Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Poised For Leadership

NetApp hosted the latest Jo Miller's Women's Leadership Coaching workshop: Poised for Leadership.  As always, I enjoyed Jo's workshop and was thrilled to be able to participate in a full day event with her for the first time.  The time spent here helps to reinforce things I have begun to put into practice and reminded me of things I need to continue to invest effort into.

As emerging leaders, we can often find our selves in a quandary: we an't get to a higher level job without leadership experience, but can't get that experience without the next job.  When you find yourself in this position, you need to take the steps to get the recognition you deserve. Do not be "the best kept secret" in your team.

To do this, you need:
  • Organizational Influence
  • Sphere of Influence
  • Leadership Brand
  • Visibility
  • Influencing
  • Self-Leadership
What does being a leader mean? Leading by example, developing a vision, not disheartened easily, genuinely cares about the people and the business, collaborates up, down and across for success.

Organizational Influence

Like it or not, "every workplace has an intricate system of power , and you can - and should - work it ethically to your best advantage." (Erin Burt, Seven Career Killers)

Don't think of this as Office Politics, but rather Organizational Awareness. Observe what's going on around you, and perhaps modify your behaviour and your language to adapt.

Part of this is being aware of the shadow organization.  Like you're standard org chart, but based on people's organizational influence. Take a look at your existing organization. Find people who work well together - a good solid relationship, and draw a line.  Find people who do not work well together. Then find the coalitions - groups of people that work well together. Finally, identify the key influencers in the organization.  See where you fit into all of this.  Are you reaching outside of your immediate organization?  You need to build robust, professional relationships with key people around you.

Don't count on your sphere through normal meetings. Set up lunches with individuals or small groups, don't eat lunch at your desk, bring in cake or chocolate to share: get to know people outside your immediate teams.

Be aware of the unwritten rules of the game. Something like, there may be a person that you cannot correct in front of others in a meeting, without burning bridges. In some groups, you may need to shop around new ideas before implementing them - or your group may be "Act first, ask questions later" type of org.  You need to know the specifics for your team.

In some organizations, it may the words you choose.  Your VP may not like any vocabulary that hints at entitlement for what you're asking for, or they may only want to take action on your ideas if you have data to back up your request.

Sphere of Influence

We've heard it a thousand times, but your network is so important to your success. You need to grow your sphere of influence.  You need connections. These connections and mentors will help you to enjoy more promotions, higher pay and greater career satisfaction.

Building these networks can help your next big job find you.

Don't build these networks with only your personal advancement in mind. Get to know different things about them, figure out how you can help them to advance, find opportunities for them.

Part of building your network is making sure you're adding key types of people to your network:
  • The connector
    • A true people person, knows and gets along with everyone, loves to open doors and make introductions.
  • The Informational Powerhouse
    • Keeps their finger on the pulse of the business, knows about changes before they occur, filters useful information from gossip or noise.
  • The Influencer
    • Not necessarily high-level or high-profile, but has the ability to make things happen.Their advocacy can get you noticed and guarantee success of your initiative.
  • The Mentor
    • To best take advantage of your mentor, be prepared with four types of questions for them:
      • Stories about their careers
      • Situations you're in that you need help with
      • Self-awareness is important. Know how you're perceived. Ask your mentor to reflect back.
      • Skill building: ask about any new skills you're trying to learn in your role.
  • The Sponsor
    • Echoing what Jo has said at every workshop I've attended: beyond mentors, you need sponsors.  Women tend to be over mentored and under sponsored. Sponsors should have the following qualities:
      • Senior leader with influence
      • Well-respected, credible
      • Familiar with your strengths
      • Track record of developing talent
      • Provides exposure and protection.
    • How to get a sponsor?  Outperform, make your value visible, ask around to see who has a strong track record of developing talent, network outside of your direct management chain and have clarity about your career goals.

Leadership Brand

Knowing your current brand is important. Do others see you as you see yourself?  You can learn this by:
  • 360 Review
  • Ask friends and colleagues for 3 things that describe your positive traits, one thing to work on.
  • Ask your mentor, friends, tweeps, etc
Most importantly, though, you must be ready and open for this feedback.

You need to identify what you're passionate about and what you're good at.  What do people complement you on that you think was "easy" to do? That could be one of your key skills or talents.  When this lines up with something that your company or industry needs or values - then you've found a career sweet spot.

Funny, quite a few women in this room know what their skills and passions are, but they cannot find how it fills a niche in their current job.  As an aside, everyone here is very successful and on their way up in their careers - so are they really in the wrong place?  Or not seeing the fit due to low self confidence? Or possibly, they haven't found the right end goal quite yet.

You may already have a brand, and it may fit what you're doing now - but it's not your long term goal. Then it's time to update your brand.   Shop it around, let people know what you want to do and where you want to go. Bounce ideas off of your colleagues.

Brands evolve. Entry level brands could be things like: team-player, valuable contributor. Examples of mid-level brands: strategist, innovator, subject matter expert, change agent, fixer.  Senior-level: Visionary, leader who develops leaders, rainmaker.  What do you think your brand is? What would you like it to be?


No matter how many accomplishments you make, if your accomplishments are not visible, you will not be rewarded.  Hard workers attract more work, which won't necessarily get you any recognition.  Part of getting this visibility means spending a little less time working on the minutia, and work on making your accomplishments more visible.  Resist the tendency to talk about the busy work. Share the strategic high impact stuff. You'll attract more of what you talk about - so it seems like an obvious choice.  Along those lines, work hard on the right projects.

It's important to share this appropriately - who needs to know what you're doing?

To do this, it's important to choose the right projects. Find things that will showcase your brand and demonstrate your ability to deliver results.

Once you've got all this down, then you need to promote your accomplishments!

This is tough - you don't want to be that annoying person that seems to never shut up about all the little things they do (minutia!),  so think back to what needs to be known and get it in front of your organization.  Here are some easy tips:

  • Present in meetings, invite leaders
  • Send out a newsletter or regular status updates
  • Submit article to your organization's newsletter
  • Write a blog or paper
  • Ask to be nominated for an award (or ask a colleague to do so, and reciprocate)
  • Forward kudos emails to your management chain
  • Water cooler conversations, lunch table topics.


You can't just drop into a meeting and influence decisions - first you have to set yourself up as a person of influence. People have to know who you are and respect your thoughts.  That can be done by simple things - show up to meetings, be engaged, make sure people around the table know who you are. 

Our behaviour teaches others how to treat us.
"It's not what you know, or who you know.  It's who knows what you know." - Norah Denzel, Intuit.
Jo sees there are 6 major sources of influence:
  • Positional Influence
    • Influence that is inherent in your job title and role.
  • Expertise Influence
    • The influence that comes from your background, qualifications, experience and accomplishments.
      • Sharing your accomplishments is good: speak on panels, at conferences, and in the media. Volunteer for high level assignments, etc. Get your expertise out there!
  • Resources Influence
    • Negotiating the resources you need to do your job well.
      • This will help you accomplish what you need to do, and demonstrate that you use your resources wisely
      • Master matrix management
      • Suggest special projects as developmental opportunities.
  • Informational Influence
    • Having a finger on the pulse of what is going on in your organization, industry and profession.
    • Keep up to date with current events in the industry - this helps you be on the look out for new projects and opportunities, setting the direction for your team.
  • Direct Influence
    • Being firm, professional and direct when someone's behavior is detrimental to the team or the organization.
      • Be direct and concise while delivering tough news
      • Share a vision of their future potential.
  • Relationships Influence
    • The influence that comes naturally with having a network of authentic relationships across your organization, industry and profession.
    • AKA Your Sphere of Influence!
How many of these do you have? Can you think of ways to expand into some of these other spheres of influence?

Your Pitch

Prepare yourself a 30-second commercial:
  • Name
  • Job title and/or brand
  • I am responsible for ...a, b, c
  • Come directly to me when you need ... x, y, z
This is an important thing to have in your back pocket. I've written this done a few times, but haven't memorized it. As I won't literally have this written down in my back pocket, I need to take the time to do this.  What's your pitch?

Principles of Self-Leadership

  • Confer Leadership Upon Yourself
    • Don't be afraid to take the lead. Start with leading yourself: set schedules and meet them. Look at ways you can lift others up around you and lead them to success as well. You don't have to be in an official leadership position in order to do this.
  • Act "As if"
    • Remember, much of your ability to lead has to do with wether or not others see you as a leader.
Book Recommendations

From my table and from Jo Miller.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Valerie Appearing in the Musical "9 to 5" at West Valley Light Opera!

I am so excited to announce that I will be singing and dancing in the ensemble and as a hospital intern for West Valley Light Opera's production of Dolly Parton's "9 to 5".  The show is running on weekends from June 29 to July 27.  There is a Saturday matinĂ©e (instead of evening performance) on July 13th. The matinĂ©es are approaching sell out.

The show will be familiar to many of you who saw the original motion picture starring Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dabney Coleman. Much of the same music (plus so much more) and scenes appear in this show. Come take a flash back to the 1980s. See how far we've come - and in which ways office politics are still the same. We've got a strong cast and it's shaping up into a great show.

We're well into rehearsal now, busily learning all the songs and many dance numbers.

This is very exciting to me, as many of you may recall, I had a serious injury in 2010 (3 cm x 1 cm tear in my quadricep tendon), which had a treatment that led to a back injury.  In January 2011, I could do about 1 flight of stairs a day, walk for short distances (often with aid of a cane), and could not ride my bike nor get dressed without pain.

My old doctor and physical therapist told me that was "as good as it gets at your age"!  I found a new doctor and a new PT, received additional treatments and - well, I'm DANCING!  I'm a bit rusty, but a patient choreographer and fellow cast members are getting me back into the rhythm of things.

Please come and see the show! If you call the box office, you'll get to skip some of the ticket fees, or you can buy online.  Either way, let the box office manager know you're coming to see me - there is some kind of reward for bringing the most people into the theater. I hope it's chocolate! :-)