Is this High School?….again

Today is a really busy day in my house. It’s one of those days I feared. All the kids had something to do in opposite directions. We avoided it for all these years and I said it wouldn’t happened to us. But here we are.

When my husband and I started to hand out our orders I got taking my youngest to dance class. My son is an amazing dancer so his teacher asked for him to join another class for the recital. This isn’t our regular class so I didn’t know anyone but the teacher.

I again always avoided Saturday dance classes. They’re crowded and more importantly they’re all about cliques. This class didn’t disappoint. For the hour class I went 55 minutes with no one saying a word to me. I usually wouldn’t care because I planned on zoning out and reading but alas someone used my iPad last night and didn’t charge it. You can imagine my horror when I opened it up only to find 4% power. Ugh.

Now with nothing to occupy the time I took to people watching. What I found amazing was there was a definite dividing line between the cliques. I was not in either for the record. I was however deemed invisible so both sides at different points in the power shift didn’t mind talking freely in front of me. Both groups recognized there was a dividing line and they each blamed the other for it. Crazy is this high school or a meeting of the 30-40 something Moms.

I’ve never been one to have loads of friends. I’m not part of a Mom Mafia that controls the soccer field. I like hanging at home with my kids or having alone time. Do I fear my kids having trouble building relationships with the other kids? I do. If the parents can’t bridge a gap how can they teach their kids too.

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What I’ve learned from teaching a corporate class.

I don’t have a huge amount of extra time to kill but I realized that in order to really succeed at my career and at life in general I need to expand my horizons.  I also needed to do that whole networking thing everyone talks about.  Over the last 5 years I’ve found the time to join the Women’s Network at my company and even volunteer.  I also took an amazing series of classes offered by my company on managing my career.  I really found great success with the tools and exercises in the class and it forced me to think about my career and what I want out of it.  What do I want….in addition to my career I always dreamed of teaching on the college level where I can impart the knowledge I’ve gained along the way.

Now to tie in to the title of the post…jump ahead to my more recent past and from networking and really enjoying the class on career development the person who developed the class asked me if I’d be interested in facilitating it.  My first reaction…Are you sure you want me to do this?  The response was didn’t you share in the class you wanted to teach…then why wait for the college level try kicking it off here.  And with that Stephanie Waters the class facilitator was born.  So to really align with the post…what have I learned?

1.) Teaching a virtual class can be difficult.  (Did I mention this was a virtual class environment?)  Trying to make sure those on the other end of the presentation tool and the phone are engaged is no easy feat.

2.) To further build on that. My no fear of public speaking was not enough of a skill set for rallying everyone to be engaged.  It forced me to work on that and I’ve developed some great techniques.

3.) People can be both amazingly positive and others really harsh in their follow up review of you and your session.  (And it’s on file which makes it even more scary.  When they share with you the comments you feel like how it would have been if you broke into the principals office, back when things were not digital, and saw your file.  Miss Smith thinks I’m a bit bossy in class.  Well I never.  I should note I never had a Miss Smith and I do admit I wouldn’t be shocked if bossy was used in my permanent record at least once. And to that I say I’m not bossy I’m just curious, in a forceful kind of way.)

4.) Reading those comments affect you.  I’m not going to lie the bad ones could affect you more. I had a boat load of amazing ones including emails from people in the class, many of which I remain in contact with. I had one really harsh one that that sticks with me.  I know it shouldn’t because you’re not going to make everyone like you. I also prided myself on not caring what other people think.  But who am I kidding, it does.

5.) The bad ones actually can be good.  I dealt with the harsh comment in the only way I knew how. I upped my game.  Of course this comment was after my first ever class and I thought, well there goes my teaching career.  That lasted a second until I said…wait a minute one person’s comment was not going to kill this dream. I’m not going down without a fight.  And so far so good.

6.) You meet some amazing people. Teaching a virtual class allows me to share my story and hear theirs from anywhere in the world.  I’m not limiting this horizon to those in NY but anyone available at that time of day.

7.) It pushed me out of my comfort zone…and that’s a good thing.  Putting myself out there for critique was definitely out of my comfort zone.  I legitimately don’t have a fear of public speaking…but I now know I had a fear of being criticized for that public speech.  I try to remember it’s all constructive criticism and not everyone is going to like me.  If someone says, I can’t stand her voice, what am I gonna do.  You can take the girl out of Brooklyn….

Happy Mother’s Day

Firstly I would have posted this yesterday on Mother’s Day but I was off the grid most of the day relaxing and hanging out with my children. That to me is the best part of Mother’s Day.  A day where there isn’t a lot of demands. We aren’t running from one dance class or school event to another.  It’s just a day where if we want to go out for lunch we can. If we want to just hang out at home and watch a movie we can.  I’m not one for big parties.  If it’s a choice between that or just relaxing at home with my family I’m usually going to decide to relax at home.

Last year (2014) Mother’s Day celebrated its 100th anniversary here in the US.  100 years of thanking Moms for their amazing contributions. In reading up a bit on how this great holiday came to be I found out that its current state isn’t really how it started.  Read this article from National Geographic last year on the Dark History of Mother’s Day.  Not all about the flowers and gifts we see today.  Yesterday there was a further story on Time.com about the founder Anna Jarvis who ended up being one of the biggest opponent to Mother’s Day.  She was staunchly against the commercialization of Mother’s Day.

I agree that all this public shout outs, over-priced flower arrangements, need for expensive gifts or meals has gotten to be a bit much.  Don’t get me wrong I love that my children want to celebrate Mother’s Day so long as that means gifts from the heart (usually hand crafted) and just wanting to go off the grid and spend time together.

Happy Belated Mother’s Day everyone!

A Great Burger Can Be a Real Threat

I have to admit….I had a great burger today.  I know it’s not the healthiest of things.  This was a way too many calories, probably increased my cholesterol a few points but was all worth it burger. While the kids were at class my husband and I get a little more than an hour to break bread together.  We decided to go to BurgerFI.  The BurgerFI Cheeseburger is fresh, mouth watering and doesn’t feel like a precooked hockey puck.

I tend to not leave well enough alone and just savor (literally) in the moment. My brain started working overtime. Do the big chains fear these ever sprouting specialty burger joints?  They should at least for the 35 and up crowd. Yes the big chains are a lower price point.  If you live in a high rent location like NYC however you’re not seeing the low price points anyway.  If I go to a McDonald’s in the middle of Manhattan I’m paying about $8 for a meal. My meal today at BurgerFI was $14 but for me that additional $6 made a huge increase in quality and value.

These high quality farm-to-table locations dovetail perfectly into the healthier way of eating. Healthy way of eating and higher quality specialty shops both seem to be affecting the big chains revenue.  This article on Slate.com “McDonald’s is Finally is Finally Making the One Big Menu Change that Could Save Its Business” shows the changes of testing out having their breakfast menu all day.  Genius really!  Even my most healthy of friends love a McDonald’s Breakfast.  Those who love a fried egg sandwich in the morning can look past the calories, the fat and generally the unhealthiness of it all. What a genius idea of leaning into what they know as a differentiator for them.  This just might, as Slate says, save their business.

The Art of Customer Service

I don’t want to brag but I had the wonderful experience of spending the last two weeks on vacation with my family. Of course I enjoyed the time I got to spend with everyone but one thing I learned was not everyone is the right fit for a service industry role.  I’m not saying that jobs where you are waiting on people are easy.  The exact opposite actually.  Roles in housekeeping, wait staff and customer service desks are difficult.  You sometimes have to deal with people who are incredibly difficult and you are expected to do it with a smile and be gracious while also upholding the guidelines set by your employer.  That in itself can be an insurmountable task.  I do however feel that customer service is becoming a lost art.  I had a number of experiences where my waiter couldn’t be more annoyed at having to take my order.  I’m not talking about a fast food restaurant (thought I don’t want to be treated like that there either) but this was a higher end formal dining establishment.  I’m on vacation and definitely don’t want to be talked down to or treated with a snippy attitude.  (For the record I don’t want to be treated like this on a non-vacation day either.)

On the flip side I had a handful of people who where the gold standard for customer service.  They really understood how to provide a high level of quality service while also being personable and able to deal with specific requests on the fly.  I had this experience with a few wait staff, our housekeeping consultant and a kids camp counselor.  I was sure to thank them profusely, tip them greatly and most importantly make sure to do a written and verbal recommendation on their service to their managers to ensure the company does whatever they need to do so they don’t loose these employees who are true artists.

 

Today in the WSJ news

Today’s Wall Street Journal had one of those days where my 40 minute commute was barely enough time to get through all the great stories.  The topics ranged from Streaming Services changing the TV viewership paradigm to the Fed pointing to June for Rate decisions.  For me some the main highlights were 2 separate articles about Apple. The tech view article talked about the battery life of the new Apple Watch and if it will be enough for their target consumer who’s proven they enjoy consuming at a rapid, battery absorbing pace.  “Battery-Life Worries Spring Up Around Apple Watch” The other from the affect that Apple stores has on malls and the foot track it creates.  “Apple Gets Sweet Deals from Mall Operators“.

The battery-life article about the Apple Watch is not a surprising one. Apple iPhones and the smart phone age had created an immediate discussion about high battery consumption post the launch of a new version or new product. Will it deter people from buying it?  I don’t think so. Apple has a devoted group of people who seem to have an endless supply of discretionary cash burning a hole in their pockets.  I would like to see how many will opt to purchase some the high end edition models like the 18-Karat Rose Gold model.  This takes it beyond cool tech gear to a luxury fashion accessory. With so many models to choose from starting at $350+ I think this will become just another way to judge others style sense, their brand commitment level and generally their financial standing in life.  This has gone way beyond the glowing apple we’re used to filling up our coffee shops.

This also dovetails perfectly into the article about the deals Apple gets on their mall space.  As Apple dips their stem into the fashion and accessories world will they have a stronger ability to call the shots on their contracts with Malls or will the Malls ride it out to hopefully capture the increased foot traffic? I guess we shall see as we get closer to the Apr 24 Apple Watch release date. If I was a mall I would be focusing all attention on how we can change the workflow of our malls to get these folks waiting on line to get some more non-Apple purchasing done. Personal shoppers, line-side options or apps to purchase and pickup post your Apple wait are a few that just popped into my mind.

Pushing the positive and not harping on the negative

Today’s Wall Street Journal article “You’re Awesome! Firms Scrap Negative Feedback” caught my eye. Firstly because the word AWESOME is my jam so how could I not read it and secondly because I’m sure most of us who have worked in corporate America have been on the receiving end of some pretty harsh negative feedback at some point.

I do think there’s something to be said for not beating down your employees as they noted in the article and I am happy they broach the idea that we can praise while not ignoring potentially real issues. I question the article’s timing.  Are firms toning down harsh reviews because they think it’s less effective than praising the accomplishments?  I would present that they may have started this change because they fear their employees will leave now that the market has opened a bit. Would this same article have worked in Feb 2009 coming off the Sept 16,  2008  market crash? We’re not in  the same place we were prior but we’re definitely not in as desperate a job situation as 2009.

I do however have to note the pop out around “Reframing the Employee Review” is a bit much.  Instead of saying “What are we stuck on?” say “What are we doing really well?” is a stretch.  Firstly “What are we stuck on?” isn’t that harsh. If you said “Why can’t you fix this?” or “What am I paying you for if you can’t fix this?” is harsh.  But that’s my two cents.

A Big Day for Women

Per the WSJ article “Deloitte Taps Woman, a First, for CEO Post“, today Cathy Engelbert was appointed CEO of Deloitte (effective Mar 11).  This is exciting news for woman.  As I’ve grown in my career I more and more appreciate when women reach these senior leadership roles particularly in industries where they’re the first.  Ms. Engelbert is quoted as embracing her pioneering role.  She has been with the company since 1986 and probably deserves this appointment however her acknowledging how it will pave the way for other women is what’s truly special.

Much congrats and well wishes to Ms. Engelbert in her new role.

What came first the egg or the Kickstarter campaign?

This is real passion. I came across this article on Fox News about the Kickstarter campaign to save the egg sandwich. http://www.foxnews.com/leisure/2014/08/11/kickstarter-campaign-aims-to-save-egg-sandwich/

Who knew it needed saving but more importantly who knew people would put up money to save it.

The most interesting part of the article was how much potato salad is getting. Interesting social experiment here I think.

Think Like a Teenager

I’m in that middle of the road point where I’m not a teenager (obviously).  However, I don’t feel as old as my birth certificate says (lies) and my children aren’t in the dreaded teenage years (yet).  I am a lover of technology.  I was an early adopter of Facebook when it wasn’t any fun since I was only 1 of 2 people I knew on it.  I do think new apps are popping up quicker than I could even try them out.

Yesterday the Wall Street Journal had an article “How to Use Tech Like a Teenager“.  I immediately thought of the negative connotation regarding privacy and over doing it, however I was pleasantly surprised.  This article spoke to teenagers living in a world where they get the idea of surveillance and most are heeding the warnings.  I found the article interesting as it plays to the the running joke making fun of old people (us 30 somethings) not being able to program their phones so better find your kid to do so.

My opinion is lets make peace with the fact that we can get schooled on technology by a teenager so why not start learning.  Heck my toddler has on occasions schooled me.