Posts tagged: entrepreneurs

Job Interview Question: Why Are Tennis Balls Fuzzy?

I recently gave a talk in front of a group of senior executives (older folk) who are ‘in the hallway’ (looking for work). I was talking about the collaborative economy and I made a reference to Porter’s 5 forces model. Now, you may never have heard of this, no big deal. But for a group of people over 50 who made over $100,000 in their last corporate job; it surprised the heck out me that only one them had heard of it but couldn’t accurately describe it.

Let’s be clear, on any given day… there are 1,000′s of things I don’t know and this has nothing to do with Porter’s paradigm specifically. My comment to them was, “good thing this isn’t a job interview.”

I work as a consultant so I go on a ‘job interview’ several times a month. As I’m networking, I never know who is going to be a connection to a gig.

Fuzzy Tennis Balls? This article, “13 Weirdest Interview Questions – 2014” offers us some of the oddest questions people were asked (submitted via Glassdoor). If you got this question in an interview, how would you answer? Maybe you’re thinking to yourself, thank goodness I’m not looking for a job or I’m going to pray that I don’t get a question like that. That’s one approach.

How about this? What if you use these odd questions as a chance to stretch your mind? Just for exercise. Talk to someone about it over lunch. Ask your kids what they think. Have fun for crying out loud.

For those of you who are looking for work, old or young, remember the goal of these questions is for the interviewer to see how you think, how quick you are on your feet, what happens to you when faced with a (small) challenge. Do you stumble and stutter or do you let your creative juices flow? Creativity requires practice so I suggest you play games, answer silly questions, get out those crayons; maybe you’ll get that job after all.

Photo credit: Tennis Kevinzim

A Dog Never Tells What She Knows…

A dog can never tell you what she knows from the smells of the world, but you know, watching her, that you know almost nothing. Mary Oliver

This is my dog Gildie. She is the first dog I have ever had.

What is there to learn from your first dog? Wow. Everything. She is so excited to wake up every day and play. I need this.

She is motivated by food and people and toys. She is completely engaged in life except when she’s asleep and then she’s completely engaged in that.

I got a dog so I would have to go for a walk everyday. Rain or snow, whatever the weather, I needed a reason to get up and walk. Since she has the energy of 2 toddlers, I am compelled to play, walk, laugh and be completely engaged with her.

The quote above about how a dog perceives the world — through her nose– was brought home to me on one of those walks. She trusts her nose more than her eyes and it got me thinking. Which of my senses do I trust the most?

I am certain my eyes deceive me. Happily, I learned to trust my gut. Take all the information and sift it through the sensor that is my years of experience.What do you rely on? What you see, what you hear, what you believe? Do you jump to conclusions about people?

Understand how you learn and make decisions and you’ll be more effective in everything you do. How free are you with your opinions? Do you offer to give everyone the benefit of your wisdom? Or do you use your experience to let others find their own path? Use all the information given to you to help you be a better friend, co-worker, partner and parent. We’ll all benefit.

What Can You ‘Give’ Your Children?

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I have two children; they are wonderful people. There are times when I wonder what I gave them. Oh, I think I was a good mother. I’m not questioning whether I gave them a good education or a nice home, but I wonder -  what did I pass on to them that they only could have received from me?

I love this quote from Thomas Edison. Whether you call it passion or enthusiasm – it is the “estate of incalculable value.” How does a parent pass this along?

There is really only one way. That is by example. What you do. Your behavior. How you spend your time. How you treat people. How you learn new things. How you accept the good and bad. Your precious time – how do you spend it? How do you act when you think no one is looking.

Are you excited to be alive? Are you grateful? Do you complain everyday about the weather, your boss, why you don’t have this and that?

Or do you focus on the beauty? the joy? the positive? the kind? Do you greet each day with an energy that says, “life is an adventure.”

Bring passion and energy to your children today and everyday. They might just thank you.

Image credit: Thomas Edison and GE That’s Genius Pinterest Board

No Boss, No Office and My Peers Decide My Pay… What?

“Imagine a company where everyone is equal and managers don’t exist. A place where employees sit where they want, choose what to work on and decide each other’s pay. Then, once a year, everyone goes on holiday together.”

There is such a company, it’s called Valve.

For those of you who think this is: stupid, could never work, is just an experiment and could only work in a handful of cases, perhaps you are correct. I’m not here to argue with you. The point of this post is to challenge our ideas of what is ‘necessary’ in the work environment.

You can read the Valve Employee Handbook here. It is titled: “A fearless adventure in knowing what to do when there’s no one telling you what to do.”

If you are in any kind of leadership role in ANY organization… I encourage you to browse their handbook.

… if you are a 10 year old company that has worked hard “to recruit the most intelligent, innovative, talented people on Earth, telling, them to sit at a desk and do what they’re told obliterates 99 percent of their value.”

The handbook goes on to outline what to expect and how a new employee can find their way through this new way of working.

Check this out: “While people occasionally choose to push themselves to work some extra hours, at times when something big is going out the door, for the most part working overtime for extended periods indicates a fundamental failure in planning or communication. If this happens at Valve, it’s a sign that something needs to be reevaluated and corrected.” And then they give you guidance as to how to get help to resolve the problem.

Would you like to work here? If not, why not? If yes, why?
Most importantly, what about the Valve culture can you adopt at your organization to make it more effective?

Image Credit: Banksy

Living for Today… and Tomorrow

A year from now (General Electric poster)

My aha career moments… here are two.

1) I had been working in corporate America (a Fortune 25 company) when I got pregnant with my first child. I realized that if I was going to create the ‘life’ I wanted, I was going to have to figure out how to work part time. There were no ‘part-time’ ‘professional (non-exempt) women working as managers at the company at that time. I made my pitch to my boss… I’ll continue to manage the group, get my work done and you can pay me less (I’ll work 30 hours a week). In return, I’ll manage my own schedule. He didn’t want to say yes but I made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. (Well he could have but he had a daughter my age..etc.) My aha moment was not getting the green light to test this new idea, which I did… the aha moment was the incredible push-back I got from my colleagues; particularly women.

Take-away: Be clear about your priorities and don’t let anyone stand in your way. I decided that the push-back came from inside these people. They were jealous that I was ‘brave’ enough to do something so radical (haha, radical).

2) Jumping off a cliff – When I left that same large corporation during a down-sizing (I was made an offer.. go back to full time or leave the company) — I decided to leave and start a company. I was the single mother of 2 school-aged children. People thought I was crazy. What they didn’t know was that I was carefully plotting my career to be an entrepreneur. Every assignment I took inside the corporation was designed to teach me a skill I would be able to use in my future entrepreneurial adventure. So I jumped off the cliff and started a company. It worked for about 2 years and then 9/11 happened and all our customer’s funding dried up.

Take-away: If you wait until everything is perfect, until you know what you’re going to do, until you’re certain… you’ll never jump. Some people are born to jump, some people aren’t. Don’t waste your time wishing you were one or the other. Know yourself and take the risks that make your life meaningful.

Live for today… the sun is shining, you can walk, talk, eat, smell, smile, see — but pay attention to your tomorrow. Don’t listen to others when they tell you — you can’t and leap when the leaping feels right. I sleep well at night and look in the mirror with a quiet confidence. I can always improve myself. But I can happily say; I didn’t let fear get interfere with doing it my way.

Image credit – GE Pinterest Board -That’s Genius – Thomas Edison

It’s a Defined Contribution World – Are You Ready?

You can’t learn to surf without getting in the water. You can’t learn to participate in the new world of career and reputation management, if you don’t dive in and try stuff. No matter how much you think you can’t, shouldn’t, won’t, don’t need to etc. — you do need to.

In the old work world, our benefits were defined: pensions, vacation, job descriptions, duties. In the new work world, it’s all about your contribution. No one is going to look out for you; you need to look out for yourself.

For small business people; everyday is still a hustle. The complicating factors are the speed and complexity of change. If we want to survive, however, we will adapt. But for those of us who worked in “Corporate America”, big salaries, big egos, big benefits… the world is almost completely different than it was 10 years ago.

I got hired into Eastman Kodak in 1980. At the time, there was no place in Rochester, NY that I could work where I could make anywhere near the money.  In a company town, once you into a place like Kodak… you stayed.. whether you contributed or not. If you played the game well.. you got ahead. If not, you just languished but… you kept receiving the benefits of an employer who dominated the market and had ridiculously large margins.

One of my favorite writers, Thomas Friedman, explains this whirlwind transition in plain English in his article, It’s a 401(k) World. If you’re under 30… you may want to read it to put the older generation’s dilemma in perspective. If you over 30, read it and then act. Figure out what to do. If your head is spinning, it should be. Hang in there, we’re all in this together.

Photo credit: Father and son surf lesson mikebaird

10 Blogs I Love…Learning and Laughing

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One big difference between adults and kids is their attitude towards learning. Kids just go with the flow. They seek out new ideas and adventures. As adults, most of us are pretty complacent. This is normal, but not good. One way to keep learning while keeping up with all our daily responsibilities is to read blogs. People tell me they don’t have time… to read, think, learn, etc. Really? Do you have time to be a role model for your children? Here are the ones I like…

1) Mashable.com bite sized news of the digital world & relevant biz stuff.

2) Occam’s Razor web stuff including analytics, measures, etc. clear, lucid and insightful

3) Escape Into Life  awesome art of all kinds

4) In Over Your Head  Julien Smith’s occasional writing on hitting life — head on

5) Laughing Squid various music, stuff and nonsense

6) Soulpancake.com art, science, humor, philosophy designed to open your mind

7) The Atlantic Monthly blog short and long thought -provoking articles, photos

8) The Inspiration Room “a global effort designed to influence, affect and involve creative communities in the development of a world standard for inspiration”

9) The Cynical Girl “Hard core punk rock pixie of the apocalypse. Blogging about work, money, power and politics. And cats.”

10) Outside Innovation Patty Seybold’s blog on enabling customers to lead the design of your business processes, products, services, and business models.

Photo credit:  Hand Over Mouth Mel B.

Find Your “Zone of Genius”

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Do you think you are an interesting person?

In her book, How to Be More Interesting in 10 Steps Jessica Hagy shows us direct ways to enhance our “interestingness” (my word). Here’s my suggestion. Get a piece of paper… rate yourself on a scale from 1 to 10 (with 1 being no way and 10 being — I’m already doing that every day!) — how comfortable are you with each of these?

1) Talking to strangers

2) Exposing yourself to ridicule, risk and wild ideas

3) Learning an entirely new skill; especially one that interests but intimidates you

4) Embracing your inner weirdness

5) Ignoring the “scolds”

How’d you do?  If you scored above 50, you’re on your way. Below 50? What are you waiting for ? There’s a saying, “when the student is ready, the teacher appears — but you have to be looking! In my experience the teacher is already available – I just haven’t been paying attention.

– Don’t hide your quirks; they are what make you interesting!

–Don’t let the ‘shoulds’ get in your way? When others will criticize you, be prepared. Don’t listen. They’re projecting their fear onto you. Push it back to them.

So this relates to your “Zone of Genius” – a term coined by author Gay Hendricks. Here’s how she describes it:

“Your Zone of Genius is the combination of your innate talent and your greatest passion. Innate talent, for this purpose, is how–not what–you do what you do. Your greatest passion is the activity that you could do for countless hours with unending fulfillment.Finding your zone of genius can be tricky. We’re all blind to many of our own true strengths and weaknesses, so it often helps to find an objective, supportive person to help. Knowing your Zone of Genius also makes you caring, humble, and brave.”

The ‘teacher’ can be anyone… your child, spouse, co-worker, an old friend, a complete stranger. You just need to let go and ask for help. It will be there. Go!

Photo credit: RiÃ?©Kââ??¢

 

Judgement is Easy, Integrity is Hard

joanofarc

This week I had the privilege of meeting a woman who has battled the forces of judgment and sadness with grace. She also has translated the difficulties of her life into beautiful art. The journey of integrity is often a very lonely road. Principles are expensive;  financially, psychologically and physically.

During our conversation, I was reminded how easy it is to judge others. Often, we’re not conscious of our negative feelings; we don’t deliberately set out to be judgmental or cruel. It’s just that these OTHER people…

– look different from us – It’s no longer just someone’s skin color – now we judge them because they wear a hijab or a turban

– don’t share our ‘values’ or religion. Religions are full of judgements. If someone ‘shares’ our religion we automatically assume they are ok. But the mafia killed people regularly and were ‘good’ Catholics. Just because someone is a different religion than yours, doesn’t automatically make them good or bad. People need to be judged on the content of their character. Hmm… where did we hear that before?

– have different life or work experiences. Maybe they worked only in start-ups or only in one company. Does this make their opinion or their input any less worthy?

It’s much easier to think that these ‘strange’ people are wrong or misguided than try to understand where they are coming from.

Even worse, these ‘different people’ threaten the safety of our ‘little world.’

As the world becomes more connected and collaboration becomes the norm for innovation and customer management (along with most other business functions) we need to closely examine our definition of who’s okay in the world. And it begins with our our private lives. Teach your children well – they learn by what you do, but they are tremendously affected by what you say.

I recommend that we actively seek out diversity in our friends and colleagues. Have lunch with someone who is 30 years your junior/senior. Seek out the people at your organization who are different. Talk to them, learn about what’s important to them. You will be richer for the effort and your organization will reap the benefits for years to come.

Photo credit : Joan of Arc

What Is The Stupidest Thing That Could Possibly Work?

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There’s that line from the movie Forest Gump… “stupid is as stupid does” … well, there’s stupid and then there’s bravely awesome. Clay Shirky, one of my favorite authors, says…

“My motto for 2013, adapted from Agile Programming precepts = What Is The Stupidest Thing That Could Possibly Work?”

One of the reasons we keep doing the same thing over and over and don’t innovate… is that we surround ourselves with people just like ourselves. It’s human nature. And if someone sounds different or has goofy ideas or looks different; we forget to value the difference. We discount them based on whatever. The goal of diversity is to OPEN up the pool of ideas and thoughts. Recent research shows that large corporations that have women board members are more profitable than those that don’t. This only tells part of the story.

Real innovation must come from change and change takes courage. We’d all still be hitting each other with clubs if there weren’t some of us willing to create tools to go get food.

The more we think about things and try to ‘figure it all out,” the less likely we are to take the risk. The most successful parts of my life.. traveling, new jobs, speaking in front of large groups, etc. all came to me because I didn’t think about what might happen. I just did it.

We don’t have to engage in foolish risks without considering how to mitigate them, but letting “risks stop us from doing new things” is the safe road and on the ‘safe road’ only the guy with the biggest club will survive and I’m not having that.

Photo credit: Projectile Placement skycaptaintwo