Category Archives: Work Life

A New Direction

The winds of change are blowing.

Two months into my new job and I have finally found my feet – my balance. It’s not been the easiest transition, I must say. The Power that Is sent some terrific challenges my way personally, knocking me off balance just when I was most precariously perched. I’ve shed some tears the past couple months and I’ve exercised my faith…’tain’t been easy! It has, however, grown me as I so like to grow. And now, with my feet firmly grounded, I’m ready to feel the sun shine on my face as I start in a new direction.

One of my favorite things about my new boss is his voracious appetite for learning. He will learn from anything-or-one he’s the opportunity to learn from. He reflects on the way he builds his company, his business and his community impact. He encourages me to do the same. Due in part to a leadership podcast he’s turned me on to, an idea he has I think’s worth building and my thoughtful hubby’s cautionary reminder I don’t loose sight of my dreams, I find myself pulled in a new direction and I want to share it with you.

I recently thought hard about what I’m good at, what I believe in and what brings me joy. I reflected on these things in an effort to boil my professional aspirations down to a one sentence job description; something on which I can focus when I start to “spin”. What I landed on has excited me and I find my mind racing with ways to make it happen.

I want to encourage and inspire people to do business mindfully.

I want people to go out into the business world with ideas that encourage generosity of the spirit and collaborative thinking. I want to broadcast awesome resources/ideas like TED and Netweaving to influence anyone I can reach. And (this is where the joy comes in;)), I want to do this by written word. I want to learn and reflect on my learnings in such a way as they might inspire others to their own reflections.

It just so happens my boss has interest in doing much the same. Jason created a social platform a while back called the Noodlehead Network. Envisioned as a place where business minds can gather and share, it sits empty and waiting…like a carnival in a ghost town:(

So it is here I find myself. An idea rooted in passion and a vehicle for it’s launch. I’m ready to focus my attention and efforts in a new direction and I’m excited to see where this path leads me. I’m going to re-commit myself to regular writing and do the best work I can at the same time.

I worry only about PLM. This blog is so very special to me. It’s very name has become so much a part of how I see myself. If I choose to focus my writing time on Noodlehead Network instead of here I will miss it so…

But we’ll just see what happens, shall we? I hope those of you with an interest in this new project will join the conversation. In fact, I’d love to start it right now.

What ideas/information/people have you been exposed to that/who influence the way you work? The way you build the relationships in your lives? The way you go forth?

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Comfort in Ritual

When last I wrote it was on the subject of change. I couldn’t tell you at the time, but I was in the middle of more change than I let on. I can now share more and while I’m at it I’m going to share some of my plans to ease my transition.

When my family returned from our recent visit to South Africa I was bound and determined to find a way for us to spend more time there. In conversation with some of our friends, I’d landed on the idea of trying to do some online marketing work from a distance with the help of my friend Jason and his team at Noodlehead Studios. My company hired Noodlehead about a year ago to redesign our website and help us increase our online presence in social media. A few months into working with them our big boss formally bought into the efforts for not only Builder Specialties but also our sister companies, peeling away most of my daily business responsibilities (such as managing the customer service team) to free me to focus on these projects and manage their growth. I was in my element and I found the perfect team in Noodlehead. Jason and his team are dedicated, creative, good people and I enjoyed working with them. It was natural I’d see them as potential helpmates for my cause.

One thing led to another in my conversation with Jason and he ultimately let me know he’d decided he wanted to hire someone to run the operations for his company so he could get out and drive the business. I was one person he’d considered for the job. My request to team up had come at an opportune moment and over the next few weeks we found a way to make it work. This past Wednesday was my last day with Builder Specialties and today was my first day with Noodlehead Studios.

As I mentioned in my last post, I love change. That said, when it comes around I generally try and plant a few stakes to help me maintain my course. As I embark on the biggest professional change I’ve yet to experience, I’ve identified some rituals I want to incorporate and continue.

  • I’ve been attending a Wednesday noon church service as often as possible for the past few years. I will continue to prioritize this worship time.
  • At that same church (just up the road from my new offices) the new pastor leads a yoga practice on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. I’d like to make at least one of those practices a week to help me center and focus.
  • Our offices are around the corner from a park. When the weather gets a bit cooler, I’d like to take one lunch per week in the park – without my phone or computer.

There are other rituals I’ve toyed with but I hesitate to commit to too much right now…I don’t like setting myself up for failure. This feels good and doable – just what I need for now.

This post is more me, me, me than some, but I wanted you to know what’s going on with me in the event that I go MIA every now and again. Actually, I’m thinking this may be a great opportunity for me to stop waxing philosophical for a while and instead give y’all some real nuggets of useful information. So, in that vein:

I’ve stopped using dishwasher detergent. I found a substitution in baking soda with a few drops of liquid dish soap (like Dawn/Sunlight) and it works like a bomb…another Madison Avenue housekeeping solution bites the dust! 😉

Until next time…

A Pot Luck

I like pot lucks for several reasons. They lift the burden off host(s), ensure everyone who comes will have at least one thing to eat they like, are an opportunity to show off and never leave me hungry. I like to see what people were proud to make and hear the stories behind the dishes.  I also like the pot lucks where everyone chips in on the work, offering their services and expertise;) They are generally gatherings of like minds…I just dig ’em, ok?
(duh)

So this post is going to be a pot luck of sorts. I’ve been working hard this week and have ideas and plans and well, it was my birthday for Pete’s sake! So I’m just going to throw out a few of the things that have been floating around my mind and see what you do with them. Oh, and I also wrote a post on the VikingToGo site we just launched. The Community is still a little buggy (email notifications are not going through at time of publishing) but I enjoyed writing the first blog post and I hope you will enjoy reading it. You can check it out here:

A Foodie Knows No Borders

Have I mentioned what my go-to pot luck dish is, by the way? Baked brie. Easy enough to keep puff pastry in the freezer and just buy a wheel of brie when you have an event. Wrap it in the thawed pastry, topping the cheese first with a dollop of jam. Brush with egg (less waste with Egg Beaters) and top with some nuts. I usually have shaved almonds on hand. I also like to drizzle some honey over it about halfway through the baking process. Anyway, cook it at about 350 F and/or according to the pastry directions (I’d say about 40 min.). Let it cool at least 10 minutes before cutting it…otherwise it gets crazy runny. Serve with crackers and Bob’s your uncle!

So here’s my baked brie for this week’s pot luck:

  • My family’s visit to the family farm last weekend fell on a weekend when work needed to be done for my cousin’s new blueberry endeavors. How wonderful to spend that time growing food with my family in the south Georgia sun. That and the slip and slide was also very cool:). Anyway all this had me thinking about what it means to have a Sense of Place. I think that will be my next set of musings
  • I made my first batch of laundry detergent and it’s brought my cost per load to about a cent. It took me 35 min of work and I’m sure I can do it in less time next time. I have detergent coming out of my yen yang, too! Oh and more importantly, it works – well – in my high efficiency machine. Well done, Suite101.com:

Making your own Laundry Detergent

  • I have all the ingredients I need to make my first batch of sunscreen. Keep your fingers crossed/thumbs held for me, please! I’ll let you know how it goes!
  • Have you planted everything you planned to plant this year? I still have some things that need to get in the ground…I’m getting behind…

Hope everyone has a great week! 🙂

Virtual Anonymity

A couple of months ago I had occasion to read the blog of a woman seeking employment with my sister company. It’s a foodie blog and I’m all about some food. On my first visit, her home page featured the old-school cover of a Nancy Drew hardback: The Mystery of the Hardboiled Egg. I was smitten:) I enjoyed her posts and and I decided a little mystery would be fun, so when I joined the conversation at La Aguacate I did so as Pot Luck Mama.

This virtual world we have here is interesting. This opportunity to pop in and out of “places”; observing behaviors, joining conversations and building relationships. We are not hampered by space or time. I put a thought out into the cloud and you are able to pluck it out if and when you see fit. We are also afforded a voyeuristic opportunity more blatant than I have seen in my lifetime. A growing segment of humankind has, in fact, embraced this opportunity for self-expression. All those inclined to share thoughts and ideas, stories and questions may do so – for many to see.

What’s more, we may do so on our own terms. We can enter a space, decide we don’t like the scene, and depart without exposure. We can share our thoughts without sharing our names, much like a stranger on the bus with whom we had such a lovely chat. We can choose a pen name, freeing ourselves from exposure or characterizing ourselves for the environment. We can share our professional profile, tailored individually to our taste and in the forum most comfortable (and convenient) to us. On that note, we may do so in our pajamas or between chores…

Today, a virtual friend is visiting my physical world:) Annakate, whom I am thrilled has joined our corporate team, will be in town for the week visiting with the team down here. Fortunately, my role has changed recently to involve me in her little circle of work, and she and I will get to play together often:) Our first brainstorming session, in fact, will be held as we take a cooking class together at The Viking Store in Atlanta (see footnote, below).

Our jobs include building virtual and physical communities around these stores (cooking school/unique event facility/appliance & culinary toy stores – all under one brick and mortar roof!) in Atlanta and Nashville. We are going to do this by supplementing the brick and mortar bliss with a virtual space where our team and brand’s friends can join together and share culinary adventures, recipes and advice. We will invite our brick and mortar guests to continue the friendships they forge in our classes in flexible virtuosity.

“We want you to experience the care, attention and inspiration we dish up at all of our cooking classes and private events – whether you can find the time to stop by a showroom or not. We are passionate professionals who want to expose you to our knowledge, our tools and our friends. Viking ToGo – culinary creativity in a doggie bag.” {That’s some draft verbiage for the site…what do you think? Too cheesy?}

Seriously…how much fun are we about to have? 🙂

I realize my work project only relates to virtual anonymity in the sense that I used it to begin what will now become a professional relationship. Still, I find myself making identity decisions regularly now as I play in my virtual pools, and  I wonder who does the same. Are you as excited as I to build new relationships on various levels of openness? How have you balanced anonymity while growing relationships?

The whole scenario reminds me of how good it always felt to move to a new city. In each new place we can begin again, that much closer to being the people we want to be. And that newness can be experienced online without concern for the financial or obligatory restrictions one may have while navigating the physical word.  The virtual world is our oyster:)

FYI, I’ll post photos from the cooking class to Twitter today as we do our thing. If any of you witty followers tweet me with a clever caption for one of the photos in the next 24 hours I’ll hook you up with discount from The Viking Store ~a discount on a class for an ATL or NASH resident, a culinary toy discount for a US resident, a surprise for South African residents (to be delivered in May) and sorry for the rest of the world but I’ll just have to give you guys kudos for wit:)

FOOTNOTE
1. I definitely classify this first brainstorming session as a perk. I also classify the culinary toys I am bringing home with me to (ahem) test out for the blog series I want to do on the subject as PERKS!

Netweaving: Why I don’t Mind Attending Events

The novelty of networking wore off quickly for me. All it took was a few of those people. You know them – they’ve handed you a card before a word has been uttered. Three flights up in your elevator pitch they’ve already checked out – scanning the room for their next card receptacle. They’re gross and they make me wish I were at home with my family. What a waste of my time.

When an esteemed colleague urged me to join her at a WINN meeting I only agreed out of respect for her. WINN (Women in NARI (National Association of the Remodeling Industry) Networking). Whew! That just sounds complicated, right? I was in a sorority in college and enjoyed it, but I’ve been exposed to enough caddy, female politics to steer clear. You can imagine my surprise when I walked out an hour and a half later feeling like my time had not been wasted. These women were incredible! They shared ideas and resources for growing and improving business. The fluff was minimal. I was hooked.

Early on in WINN’s evolution someone introduced us to Netweaving. Catchy word, huh? Wanna know more? Well, I’m happy to oblige:)

Have you ever seen or heard of the movie Pay It Forward?  Well, Netweaving is a pay it forward approach to business. Instead of walking into an event thinking about who you can meet to benefit you, you walk into one looking to meet people who interest and impress you. Then, as your black book of resource contacts grows, you begin to connect people. You connect them because they have a common interest or it benefits them to know one another. You help people with no known personal gain.

Frankly, I don’t believe Bob Littel, Chief Netweaver, has invented anything new. What Bob has done is give a name to an exercise that some business people do naturally and suggest a practice for this exercise so that those who do not can. It’s brilliant in it’s simplicity. Bob is teaching/reminding business people to be good people. Yes, part of the concept is a belief that good things happen to those people who make good things happen, but the payoff is not guaranteed and it’s not a motivator. It must not be.

The WINNers took this concept and we began applying it to our group at every opportunity. One such opportunity was Christmas. We opted for a non-materialistic gift exchange. After drawing names, we contacted our giftee and set up a time to get to know her better. Then, after learning more about her business, her personal professional goals and/or  her personal aspirations, we worked on gift ideas. Leslie sent me links to resources for marketing a blog and building readership. My giftee asked me to spend a couple of hours helping her set her new computer up. Some women hosted a Netweaving meeting,  introducing their giftee to someone it behooves them to know.  The gifts were specific and meaningful – we enjoyed the exchange so much!

We shared our stories at a meeting last week. Bob Littel (an Atlantan) even joined us to celebrate the efforts. I have rarely been in a room that oozed satisfaction like that one did:). When it was all said and done we had each gotten to know two members better (she we gave to and she who gave to us) and we had exercised our creativity generously. What a project!

I still guard my time. I don’t rush off to every event that crosses my inbox in the hopes that it will be another WINNer. Still, I’m glad I went to that meeting. I’m glad I’ve invested in a group of people I admire and enjoy. They’ve inspired me, supported me and befriended me in the past year and I value those relationships. They’ve replaced a hated chore (networking) with a healthy and welcome practice (Netweaving) that I can do every time I’m in a group of people. They’ve helped me grow, and that’s worth my time.

Ok, enough soppy stuff; here’s the fun part:)

WINN never did land on the right thing to call our little project. What we’re doing isn’t Netweaving, that’s just a gift some of us chose to give and an attitude we’ve adopted. Here are the names we came up with. If anyone can come up with something better I’ll give them a “whatever the game is called” gift.

  • Secret Santa with a Twist (this one had legs until “secret” made the getting-to-know-you pregame confusing…)
  • Netweaving Santa (yeah, we just went over all that…)

There’s been talk about doing this quarterly, by the way, so taking the “Santa” out of the name is welcome.

ALSO GOOD TO KNOW: Netweavers are doing an event this April (more info to follow). The original plan involved people flooding local restaurants to have their meetings. I actually think that’s a great idea (can think of a few places I’d like to support), but the event has grown exponentially to include so many different meanings now (inter-office communications and the like) that it it has opened up to any(one/where) they can meet. Think about this…one day when all these people (who are more like you than they are different) are exercising their nice muscle right along with you…I wouldn’t mind sharing in an energy like that.

Perspective: View from a High Horse

Recently I had occasion to reflect on the importance of perspective in business relationships. My reflection started with two concepts. The first? Worldview. I’ve studied worldview in the religious/spiritual context and buy into the concept. It’s easy for me to believe that a person’s worldview can color their response or reaction to statements, behaviors, and ideas. In a professional context, it is the fundamental perspective derived from an individual’s, department’s or company’s professional exposure, experience and influence. Let’s call it workview.

The second concept stirring my reflection was that of “love languages”. Gary Chapman theorizes that there are five primary universal and comprehensive ways of expressing and interpreting love. Everyone has a love language, and we each identify predominantly with one of the five love languages: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch. The brunt of Chapman’s theory is that unless you are showing someone love in their primary love language, you are running the risk that your efforts are not actually interpreted as love. (If you’re not comfortable “loving” your professional contacts, feel free to substitute “respect” for “love”.)

Since the people we interact with professionally are still in fact people, it stands to reason that 1) their distinct workviews will color their responses or reactions to statements, behaviors and ideas, and 2) the language or methods we use to address them may be interpreted based on their primary love language rather than ours. It’s my theory that an understanding of and belief in these concepts can improve our communication, patience and productivity. Here are some specific tactics where this understanding may have such an effect:

1)      The Pause – If we are entrenched in these ideas of perspective and compassion, reflection should become par for the course – we might just think before we speak.

2)      The Approach – The vehicle you choose for your message may also affect its reception. If you tune into people’s responses you may learn that you communicate better with some people by written word, some by spoken word, and some with face-to-face conversations. Just as you shift your perspective to understand workview, so should you consider your audience’s preferred method of communication…not just the communication method you perceive as your strongest vehicle.

3)      The Sandwich – As one of my favorite bosses taught me, sometimes you need to go with a pro-con-pro method. A person whose love language is Words of Affirmation, for example, may buck if you give them direct criticism but drink up your words (including the criticism) if you’re affirming them in the process.

4)      The Nod – You may include someone in a conversation or ask their advice even when their input is not needed. This is a good way to reassure the insecure and/or familiarize yourself with someone’s workview.

So there it is – a blurry reflection transformed into written word. I’d like to sift through the murk and make more sense of these ideas, but I think some percolation will improve the efforts. Do you have any thoughts to contribute? Do any applicable situations come to your mind?

On a personal note: Just a few short hours after these thoughts started tumbling around in my head, my husband and I had an argument. I assumed my fighting stance and totally and utterly failed to consider his perspective or primary love language. Talk about getting knocked off your high horse!

Why I loved 2009

It’s that time of year: we look back, we look forward, we make lists.

There are many who bid a happy farewell to 2009. Though I hardly lament the passing year (there will be no mourning on my 30th birthday, for that matter), I wish we were not so eager to cast it aside. I want to remember it. I did good work last year. I learned last year. I grew last year.

I read a blog post today by Amber Naslund titled Four Words for 2010 (highly recommend reading). In it, she talks about wanting to have chords in her life. She doesn’t expect a well-composed symphony among her various interests and responsibilities, she just wants to try and keep them “moving in the same, coordinated direction”. She “needs” a theme. I kept coming back to her ideas and wondering what my own “chord” is. I started to look back, look forward, make lists…

And then a theme: growth. How was this year bad when I learned so much? How many of us banded together and found friends we didn’t know we had? In 2009, I went through the most trying heartbreaks I have experienced in my life – BUT –

  • I felt God’s presence more than once.
  • I learned more about who I am and who I want to grow into.
  • I saw people do good things for one another.
  • I made difficult decisions.
  • I was exposed to concepts and professional associations that changed my attitude about my work.
  • I began to participate.
  • I served my community.  (Get ready for a new I Am B.E.A.U.T.I.F.U.L. event this spring…teaser- it will involve cooking:))
  • I laughed, I cried, I was sober and imbibed, I learned to ground and I wrote some stuff down…

No, I will not cast 2009 aside. I will roll gently from my then to my now and on to the new as I grow. And I hope I’m not alone. I hope my community, industry and country don’t spend so much time jazzing one another up about the future that we forget about the blessings we have and the lessons we’ve learned. I hope we enter a new era, one where we value conservation rather than excess, time rather than things, and relationships rather than connections.

I love 2010 already:).