Do you and your team complement each other?

I confess, I’m an assessment freak.

I like to know “how I’m doing” and where I stand – sometimes on my own, other times as I compare to others. I just like to learn more about how I’m wired so I can be better in whatever I do.

Also of interest to me is finding out what makes other people tick and how they’re wired. Most of the time, I like to sit and listen to them and hear them talk from the heart. You learn a lot when you let other people tell their story.

But often you just don’t have that kind of time.

Take job interviews, for example. If you’re lucky, you get maybe an hour to get to learn first-hand whether a candidate is compatible with you and/or your team. That’s not a lot of time, especially when you’re covering technical skills and other competencies.

I remember trying to get a read on potential hires during interviews. I’d ask a few Either/Or questions to candidates to get an idea of how they operated and, consequentially, how we might work together. Not that everything about us is either/or, but we typically know what we like or don’t like.

That’s all I wanted to know. So my questions went something like this:

Which is your preference:

  • Fast-paced or slow?
  • Details or big picture?
  • Dreamer or closer?
  • Starting or finishing?

If the candidate and I were wired similarly (fast, big-picture, dreamer, starter), chances were good the combination wouldn’t work as well as it could. We might get along socially, but why have two starters when you could start well and finish well – with a really strong closer? So I typically went for my opposite, or at least more of a complement.

For what it’s worth: In my experience, visionaries or big-picture folks can report to each other pretty peacefully, as can details people. And details people seem to work well when reporting to a big-picture person. Just not vice-versa, for some reason.

What do you think? Have you experienced the same?

One theory I have is that the latter combo can be less-than-ideal due to the vastly different languages visionaries and details people speak. It’s like apples and oranges.

Of course, if you like apples and oranges, I suppose you can always make smoothies.

Blog comments: Where to share?

After returning to blogging last month for the first time in a long time, I realized so much has changed, thanks largely to how “social” media has become.

I didn’t realize, however, the number of hoops a blog reader now has to jump through just to participate in a conversation. We’re not talking just Captcha anymore, although it still makes appearances (like the “I’m Not a Robot” check box).

It also didn’t occur to me that blogs may or may not be where conversation really happens.

And none of this was even on my radar until:

Hyatt admits his decision may not be right for everyone, but there is some really strong rationale around why he did it – especially with numbers like his. He was, after all, named one of Forbes’  “Top 10 Online Marketing Experts To Follow In 2014.”

Since Poor Mexican Gone is very young, I feel I have time to make this decision based on where the traffic comes from and where the ongoing conversation ends up.

Wanna be startin’ something?

I’m entrepreneurial by nature and by birth. From a legacy in my family of “starters”  — from grocers to gas station owners, seamstresses, ministers to musicians and marketers, bootleggers, accountants to attorneys and retailers — there’s a lot of startup in my blood.

metate1

Making meal for corn tortillas went from 16th-century low-tech…

The best part: my grandmother owned a molino de nixtamal, a corn mill for grinding maize to resell to markets that sold tortillas. I just learned that having the kind of manufacturing equipment required to run this operation was pretty cutting-edge for the early 20th century – anywhere in the world.*

Ha. My grandma was high-tech! Sigh. One more story to run down. But back to business.

molino

…to high-tech, with marked advances in the early 20th century.

Working for the man
While I’ve mostly worked for “the man” (The Man, actually) much of my career, I’ve had to find ways to feed my need to build new things, wherever I was. I’ve been fortunate to be in rapid-growth environments and fill in critical gaps due to the growth.

But here’s what I learned: If you have an entrepreneurial spirit and work in a larger company or business that’s not yours (yet), learn what you can where you are. Make the way you’re wired work for you and your employer. And then take it up a notch.

Here are a few ideas on how to “be startin’ something” right where you are:

  • Find an important problem that needs solving and perhaps that no one has “discovered” yet. If you’re one who spots trends or opportunities early, this is where you use it. Get some traction by taking on a project you know has a start and a finish – something that’s measurable, with tangible output.
    One project I worked on a number of years ago capitalized on what was then “new” RSS technology – the ability to syndicate content. We needed to distribute globally gathered story content from a team of field reporters — a good solution for our customers, who were also globally distributed. RSS was a seemingly small solution, but it had a big impact on productivity and opened up great opportunities for me to contribute more.
  • If you are ready for a bigger challenge, identify an initiative that meets an ongoing business need. How about that new CRM idea that’s been kicked about for so long? Got a knack for tech? Maybe this is your thing to drive for the business side of the house.
  • Heck, it could be something that has been broken for so long, everyone has just accepted it and learned to “work around” the “broken” state and call it good. Fix that. Think big.
  • Next step: Mention the idea to your supervisor and measure the warmth of her reception. If it feels good, come back with a more thought-out solution and a high-level plan. You never know – you just might be onto something.

It is possible to carve a niche for yourself by spotting opportunities and showing you’re self-starter who can help advance the business and your team’s credibility while growing your personal toolkit. My grandmother did it. She spotted an emerging opportunity and seized it – by making tortillas highly reproducible.

You can do the same in your space.

The fact is, you know your work and understand the types of problems that need solving or are trending. Chances are also good you’re pretty familiar with what good solutions look like, now and in the future. So find them. Offer them.

If you don’t do it, who knows when anyone else will get around to it?

p.s. I’d drafted this post (the one that blew up) before coming across this one from Seth today. Love his wisdom – don’t miss it!

* Source: Goods, Power, History: Latin America’s Material Culture, Arnold J. Bauer, p. 190.

WFH: How’s it going for ya?

* WFH – Working from home

DeathtoStock_Creative Community3-xsm

Death to Stock Photo image

A few years ago, I wanted so badly to trade places with my consultant husband. I worked for ‘the man’ and had done so my entire career.

But I didn’t get to pick up at the drop of a hat, go for a bike ride or on a fishing trip (not that I would) – or even ride some powder in the mountains after fresh snow. I was a mere mortal.

If I’m honest, I probably held a grudge for a good 10 years. Until the tables turned.

Now, I’m wearing his shoes and well, there’s a lot to learn — mostly about myself.

In fact, it wasn’t until just recently I realized how much I need to be around people as part of my work. I’m a flaming extrovert, so while I adore my cat, being alone with him all day – well, that just won’t work.

Trust experienced telecommuters
I’m thinking Someone is saying something to me. Between this blog from Tara Mohr:

One of the things that made difference – that made the exciting parts come to the fore, and the harder parts fade to the background, was taking care of myself in the little ways. I’ve been spending so much more time with people I love, and taking the time to get out and do my work in beautiful cafes – doing the little things that nurture me.

..and this straightforward listen-to-your-rhythms piece, I need to make some changes.

Is the grass really greener?
In a world driven by happy-path stories and personas, it’s easy to think everyone else is living the dream. (Pssst…they’re probably thinking the same of you.) But sometimes what we have is exactly what we need during that moment … just with a slight twist.

My “twist” will be working away from home more – in cafés beautiful or otherwise – so I can be around people more. What will yours be?

What #YourTurnChallenge taught me

This is my #Day7 and final post for #YourTurnChallenge.

It is not, however, my last post. For once, I can finally say that with confidence and believe it.

Writing quote-CarlosFuentes-loresIt seems silly, but in today’s peer-pressured world of social media, it’s hard – even if you have a voice and want to use it – to let it out, for fear of feeling shunned upon sharing. Or of feeling roasted by others who find shelter in crowdsourced opinion.

And I’m one who typically has pretty thick skin.

Anyway, I’m over it. I’m over the fear and over the lurking, as Nick Kellet calls it. I, ladies and gentlemen, am going in.

The big surprise
I have always been a big cheerleader of others following their dreams. So when I encourage friends or colleagues who are afraid to try something new or ask for something, my line is: “It won’t kill you. What’s the worst that can happen – someone tells you ‘No’? or you have to try again?” Pffff!

It’s not clear yet what my posting schedule will be, but I am going to go for 30 days straight like another YTC challenger suggested and find my rhythm that way. I’m just excited to blog again and to my new commitment to just ship. In fact, this commitment means more than I ever expected it could.

The big lesson
What used to feel like urgency and pressure – in a negative kind of way – now feels like total liberation and a burning desire to say my piece. I hope more people do it, because it’s really not that hard. The hardest part is getting over ourselves and what we think others might think of us — assuming it’s negative. How often do we consider the opposite could be true?

So now, when I have something to share or say, I’m going to say it. It will be partly for me, but the way I’m wired – I really hope it will be for you, too.

#YourTurnChallenge has definitely made the last seven days a challenge. It’s been hard to ship during a really busy time. And if I – no, if we – can take on a challenge like this at the “worst possible time,” we can do it at our best possible times, right?

Mad props
None of this would have been possible, of course, unless Winnie had failed first and been so transparent about it — rounding all of us up to commit together to shipping.

So thank you, Winnie, Seth, the post approvals team and so many others for building and supporting a community with a powerful, new purpose — finding our voices and making them heard.

It’s been such a great week. I look forward to seeing many more of you on the trail.

Mind mapping your way to clarity

Welcome to my #Day6 post for the #YourTurnChallenge.

You’ve got a Big Idea. Maybe it’s for a new business or product. Perhaps a response to a disaster half a world away. Or, it could be an update to your resume.

Whatever it is, you’ve got to figure out how to get it out of your head and into some kind of document. It needs to make sense.

Who knows? You may need to show it to someone at some point, either for approval to get the budget for it, or a recruiter if you’re job hunting. Eventually, it’ll need to make sense to someone else.

Only, how do you get started? Where do you start? Sometimes there’s a clear beginning, but in most cases, there isn’t. It’s just an idea that needs clarity.

How I get clarity on a new idea – fast
When I have a complex idea I need to make sense of, I start with a mind map. It’s like white boarding but on your computer. Or slapping up a whole mess of Post-Its on a wall, only for them to get unsettled and lose their sticky identity.

Unlike most white boards and Post-It-based brainstorming, a mind map is easy to share, edit and collaborate on over and over again, even as the Big Idea matures and evolves.

what-mind-mapping-looks-like

This map was a brainstorm after a job layoff. I wasn’t quite at the point of taking a “skills inventory” yet, but I did know a few things I wanted in my life going forward.

How to get started mind mapping
I can’t live without mind mapping when I have a new idea, something to build or organize. It’s where I dump all related information, in no particular order. Just slap it up there, like this.

Let’s say you have a new product to brainstorm:

  • How did you come up with the idea – what’s the rationale for it?
  • What problem does it solve?
  • What does the competitive landscape look like?
  • What do its users look like? How do they interact with media?
  • What might its go-to-market strategy look like?
  • Etc.

You get the gist. The ideas are related, but their relationships may not be simple or linear.

Still, you might not know that until you lay them out next to each other, fleshing them out more fully. In fact, only once you’ve done that are you likely to see new relationships you may not have considered before.

Turning ideas ’round and ’round
One of the best parts of mind-mapping is turning your idea on its side, its back or completely turning it upside down. It forces you to look at in different ways. Most mind mapping tools let you move around the chunks of text, regroup them, whatever.

When you do this, I believe chances go way up that an even better idea will come out of this experience, because the rearrangement of your thoughts only challenges your initial thinking. It’s worth the time to play with your information and see what it looks like when you move it around.

By the way, I’ve had more than a few “aha” moments this way. But one thing you really learn: How much work or resources your Big Idea requires.

For example, one content development project I worked on required mapping out web pages and related copy needs for the project. Once we mapped it out, it was clear the job was bigger than I’d thought. Good to know ahead of time, right?

For the product launch example above, it might be the timing is such that certain key questions can’t be answered yet. Maybe the product isn’t ready for development under current conditions.

Mind mapping tools for budgets big, small or none at all
There are a bunch of tools out there – many of which I’ve tried at one point or another – that will help you document your Big Idea and put all its parts and pieces in order. Or reorder.

That’s the beauty of mind mapping – how much you want it to stretch your thinking is entirely up to you.

Here are some fairly current lists of mind-mapping tools – one general, the other with a design focus. I hope they help you find clarity as you pursue your own big ideas.