand for fooling around when it came to making beautiful music. He demanded respect for the art form, and he taught us to do the same.”

As Stephen Lord, another of Mr. Phinney’s students and now one of four conductors in the Opera News “25 Most Powerful” pantheon, shared, “He made a difference.”

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 Are you hiding something important about yourself?

If you didn’t grow up in the country club set where professional and personal lives are blurred, you may still be operating by the old adage of “I keep my business and personal lives separate.” This is a failed strategy that many women, LGBT, and people of color employ. The divide begins early: “We don’t want those people to see how we live. They think they are better than us.” Or, “I work all day; I don’t want to have to work all night being around them.” Or maybe you were just taught to keep your personal life personal. From Haiti and the first in her family to make it, Bea took pride in being direct and, while at work, working.

I am not really a people person. With clients, you have to make small talk but for the most part chit-chatting is a waste of time. I honestly don’t understand why people do it. They look at me like I have three heads.

The explanation for Bea’s behavior can be found in Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers:

Practical intelligence, the savvy to know what to say to whom, doesn’t come easily to poorer children. Children who grow up in poverty are more submissive when addressing adults and authority figures. They aren’t raised to assert themselves. This disadvantage can result in a lifelong struggle with interpersonal communications.

Keeping personal life personal can be especially difficult if you are the success story in your family or if have challenges at home—responsibility for a sick or aging parent, a wife with Lou Gehrig’s disease, a husband who is unemployed, or children with special issues. Perhaps you cope daily with a medical condition or mental illness, or you struggle with the crises and shame caused by a family member’s substance abuse or legal problems.

Few things cause more feelings of isolation than trying to hide something about yourself Don’t imagine that you can wall off an important part of your life. On the contrary, you can be certain that even if your boss or colleagues don’t know exactly what is wrong, they will know something is wrong. Most people are unconsciously sensitive to the cues that others are “hiding” something, and as a result they trust those people less. Ultimately, you will feel even more isolated!

The solution for this kind of isolation is to talk, in a limited way that you define and control, to a select group of people. As risky as this may seem, it is much better for your manager and colleagues to understand that you are dealing with issues at home than for them to think you are dissatisfied in your position.

From Chapter 6:  How Can I Meet the Challenge of Being the Only One Like Me?


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Lost my motivation

Q:  I just graduated with honors, but now I feel that I won’t be able to replicate my success in the job market.  What happened to my motivation?

A:    Congratulations!  Well done. You worked hard, applied yourself and achieved your goal. Now it is time to identify what compelled you to achieve your goal.  What was your motivation?   Your first thought might be:  I don’t know!  Commencement is a good time—after all, the word means “beginning”—to not only celebrate but to take responsibility for the success you have achieved.

You didn’t lose your motivation, but you may be looking for it in the wrong place.  Motivation comes from you, not from outside.  It’s easy to think that you were motivated by the positive support and feedback that you got along the way, and of curse those supporting actions contributed.  However, the foundation—the source—of the motivation came from you.  You achieved high honors because you had the drive, desire, passion and interest to do so.

If you are asking what happened to your motivation, the best way to get it back is to answer the following:

  • What motivates me?
  • What causes me to do my best and be my best? Being in my preferred environment? Feedback from others? Challenge? Competition?
  • What compelled me to graduate with high honors? My major? My mentor? My mom? Or myself?

The most empowering way for you to be successful is to tap into your ability to self-motivate. You can do it—that’s how you got to graduation day!

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Are you leveraging your relationship with your mentor?

Recognizing the value of positive relationships outside the chain of command, some firms have developed formal internal mentoring programs. These programs assign executives as mentors for high potential staff. Like arranged marriages, both parties must work to develop mutual trust and regard to make these pairing beneficial to both mentor and mentee.

The relationship is often limited to the mentor “showing the junior person the ropes”— a worthwhile outcome in itself, nonetheless. Whether you have an “arranged” mentor, or your relationship with your personal mentor is your choice, be alert to clues that tell you the relationship isn’t helping you. Like any good relationship, a positive mentorship is marked by good chemistry and trust, with easy and open communication and an atmosphere of give and take.

It all comes down to relationship management. Through your relationships, you will pick up on business trends and directions that you would not have had access to. Once you start connecting the dots with the insights and support from your mentor you will eventually see the whole picture.

GTST Chapter 4: Am I Getting the Most Out of My Mentors, Advisors, and Advocates?

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Every day counts

Q:  I begin my new job next week and wonder—are the first 100 days (or 90 days, depending on which books or pundits you read) really so important?

A:  Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you have 90 days to make your mark in your new role.  The reality is that the first day, the first week and the first month are equally important.  Your hiring manager and the members of your new organization are all watching to validate that they made the right hiring decision.  A misstep can create a question mark about whether you “fit” with the organization or raise suspicions about your competency for the role.

Regarding “fit” here are a few common sense (but not commonly practiced) “don’ts”:

  • Don’t talk about how great your “former” organization is/was
  • Don’t look or act dramatically different from the people in your new organization
  • Don’t talk too much
  • Don’t cause conflict
  • Don’t gossip
  • Don’t be a “know it all”

Instead, ensure that your actions each and every single day have the following intentionality:

  1. Build relationships and develop alliances for the tasks and deliverables that you were hired to lead
  2. Get connected and learn the lay of the land
  3. Be likeable
  4. Respect culture, rituals and organizational heroes
  5. Keep your promises—do what you were hired to do
  6. Add value
  7. Appreciate and leverage the expertise/contribution of others
  8. Keep an open mind
  9. Execute

Finally, ask yourself these important questions

  • Do I fit?
  • Am I meeting the expectations of my hiring manager? Key stakeholders?
  • Am I likeable?

Be intentional on your first day, your first week and your first month and you will be successful at the 90-day and the 100-day mark!

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In limbo after re-org

Limbo_reorgQ:  After 18 years, I am out of a job following a reorganization. I wasn’t surprised by the reorg, but the timing caught me off guard. Now I am in limbo:  should I look inside or is it time to move on?

A:  With 18 years invested in your firm, career and a network of friendships, it isn’t easy to walk away.  And it seems that you anticipated that a reorganization would sweep your position away. If more changes are coming, recognize that your firm has changed dramatically.  My questions:

  • Have you adapted and adjusted to “fit” with your organization today?
  • Or, did you lose your job because you are “obsolete” or perceived as “not flexible”?
  • Are you excited about the direction in which your organization is moving? If yes, explore opportunities that match with your skills and interests.  Leverage your network

On the other hand, it is time to move on if:

  • You feel betrayed, victimized, not valued or in general not well treated
  • You believe that now is the time to pursue your “real” interests and dreams

Finally, being in limbo—either confused or immobile—will drain your energy and dampen your self-esteem and efforts to snap out of it or “power through” it only make matters Unknown-1worse.  If you feel bad, I recommend that take it to the max and have a two-to-three-hour pity party.  When you take off the party hat, step through the newly opened door—either in your firm or out.

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Life is a marathon-share with friends

qualifyingToday is the 121st  running of the Boston Marathon and (as usual) I will be on the sidelines watching and cheering the runners.  Why?  I am inspired by their dedication, focus and the
courage that prepared them for today and propel them to the finish line.  Each year the runners demonstrate the best qualities of being human and being alive.

I am posting my 2013 experience the same way that I did last year.   Read below–to appreciate the serendipitous call that saved me from being in my usual place at the finish line the year of the bombing.  And, remember to to share your interest and passion with your friends and family.  Let them into your life. OK?

Question:  Do your friends really know you?  Do they listen to you?

Answer:  We have all heard the blah, blah, blah that 500+ people in your social network doesn’t translate to the real world and that it is critical to cultivate a handful of real friends who really know you.  At 3:02PM EST, April 15, 2013, I was surprised.

I was conducting a coaching call that began at 3:00 when call waiting appeared not once but several times within three minutes, all with different telephone numbers.  Not wanting to interrupt the client, I glanced at the telephone numbers and recognized them all:  Katye from Indianapolis, Kathleen from Las Vegas and then Joyce from Newport Beach all calling within seconds of each other. Finally, I placed my client on hold, answered, and was met by a rush of words:  “You are safe—I was so worried. I thought that you were at the finish line.” “What are you talking about?” I asked. “Don’t you know?” No, I didn’t know. And, I didn’t know that my friends across the country knew me so well.

For over 25 years I have been at the Boston Marathon Finish Line.  I wait until the male Me at 2014 Marathonand female winners cross the finish line, then I cycle from Heartbreak Hill.  When I arrive on Boylston Street, the prime spectator seating has thinned and the real Marathon fans replace the dignitaries in the previously reserved and now free area.  By around 3:00PM I have claimed a free seat in the bleachers—close to the street so that I can watch my bicycle

The first bomb exploded at 2:50 EST.

Why am I telling you this story?  I was surprised that although I had never talked in detail about the Boston Marathon, my friends had been listening.  How well do your friends know and listen to you?  Consider:

  • When you are not with your friends, do they know about the activities and interests you enjoy that differ from their interests?
  • What are the “blind spots” in your relationship?
  • When issues/concerns arise in your conversation with friends what do you do?  Change the subject? Ask questions?
  • Are you comfortable disclosing information about your personal life?

Given my love of the Marathon, why did I schedule a coaching call at 3PM? By doing so, I was breaking my “don’t work on holidays” rule.  I had a “gut” feeling and broke my no Finish Linework rule.  Beyond that I don’t have an answer and now I no longer wonder why I made that decision.  Today, I am thankful –and my friends are, too—that I did. Boston Strong.

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The answer isn’t no. It’s not yet

Not yetQ: I set goals but it seems that something always comes up. I wanted to have my master’s completed by now but all I see is broken plans. Help.

A: Please don’t despair and abandon your goal of completing your master’s degree. When people ask me the status of a goal that I haven’t achieved, I say “Not yet.” Why? Because saying “not yet” is more accurate: My goal is to complete my master’s and I haven’t achieved my goal yet. However, before you answer “not yet,” consider the following:

  • Given where I am now, what is my professional goal? Personal goals? Note: Ensure that your goals are relevant and that you have the passion and drive to achieve them.
  • Is there a pattern or root cause to the “things that come up in my life”? Note: Be aware and don’t get sidetracked if the “thing” is a reoccurring set of events, circumstances or responsibilities, etc.
  • How will I incorporate my “life” into my plans?  Note:  Be honest and be kind to yourself when you plan.

Remember that you defined the goal and you made the plan. That’s the good news, because you can always adjust your timeframe and plans to mirror the circumstances of Not yetyour life.

Now I hope that you are ready to look at your goals and say: “Thanks for asking, not yet. I am excited about achieving my goal.”


Originally published 2/22/16

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Access? Use it Or Lose It!

Use if ot loseHaving access and using access may be miles apart, and if you don’t take advantage of your access it does you no good. You may have access to a host of people, but are you taking advantage of that access? Why not? The answers I often hear are:


1 “I don’t need anything from them right now.”

2 “I don’t want to waste their time.”

3 “They are busy people.”

4 “I am going to wait until I learn more about the job or have a big win.”

5 “I already know that person.”

6 “I don’t have time.”

Remember that access comes with your role; if you don’t use that access; you will not be viewed as operating at the proper level. Said bluntly—use it or lose it. You will miss out on the opportunity to fully embody your new role or take on the mantle of leadership that comes with the  role.

For example, when I was new to my role as quality systems manager, the general manager extended an open invitation because he viewed my role as key to the division’s manufacturing performance. I thanked him and immediately dove into my work, making Our of loopfriends with colleagues but not leveraging the air  cover the general manager could provide to accelerate the implementation of statistical quality control. When I finally reached out, I discovered that my general manager had resorted to (and now relied on) feedback from others.

My warning to you: if you are  absence others will use their access and fill in the gap. Don’t let that happen. Now is the time to break from your routine and activate your access.  OK?

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