Internet of Things

Are you interested in the internet of things? Whether you're in facilities or federal program management or general business, here are a handful of articles I found helpful when I went looking for more than just the basic definition to try and wrap my head around the magnitude of all of this stuff that will be connected and communicating in the future.

Fascinating, right?!

The Internet of Things Is Far Bigger Than Anyone Realizes, by Daniel Burrus

A Simple Explanation Of 'The Internet Of Things', by Jacob Morgan (INCLUDES A VIDEO!)

The Internet of Things, by Michael Chui, Markus Löffler, and Roger Roberts

Exercises for improving leadership skills

Each individual's leadership skills fall somewhere along a broad spectrum from truly terrible to incredibly inspiring. I believe that wherever we are in our leadership development, there are simple, daily exercises that we can do to improve our skills-- in between courses, trainings, coaching, and just doing the hard work of leading and motivating staff.

Here are 5 exercises with accompanying questions and examples to spark some reflection and self-assessment.

  1. Make conscious choices: lead, follow, or watch from the stands. In the very next meeting on your calendar several issues will be raised. Some actions will be agreed to and assigned. And still, there will be a larger or more complicated issue that will go unmentioned or unresolved. This happens in every single meeting- you just have to train yourself to see them. Each of these bigger issues is an opportunity to consciously choose your role. Can you lead your organization out of this bigger problem? Is someone better suited to lead and needs supportive followers? Or, is it best to watch this one play out? All three can be appropriate responses. The important thing is that you choose. You make a choice instead of passively going with the flow. Making a choice, taking a stand is empowering. So, speak up for those you want to take on and lend support to those you want to help. For everything else, make it clear that you’re sitting on the sidelines—because it’s not your leg of the race.
  2. Listen closely for other people’s perspectives. Are you able to hear someone’s point of view without assessment or judgement?  It’s difficult for me and I’ve wondered in the past why I should bother. It gets easier, and opens up more productive conversations, if you can reserve judgement and action until after hearing someone else’s point of view. Specifically, listen for times when people start with “I think” or “I feel” or “we should.” These are clues that they’re about to provide some insights into they’re processing the issue. They’re also words that trigger our subconscious and queue up a response of “well…I think, I feel, or we should…”
  3. Step up to solve today’s problem today. People I believe and respect* say credentials don’t matter as much as we previously believed. But they must matter, right? It’s a tough belief to shake. It’s been drilled into us since the beginning and the foundation higher education is based on. What matters instead are the results you can produce. This makes sense but putting all of the education and experience stuff on the back burner isn’t easy (at least for me) to do. What is more practical though, is resisting the tendency to not speak up because you presume that you don’t have the right credentials to contribute. There is so much important work to be done in our businesses and so much is going undone because the few in titled leadership roles couldn’t possibly get to all of it. They’re a bottleneck to brilliance—and rarely do they shut down good work intentionally. Never once in the history of all of my professional experience was a good idea turned away when someone offered to actually do the work too.
  4. Get the feedback you need—not just what your boss or team is offering. As a leader, you need to know not only if you're hitting targets, but also whether your team is content under your leadership. There's only one way to find out — ask them to tell you how you're doing and if there's anything they wish they could change. They’re likely to be really uncomfortable with this request at first. Reassure them that it’s not a trick and no one is going to get in trouble for speaking about their honest perceptions and experiences. You then back this up by thanking everyone who offers feedback, making adjustments in your approach (if needed), and continuing to enthusiastically lead forward.
  5. Pick yourself to be on the team.  Leaders create project teams and assume that everyone knows that they (the leaders) will fill a review and approval role. A more unique approach is to pick yourself for the team and make that clear upfront. State your role and how you’d like to work with everyone else. It's difficult to lead well if you don't consider yourself part of the group hashing through the tough challenges. What makes the project successful and the team look good is all of the same stuff that makes you look good too.  So, being an actual team player first while leading is a pretty novel and effective approach.

Bad Boss Stories

Collections aren't cool as they used to be, you know, with all of this tidying up we're doing.  So if you've been good about clearing stuff out but still have the urge to pile up some random stuff in one place, consider adding to this short, e-collection of bad boss stories.

  • "Giving the first employee of the month award to himself.", Huffington Post
  • "My first boss was the founding partner of a mid-sized law firm in Boston….He used to come in every morning, vise-grip my head with his hands, kiss the top of it, and say 'hello my luv, ho-e-you, ho-e-you'. Then he'd proceed to shred me all day long. His best moments were after I was sick and lost too much weight, used to walk around screaming 'where's the damned stick with t*ts?.' Really. I worked for him for 15 years. , Huffington Post
  • “I had a boss who tried to fire a retired employee. She had told him that he could not retire because there was too much work to be done, but he retired anyway. When she found out, she was heard throughout the office screaming into the speakerphone at the personnel director that she wanted to fire the employee. The personnel director chuckled as he told her that she could not fire an employee who had already quit.”, PennLive
  • “The first thing he does that is horrible is he points to his office when he wants to see me. He doesn’t call me by my name. Then he gives me a list of things that the higher-ups specifically told him to do and tells me to do it. He then tells me that the higher-ups don’t like me and I shouldn’t be friends with them. ( I know this isn’t true from talking to the higher-ups). He goes golfing and says that it’s company business and gets paid to go golfing while I do all his work and mine.”, PennLive

Newly pregnant at work

Mega snowstorm Jonas kept many of us inside for days straight. It's precisely these conditions that result in most babies being born in the fall-- yup, about 40 weeks later.  It's not too early to start thinking about maternity leave.  Here are some thoughts to consider...

Inventory and institutionalize your work

  • Now is a good time to take a look at the process and product of the things that you lead or contribute to in the organization.  What things can be transferred?  What things need to be written and described for others to take forward?  Reflect on the roles and responsibilities of your position and how that work can be addressed in your absence.

Figure out your “stay connected” plan

  • This isn’t to suggest that you shouldn’t fully be invested in your maternity leave.  You should, but you must also identify how you will stay connected to the work that occurs in your absence.  Communicate your intentions to check email, periodically respond to issue or answer questions, and how you will stay connected to the work, albeit in a modified or remote fashion.

Interview daycare providers

  • Research and then physically go and check out a couple of different daycare options- Even if you think you know what you want, I found it worthwhile to go visit an in-home daycare and a daycare/preschool center.  Seeing the set-up and getting a feel for the places really helped me imagine what it'd be like to drop off this little person that I hadn't even met yet myself. I also talked with a handful of nannies, moms with nannies, dads with au pairs, and grandmas doing a second tour as daytime caregiver. The experience will either make you feel more confident in your choices or help you narrow down the range of options.

Congratulations on this big, impending change.  Good luck!

far out

Absolute distance makes the reaching the goal harder. Running 26 miles is more difficult than 1. Perceived distance makes reaching the goal harder too but for a different reason.

Our perception of distance can make us believe a goal is farther out than it really is. This perceived distance can be hugely demotivating. It can prevent us from taking the first step and getting started simply because we believe it’s going be too hard to find our way or even worse-- because it's going to take too long.

Physically, mentally, emotionally moving towards something that we want but that seems really hard or not fully understood goes against our most hard-wired survival instincts.

Shortening the distance between ourselves and our goals—even by a single step-- brings sharper focus and might even spark an idea for how to take the second step. A journey of a thousand miles…. Right?

Do one scary thing today. 

To Master Social Media, Simplicity Wins

Social media is overwhelming. The very thing that makes it remarkable and powerful also makes you feel like you're lost in the woods, at night, in heels, with only half of a Lara Bar in your purse. The volume and constant flow of messages can lead to an urge to stay constantly engaged to keep up-- let alone make any progress in getting your message out.

In working on a piece for Inc.com in collaboration with Vendeve, these bonus tips were shared with me.  They come from Julie Lowe. Julie is a Facebook Ads expert whose mission is to make online marketing feel accessible and empowering - rather than mysterious & stressful - for every online entrepreneur.

Here's what Julie says...

  1. Use automation to your advantage. While you can't automate relationship building, you can schedule posts in advance. (Sit down once a week, create your content, and schedule posts to go out at set dates and times.) I use hootsuite but I know there are others out there like tweetdeck.
  2. Curate content to round out your posting schedule. Every post you share doesn't have to be your own original content. (Use tools like Postplanner or Scoop.it to find value-add content and avoid the burnout that can come from constant creation mode.) I use Feedly and am looking to change this up a bit. 
  3. Set some boundaries. One of the reasons people get social media burnout is that it becomes a time-suck. You can easily lose hours of productivity each week if you're not careful. (Schedule social networking into your day like any other business activity, set your intentions for how to use that time, and set a timer if you have to!)

You can find Julie at SociallyAligned.com

worry along for the ride

With all of swirling talk of resolutions and goals, I worry. My goals are set and vision board cut and pasted. With those critical first pieces done, now I worry some that my goals aren’t big enough or that they’re too big. I worry most that this year will be just like last year. I worry that if I don’t make some magical things happen this week- or today- that any chance of reaching my goals will evaporate. That an achingly slow start out of the gate will cause me to lose interest and motivation with every call not immediately returned, with every unretweeted tweet, and every mile that isn’t faster than the last. 

There is a certain amount of cooperation from the universe needed to pull this shit off. I need clients to do certain things, readers to respond in certain ways, colleagues to step up, and people I haven’t even met yet to appear. It’s a choreographed circus. All. About. Me. Right? You see, I don’t want to be disappointed. So if everyone could just show up and play their assigned part, that’d be just awesome. Thanks.

Setting goals is energizing. It’s exciting. I enjoy suspending my skepticism for a couple of hours and allowing myself the time and space to dream. While goal-setting sparks a lot of positive feelings, two negative ones follow. Fear (that I can’t do the hard work needed to achieve them or won’t do it) and self-centeredness (me, me, me) are a part of the package.

Goal-setting dredges up old fears and gives my companion fears (those always hanging around) an invitation to speak. When I’m really reaching, I’m able to create some new ones to add to the collection. Goal-setting also amps up how much attention I’m paying to myself—to the exclusion of other people and events.

Both of these conditions suck mightily but can be managed. First, I have to acknowledge that they’re happening and second, take action that moves me towards the positive goal.
The acknowledging part is simply noticing and (not so simply) re-scripting the dialog in my head. Recognizing a fear is easy enough but it’s not a “check the box” kind of event. I often need to remind myself on a weekly—sometimes daily- basis that those thoughts that are telling me to slow down, stop, or turn around aren’t typically helpful warnings. They’re little fears popping up that need to be acknowledged then consciously ignored or stamped out.

The taking action part is where my plan comes in. One thing I know to be true about myself is that I can work a plan. When something is written down step-by-step, I got it. I might change the steps along the way but I have a plan. For this reason, creating a simple little plan to get me started on each of my goals is critical. Without it, I can give you the probability of success right now and it’d be zero.

A note on self-centeredness: I couldn’t talk myself of anyone out there out of being self-centered. It’s who we essentially are and, alas, is the point of setting personal goals to begin with. The issue is when we set a self-centered goal that cannot be achieved without another person’s action. These goals don’t serve you in any helpful way and typically are just a setup for disappointment. An example would be me setting a goal to increase my twitter following by 100 people. It’d be nice but there isn’t anything I can personally do to make people click “follow.” I can, however, write tweets that are amusing or helpful to me and believe they will be for other with similar interests. So the goal really is about writing fun tweets and letting go of how other people respond.

I hope you did or are planning to write down goals for 2016. I believe the process is absolutely critical—though not free from its own pitfalls of fear and self-centeredness. By paying attention to what’s going on in my head, I feel better able to do the hard work needed to bring this year’s set into reality.

Will you be happier freelancing?

Since I started freelancing (or independent consulting as it's more commonly referred to in my industry) people reach out for advice on whether or not they should do the same. I'm delighted to take these calls and talk. The question, to me, seems to boil down to this... "will I be happier freelancing or staying put?" 

I like to talk through their expectations and what they imagine post-corporate life to be like. I captured the key concepts in this quiz. Answer the questions to determine where you'll be the happiest and able to do your best work in the coming year. 

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In the comments below or in a private message, let me know if the answer surprised you or got you thinking about an alternative way of working.  I'd love to hear from you.

Welcome back!

Welcome back!?! I say that in part as a greeting and part as a little personal pep-rally.  The buying, wrapping, cooking, celebrating, honoring, remembering, and forecasting-- it's all done for 2015. I'm both a little sad and immensely grateful that "things" will be getting back to normal this week. 

How were your holidays?  Great, I hope. The Christmas part, frankly, seems like a distant memory at this point. We had the kids home for the last four days. I'm obligated to say how wonderful that was-- and it was, of course-- but it's all-consuming and has the effect of erasing my short-term memory.  What were we talking about? Oh yeah, the holidays... 

So what's true for me about the ups and downs of the holiday season is that a perfect storm is created with the over-buying, over-eating, and over-self assessing.  All of this is done just in time for New Year's Resolutions. We're all feeling pretty icky so it's no surprise that most of us spent a little time over the last couple of days coming up with a couple of goals or, at least, acknowledging that last year's resolutions are still undone so they can just be dusted off for 2016.

Goal-setting is something I look forward to each year. I have a lengthy process that includes a lot of google image searching with some Pinterest pinning breaks (for recipes and outfits totally unrelated to whatever I'm trying to accomplish.)  This year was the mostly the same. I'll be serving my existing clients in new ways and working on winning a couple of new ones along the way.  I'm really excited about that.  I'm finetuning my writing to focus on the audience most near and dear to my heart-- younger, professional women facing many of the same challenges that I did earlier in my career. So, I'm really excited about that too. I have the common ones around health, finances, and personal relationships that are really more reminders of my values instead of out-in-out goals.

There were a couple of things I found interesting and helpful this year. This blog post about writing your goals in the past tense-- as if it were a year from now-- came from my wonderful author coach, Angela Lauria.  It's an interesting way to think about it.  After I read hers, I rewrote a portion of mine and was surprised about how easily the words spilled out. And I don't know about you but I'm dying to see the pictures of her upcoming Medieval Ball wedding!

If you're still on the fence about whether or not writing goals down is for you or not, my question would be this... if nothing changed next year, would that be ok? Most everyone I know is interested in some kind of continuous improvement. I'm a big believer in personal goal-setting and this quote from Zig Ziglar sums up why..."With definite goals you release your own power, and things start happening.”  

So get after it! Your 2016 is waiting!

The Devil Named Meetings

I love Chris Stapleton and his soulful, down-on-his-luck country songs. I can imagine a life filled with whisky, smoky bars, and life on the road but... Let's be real. His days are so different than mine. So just for fun on this pre-holiday, throw-away workday, I adjusted the lyrics below to better reflect my reality as a federal meeting facilitator.

This was done with a lot of love and respect for Chris and my cherished clients-- and apparently because I have nothing better to do.  You can buy the real song and sing along here.

Big hugs and Happy Thanksgiving!




our project problem, post 3: smaller wins

Our approach to designing and starting projects is flawed in a couple of important ways that make completing them as we intend really difficult. We create projects that are too big, too long, and without consistent leadership support—or hang by a thread as a “must do” from a senior official in a position with high-turnover. When projects come crashing down, we blame ourselves, our leadership, our contractors—luckily, there is no shortage of people to point at.

Let’s focus on the problem of project size because it’s so common, at the root of most project failures, and is so easily fixed. Smaller projects win. And when I say smaller, I mean really small.  Work that can be done in about two weeks is ideal.

But, of course, small projects have to fit into a larger, intense and vibrant vision for the future. Too often, we have a sketchy, faded sense of where we’re going and a completely useless set of mission and vision statements. Instead, you need a vision that is clear, imaginable, and well-understood by all stakeholders (to be PMP-y about it.)

Why smaller projects work is that each is created within this glorious vision. How they support it and take the organization one step closer is obvious to all. The resources are allocated incrementally. The team can focus—coming together for the specific purpose and dispersing when it’s done—a short time later.

All of the documentation and artifacts pushed through the PMP should, in fact, be part of the organization’s standard operating procedures and not recreated at the project level time and again. Communications plans, risk management plans, resource management plans and on and on are a waste. In the smaller project model, we don’t bother to create these for each project. We commit instead to adhering to the broader organizational expectations for planning and reporting—actually, we don’t even have to make any formal commitment. It’s just how we work.

I want to write something about construction projects because I think they’re different and possibly the opposite—more “go big or go home.” One of my favorite clients has undertaken the massive transformation of a cherished cultural site. There are about one million moving pieces that make her project incredibly complex but it is working. I think the difference with construction projects is that there are literally years spent planning and designing the end result. Each step along this process includes hundreds of check points when other people get together and weigh in. Problems are identified then painstakingly addressed. The plans are refined then everyone moves on together.

It seems like a difficult job from the outside. Progress can feel slow but she sticks with it.  She has to listen to and find the middle ground among people with clear biases but she sticks with it. The actual funding needed to bring the project to reality is uncertain but she sticks with it. It’s pretty remarkable, actually and I’m thankful she’s so dedicated.

But most of us don’t work in construction or even on big, lumpy system implementations. Instead, we spend oodles of time on project work and many days, we’re not sure if we’re making any progress at all.  It’s frustrating.  To regain that sense of accomplishment—and not even the sense of it—to regain actual accomplishments, we have to make the project smaller.

promises and intentions

We all try not to make promises we can't keep. That's true for me but I've found that I have a better track record with others than with myself. So instead of making another promise here, I'll just state my intention. Use this writing space to be the first, most raw and unrefined versions of the thoughts I want to share on work-- communications, meetings, federal government, etc. and some personal stuff-- kids, pets, life stuff.

Putting that stuff here makes sense because my regular readers are those I'm closest to (thanks Mom and Dad!)-- the most forgiving of typos, the most welcoming of random thoughts, the most willing to engage on or offline.

I've been so lucky over the last couple of months to find additional writing outlets through other blogs/online magagines. Unfortunately, the volume of words that those opportunities created (and frankly the exposure) has me writing less-- not more.

I have coffee in the biggest cup from the cabinet, a baby on my lap, and a bunch of stuff in the queue. Here's I go... (again.)