Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Left to my own devices

"Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day;
teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime."

Well maybe not, according to Jeff Walker.  His rationale being that these days people seek instant gratification, so catching the fish is not enough.  You need to fillet and cook it for them too!

Literally food for thought. 

Do we expect too much?  Are we asking people to do too much for us, rendering us incapable of looking after ourselves in whatever we are trying to do – be it starting a business or mastering new technology.

Certainly people seem to want the short cuts, the fast track to being successful whether it is in their business or personal lives. Trouble is there is no real magical recipe for success.  No sure way to get ahead.  For most of us it involved trial and error, hard work as well as the tenacity to stay the course.

But what’s the message that the “helicopter parents” are giving their children when they do everything for them. Little wonder there is a sense of entitlement out there. 

Yes, we want to protect our children from harm’s way, but truth is they are going to have to face their own challenges, make the own decisions and with that, make their own mistakes.  It’s called growing up, becoming an adult.  And yes, some of us aren’t there yet.J  

Trouble is, I am as guilty as the next in terms of pulling the pathetic pose,  especially around technology.

I got a new computer for Christmas and it’s taken me four weeks to start using it.  Why?  Because I was scared to transfer files and lose stuff. Instead I waited until my daughter’s partner was around to do it for me.

And while I didn’t fillet and cook fish in return, I did make a great bowl of mushroom soup.  Perhaps we should call this bartering, not avoidance on my part. 

Whatever. I just know left literally to my own devices, the computer would still be in the box.  Now that I have nailed myself as technophobic, I am determined to take charge of a new software program we’ve just purchased and learn it for myself.  If nothing else but to prove the old brain cells are working. 

No more waiting for others to do it for me.  No, instead, you will be the ones waiting for me to set it up as it’s for the Company of Women AcademyJ  So stay tuned.  You have a vested interest in my success.


Thursday, January 21, 2016

The value of volunteering

Do you volunteer?   I think I have always volunteered – even in high school I was the editor of the school newsletter – which in hindsight, shows that I was on the right path in my career choices.

In my volunteer career I have done the gamut from being a volunteer probation officer, group leader for the Children’s Aid Society, gala event co-ordinator, served on committees, been a board member at the local, national and international levels, chaired boards – from a women’s shelter to a national board and am currently editor of our local newspaper.

You could say I am a professional volunteer.  I often joke that I must have written across my forehead – “works hard.”   But you know while giving back is rewarding, what you gain in return is way, way, more.  So it is not always that altruistic as you learn new skills, broaden your network and I even furthered my career because of my volunteer involvement.

What spurred me on write this blog though is the realization that my latest volunteer activity is probably one of the most rewarding, and yet really takes little from me except my time, which granted is a precious commodity.  What am I doing?    I am doing a shift once a week at our local Salvation Army to sort donations for the incoming refugees to Guelph.

I think one of the reasons I like it, is frankly it doesn’t require too much of my brain power which is in short supply these days as I juggle two businesses and yet, I know without the help of volunteers like myself, it would be even more chaotic for the families arriving. 

Yes, it is physically tiring as you are standing for four hours and moving stuff, but to my mind, it is the least we can do and I leave feeling a sense of satisfaction that I made a dent in the overwhelming mounds of clothing that have come in. 

We all volunteer for different reasons and if you’ve never explored helping out with a cause you believe in – try it.  You will broaden your perspective. 

If you are going through a tough time yourself, try it.  You will realize that there may be people way worse off than you and it takes the focus away from your issues. 

And if you are out of work, try it.  You’ll learn new skills to add to your resume and maybe even discover new talents and a career to pursue.

You get a warm feeling inside knowing that you’ve made a difference. There is a quote I like – “all that we give into the lives of others, comes back into our own.”

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Ten tips on the art of delegating

“Delegate, Anne that’s what you need to do,” advised my friends and mentors. 

Well, easier said than done as I am finding out.  Apart from the fact it is hard to let go, I have also discovered, I am not really good at delegating.  

I am learning some lessons the hard way, so here’s some tips for those of you who are about to embark on a similar journey.

1.     Decide what to delegate. Like any journey, you need to pack for the trip.  You have to decide what you can pass on, and what you want to hold on to.

2.     Pack it into small packages.   Start small so you can test the waters.  You want to make sure that what you are giving away can be managed by the other person.

3.     Be clear on how you want the work done.  Because you have been doing it all yourself for some time, what may seem obvious to you, is not to someone else. Walk through the work step by step.

4.     Write it down.  I know I retain information better when I have a check list and the instructions are clear.  Then I have something to refer to when I get stuck.

5.     Set a timeframe.  Spell out by when you want the work done.  If you need it the next day or week – say so.  The person taking on the task is not a mind reader.

6.     Follow up.  Don’t just assume that because you’ve delegated,  it’s off your plate. You need to make sure the work has been done and in the way you want.

7.     Be open to new ways.   You may have carried out a task a certain task the same way for years – but with a new set of eyes, there may well be a quicker, more efficient way to do it. 

8.     Foster ownership.  Following on from the number 7, if your person comes up with new ideas. Listen.  When you give her the opportunity to follow through, you create more ownership.

9.     Change it. If the assignment is not the right fit with a person’s skill set, step back and see how you can change it, especially if this is someone you respect and want to keep.

10.  Thank you.   Remember your manners.  Say thank you for a job well done.

As I say, I am a work in progress, but one thing I know for sure – it is great to lighten the load!

Friday, January 08, 2016

Three words to live your life by

Do you write down your New Year resolutions?  I stopped doing that several years ago as each year it was the same thing – lose weight, exercise more, etc… etc…  

No.  Instead I come up with three words that will shape and hopefully drive my life for the coming year.   I’ve found in the past that this has worked well for me, because whenever an opportunity would come up or I’d be asked to do something, I could do a quick check-in to see if it fitted my priorities for the year, and if it didn’t, I’d gracefully decline.

What sort of words have I come up with? One year it was health, acceptance and authenticity – the driver that year being that I needed to take better care of myself.  Another year it was creativity, energy and connectivity, and then we had courage, curiosity and collaboration.  Much depended on what I wanted to focus on that year or what had happened in the previous year to make me want to go in a certain direction.

So as we enter 2016, I am back selecting my words for the new year ahead.   

So… drum roll please…. What are the words for 2016?

Launch. Learn. Life. (I am big on alliteration)  

Launch because I am starting a new venture - Full Circle Publishing - through which we will help authors launch their books, taking the book from concept to completion.  It’s exciting and scary at the same time, but I am looking forward to this new challenge.  And who knows, maybe we will re-launch our magazine Company, which was a pet project of mine for years.

Starting anything new means that you are on a learning curve, and I am no exception. I’ve always been a lifelong learner and I welcome the opportunity to test the old grey cells before it’s too late.  

As for my third word – life – I really want to make sure that I have some down time in 2016 so it is not all work.  I guess the goal here is I am wanting to make sure I get a life.   

I have to say it’s tempting to also throw in a fourth word for 2016, because in order for all the above to work – I have to let go.  And I think it is feasible as I have a great team at Company of Women who will carry on the day-to-day work.  Plus I won’t be disappearing, just being more selective on where I participate.

So what’s your three words?  Try it on for size, you might be surprised where it takes you.