Plant Seeds of Renewal in Your Brain this Spring!

plant-164500_640This year, it seems like there is no spring season in sight… for so many reasons.   

It could be the best opportunity to plant seeds of renewal in our brains. Here are 7 SEEDS of ideas to get you growing and sowing. After all, Mother Nature herself needed seven days to get the earth in BLOOM, and even SHE rested!

  1. To PLANT your SEEDS of accomplishment for this year, first decide what you want to reap. Do you want to learn valuable new skills, gear up for a brand new, exciting and fulfilling career? Develop new connections, friendships and relationships? Maybe you have an even loftier goal, such as starting a business. Decide what you want your full-blown PLANTS to look like, and get to making it happen. 
  2. Once you determine how you want your flourishing GARDEN to look, you need a plan to make it happen. If you want to learn a new skill, why not sign up now for a finance class, a computer class, a graphic design or writing class, or music lessons? Why not learn a new language?
  3. If your goal is finding a new career, it’s never a bad time to set up informational interviews or networking sessions where you talk with people about their jobs and figure out whether their career might be a perfect career for you. People you want to know are ready to come out of retreat for a quick lunch or espresso – online or IRL. 
  4. If you have to literally crack open your copy of What Color is Your Parachute, then don’t wait for evidence of moth larvae infestation between the pages before you buy yourself the new edition. No one writes about career reinvention, midlife crises or having a “Plan B” the way that Richard Nelson Bolles does.
  5. If you haven’t taken a career assessment test since you wore miniskirts the first decade they were in style (which would also be the decade that Cher could scowl and smirk with the lips, eyes and forehead that Mother Nature gave her), then sign up to take a Myers-Briggs personality test (www.mbticomplete.com). Even though Myers-Briggs experts say that your personality traits stay the same as you move through your life, taking the test again will reaffirm for you who you are today, and what type of job would be a good fit for your personality now. At the very least, it’s a way to PLANT new SEEDS in your own head, and then in others’ heads.
  6. Speaking of heads, two (or more) heads are sometimes better than one. If you want to develop new networks of friends or relationships, make sure you have a profile on a business social network like LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com), or update your professional profile, and make plans with people whom you haven’t seen in years. Or, how about hosting a dinner party for six friends that you think would have fun together brainstorming the next move in their lives – even if you have to order in? Or, go to a panel sponsored by your alma mater or the local YMCA, so you can be exposed to new ideas while meeting new people.
  7. Finally, this might not sound like an activity for a “day of rest” but if your daydreaming time tends to veer toward visions of having your own business, maybe this is the perfect time to PLANT the SEEDS for that. Decide what type of business you want to start that fits in with the rest of your goals in life. In entrepreneurial finance, the term “lifestyle business” is used to define a business that will also allow you to have a normal life. And, we’re all for that! Start researching the industry you’re thinking about entering, and the companies that might be your competition. Then think about what you would need to do to put together a kick-butt business plan. 

    SEED that need and get yourself in full BLOOM!

 

Taking Care of Business – 21st Century Style

file221263244327Following are some keen gleanings, amusing musings, and plain common sense for mature professionals who get a lot done – with and for other people, taking care of themselves, their teams and their businesses. These are culled from workshops I’ve run recently for mature professionals, classroom exchanges I’ve had with business students in various universities, and “heard on the street” revelations that surprise even someone more over 40 than I want to admit!

1) In today’s workplace, karma is as karma does. If your default leadership mode now that you’re a seasoned professional is to be all dictatorial diva and command-and-control queen, then you’re practicing the outmoded, discredited management principles of the 19th century.  What worked in the factory-driven Industrial Revolution (or in The Devil Wears Prada) is negatively Neanderthal in this environment of self-actualization and self-driven career professionals. Team disenchantment that’s allowed to fester leads to massive defections, operations challenges, and external backlash. If you’re “that guy,” keep in mind this commonsense advice from a variety of leadership experts:

  1. a) Learn to analyze complex team situations – because no one management theory works for all employees in all industries or companies.
  2. b) Develop a broad repertoire of behaviors and knowledge about when to use them – focusing on optimizing your team’s strengths, rather than focusing on their weaknesses.
  3. c) Develop the self-control and self-discipline to go beyond your natural leadership style and adapt to a rapidly changing environment – not everything is a “turnaround” situation. 

harvard bus review2) Learn how to manage yourself, and manage how you learn, before you can hope to manage others – including the leaders to whom you report. A classic Peter Drucker article about how we learn is even more relevant today than when it was published 20 years ago in the Harvard Business Review. I assign it to students as well as mature professionals, because Drucker demonstrates:

a) your preferred ways of learning drive whether you consume and process information efficiently and effectively;
b) you take subsequent actions based on how you learn, and therefore, what you think you know;
c) those actions govern the responses you’re likely to receive (pro and con) from your direct reports as well as your own management;
d) if you’re not learning anymore, it means you’re bored, and if you’re bored, your job is on the line.

3) Should leaders focus on frenetic output and efficiency no matter the company or situation? Or, should they build in time for thoughtful consideration, reflection and resetting of strategies, desired outcomes and potential impacts? Recent media stories skew bipolar for both sides:

social media logosa) The camp that says we’re battling insomnia because we’re multi-tasking, pinging, Tweeting, Linking, Gramming, Facing, and Pinteresting well beyond reasonable latte hours – BUT we ALL should be getting a “minimum” of seven hours of sleep. Here, please note that mattress manufacturers, sleep app marketers and pharmaceutical companies create a lot of this “reportage” because they’re only too happy to push worry and “remedies” to those of us who sleep six or fewer hours a night, and we do just fine without new mattresses, rain simulators or sleep drugs.

sleepb) The camp that loves the cliché that “Sleep is vastly overrated.” That cliché should be relegated to the Industrial Revolution and its outmoded factory management techniques, in any case. Its proselytizers are supposed gurus of how to get more done, all of it!, most of it!, work!, play! – in four or fewer hours a week, supposedly with games, virtual assistants, and gargantuan gulps of 20-ounce cups of Coke. Phew – who has time to dump all that Coke, let alone sleep!

c) Try this instead – the antidote to all this frenzy! Purposely building in time in your day to be offline, rather than off and running, unless you’re using that run as time to think and reflect. That kind of deep, insightful, refreshing, brain-cleansing reflection focuses you on several important priorities: 1) what you truly need and want to accomplish, 2) when such activity really needs to be done, and – 3) here’s the wake-up call for many of you who think you’re indispensable – does it absolutely, positively, need to be done by YOU?

If you’re a mature, professional leader and you’ve been “taking care of business – and working overtime,” remember that song was recorded back in the 1970s – even if it did briefly surface again in the 1990s.  Wake up, it’s been a “new” century for two decades! Time to give some deep thought to your default management style, its impact on your team and your management, and whether you need to be offline thinking more than you’re overtime working.

 

Are You Suffering from Deadline Dandruff? Here’s How to MAKE SOME HEADWAY!

deadlines clockAre you procrastinating? Most mature professionals are juggling multiple roles and responsibilities, and often fear or resist tackling something out of their comfort zone. The reason, subconscious or otherwise, is that they think, after that’s done, well, then what? Or, they postpone finishing up a project or relationship or other endeavor because their daily lives demand it. For them, it’s other people’s priorities that drive them.

Other women turn prioritizing, organizing and meeting deadlines into a science; still others know it’s closer to an art. Even then, their to-do lists are filled with what amounts to “deadline dandruff” rather than actual “Big Deal” accomplishments that help them move forward toward a significant goal. So, what have they actually accomplished – except to knock some deadline dandruff off their minds, without actually making any – pardon the pun – HEADWAY.

But there comes a point in our lives or schedules or to-do lists that we realize it’s later than we think. It’s now or never. If not now, then when? One of my favorite authors, Seth Godin, writes in his kick-ass book called Linchpin that at some point you have to be content with “good enough,” and moving quickly to get the mundane things on your to-do list out of the way, off the list, done, and done.

Godin calls it “SHIPPING” – as in, get it out the door! On the other hand, SHIPPING is hard. SHIPPING means you’re acknowledging that you have only so much time in your life to perfect the project, or resuscitate the relationship, or primp up the place before you have to declare it whipped, zipped and shipped. We all tend to seek out something to tackle that will soothe or entertain our frazzled nerves right now, because it’s so much easier than doggedly completing a really critical task or a long overdue project that will deliver actual benefits.

So, go ahead, Ship it! Schedule it, work on it, get it done. Whip it! Zip it! Ship it! Stop procrastinating! This will help:

1) Create a to-do list that has a BIG-THREE, MUST-DO-TODAY mandate. This may seem like “duh.” But limiting yourself to those BIG-THREE, MUST-DO-TODAY on some days, helps you prioritize what’s really critical. Even if those BIG-THREE items have multiple parts, just getting past those smaller hurdles will help you conquer the BIG THREE. But remember, writing it down is important, but merely writing it down WON’T MAKE IT HAPPEN. We have to actually take action and do that thing that’s long overdue. Recent studies are showing that writing things down and telling people you’re “doing that” can actually delude us into thinking we’ve actually DONE IT – and we know the truth. It doesn’t get done until you get it done – or SHIPPED!

2) Do the hard one first. Tackle that biggest looming item first. It will give you a boost, (and a sense of relief) which will help you finish the other jobs more easily.

deadlines eat that frogBrian Tracey calls this “Eating the Frog.” Check out his book, Eat That Frog, 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time. He doesn’t delve too deeply into the psychological whys and wherefores of procrastination, but goes straight to the “do” heart of the matter. In clear and concise terms he instructs you to tackle your “frog,” that one task that will lend the greatest results first. Eating that biggest, ugliest frog on your to do list each morning can greatly increase your sense of accomplishment. This book is an easy read, and it might be a good one to read before going to sleep, since that supposedly aids in moving your unconscious self to action.

3) Do 15-minute-drills: Fake yourself out. Just tell yourself, “I will do only 15 minutes on this job, and then I can do something else.” Very often, you get into a groove, lose track of the time, and you find you are still working at it after the 15 minutes is up. But remember, you have to SHIP it by an urgent deadline – imposed by you or someone else.

4) Clear away distractions. Turn off your phone, log OUT of Facebook or Pinterest, try noise-cancelling headphones, and put your novel, i-pod, or whatever, in another room.

5) Let go of perfectionism. Don’t wait for the “right” time, or the “right” piece of software before you can complete the job. Remember, Voltaire said, “The perfect is the enemy of the good.” Aim for excellent, not perfect.

6) Promise yourself a reward: A treat you can look forward to will provide
some additional incentive to get the job done. Or tell yourself you can’t have
that Starbucks coffee or hot chocolate until you have completed the task;
negative reinforcement sometimes works as well!

There are many more helpful ideas in my book, Get DARE from Here™! – 12 Principles and Practices for Women Over 40 to Take Stock, Take Action and Take Charge of the Rest of Their Lives. Here are a few:

1. 90-Day ACTion PLAN: DARE to establish and commit to conscientious habits for achieving your Aims. You need an ACTion plan that requires you to tackle at least one Aim every day that will get your closer to ADVANCE your PLAN, and it is helpful to manage our time in chunks, so we can see three months out.

2. Design your life: Looking back on your life in your 80s or 90s, what would you like your life to look like? How can you make changes today so that Design is enacted?

3. Know your three most important Aims you have for your life, career, and community. What do you need to do to enhance your ideal Design?

4. Identify three ACTS toward any of those Aims that you could start in the next three months, and the resources you will Access & Approach to help you. 90-day plans, why they help manage chunks of our time so we see three months out.


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© The DARE-Force Corporation, 2015.

Check out Liz Weinmann’s book, Get DARE from Here™! – 12 Principles and Practices for Women Over 40 to Take Stock, Take Action and Take Charge of the Rest of Their Lives, by Liz DiMarco Weinmann, MBA. All rights reserved.

All of the content on this website and in the other content-driven products and services of The DARE-Force Corporation are based on sound business principles and practices of strategy, operations, leadership and marketing, and on current and emerging trends in those referenced business principles and practices. None of the content on this website, nor in the other content-driven products and services of The DARE-Force Corporation, are intended to be, nor should they be, perceived as, practiced as, or applied as, counsel, diagnosis, or treatment for any implicit or explicit mental, emotional or physical health challenges.

 

 

 

Trains = brains, and dresses = stresses? New research doesn’t bode well for next generation either.

Are boys born loving trains and guns while girls reach for dolls and pretty pink dresses? Are boys born with different brains, enabling them in the areas of math and science, while girls naturally excel in literature and the written word?

You may remember, in 2005, when the president of Harvard at the time, Lawrence Summers, created such an uproar with disparaging comments about women’s aptitude for science and math. Well, it may be true there are dramatically more men than women in top levels of the science fields, but are the gender differences hard-wired?

This debate has raged on for years, the age-old nature versus nurture, science-brain versus art/literature-brain. Researchers have produced a wealth of results from various studies, often conflicting, and the matter remains far from resolved.

Studies have shown that American girls around between 9 and 17 consistently had fewer experiences in the science realm than boys, and generally expressed negative perceptions and attitudes toward science and math classes. Lawrence H. Summers, then president of Harvard, made his notorious comments about women’s aptitude — researchers have been searching for ways to explain why there are so many more men than women in the top ranks of science.

Explaining this gender gap away with the cry: “brain differences!” just does not wash, however. Recent research on gender with regard to skills in math was carried out in 86 countries. The results strongly suggest that culture may be the culprit, not brain differences, that this difference is not biological, but sociocultural. Some countries just do not show this gap that is apparent in the USA, and it seems in countries where females are comfortable and successful in the world of math, there is a greater degree of gender equality. For example, in Russia and Asia girls are more apt to pursue scientific careers than in the US, Canada and England.

But here in the States, the gap has been narrowing. Girls who are considered to be “highly gifted mathematicians” now number 3 to 1, a vast improvement over the 13 to 1 ratio that was present in the 1970s. Women obtaining graduate degrees in math are also on the uptick, even though men are still holding 70% of those degrees.

Suggestions for improving this further? The researchers listed:

  • Increase math-certified teachers in schools
  • Work on decreasing the number of children living in poverty
  • Equalize the gender equality gap.

Easier said than done.

lean-in-coverWhen none other than Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg says that women “lean away” from challenging jobs in the corporate firmament because they want to off-track sooner than later to have their children, it’s hard to see how society can do even a 180-degree turn toward encouraging girls to pursue studies in science and math.

The really startling insight here is that research over the last half of the twentieth century, especially, has shown that women scientists (if they find the right sponsors and continue their careers while also having children) tend to focus on socially worthy science, such as disease cures, alleviation of poverty, hunger and homelessness, along with other humanitarian concerns. Male scientists have historically focused on research that is more driven toward industrial applications, such as improving military supremacy, space travel optimization and finance.

No wonder that so many female senators, congresswomen, university educators and other like-minded women are advocating the improvement and enhancement of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education for girls. We can only hope that a high percentage of them apply these skills to making real improvements on all of our lives – especially that of the current generation of their aging parents.

 

REFERENCES AND FURTHER READING

· “Sex on the Brain: Are boys’ brains different from girls’ brains? Scientists debate the question.” http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/human_nature/2011/11/boys_brains_girls_brains_how_to_think_about_sex_differences_in_psychology_.html

· “Stereotype Threat and Women’s Math Performance” :http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022103198913737http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2013/02/04/science/girls-lead-in-science-exam-but-not-in-the-united-states.html?_r=1&

· “The myth of equality in science classrooms” http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/tea.3660200205/abstract

· “Do the Math! Sex Divide Is Cultural, Not Biological” http://www.livescience.com/17429-math-gender-differences-myths.html

Launching a Small Business Post-Recession? Branding is just the first step.

Having built my career in brand marketing, I’m often asked about the art and science of effective branding by friends who are launching small businesses and nonprofits – and whether branding is about building awareness, changing perceptions, improving attitudes, promoting purchase and loyalty, and other questions. To borrow a rapid-fire reply often given by pundits and comedians, my answer is “Yes.” It’s about all of those factors that speak to the tangible and intangible features and benefits of a particular brand – whether the brand is a product, service, for-profit or nonprofit entity, or Brand You.

Whenever I attend good networking meetings for professional women in New York City, I want to brand the city as “The Big Cocoon” rather than The Big Apple, its more customary brand. Regardless of how many women’s networking groups there are throughout this city, spanning diverse broad and deep interests, the best ones are like cocoons where there are enthusiastic huddles, breakout sessions, brainstorms, a lot of talking over one another, a lot of exchange of insights, ideas, frustrations and opportunities as women are planning their next big moves, which often involve starting their own businesses.

In the current economic climate, thousands of people of all ages, and not just women, are starting their own businesses. Some stride confidently into setting up a business that they’ve been thinking about for a while. Others are taking on freelance assignments while they continue to network and interview for their next full-time position.

For both of these paths, you need a plan. In this age of pervasive instantaneous social media, you also need a memorable brand.

Here are eight essential factors to consider – from a personal as well as professional perspective if you’re planning and branding a small business.

  1. Deliberate and write down your dreams. Include your desires, reasons, aims and financial goals for starting your own business, and your time frame. Do they include the desire to be your own boss, control your own time, be acquired by another firm, attract investors, or work at home while you’re raising children? Do you just want to earn money as a freelancer or consultant in the short run, especially if you’re not sure what you want to do next? Those motivations will affect your personal and professional life.
  2. Write a brief “situation analysis”of your personal and professional deal. Outline your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. The most successful business people leverage their strengths and passions so they maximize opportunities to enjoy their work as well as earn money. Of the many good qualities and skills you possess, prioritize the ones that you enjoy, as they are the ones that help you create, build and drive your business. Do the same with your internal weaknesses and external threats, as they could hinder your business.
  3. Envision your business. Start from the perspective of how you’ll remember it when you’re in your 80s or 90s. Home in on your values, ethics, ideals and other motivations that go beyond your basic and current needs, so you also take into account your aspirations for achievement, recognition, altruism, prestige, status, power and influence. Know which needs and aspirations motivate you at your core, because they will affect you in the long run.
  4. Identify resources to make your visions and goals a reality. Most startups fail because they lack adequate resources. Even if you’re freelancing temporarily, you’ll need some cash reserves, a reputable accountant, industry peers and others you can rely on for brainstorming, marketing advice, referrals and moral support. If you’re going to be writing and reviewing consulting contracts and nondisclosure agreements, you’ll also want legal counsel.
  5. Brand yourself – and your business. This requires strategic know-how, courage, creative flair, commitment and persistence. To get you started:
  6. Create a compelling proposition for your product or service. Define a problem, solution and call to action. Your local chamber of commerce has information about strategy consultants, accountants, attorneys and marketing agencies that could help you, many of whom volunteer their services to small businesses.
  7. Become recognized and respected as an expert, i.e., as a brand. To do this, write, give speeches, do presentations and other promotion to build awareness, credibility, trial and preference among your target customers. A website’s a must, but so are a LinkedIn profile, Facebook business page, Twitter posts, newsletter, monthly emails, even a blog or YouTube videos. Keep references, work samples and other evidence of your expertise and experience current and ready to send to those who can recommend, refer or purchase your products or services. Once you gain recognition and respect, your reputation as an skilled technician, specialist, or expert will increase, as will your assignments, preference and repeat business.
  8. Seek out others who have similar interests, experience and expertise to yours. Universities, professional organizations, trade associations, nonprofits, networking groups and other communities, online and offline, are a haven for people who already are experts, want to become experts, or want to align with, learn from and maximize their expertise.

In chapters 3, 4, 5, 8 and 12 of my book, Get DARE From Here!, I focus a lot of attention on branding and planning for personal and professional growth, specifically in: Design (chap. 3), Aims (chap. 4), Access & Approach (chap. 5), Rally (chap. 8) and Exchange (chap. 12). All of these are key levers for women over 40 who want to take charge of the rest of their lives. Inherent in these chapters is the critical message that planning the rest of your life is like planning a business. If you’re financially self-supporting or the main financial support for others in your household, you are a business.

Planning and branding a small business used to be for only the most driven and committed self-starters. Today, everyone needs to think of themselves as a small business – whether inside or outside a corporation. If you decide to go out on your own, it’s important to know and respect your core motivations, focus on your strengths, envision the long haul and, by all means, engage your own “Big Cocoon” of people who will support and champion you. Then, dare to get out there and promote yourself to those who will value your hard work.

 

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Liz DiMarco Weinmann is founder and CEO of the DARE-Force Corp. (www.thedareforce.com), an educational resources company whose mission is to inspire all women over 40 who want to pursue, develop and lead new and fulfilling ventures. She also runs Weinmann & Associates, a strategic consulting firm serving small businesses and nonprofits. Weinmann earned her MBA in finance and leadership from New York University. She is the author of the new book, “Get DARE From Here! – 12 Principles and Practices For Women Over 40 To Take Stock, Take Action and Take Charge of the Rest Of Their Lives.”