Thursday, July 31, 2014

Dare to Learn

Several weeks ago I received a text giving me grief for not posting an article in over 2 months.  I started to think about why that was?  (I’m still a product manager at heart – I always use the 5 why’s)  It’s because I hadn’t been learning.  All of my prior posts were inspired by something that happened during the week.  Many were littered with typos because I was writing at midnight buzzing on adrenaline from a night of Improv and I wanted to write down everything I learned while it was still fresh.

Becky Blalock’s book Dare, Dares you to learn at every age.  Learning new things helps give you credibility, gives you confidence and gets you to the next level…and apparently it inspires me to write a blog post.

One way that I learn is local networking events.  I love to talk with others in the product management community.  I’ve made connections that have turned into friendships.  We go to lunch, out for drinks and talk about common challenges we all face and learn from each other on how to solve them. We bring best practices back into our organizations. 

I learn by doing things outside my work context.  Taking Improv classes helped me with listening, teamwork and confidence.  Even more valuable, I connected to people that I would have not met in my regular circles who have allowed me to grow as well.   I need to continue to look for these opportunities.

And of course I learn by reading.  There are traditional leadership/business books (currently reading The Alliance: ManagingTalent in the Networked Age) – and than again picking up books outside of your domain is crucial  as well (try Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly).  There is so much you can learn outside your domain that is applicable and can give you new insight and generate ideas into your work and personal life.

So I’m echoing Blalock’s challenge to dare you to learn.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Because I Was Told Not To

Tonight I went to a book signing by author Karin Slaughter.  Her most recent book, Cop Town, tells the story of two women police officers in the 70’s.  It was during a time when to rent an apartment a women had to have a man cosign for it. Needless to say if it was a tough time to be a woman on the police force.  Slaughter interviewed retired cops as part of her research.  When she asked the women why they signed up- the most common response was “because I was told not to”.  J

The talk given by the author inspired me to write this post (I was long overdue).  The topics of women in leadership & women in technology have been swirling more and more around me for the past year.  I happen to be a woman in technology leadership.

Last year I heard Becky Blalock, former CIO of the Southern Company, speak at a Women in Technology event in Atlanta.  I just finished her book Dare and identified with much of what she discussed in her book.

I thought I would share a couple of topics that resonated with me the most.

“Toot your horn”.  Women are taught from childhood to focus on fitting in and collaborating with others while men are taught to compete.  One of the ways it manifests itself in the work environment is that we don’t do a good job in promoting the great work we do.  We’re likely to attribute our success to others.  There are ways we can graciously promote our successes and it is something we need to do more of. This will help us compete better in the workforce and showcase our value.

“Getting over your need to be liked” – I find this a lot more with women in leadership than I do with men.  One of my favorite quotes in the book is “Change makes people upset. You can’t take it personally or let it distract you. Dogs don’t chase parked cars.”  In my current role, not everyone has liked every decision I’ve made – and initially that was hard for me. I work to be thoughtful in the decision making process and stay true to my core values and the values of my organization. I understand not every decision will be right and/or liked – but am getting more comfortable with those facts and am getting better at taking things less personally.

“Dare to fail”-  she asks how many times have you failed in your career?  If the list is short it likely means that you haven’t taken enough risk.  Failure can be a good thing if you fail responsibly and learn from it.  Lack of failures over the course of one’s career means you’re likely losing out on experiences and opportunities to learn. The lack of failures also typically shows lack of risk which means we're not having the big successes either. We need to learn to take a more positive outlook on risk and how to approach it.

Those are just tidbits of leadership information covered in the book. If you get a chance, it is a great book.  Books like these as well as networking with others in leadership roles are the best way to learn, improve as well as understand how to get to a leadership role.  The power of many is stronger than the power of one – and I’m personally lucky to have a strong network of people in leadership that helps me improve every day.  The book is also a great reminder to give back and share one’s knowledge.  If you want to connect, here’s my linkedin profile. 

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite songs by “Geek Girls & the Doubleclicks"