Friday, April 30, 2010

Working Together

Maybe I have been mixing with the wrong crowd in the past, but lately it has been exciting to meet up with people who actually get it. They want to work with you, but realize it has to be win-win for all involved.

So when someone starts off the conversation asking how can they help me, they’re one step closer to winning me over. Now that doesn’t mean that I am an easy target. I try to be strategic in who I partner up with, but at best, it is an indicator that the person or company recognizes the value of working together and is willing to give in order to gain.

In another life I was a community developer, and much of that role was listening and trying to bring the right players together to make change happen. Seems to me, that’s a bit like what I do now. It’s just the playing field has changed and the rules might be slightly different.

Personally I love the challenge of coming up with creative ways of doing business differently so that all involved get something out of it. Going into the meeting with a game plan is key, so that you know ahead of time what you want, what you won’t give (our database is one) and how far you will go to make the deal happen.

So next time you are meeting with someone to talk business – start the conversation by asking “How can I help you?” Likely you will be amazed at the outcome.

Monday, April 26, 2010


Each weekend as I sit to write my blog I reflect on the week gone by and what I have learned. And believe me, I am a life-long learner – there is always something. I am also fortunate to meet some pretty amazing women who have stories to share and whose tenacity I applaud.

So what was the lesson this week? I need to plan my time better. In our recent survey, time management was flagged as a big challenge for women business owners, especially solopreneurs where they have to do everything.

While I am fortunate now to have staff, managing my time is still a struggle and at times I feel like a “hot commodity” and everyone wants a piece of me. Take last week – I was barely in the office at all and this is not good. Yes, I can delegate but I am still the person steering the ship and I still have tasks that I have to do.

I always start my week with a list of what has to be done. But I find that if I don’t have a concentrated piece of time behind my desk, I start to feel scattered and that nothing is getting accomplished.

And it’s not just the business meetings that have to be scheduled, it’s the self-care appointments – like the dentist, the ophthalmologist, doctor, etc…, all part of a woman’s life and I haven’t even got into what we have to juggle on the home front or stealing time to see friends.

Feeling exhausted? Well that was my week – two rigorous sessions with my fitness trainer; a medical appointment that had me out of commission for three hours; a Company of Women dinner; four one-on-one sessions with women; a night out with girlfriends; a retirement party at my husband’s office, a dinner party this weekend and one meeting with a potential partner that was cancelled (thank goodness) And that’s just the face-to-face time I had with people, never mind the phone calls, the emails etc… You get the picture.

I think I need rescuing from myself. I am beginning to feel like the hampster on a treadmill. It’s time to come off and hit ground zero.

No – I either have to clone myself or start working smarter. Any suggestions?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

How resilient are you?

I am sure we all know of someone who despite all that has happened to her, she seems to bounce back and carry on.

In a recent book, Resilience: Bounce Back From Whatever Life Throws at You, business psychologist Jane Clarke and Dr. John Nicholson, set out to discover which personality characteristics help people triumph over difficult life circumstances.

Why do some people remained confident no matter what? These people found stress energizing rather than debilitating and seemed to relish change.

Their research isolated five key factors that set the most resilient individuals apart:

• optimism,
• freedom from stress and anxiety,
• taking personal responsibility,
• openness and adaptability, and
• a positive and active approach to problem-solving.

One surprising result was that women scored consistently lower in their Resilient Quotient (RQ) than men. The researchers found that the differences between the sexes could be accounted for by level of optimism. Optimism is key to resilience because if you don’t believe things can improve, it’s hard to carry on.

The authors believe that much of the difference has to do with how men and women view their abilities versus their actual ability to cope. In other words, men overestimate what they can do, while women put themselves down.

Another interesting finding was that the most resilient in their study, had had terrible childhoods. These individuals were often the eldest child who had taken on the job of looking after the younger siblings. Essentially they learned they could cope.

The good news, regardless of childhood experiences, we can all learn to be more resilient. “You can train yourself,” says Clarke “Women especially need to stop beating themselves up and recognize how well they do actually cope.”

And recently I have interviewed several successful women entrepreneurs who have done just that. None would change what had happened to them, as these difficult life circumstances have shaped who they’ve become.

While many of us spend too much time debating where we went wrong and beating ourselves up over mistakes, these women see mistakes as life lessons to learn and move on.

Their struggles have made them more determined to succeed and given them the impetus and drive to change their lives. Challenges are viewed as opportunities to grow, rather than difficult situations to overcome.

Their optimism and resilience has enabled them to take action, rise above the challenges and achieve success. They are our role models, giving us faith that we can do it too.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Women in IT

This past week I was invited to speak at a women’s networking group that had been started internally by a multinational software company. Recognizing that working in a male-dominated industry can be challenging for their female employees, they wanted to be proactive and support them.

Like the major law and accounting firms, more organizations are starting to develop programs to support the professional and personal development of their female staff. And it makes sense to invest in such strategies if they want to retain and grow the talent they have within their organizations.

There were three of us on the panel and our topic was the power of networking. None of us had met before and we came from different backgrounds, yet our advice was very similar.

1. You have to believe in yourself first before you can ask others to have faith in your abilities. Try to limit your self-doubt and surround yourself with positive people who will support you.

2. When you network, both internally and externally, give first. As one panel member said “when you give, forget but when you receive, always remember” Good advice.

3. Consider volunteering, both within and outside of the organization. You gain new skills sets, broaden your networks and your horizons because who knows where your volunteer roles can take you.

4. Ask for opportunities within the organization. One of the reasons women are often overlooked for a promotion is they haven’t got management experience. Think about your long term goals, reflect on what skills and experiences you will need to get there, and go for it.

5. Find a mentor who will encourage and support you. Someone who sees your potential; who will always be honest with you, even if you don’t like the message and who is willing to invest the time in fostering your development.

6. Rather than trying to achieve work-life balance, determine your priorities which will change as your career and family life evolves. Always make some time for yourself.

Global research suggests that addressing the problem of shortage of women in the IT sector starts young, when girls' self concepts and aspirations are formed. CATA WIT has recently launched a new website - which focuses on educating young women about careers in advanced technology and providing access to mentors - women who have been successful in these types of careers.