Think like a man — or not!

Woman at board table with men

I recently attended a women’s leadership conference called The Wisdom of Women. Throughout the day, we had the opportunity to hear from many women who have excelled in their fields and moved up the leadership ranks.

Each of them had a different philosophy about what worked for them. Some I wholeheartedly agreed with, other, not so much. But that’s the great thing about programs like this, you take from it what speaks to you and fits you.

One thing everyone agreed upon was that leaders need to learn to manage stress. The best way to do that is finding ways to integrate time during the day to rest your mind.

Latha Ravi, owner of the Flying Locksmiths and a Certified Yoga Instructor, said “Time is the biggest challenge for everyone. But if you can just find a minute here or there you’ll build up an emergency reserve so you can handle what ever comes up.”

I think everyone agreed being your authentic self is vital. You really can’t give a hoot if everyone likes you or thinks like you. Let go of the stereotypes and believe in yourself. It’s up to you not to let someone else’s opinion of you impact you and what you achieve. That’s why we should all take the opportunity to build each other up.

Our day included a panel discussion featuring women who were “Breaking Traditions.” Here we heard from women who were in professions normally associated with our male counterparts. Their jobs ranged from automotive to IT to HVAC. I can relate after working over 20 years in the utility industry.

While there are still barriers and misconceptions in the workforce, I feel blessed to live in a time where women are only limited by their personal desire to excel. It’s true there are still times we need to push the barrier and make sure our voices are heard, it’s how you do that, that seems to be the question.

One panelist suggested women needed to be tough about things and not present their female side at work. I personally disagree. I think women offer a different approach to a lot of problems and opportunities. We think differently than men do in some situations, especially when it comes to teams and people. There are a lot of ways to make yourself stand out that don’t involve you becoming “one of the boys.”

I do think, as women, we need to make sure we control our emotions in the workplace. If we practice a “respond not react” approach, you can maintain your feminine side without looking like an emotional basket case. When you think ahead and plan how you will handle situations, you can present a clear plan of action when the time comes. You look in control and capable of handling whatever is thrown your way.

Everyone agreed it was important to learn the most you can learn about the industry you are in. That’s how you prove to people you belong. If you know the product and the business, it doesn’t matter if you show up in a skirt or trousers.

One panelist suggested you needed to find out how do you get on the golf course so you could listen to what the men say and learn what’s really going on. Her thought was you have to go where the boys are or else the information isn’t being shared otherwise. While I feel there’s some truth in that concept, if you don’t enjoy the activity, don’t go. That will come across and people will pick up on it. It won’t seem authentic.

If it’s not the golf course, you do need to find times where you can have those relevant conversations. Maybe schedule lunches or just pop into an office and have a conversation. Be willing to listen and learn. You do that enough, you’ll become someone people share information with.

It’s important you realize you are there because you like what you do and you are good at it. Don’t let someone set the expectation for you. It’s up to you to show them what you can do for them and that you can fix their problems. If you can go in with an understanding of what they need and show them you can get it done, everyone will respect the results.

The one thought which generated a lot of conversation at our table was the thought that women had to work 10x’s harder than their male counterparts. While I won’t argue with the person who said this because each persons situation is different, our table was of the mindset that women who reach these points in their career are really hard workers anyway. Most of us have a strong work ethic which has been instilled in us from a very young age. We take pride in a job well done and generally don’t half ass our way through something. So maybe it appears to an outsider we are working harder – and I hope smarter – than others in our industries.

What we don’t do is talk about our part in accomplishments. Men claim their wins. Women tend to sit back and hope someone notices. Then when they do, they dismiss their work as “it was nothing.” I think we do ourselves a disservice with this practice. It doesn’t have to be done in a boastful way, but if someone recognizes your efforts, don’t downplay your part in the success.

No matter which side you fall out on the ideas and advice in this article, I think everyone would agree there’s still a long way to go for women in the workplace. There’s still disparity in pay. There’s still misconceptions which need to be removed. It’s about both sides respecting the contributions of each.

So what are the best takeaways?

1. Do your homework.

2. Be educated about your industry.

3. Show up and be a problem solver.

4. When you get the seat at the table, don’t be afraid to speak.

5. Remain authentic to yourself and ideas.

Don’t cross the line with personal and professional communications

Don’t air your dirty laundry on social media

Maybe because there are so many hot topics in the news today, or maybe I’m just noticing it more, but social media has become the go to place to express personal opinion.

I normally don’t have a problem with that. I’m all for the free exchange of ideas. But I do have a problem when a person, who is a communications professional, forgets that people don’t distinguish between personal pages and work pages. When you are the voice of your company, city, or organization, it is your responsibility to keep those lines very clear.

I’m talking from personal experience. In my job, I represent not only the company I work for, but also everyone who is a customer of ours. And why I most definitely have opinions about political topics, social challenges and more, I try to make it very clear which comments are strictly personal and which are a reflection of my company. It is to easy to alienate or even anger people today not to be.

I’ve presented programs for high school athletes concerning their social profiles and how what they post creates a personal brand. Scholarship boards and coaches check these out to see if the version on the resume matches the student they really are. Character matters. It follows you and it’s hard to shake once you establish it. The same follows true as we enter our professional careers.

Just this week, I was appalled to see how a communication professional was using their personal social media page to engage in a very public disagreement over a city policy. This person represents the town as the voice of their local government. I found it extremely disheartening to see how they included name calling, sarcasm, chose to belittle those who disagreed, and even included profanity (just because it was abbreviated, doesn’t mean it wasn’t there) as they engaged not only with their friends, but other town folks as well. I found it in extreme bad taste.

I’m going to share the following example, because I think it’s a great learning lesson, not only for new communicators, but those of us seasoned professionals as well. If you know the town or the person involved in this exchange, I ask respectfully you do not list names in comments. You’ll see I’ve done my best to mark out anything that would embarrass the town or the person.

Here’s just a glimpse at what I’m talking about:

It is vital you learn how to create a wall around your personal posts and not allow the two sides to become indistinguishable. Most of us interact with our personal friends differently than we would a customer or client. The simplest way to avoid this problem is to not use your social channels for business at all. If you have a problem keeping your opinions to yourself and can’t get a grip on your filter, this may be your best solution. However, there are times you need to leverage your social connections. Instead, use the settings to your advantage. In most cases, you can limit who can see your posts to only your friends. Just don’t forget, Twitter does not have this feature. It would be a great practice for you to investigate the privacy and audience settings and put them into place.

Some options include:

Public – anyone in the world can see your post/picture. This includes people who don’t have Facebook.

Friends of Friends – limited to your friends and their friends.

Friends (plus people who are tagged) – allows only your personal connections to see your posts.

Only me – useless – why would you post something to your feed for only you to see??

Custom – you can to manually choose who can see your posts, and who will not. Facebook allows you to create “lists” of connections. If you must share controversial opinions, this is the option for you. Create a “friend” list and a “business” list. When you post something professional, you can share with business list. When you can’t control your feelings, choose your friend list and share.

There are also channels you should never use for anything other than business related posts. LinkedIn is one of those. In case you don’t know, LinkedIn is not business Facebook. No one goes there to get endless status updates on your day. It’s a place for networking and industry news. Keep your drama off these pages.

All in all, we live in a complicated world full of even more complicated people. With the advent of social media, and its evolution into a marketing channel, confrontations regarding political opinions have increased ten fold. This phenomenon presents marketers with a unique dilemma regarding how to use their social channels that are often both personal and business focused.

If this issue is something you have overcome, I would love to get your input on how you did it and what strategies others can use to their own benefit.

Let’s face it: social media is risky.  A single post could throw your career off track. Finding the perfect balance between work and your personal life is an ongoing discussion. Even tougher for your professionals starting out since they have never known life without social media.

Here are a few more tips you can use as a guidelines to maintain your professional credibility online.

DON’T:

• Talk about confidential information.

• Use profanity. Even abbreviated versions like the one demonstrated in the post above. You might think you’re being clever, but it still exudes the fact you aren’t professional. If you wouldn’t use it in a business meeting, don’t use it in your post. language.

• Live tweet your night out on the town. Keep it classy, not trashy. You don’t have to put everything on social media. It happened even if you don’t post the pictures. You need to be real, but the key here is moderation.

• Do drama, especially if you are frustrated at work. If you are the face of your company, it’s never ok to bad mouth them, your customers, or your co-workers even on your personal feed.

• Post anything with grammatical errors. Read it through before you hit send.

DO:

• Letting your personality shine through your social feeds. It’s important to be authentic. It makes you seem like a real person. People feel like they know you.

• Incorporate your personal and professional interests. Share professional articles and tips. Highlight things you learn at a conference. Showcase events you attend.

• Connect with and follow professionals, friends and influencers. Be smart about who you bring into your social circle. Remember, just as you’re looking for them, they are looking for you. Be a community builder, not one who tear people apart.

I urge you to take a step back and look at what you are sharing and how that not only impacts the worlds view of you, but that of the company you represent.

It is possible to maintain both a personal and professional presence online. Be smart. Have fun. Stay respectful. The bottom line is be positive and remember what your mother taught you: If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it at all.

From prosecutor to popsicle peddler

What turns a prosecutor into a popsicle peddler? According to Nick Carse (@ncarse), Co-Founder of King of Pops, it’s rum and a summer trip with his anthropologist brother.

As the three brothers traveled through Central America, they watched as locals used left over fruit from the markets before they ruined. These Mexican frozen treats were called paletas. When the recession of 2009 hit, the brothers turned their rum inspired dream into a reality.

“My brother Steven was laid off when the recession hit,” Nick said. “Initially we thought maybe it’d pay for a summer full of burritos. That was in 2010. Neither of us have any culinary background. We didn’t have a business plan. We didn’t have funding. What we did have was folks with a couch in the basement. We knew if it failed they’d let us sleep there.”

Nick hung up his suit, left the Gwinnett County courtroom and joined his brother just a few months later.

“I was in a profession that wasn’t very uplifting,” he said. “Don’t get me wrong. It’s something that’s needed and it can be rewarding. My dad wrote me a letter about all the reasons I needed to reconsider, but it was too late, I’d already quit. It’s funny because it’s truly a family operation now. My dad is our marketing guy and our mom makes sure our AR is okay. She’s a mean bitch…I mean a nice bitch, but she makes sure her boys get paid.”

Nick Crase, Co-founder of King of Pops, shared how he, and his brother, have created a business centered around UMoHs.

What they did have was the same thing we all have, a desire and a dream.

“We say the good ole day is today,” Nick said. “Every day is an opportunity to do something and make a change.”

They’ve created a culture centered around Unexpected Moments of Happiness-or UMoHs.

From their hiring philosophy to giving back to the community, King of Pops isn’t focused on gaining customers, rather creating fans. It’s not about doing something fancy, it’s about doing something special.

“It’s about the experience,” Nick said. “When we hire someone, we look for someone who will laugh and share a joke and make the interaction with our guest a great guest experience.”

So how did these brothers make their dream a reality?

Nick shared their flavorful roadmap to success:

First, set a date. It’s important to give yourself a set time in life when you are going to do something. The brothers launched their business on April 1, yes, April Fools Day, with a freezer cart they bought off Craig’s List. Most people thought it was a joke. Even the rest of the family thought they were bananas. Now the brothers have carts in over 300 locations across the Southeast.

Secondly, embrace the unknown. Nick says most people (aka everybody) don’t know what they are doing either.

Third, you’ve got to rely on people. It’s okay not to know everything. Just find folks who know what you don’t.

Keep growing. Nick said “if you aren’t growing, you’re dying.”

The brothers have taken this to heart. They’ve branched out to King of Pups (all natural dog treats), Tree Elves (a Christmas tree company that allows them to keep their employees on over the winter months), and King of Crops (a farm where they are growing a lot of the ingredients that go in their pops).

Fifth, create a culture uniquely yours. Don’t just exist. Know who we are and create a vision that gets you where you want to be.

“We spent a lot of time recently mapping out our vision,” Nick said. “We’ve been asked to come other places, but we are committed to staying in the south. We’re passionate about supporting the community and of course we have our Unexpected Moments of Happiness. And we do it all while having fun.”

The UMoHs has led to the creation of many events and moments, like yoga on the beltline. It’s about moments with community, family and friends.It’s about getting people to engage with each other.

Whether you love Pops or not, you can’t knock their philosophy and the success they are having building a brand based on happiness, love and community.

P.S. I had my first King of Pops today. I’m gonna need more salted chocolate in my life!