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It's Your Choice to Live Here. Quit B*tching

 kathycoatblog

It's hard to live in Minnesota lately. Really hard! Closed schools, 3+-hour commutes, 20 degrees below zero and freezing cold offices have challenged even the heartiest of us Minnesotans. But we do choose to live here. Free will and all that. But with more snow storms heading our way, it kinda makes you wonder why we made this choice, doesn't it?

I live in Becker and have a 60-mile drive to Minneapolis - so a 2 to 3 hour commute is not that uncommon for me. I just tell myself "Suck it up, Buttercup" because it is MY choice to live in the cornfields so far away from our office. We all make choices in our personal and professional lives - some intentional and some accidental - but either way we have to live with these choices. Or do we?

I got a chance to speak at the Executive Forum for Career Partners Twin Cities (www.cpitwincities.com), which is an executive coaching and transition services firm that has been instrumental in my career. During our forum discussion, we used my career as a backdrop and talked through some of the key pivots - choices - that I have made during my career and the good/bads that went along with each.

Here are some of those key pivots:

  1. Grad School or Bust. - After getting an undergrad in business I started working in St. Cloud as an HR assistant for $13,800 a year (seemed like a lot back then). I made the intentional choice to go back for an MBA after two years of working as I wanted to move into the 'big city' and get into marketing. Today I get asked often if an MBA or some type of advanced certification is a good idea. My very helpful answer to this is, "It depends." If you want to shift functional disciplines or gain new skills that add to what you already have - I do recommend it. But evaluate if the time and money you need to invest is worth it - as just getting more of the same training with some additional fancy letters may not make sense.

  2. But Won't I Miss the Winters? - I had a great opportunity to move to Atlanta for a job early on in my career - although it meant moving away from my family here in Minnesota. Was I willing to take the leap for a job that could set up my career - or would I play it safe and comfortable? I did take the job which led to 5 years of leading global marketing programs and travel to more than 20 countries. Fortunately, I got lucky in that my husband and I found a way to make the commute work (although we never got a chance to have children which is one of my biggest regrets.)  Career choices aren't always easy, but when a great opportunity presents itself that seems like the perfect fit - I say grab it.  It may be awhile before it comes along again and definitely is worth a try.
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  3. Getting Fired Can Mean Opportunity - I was blessed to lead marketing and product development at Caribou Coffee for a few years - one of my absolute favorite jobs to this day. When a new CEO was brought in during my tenure I was given the chance to work out a transition to onboard my replacement and then stay on as a consultant for another 6 months. This lead me to the accidental choice of starting my own consulting business, Blackline Marketing, with my first client being Caribou. But I will say, I had to check my ego at the door each morning as it wasn't easy to onboard the guy who was replacing me or go sit in a cube - but it was worth it. It is devasting to lose a job you love, but try to stay positive and look for the opportunity that may come along with it.  It may just set up your next great career step.

  4. Helps to be Lucky AND Good. I was lucky enough to be invited to join the Creatis board over ten years ago, which put me in a great place to join Creatis as President in 2014. Are you putting yourself in enough of the right places that can lead to opportunities?  If not - make the choice now to focus on building out your network, get engaged with a non-profit or actively seek to join the board of a small to medium-sized company. Good things can follow, but you have to get yourself out there as being in the 'right place at the right time' doesn't just happen by itself.

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How Goodness Pays: A Review

 kathygoodessbookpic

I've read a lot of leadership books. Well - OK - I actually have BOUGHT quite a few books on leadership and have even read some of them. Which is why I found the new book by Paul Batz with Paul Hillen entitled "How Goodness Pays" so compelling. It's a small but powerful book jam packed with ideas on how leading with goodness helps a business engage more customers, retain more employees and make more money. Amazing - and how can one argue with Goodness?!?

Starting with their definition of Goodness in business which is: when people thrive together in a culture of encouragement, accountabilty and positive teamwork. Their research quantified the impact of leading with Goodness, and they identify the Five Goodness Pays Factors that, when present in a business, consistently lead to positive financial results. These Five Factors are:

  1. Compelling business plan - having a business plan that creates genuine employee engagement and followership.

  2. Belief that profits are healthy for all - building commitment to the idea that profits are beneficial for everyone including employees, executives and owners.

  3. Team-based culture- creating a culture that rewards a 'we is greater than me' approach (which dovetails perfectly with how Creatis define our value of Teamwork).

  4. Timely and transparent decision-making - gain employee respect by making decisions in a timely fashion and being accountable for the behaviors and results that come from these decisions.

  5. Magnetic ethics -  attracting good people by role modelling what is and what is not acceptable (which parellels the Creatis Doing What's Right value).

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The Best (Work) Gift to Give Yourself

thethinker2

It’s the season of gift-giving. For me, that means devoting hours to contemplating gifts I should give to my family and friends, and even more hours surfing the web for the best deals. This time of year fills me with a particular kind of dread: What if I give the wrong gifts? What if the gifts go underappreciated? 

Gift-giving is a risk, even within your closest social circles.
For me, the hardest gift to give is one that is for me, from me.

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I've Never Thought of Myself as a Princess - But Still Like to Pretend Sometimes

 I love Halloween - always have.  My 'go-to' costumes growing up were a gypsy or princess - largely because my sister and I could just raid our mother's scarf and jewelry drawers and whip something up. We'd head out the door with our pillow cases in hand ready to fill them with candy. Growing up in St. Cloud meant we had blocks and blocks of middle-class houses just like ours to stop at - everyone had their light on - and we'd wander home hours later with sack full of goodies and big smiles on our faces.

And Halloween still makes me smile, but these days my 'go-to' costume is Snow White - primarily because I got a really nice one when at Caribou Coffee - and I DO have the hair for it, So during my long commute home on Halloween in my full Snow White gear (which yielded a few friendly honks and waves) - I took time to ponder what all of us as employees and leaders might learn from this beloved princess from long ago which includes:

  • You may not ever be the fairest of them all - but you can still be darn fair.  No matter how hard you work, there may be someone on the team who appears to be more talented or well-connected or experienced than you are. Nothing you can do about that. The key is to keep yourself as 'fair' as possible - keep your skills sharp, volunteer for that extra project to get exposure to other teams, ask for feedback on how you can get better or take some additional training classes in the evenings or on weekends. Because often 'fairness' has nothing to do with promotions - but hard work, being highly skilled and excellent at what you do sure does.

  • Be Happy - no one wants to work with Grumpy, Sleepy or Dopey. Everyone can have a bad day, except maybe Snow White. But stay as positive, energetic and, well, happy as you can. Be a problem-solver not a problem-stater. Make good things better. Be that person that others want to be around. 

  • Routinely look in your own magic mirror which doesn't lie. You know the story - the evil queen looks in the magic mirror and hear's some hard truth that Snow White is now the fairest in the land. Know your strengths but, more importantly, know your weaknesses and where you get stuck. Find that 'magic mirror' in a boss or co-worker that you trust and ask him/her to help you know your blindspots. Not easy - but so necessary.

  • Watch out for those poison apples. Some people build you up and some drag you down. Stay away from the gossipers and the complainers. Align yourself with those that share your drive for excellence and that want you to succeed. Be smart enough to be able to tell the difference.

  • Always do the right thing - even when it's hard. Even the huntsman figured it out and did the right thing in the end. Be clear on your personal values. Set and always honor what lines you will never cross. Strive to always do what's right not just for yourself but also for your company. Do this even when it isn't the easy thing to do.

  • One quality can set you apart from others - take advantage of it. Each of the dwarfs had a trait that made him special and set him apart from everyone else.  Maximize those top one or two things that make you special - surround yourself with people that are different than you and who complement your strengths.  Remember to respect and accept your other dwarfs and honor their special skills.  After all - it did take all seven to save Snow White.

I've been called many things during the course of my career - but generally not a princess (which is probably good I guess??). So it is such great fun for me to pretend I am a princess each year on Halloween because it reminds me of these key lessons and helps me not take myself too seriously. And - by the way - it is REALLY hard to be taken seriously while conducting a meeting in a princess costume. But I do recommend you try it sometime - you may not get any work done but I guarantee you'll get some laughs. 

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