Monthly Archives: March 2013

Shuffling through your Talents

shuffleJust a few days ago I wrote about the first time doing something significant, First Solo Moment.  My thoughts have moved on to the range of talents that most of us possess, and the fact that we often end up using only a few of them on a regular basis.  Like the old saw about riding a bike, I can’t remember the last time I rode a bike.  (More accurately I don’t want to, when did those seats become so uncomfortable?)


I suppose it’s only natural that some of our talents will lie fallow at some point or other in our lives.  There are only so many hours in a day and the to-do list brings needs to the fore of wants.  Cooking for me was once something that I did daily and while I was never supremely talented, I was reasonably capable of whipping up some tasty fare.  Now I can spend several moments in the kitchen thinking, wow I used to spend so much time in here, I’m hard pressed to think of anything that I know how to make these days.


Some things, like excel formulas say, are used just frequently enough to be able to access once you give yourself a bit of a prod.  Or call over the wall to your neighbor to ask ‘hey, where’s that certain file we use quarterly again?’.  Assuming that the neighbor can recall, or perhaps has been practical enough to have a reminder note tacked to their wall.


Plenty of job seekers are out there; some have been seeking for a fairly long time.  There is fear on the part of some employers that their skills and talents might be getting a bit rusty.  They just need a little reminder, just like riding a bike.  Hey employer, when was the last time that you changed a light fixture in your house?  We each have so very many talents.


And then there are the talents that we don’t want to have to refresh, for instance I can change a tire on a car.  That doesn’t mean that I want to, but assuming that I have the strength I could.  At the very least I could be able to tell that someone missed a step while watching them complete this necessary task.


So very, very many talents are necessary in our world.  I’m thankful that I possess a few of them and that I also have a talent to find the right person when I need a talent that I don’t have myself.


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


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Relevance, Your Way

There are so very many of us milling about in the mid to lower stratospheres of all the work disciplines, (not to mention our personal lives) all calling out into the general din.  ‘Me, I have a contribution to make, see me’.  How can we each possibly have our relevance validated?


Acknowledgement of work anniversaries as proof of relevance in one form.

Acknowledgement of work anniversaries as proof of relevance in one form.

In my eagerness to gain traction for an idea, I reached out to a new contact for advice.  He is someone who I view as a subject matter expert in an area where I have abilities, but I am a neophyte.  I knew I was taking a chance by committing the networking sin of asking for something before providing a service, but didn’t consider fully other ways to perceive the request.  My thought process was on the old adage that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.  (This is turning out to be a companion piece to an upcoming post titled What Do You See When You See It?, please watch for it – interesting that I actually wrote this post first and still didn’t heed my own advice, but I digress from the topic at hand.)


Therefore this post is both a public apology for my lack of grace (I am often too straightforward for my own good) and to get us all thinking about ideas to ponder so as to be seen as relevant in a crowded, noisy space.  If you are looking for an authority on business writing and LinkedIn profile writing, JD Gershbein is your man.


I’ve already written about relevance, without naming it in The Right Ingredients and an even earlier post called Providing Value.  The point is worth covering again, naming the issue of relevance more specifically.  How can we each lay our own claim to relevance?  The short answer, which many won’t like, is to keep at it.  Another old adage that continues to be true is if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.


Your point might be valid, but your timing might be off, you might have picked the wrong audience, or any number of other variables.  Review the logic of your point and if it is sound (perhaps find a worthy sounding board to test the validity of your thought) then review the circumstances.  If you approached your boss while their own boss was standing there or when he/she was going to a meeting then there is your mistake.  Put in a meeting request, once you have repackaged your idea, this will clear a specific time dedicated to your presentation.


We are each quite relevant, but it is up to us to tailor our message to cut through the confusion of our modern world and to find a place to flourish.


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


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Shall We Dance? A Happy Story of Collaboration

We know that there is strength in numbers; it has been proven time and time again throughout history.  We should use this knowledge in our work life to our advantage as well as for the organization’s success.  Finding one or two people either in the same department or your counterpart(s) in another department, especially if you have complementary strengths is a good exercise.

There are many good reasons to collaborate, ponder this one:

“If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.”

~Martin Luther King, Jr.

Collaboration will strengthen the end result of the project because each person can bring their own point of view which includes their experiences, emphases, and expectations.  Shared knowledge gets richer.

“Our future depends on being clever not individually, but collectively.”

~ Matt Ridley

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed people can change the world; indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.”

~ Margaret Mead

When I was younger, I wanted to go it alone so that no one could make fun of me if they didn’t like what I was doing and so that I could garner all the praise for myself when it went right.  As I got older, and especially working in a very complex organization, I realized the value of seeking out compatriots.

It started out merely as discussion, but grew into process changes that benefited many.  The department that I worked in handled only one part of customer transactions since these tend to work cross departmentally, and we began to realize that if we took a look at the transaction process together, we could improve it before we had difficulties.   Additionally, we each grew in our overall knowledge as we continued to work together.


Try it out, dancing is better with a partner.

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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A Question of Momentum

We gain the meaning of some words from the act of living and momentum is just one of those words.  I think the meaning of momentum usually crystallizes right about the time that we first ride a bike down a hill.  For the lucky ones the meaning isn’t written in bruises and scabs.


According to the Lexicon Universal Encyclopedia momentum ‘is a property possessed by an object by virtue of its motion.  The linear momentum of an object is equal to its mass times its velocity.’  It goes on with more math, but we get the picture.


Personal momentum is similar to this physics concept and also more involved.  Think about how hard inertia pulls to keep you asleep and in bed every morning, unless you are one of those very few folks who bounds easily out of bed.  You have to counteract that inertia and build enough momentum to propel you into starting the day.


The Little Engine That Could thinks he can and thinks he can until he builds up enough power to force his weight up the mountain.  He is successful in large part because he has a singular focus directing all energy toward making it up the track on the mountain.


We modern folk seem to think that it is necessary to keep momentum with a dozen or so activities all at once.  Then we are consternated when we feel run down, scattered and worse, develop a sense that we aren’t progressing toward any of our goals.  Much as I hate to give much credit to math, this is a math issue.


Each of us only has the potential to generate a finite amount of energy (mental and/or physical) during a set period of time.  If we are trying to keep the momentum going for multiple tasks at the same time, we are dividing our potential energy with the addition of each task.  This division is affected by the types of tasks we are attempting.  Complimentary tasks may not necessarily divide your momentum, certainly not as much as completely disparate tasks.


Since very few of us can afford an assistant (darn it), we most likely can’t reduce the number of necessary tasks easily.  But we can consider how best to group them to retain or build our momentum, or use the idea of momentum to offer alternatives to the boss.  It’s like we are operating ourselves similar to operating the car for optimal gas mileage thanks to high gas prices.


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


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Snuggled in Our Comfort Zones

comfort zoneA big part of progress can be attributed to our human search for comfort – we’ve come a long way from living in cold, damp hovels and putting tremendous effort into survival on a daily basis.  I am particularly thankful to the inventor of central heating and subsequently to the inventor of the programmable thermostat.  I like to save money and let the house cool down during the night, but I don’t have enough pioneer spirit to get out of bed before the furnace warms the house back up from frosty levels.


But we can get too comfortable and complacent which can keep us from moving away from so-so situations to more risky but potentially highly rewarding ones.  ‘I might have missed my dreams by a wide margin, but I make decent money and I know what’s expected of me at work’, we can say to ourselves.  ‘There’s no room for me to grow, but maybe that’s not so bad since I have benefits and I did just get to the point of a couple of weeks for vacation.’


Some trade-offs are necessary, after all only a small percentage of any generation is going to make it to the NFL, be a bankable movie star, write a best-selling series, or numerous other pinnacle positions.  But we shouldn’t convince ourselves not to reach just that little bit further just because we know it will bring difficulties and shift us away from our comfort zones.  We should sometimes ask ourselves if we’ve gotten too comfortable.  Plus we could keep in mind that we can achieve new, and better comfort, after that period of difficulties.


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations



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Challenges of a Mom Working Outside the Home: The Missing Supporter

A friend suggested that I could periodically touch on the topics applicable to women who work because it is a touchstone for countless toiling souls.  I had a moment of fear shortly after starting this blog that I had picked a limiting theme, i.e. business, since it is already mined by so many.  I was afraid that I might run out of things to say in this particular arena.  Well, I’ve put that fear to rest for now.


First I want to touch on the title – I chose the phrase ‘mom working outside the home’ deliberately because this can encompass moms who volunteer, moms who work for pay part time and moms who work for pay full time.  I have been a stay at home mom and a single mom supporting my boys with a full time job.  Running a household and mothering a family are quite admirable in and of themselves, add in activities outside the home and, whew, complications are the name of the game.


A big and constant mom job is to provide support to your children, such as being a cheerleader on the sidelines of sporting activities.  I am not athletic, somewhere out there are a handful of people who can tell you a thing or two about my one season playing softball.  Hopefully they have forgotten.  Anyway, I did feel it was very important for my kids to experience different sports and I was always on the sidelines, regardless how much I understood about the rules of the particular sport.

mom challenge

Until I started working full time and my older son started high school.  I had an arrangement with my boss that I could work comp time on days that he had games as long as I was current on my tasks.  But sometimes this meant that I didn’t get to the game until after the half.  And then there was the time that I got there in time to see him boarding the bus to head back to school.  He seemed ok, but I got back in my car and cried.  I had failed him in my role as supporter and it made me feel sick.  Meanwhile, I had slap-dashed a task to be able to race out of work in time to get to see him board the bus.  Doubly sick.


My boss had kids of her own and understood well mother-angst therefore.  My son told me he knew I was with him in spirit and this way he was assured that I wouldn’t shout out from the sidelines (he wasn’t a fan of actual cheering on my part).  This happened about ten years ago, and you can see that it is still a wound.


How do we reconcile all the parts of ourselves and keep them true?


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


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Equal & Opposite

The one thing that we are all pretty much able to claim in respect the Physics knowledge is that every action has an equal and opposite reaction.  We probably know more about Physics than we realize (driving, cooking, walking, the list goes on) but I digress.

equal & opposite

When we decide to speak, write, ask, we don’t think about the equal and opposite reaction nearly as much as we perhaps should.  Not necessarily in relation to others, because we have little or no control over their reaction except in such that we try to craft our action for the best possible reaction by appealing to their interests.  More in relation to ourselves, over which we have much more control than we often exert.


Let’s say your co-worker thinks that you’d be perfect for an upcoming project and convinces you to put yourself forward.  You aren’t so sure that you are ready for something this high profile and fixate on the potential risks instead of the benefits.  Still, you put yourself forward, if only to get your co-worker to move on to something else.  And there is that little part of you that thinks, hey I deserve to get some kudos and get noticed for all I’m capable of.


Your self-talk is ticking along something like the old robot from Lost in Space – warning, warning, danger ahead – as you approach the leader of the project to ask some questions and show your interest.  After you walk away, you find your co-worker to relay the news and start waiting for the news of the team.  You sway between anticipation and dread, and then shock when the team is announced and it doesn’t include you.  What?  But the pose you put on for the co-worker is, ‘See I told you it doesn’t do any good – they picked the same people that they always pick’.


When do you realize that you put yourself forward to prove the danger, and your questions reinforced that and not ability, instead of as a sincere effort for improvement?  Your action created the equal and opposite reaction of rejection.  This is more insidious than self-defeating thoughts because it comes in the guise of self-development.


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


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Surreptitiously Checking Me Out

Do you have a LinkedIn profile for your professional social media interactions?  Many of us do, and a few dozen more will be signing up while you read this post.  It is the place to see and be seen in professional circles these days.  Look, did you see who has Stars Upon Thars? (Dr. Seuss will always be relevant!)


It has become yet another place where we can see our ranking on the normal continuum, just like the tests that you can find in magazines – Compare the Amount of Sleep that You Get to Our Sampling, as an example.  This is your place to market yourself, show your skills and achievements.  It is the professional Facebook, only with our whole profile on view to all.  So there is that little feature that tells us how many people have viewed us and gives us a peek at who they are.  (And more than a peek, if you pay.)


On the flip side, if you want to be nosy and don’t want anyone to know that you are feeling nosy, you can change your settings to read that Someone at XYZ Company viewed your profile, or even more anonymous, A LinkedIn Member.  Hmmm.  What motivates a person to check out someone else’s profile?  An interest in connecting, research, some commonality like an alma mater, curiosity, jealousy, job search?


LinkedIn is a great tool, it has a wealth of information and opportunities to share information with all sorts of people many of us would never have access to without this platform.  As a writer, I am fascinated by the way that people choose to present themselves here.  Since I, myself, am not done I am constantly finding different ways to put forth my own information therefore I doubt that I will ever consider my profile done.


I do this in order to connect, have a forum to share information and to help me to move forward in my professional life.  I want to get a good sense of the people that I encounter in this ether.  Who are you A LinkedIn Member?  Did you find what you sought when you stopped by?  My curiosity is piqued.


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


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More Potpourris

DSC03125Some things that I’ve come across that I feel fit in with my theme on this blog, please check them out:


3 Steps to Turn Any Setback into Success – this article provides some great points to ponder while you lick your wounds and plan your next move – my take on this topic was Its Just Practice.


This one provides some clear cut information about achieving the ‘sweet spot’ of just the right amount of assertiveness – How to be Assertive (Without Losing Yourself).


How to Undress for Success is by Jeff Haden, one of the people who post useful and thought provoking things on LinkedIn, but manages to seem really just like one of us at the same time.


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


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An Honest Day’s Work

Work means very different things to each of us, the common factor being the expectation of pay – or the second part of this old phrase, an honest day’s pay.  We think of pay being monetary, but there are all sorts of means to be paid for the work that we do.

I’m not much for quoting the bible, especially in this forum, but this particular thought has roots back to this venerable book, such as:

“Show me a man who does a good job, and I will show you a man who is better than most and worthy of the company of kings.”

~ Proverbs 22:29


It is not by accident that the word ethic is tied so closely to the word work.  There is reward in working hard – food tastes better and no bed ever felt so soft and cozy except after sustained labor.  (I thought of this post after coming in from shoveling my driveway.  Winter is just getting started with us this year, spring will have to wait.)  There is the old fable of the Ant and the Grasshopper, and plenty of others about being diligent in your efforts.

Our ancestors had strong reason to develop their work ethic, it equated directly to how well they ate, where they slept and the clothes on their backs because if they didn’t work to make them, they didn’t have them.  Now that we have found means to trade skills and services, we define work in much more varied ways than ever.

I’ve spent a bit of time this afternoon trying to track the origination of this phrase, but have yet to be successful with the tools available to me at the moment.  I’ve already referenced the bible, and old fables.  Unions also played a part in the development of this phrase as they worked to help people band together to better define the honest pay portion of the phrase.  The economics of supply and demand have helped the definition as all the factors fluctuate over time.

Think what you will about the validity of all these forces, it feels good to do something with a sense of purpose.  (It’s still snowing and my son is young and healthy, so I just did enough of the shoveling to be able to say I got some exercise and not enough to be moaning about my back.)

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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