Year End Reflections






“I’m not smart. I try to observe. Millions saw the apple fall but Newton was the one who asked why.” ~ Bernard Mannes Baruch



As most are doing this time of year, I am taking time this week to reflect on 2012. I think reflection is important for growth. Reviewing the past twelve months and analyzing both the good things and the things that I would do different gives me an opportunity to learn from myself. Clearing the decks and taking an objective look at not only what happened but also what could have happened lets me form a plan for what areas I should focus on for both personal and professional growth.

I have found that it helps to have a plan for how to review the past year. I try to keep my emotions out of the picture (not easy especially for me).  I start by asking myself a few questions and when the answers are less than positive, I look for the why and what I will try to do different next time. Just to get started I ask myself the four “C’s.”

  1. Have I always communicated clearly?
  2. Have I been consistent in my approach and messaging?
  3. Have I sought clarity before offering a contribution?
  4. Have I been kind?   I know this last is not a “C” but close enough and I think it is the most      important question.

Let’s start with communication. Have I always communicated clearly? I have found in reflection that I use email as a crutch to shore up my hatred of the phone. There are many reasons why I hate the phone but I won’t bore you with them, let’s just say I find it a challenging medium and would rather speak in person or even over Skype than entertain the disembodied voice over the phone. Many times it takes much more effort to communicate clearly in an email then it would to just pick up the phone and have a quick one to one conversation.  Other email missteps I discovered included the tendency to copy “dad” when I am not getting what I need from my email recipient. This is not only ineffective but definitely takes a toll on the coins in the old emotional bank account. So with that in mind, what will I do differently in 2013? First and easiest I will vow to curb my tendency to copy anyone unless they really need to know.  Secondly I will make sure I have everyone’s Skype contact and either use that or pick up the dreaded headset and call when a quick one on one conversation will get closure faster. Okay, that gives me something to work on for this “C.”

Have I been consistent with my approach and message? When I look at how consistent I have been with my approach and messaging, I think I have done a pretty good job. If those of you who interact with me frequently feel differently, please let me know where you think I have room for improvement. So for this “C” I will continue to do as I have been doing and move on to other areas where I have more “opportunity” to grow.

Now comes the big one for me. Have I sought clarity before offering a contribution? This will probably always be an area of focus for me just because of my personality. That said, it does not mean I cannot improve. I think that just acknowledging that this is a challenge for me helps me to temper my need to jump in and solve the problem before seeking clarity.  Well, at least that is what I would like to think, but in reflection I can see that I still have a long way to go. What I will specifically do differently in 2013 is first when in meetings allow others to state the problem as they see it and then make sure that we all are on the same page about what we are trying to solve. Second, I will then solicit thoughts and ideas from others on what they think the solutions could be. Lastly, I will offer my thoughts but only after everyone else has their opportunity to give input. Now for me this very difficult. I like to see myself as a problem solver and want to get to the solution quickly. I would ask for your support and patience as I work on this area.

On to the fourth “C,” have I been kind?  All of us I am sure like to think we are kind to others, but how many of us have had those “unkind” thoughts? While in a face to face interaction we might on the surface be taking what we perceive to be a kind approach, our thoughts tell another story. When I review my “thoughts” over this past year, I can honestly say that for certain individuals I have let my thoughts cause some deterioration of my working relationships. It is not really possible to like everyone nor even respect their approach, but we can be kind. By this I mean we can give them the benefit of the doubt, cut them some slack, keep our assumptions locked in the closet, and move forward with kind thoughts.  What always resonates with me is this following quote.

“Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
Watch your words, for they become actions.
Watch your actions, for they become habits.
Watch your habits, for they become character.
Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”

With all of this in mind, I am going to harness my thoughts and filter them with kindness.

Well I can see that I have my work cut out for me this year.  I am going to print out my resolutions and post them where I can see them daily.  This last is what I find helps me keep on track. Now that you know my resolutions, how about yours? Your questions might be different, but I encourage you to reflect and set a few goals for yourself. Be sure to post them where you can have a daily reminder.

Happy New Year!


Is S.M.A.R.T. Really Smart?








What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.
Henry David Thoreau


Well it’s that time of year again. Yes, it’s time for the New Year’s resolutions and the annual goal setting exercise here at work.  The first is no easier than the second, but I am usually better at the second probably because they are S.M.A.R.T. In any case I do both with all of the best intentions. When I read this post today titled, “Consider Not Setting Goals in 2013,”  I was all in!

I found it interesting to read about some of the side effects of having goals. It seems that there has been a working paper created, Goals Gone Wild , by some folks at the Harvard Business School. With that prestigious school behind it who could argue with the side effects they list that include a “reduced intrinsic motivation. “   I certainly can attest to that, because every year I set a goal to lose weight, eat healthier, and exercise more only to find that I have packed on another ten pounds, ordered pizza on yet another Friday night, and slept in all week-end instead of taking my vowed 4 mile walk. It’s got to be the goals that did it. Who knew?

Why they even list some very dangerous repercussions of poorly focused goals (read the article you’ll see). Unfortunately I can list a couple of these myself, which goal wins, release dates? Or quality? Or customer satisfaction with features? Just like we all have been cautioned by our parents along the way to “be careful what you wish for” we should also add to that “be careful what those S.M.A.R.T. goals bring with them.”

Like the author, I wondered how we would get anything accomplished without clear goals, but unlike the author I don’t think that just concentrating on an “area of focus” takes the place of clearly aligned goals.  What we have moved toward around here is a goal setting template that includes a column to list the performance outcome. This more clearly defines what the expected impact of the goal will be and is a part of the measurement criteria. I think that this along with understanding that meeting my S.M.A.R.T. goals is not the complete scope of my job helps to balance the cause/effect dichotomy illustrated in the study.

With that in mind, I will still be creating my New Year’s resolutions and documenting my S.M.A.R.T. goals for 2013, but I will be more aware of their potential to have negative repercussions. Yes, I know you are going to ask if I am still going to have the weight, eat, exercise resolutions and the answer will be affirmative. However, these resolutions will go a bit differently I will eat healthier because it will make me feel better and if I feel better I will want to exercise more often and if I exercise more often I will lose weight and if I lose weight my Estrogen storage will decrease and I will lower my risk of recurrence of breast cancer. So how’s that for something to get me motivated? I’ll let you know at the end of 2013 how it has worked for me.

As for my professional goals, they are still a work in progress, but you can be sure that they will be S.M.A.R.T. and focused on positive results.

Care to share your main goal for 2013?

The Reflection In The Mirror





Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.
Carl Jung
This week I faced a leadership challenge that rocked my view of my abilities as a leader and mentor. It caused me to take a bit of time to reflect on the person that I see in the mirror. Let me start at the beginning. I’m working with some newly formed teams. We are in the process of getting to know each other.  There has been a major reorganization of staff and many report to a new manager.  We are working on challenging projects, learning new tools, and developing supporting processes. With this in mind, when I heard that a manager had rather bluntly given some negative feedback from me to a new staff member, I took a deep breath and decided to first assume that they had the best intentions. This meant that I needed to not jump to the conclusion that what I had heard was accurate.  I find that these topics are best confronted quickly by having a candid one on one conversation.  I set up a meeting with the manager to discuss the interaction. When we met I was impressed with the approach that they said they had taken to give the feedback to their employee and found that the communication I had received was not entirely accurate.

Right about now you are probably asking yourself what rocked me about this conversation.  I handled it well, I think, and my fellow manager had handled the situation very well from how they told me they had approached the topic with the employee.

The earthquake came later as I reflected on the incident overall and thought about other feedback I had been receiving about the team’s feelings toward my interactions with them. While in this case the information I had received was not entirely accurate, what it did point out for me is that there was an undercurrent of discomfort and confusion within the team. I had to ask myself what part I was playing in this confusion. It was my attempt to answer this question that shook up my perception of myself. In trying to see myself through the eyes of these new team members, I realized that I was not seeing reflected back the leader and mentor that I see in the mirror each morning. Now I was faced with the challenge of trying to build the image of myself that I want others to see.

The first step I decided was to apologize for any confusion that I had caused and clarify my requests by explaining “why” I was making them.  With that behind me, I then communicated my overall role in the projects and what success looked like for me and why what I was doing was important for the business, the project, and hopefully overall for them and their success.    The last step has been for me to reflect on what I could do differently in the future.  This is where I need your help.  I like to think that “to know me is to love me and if you don’t love me you just don’t know me well enough yet.” So how do I get people to know me better? How do I get a lot of coins into their emotional bank account quickly?

After you give me your sage advice, then I have a task for you. Look into the eyes of your team and do you see the same reflection back that you see in your mirror every morning?  Do you see that confident leader that you know you are and if not what are you going to do about it?