Tag Archives: Communication

Friendships In Funny Places

 

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New cities.  Moving at 35 from a city that I kicked and fought to stay in from the age of 19 was never going to be easy.

Although, I really can’t complain.  The move across was incredibly easy, and we have met fantastic people quite easily.  In spite of all the meetups I’ve been to since arriving in which I’ve lasted 10 minutes (my current average time overall is 27 minutes) I’ve managed to find friendships in funny places.

Everyone has a theory on how long it takes to settle in to a new place.  Some say a year, some 6 months, some say the 3-month milestone is the most significant.  For me though, it was from the moment I really committed to being present in this new place.  In the excitement of leaving London for a new adventure, I didn’t grieve at all for the incredible friendships that I was about to put an ocean and a bloody large mass of land between.  A month in to being here in the wonderful city of San Francisco though, and it hit me.  Phone calls to London friends help, and don’t help.  As dear as those friends will always be to me – trying to insert myself back in to the day to day world of London life really doesn’t help the loneliness.  The only solution for loneliness that I have found is to be present.

The average time a person stays in San Francisco is 3 years.  The average rise and fall of a new startup is 3 years.  Sell for big bucks or go under… either way it’s 3 years.  And people here are weathered, wary of the constant footfall of new people to the area.  Only so many times can you invest in new friendships only to see them leave before the merry go round grows tiresome.  And if your heart isn’t here, people are like horses.  They can smell it on you.

After a trip to London in January in which during the 1st week I thought I’d never be able to leave again, in the second week I began to miss our new home, our new situations and opportunities and of course – any sign of the sun whatsoever.  On return to San Francisco I felt more ready to settle, be present, and be available for new friendships.

I’ve discovered when you really commit to a place, it’s a lot easier to find true friendships.  On the roof of our building last weekend drinking wine and eating cheese with a bunch of girls from the building we live in, full of food from the BBQ we’d just had with friends from the local area, I revelled in how much can change in a short period of time.  Call it the stars aligning, or whatever you please, but since truly giving my heart to the city I live in I’m finding real friends in the funniest places.

 

 

The Silent No

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This is the beginning of what will one day be a book, written just as soon as I come up with some genius formula for handling The Silent No.

If you’re not familiar with the phrase, it is when rather than giving you a ‘no’, or ‘check back in a few weeks’ in regards to whatever it is that you may be discussing, the person you are in conversation with simply ignores you in the hopes you’ll go away.  Rather than have to deal with a difficult ( 2-second) situation or having to justify their answer (ok fair enough but surely not to those you have a working relationship with?) they simply ignore all further communication with you until, after weeks of frustration and not-knowing, you eventually crawl back under your rock.

I’m discovering that in business development, many don’t like to ever give a ‘no’ in case they want to later change their mind or worse, in case I’m the next Facebook and they become that idiot that turned down Facebook.

I’m also discovering that in general, if someone is busy and doesn’t want to engage in a conversation that week, they also will simply ignore you – sometimes for weeks – until the point in time in which they are ready to again proceed.

The trouble is – both situations look on the surface like The Silent No.  The solution?  Weekly diary reminders to ‘email Frank again to touch base’ until eventually the stars align and he is ready to move forward or until I finally lose the will to live and relegate Frank’s details to the  ‘if we ever are really really successful don’t let this guy use our tech’ pile.

Like I said, I don’t yet have a genius formula, but would love to hear from those of you that think you might have insight… or who just want to rant.

Empowered?

The term ‘empowered’ is one I’ve been thinking a lot about lately.  Why is it that we can have a position, anywhere in life, and yet not feel empowered to really hold the office of that position?

For example.  Many times I have been in a role, but not felt truly empowered by my boss, head of department, team lead, etc to really make decisions over and above others even when the decision is mine.  I’ve seen strong leaders come in and fail as they begin to question themselves when no one is following.  So does a senior leader empower a person, or do the people that you are seeking to lead?  Businesses aren’t democracies, yet those who are not accepted, even if only with fearful respect and little camaraderie, don’t seem to go very far.

When I hire someone in to a leadership position, I am empowering them to make their own decisions and lead with their own initiative.  Yet if the team don’t want to follow the individual it can be a real battle.  Or is it because I, or other senior leaders, haven’t made the accountabilities clear?

A simple solution for blurred lines of accountability is a RACI matrix.  Get your team to spend a couple hours outlining the key actions and decisions of the processes of their teams and create a RACI matrix for each of these steps.  This matrix, to be agreed with the one holding the ultimate accountability and therefore veto, allows accountability to be given to a single individual for each of the key actions and decisions, removing any blurred lines and potential ‘stepping-on of toes’.

It seems simple, but could it be that the team aren’t following simply because they either a. don’t believe the person is supported by the SMT to lead, or b. believe some of what the individual is acting on is not theirs to act on?

It’s worth a couple of hours and an excel spreadsheet to find out.

Urgent Is The Enemy Of Important

After a few months in business of rather full days,  clients all over the globe (meaning somewhere, someone is always awake, wanting something) and looming deadlines, I’m discovering that the urgent is the enemy of the important.

What’s important is the innovation, the development and getting things out the door.  What’s urgent is the situation that pops up that demands immediate attention, but means that for someone, or some people, the innovation and development cease.

Seth Godin wrote a great piece on how to tell if the urgent is King in your day: http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2005/08/hurry.html

The solution? Make room for the urgent in your day – but don’t let it take your day. Plan in time for the important – and stick to it like glue.  If the urgent always gets the front seat soon there won’t be a product to be urgent over.

 

 

Less Aggression Please!

Ladies.

This one is mostly for you – but trust me the men will benefit too.  Unfortunately it’s something though that only a woman can say to a woman.

Aggression does not equal strength.  Bitchiness does not equal business savvy.

Somewhere along the road many of us found that business can be a man’s world, and a quick route to getting our way is to be an all-out hard-nosed fire-breathing force to be reckoned with.

Somewhere along the road we forgot the unique gifts we bring to the table as women and lost our femininity.  But aggressive behavior is just an easy way through a tough environment, stripping us of our strengths and appeal.

Managing fairly but firmly, keeping an eye on what is best for the individuals without ever losing sight of what is best for the company, understanding situations through discernment and bringing creative solutions, charming clients whilst sticking to our guns, juggling the push and pull of finances without ever losing control of the bottom line – these are to name a few areas that we excel in as women.  None of these areas – nor any others for that matter – are better managed with the fire-and-brimstone act.

It’s also a sure-fire way to stay single… or to end up that way.

I’m not talking about meekness and submission, but embracing your femininity and using your skills to your advantage.  Let your confidence be in knowing you know what you’re talking about, that you’ve been here before, that you CAN run this company.

Not in proving you can shout the loudest.

 

 

Say It To My Face

Ah the power of email.

You can scream, swear, call your mother names, demand my way IN CAPITAL LETTERS and write threatening things I’d never dream of saying – all without the risk of you leaning over and punching me in the face.

 

Ah the power of text.

You can break-off long term relationships, fire me, address that ‘thing about me that has always driven you crazy’ call off plans last-minute or apologise that you stood me up – all without having to face the disappointment in my eyes.

 

Ah the power of twitter, facebook and the like.

You can pride yourself in all the relationships you have, the people in high places who retweet your tweet, like your facebook post and comment on your holiday photos– all without having to spend a single moment putting any true effort in to those relationships.

There is and will always be value in the face to face.  No matter how “connected” we are, nothing ever takes the place looking someone in the eye.  Harder though it may be, it’s how relationships – the ones that last in life, in business, in love – are built.

So go on – say it to my face.

Even The Bugs Do It

Ants. Who knew they could get it so right?

On a zip-lining adventure tour in Costa Rica we were introduced to the leaf-cutter ants.  Turns out the guide knew a lot about the rainforest and its inhabitants; not just how to terrify dumb white tourists by suspending them hundreds of feet in the air by a wire and calling it a ‘ride’.

So get this.  The leaf-cutter ant community is divided into three groups: a queen, several drones, and possibly millions of workers. There are as many as seven different kinds of workers. Workers are also divided into castes; There are 22 different community jobs the colony caste members must perform.

Crazy eh?  So much community and not a word spoken.  And they’re blind.   So maybe community is something that could come naturally?

When the chief leaf-cutters’ mandibles grow too dull to cut they retire, and the community takes care of them for the remainder of their life.  What a concept.

So I guess this is a ‘what if’ post.

What if we all gave greater value to working together than to getting ahead?  What if we each recognised we have a role in society and our community and embraced that role rather than feeling threatened by the others?  What if we took care of all those in our community past the point of fending for themselves?

Idealistic I know.  But we can dream.