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Oftentimes, people feel like they don’t need to be working on leadership skills because they’re not a leader yet. They’re not a Thought Leader, presenting to hundreds of people. They’re not a Manager, with direct reports looking to them for a career advice. Or, they’re not the “Lead” on the project.

If you reframe those “I’m not yet’s…” into “I could be somedays…” you can actually take some great steps towards them. Not only will it help you prepare for when you’re in that role, it will also give a nod to your organization that you’re hankering for the opportunity to take on that kind of responsibility.

Read on for some ideas of what you can be doing right now!

  1. For the Thought Leader: start honing in on your craft. Read articles, buy books, textbooks, attend lectures, watch youtube videos. Test out different methodologies and see what works, what doesn’t. Start to write. Write what works, write what doesn’t. Whether you write it for yourself, your blog, Medium, or submit it to fastco, getting your thoughts on paper on what you’ve learned will help you create your point of view. Consider asking your organization if you can present some learnings at your next all-hands meeting, or, a smaller team meeting in your discipline. Share your POV, and ask folks for feedback, maybe even consider taping and rewatching. By working on both your content and your delivery, you’ll be developing the skills to be on stage in no time.
  2. For the Manager: begin to develop your ability to receive and deliver feedback. By soliciting feedback, and working with managers to develop plans to improve, you’ll be getting better at figuring out how to navigate sticky conversations with future employees. And, even better yet, once you start soliciting feedback, you can begin to practice giving upward, sideways, downward feedback which will help you learn tactful ways to communicate what people need to hear. Which, will make you an even better manager because you’ll be able to push your employees to also give you feedback so that you keep improving, too.
  3. For the Project Lead: try out tactics that you think are important for a project to be successful. Some ideas you may want to run by the project lead (which they’ll probably appreciate since they’re likely already overwhelmed) and others you can probably just try out to cultivate a strong team dynamic. Some ideas? Organize team outings, ensure folks step away from their desk for lunch, practice inclusivity, or try a team norming exercise to learn about everyone’s different working styles and boundaries.

So, there you have it. Whether you want to one day become a Thought Leader, Manager and/or Project Lead, there’s a lot you can be doing right now to get ready!

As the days are getting shorter, weather’s getting colder and sweaters are finding their way out of storage, we start to plan our holiday travel season. One semi-regular occurrence is the High School Reunion. Most schools opt for around Thanksgiving on the assumption that folks come home for the holidays. Now, prepping for a high school, college or even family reunion can be a stressful mental task. Especially if you’re not loving your job. So, read on for some tips to survive a high school reunion. (Or a college reunion, family reunion, or just the random surprise coffee shop sighting.)

  1. Write down everything that’s going great. Seriously. Take the time to write down everything that makes you really happy about your current lifestyle. It could be that you love your job, your boss, your apartment, you started taking an improv class or just discovered ceramics is still fun. Keep writing until you have a stockpile of items that bring you joy. These are great to have in your back pocket to remind yourself that things are going well.
  2. Get your elevator pitch down. Be prepared to answer the same questions over and over by almost scripting where you live and what you do. You’ll have to say it more than once and by scripting it, you can avoid run-on sentences where you start to dive into exactly why you didn’t get the promotion you thought you would.
  3. Plan ahead and get your questions ready. Think about who you’re hoping to catch up with. If you can, send them a note before the event to let them know you’re looking forward to connecting. Also, get some questions ready for anyone you’re chatting with. There will be the usual wheres and whats, but, it’s good to mix in some different questions like asking about upcoming trips or new hobbies. It’s fun to reminisce and to learn about what’s happening in the present.
  4. Let the jealousy go. It’s going to be hard to see people who are founders of their own companies, lawyers or VPs at their companies. If you’re nervous about the jealousy, keep returning to step 1 and remind yourself that everyone works at their own pace and we all have different definitions of success.
  5. Find a buddy. When heading back to school, bring a friend or significant other. Work out a “code” word that let’s both of you know what you need. Something as simple as, “I think I’m going to switch to beer”, or, “I was thinking about purchasing a stuffed iguana.” Okay, maybe you should work that one out with them.
  6. Listen. It’s fun to talk about yourself, but, it’s also really nice to have someone listen to you. When you’re asking folks about themselves, be careful not to be searching around the room for your next mark. Be present with each person as you learn about what they’re doing now.
  7. Give in to the awkward. This stuff is awkward! To counterbalance, be sure to wear something that makes you feel comfortable and eat a big dinner to soak up the open-bar alcohol. Let it be silly but be sure to watch the drinks and keep the conversations on the lighter side. You may have a few people that you really want to dive deep – that’s awesome! Be sure to schedule time to meet up again so you don’t find yourself 2 hours into a conversation and realizing you didn’t get to see Susan.

I hope these tips help as the reunion season comes close. If you’re also job hunting, a sneaky 8th tip is to ask people about their jobs and what they like and don’t like. Don’t pull out a resume, instead, keep the conversation upbeat and follow up after the reunion to learn more in an informal setting. Also, honestly? There’s no shame in deciding not to go. There will always be another one!

Are you a bit sleepy this morning? Have you suddenly realized that your socks don’t match and you left your packed lunch at home? Welcome to morning! Mornings can be really tough, but there are all kinds of things you can do the night before to start your day off right.

  1. Take a look at your schedule for tomorrow. It’s good to have a quick review of what’s on the docket. If that gives you dreams of crunching numbers, then just set the alarm clock for your regular time. Or, a tiny bit earlier just in case!
  2. Pack your bag. Make sure you have all the files you need, that extra phone charger, chapstick and your gym clothing picked out. No one wants to arrive at the gym with no shorts. It makes booty-burn very awkward.
  3. Put some thoughts to your clothing. Quickly check the weather and set out, or, mentally select, what you’d like to wear to work. Hint? Try layers – it helps reduce surprise weather changes. If you really want to ease things up, consider creating a “uniform” for work hours.
  4. Set some downtime. As the evening wears on, get in some great sleepytime support work. Some herbal tea, a small snack, moving away from computer and television screens, crack open a book! Special points for doing the same things each night. Creating a nightly routine will give your brain the nod to start winding down.
  5. Set your morning up. If you’re a coffee or tea drinker, consider preparing some iced versions to keep in your fridge ready to go first thing. Making breakfast easy to grab will ensure your tummy is full and that caffeine has easily entered your system.

Hopefully following these five steps will result in you showing up to work bright-eyed, bushy tailed and with only one pair of socks on – the same color!

Credits:
http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/246349

Now that Q4 is in full swing and our heads are spinning with hitting our final annual goals, it’s the time to think about taking days off. Seems counterintuitive, doesn’t it? Well, with holidays right around the corner that will take many of us on trips to see family and friends, it’s hard to remember that the holidays may not be exactly… relaxing.

So what to do?

  1. Review your benefits package to check out your employer’s plan for unused PTO days. Some places will let you rollover a portion of your days, but you may lose some of them. Giving up those days is like giving up an extra weekend (or two). You’ve earned those days off, and you should take them.
  2. Plan your days off. If you’re a manager, it’s good to demonstrate the importance of taking time away from the office. If a trip isn’t in the cards, take a stay-cation and enjoy doing your laundry in peace. A day of laundry when other folks are hustling away can be quite rewarding. Or, go and check off some of the items on your bucket list. A museum? Zoo? Botanical Gardens? A new television series that you’ve been waiting to catch the flu to reasonably stay home and watch it non-stop?
  3. Enjoy the day (or two) away from the office. If you can, try to step away from the computer, and give your brain some time to recharge. Getting some mental downtime can give you a good boost of happy thoughts back in the office. And, if you find your brain coming up with new ideas, hurray for enjoying your work so much that your brain can’t help but come up with great ideas! Get some non-screen time in, maybe journal a bit or get into a yoga class.

Good luck taking your hard-earned days off. Don’t forget, Americans are leaving up to 9 days of paid vacation on the table at year end. That’s over a month of weekends! Go get your month of weekends!

Credits:
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/mental-downtime/
http://www.inc.com/laura-garnett/what-your-summer-vacation-can-teach-you-about-your-job.html?cid=sf01001

Excited to introduce Annie to you, a brilliant creator of the arts who, if you’re in the Seattle area you should try to catch one of the performances she works on. Read on for Part 1 of Annie’s interview!

Hi! Who are you?! What do you do?
I’m Annie Paladino, and I am an educator and theater artist. Originally from Orange County, CA, went to college in CT, lived for four years in San Francisco, and then moved to Seattle (two years ago). Currently I work in program coordination (after-school activities and summer camp) at a private K-8 school in Seattle, and I am the Associate Artistic Director of Akropolis Performance Lab. I’m also a freelance actor/director/playwright/producer and a teaching artist.

As Program Coordinator at a small(ish) independent school, I am responsible for basically everything that happens after school or during the summer. Hiring, program development, outreach, a little marketing, program administration, budgeting, teaching, scheduling, procedure/policy development…these are all things I do on a regular basis. The position was brand new when I was hired, so I’ve had a lot of freedom to design, develop, and run these programs the way I want to. I also teach several day camp programs during the summer. It’s a LOT of variety, which I love.

I have worked with many different theater groups both in Seattle and San Francisco, but this is my first time in a leadership position, which is both exciting and scary. Scary because I don’t tend to be artistically monogamous, but I was instantly at home with APL. APL is a very small company with virtually zero organizational infrastructure. We have no operating budget, the “staff” consists of me and the two Co-Artistic Directors, and all performers/company members are paid a small stipend on a per-project basis only. We seldom produce in traditional theater spaces; our most recent production was performed in the basement studio of the Co-Artistic Directors’ house, for audiences of 10 at most. So although I carry a kind of fancy title, it doesn’t come with a salary or 401(k).

Work/Life/Passion Balance, what’s your method?
Well, I kind of cheat. A couple years ago I realized that I have two careers — one in education and one in theater. One of them makes me money, and one of them (usually) doesn’t. But they’re both careers. It doesn’t seem fair to my work in education to call it a “day job”, when it is totally work done from passion and care. But it’s also not fair to call my work in theater a hobby — it is absolutely a career and my life’s passion. In many ways, it’s actually wonderfully freeing to not be earning my income from my art. It means that I choose projects based on interest/passion/”artistic need”/whatever, rather than on my need to make rent. This works both ways: I can prioritize projects that I wouldn’t take on if I didn’t have another source of income, AND/OR I’m not forced to take on projects simply for the paycheck. This means, generally speaking, that I’m not as busy and overworked as other theater artists/performers. So yes, I’m not acting in 12 shows every year, but good lord, I wouldn’t want to.

I work hard to keep balance in my life, and I’m sometimes successful. In both my current job and my previous job (in education research), my hours have varied between 75%-100% FTE, generally staying at 75% (i.e. 30 hours/week). I mostly got lucky in my first job that the position they were hiring for was 30 hours/week and included full benefits — it turned out to work fabulously well in conjunction with my work in theater. Enough time to earn a (very modest) living and have significant investment in the work, but with a little extra padding so as not to lose my mind during tech week for a show (which might end up being an extra 25-30 hours/week for a week or two). My current job was originally 50% FTE, but I asked for my time to be increased to 75% after my first year. Again, the extra hours are vital to maintaining any semblance of sanity.

Thank goodness for maintaing sanity! Thanks for checking out the details about Annie! Next week we’ll learn about what she prioritizes, and the importance of “well-roundedness”

If you’re hankering for more information about Annie in the meantime, check out these links: 
I’m sporadically on Twitter @anniepaladino
You can find info about my artistic work at www.anniepaladino.com
And Akropolis Performance Lab is online at www.akropolisperformancelab.com

Today, we’re welcoming September with its smell of apples, surprise NYC-heatwaves and lots of teachers and students heading back to school. September still has that feel of new beginnings even more than an icy December evening rocking sequins, tights and silly hats. With all of this school ramping back up, there’s no reason to hop on the continued education train! To help you get started, here are some ideas on how you can continue that education of yours!

  1. For the value-focused self-starter. Check out these free online education sources that are taught by real professors with lesson plans:
    Coursera, edX, Khan Academy, Books!
  2. For the self-guided self-starter. Check out these online resources that you can use when you have the time:
    Skillshare, Lynda, Codecademy (Free!), Udemy
  3. For the the career changer. If you’re looking to leverage this additional education to make a job-switch, consider a more detailed program that offers some accreditation and/or deeper knowledge:
    General Assembly, The Flatiron School, Coursehorse (they aggregate classes ranging from one-day workshops to full programs)
  4. For the one-timer. There are incredible lectures that you can get your hands-on to learn more about specific topics.
    TEDed, YouTube via NYTimes, Academic Earth, Lifehacker’s List

If you’re looking for more business-focused courses, check out the Business Insider article that pulled together some great courses in 2014. Another thing to consider is looking into the universities in your neighborhood to see if they have online courses, continuing education courses or even weekend seminars. These classes can be a great introduction to a new area of study and a university that you may want to consider applying to for a graduate degree in the future. If a graduate degree is something you’re into.

Any way you slice it there are opportunities out there to learn more about topics you’re interested in. Good luck on continuing to learn!

Work is something we all have on our plates, and with 24/7 access via mobile phones and email, it can feel like you spent an entire day (and night) accomplishing very little. Sometimes you may only be able to assess your output by the number of emails you sent or the number of meetings you attended. So when you feel that you’ve just been working a lot, but can’t quite say what you accomplished – productivity is key. Read on for 4 lifehacks that will up your productivity (and lower your working hours).

  1. Map your work – I know, it’s not a sexy one, but it’s important to plan ahead. By looking at the day you have in front of you, or the week, month, quarter you’re giving your brain an understanding of what’s on the docket. This will let you make sure you’re aligned with your current personal or project goals consistently so you can stay focused.
  2. Schedule your time – Organizing your time allows for real work to get done. Rather than having free hours in your day, block out time for the tasks you’d like to complete during those times. Test out different periods of time that work for you – for some you may only be able to focus for 10 minutes at a time, others, 45 minutes. When you start a task session, fully commit for those 10-45 minutes. You’ll start to sense a balance as to how long you can really pay attention to one task. Leave gaps between task sessions to handle items that require less focused attention.
  3. Prioritize to-dos – This is similar to planning ahead, but a little more granular. Not only is it important to have a broad picture of your personal and professional goals, but your daily to-do list should be prioritized by what is critical and what is important. Obviously, everything on your to-do list is important, but some items truly cannot wait past today. Distinguishing between the two will allow you to focus on what matters most today.
  4. Break out – As much as focus is important, so is lack of focus. Give yourself time before, during and after the work day to truly unwind. That may be a few minutes of looking at puppies, taking up a quick meditation or shutting off your phone after work hours so you can really step away from the office and rejuvenate.

Hope these help you get more done, faster, so you can have more time for fun things!

Credits:
http://www.forbes.com/sites/joefolkman/2015/03/23/8-ways-to-get-work-done-faster/
http://www.virgin.com/entrepreneur/how-to-work-less-and-achieve-more
http://www.inc.com/ilya-pozin/learn-this-in-10-minutes-and-be-more-productive-for-life.html

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