Thursday, January 24, 2008

I have moved!

I'm even late in sending out moving announcements on my blog. With due respect to Blogger I've moved my blog to wordpress. It's got templates with room for prettier pictures.

My new blog address is please come and connect with me there!


Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Acting as if I am

A funny thing about being a parent is that once you are one, you are one. There's nothing (barring the insane and/or criminal) that you can do to not be a parent. You can, of course, choose to be a completely uninvolved parent, but still, there it is, your progeny roams the planet.

I sort of like that. Although I sometimes dream of the free-wheeling days before I was a parent, I never agonize about whether I want to continue to be one. It frees me up to focus my energy on thinking about what kind of parent I want to be. Not just in terms of being a good or bad parent, but how much do I want to structure our days vs. being flexible, how much I want to rely on existing guidelines vs. following my intuition, how much I want to work vs. be with the kids.

I'm going to try applying some of the same logic to other parts of my life. As many of my friends know, I've been waffling about staying in my job for almost as long as I've been doing the job. And five years is an awfully long time to waffle. So this year, instead of having ongoing conversation in my head about whether I'm going to stay in the job or not, I'm going to accept that I have my job and it just is, just like I am a parent and it just is. That way, I can focus on what kind of colleague/consultant/manager/ leader/salesperson/writer I want to be. Not necessarily easier, but a much more interesting, and more fruitful conversation, I hope.

Likewise, instead of wondering if I am going to go to yoga or not go to yoga, I'm going to try to think about when I'm going to go, and how I can cover off on work and childcare so that I can make it.

Finally, in one more domain, I'm going to try to act as if I am...allergic to cookies. Well, that might be going overboard.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Trust your gut

This morning, my kids were acting strange. They were whiny and cried a lot, and one of them had woken up several times in the middle of the night - all of which are, thankfully, unusual behaviors in our household.

I tried to tell whether they were sick or not by taking their temperatures, but they didn't have fevers. I tried to ask if they were in pain, but no matter how I phrase it, the answer is always yes. Our conversations go like this. Does your tummy hurt? Yeah. Does your head hurt? Yeah. Does your cheek hurt? Yes. Does your funny bone hurt? Yes. Very helpful.

I really wanted to know if they were sick or just cranky, so I could make a good decision about whether to send them to school. But I didn't have a lot of information at my disposal. I had to guess, and trust my gut. My instinct told me that if they weren't actually sick then they were at least pretty tired, and that I should keep them home from school.

As I thought about it, I realized that with my kids, I am often having to make decisions without all the information that I'd like to have. I have to just trust my judgement and make a call and hope its the right one. This actually happens a lot in business as well. As much as we'd like to be able to predict future outcomes, most of us have limited information. The information we seek is often unavailable, costly or even unreliable, so we have to just go with what we have. It can be hard to trust your judgement, and sometimes even harder to convince your colleagues to let you trust your gut.

That's where parenting helps. It gives you a chance to practice trusting your gut. I'm going to try taking advantage of these opportunities, instead of dreading them, in hopes that when I have to use my judgement at work, I'll be better at it. Ideally, just having more confidence in my gut decisions will inspire other folks to trust my gut as well.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Fog of Life

I watched the Fog of War last night - what a great movie. In it, McNamara and Morris highlight 11 life lessons. I’m not saying that raising kids is like going to war, but I will admit that some days it feels like it. Many of the principles apply pretty well to raising children, so I thought it was worth posting them here.

11 principles -

#1 Empathize with your enemy.
#2 Rationality will not save us.
#3 There’s something beyond one’s self.
#4 Maximize efficiency.
#5 Proportionality should be a guideline in war
#6 Get the data
#7 Belief and seeing are both often wrong
#8 Be prepared to reexamine your reasoning.
#9 In order to do good, you may have to engage in evil.
#10 Never say never. (And its corollary, Never answer the question that is asked of you, answer the question that you wish had been asked of you.)
#11 You can”t change human nature.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Fake it 'till you make it!

Some days I am so tired I can't imagine spending another 10 minutes playing with my kids, let alone the rest of the day. Often, I find that if I just start jumping around a lot, singing really loudly, or otherwise engaging with them in an overly energetic state, I actually build up enough energy to get myself through the day.

This also works in meetings. As corporations host more and more all day and multi-day meetings, getting through the day is becoming a big deal. And as an outside consultant, it often falls on me to facilitate all day events. If I pretend that I have more energy than I do, I can often help raise the energy level of the whole room. And if I pretend I'm trying to keep my 2 year old kids engaged, I can often keep up the energy I need to keep a roomful of adults engaged.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Technorati Profile

Making Great Hiring Decisions

I've never really thought of myself as someone who is good at hiring people. I tend to listen for what I want to hear, and I really want to like job candidates, which gets in the way of serious evaluation.

When it came to hiring a nanny, I did a pretty poor job the first time, mostly because I didn't know what I wanted. I was a new mom of 3 month old twins, knew nothing about parenting, and tried to hire someone who really knew what she was doing. Little did I know that by the time my boys were 6 months old I'd consider myself the expert in their care, and resent our nanny's tendency to try to tell me what to do. When it came time to hire nanny #2, we interviewed three candidates and I immediately had a great feeling about one of them. She's been with us for almost two years now, and we consider ourselves incredibly lucky.

Our wonderful nanny will be leaving soon, taking off to travel with her fiance, and I'm worried that I won't be as lucky a second time. But I've recently read First, Break All the Rules for work, and there's a nugget of wisdom that I think will help our search be more successful.

One of the premises of the book is that people who are most successful and happiest in their jobs have innate talents that lend themselves to the role. There's an entire section in the book titled "The Art of Interviewing for Talent." Basically, the book suggests that you ask open ended questions and then believe the first thing that candidates say. So no fishing for the answer you want to hear. No asking the question a few ways until you get an answer that you're satisfied with. It's about taking people's initial responses at face value, and making decisions based on what you hear. There's more in there about asking for specific examples of behavior and finding out what parts of the job are most satisfying for people.

Hiring a nanny is such a stressful experience. There are so many different things that I am looking for: someone who will care for my children with love, help them learn to explore the world, have fun with them, feed them a healthy diet, handle any emergencies, be nice to our dog, etc. On top of that, there are issues around what kind of relationship the nanny wants to have with our family, and me in particular since I work at home. Whether she'll be on time on a regular basis and if she's not, whether she'll blame the bus or take responsibility for herself.

I like the idea of applying the principles from First, Break All the Rules for a few reasons. One, if I'm looking for talents, I'll hopefully be looking for elements of her personality and her approach to the job that will address many diverse aspects of the job. And two, it gives me a framework for the interview, a way of approaching it from a structured perspective that I trust will get me good results. I'll let you know how it turns out.