Tuesday, January 25, 2005


It feels quite strange sitting here, listening to my own voice being broadcast over the radio. This is not the first time I’ve had this experience – when I was a broadcast meteorologist, the teases I would tape to air during primetime television would always make me jump out of my chair whenever I heard them as I prepared my late night forecasts. It’s very disorienting.

At the same time, it’s exciting too. I can think of only one other time I’ve been interviewed on the radio before (back when being a broadcast meteorologist made me a bit of a local celebrity) and I remembered today that it really can be a lot of fun.

On the other other hand, it’s downright painful to hear my answers to some of the questions. Like so many perfectionists, no sooner had we stopped taping the interview when I thought of other things I’d have liked to have said – or other, better ways to put what I did say. Feeling so vulnerable is difficult for me.

I realize now that part of how this happens is because of how much I learn during a process like that, and how quickly. While ultimately that’s a good thing, it also means that I will probably never be completely satisfied with my performances in such situations. I will always see a way I’d like to improve on what I’ve done.

At the same time, I have also learned to appreciate the good in things. For example, I had fun during the interview. That clearly comes across in my voice and I’m glad of that. Anyone who can have that much fun talking about what they do can’t be all bad, right? Given how much I enjoyed the experience, I expect I’ll create more such opportunities in the future, so I expect I’ll get additional chances to hone my skills as an interviewee.

One of the topics of conversation that came up with John Moe – the host of this radio program I was on (The Works on KUOW, one of the local NPR stations) – was the question of vulnerability. He even joked at one point that we were getting close to some of his own vulnerabilities during the interview. I wonder what those were?

We readily agreed on one important point… that being vulnerable isn’t about being insecure, dependent, or needy. Instead, it’s about exposing one’s humanity, your authentic self. Doing so in a worthwhile manner requires setting aside the fear that others will judge us as somehow less for it. As scary as this is for most of us, it helps to ask the question, “How can we be anything less than by being ourselves, our true selves?”

If somehow, these ‘others’ don’t see the value of you being “you” (the real “you”, now, not some persona you put on, daring others to believe “this is me”), then you’d probably be better off hanging out with a different crowd!

In the end, when we find the courage to come from a place of curiosity (even if it exposes some vulnerability), everyone benefits. This is as true for managers and co-workers and family members as it is for interviewers and coaches.

Coming from curiosity means no dumb questions, no bad answers. We don’t have to be the experts if the questions we ask further understanding and the answers we give help foster more such worthwhile questions.

Check out the archive of the show (available along with John's interview of Sister Helen Prejean that aired the same night) and let me know what you think. Send your comments and unanswered questions to techsurvivor@soaringmountain.com and I'll see about responding to them.

What are you truly curious about?

Monday, January 24, 2005

Gotta Love Formulas!

How are you feeling today? If you’re more disappointed than normal that it’s Monday, you’re probably in good company. Get this – this might very well be the most depressed you’ll feel all year according a formula that’s been worked out by a British psychologist using variables such as weather, expected timing of New Year’s resolution failures, debt, and Christmas cheer wear-off.

Although he had the people in the UK in mind when he wrote out the formula, I’d say that those living in Seattle have better than even odds that it similarly applies to us, given as far north as we are and the fact that we also have pretty lousy weather during much of January. We already know that we're more impacted by Seasonal Affective Disorder than those farther south.

On the other hand, at least we're not dealing with two feet or more of snow like the folks in New England.

Reading books by the fire, staying in bed all day (hey, why not schedule off January 24 every year?), light therapy, and such have all been suggested by various experts as effective ways of dealing with today’s type of depression. Here’s another couple of ideas worth considering (offered from a decidedly non-expert)… one is to reconnect with an old hobby. Do something you enjoy.

Also, if you can think of something small you can complete and feel good about crossing off your list, that would probably make a difference too. And, at the risk of sounding self-serving, if your New Year’s Resolutions need some help at this point, consider hiring a coach or simply working with a buddy to start gaining some traction.

I'm going to stand back a bit & whisper for this one... If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you might consider (shhh!) knitting. Really.

About now is when I’m really sorry I bother to include my photo in the bio – I just know you’re going to write this off now as a dumb suggestion from a chick. Trust me, I am not domestic. I don’t cook, I don’t clean and I don’t sew. You’re more likely to find me outside laying drip-hose for the garden than gardening and inside tearing apart the vacuum cleaner and putting it back together again than actually running the thing to pick up dirt.

I have started knitting, though, and as far as I can tell, the interest it holds for me is the same as what a lot of guys – even executives – are getting out of it. Apparently, knitting is getting to be quite a trend for men. Back to their fishing roots, I guess. Hey, it's just a bunch of slip knots...

For me, I like working out the puzzles. I like the fact that I’m doing something where a mistake doesn’t have to be the end of the world – it can be corrected. I like the math and the “figuring out stuff” that happens.

As a coach, I’m particularly appreciating the “now-ness” of knitting these days.

There’s an appreciation of past successes and learning from mistakes that happens when you go back and check your work. There’s some planning for the future as you work out a pattern and then figure out how to follow it, whether you’re following it, how to get back on track, etc.

The act itself requires a meditative conscious working of each stitch as you’re doing it. There is no stitch before or stitch to come… only that one that you’re working right then. And yes, it’s very relaxing. There's certainly no thinking about work.

Don’t ask me why I'm getting so into it. I suppose you could try, but I know I haven't got a good answer yet. I certainly didn’t start out wanting to knit for any other reason than getting over a sense of childhood failure and increasing a bond with family members who knit. Yeah, they're all women. Go figure. But I had to do something. Sewing was not going to cut it.

Laugh if you want. At the end of the day, it’s just a suggestion. And a few more rows of warm fuzzy wool that makes a dreary day seem warmer and brighter. Makes looking ahead to January 25 a little easier at any rate, 'cause hey, it all gets better from here on out.

What non-lethal response would you have to someone who made a comment on your knitting?

Sunday, January 23, 2005

There's Always More...

“I thought I was wrong once – but I was mistaken.” When did you last have to re-think an opinion? If your answer is “never”, then you might want to check to see if you are taking enough risks in life… or to see if you might have been in error – however slight – in that assessment.

Personally, I recently had to totally re-think an opinion of my own. The polite version went something like, “How in the world did this guy ever make it two days, let alone two years as an on-air weather anchor?” on seeing a clip of Mark Mathis and the work he did until a few short months ago for a Charlotte, NC station.

This clip has been making the rounds on the internet, so perhaps you’ve seen it already. At one point, I was all-out, jaw-dropping horrified as I watched him clowning around with a graphic in the background showing some extremely nasty-looking thunderstorms. As a former broadcast meteorologist (also facetiously known as “weather bunny” in my house, with full knowledge that I possess enough of the credentials to make fun of the work in a way guaranteed to annoy me if it ever came from anyone questioning said credentials), I found it appalling to have him be that flippant with serious weather. It nearly ended there for me. I feel fortunate to have had to courage to reconsider my gut reaction on this one. Perhaps I was being overly serious about the matter though I do still like to think people want to know about major thunderstorm activity.

It all started when curiosity overcame me and I had to find out more of the story; one thing I know - there's always more than what's obvious. I started trolling for more information about this guy. How had he lasted as long as he did, acting like that on-air in the 28th largest television market? Charlotte is not exactly small potatoes so he and the station had to have had quite a lot on the line.

What I learned from "the rest of the story" began to re-shape my opinion. It turns out that part of the reason was that people loved him… or loved to hate him, far more than I’d given him credit for. From a Charlotte Observer article, it sure sounds like the station probably hired him – and kept him around – for exactly that reason. Then they dumped him for breaching the standard morality clause in his contract, supposedly having nothing to do with his on-air antics.

I’d like to point out that I never was comfortable with those clauses and several others like them – it made me into one of those people afraid even to have a glass of wine with dinner if I was out on a night off, or even consider a different haircut than the one I had when I was hired. And, like similar sorts of clauses I’m sure you can find in your own corporate employee handbook, my opinion is that they are rarely used except as an excuse to terminate someone they plan to be rid of anyway when they don’t care to share their real reasons for their actions.

Here’s the cool thing about this guy though, and the reason I’ve come to admire him – he fully owns who he was and the events and actions that led to where he is now, even if there is still some question of the station management’s role in what happened, and he’s actively taking responsibility for his own life at this point. I can see no whining here.

If there’s any truth to the additional information I’ve read, it’s quite possible that getting fired may have saved his life. What’s more, I’m thinking that Mark is poised to take advantage of this turn of events and make some major improvements in his life – perhaps even using his even greater notoriety for even greater impact. It’d be a great thing to shoot for anyway.

Meanwhile, the station is still searching for a new weather anchor, a real meteorologist this time. Much as I'd like to see weather being treated less flippantly, I have to wonder if that will help them get back their ratings to the level they had when Mark was hamming it up?

Ultimately, there are so many ways it occurs to me that this story might impact the rest of us and our lives. It’s funny and entertaining in a train-wreck, “misery loves company” sort of way. And it’s inspiring in a “you have to lose it all to find what’s important” sort of way. It also shows us how we can allow our own mistakes and the poor behavior of others to chew us up and spit us out if we hold on too tightly to our own righteous indignation… or we can choose to find some positives in the situation and take that to make life better somehow.

There’s plenty more where that came from. Now it’s your turn. I’m sure you can think of even more ways this story might be relevant so I hope you'll take a moment to drop a line at techsurvivor@soaringmountain.com - if it's iced over, I'll know it's cold; I still remember how the weather rope works.

What would you want to accomplish if looking stupid was no barrier?

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Blow It Already

"I don't want to blow my own horn," seems to be the most popular response whenever I mention the need to market ourselves. I've heard it before; I've even said it before myself. The trouble is, it's a myth. There are several factors that contribute to this. Which are your weak spots? I know I have mine.

Here are the Top Ten Reasons that I've seen why people mistakenly believe they don't need to provide status updates. Or can't. Or shouldn't.

  1. MYTH - Only brown-nosing suck-ups try to make themselves look good.
    REALITY - No one's advocating being a sycophant. Never could stand 'em myself. I'm only suggesting that you let people know what you're up to and how it's coming along.
  2. MYTH - I won't be mistaken for a brown-nosing suck-up if I don't talk about what I'm doing, because I won't be marketing myself.
    REALITY - WRONG and WRONGER - If you're going to get hung up on brown-nosers, then think about it logically for a moment. Sycophants are out to make themselves appear better than they are, usually at the expense of others. That's how you tell the difference, not by whether they talk about what they've accomplished. It's how it's done that makes the difference. As for marketing yourself, if you're not letting people know about your achievements, you're just depriving them of the good news about what you're doing. You're still marketing yourself; the trouble is, it's more likely to be in a negative way.
  3. MYTH - I'm being humble by not telling my boss about my achievements.
    REALITY - Bullsh*t, plain and simple. Really now - who are you fooling? You don't tell anyone what you've done? How about some of your buddies or your peers... the ones who you think are smart enough to get it and appreciate it? The truth is, we tend to tell only the people we think matter. It'd be nice if your boss was on that list.
  4. MYTH - If what I have to share mattered to anyone, they'd ask.
    REALITY - Face it, sometimes they don't even know what to ask. They're busy too and sometimes other folks won't even know enough of what you're doing to know that they might be (or should be) interested. That includes your boss. Remember, the idea is to educate people more than it's about trying to convince them you're great. That ought to make you feel better about #3.
  5. MYTH - They're too stupid to understand or care.
    REALITY - Don't make the mistake of confusing lack of knowledge or expertise in a particular area you consider vital to the human race with stupidity. That makes you look like a moron. Most people are intelligent in at least one area; presumably the person you believe to be a know-nothing dork is actually pretty knowledgeable and experienced in some aspect of what they've been hired to do. The fact that you don't understand it or think it's worthwhile is more likely an indication of your own ignorance than that of their/your boss. Or maybe they just need to educate you more about what they're doing, if you'll let them.
    You could be right of course (see #6), but statistically speaking, if your place of employment is still in business, chances are better that you're wrong on this one.You'll do yourself a favor in the long run if you get over it and start accepting the fact that yours is not the only worthwhile form of intelligence. If they still don't care, you might try doing a better job of educating them. And yes, that's still marketing.
  6. MYTH - My boss is an idiot.
    REALITY - See the explanation for #5. I shine a light on bosses apart from everyone else for a specific reason. It's one thing to work with people we think are stupid. It's quite another to work for someone we think couldn't pour water out of a boot if the instructions were written on the heel. Your boss may be more intelligent than you give the guy credit for (as pointed out above), but if you can't bring yourself to see it, it may be time to ask yourself if it really makes sense for you to work for the idiot - even if his idiocy is purely a figment of your imagination. How well can you work together under such circumstances?
    And even if you find a way to put up with it yourself, do you really think your disdain doesn't show? Most people don't much care for being looked down upon so if this one applies to you, you might consider whether it might not be better to find yourself some position that suits you better before your boss helps you out the door. Landing on your butt when you thought you were sitting down in a comfortable chair hurts a heckuva lot more than simply sitting down on the floor.
  7. MYTH - My boss doesn't ask for a regular report.
    - You don't need permission to provide a status update. Sure, the best leaders do ask for this information. You can benefit yourself in the long run by regularly supplying it anyway and helping your boss to become a better leader.
    Cover the highlights in your 1-1 meetings or send an informal email. It doesn't have to be a formal report requested by your boss. While you're at it, copy other people who might find the information useful (just make sure it's written with them in mind - edit as necessary to make it relevant to them); if the other people are department heads for other parts of the organization, it might be smart to check with your boss about this one.
  8. MYTH - Providing updates is too hard.
    REALITY - Status updates don't have to be difficult. The process is much easier if you work with a template.
    Prompt yourself to write something down about a few basic categories - successes you and your team have had recently, challenges you've faced and what you've done (or are doing) about them, what help you could use (in addition to the steps you're already taking, of course), patterns you notice that could influence business, etc. so you don't forget the sort of highlights that are helpful to provide.
    Just make sure your update isn't a litany of complaints. Branding yourself a whiner is not the sort of marketing we're encouraging here.
  9. MYTH - I don't have enough time to write a big report.
    REALITY - It doesn't have to be a big report. Jot down a little bit each day and roll it into something you can use at the end of the week or the end of the month and that's all there really is to it. It should take 5-10 minutes max each day and maybe a half hour to clean it up prior to delivery. Providing a status update on a weekly or monthly basis can make a significant difference because then everyone who needs to know understands better what's going on. For an added bonus, when you take all of the information together, you'll have most of the foundation you need for a ready-made self-evaluation or resume should you ever want or need that.
  10. MYTH - By the end of the month, I can't remember everything worth writing down.
    REALITY - This one's probably true. That's the other reason for writing things down on a weekly, or even daily basis. The more frequently you make a couple of notes, the better recall you will have for the significant points worth including in your update. It'll also save you time overall in compiling your report.

Hopefully some of these thoughts and ideas make the whole notion of self-marketing a little less scary. With a fresh start to a whole new year, they're some worthwhile ideas to try out. Really. And hey, if you are still sure I'm wrong on this, we could always turn it into an empirical test: give it a try and let me know the results.

As always, you can send them (along with any other thoughts or observations you may have about why it's such a heinous task to provide status updates) to me at techsurvivor@soaringmountain.com and we'll see where we go from there.

What is one thing I can do to make this year even better for myself than last year?