Saturday, March 31, 2012

Lush Gorilla Perfume: Different Takes On A Head Shop

My city just opened a huge shopping center downtown, which includes a new Lush boutique.  I decide to pay a quick visit on a break last Thursday.

Walking in, I am put off by the odd, pungent mix of smells and the cheap feeling decor.  All of the soaps and lotions are out for everyone to handle and sniff and stick their grubby fingers in.  Little kids run around, touching things they shouldn't while their mothers yell at them from the other end of the store.

Annoyed but determined, I push through the crowds and find my way over to the perfumes.  They are located on the check-out desk, which adds to the pedestrian, don't-be-stealing-our-shit feel of the place.  I sample almost all of the solid perfumes on various parts of my arms, and enjoy the initial top notes of each.

Then, I wait.

Fifteen minutes later, I have to wash the arm with Imogen Rose and Lust because they are gagging me.  Seriously, nose burning, throat closing aromatic drama.  However, I like Karma, Dirty and Breath of God.  Unfortunately, within thirty minutes, they all smell like a 1970's head shop, along with the others I tried to wash off.  Karma is actually supposed to smell like a head shop and replicates that smell better than any of the others.

So I've heard. 

On the Lush website, I read: Mark and Simon work much like traditional French perfumers would have worked at the dawn of modern perfumery. 

Only if classic French perfumers smoked a lot of weed, which might explain Mitsouko. 

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Sunday, March 25, 2012

Career Secret #4: Cowboy Up

Here's what it means to Cowboy Up: Get a grip, take a chance, grow up, quit bitching about it and make a decision.  Strap on a pair.

You get the idea.

Taking risks - calculated risks - will move your career forward quicker than almost anything else.  Even if the timing or the idea isn't perfect, you will gain both recognition and respect if you're willing to consistently take thoughtful action.  What matters most here is courage.

To 'cowboy up' successfully means you have assessed the situation and confirmed the following:

1)  Your boss trusts and supports you (thanks to your wise investment in this relationship).

2)  You have identified your strengths and you are comfortable showing them.

3)  You have a few great ideas in mind, and you're ready to present at least one.

Now is the time to make a bold move.

Yes, I know, I know.

'What if I blow it?'
'The timing doesn't feel exactly right.'
'My idea is pretty radical - I'm not sure it will fly.'
'I get nervous when I'm the center of attention.'

The truth is, if you take risks, you will occasionally fail.  And timing, while important, is secondary to a great idea.  Certainly, it can be nerve racking to be the center of attention in front of a large group of people.  Whenever I'm watching someone make a presentation, I notice everything about the person.  Is that a button missing?  She bites her nails.  Why didn't he polish his shoes? 

So before you give that important presentation, make sure your shirt has all its buttons, de-scuff your shoes and get a manicure.  Anticipate every challenge you can, then take a deep breath and proceed as if you know exactly what you're doing.

Cowboys always face their fears calmly, and with courage.

A couple of years ago, I wanted to give a grand rounds presentation to an audience of physicians on the topic of patient centered care. Grand rounds is a physician-to-physician forum, and no one in my area had ever invaded this structure.  Because of the support of my boss and other leaders, my request was granted.

My presentation went well until the end when I invited questions from the physician audience.  A doctor asked me a question that I didn't understand. 

I asked him to repeat it. 

I still didn't get what he meant. 

Rattled, because I had to say something, I offered a bullshit response that revealed my total lack of understanding. This faux pas was discussed among my staff for weeks afterward. 

Honestly, it would have been easy to  swear off bold moves and avoid big presentations in the future.  Instead, a year later, when I requested hosting another grand rounds, I had done my homework and learned a thing or two.  This time, I involved physicians and patients in a panel discussion, interacted with the audience and easily fielded every question.

Tips to consider before taking a risk:

1)  If you don't hit the mark perfectly, it's okay.  Just make sure you're in the right vicinity.

2)  Seek consultation from respected colleagues and leaders before making your big move.

3)  If you blow it, be the first to laugh at yourself and use the experience as a 'what I learned' story in your interview for the next promotion.

4)  Involve others. This lowers your personal risk and lets you play the role of Mastermind. 

Unforeseen challenge:  After a fabulous presentation, you may want to kick back for a while because big events require a lot of mental and physical energy.  But if you're serious about growing your career quickly, keep seeking out new opportunities to be in the limelight.  Capturing a moment in the sun is easy, but if you want to be first on the list when a promotion comes up, keep your face out there and show them again why you're the right person for the job.

What ideas are you considering right now that excite you, but seem a little too risky to pursue?  Go ahead and take the next step.  Cowboy up and make a bold move.  Your career has gained momentum, and now it's up to you to provide the courage - the fuel - for ignition.

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Monday, March 19, 2012

Career Secret #3: Fall In Love With Change

Are you the kind of person who hates change and thinks life would be better if everyone just left well enough alone?  Do you offer compelling arguments against change at work, acting as the voice of reason among your staff?  Does it seem to you that if organization leaders would just look a little closer, they would understand that different doesn't necessarily mean better?

If the above paragraph describes you, I suggest you reconsider your position.  Because change will happen with or without your consent, and how you deal with that determines whether or not you build the professional life you want.

Igniting your career - moving ahead quickly - requires that you go beyond accepting change and begin leading it.   Think of it this way: you're either going to spend 40 hours a week creating changes that are exciting to you, or 60 hours a week working on someone else's boring idea that brings you no satisfaction at all. 

Which would you rather do?

Yes, I know, I know.

'But I really don't like change.'
'That's just not who I am.'
'No one will listen to me anyway.'
'I don't know where to start.'

Look, no one is born knowing how to pop out one brilliant idea after another.  We all have to work at it.  Fortunately, with a slight shift in focus, you can become skilled at recognizing what is happening in your organization beyond the scope of your current position.  Ask questions, read the company newsletter and always connect your ideas back to the mission statement.  Start small and experience a few quick wins to build your confidence.  Then, the creative juices will begin to flow, and you'll be on your way to becoming a change leader.

Consider these tips to thrive in change:

1)  Carve time out every day just to think.  That's right, schedule 30 minutes of thinking time and protect this as the most important part of your work.  Write down ideas so you'll be ready to present them when the time is right.

2)  Stop complaining about attending meetings and realize that's where all the important work happens.  Most decisions are made there and you want your voice to be heard.  Never, ever skip a face-to-face meeting in order to answer your e-mails.

3)  Tighten your professional boundaries because as you become the 'idea person,' more people will be watching.  Step back and look to your private life to fulfill your emotional needs.

4)  If you have concerns around a proposed change, state them clearly and in the spirit of teamwork.  Include an idea of your own to make the change better.  Now you are both brilliant and collaborative.

5)   Whenever possible, be the first to say, 'yes, we can do that.'

You want to become the optimistic, solution focused person who is known to succeed in all circumstances.  This is a powerful position because as you build trust with others, leaders start looking to you for advice, which puts you in control of shaping your environment.

Unforeseen Challenge:  As your career transforms, so will your relationships with your peers.  You will likely become their boss.   Your task will be to maintain both your objectivity and your close professional connection, which is a tricky balance.  Through my own career progression, some colleagues have pulled away and others have tried to draw me into a personal relationship.  They have offered tickets to exclusive events, free condo stays and private dinner invitations.  I express a warm thank you for the kind gesture and also let them know - right up front - that I prefer to stay objective with my colleagues so that I can view everyone fairly.  If your career is on the rise, the same is true for you.  Accepting personal gifts, favors or invitations will cloud your judgement and, therefore, limit your effectiveness.  Your ability to clearly assess any work situation, and take appropriate action, is essential to your professional growth. 

Loving and leading change presents all sorts of experiences for your development.  Embrace a work life that is constantly evolving and your career will ignite right before your eyes.

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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Random Comments In The Park

Across the street from my office is our city's version of Central Park.  I go there almost every day.  My work has ramped up considerably this week, and I am starting to understand what my role means in terms of scope and volume.  Today, wanting to slow down and relax  for a minute, I find myself mesmerized by the conversations of passers-by as I sit on a bench in the park.

'For some couples, if they don't have a baby, they drift apart.'
'I thought of wearing a white shirt, but decided to wear a sweater over my shirt, too.'
'I want to buy everything that fits.'
'Sorry I couldn't answer the phone, but we were watching a movie..there were only eight of us in the theater.'
'It's fun when parties are outside because you get to talk to people, but when it's freezing, no one wants to talk.'
'Are we walking too fast for you? 
'I'm selling pot holders for $10 and scarves for $25, but if you can't afford the $10 or $25...'
'Thanks for waiting for me.'
'And that used to be the library right there.'

I feel invisible sitting among the crowd with my sunglasses, my water bottle and the sillage of Bvlgari's Rose Essentielle pacifying Daphne like a binky.

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Monday, March 12, 2012

Career Secret #2: Showcase Your Strengths

Moving your career ahead requires you to use your natural strengths in a way that produces solid results.  However, if you're like many of the people I have coached, you've lost sight of how much you know and the uniqueness you bring to any environment.   You might even pooh-pooh compliments and think you're arrogant if you know what you do really well.

But it's not arrogant to be aware of your strengths.  That's called confidence.  And confident, talented people rarely work more than 40 hours a week, nor do they need to suck up to anyone to get ahead.  Best of all, they love their work.  

If you're having a hard time identifying or remembering your strengths, ask respected peers (inside and outside of your organization) to give you feedback on what you do best. Ask your family and friends, too. And when they tell you, believe them!   

Once you have identified your natural strengths, consider applying these guidelines when deciding what to do first:

1)  Everyone should benefit from your idea...especially you

2)  Never identify a challenge that highlights a weakness of your boss

3)  Make sure your idea allows you to spotlight your unique strengths

4)  Adopt a 'can do' attitude...nothing is more engaging or more powerful

5)  Keep it simple

Here's an example of how this career secret worked for me:

Eight years ago, as a medical social worker, I was responsible for helping families and staff cope with difficult situations like traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries and near drownings.  Under these circumstances, tensions are high and everyone feels the stress. 

Our nursing staff - also stressed - was not dealing well with parents that were upset  Instead, they were melting down and getting defensive with families and other staff members.  This had been going on for years, but no one knew what to do about it, so the parents were blamed for their bad behavior and the situation kept getting worse. 

Ah-hah moment:  Upset parents didn't bother me at all, so I began paying attention to what I was doing differently than the nurses.  Then it hit me.  Nurses simply didn't know what to say when parents were upset.  They didn't have the right words at the right time.

My opportunity appeared.

Very quickly, I put together a simple, three step process that works whenever confrontation is needed, from dealing with upset parents to addressing an employee that is not performing.

1)  'I've noticed that'...(you seem upset lately/you're coming late for work every day/you're tearful whenever we meet/you're not completing your work on time)

2)  'I'm wondering if'...( you're getting enough sleep/you have challenges at home/you're depressed/you understand the assignment)

3)  'How can I support you to make things better?'

That's all there is to it.

I began training the nurses on this 3-step process, which they used with great success and shared with peers and leaders hospital wide.  Only weeks later, I was honored as the hospital's medical social worker of the year.  A month after that, I was asked to provide psychosocial support to a family in one of the highest profile cases our hospital has ever handled.

Within three months, I was directing a department of fifty.

And less than six months later, I was overseeing ten departments within the hospital.

Certainly, other things happened during this time to propel my career forward. But my rapid progression began with these three simple steps that, for me, were as natural as breathing.  I did nothing more than recognize a need, identify an area of my strength and offer a solution that helped everyone.

Unforeseen Challenge:    To grow and expand, you will need to let go of some details of your current role in order to pay attention to the big picture of your organization. If this seems impossible (I don't have time, I'm swamped already), let your boss know you would like new opportunities that will improve the department and allow you to grow professionally.  Then ask for help in managing the details of your job.  If you have a good relationship with your boss - Career Secret #1 - you'll get the opportunity.

You have the ability to change the environment of your organization - right now - and move ahead in ways that will surprise even you.  Identify your own strengths, trust your instincts and make no apologies for your ambition or your confidence.  Because once you discover how to make the most of your talents, everyone around you will benefit and you will have taken the next important step in igniting your career.

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Saturday, March 10, 2012

Still In Search Of The Perfect Perfume

So I just finished the first week of my new job - I'm going to love it.  Until now, I've never had a downtown job where I could walk out of my office building and step onto a sidewalk with other corporate types, also dressed in gray and black.

Leave me alone, I wore a scarf one day.

No matter what, I find a little time to walk every day, watch people and enjoy the sites.  Remember the Mary Tyler Moore show from the 70's where she throws her hat in the air to the theme song lyrics of  'you're going to make it after all?'  (I know, how f-ing old am I, right?)  Well, that's how I felt this week.

In my initial search for a new work perfume, I tried Prada Infusion D'iris and found it 'too girly, with a dry down of Aqua Net,' to quote an earlier post.  But, hello, that was the eau de parfum.  The eau de toilette is a whole different deal.  Still feminine, but more sophisticated and without the hairspray vibe.  That was to be my new work perfume and it was delivered to my home on Monday.  Decision made.  Done deal.  You can take that to the bank.

Then I had second thoughts. 

Sur le Nil by Hermes emerged in my mind as the perfume I should have repurchased as my new work scent.  Luckily, I have a sample of Sur le Nil and decided to re-sniff just to be sure.  It's a little more masculine than I remember, not that I have anything against wearing masculine scents (Yatagan and I go way back).  And Sur le Nil might suit me well, since B-man described my walk as 'cosmopolitan gangster' when we were out with Paige this morning. 

No respectable gangster would be caught dead in Prada.

Today, I'm convinced that the perfect perfume will always remain one step out of reach, and I will forever want something slightly different than the one I just ordered.  But I'm okay with that because the ongoing search for perfection is what keeps me in the game.  My perfect perfume is just around the corner. 

Come back on Monday for Igniting Your Career: Secret #2

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Monday, March 5, 2012

Career Secret #1: Learn To Like Your Boss

Liking your boss is essential to moving your career forward.

Read the above sentence again, because it's true.  No matter what other support you have in the organization, if you are out of sync with your direct supervisor, it will derail your progression.  Rather than focusing on your strengths, other leaders will get stuck on the fact that you don't work well with your boss.  And important projects always go to the proven team players.

Yes, I know, I know.

'But my boss is an asshole.'
'My boss doesn't support/promote/encourage me.'
'My boss is out of touch/doesn't get it.'
'My boss is incompetent.'
'My boss doesn't really care about me.'

Maybe you're right.  But if your goal is to advance your career, it really doesn't matter.  Your boss doesn't exist to take the place of a parent or to be your friend or to ensure your career success, for that matter.  Her job is to move the organization forward, and she's always looking for help from a skilled employee. 

That should be you, since advancing your career quickly means constantly trolling for new opportunities. 

Once you have found something - anything, really - that you and your boss can agree on, offer to work with her to accomplish that goal.  This will reflect well on you, and if you truly engage in the process, it will be hard not to like her, at least a little.  Down the road, when you approach her with your next fabulous idea, she will be much more willing to help you make it happen.

Notice I haven't said 'love' your boss.  Loving your boss is dangerous to your career because it's easy for professional boundaries to become blurred (golfing together on weekends or meeting for a drink after work).  If you focus on this pseudo friendship over your own career, your boss will have too much control over how and when you advance.  Objectivity is key in staying open to opportunities.  You want a relationship of  simple, positive regard.  
Unforeseen challenge:  At any point in your career, it's wise to steer clear of conversations where staff members complain about leadership.  But it may surprise you when at least one colleague accuses you of sucking up because you no longer see your boss as the enemy.  The fact is, not everyone will be excited about your skilled alignment with leadership.  Stay cordial to your harshest critics and simply keep moving ahead.

All through your working life, you will have bosses that are great and bosses that suck - it just comes with the territory.  But you alone have the ability to ignite your career.  Just keep your eye on the goal and remember that finding a way to like your boss will get you there even faster.  

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Sunday, March 4, 2012

Secrets To Igniting Your Career: A Ten Part Series

Tomorrow, I begin a new role as the systemwide Service Excellence Coordinator for a large healthcare organization.  In the process of leaving my last position, several people asked how I have advanced my career four levels through three promotions over the past eight years.  

It's easier than you might think.

Through the coming weeks, I will share career secrets that reflect my own experience and are best suited to anyone who seeks the following perks:

-  More influence in an organization
-  More opportunity to create positive change
-  More visibility and recognition
-  More money
-  More fun

Should you implement these tips into your own life, you will be embracing an ambitious path.  Ironically, some of the colleagues coming to me now for advice are the same ones that questioned my ambition along the way.  However, as I leave the hospital, they have all expressed thanks for my vision and the calculated risks I took to create a higher profile for them as well as for me. 

True achievement is always a win-win. 

My secrets for rapid career growth are somewhat prioritized, but they are meant to build on each other wherever you choose to start.  I hope you'll come along for the ride and take away anything that sparks your passion and compels you to dream big.

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