Archive for March, 2007|Monthly archive page

Where Does Your Road Lead? (part II)

Okay, I’m back! Veered off MY Road for a few, as described in previous post of Where does your road lead. Been taking some side roads, detours and even got on a main thorouhgfare for a few. That’s important to do sometimes to gain perspective or seek out new ways. But, it can also lead to dead-ends and abandonded paths.

Below, in italics, I’ve copied the original exercise for this post from Liz Strauss’ Successful Blog. One thing that very much surprised me in the responses to her post was that most people, when confronted with the wall at the end chose to veer off the road, stop or even turn around and go back. I’m guessing it shows that some either a) don’t read with comprehension or b) aren’t used to taking ownership of their own direction in life.

  • You’re walking on a road. It’s your road. Tell me about it.
  • As you walk, you pass a body of water, describe it.
  • Directly in your path is an empty bottle. What’s your response to it?
  • You continue until you find yourself facing a wall that crosses your road perpendicularly. What do you do?

That’s why I emphasized, My Road! Someone is clearly stating it’s my road to travel and do with what I may. There are many limitatiions placed on all of us in life. It’s surprising to me that many, even in a psychological exercise, so often expect and accept those restrictions. When I travel on others’ roads (be they real or virtual) I must adhere to those restrictions; but on my road I am free!

Another lesson I gained from doing this exercise is realizing that any road requires maintenance and attention to new developments that  arise. That might also require hiring a crew, and posting regulations. Like now, in Northern New England we’re going into what looks to be one heck of a mud season. Larger vehicles will be restricted and/or fined from traveling certain roads. Garages and auto body shops will see a surge in activity as people traveling on roads rife with frost heaves and potholes unintentionally damage their vehicles.

I see it the same for any of us as we travel our own metaphoric roads in life. Sometimes the way is smooth and easy; sometimes rough and impassable. There will always be detours and distractions. There are as many kinds of roads as there are people and places. Some may finish one road to their satisfaction, and branch off into a new direction. Others might turn their one road into a major highway with multiple lanes, exits and entrances. 

My road, especially through the blogosphere is still new and exciting; but fairly free from restriction. I don’t want to deal with traffic lights or busy intersections, and I know I will take a side road or a trail through the woods sometimes. But, I’ll always find my way back to My Road. Hope all of you are having fun constructing your own roads and taking occasional side trips on mine!

Where Does Your Road Lead? (part I)

Here’s a little creative exercise that all of you right-brainers will probably love, and you left-brainers may attempt to either over-analyze it or dismiss its importance.

Lisa Gates of Design Your Writing Life posted it as a Writing Exercise and urged me to create my rendition. Lisa writes a story about her road, and leaves it for you to interpret as you wish (right-brain, creative) She borrowed the idea from Liz Strauss of Successful Blog, who had originally posted it as a Psychological Survey of Attitudes.  Liz lists her answers and gives some explanation to the interpretation (left-brain, analytical). Ah, I can already see where my story is headed.
Come on and join me as I take a walk down my road…

  • You’re walking on a road. It’s your road. Tell me about it.
  • As you walk, you pass a body of water, describe it.
  • Directly in your path is an empty bottle. What’s your response to it?
  • You continue until you find yourself facing a wall that crosses your road perpendicularly. What do you do?

My road is a dirt road in the country. But, it’s not at all desolate. There are people who come and go on it every day. I wave as they pass by in their car or stop and talk if they are on foot. The road itself is well-worn and smooth, not filled with ruts and not overgrown or unkempt on the bankings by the edge.

As I walk, I pass by a rushing brook that cascades over rocks and churns the water like a faucet turned on full force. Eventually it becomes a steady stream calmly washing over a shallow bed of stones. I thrill with the sounds of  its strongset currents, then as I continue my walk I pause to reflect at its quiet flow. Some days I wonder, how can that same amount of water have such a different amount of energy and effect depending where it is along the road. Then I answer myself, realizing, that just like me its reactions vary according to what it encounters on the journey downstream.  

Finding an empty bottle directly in my path is not a good thing. To me it means that someone was careless and disrespectful of a road that means a lot to me. I also see it as potential danger to other travelers who may trip on it, get cut, or might make the wrong choice and  pick it up and toss it to the side. So, I do the responsible thing and pick it up to discard with the recyclables. Or if it’s a blue cobalt one like Lisa found on her walk, I’ll take it home to use as a vase for wildflowers.

Finally, continuing down the road,  I am told I will encounter a wall that crosses it perpendicularly. My reaction to that is at first surprise. How did it get there? Who put it there? And then, action. I will take it down piece by piece. I’ll do it in a neat and orderly fashion if it’s deconstructable (like rails or rocks), or I’ll do it with some form of explosiveness and help from my fellow travelers if it’s a solid wall. My road may have some distractions and obstacle along the way, but it is always an open road. No blockades, no detours, no walls! It is, after all My Road.

To be continued…

Leading References

Jason Alba, the soon-to-be famous JibberJobber guy wrote an excellent post on Reference Letters. He gives some great advice on collecting them ahead of time and how to store them. Don’t wait until you’re in a massive job hunt or running a major referral program to gather them.

A lot of career advisers now suggest that all employees need to document their accomplishments whenever possible. And, ask for written acknowledgement of successes (big and small). Don’t just wait for a performance review and hope that someone remembers or might have taken note of your extreme employee feat four months prior. Document, document, document. 

Keep your own accomplishment or kudos folder. Get your peers and subordinates to contribute, too.  Their feedback gives valuable insight. It’s not all about your boss’s viewpoint or your last client’s recommendation anymore. Potential employers or new clients are interested in a history of past outcomes. They also want to know how you arrived at them. Having the specific highlights of any successful project written down, testimonies captured and pictures of the finished product ( if applicable) are important in supporting the proof of your success.  References need to be non-linear, timeless and multi-dimensional to be effective.

On the flip-side, it is more acceptable now and perhaps even expected that you, as a potential employee or contractor will have checked out the boss/client’s references. Yes, you the worker, the new kid-on-the-block, the eager networker – you deserve to know if you’re signing up with an above-board, stand-up kind of leader.  Gone or at least slowly fading (thankfully) are the days when signing up for a new gig meant that you were the only one who had to prove yourself. It’s okay, even smart to check out their references, too.

A Rear View Mirror

is a must for every leader!

We all know how mothers trick us when we’re kids into thinking they have eyes in the back of their head. Who hasn’t been caught reaching across the back seat in the car on a long ride to bother a sibling in one way or another when your mother, from up front tells you stop whatever it was you were about to do? You hadn’t even done it yet, and you know your mother never turned her head. How did she even know? The secret, of course was the rear view mirror. 

While moving forward, focusing on the road ahead, that handy gadget enables us to keep track of what’s going on behind us. That’s vital for leaders. Often leaders tend to be visionaries, seeing the shape of things to come long before many of the rest of us. That’s fine. That’s how progress is made. If a leader gets too far ahead, though, they take the risk of losing sight of what’s happening in the metaphoric back seat.

Sometimes economic forecasters, even with sophisticated means of analysis forget to look in their rear view mirror. The U.S. economy’s growth grew more slowly than expected this last quarter (4th). Surprise! surprise! The housing market has been slipping. “The fresh look at the housing market was sobering. New-home sales plummeted by 16.6 percent in January from the previous month. That was the largest decline since January 1994, when sales slid by 23.8 percent.”
Well, ask the homeowners and realtors, and they could have told you that was happening. But, the economists were looking too far down the road.

If you’re interested, this AP article by Jeanine Aversa ofers a good view into the economic rear view mirror. Forecasters – weather or economic can only do so much. Leaders are smart to listen to the advice, as long as they remember to take a glance in the rear view mirror now and then. And, then adjust their journey to the stiuation accordingly – as in the case of the economy.