When is it Time for a Woman to Lean Out?

When is it Time for a Woman to Lean Out?

There is a lot of chatter around the idea that women are supposed to “Lean In.” The book that coined the phrase is everywhere. So, being a “with it” kind of chick, I started to read the book. I am in that demographic of women who have spent plenty of time in boardrooms and high level negotiations. I have been around a whole lot of men in suits. Not hot men in suits like Mad Men, more like Chris Farley as the motivational speaker. I know more than I care to about women playing in the corporate sand box for the long haul. I scoured the early chapters of “the book” looking for that magic gem of advice that would make me more effective, more motivated, or help me actually remember to pick up the dry cleaning. Maybe I could find some way of “leaning in” even harder than I have over the years when I did a master’s degree at night, had babies, divorced, moved across the country, all the while following the brass ring of the mega-career. Many women passed through my work life during those years. Promising young ones, experienced older gals who fought the great pant suit wars of 1974, and some zombies. All of them battled with the same things: How do I make this unicorn called “work life balance” work? What am I going to do with the corner office if I ever get it? Statistically it is a hard go, but you keep on truckin’ tiger. What decisions will lead me to fulfillment of heart and soul? (If you figure that one out, let the rest of us know.) Now that I am staring down the barrel of the final sprint to the finish line of my working years, I am thinking more about leaning out. It has been a hard slog, truly. I am now on the cusp of being matronly, and although I can’t go a seventh week without a root touch up, I can tell you I know plenty of stuff. The experience I bring to my career is mind boggling, but I find it increasingly boring to implement all of my genius every day. On top of that, even we fabulously-groomed middle aged women are becoming invisible in today’s society. Sometimes the struggle doesn’t seem worth it. Leaning out starts to look better and better, almost, you know, like fun. Hobbies and dirty novels become more appealing. Drinking wine at lunch with your best friends was the domain of the wealthy stay at home Moms when I was younger. I want a few 3 o’clock hangovers before I have to fish my teeth out of a glass in...
Stepping back into the workforce

Stepping back into the workforce

Over a number of years I have interviewed a wagon load of people for positions, mainly for office jobs. You meet all kinds of interesting characters when you are trying to find your new favourite employee. The specific subgroup of applicants that I am thinking about today is one needing some advice methinks. Let’s call them the “Time Travellers” group of workforce re-entries. They last worked some time ago, and are trying to hop back on to the working world. I often find myself across from a jittering hopeful applying for their first job after a parental leave. Some had been off for years, and others for shorter periods, but generally they have been dealing in laundry, diapers and making shopping lists in crayon for a measurable gap in their career timeline. The sink hole of work skills glares up like a beacon of warning from their resumes. They all share the same worry about having lost their skills or being too behind to be worth hiring. It is always interesting to hire somebody who feels insecure about their skill set and value. They are convinced they are behind the times, and are often right about that. If you are a stay at home parent with some lag in your work place knowledge, you can still make your way up the ladder pretty quickly. Here are the top pieces of advice for your personal and professional approach when you want to get back on the work force merry go round. To be clear, these things come from what I have seen, and have actually happened, I couldn’t make this shit up. For your personal presentation: Yoga pants are okay at home and at yoga. Do not wear them to job interviews. Get a new hair do, and pay more than $7 for the cut if you can. Polish shoes and nails, people notice that stuff if you want to work in an office. A balconette bra hoisting the girls up around your chin will not help, not with me anyway. Do not go on and on about your kids. Good to know how great a parent you are, once you get the job. However in the interview you are wasting my time. Do not chew gum and do not wear silly hair pretties – ever. Do not show up late for the interview without having a valid reason that is explained the moment you know you will be a minute late. Guys, get a new damned tie. Oh and check the one you are wearing for spit-up. No visible piercings or those horrific ear wheels unless you are from the specific African tribe who started them, in which case they...
Your Communication Style – A Guide for the Challenged

Your Communication Style – A Guide for the Challenged

Modern communications are fraught with unwritten rules. For many of us, it is a minefield to figure our way through the simplest of human interactions – when using a device or social media that is. Back in the olden days it was all so much simpler. For instance, I have to hand it to the Victorian era Brits, they had established and well understood social rules. Everybody knew what they were, and although the populace was busy breaking them in the bedroom, they held up the “what what old chappie” in public. Nowadays it is all so very complex and the rules are unclear. Many people make communication missteps and yet there is no social manual to check. This quick and easy guide will help you figure out some of the ways you may be annoying your friends, and help you not to be “that guy” at work.  Are you making a caricature of yourself?  The Mad Hatter – you send somebody multiple messages and clever Tweets. They ignore you so you tweet harder and louder at them. Maybe your hat band is too tight, but if you want to have actual interaction with another human, stay the hell off Twitter Eyore – you get a text from a friend or colleague, or an email with questions or even work related stuff and you just can’t get to it Pooh. You drag your sad ears across the keyboard and then give up and have a nap. Nobody likes a stoned donkey. Norman Bates – can’t wait until your target is out of the shower? They didn’t answer the phone so you do the unthinkable and leave a voicemail. Who does that anymore? Or worse, you ring back ten minutes later. Don’t be Norman.. just be cool, she has call display – back the bad sweater off big boy. Tinkerbell – you send little short messages with winky faces and sparkles but say nothing. Some people are busy and when the phone indicates there is a text, especially during work hours, you had better have more to say than “can you guess who I saw at the mall?”.  And then, when you get a text back taking the bait, you don’t respond for three hours. I will go all Norman Bates on your ass. Jack Nicholson in The Shining – You want IN THAT ROOM – which in modern human interaction actually means facetime or Skype or whatever. You need to understand these are now considered meetings Jack. You can’t just take your ax to the door and call somebody and expect them to speak with you, or assume their hair is done and want to videochat . Nowadays, you text...
Management Hacks for the Recently Promoted

Management Hacks for the Recently Promoted

So you made it. You are in management now. There you sit at your new desk, or whatever outward sign of seniority is normal in your workplace. Now what? Front line employees attach a lot of cachet and glam to achieving the level of “management”.  After all, senior people have snazzy titles, more privileges, better pay, and perks or whatever. Most people understand that the trade off is that more accountability or responsibility comes with the title. Or at least it should. Assuming we are talking about a workplace where you now have responsibility for the performance of others, what can you do to learn the ropes of your newly acquired and complex role? What kind of manager are you going to be? The answer has a lot to do with what kind of person you are, and the culture of your workplace. For instance, the management tools required for a restaurant manager are vastly different than those needed to run an office of lawyers or accountants. New managers evolve by learning from the mistakes they make along the way. If you don’t learn from them, then we have a whole other conversation coming. You are new, and if you are in the average modern workplace you probably didn’t get a whole lot of formal management training to do your job. Likely you got the promotion because you are skilled, or smart, or somebody died and left a spot open. No matter, you have the big chair now, and need to think about how you are going to pull this off. You probably feel like you haven’t got a clue. You are right.  I can’t give you a detailed guide, but I will give you a few suggestions that are pretty much universal. Never underestimate how much impact your mood can have on your staff. Try not to have moods. The worst leaders are “chocolate box managers” you never know what you are getting when they walk in the door. People hate having to adjust to your mood, and they shouldn’t have to. Get to know your staff if possible. They are humans and you should have a mental list of their observable strengths and weaknesses. They should trust that your list is fair, and that you genuinely want to help them when they struggle.  Get training around personality styles. I GUARANTEE you will save yourself a lot of frustration if you understand what drives introverts and extroverts. Learn about blind spots in people’s behaviour. If there is one area you can learn which will bring peace and understanding to the land is “personality style” issues. Invest in this training, it will serve you for your whole career.  Be...
Get a handle on email overload

Get a handle on email overload

Business runs on communication… the more you know, and the more you respond the better you communicate. The more you respond the more efficient you are right? We have to start looking at what we are actually doing when we work, and how we go about it. How do we deliver the best quality product during our working hours? It used to be measured purely by business productivity. Remember when the productivity gurus were saying “only touch a piece of paper once”? Now that many office jobs have no paper, how do you apply that same idea to your digital work? I could write a whole book filled with little tips and tricks for work load management, but there are lots of people smarter than me who will sell you books and seminars. I am just going to make one radical crazy suggestion. But first, let me ask you this. If you took a Summer holiday, how much time did you spend on backlogged emails when you logged back in that first Monday morning? How much duplication of work did you endure just trying to figure out if something had been dealt with by somebody else? Maybe when the sender got your “out of office” they went and got help from somebody else. Who knows? Then, you spend another chunk of time sifting through the endless threads of back and forth. People love clicking “Reply All” don’t they? We call them the “reply to all” bandit. Kill that person by the way – there is no other cure for them. Here is what I did when I left for my last vacation. I had our tech people shut my email down. You heard me… off… box closed… nobody home. Senders got an email back saying “Her majesty is on vacation returning on such and such a date. Her email is closed for deliveries and yours has not been delivered. If your issue is urgent, please send it to the appropriate person as follows…etc. If you wish to resend your inquiry after XX date, please feel free to do so”. Not exactly that…but you get the idea. Seriously I did that. Closed the email box for the duration. I mean when did it become normal for it all just to pile up and wait for the return of the office worker anyway? If you aren’t there to answer your phone, then maybe your email inbox should have a busy signal as well. I get it, not everybody has email intense jobs and not everybody can make the choice to shut it all down. I guess what I am saying is that it was such a radical departure but it worked. What is...
Zombies Walk Among Us

Zombies Walk Among Us

I love zombies on tv. They are rotting slow-moving wrecks that used to be human. Great entertainment for the small screen. When zombies lumber into the real world, that gets scary. I can hear you saying “But Magnolia, there are no zombies in the real world.” Yes there are my kittens, they are everywhere and move among the living all the time. The fact that they don’t have visible ooze or open rotting injuries doesn’t mean you can’t figure out who they are. These poor creatures plod along through their days without direction or plan. Life happens to them, and they have little influence in the script. Whatever messages installed by their family of origin guide their choices in everything from food, career, spirituality and even their travel habits. They don’t think to question any of it. The modern walking dead could look like anybody. They seem ok enough, and perhaps they are. Maybe not questioning their lot in life is the best way to get through. I suspect that lots of zombies don’t want to be. They feel a vestige of spirit in their belly that craves something else. I love stories of people who make mid-life shifts away from one path to pursue another. Now let me be clear about this part, I am not talking about admiring the guy who suddenly decides his wife got fat and he doesn’t feel like paying the power bills anymore and takes a flyer. I am talking about people who go to say, law school, get onto the grind and then get off. They wake up and realize their soul is being chipped away every day in little shards from the endless indignities. They walk away, and follow their heart. There is danger to stepping off. Don’t be a flake. Leaving a hard-earned life to be a spiritual leader  to a hippy commune of yoga enthusiasts is just flaky and stupid. Don’t do dumb shit. I am not going to write you a whole manual of helpful tips on how to live your true life, you can find that crap in every bookstore. I will tell you what to avoid. Don’t ask anybody to advise you who has an ulterior motive (religious advisers, your spouse, your best friend) all have agendas. They aren’t malignant (mostly) but they don’t have a clue without putting their own perspective into the answer. Don’t make fast decisions. Let ideas ruminate over time, write stuff down. Don’t abandon children to follow your dream if they are in the picture. You stop being the priority when you have them. Period. Don’t leave one path to do something stupid. Either contribute, earn, teach, learn or give. Just handing in your McDonald’s...