Three Words

Recently I spoke to a career group. Each person in attendance was asked to identify him or herself and then use three words to describe their career and their search. It’s a great exercise because you have to be succinct.

And if you listen carefully, you can also determine whether you stand out in the crowd. Unfortunately, many who spoke that day used words that everyone else uses. Words such as communicator, results driven, deadline oriented can identify lots of people.

Take a moment to think about the three words you would use to describe yourself and your career. Are they original? Do they make you stand out? If not, keep trying.

Now do the same exercise and write down three words that you want to define yourself in the new year. Think about the goals and resolutions you have made. Narrow that list to three words.

Keep those words handy as you navigate the year.  At year’s end, those should be the words you and others would use to describe you.


Lessons from the North Pole

The other evening I was watching the TV show, “NCIS.” It was the episode in which the origin of many of Gibbs’ Rules was explained. His rules are an extensive series of guidelines that Leroy Jethro Gibbs lives by and teaches by. One of the rules even applies to Santa Claus, which started me thinking about communications and leadership lessons from the North Pole.

Teamwork is important. Rule 15 states “Teamwork is important.” For Santa to get all the presents made and delivered, he needs a team of elves and they need to work together to succeed. Gibbs was reminding his team of the importance of working together to solve a case.

Contingency plans are vital. No matter how much Santa and the elves prepare, they can’t control the weather. Fortunately, Santa has a great back-up plan when the weather is bad. Yep, Rudolph with his nose so bright saves Christmas. (And if you didn’t know, it’s the 50th anniversary of the airing of the holiday special.)

Letters work. Each year boys and girls – both naughty and nice – take pen, pencil, crayon or marker to paper to plead their case about how good they have been and what gifts they would like (and deserve). Some children are texting and emailing, but letters remain the most popular way to reach Santa. The USPS even has a program to handle the volume. If you do hear back from Santa and want to share your letter with others be sure to tag it #SantaLetters.

Merry Holidays!

Fast Company’s Polly LaBarre’s Advice

Are you capable of change as fast as the world is changing?

What case do you make for the difference you make in your role?

Are you regularly able to reinvent yourself?

Polly LaBarre encourages developing a sense of energy. (Photo by Cynthia Price)

Polly LaBarre encourages developing a sense of energy. (Photo by Cynthia Price)

Those were daunting questions asked by Polly LaBarre, a founding member of Fast Company and the editorial director of MIX.

Her advice is not to be afraid, but rather to develop a sense of energy.

She quoted Ralph Waldo Emerson: “There are always two parties, the part of the Past and the party of the Future; the Establishment and the Movement.”

She offered the following advice during the October PRSA International Conference:

Stand for something. The values you stand for will imbue your organization. Your job is to be alive and awake to the shifts, but you also need to know what shouldn’t change. Articulate and advocate for a better future.

“You have to make a case for why what you do really matters,” she said. “Have you developed a story so powerful that people will stand in line for it? That they will tell it for you?”

If they are telling it for you, they most likely are on social media.

Cultivate your innovation DNA. LaBarre posed the question: “How do you do art as a team sport?” She discussed Pixar Animation Studios, which she said “turned the workplace into a canvas.” For example, the visitor badge reads, “A stranger from the outside.” Emergency exit signs at Pixar read, “Exit the building before tweeting about it.”

Lead without authority. The ruling idealogy for so long was “control” but that doesn’t unleash passion and inspiration.

Have you developed your sense of energy?

Are You Sitting at the Table?

In Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In she talks about the importance of sitting at the table.

I had been meaning to read the book for some time, and I’m glad I finally made the time, if only for this point. She encourages individuals, women in particular, to not wait to be invited to sit at the table.

She cited an example of an important business meeting where a few women sat off to the side. That also meant they were not included in the conversation and the decision making.

As an introvert, it’s more natural for me to want to sit off to the side and absorb. However, I learned early on that I not only need to sit at the table, but that I must “raise my hand and keep it up.”

If an agenda is available ahead of time, I review it to determine the areas where I might best contribute.

Another way to think about being seated at the table, is to not wait to be told what to do. To succeed, Sandberg says, it’s important to seize opportunities and make them fit for you.

In my last position, I seized an opportunity to develop the organization’s social media strategy and jump start it. It was a great learning opportunity, and has proven invaluable as I now have more communications platforms available to share content.

Through NFPW and other organizations I have seized opportunities by volunteering for positions that not only helped me gain new skills, but also provided me with leadership roles.

Are you ready for a seat at the table?

4 Books to Read This Holiday

The holidays are a great time to tweak your career or prep for a career move as I recently wrote. I also find the holidays to be a perfect time to catch up on all the books I have been meaning to read.

My list is longer than I would like at the moment because I have attended meetings and listened to TedTalks where speakers referenced books or had written a book. I’m sharing my list in case you are looking for inspiration.

Thrive by Arianna Huffington. This is the first one on my list, and yes, it’s by the founder of the Huffington Post. She makes a compelling case on the need to redefine what it means to be successful in today’s world. She wrote it after she fell from exhaustion and broke her cheekbone.

The Innovators by Walter Isaacson. If you want to know how innovation happens and what role disruption plays, this is the book to read. It tells the story of the people who created the computer and the Internet.

Lie Spotting by Pamela Meyers. This book focuses on how to become a lie spotter, which can lead to truth seeking and ultimately to trust building. I watched a TedTalk and was fascinated by what she shared.

Mavericks at Work by William C. Taylor and Polly LaBarre, who is a co-founder of Fast Company, one of my favorite magazines. The authors write that the only way to stand out is to be truly original. You can be inspired by the companies and people profiled in this book.

What books would you recommend? Feel free to post a comment with the title and why you recommend it.