16 posts categorized "Writing"

February 09, 2011

WBO Summit: Surviving to Thriving in 2011

There's an event that's been getting a lot of my volunteer time. And it's just three weeks away! Each year when it takes place I get to spend an entire day with ready-to-learn-more women business owners. It's a totally energizing and uplifting day that makes me feel like I could work another 30 years if surrounded everyday by such fun, talented and determined folks. I see passion and energy take over as speakers share information, new ideas pop into heads and pens scratch furiously at notepads. All the craziness I've endured in working too early and too late each day to provide donated services just floats away, and I end up smiling and saying, "It was worth it!"

The event is the Women Mean Business® Summit and it's March 3 in West Des Moines. We've scheduled a cast of Iowa all-stars to tell their "surviving to thriving" stories, including three keynote presenters. Clinton-based Emily Starr, CEO of StarrMatica Learning Systems, will share why she was "Terrorized in El Paso" during her entrepreneurial journey of marketing and building her white board software company. Attendees will hear why Connie Wimer, Business Publications Corporation, repurchased her company at a time in life when most women would be thinking of downsizing and checking out retirement facilities. Strategies for success in dealing with challenges on the road from surviving to thriving is the topic of Rowena Crosbie, CEO of research and training company Tero International. And those are just the keynoters! 

A three-member WBO panel will share personal stories and surviving-to-thriving insights. They're Saley Nong, Divine Flowers by Saley; Lois Reichert, Reichert's Dairy Air and Michelle DeClerck, Conference Event Management. But wait, there's more! The day also includes 10 concurrent workshops to choose from, women in business awards and an optional 4 to 5 p.m. networking reception.  Luncheon and light breakfast are included.

For members of the National Association of Women Business Owners it's a $99 day until Feb. 17 when rates increase; non-members have until that day to sign up for $129. I really don't have to wait until March 4 to say the WMB Summit was worth all those planning meetings and hours spent writing press releases, emails, web copy, etc. I already know it will be. Hope to see some of you there.

Women Mean Business Logo 2011_2

December 15, 2010

Des Moines Actress, Playwright and Mom with a Dream


When Diandra Lyle was a child in Des Moines she was good at—and loved—so many things, that I wondered how, when the time came, she would ever choose one career path. Well, she hasn't!  Now living in Chicago, she's a model, mom to Tamryn, actress and has an upcoming short film, "Mission: Mom-Possible," on the calendar for early 2011.

Diandra wrote the light-hearted film that's loosely based on herself, Tamryn, the tooth fairy and Mission Impossible. It's about the lengths parents go to preserve special childhood memories and magic for their young ones. She's also producing and starring in the film which will be shot over two days in February. An independent project, "Mission: Mom-Possible" will be festival-bound around the world. 

Energetic and indefatigable Diandra has assembled the donated services of an award-winning director, a cinematographer, and three other producers (plus herself). But production (equipment, insurance, set design, etc.), post-production (editing, sound mixing, dvd production, etc.), marketing and festival submission fees all take money. 

For Christmas Diandra is asking Santa (and maybe the tooth fairy, too) for $4,000 to fund expenses for "Misison: Mom-Possible." For $10 you can be a probationary secret agent (with a handwritten thank you note from the heart) and for $1,000 you'll be the top special agent (which will earn you associate producer credit on the film). 

So if you've ever wanted to tell your friends you're connected to the film industry, visit "Mission: Mom-Possible."  You'll be helping a wonderful young woman from Des Moines make her dream come true for the holidays.



September 23, 2010

Sit, Pam, but not too much

I've spent endless hours at the computer the past five days. My project has been fact checking about 20 pages of existing health-related editorial. I do online searches to find out if the experts quoted in the articles are still in the same professional positions and if recently published research calls for an editorial update.

Bombarded by information about healthy lifestyles and the woes of being sedentary, I started doing twists, stretches and even lifting weights every time I pushed the "search" button. I had but seconds to sit and wait for results, but I got my mini muscle workout. If my work environment was a cubicle in a big company I'd probably be in HR right now being questioned about my strange gyrations. But all the info I'd been reading made me feel that every second of being still was putting a nail in my coffin.

And that's pretty accurate (fellow couch potatoes). Today I learn that the Journal of the American College of Cardiology is about to publish a study (September 28) that women who were moderately active at work were 20 percent less likely to develop heart failure (men on-the-go were 10 percent less likely). Those who also incorporated physical activity into their leisure time—or walked or biked to work—saw added benefit.

Jobs described as moderately active were ones requiring a lot of walking and standing. That's not me. Moderate leisure activity was defined as more than four hours per week of walking, biking or gardening. I'm not doing bad at being moderately active in my non-work hours. But these hours at the desk are going to require much more creativity. 

Time to figure out how to read and type at the computer while standing and doing side lunges.

July 08, 2010

"Customers will expect you to find them..."

I'm finding it impossible to keep up with the social media frenzy. But I'd better keep trying. At today's luncheon for NAWBO-CI (National Association of Women Business Owners - Central Iowa), Adstringo's Gabriel Glynn told all-too-busy business owners that in the future "people are going to EXPECT YOU to find THEM." I'm having trouble with a vision of reading the minds of potential customers and knowing precisely when to enter their lives and have them look up from their cell phones and say, "I'd hoped you'd be in touch. Here's what my company needs communicated..."

So they won't be LOOKING for me anymore outside of their preferred social media networks. It's just assumed I'll be there. One NAWBO member said a 40-something woman told her that if she couldn't find a company on Facebook she wasn't going to use them. Facebook was her TOOL, and that was that.

So I came home and decided to explore Foursquare, the location-based social network which as 1.9 million users and nearly 13,000 are new each day. I've heard and seen the name a lot, but didn't know how it worked.

I wanted a clear definition of their service and when nothing happened when I clicked on "What is Foursquare?," I typed the same thing in the search box. Up popped 22 venues in Des Moines, West Des Moines, Johnston, Urbandale, Ames, Clive, Ankeny, Perry and Ames (including the ISU recycling trailer). I hadn't told them my geographic location (Big Brother is watching!). If you're the top (and sometimes only) visitor to one of these venues, you're the mayor. You can see who on Foursquare has been there. You can even earn badges. Is this to appeal to my inner Girl Scout? I am clueless on the value of this. I will have to try harder. Next week, next year, next something.

May 13, 2010

Getting Ready for May 26

I'm getting tired of the gloom this week in Iowa, but thinking about all the energy and enthusiasm that will surround me on May 26 puts a smile on my face. A lot of my volunteer time lately has been focused on writing copy for print and electronic materials for the upcoming Women Mean Business® Summit in West Des Moines, IA. It's only the second year of this event by the National Association of Women Business Owners, Central Iowa Chapter (NAWBO-CI), and I am once again on the planning committee. 

I've been a member of this organization since 1986, and the WMB Summit is the best, most-empowering program we've created. It builds business relationships, makes us look at ourselves and our businesses in new ways, and connects us to valuable business resources. Working with a team of WBOs to bring in a blend of national and local experts is exhilarating. After 31 years in business, the learning never stops. If you're a WBO (or want to be) and you need to recharge your batteries, shake up tired processes or systems, or take a new look at cash flow, networking and the questions you ask yourself, click through to the summit Web site for all the info you'll ever need to know. Discounted early bird registrations end Friday (May 14).



April 05, 2010

Word Watching 101

What business buzzwords and phrases make you crazy when you see them in print or hear them in meetings, conversations with sales folks, or even from the podium? Ann Handley, chief content officer of MarketingProfs, had so many that she listed them for two days on Open Forum. They make us "sound like tools," says Handley of words that have morphed into something ugly, overused and annoying. Here are some she'd like to ban from marketing, sales, corporate communications, business schools, blogs and boardrooms:

1. Impactful - What ever happened to influential, powerful or substantial?

2. Leverage - Depending on the intended meaning, try influence, exploit, enhance, rely on or use.

3. Learnings - What's wrong with lessons? Will we next be putting an "s" on knowledge?

4. Synergy (or synergistic, synergism, synergize) - Cooperation, help, joint/pooled/combined effort are simple substitutes.

5. Revolutionary - Few things qualify for this overused word. Handley would reserve it for "an escalator to the moon."

6. Proactive - Try active, anticipate, forestall or foresee. Handley finds the word too pompous, as if you're reacting to issues even before they occur.

7. Incenting/incentivizing - Use encourage or provide incentive.

8. Almost any word ending in "ize" (productize, monetize, budgetize, optimize, operationalize) - Handley urges us to use a word that don't "sound like it was first uttered by the robot on Lost in Space."

Handley shared a few other things that irritate her:

* Businesses that use "solution" to describe a new product or service they can't otherwise explain

* Technology words applied to humans (ex: "I'm offline" for "not working" or "bandwidth" to mean "capacity")

* Harmless words that are mashed together (buy-in, mission-critical, value-add, push-back)

* Silly phrases that have become corporate-speak (Run it up the flagpole. When the rubber meets the road. Peel the onion. Touch base.)

* Phrases routed in unfortunate, regrettable events in history (because they're just bad taste), such as "brand Nazi" or "drinking the Kool-Aid" as applied to accepting ideas or concepts.

Some of us write for our livelihood, but ALL of us converse. It's worth paying attention to what clearly communicates and what words we use when we think we're adding energy and punch to our message.

March 11, 2010

What do you do when you're feeling stuck?

That's the question posed over a week ago by a LinkedIn group member who recently left her post after 15 years in the non-profit arena. Before that she was a successful business owner. While she says her sense of humor is intact, she admits that she's turned "procrastination and lack of motivation into something of an art form." She asked for input on getting unstuck and I'm sharing a few of the comments her post received on the LinkedIn site of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO).

"Being stuck is a state of mind, and sadly, it reflects a focus on the self," writes Stefany Almaden, president/CEO of The Almaden Group, Inc. "The best cure for being stuck is to look around, enjoy what you have, and think about how you can make a difference in someone else's life. Instant joy and satisfaction follow." She says work on this every day and you'll pull yourself together. One day you'll even wonder why someone would think they could be "stuck in life."

Nannette Rundle Carroll, author of The Communication Problem Solver, also suggests doing something for someone else, particularly someone you think might be stuck or down. "It gets us out of ourselves and being productive and compassionate is a great cure for the blues or being stuck.

Nuggets for me: The only person who can get me unstuck is me; It's my mental state that needs attention. It's an ongoing daily practice to stay off the pity pot, and focusing on the needs of others helps to reframe my thinking and find a fresh perspective.

Judith Wentzel, owner of EFT Coaching & Consulting LLC, uses and teaches EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) to remove blocks. Judy says to look at a goal or something that's important to you, find out what's sabotaging or holding you back from achieving it, and then get rid of it. It's the negative emotions (frustration, sadness, feelings of being alone, etc.) that perpetuate what's blocking us. "Once you identify the emotions undermining your success to move forward, you can begin resolving them."  

Sounds simple enough when the "stuck" things are little mental obstacles to overcome, but how about identifying and removing major emotional blocks? One may need ongoing coaching, years of therapy, or a whole lot more (including more non-traditional techniques [How about past life regression?]) to get to the root of the issues that lock you in serious "stuckness."

If I'm slightly stuck (for me that's writing copy that's not flowing the way I would like), I might close my eyes, put a smile on my face and spend 40 seconds taking a few deep breaths. Then I'll rub my hands together (I'm still smiling), face the computer screen and look for ways to change the problematic sections of copy. I may even get out of my chair and office, go consume a piece for fruit, and try to empty my mind by staring at the electric kettle while it warms water for my next cup of tea. Sometimes I'll do yoga stretches, stand up and swing my arms side-to-side to shake up my body and brain, or go outside for a quick walk that focuses on hearing the birds or looking for deer antlers in the woods (if it's the right time of year).

But when I'm deeply stuck I struggle. I might get together (face-to-face, on the phone and sometimes even email) with someone who'll listen and might point out what I'm missing. And sometimes "telling it" reveals what's needed next; the words come out of my own mouth or are typed by me. I recently was given the image of carrying around a backpack full of angst, fears, pains and frustrations. It was up to me: I could get rid of them once and for all, or I could continue to walk around with the weight of the world on my shoulders. I buried it. Then I smiled for days and days. Now, whenever I feel that weight again, I acknowledge it. Then I mentally deposit anything "new" that's giving me mental grief into that backpack. And finally, I picture my burying it again. I dig the hole a little deeper each time. One of these days it will decompose.

That's my answer to what I do when I'm really feeling stuck. Which brings me to another question: What are you carrying around in your backpack?

November 17, 2009

What's your bad business habit?

You may recall my writing (October 6) about one of my bad business habits: multitasking. To improve my focus, I turned off the distracting "ping" that alerts me that a new email has just arrived. It's been 42 days, and I still have it off. Yes, it's helped me avoid interruptions, and I'm showing small improvements in keeping myself on one project at a time.

I heard years ago that it took 12 days to create a new habit, and I thought that if something could be done in less than two weeks, maybe there was a chance for me to correct some behaviors I didn't care for in myself. Well, this morning I read a new time line: 30 to 60 days for a new habit. I prefer to think in baby steps, a day at a time, but I know I have a long way to go (well beyond 60 days) to break out of my years of multitasking madness.

That two-month timeframe came from Karen Leland's blog on Web Worker Daily: Teach an Old Dog New Tricks: How to Break Bad Work Habits. Her bad habit: impatience. (I can identify with that since I sometimes jump to another project if I'm not coming up with the creativity and flow that I'm looking for when I'm working. I always think I'll "clear my mind" and all will be well when I pick it up again and view the project with fresh eyes and a recharged brain.

Karen's simple formula for getting started is what I'm actually doing with multitasking:

Step 1 - Call out the bad habit and identify its negative consequences. When you spell out the crazy-making, frustration or lack of productivity caused by your bad habit, you feel pretty wimpy about continuing it. "Naming the habit" sounds like it should be easy, but creating a true awareness and verbalizing it may not be that simple. Sometimes it can be uncomfortable to be honest about where there's "room for self-improvement." For some, we're looking at ourselves from a new perspective, and we may prefer to just ignore what we see.

Step 2 - Create alternative actions. We can't just think "I gotta change." We need to identify solid action steps to take toward that change...and then take them. That's building a new pathway in the brain that over time will become stronger than your known mode of operation. It's not too late to form new neural connections, folks; it just takes a while to rewire ourselves. And, as I well know, nothing will change if we don't want things to be different and choose to act.

October 30, 2009

Who is flying the plane?

I've been reading Malcom Gladwell's The Outliers: The Story of Success. It focuses on factors beyond intelligence and ambition in the lives of people whose achievements fall outside normal experiences. Gladwell makes a case for the impact of generation, family, culture, class—even the year you were born—on your human potential. 

The chapter I can't stop thinking about is "The Ethnic Theory of Plane Crashes." It details how crashes "are much more likely to be the result of an accumulation of minor difficulties and seemingly trivial malfunctions" than something like a rudder snapping off in midair. Yes, weather, minor technical problems, the stress of delayed flights and fuel-exhausting holding patterns, etc. can be contributors. But Gladwell says the typical accident involves seven consecutive human errors, one made on top of another that combine for catastrophe. 

In 52 percent of crashes, the pilot had been awake for 12 hours or more at the time of the crash, and in 44 percent of disasters the pilot and co-pilot hadn't flown together before. Then Gladwell provides a ton of fascinating supportive information (including conversations between pilots, co-pilots and air traffic controllers) and concludes: "Planes are safer when the least experienced (the co-pilot) is flying, because it means the second pilot (the captain) is NOT going to be afraid to speak up" to provide course corrections and other input. One person is supposed to be checking the other, and they're to be working cooperatively.

So crashes in commercial airlines have been far more likely to happen when the captain is IN the "flying seat," writes Gladwell. And when pilots and co-pilots come from a culture where respect for one's superior reigns strong, airline disasters had resulted because of the lack of clear and direct communication between the two and with air traffic controllers. A first officer can be more hesitant to "correct" his superior officer. But a captain who is not at the controls isn't concerned about being polite and using mitigating language to hint that a correction needs to happen. He "commands" and the first officer doing the flying listens and obeys. 

That got me thinking. It's not one thing that usually pushes us over the edge on any business day, but an accumulation of lots of little things. And so I ask myself:  Am I truly awake and watchful for "the accumulation of minor difficulties and seemingly trivial malfunctions" in my business, or am I oblivious?

I try to focus on "must do" priorities, the big stuff, the writing projects on my desk that take precedent because of their deadlines and importance. The "little" things along the way that I need to address get put aside for later action, sometime when I'm tired and I can be on autopilot. Well, autopilot can malfunction. Maybe we shouldn't sweat the small stuff, but don't miss dealing with it either. It can build into a disaster. 

Plus, as a sole proprietor, I'm asking, Can I be the pilot...and the copilot? Doubt it. So do I have the right checks and balances in place to keep my craft on course...or able to make course corrections as needed? After 30 years I'd hope so, but the map of the world and business keep changing.  But If you have experienced and trusted employees, do you let them play the co-pilot role and sometimes fly the plane? Like the pilots who are supposed to be working cooperatively, can they be honest and direct or do they have to watch their verbiage because of your authority or attitude? Gladwell is always good for the getting people to look at life a little differently.

October 06, 2009

Will You Join Me in Multitaskers Anonymous?

I'm taking the pledge.  For such reasons as needing to calm myself, restore focus and have fewer stacks of paper at my fingertips, I'm now trying to do just one thing at a time. After years of believing I could only accomplish all my goals and responsibilities by multitasking, I think it probably would be easier to have my tonsils removed through one of my big toe nails than to put the kibosh on managing multiple priorities in rapid-fire succession or simultaneously.

In the past I've felt pretty good about all I could get done in a day, but maybe my satisfaction with "overachieving" has too many nasty side effects.  For several years researchers have told the consequences of multitasking: 

  • we're really not as efficient as we think (I never believed that)
  • the chances of retaining information drops more rapidly when we aren't wholly focused on one item at a time (that might be possible, might not)
  • by perpetuating a lack of ability to focus we're shortening our memories (oh, please, let that not be true)
  • multitasking could be a leading cause of stress, depression and even early memory loss (okay, I get it; I need to stop multitasking)

I can't go cold turkey. But I'm taking baby steps. So far I have three to embrace.

* I decided to ignore the "ping" telling me that yet another email has arrived. I'm not good at this, so I finally turned off the "ping." New plan: I'm going to try to deal with emails in the first hour of the morning, then only look at them when I switch projects, before I stop for lunch or late in the day when my mind needs a little time-out. 

•  When random things I need to do pop into my head while I'm working at my desk, I frequently jump up, take a little break and do them so I won't forget. Talk about a productivity killer. I've now devoted the blue "stickie" (a Post-it note on my Mac) to "totally unrelated work needs to remember" and I type thoughts there as my brain shouts them out. The green "Stickie" gets "totally unrelated home needs to remember."  Both can be dealt with at the end of the day. 

•  Since overlapping deadlines can drive me to multitasking madness, I'm taking a good look at projects to be sure that my clients and I are setting realistic expectations and deadlines. Will clients think I'm extraordinary—the only person they'll ever turn to again for services—if I get a project done in two days when they don't need it until next a week? Of course I want to believe that!  Won't they be pleased and see my commitment to customer service when I drop everything to make them the center of my universe and deliver what's needed without delay? Sure, Pam, they'll NEVER forget that! 

In many cases, I'm sure that I'm the problem, NOT the client's needs. But when they suggested a tough turn around time, I'm going to try saying, "That's not going to work for me, but I could get it to you on (date)." Many times in my 30 years I've rushed to do a project that was needed right now, only to have my draft sit for a month or two because the company got busy taking good care of its customers and put their own needs on hold.

I admit I get an incredible rush from getting though a daily to-do list while also handling more than a handful of unexpected issues. That's a difficult high to give up. But I'll work on it: "Hi, I'm Pam, and I want to quietly focus on one thing at a time so that everyone gets my best from me...and I get to keep my memory."