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Archive for January, 2013

Ahead of the Game – Forming Great Professional Relationships

January 15, 2013 1 comment

Networking on the Court

At just under 5’3” you may be surprised to find me every Wednesday at the Rec. Centre basketball courts ‘dominating’ a game of pick-up with 6’2”+ colleagues from across campus.  When I first started playing about 3 years ago my most recent experience had been when I was on the grade 8 team.  At that time I was tall, but not particularly skilled.  Since then I have not actually grown; so, I am now short and still not particularly skilled.

Then why on earth when a couple of the guys from my office asked me if I wanted to play did I agree? According to the Harvard Business Review, “High-stakes activities that ally you with disparate individuals around a common point of interest are the best way to forge tight connections. Whether you join people in sports teams, community service ventures, or interdepartmental initiatives, engaging with them in this new way creates stronger ties.”

It didn’t matter if in the first few months I couldn’t stop laughing every time I ran down the court with the ball because, not only was I getting a great workout, I was demonstrating that I was a team player.  I would show up, work hard and even if I couldn’t get a basket, I could intimidate the other team with my witty and well-timed trash talking.  Although for probably the first year, my main role was comic relief, I have now progressed to the point where I can hold my own and, on the odd occasion, be a decent contributor to the team.

Although I am not likely to be scouted by the WMBA any time soon, this activity has certainly been positive for my career because I have gotten to know, respect, and enjoy a lot of people at the university that I would otherwise not had much interaction with.  The formation of these relationships happens “because these conditions allow for unscripted behaviors and natural responses to unexpected events — things that rarely show up during business lunches or office meetings where impressions are managed and presentations are carefully rehearsed. People will see you as you truly are, and vice versa. Common activities also offer opportunities for celebration and commiseration, which generate loyalty and form close working relationships.” (Strengthen Your Network with Shared Activities)

When I see my bball colleagues on campus there is a common bond, a friendship, and a warmth that I feel, that makes me think well of them and them think well of me.  The one surprising and concerning thing that I have noticed over the course of 3 years of playing a pick-up sport on my lunch is that there is only one other woman that I have ever seen out there.  If young women don’t take these opportunities to connect with colleagues in this fun and critical way, they will be missing out on a foundational aspect of business networking.

Since, January is a time when people make all sorts of resolutions to get active, I challenge you to take it to the courts, or fields, or rink, with your colleagues.  You will all be healthier and more successful for it.   No skill is required – just come and see me play and I will prove it.

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A New Year Is A Great Time to Dream

January 3, 2013 7 comments

dreamsI asked my 4 year old son what he wants to do when he grows up and he said “sleep in hotels and go down water slides.”

The first question I ask students when they come into my office is “If you could get paid to do anything you want, what would you do?”  Shockingly I find that often the answer to this question seems to have very little to do with their so-called ‘real’ career goals.  When did they stop dreaming?  Perhaps they have been brought back to ‘reality’ by a parent or counsellor or friend who, out of a sincere desire to ensure their ‘success’, has encouraged them to focus on getting a secure job with a big company rather than actually pursue their passions, strengths, motivations, and preferences.

No matter what the state of the economy, however, there are people who get paid to do what they love: hockey players, sports announcers, sommelier’s,  marketing executives, lawyers, counsellors, teachers, doctors, authors, chefs, computer programmers . . .Unfortunately, on the flip side there is the majority of the population who spend 94,000+ hours of their life doing something they dislike.  In fact, according to Forbes magazine 71% of employees are disengaged from their work. What a horribly depressing thought.  No wonder there is so much road rage and so many grumpy people at the grocery store, bank, Tim Horton’s, Dollarama, movie theatre, dog park, shopping mall, Boston Pizza, walking down the street, . . .   we are subjecting ourselves to lives of misery on a massive scale.

So how did those other individuals end up getting paid to do something they love?  If you look at what it was that got them that job you will find that it was not just luck, but a combination of dreams, determination and serendipity.  If we remove any one of these elements from the equation, we are certainly going to be one of the 71%.

Instead, let’s allow ourselves to dream for a moment about a future where we are not slaves to a weak economy, but instead optimistic and excited about our future.   Take some time and watch Professor Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture.  Professor Pausch, who was dying of pancreatic cancer, gave his last lecture at the Carnegie Mellon University on Sept. 18, 2007. His talk, “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams,” highlights his lessons learned and provides advice for students on how to achieve their own career and personal goals.

waterslideI am not suggesting that my son will actually become a hotel and water-park consultant when he grows up but, if he is determined, I would certainly support him.  However, I am saying that we need to pay more attention to our dreams if we want to end up leading a healthy, happy and balanced life.  If you are going to spend thousands upon thousands of hours doing something, why not at least try to make it something that you love?

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