When Life Gives You Lemons….

My post today is just a quick reflection of how I see the most recent turn of events in my life. I will quickly be seeking that next opportunity to apply my skills and succeed. Follow me to share the journey. 20140306-094201.jpg

 

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Attitude Is Everything

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“Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.” Nelson Mandela

Last year I followed a specific pattern for my posts to cover the life experiences that influenced my value system and led to the career I have today. I have decided that for this year my posts will also follow a pattern and the focus will be on attitude and how it can influence your life and how you lead it.

This decision came after reading the following article.

The 92-year-old, petite, well-poised and proud lady, who is fully dressed each morning by eight o’clock, with her hair fashionably coifed and makeup perfectly applied, even though she is legally blind, moved to a nursing home today. Her husband of 70 years recently passed away, making the move necessary.

After many hours of waiting patiently in the lobby of the nursing home, she smiled sweetly when told her room was ready. As she maneuvered her walker to the elevator, I provided a visual description of her tiny room, including the eyelet sheets that had been hung on her window. “I love it,” she stated with the enthusiasm of an eight-year-old having just been presented with a new puppy.

“Mrs. Jones, you haven’t seen the room …. just wait.”

“That doesn’t have anything to do with it,” she replied. “Happiness is something you decide on ahead of time. Whether I like my room or not doesn’t depend on how the furniture is arranged, it’s how I arrange my mind. I already decided to love it. It’s a decision I make every morning when I wake up. I have a choice; I can spend the day in bed recounting the difficulty I have with the parts of my body that no longer work, or get out of bed and be thankful for the ones that do. Each day is a gift, and as long as my eyes open I’ll focus on the new day and all the happy memories I’ve stored away, just for this time in my life.”

She went on to explain, “Old age is like a bank account, you withdraw from what you’ve put in. So, my advice to you would be to deposit a lot of happiness in the bank account of memories Thank you for your part in filling my Memory bank. I am still depositing.”

And with a smile, she said: “Remember the five simple rules to be happy:

1. Free your heart from hatred.

2. Free your mind from worries.

3. Live simply.

4. Give more.

5. Expect less

By: Ripple Kindness Project

I am going to take these five rules seriously and hope that you will as well. Look for more of my thoughts on attitude as 2014 unfolds. Happy New Year!

Founding a Non-Profit – The Legacy We Leave

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“Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there.It doesn’t matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that’s like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn-cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime.” ~ Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

As I review this year of posts, travelling back and forth across the events that have led me to my current career, I am reminded that every day I have the opportunity to make a positive impact to the lives of others. Whether it is a quick email to someone for doing a good job of managing a project meeting with a cc to their manager or just a simple thank you for being on call for the evening as we do a push to production, it is this capture of those moments and expression of gratitude that can make the difference between just doing a job and knowing that your contributions are noticed and appreciated. I would like to think that these simple things make a lasting impression on others and that they “pass it on.”

While on the topic of making a positive impact, I wanted to take this last post for 2013 and share a life changing experience. This experience gave me not only a greater appreciation for what it takes to build a business from the ground up but also for the dedication of individuals like my brother-in-law Greg and his wife Patti (to understand them a bit better read “It’s Not What You Said, It’s What They Understood That Matters” posted in June, 2013). The story starts in 1991 when Greg and my husband Ken started thinking about how they could combine their interests, skills, and talents to build a business. They also shared a common goal of having a positive impact on the world around them. Living close to the border, they were well aware of the immense needs of the children in Mexico who live in Orphanages or Casa Hogars. It was with all of this in mind that they began to do the research for what it would take to build a strong non-profit organization that would give these children the life experiences they miss by not being a part of a family.

These years included a lot of travel from the Tijuana border down to the tip of Baja Sur. That was a lot of time spent and miles driven in what we fondly called our “Baja mobile.” This was a little Chevy Blazer with the bumpers that had to be wired up because all of the bolts worked their way loose from travelling over the bumpy pot holed roads. Those first years, Ken spent more time in Mexico than he did at home in California. Today we joke that while we have been married over 35 years we really have only been together for 25 of them. The earliest years, Greg worked as an expert witness for litigations around construction and shared his earnings with Ken. Patti and I were working in order to fund the vision of Genesis. While it took many years and a lot of hard work, today Genesis has grown into Genesis International Orphanage Foundation (GIOF), a non-profit in Mexico and a 501(c)( 3) non-profit in the United States (http://www.genesisdiez.org/about-genesis-diez/co-founders.html) . Greg and Patti now live in Mexico and both work full-time for GIOF.

I am sharing this because it was a life and career shaping experience for me. Some of the lessons I learned were professional and some were personal. On a professional level I learned that it takes a lot of special “influence” to start a business in Mexico, especially a non-profit business. You first must establish trust and then be able to communicate your vision. Another lesson was that not only is accounting for a non-profit different, but accounting in Mexico has its share of differences. I learned that because of these and many other differences it is much better to have a local accountant and office manager to handle all of the details. On a personal level, I learned that no matter how much time Ken spends in Mexico he will never be able to speak Spanish. I also learned one hot summer day when the lights went out that the circuit breakers were located outside the garage. Then one Sunday night when the water heater decided to start a river running through the garage I learned where the shut off valve was located out in the street. As you can tell, some lessons I would rather not have had to learn.

I look back on these years fondly and am proud to have been a part of this vision. When I think of Genesis I always think of this quote from Neil Postman, “Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see.”

As you read the opening quote from Ray Bradbury, I would ask you to think about this question. Are you just a “lawn-cutter” or are you a “real gardener?”

Having a Career – Where That Education Led Me

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“To love what you do and feel that it matters–how could anything be more fun?”
– Katharine Graham

The place was Ohio Northern University (ONU), Ada, Ohio, the year was 1984, and there I was in my cap and gown with my new diploma in hand ready to conquer the “professional” world. I was both excited and nervous at the same time. Having work experience and having supervised people gave me an advantage, but at the same time I also had the disadvantage of venturing into the uncharted waters of the office environment.  So it was with some trepidation that I began interviewing for positions with local CPA firms. As I commenced the interview rounds, I saw a small posting in our local paper for a position with a local Accounting Software company.  I diligently sent a cover letter along with my resume. Within a week I had two interviews lined up.  The first interview was at a large local CPA firm that supported the majority of the businesses in our community preparing their taxes, giving financial advice, doing their payroll, etc. The second interview was with the Accounting Software Company for a Customer Support Representative. I don’t know which was more exciting, just getting the interviews or the fact that they were both in areas that were very interesting to me.

The interview at the CPA firm came first. I thought it went well. During the interview I found that the offices were plush (by 1980’s standards) and the dress codes as well as the work environment were very professional. I would need my high heels and hose for this job. The only downside was that the owner was an older gentleman who chewed on his cigar during the interview and called me “girlie.”  I can live with that, I thought.

Then came the interview with the Accounting Software Company.  I drove past the office a few times before I realized it really was that pole building in the middle of the corn field just outside of town. The building also served as the offices of an Engineering firm.  I later found out that one of the initial investors and founders of the software company was also the owner of the Engineering firm, so it made sense for him to “donate” office space to this fledgling software company.  The offices were not plush by any standards, but were typical for a small privately held company just starting out in the business. The dress code, while still professional, became a bit more relaxed after you entered the section that housed the programmers.  But I was interviewing for a Customer Support position, so my dress code would be a bit more like that expected at the CPA firm.  The atmosphere was where everything differed. The founders, the managers, and the entire staff were young and excited to be a part of this little company. While everyone did work long hours, they all seemed to be happy to be there and having fun.  Several of the systems programmers even were alumni of ONU.  I felt at home.

After a few days of chewing my nails and waiting for the phone to ring with an offer, it finally did ring and twice. I was offered both positions. So I did what I normally do when making a big decision. I started a list of pro’s and con’s. On the side of the CPA firm the two big ones were Pro- it was extremely professional and was focused on my first love Accounting, but on the Con side I’d be greeted every day with “hey girlie.” The list for the software company was a bit different. The Pro – an exciting and energetic place to work was balanced by the Con side it was sitting, answering phones and listening to customer complaints all day.  Even today my husband is still amazed that I chose the software company. He knew that I hate sitting all day, I especially hate the telephone as a means of communication, and don’t even get me started expressing how much I hate to hear customers complain (remember those darn frozen turkeys). But I did choose the software company and I am extremely happy that I did. My only concern was that when I started work I found out my “office” was a small room shared with my manager and three other support staff and to top it off they ran out of real desks so mine was a makeshift desk made up of two sawhorses and a door thanks to the engineering firm owner. However, the shiny new computer on my desk more than made up for my office and desk.

So that’s the short story of my entry into the professional world and the door to it was opened by my degree. That paper was worth all of the hours spent gaining it. While I left that first software company behind many years ago, at the time I left it was receiving a lot of positive press and awards for the features and quality of the products I had helped produce.

What I learned from all of this is that sometimes what you think is not the perfect job may lead to that perfect job in the future. In my case, I am happy to say that is what happened. I am grateful for those early years and all of the things that I learned both personally and professionally from the founders, the management, and staff at that small software company.

The Agony Of Defeat – Running A Small Business

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This story is a difficult one to share.  It begins at a time when we lived in the small town where my husband was born and raised. We had purchased our first home and had settled into a happy domestic life. My husband was between teaching positions when the local hardware store came up for sale. The owner who was the father of my husband’s childhood friends was going to retire. Neither of his sons wanted to take over ownership, so it seemed natural for my husband and I to look at taking the leap to run our own business. What better way to support the small community that he loved and knew so well? So it was with the enthusiasm and naiveté of youth that we went to the bank to see what financing was available to us.  As you might expect, we had few assets and very little savings. What we found was that we needed to enlist the support of family to raise the required funding to use as a down payment. Knowing what hard workers we were, family quickly rallied armed with their checkbooks to support our first business. With this borrowed down payment in hand, we worked with the owner to establish what we deemed a fair market price for the business and the inventory and forged ahead.

I’ll not drag you through all of the details of setting up the business, but will just say that both of us had a bit of a “knowing doing” gap. At least we were smart enough to enlist the help of a local accountant to do the payroll and keep the books. We also enlisted the help  of one of my husband’s sisters to set up a unique  section of the store to sell specialty furniture and crafts. This last helped us differentiate ourselves and fill in the gaps between appliance sales and service.  The first year in business was not easy.  We discovered we had over valued the inventory and now needed to sell a lot of obsolete items at a very steep discount. This did not set us up for success. It was also around this same time that stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot were starting to make an appearance in the larger adjacent towns. Loyalty to the small town businesses was being severely tested. Why would you shop for your large appliances at a small hardware store when you could just drive 30 miles and have a larger variety to choose from often at a lower price? We had the best service and friendliest staff, but at this time in the economy the price was winning over the service.

Looking back, it is much easier to see with clarity that getting out from under the obsolete inventory was a difficult challenge but the changing times and buying patterns was our real undoing.   We made a valiant effort, but in the end had to close the store. After a “fire” sale, we were barely able to pay back the bank. It was our supportive family that we were not able to reimburse. After a few years of financial struggle we were eventually able to return their investment to them.

This was a hard learned lesson for us both. We came out of it having an even greater respect for the small business owner who must make tough decisions each and every day. We learned that you need to keep your business hat on even when dealing with long time family friends. It also reinforced for us that having a loving and supportive family makes going through tough times easier. In the end, I believe that everything happens for a reason. During the time that we owned the store, I was working and going to school.  While running the business, my husband was able to keep a closer eye on our three teen-aged girls.  So while having to close the store was an agonizing defeat, during the time we had it there were many happy times and benefits as well.  I don’t look back with regret, but with a lot of pride in what we were able to accomplish during this time and how much we learned about running a business.

Hitting The Books

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Over the years we all have a few life changing moments. One of mine came to me around the tenth year of quartering yet another frozen turkey. It was right after I finally came to the realization that they were never going to promote me to Head Meat Cutter no matter how many times our department came in first in the Zone in sales nor how many times I smiled as I sawed up those turkeys. But I can say that I never would have had the courage to go to college if my family had not pushed me to make that first uncomfortable move.  It started with just a few evening classes at the local technical school. I thought I would turn my love for math and managing by the numbers into a lucrative skill. Little did I know at the start that this would lead to a lifelong love for learning and a fascination with computers.

Two years flew by while attending night classes and working full-time still cutting up those turkeys, but now I was focused on funding my education. On graduation day I wore that cap and gown with pride as I receive my freshly minted Associates Degree in Accounting. I was ready to conquer the professional world! Much to my dismay the jobs for me with my new degree were few and far between and none of them could compare with the wages I was making as a part on the Union.  It would have been even more disappointing if I hadn’t taken that last computer class and discovered that I had a knack for programming – in COBOL – but hey it was still programming. I took exceptional pride in the fact that when I loaded my deck of punched cards into the hopper my code ran first time every time with no errors. It was with the memory of this that I decided to continue to invest in my education by attending a local college and getting a degree that would open doors for me to travel beyond the frozen turkey days. So again with my family’s support, I now start school during the day and switched to nights and week-ends for the turkey travails. Other than a full course load and many stops at school for lab after work, those days included doing the nightly clean-up of the Meat Room. I think I hold the record for the fastest time breaking down the slicer and the band saw and hosing the whole room down with disinfectant and yup you guessed it putting it all back together again just to quarter another frozen turkey. Did I mention that in between times I did my homework standing up in the meat room shifting from one foot to the next trying to stay warm in that 40° room.  Thanks to many cups of black coffee I never fell asleep at the wheel on the drive home.

The next two years went by in a blur, maybe some of that was from the steam in the Meat Room. Now I was really armed and ready to launch into a professional career. So long turkeys! I bought a suit and the requisite nylons and heels and started the interview rounds. After a few weeks I was faced with one of the biggest decisions of my life. Should I take the job at the CPA firm doing taxes? Or should I take the job at the business software startup where I would answer the phones and listen to customers complain? To this day my husband still can’t believe that I chose the latter. I remember him saying,” you hate to hear people complain, you hate the phone, and you really hate sitting all day, now tell me why you took that job again?” The answer was easy. I would have my very own bright and shiny new computer and I could play with software all day long.  Except for the complaints, the phone, and the sitting, it was a job made in heaven. Lucky for me and the customers, my management talent (or simply maturity since I was the oldest employee in the office) and my penchant for breaking the software made me the perfect candidate to start the companies first ever Quality Assurance Department. I’d love to say that was my brain child, but in reality it was due to a critical contract with IBM (the real IBM this time) that required having a QA group that led to my move into management.

It was also around this time that I decided that to really get ahead in the professional world I needed to have some initials after my name. During my senior year at college I had sat for but not passed all parts of the CPA exam. Never to be one to leave something unfinished, I kept on studying and passed all four parts on the second and third tries. One night, fueled I am sure my much black coffee, I applied for and was accepted into an Executive MBA program. It was back to night school I went for more black coffee and rubbing elbows with “C” level wanna be executives.  After a few years I now had CPA and MBA after my name. It doesn’t get any better than that!

So what might you ask did I learn from all of this hard work and study? Let me sum that up for you. It pays to have a loving and supportive family. It’s one thing to get an education but quite another to apply it well in the work environment. And lastly, doing it at light speed like I did, you have to be a little crazy and that comes from drinking too much black coffee!

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When An Unstoppable Force Meets An Immovable Object? :

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Force is all-conquering, but its victories are short-lived.”  Abraham Lincoln

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9eKc5kgPVrA&feature=player_embedded

 

Now that you know a bit about my background, I think it’s time to take a step back before we continue to move forward. While I really loved my job at “I.B.M.,” I needed to earn more money in order to be able to raise my daughter in the fashion to which I wanted her to become accustomed. That fashion was to have food on the table every night and shoes that fit when she went to school. You can tell that I had modest aspirations. I was fortunate to get hired in the food service industry. That’s a highfalutin way to say that I got a job as the evening and week-end cashier at a local supermarket. I was able to work my way up to assistant head cashier due to my love of keeping the books, counting the money, and bossing staff around. The last of course was my main strength. I got so good at it that they decided that the “boys” in the meat department could use a little direction setting aka bossing around and so I got transferred. The best part about this transfer was not the crisp clean white coat I got to wear every day, nor the 45° temperatures and heavy lifting that kept me slim and trim, but as you can surmise it was the raise in pay. I was now a proud member of the AMCBW (Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen of North America). A dollar raise was a dollar raise and in those days a dollar raise went a long way toward raising my daughter.

It wasn’t long before I pined for my old job working with the stockers on the night shift passing our idle time waiting for those night owl customers to drift in from the street to shop or fill their pockets and waiting for the scheduled trucks to arrive and be unloaded. We had some fun those night stockers and I. How many of you can say that you joined in lobster races from the Deli to the Meat Department? I don’t think the Deli Manager ever knew why so many of her lobsters were less active in the morning than they had been the day before. Poor tired out things.  The night shift brought out the animals in more ways than one, but I was younger then and fun is fun.

I learned that in the meat department when an immovable object (IO- the butcher boys) was confronted with an unstoppable force (UF- that would be bossy me), much heat and energy was created and something had to give or there was going to be an explosion. After a few weeks of having the IO of four load up the line with fresh meat and frozen products that needed to be shrink wrapped and displayed properly in the front meat cases by the UF of one (Me), I pondered on my dilemma as I worked at warp speed to wrap the line while the IO’s sipped their coffee in the break room and waited for the line to get cleared.  This just was not going the way that I had planned it at all. I decided that in order to work peacefully side by side with these immovable objects I needed to determine how to wrap the UF in me around the IO’s and figure out how to get my way, which of course was the right way, and make it their idea! As you can imagine, this was no easy task.

It would be ideal if I could say that I was successful at doing this as soon as I realized I needed to change. But alas, that was not the case. I even got chased around the band saw by one of the IO’s brandishing a boning knife, fortunately I was faster than he was and all ended well.  Over time I was able to tailor my approach to meet the needs of my audience and I can say that these were the most difficult IO’s I have had to deal with in my career. You could say that this was a lesson learned at the point of a knife.

My success became well-known within our division and I became a part of the new store opening team. My primary role was teaching all of the IO’s how to do things the “right way.” A few of these things still exist today, sunny side up for the meat in the tray, facing up the case before and after busy times in the day, and always answering the meat room bell with a smile and can do attitude even when it’s the 20th customer of the day asked for their 19 cents a pound frozen turkey be cut into four equal pieces.

Even today, I carry these knife welding, frozen turkey cutting images with me as I learn how to deal with all of the new IO’s I meet.  Have you ever encountered an IO? Did you figure out how to make the UF in you have success when faced with this challenge?

Can An Old Dog Learn New Tricks?

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Walk tall because, as Dr. Seuss said, ” you have brains in your head – you have feet in your shoes – you can steer yourself – any direction you choose.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you’ve been reading my blog this year, you will remember that my commitment was to share my life experiences and what I have learned from them.  When I look back over my posts I have mainly been true to this commitment. What I have not shared is the circuitous path that I have taken to get to where I am at today.  A high level view of this path is below.

  • Early Years  –  Having a mother who had a career      outside the home – March post
  • Formative Years – Choir practice with the Nuns – April post
  • First Job –  Fired for sitting down on the job – May post
  • First Professional Job – I.B.M. and the metal monster – May 17 post
  • Punching  the Clock – The job that put the food on that table – Coming soon
  • Back to  School – Seeking That Professional Career – Coming soon
  • Running a Small Business – The Agony of Defeat – Coming soon
  • Having a Career – Where the education got me – Coming soon
  • Founding a Non-Profit – The Legacy We Leave – Coming soon
  • What’s Next? – Can An Old Dog Learn New Tricks – This post

As you can see I am going to run ahead and go to the end of this path and then go back and walk you along with me. The reason I am jumping ahead is because I am experiencing one of those “significant emotional events” in my life. I have a new boss and for the first time in a long time I have someone who is going to give me some coaching to get forward momentum on my career.  The start of this coaching has me wondering if I can indeed change some the things that will help me to progress. When faced with a challenge you may realize by now that I turn to reading. This time is no different. I have purchased three books (I need a lot of help), “Reinventing You” by Dorie Clark, “What To Ask The Person In The Mirror” by Robert Kaplan, and” What You’re Really Meant To Do” also by Kaplan.

I am just starting to read these books, but one theme that they all have in common is the need to solicit honest feedback. They suggest 360 reviews from not only your peers, but in order to get a full perspective, that you include feedback from a subset of everyone that you interact with on a daily basis.   My “coach” has started this with my permission by getting some feedback. The focus of this feedback was what was seen as my strengths and weaknesses.  This feedback was welcome but at the same time a bit daunting and caused me to wonder if there are just some aspects of being me that I may not be able to change. Not that I really see myself as an “old dog,” but let’s face it I have been around for a long time and some of these things that may just an intrinsic part of who I am.

In her book, Dorie Clark writes about changing your personal brand.  She recommends that in order to start this effort you need to understand how you are perceived today and then determine how you need to be perceived in order to move to the next phase of your career journey.  Some feedback that I have received is that I need to be “less casual” and that I often give less informed input on “technical topics.”    I can rationalize both of them, but in the end it is all about how I am perceived. With that in mind, I am trying to determine if what my coach has said are “just small changes to my approach,” or are these really behaviors that will be much more difficult for me to change.

I would like to think that my casualness is an asset in that I treat all levels of the organization with equal respect, from the night janitor who I see often to the CEO who I see less often. I will continue to smile and interact in the same casual manner. As for the input on technical topics, I have found that it is very effective when in a discussion with highly technical individuals to ask a dumb question or make a seemingly less informed statement. This normally causes them to rise to the occasion and explain what is really happening in terms that any layman can understand. It challenges them to think and interact in a different manner. I call this “get the crayons out” we’re going to talk to Doris.

My commitment is to finish reading the books and continue meeting with my coach.  Once I have done that, I will then determine how I can make some changes in my behaviors and personal brand. I would like to invite you to give me your thoughts on my strengths and weaknesses. Please feel free to email them to me at doris.amstutz@sage.com. If you prefer to remain anonymous, just write them on a slip of paper and slip it under my office door.

Oh and to close the “old dog” comment, here is an article from Cathy Perme that I find puts it all into perspective. http://www.cmperme.com/pdf/cmp0513.pdf

It’s Not What You Said, It’s What They Understood That Matters.

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Use anything you can think of to understand and be understood, and you’ll discover the creativity that connects you with others. Martha Beck

 

 

Last week I had the privilege of having dinner with my brother-in-law and sister-in-law, two people I very much admire. They live in Mexico where they, along with a few local staff and numerous volunteers, continue to run the Genesis International Orphanage Foundation, GIOF. It is always fun to hear the latest stories about the children and the adventures they share that are a part of the day-to-day life for GIOF. One story hit home for me as being applicable for all of us in how we communicate.

Greg was sharing how he was working with the Niño’s cleaning up the dishes after dinner. He was using this as an opportunity to work on his Spanish, the product of many books, tapes, classes, immersion, and exposure daily to the language. He was doing very well. He said, “primero raspar los platos” (first you scrape the dishes), “luego te lavas los platos” (then you wash the dishes), and “y luego te desnudas” (and then you rinse). Now, when he got to the rinse part, he was a bit unsure of the proper word to use for ‘rinse’. Greg asked Gabriella, the GOIF director who is a local, how to pronounce ‘rinse’ in Spanish to which she responded “de enjuagar.” Greg then pronounced it the way that he heard it, “te desnudes.” All the children stopped what they were doing and, with mouths open, just stared at Greg. If that wasn’t enough of an indication that something was wrong, the red flush and look on Gabriella’s face as she came up beside him and said, “Oh no, you will need to apologize to the orphanage director”, was even greater.  Greg said, “Why? What? I just repeated what you told me.” Gabriella quickly replied, “No Greg. What I said was ‘de enjuagar’. You said ‘te desnudes’, which means to get naked!” Of course, by this time the children were all laughing and repeating in sing-song fashion, “now they would all get naked.” You know how impressionable young children are and they never forget and always repeat everything. Oh wow, what had Greg done?

Let me stop for a minute and give you some background information. GIOF works with many orphanages and indigenous groups throughout Baja Mexico. All of them have religious affiliation and can often be considered conservative by American standards.  This particular orphanage could be considered more conservative than most and Gabriella and Greg had been working very hard to have GIOF leave a good impression. I am sure that as Gabriella heard Greg tell the Niño’s that after they washed the dishes then they should “get naked” she swiftly saw all of that hard work being flushed down the drain of misunderstanding.  Fortunately, the orphanage directors had a sense of humor and understood Greg’s unintended transgression from his translation. I think the swift apology helped.

After I finished laughing at Greg’s story, I started thinking about the many times I have made unfortunate misses in communication myself. I just don’t have the excuse of translating from English to Spanish.  While I do try to get verbal confirmation that what I said or meant to convey was heard and understood, it is easy to assume that the receiving party is on the same page. The final step of hearing them confirm back with the action they will take often times gets missed. This is especially important when working with someone for the first time. There are so many subtle ways to interpret things that until you have worked together for a while it is difficult to ensure that what you said was really what they heard. This is especially important for those of us who live in a world of technical terms, local jargon, and of course the ever-present acronyms.

It was a pleasure to reconnect with Greg and his wife Patti and to find that no matter what you do every day we all can, at times, face the same challenges in communicating effectively. So when I am working with someone for the first time, I will from now on think of Greg and his “get naked” faux pas.  This will be a humorous reminder to me to make sure that I get confirmation that what I said was indeed what they heard and what I intended to communicate.

For more information about GIOF visit http://www.giof.org/support_giof.html

Follow Your Dreams

linotype

 

 

 

 

‘It’s our choices, Harry,
that show us what we really are…
far more than our abilities.’

~ Albus Dumbledore from ‘ Harry Potter’ by J K Rowling ~

Thanks to all of the feedback I received on my post last week, I did entertain the Junior Achievement students with the story of my first job.  After letting them know I was fired and why, I went on to explain to them that had I found out early what was expected of me it probably would have gone much differently. When I was sharing this story with them, I thought it best to also let them know that my first professional job was much more successful. I was a legal secretary and worked with I.B.M. Wow that made an impression, until I told them to beware of acronyms. I.B.M. in this case stood for the International Brotherhood of Magicians. Well the students were still impressed, maybe more impressed than before.  I went on to explain that my employer, in addition to being an attorney, was also a magician and that he held the position of International Secretary for this I.B.M. In that role he was responsible for publishing and collecting the subscription fees for their monthly magazine, The Linking Ring.

Thinking back on my legal secretary days, I had an opportunity to hone my typing and shorthand skills, learn some basic accounting, multi-currency, banking, and money management. Additionally I learned how to run the Linotype machine. For you youngsters, think large metal monster clang and bang late into the night just to get the mailing of the magazine out.  What took me days now takes only a few hours using an Outlook Address book and Mail Merge. Oh how life has changed.

Enough about the metal monster of magazine mailing. The lesson I learned that has stuck with me and still is of value today is that you really can live your dreams. Let me give you some background on my attorney boss. He was a friend of my mothers and came from an upstanding “farming family.” He was a big guy one you might term as a “gentle giant.” His hands were large and calloused from bailing hay all summer and he also had the misfortune to be born with a club foot.  His boyhood desire was to escape the farming life and tour the world as a magician. For those of you who have tried a magic trick or two you will know how important it is to move quickly and have “sleight of hand.” He realized early on that neither of these two most important skills would ever be within his capabilities. Wanting to escape the farm, he studied hard and got a scholarship to Ohio State University and went on to study law and sit for the bar exam. Still a small town boy at heart, he returned home and setup his law practice.

Never forgetting his early dreams, he decided that he still could do some magic so he joined the I.B.M. and performed magic tricks at children’s parties. He used his business acumen to benefit the Brotherhood and for many years held his International Secretary position, publishing and distributing The Linking Ring.  I have many fond memories of those days in that tiny office and the clanging banging Linotype. Today when I look back I realized that he did not give up on his dream, he just let it take on a slightly different form. In doing that he brought a lot of smiles to children’s faces, touched the lives of many budding magicians in far off lands, and helped one very impressionable girl understand that you should never give up on your dream.