Take a Chance

The next time you doubt yourself, I want you to think about someone else. There’s no question that your days are hard and you could use a break. Can’t we all? But when you’re having your worst day, I hope thinking about someone else inspires you to keep going.

grace-murray-hopper-demure

Take a short journey with me: Imagine being Grace Murray Hopper, born in 1906, the oldest of three children. Can you imagine a young girl living in the 1900s in New York City? Would you expect her to marry, stay home and raise the children? Or maybe she would work, most likely as a teacher or a nurse.  What are the odds that she would be not just a mathematician, but one of the leading computer scientists of the 20th century, a United States Navy Rear Admiral and a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom? How many times do you think she heard the word the word ‘no’? How many times do you think she wondered if it could be done? How many times do you think she took a chance?

grace-murray-hopper-programmerMy dad brought me a couple of books when he visited last month, one of which was Computers: Their History, Present Applications, and Future by Shirley Thomas. Dad pointed out Grace Hopper’s role in computer programming, including her time at UNIVAC (now Unisys), where dad also worked. Among Ms Hopper’s accomplishments:

  • Attended Vassar despite being turned down the first time she applied.
  • Served in the WAVES (a branch of the US Naval Reserve), despite not meeting their physical requirements.
  • Developed the first compiler, despite no one believing it could be done, leading eventually to her work developing COBOL, the most ubiquitous business language to date.
  • Worked for the Department of Defense until she was 79, despite the mandatory retirement age of 60. (Congress had to approve her active duty status.)

Is it any wonder that she became known as Amazing Grace?

My favorite Amazing Grace quote is:

“The most important thing I’ve accomplished, other than building the compiler, is training young people. They come to me, you know, and say, ‘Do you think we can do this?’ I say, “Try it.” And I back ’em up. They need that. I keep track of them as they get older and I stir ’em up at intervals so they don’t forget to take chances.”

The next time you feel overwhelmed, I hope you remember Rear Admiral Grace Hopper and all she accomplished. I hope you remember to take a chance.

grace-murray-hopper-rear-admiral

You Gotta Have a Dream

Good Morning and Happy Hump Day!

Let’s continue our branding discussion, shall we? Google’s Introducing Pixel, Phone by Google shows off their new, home-grown hardware. They’re pretty obvious about its newness (except for that “satisfyingly not new” headphone jack ;-). Does it get your attention? Does it inspire you?

Then there’s Life by you, Phone by Google. With a clever tie-in to Google search engine and then more cleverness as they visually insert the device’s profile into scene after scene, are they potentially taking over the space created by the Samsung Note 7 (ouch) or even bumping the iPhone into the historical bin? Does it make you dream of good time and how your phone can help make them happen? That’s the power of a brand – it inspires you.

oscar-hammerstein2

Time to get things done, have a GREAT Wednesday!

Caryn

Come and Get It

Happy Hump Day! Woohoo, woohoo, wooHOOOO, it’s another great day in AT&T-land 😀

Today’s hump day ad is in honor of yesterday’s Google event – Google: Oct. 4. Google abandoned their Android character for this one, relying on a simple but mysterious (oooh, intrigue!) shape. What’s the point? Aside from giving you a great earworm (Redbone’s Come and Get Your Love, if you want the whole song), they want to prove that you can sell without actually seeing the product. Think of it as a drumroll, something to get your attention so you’re focused on them when they begin speaking.

come-and-get-it

Time to motor on – Have a great day!

Caryn

It’s a New Day

Good Morning and Happy Monday! It’s a new week, a new month, a new quarter! The slate is wiped clean and the day is full of opportunity. I can’t help but share this earworm: Nina Simone’s Feeling Good. It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me…and I’m feeling good. 😀

How important is your personal brand? Whether you think you have one or not, you do. It’s how others perceive you, it’s how your style separates you from others, how others relate to you. Think of it this way – How do others describe you in 5 words or less? Is this the brand you want? How do you enhance, evolve and protect your brand?

Since the idea of branding began in the business world, let’s look there for an example: How about Apple? I informally polled several people about the five words they’d use to describe the maker of the iMac, iPhone, iPad  – you get the idea – and this is what I heard. (You’ll note that not all of these are positive but perception is reality.)

  1. Closed (operating system/environment)
  2. White / Clean
  3. Controlling / Secretive
  4. Intuitive / Design
  5. Overdone / Hyped

How seriously does Apple take their image? Very. Y’all have seen their ads and are more than familiar with Apple products. Have you ever bought something in one of their stores? It’s a pretty unique experience, from the moment you walk in to when you stroll out with something in their iconic, white bags.

Being Apple, they’ve gone to extraordinary lengths to protect their image, including patenting the bag.

apple-shopping-bag

Yes, you read that right, Apple filed for a patent on the shopping bag, see above schematic. (Your polite (or not so much) snickering is loud enough for us all to hear, BTW.) On the surface, the idea of patenting a shopping bag is a little silly. But can you imagine if other retailers copied their signature bag? Apple’s shopping experience wouldn’t set them apart as much so it’s understandable that they want to protect it.

I’ll add that being too protective of what makes you, you, can make it hard to evolve. The trick is to find the right balance of preserving your identity while always growing.

So, what’s your brand? How do you promote and protect it? Do you know of other business examples that cause you to reflect on how you manage your reputation?

Have a glorious day!

Caryn

What’s Your Why?

Good morning and welcome back to the work week!

I have a question for you: What’s your why? Why do you do what you do? This could apply to anything but let’s focus on your career. Why do you do what you do for a living? Is it the money? The fame J? Do you love the function (e.g., finance, engineering, marketing, sales)? Is the why enough to keep you going when it gets difficult? If your why isn’t big enough, how does that affect your commitment?

transformation why

The summer games give us several examples, especially with four (FOUR!) members of AT&T families participating. Take Ragan Smith’s family, for example: she’s a 15 year old alternate on the women’s gymnastics team. She and another team member, Madison Kocian, train 6 days a week, twice a day. Do you think these two teens have a clear understanding of their why?

How about their families? Ragan’s dad, Michael, got AT&T permission to move his job from Georgia to Dallas so she could train at an elite training center there. I bet they didn’t think twice about it, because they knew their why.

There’s also Malik Scott’s daughter, Ariana Washington, and John Monday’s wife, Rose. Ariana is running the 4×100 relay and Rose is an assistant track coach. All of these US team members and their families have a clear commitment to their sport, one that keeps them going through the good days and bad.

So, now, back to you. Do you know what your why is? Or how to integrate this concept into your work?

Here’s one way I do it with my team: Imagine you’re starting a new job. On your first day, your new boss asks what you want to do next. Kind of odd, right? But what if you have a candid conversation about what you hope to do next and how your new role and boss can support you? Could this help you get the right experience and exposure and make it easier for you to land your next role?

I hope you think about your why, have a great week!

Caryn

Making Time

mindfulness-en-movementI write a mini blog for my day job, almost daily. But I haven’t been posting it here. Why? It’s usually pertinent but, well, because I haven’t made time to do so. This morning, my mini blog was about this very topic so I decided to make a change in my daily routine…. here’s today’s post. Before I go any further, I’ll emphasize this site is not a reflection on my employer. Instead, it’s simply thoughts I have on being a better person, leader, wife, mother, employee. Read on for my thoughts on making time….

Hi Y’all!

Monday flew by really fast didn’t it? Do you ever find yourself saying, “Sorry, I didn’t have time to do it”? Did you really mean that you didn’t make time for it, either intentionally or unintentionally? I’ve had several conversations the last few days where this came up and I thought it might be good to take a moment (uhh, make time for it). Does this sound familiar?

“I am definitely going to take a course on time management… just as soon as I can work it into my schedule.” Louis Boone (courtesy of Brainy Quote) 

Louis E. Boone was a business professor at the University of South Alabama. While his comment is funny, his point is this – we make time for what we find important. The key is to be mindful of what is important and try (!) to get the less important things out of the way. Look at your calendar, what do you see that is not your highest priority? Does it really need to be done or to be done by you? Should something else be on there? By the way, making time to relax can be as important as your must-do-for-the-boss items. If you’re not able to relax your brain and body, you’re not going to be at your best. It’s not all about go-go-go (I know, that’s rich coming from me…). As a former boss used to tell me, “sometimes you have to slow down to speed up.” Not sure if that’s original or what but it’s been immensely helpful.

What a great reminder, then, about making time – here’s to not saying “I didn’t have time to call” or “I didn’t get around to it.” Instead, let’s be clear about priorities and making time to call those important to us and accomplish the critical things, whether that’s paying the bill or taking time to crash on the couch for a little bit. Join me in being mindful, won’t you?

How do you play?

 

We’re re-watching the Sopranos right now, old school style on DVD. In one of the episodes from the second season, Livia Soprano (Tony’s mum) asks, “Why does everything have to have a purpose?” The overachiever in me wants to claim that everything DOES have a purpose but, really, I totally agree with Livia, that we are not always purposeful nor should we be. If you’re Type A, you probably disagree. I would have been in your camp a decade ago but these days I realize that some of the best times and best ideas come from playing. It doesn’t matter what you play, only that you enjoy yourself.

Sometimes the value of play is in taking a moment to rest your mind, taking a breather from the stress we all carry. When I play, I lose myself in what I’m doing. I often laugh and I’m never cranky. Isn’t that a gift? Even better, when I play, I’m encouraging others to do so, too. This means we connect with each other, even if we’re strangers. Southwest airlines gets this, why else would they encourage their employees’ to show their senses of humor? (Go to http://tinyurl.com/oo3sdu6 for an example of their funny approach to life.) Southwest is recognized for its leadership practices, which rely heavily on relationships between its employees, between its business units, between leadership and front line and between their employees and customers. This has put them on top in a very competitive industry. For more on Southwest management practices, see Jody Gittel’s book, The Southwest Airlines Way (reference info below).

Play can be powerful when you’re trying to innovate. It is inherently creative as you are using your imagination to make something, to see beyond what is and into what could be. Jay Silver recently gave a TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design, “ideas worth spreading”) talk on his method for inventing. He said, “Sometimes what we know gets in the way of what could be. We think we already know how it works so we don’t see how else it could be.” Watch his video at http://www.ted.com/talks/jay_silver_hack_a_banana_make_a_keyboard.html; it will make you laugh and look at pencils, pizza and bananas differently.  Doesn’t it make you want to play?

Further evidence of how what we know gets in the way of what could be is in the art world. My first drawing teacher had us turn pictures upside down so that we wouldn’t interpret the lines into something familiar. When we try to draw something we recognize, our brain gets in the way. By making it even a little bit unfamiliar, we disrupt the assumptions our brain makes and we see things more clearly. I don’t have my textbook from this class and I’ve long since forgotten her name but I’ve included a reference below about this.

I play at home – I love to write, photograph, paint and knit (that’s being a ‘textile artist’ for you who think knitting is an old lady skill and I’ve been doing it since I could read). I also play at work. This includes writing but my favorite work activity is playing with data. I know, I know, you imagine someone hunched over a computer who hasn’t seen daylight for weeks and you can’t imagine it as play. However, in playing with data, we find patterns or anomalies that provoke us to think about our business and what’s happening. This leads to investigation and oftentimes, to a change in our strategy or tactics. I think this is why we have beaten our sales targets for four years running. I tell my team, “this is what we do well, we study the data and it tells us what to do next.”

Play keeps us fresh. By seeing things with an open mind, I learn something new every day and I spend every day joyfully. I sometimes create but I always enjoy. How do you play?

The water plays at the Bellagio, Las Vegas. I imagine a water engineer somewhere is smiling at all the oohs and ahhs when the fountain runs. (April 2013)

The water plays at the Bellagio, Las Vegas. I imagine a water engineer somewhere is smiling at all the oohs and ahhs when the fountain runs. (April 2013)

References

Chase, D. (Producer) (2000). Do not resuscitate [Television series episode]. In Chase, D. (Executive Producer), The Sopranos. HBO.

Free, D. (21, Augus 2006). Have you tried turning it upside down?. Retrieved from http://seedsofgrowth.com/have-you-tried-turning-it-upside-down

Gittell, J. (2002). The southwest airlines way. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Silver, J. (Artist). (2013, April ). Jay Silver: Hack a banana, make a keyboard [Web Video]. Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/jay_silver_hack_a_banana_make_a_keyboard.html