The Melting Pot Needs to Cool Off…

… and be a bit kinder, gentler and more open.

I haven’t written for a long time, but I was chided last night at a school event by a former student who wants me to get off my butt and start having something to say again. He was very kind and the discussion challenged me to pull together some of my thoughts on where we are as a nation right now. This space is usually a personal development and management focused one. But I feel a need to address what I am seeing in the United States right now in terms of how we treat immigrants. Continue reading

It’s Not Just Luck: Increasing Your Odds for Early Career Success

I was fortunate enough to be invited by the University of MN Alumni Association to partner with friend Carleen Kerttula to deliver a webinar last week on setting yourself up for early career success. I have attached the link for anyone interested in listening when you have a chance. Thanks to friend and UMAA officer Jon Ruzek (@JonHigherEd) for the opportunity. The talk starts at about 4:40 mark.

Move over Martyrdom: A Working Mom’s Tips to Sanity

Phil Profile_2012-crop2I want to introduce you to my friend and colleague Maggie Tomas. Maggie is an outstanding career center director and skilled advisor. I asked her to begin contributing to this site because I think she has a distinctive voice when it comes to working mothers and their careers. I hope you appreciate her voice. And her posts are almost as long as mine, so there’s that…

“They will be happy if mom is happy.”

Words that chamaggie & girlsnged my life. They came out of the blue, from an unexpected source, at a time when I was struggling with one of the more weighty decisions of my life.

Should I go back to work? The question ended up turning on my own understanding of fulfillment. But let’s back up and start at the beginning and see if there’s anything to take from my own experience… Continue reading

Taking the Initiative and My Favorite Metaphor

skiingI love metaphors. The spark of an image can light up whole new understanding for me almost instantly. It’s like a light bulb turning on (see!). So I collect them and over-use them as code for concepts when I teach, consult and work with my team.

“Leaning in”, as it were…

One of my favorites is a skiing image my instructor Dave painted for me more than 5 years ago. A very patient and effective teacher, Dave always tries to visualize things in multiple ways for different learning styles. This is particularly important as you try to help a bunch of 40 somethings figure out how to navigate a slalom course using skills that are not at all natural to them. There’s a lot of teaching people to do counter-intuitive things. Continue reading

Career Choices: Putting Yourself in the Right Environment

square peg 2A recent New York Times article “A Natural Fix for A.D.H.D” hit on an important point I think many people overlook in considering career choices. Namely, “what am I well suited to?”

In my experience, I see too many people who try to fit their square peg into a round hole career-wise. Professor Richard A. Friedman (clinical psychiatry and the director of the psychopharmacology clinic at the Weill Cornell Medical College) points out is that in many cases the lack of fit is literally hard wired into us.

“Recent neuroscience research shows that people with A.D.H.D. are actually hard-wired for novelty-seeking — a trait that had, until relatively recently, a distinct evolutionary advantage. Compared with the rest of us, they have sluggish and underfed brain reward circuits, so much of everyday life feels routine and understimulating.”

Continue reading

Start Small to Win Big (or Fail Quietly)…

green shootsI don’t know about the rest of you, but I have had to learn to avoid making some goals virtually unachievable from the get go. Lose 20 pounds! Improve efficiency by 35% in your area! Grow your business by (ridiculously large) percent!

The chasm between where you are and where the dream might put you can seem really wide. Some folks are great at ignoring obstacles and blindly plowing ahead, sustained by some mix of endless optimism or ignorance. Most people I know can’t do that, nor do I think they should. One person’s dream is another person’s fool’s errand.

So how do I have big dreams or goals, make progress and NOT kill myself, my colleagues or those around me? Start small! Continue reading

Interviewing: Defending Weaknesses

All artwork/posters are wholly-owned imagery made by Getty Images.  Images numbers are on property release.,People who “win” in the interviewing process almost invariably are effective at what I would call “defending perceived weaknesses.” For any desirable position, the competition will be fierce. The margin between the candidate who gets the offer and “1st runner up” will be slim. Eliminating concerns can be as or more important than proudly highlighting strengths.

I remain surprised at how unprepared many candidates are for what seem to be obvious questions that poke and prod around their metaphorical soft underbelly. Stated differently, “how could you NOT know I was going to ask about that?” Continue reading

Clarity: Your actions speak so loudly, Part 2

reflection of manakinLast post we discussed being honest with yourself and whether you see yourself clearly. The next logical question then is, “do you understand how the world sees you?” Understanding our own motivations, actions, successes and missteps is important. We often fail to understand or forget how powerful a message we are sending through our actions. To repeat Mr. Emerson, “your actions speak so loudly, that I can’t hear what you’re saying.”

My father used to observe that as a leader, he couldn’t see into people’s hearts. All he could see was what they did. I think that’s exactly right. His point was that trying too hard to discern “intent” or “the content of people’s hearts” can be really challenging. Continue reading

Back in the saddle…

back in saddleEveryone hits a lull or loses focus on things they care about. For me, the blog has gone on virtual hiatus since I took a new role as Assistant Dean of MBA Programs at the Carlson School. I’ve had a weekly goal to get something posted every week for two years. And got a grand total of 4 posts up last year. That’s the same number I posted my last year at 3M when I ran a global business, we had our 3rd child and both my parents died. So not an impressive showing. It’s a great example of competing priorities, loss of momentum and a variety of other themes.

In the last few months a few things have changed. My partner and I agreed to shut down our start up, my job while crazy has become more “predictable” in year 3 and as I’ve reflected in my planning for the year I really miss the time, thought and feedback I get when I’m writing. I’m also a big new year’s resolution guy. So this year, my plan is to post 2x per month with something original. We’ll see how it goes.

As always, if you have any post ideas please send them along or post a comment. Also, if you have ideas for “renovations” to the site, please also offer them. Looking forward to 2015!

Clarity: Your actions speak so loudly…

reflection of manakinRalph Waldo Emerson famously said “your actions speak so loudly, that I can’t hear what you’re saying.” I shared this with my son recently as one explanation for why effort matters. People can see your effort, or lack of. And in the end it shows in results.

But I think Emerson speaks to a broader theme about the games we play with ourselves and with others. I’m going to focus on the importance of being honest with yourself and others, as well as the importance of reading your environment.

Do you really see yourself clearly?

It is incredibly powerful to “know yourself”. It helps you make good choices about priorities, helps you be a strong teammate and in general makes for a happier existence. It’s also a journey, as we all change over time. I am both very much the same and very different today than 20 years ago.

For example, You say you really are committed or love something? Are you really? Continue reading