Archive for the ‘miscellaneous’ Category

How Lean In got me thinking

If you haven’t read Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In, you probably should. It’s an entertaining and insightful read that raises as many questions as it answers about the challenges women face in the workplace. It mixes research with anecdotes, and does so in an easy-to-read style that is self-deprecating and insecure enough to avoid crossing the line into preachy.

I’m fortunate to work at Edelman, a company that pays close attention to gender issues. We’ve made a commitment at the very highest levels to increasing the proportion of women in leadership roles to 50% by 2017, and backed that up by establishing the Global Women’s Executive Network (GWEN). We’ve also been recognized as one of the best workplaces in Canada for women (happily also one of the best workplaces in general).

I’ve just finished the book, I’ve already found that I’ve begun consciously thinking differently about numerous situations.

A few insights that I’m paying close attention to:

1. Assertiveness is not a weakness

Sandberg argues that women are held to a different standard to men when it comes to assertiveness. Among men, assertiveness is often seen as a desirable attribute. In contrast, among women it is often seen as a weakness. I’ve begun paying close attention to any discussion around assertiveness in the workplace, and as a result have been able to push back on or re-examine situations where people have cited assertiveness as a challenge. Interestingly, and consistent with Sandberg’s observations, these observations come just as frequently from other women as they do from men in the workplace.

2. Encourage inclusivity

Sandberg cites incidents that led her to think differently about “sitting at the table” – situations where she literally sat at the back of the room versus at the meeting room table, and how she’s been fortunate to work with people who pushed her out of her comfort zone and encouraged her to participate. She also notes that some apparently equitable approaches to encouraging participation can unintentionally reinforce exclusion for people (as an introvert, I can empathize with the challenges of participating in group environments as she describes).

This has led me to pay more attention to encouraging people to “lean in” to situations (and to prod them in that direction at times). It has also led me to consider additional techniques for encouraging contributions from team members who might not be comfortable in a group context.

3. People without families deserve their own time, too

Sandberg points out that a woman not having a partner or children does nothing to diminish the value of their time outside work. This is something that I’ve been conscious of for a while after a team member made the point very well to me early in my time at Edelman, but Lean In put it back in focus for me. We need both to stop judging people who are in this situation, whether by choice or circumstance, and to avoid placing a different value on their time.

Sandberg notes that while it is important that women feel able to leave the office in time to have dinner with their children; at the same time, she also notes that it is important that women without families feel able to leave work to participate in their own commitments without a feeling of guilt.

Happily we have some great role models for the former in our workplace, with senior women who place great importance on spending time with their children while also succeeding in their roles, including several members of our office’s leadership team who really exemplify this approach to me. I’m hoping to do more to encourage the latter among my team too.

4. Mentors are important

I’ve been privileged to act as a mentor for a number of young professionals in the last few years. Lean In reinforced the importance of this for me, with an interesting (and surprising, to me) assertion that it can be beneficial for a woman’s mentor to be a man. I’m not entirely sure about that last part, but either way it’s reinforced my commitment to investing my time to mentor others. It’s also led me to think proactively about encouraging managers and team members to find a mentor to support them in their careers.

5. People can sometimes self-sabotage

While I’m happy to work at a company that is putting a sustained effort behind addressing gender inequality, institutional challenges for women continue to abound in society. The majority of the things I’ve taken away from Lean In pertain to how I can become more self-aware about my own behaviour or unconscious biases. However, Sandberg’s observations on the way that women can also actually sometimes sabotage their own careers were fascinating to me too.

Sandberg ovserved that women who are looking ahead to having children in the near term sometimes avoid taking on challenging assignments in the year or two before that time comes – they’ll “take their foot off the gas”. That can unnecessarily hinder their advancement – not just over that time but as a consequence over the longer duration of their careers.

I haven’t yet knowingly encountered this situation, but I do work with a number of young, successful women who likely have these choices ahead of them. I intend to keep an eye open for this kind of situation and to help those around me to know that they don’t have to take their foot off the gas and that either choice is okay, and to work to ensure that we have a workplace that freely enables these choices .

Keeping my mind open

I was fortunate to attend the annual gala for the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression last night, which had the tagline “what you don’t know CAN hurt you.” I think that rings very true here. There are plenty of other points in Lean In that I’m sure people will think are more central to its concept than the ones above. I’m also conscious that Sandberg’s book has been quite contentious among some groups, and I’ve read some scathing reviews from those who think it oversimplifies things. However, these ideas have so far stuck in my head and I think that’s a positive thing.

For these points alone, reading Lean In has already been time well spent for me.

If you’ve read Lean In, what stood out in the book for you?

Thoughts on Boston

I don’t know what I’m going to write here today; I just know that I need to write something – to get it out of my head – after the horror of yesterday.

Close to home

Explosion at the Boston Marathon

Explosion at the Boston Marathon

Like many people around the world, I stood glued to reports of the terrible bombings in Boston yesterday. I saw the early reports emerge on Twitter, and soon enough there was almost nothing else in my feeds. I went for a run after work, and kept thinking about the horrible scene in Massachusetts. I went home, and sat staring at the TV for hours, watching the reports come in. I spent half the night reading Reddit threads outlining the heroism of people on the scene.

Five years ago I ran the Boston Marathon. It was one of the happiest days of my life. The feeling of warmth, welcoming and acceptance from the start to the finish was something I haven’t witnessed anywhere else, and certainly not in any Toronto races. People lined the streets for the full 26.2 miles, handing out refreshments and encouragement to runners. My (now) wife met me at the top of Heartbreak Hill. It was a wonderful, wonderful day and the city and people of Boston will forever hold a place dear in my heart as a result.

Perhaps because of this, yesterday’s terror struck home a little too close for me. I was, and still am, surprised by how much it affected me. Perhaps it was because of the my experience in 2008; perhaps because so many people I know were on the course yesterday. It probably sounds silly, but it felt like an attack on a little piece of me.

Happily all of my friends were safe and unharmed. My heart goes out to the victims and families of those who were killed or injured.

Questioning

Beyond the worry for the people involved and the anger at those responsible, I worry about what this means for future events. Will the Boston Marathon bounce back? What does this mean for future sporting events? It’s pretty much impossible to secure a 26-mile stretch of road; what does that mean for other races?

I also began to feel conflicted. Three people died and over 130 were injured. That’s horrible… but why was I feeling so affected by this and less by the hundreds of people killed in other incidents around the world every day? The shooting at Sandy Hook killed 26 people. Again, I was mortified about that but given that 8 times as many people died there, should I care 8 times as much about that? What if I didn’t – what does that say about me? Am I right to feel more affected by this? I don’t know.

The best and the worst

Police officers reacting to the Boston Marathon bomb attack

Police officers reacting to the Boston Marathon bombs

Yesterday brought out the best in our society. The number of heroes who ran towards the blasts to help people was astonishing and heart-warming. There are images – too graphic to show here (here’s a link – be warned) – of a guy literally holding someone’s artery to stop them bleeding out as they wheeled him to… I’m not sure where. A medical tent or an ambulance, I guess. Apparently the guy made it – given the extent of his injuries, that’s wonderful. Moments like that really show the good in our world.

Sadly, yesterday brought out some scary parts of our society too. I was happy to see that news outlets held back from labeling it a certain way until the authorities began to do so. Yet before long, I started to see the assumptions being thrown around. I saw a CBC interview with an FBI agent who said it was too early to say who was responsible but it could be Muslim extremists, or Al Qaeda. While saying we shouldn’t jump to conclusions, he re-raised that possibility twice more in the interview.

I posted a message of tolerance on Facebook; one commenter responded that “it is always the same religion that perpetrates these atrocities” – something that just isn’t true (think Oklahoma, or Atlanta, or even Sandy Hook).

A Muslim friend of mine – who I won’t name – told me yesterday that he has been called a terrorist twice in his life. The first time was in 2001; the second time was yesterday. That horrifies me.

I don’t know who did this. Maybe it was a religious group. Either way, it won’t change how I feel towards other people of that religion — regardless of which one it is — because I know the vast majority of people, regardless of religion, are kind, gentle and well-meaning.

Hope

I don’t know the answers to the questions I posed earlier. Perhaps I’ll have thoughts in the days ahead. I do know, however:

  1. I hope the people injured in yesterday’s attacks recover, and that no-one else loses their life.
  2. I hope the authorities catch the person or people responsible for this and that they are brought to justice.
  3. I hope that our society can refrain from allowing the people involved — Christian, Muslim, or any other religion; political or apolitical — to tar entire social groups or religions with the same brush. I hope we can recognize that the acts of a few don’t represent the beliefs of many.
  4. I hope we don’t let this put a chill on large public events. If the people responsible succeed in striking terror into our hearts and in making us reconsider these most positive of ways of coming together then they’ve won.
  5. I hope the Boston Marathon goes on. It’s a wonderful event that brings thousands of people together each year in a very, very positive way.

 

 

Choices and Lessons

Chris Brogan‘s latest weekly newsletter was around the subject of choice. You can read it over on his site, too, if you like. In it, he talks about the importance of remembering that you have a choice, and that a negative impulse ‘in the moment’ can lead you away from the path you want to be on.

Choices

I wholeheartedly agree with Chris’ sentiment. I also think we can go a step further and apply this beyond a single moment. We can ask, “What choices did we make that led us here, now?” because the most powerful thing you can do when something goes wrong is to look back and ask yourself what choices you made that led things to go wrong.

“I was late because the bus was really slow today.” Well, did you leave enough time in case the bus was slow?

I remember, whenever I was a child and my mum took me to the train station for an important trip, we’d always leave about 40 mins before the train was due to arrive. I never liked it it was a 10 minute drive so this it meant I had to stop whatever I was doing earlier than I needed to. Still, we’d leave early every time. She explained to me that she was leaving enough time to walk there if our aging and somewhat unreliable car wouldn’t start. This is one of those silly little things that stuck with throughout the years. I apply that lesson all the time nowadays… and I’m rarely late.

Your project is behind schedule because approvals took a long time? OK, were we realistic about those timelines? Did we brief the client properly so they knew how long bit might take? Did we make sure we let them know how long they had? What could we choose to do differently next time?

So when someone points the finger at things out of their control, I think back to that lesson. “Did you do everything in your control to prevent that from happening?” I ask the question of myself and I ask it of my team at work, all the time. Not because we need to assign blame, but so we can get better an improve next time. Another important lesson: blame takes us backward; lessons take us forward.

Asking the question about our choices lets us learn those lessons.

(Side note: I receive a lot of emails — somewhere in the region of 200-300 on an average day. Chris’ newsletter is one that I find time to read – every week. You should too. It’s interesting, friendly, easy to read and it makes me think. Plus, Chris is a nice guy and I want to know what he’s up to.)

(Image: Flickr, via CrazyFast)

7 Steps to Planning Better Presentations

As we approach the end of the Spring conference season, and in the run-up to BlogWorld New York, I got to reflecting on how my approach to presentations has evolved over the last while.

Preparing a presentation for a conference is no mean feat (I’d estimate I spend at last 30 hours on each presentation I create for conferences; often more). With that level of time investment, especially if you’re creating multiple presentations each year, you need to make sure you invest your time well.

This year, I’ve started approaching presentations in a new way. I’ve thrown out the PowerPoint-driven way of planning my presentations, and turned towards a more story-driven way of building them out. My goal: creating presentations that speak more directly and relevant to the people I’m speaking to.

Here, in seven steps, is how I’m preparing my BlogWorld NYE presentation. You can use these seven steps yourself, to improve your own presentations.

1. Decide on your topic.

Simple enough, sometimes. Other times, it may take a little more thinking.

  1. Who is the audience? Who is attending the conference, and who from that group do you want to attend your session? For BlogWorld, I actually broke it down to a few sample job titles of people I want to ‘speak to’.
  2. What do they want? Once you’ve figured out who you’re aiming to speak to, think about them more and figure out what they may want to get out of the event. Whether you’ve already figured out your topic or not, that will help you focus the meat of your presentation on them. Write it down, and refer back to this every time you sit down to work on the presentation.

2. Create your framework

The next step is to create the high-level framework for the presentation (I’ve taken inspiration from Cliff Atkinson’s book Beyond Bullet Points here).

Break down your session – what do you want to cover in the time you have? How long do you have to present? How long is the Q&A? Plot it out in a two-column table, with your main topic in a single cell on the left (as a reminder to ladder back to it) and multiple rows within this in the second column – you’ll build on this in later steps:

Presentation topic Sub-topic #1
Sub-topic #2
Sub-topic #3

 3. Flesh it out

At this point you already have a bare-bones outline of your persentation. The next step is to flesh it out. I do this with the addition of additional detail to the sub-topic column, and two new columns in the table.

Firstly, figure out how you want to prioritize your topics. You know how long you have and you know what you want to cover, so break it down. You can change it later, but it again helps down the road as you build your presentation.

Secondly, break each sub-topic down into components – this represents the narrative that your presentation will ultimately follow. As you do so, additional thoughts will come to you on soundbites, stats, reference points and even visuals. Note them in the final column here for future reference.

Presentation topic Sub-topic #1

0:00 – 0:15

Subtopic detail 1.1 Notes/Visuals
Subtopic detail 1.2 Notes/Visuals
Subtopic detail 1.3 Notes/Visuals
Sub-topic #2

0:15 – 0:30

Subtopic detail 2.1 Notes/Visuals
Subtopic detail 2.2 Notes/Visuals
Subtopic detail 2.3 Notes/Visuals
Sub-topic #3

0:30 – 0:45

Subtopic detail 3.1 Notes/Visuals
Subtopic detail 3.2 Notes/Visuals
Subtopic detail 3.3 Notes/Visuals

See what we’re doing here? We’re building a kind of hierarchy. By the time you’re done, the sub-topics should read as the key points within your presentation subject, and the sub-topics tell a more detailed story of those key points. Each row ladders back to the high-level topic, and each column tells the story of the presentation at a different level of detail.

By this point you should be finding that you’re forcing yourself to take a hard look at your presentation flow, identifying pieces that need to move around, either vertically or horizontally, within your structure. You should also be getting excited as the presentation takes shape.

4. Write it out

At this point, you’re at the stage of writing-out your presentation. Yes, that’s right – write it out.

The level you take this to is up to you. You could just make more detailed notes on the breakdown of your detailed presentation elements, or you could write it out in full. The latter is more time-consuming, but can also give you a better idea of where you stand time-wise. While I rarely refer to speaking notes on-stage, I do prefer to write things out in full the first time so I can walk through it out-loud and see how it sounds.

If you choose to write it out in full, a good guide to length is shooting for roughly 110 words for each minute you’ve allocated to a topic. Your speaking rate may vary, so adjust according to your own style.

5. Start the deck

Step number five of seven, and you haven’t even opened PowerPoint or Keynote yet! Well, now you can. The difference is, rather than creating a presentation based on slides, you’re now creating it based on a narrative. Go through your notes, and drop them into the speaking notes section of slides. Don’t worry about the front end; just the notes.

You can create slides based on the topical break-down you’ve created – the more straight-forward approach – or you can do it based on natural transitions within the speaking notes you’ve created – your choice.

The key part here, again, is that you’re building your deck based on the topic and not based on shoe-horning specific visuals into slides, which often happens if you let slides drive the topic instead of vice versa.

6. Visuals!

Now that you’ve built your deck, the final step is the visuals. Happily for the audience, with the way you’ve planned this out, your visuals now support the material rather than the reverse, and you should be able to avoid “death by awful PowerPoint slides”. Refer to your topic notes, refer to the visuals you jotted down throughout your process, and pick visuals that reinforce what you know you’ll be saying rather than the reverse.

7. Refine and rehearse

You’re almost there. The last step is editing – my least-favourite but possibly most-valuable step. Don’t close things down and wait for the presentation; go over your deck and make sure it works. Sanity-check it with a colleague (or, if they’re really tolerant, your partner).

Finally, rehearse the hell out of your presentation. There’s nothing worse than a presenter who umms and aahs his or her way through their presentation, and you’re not going to have slides full of 12-point font behind you as a crutch if you forget, so make sure you know your presentation inside and out.

You should know your presentation well enough that you can accommodate interruptions without getting flustered (because, as anyone who presents a lot will tell you, it happens all the time. Sigh…).

Conclusion

There you have it. I’ve used this approach for a couple of presentations, and found I come at them with a much more thoughtful approach than I used to. It takes a bit more of a time investment, and it means you need to know your stuff, but I think it’s worth it.

What do you think? If you give a lot of presentations, how do you go about planning them?

If you’ll be at BlogWorld, I’m presenting “Six Important Shifts in Social Media Strategy” at 10:15 on June 5 – let me know if you think this technique worked for my session! (If you haven’t registered yet, use the code “SDaveF10″ to receive a 10% discount on your registration fee.)

(Photo credit: evablue)

Communication is about what they hear, not what you say

If you think you’ve conveyed something but the other person hears something completely different, is that their fault or yours? 

Recently a friend of mine posted a photo on Facebook:

As pithy and humorous as it was, I disagreed. Strongly. From my perspective the onus is on you to consider not just the words coming out of your mouth, but how they are received.

Everyone has their own background and context that they overlay on top of what they hear. It’s our jobs as communicators to consider that perspective and to adjust the way we communicate accordingly. If we do, we stand a better chance of persuading them to agree with our point of view.

For example, let’s say I want to go to a specific dim sum restaurant (yum!) one night, and need to convince my wife that we should go there. Her existing perception of the restaurant will affect the way I approach the conversation:

  • If she’s been there and liked it: “Hey, want to go back to that great dim sum place you liked tonight?”
  • If she’s been there and didn’t like it: “Hey, can we give that dim sum place another chance?”
  • If she’s never been there: “Hey, want to check out a new dim sum place?”

By taking into account her existing perception, I can optimize what I say to increase my chance of her agreeing.

The same principles apply in business. Client calls go better when you consider where they’re coming from, and you’ll build better relationships with team members when you consider their backgrounds and personalities.

On a larger scale, your messages will be better-received if you consider your audience and their perceptions. The larger-scale side of things is hard, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing.

As I said at the time, “Not doing so means the outcome suffers, whether that’s something as small as picking the restaurant you want, or as significant as buying your company’s product or believing your party’s political view. If you’re ok with that then that’s fine, but if persuasion is your goal then it’s important.” Good communicators take the time to understand their audience and the key stakeholders in a situation, what they want and how to satisfy their needs.

It’s not easy, but the reality is that your outcomes – at work and at home – will improve if you focus on what people “hear” rather than what you say. If you’re ok with the opposite then that’s fine; if not, then give it a try and see.

What do you think?

 

Want to get better at social media? Ask “Why?”

Social media practitioners: want to get better at your job? Learn one word:

Why?

Used well, asking “why?” can help you get to the bottom of almost any problem, push your colleagues to explore new options, and force a new level of honesty in decision making.

I’ve just started reading Christopher Barger‘s book The Social Media Strategist (side note: only a few pages in and I already like it), and one particular section stood out to me:

“The individual connections and relationships made within social networks on behalf of organizations and brands don’t happen because the brands want to appear more approachable or more human. Those are nice side effects. But make no mistake, as unromantic as it sounds, businesses and organizations get into social media because they want customers (or potential customers) to eventually buy their products, feel better about having purchased their products, and have problems with their products resolved more efficiently, and they want to get insight on what might make a customer more likely to buy those products in the future. “The conversation” and “engagement” are just means to that end.”

We’re operating in a field which is still full of kumbaya and hugging. Social media is still a shiny object to many people – companies still come at it with a focus on the shiny object rather than on what they really need. In that context, asking “why” is critical to improving your odds of success.

Let’s take an all-too-frequent conversation that agencies have with clients: the “we should be ‘in’ social media” conversation. At face value, a statement from a client like “we should be in social media” has no meaning, direction or any sort of objectives whatsoever. However, by asking “why?” a few times, you can dig to the core of it. The conversation could go something like this:

A: We need to be in social media.

B: Ok, why do you want to be in social media?

A: Because we’re a customer-focused company and we want to get closer to our customers.

B: Fair enough. Tell me, what do you hope to achieve by getting closer in this case – why do you want to be closer to them?

A: Because we want to build a relationship with the people who use our products.

B: Great. So why do you want to build those relationships?

A: To help us hit our sales targets.

That’s by no means the end of that conversation – it’s just the beginning – but in just three questions you’ve dug down from “get me one of those” to a more focused objective of increasing sales volume. Other times that might be increasing loyalty; other times it might be gaining product insights. Once you’re at that point, you can help to re-focus objectives, and can work to build strategies and tactics that drive at the true business need rather than the one originally stated. You can apply the same things to strategic or tactical conversations too, with the end goal of driving better thinking, better communication and better business decisions.

What’s more, you can do the same thing internally. Instead of challenging or editing, ask:

  • Why did you use that particular phrase?
  • Why do you think that’s the right platform for this contest?
  • Why do you think a contest is the right tactic for this objective?
  • Why do you think we should be on Pinterest?

Build a team culture where asking “why” is the norm, and you’re well on your way to building a high-performance organization.

(Image credit: a_ninjamonkey)

What Gets You Up In The Morning?

Every so often it’s helpful to reflect on why your job matters to you – why you put in all the effort, passion and commitment you do.

For me, one of those moments came last week when I read this post by my colleague Rob Clark (which I’m re-publishing here with his permission).

I’ve worked a number of jobs throughout my life. Every single one of them I’ve put everything I’ve got into it. That’s just how I’m wired. I can’t be at a place and not give it my loyalty, my dedication and the full extent of what I have to offer.

Most of these jobs have adequately compensated me though a few have undervalued my contributions and balked at fair payment. Some of the jobs were extremely rewarding – most often through the people I’ve worked with. Some of them were educational – though more often than not a hard lesson learned.

But I have to say that my job at Edelman is the first where I consistently feel that I’m getting more back than I put in. And lord knows I put in a lot.

What’s more – I know that this isn’t simply a momentary happenstance or aligning of events. The company is putting the effort into making this a culture. Making this the regular modus operandi. I greatly appreciate that effort because it tells me this is not just a fluke or temporary alignment of good people. This is the way things will be. Smart people, doing creative and challenging work, together as a team.

I couldn’t agree more, and couldn’t be prouder to have people like Rob with me on that team.

What about you?

A Simple, Effective Way To Boost Your Creativity

Want a quick way to improve your creative output, at work and at home?

Carry a notebook with you at all times.

Carrying a notebook is a habit I’ve fallen into and out of over the years, but I’ve noticed that when I do, my creative output soars. Right now I’m rocking a Moleskine notebook, and I love it. Frankly, you could use scraps of paper instead, but having a notebook makes it way easier to refer back to later.

Why?

Because having a notebook means you can capture ideas as they occur to you, without the risk of forgetting them before capturing them. When you first start this, you’ll be astonished at how many ideas you

Yesterday, on the way to work I jotted down three ideas for blog posts that I had on my 30-minute commute. Today, I took notes on a book I’m currently reading (The Social Customer by Adam Metz).

Cheap, easy to establish and effortless to maintain, but the payoffs are huge.

Thoughts on Disconnecting

You may have noticed that things have been quieter than usual here recently. If you didn’t know, two weeks ago I got married and as I type this, I’m sitting on a plane on the way back from two blissful weeks spent completely offline on honeymoon in Italy.

At the Colosseum in Rome

While many of our vacations focus on adventure and exploration, this time we made a conscious decision to set aside at least half of the vacation for relaxation as the last few months have been… well, manic, to say the least. So, I had plenty of time to think, and I got to thinking about the effect that being offline had on how I thought and acted while we were away.

A few words come to mind:

  1. Old-school!
  2. Refreshing
  3. Disconnected

Resourcefulness

Yu know how you don’t appreciate a good thing until it’s gone? As I rapidly discovered while staying in a villa with no Internet access on the Amalfi Coast (it’s a tough life, I know), I use the Internet for a lot. A lot. No Internet meant no Google Maps; no Trip Advisor; no online bus schedule; no Google searches; nothing.

Was this tough? Absolutely not – it’s not that long since we didn’t have any of these things. However, it did make me reflect on just how much we use the Internet for nowadays. We had to search out real maps (you know, the ones “old people” use) and ask around for recommendations from local people. We had to use a phrasebook instead of Google Translate.

Again, I’m not crying “boo freakin’ hoo” here, but every time I take an offline vacation I find that the Internet had filled more and more functions for me, and I find that fascinating.

Refreshing

The view from Ravello, on the Amalfi Coast

The last six months have been, in a word, exhausting. We bought a house, renovated it, got married, and I was working long hours in the office. With everything that was going on, I found the opportunity to go completely offline reinvigorating.

Going from 300+ emails a day to none; waking up in the morning and not checking Twitter and Facebook; and not feeling like I should be Twitpic-ing photos of the sunset on the coast was completely refreshing. I highly recommend everyone unplug occasionally and just unwind.

Disconnected

Setting aside the hugely positive aspects of being offline, I did feel disconnected. I wondered what was going on with my friends. I wondered what was going on with my family. I wondered what was going on at the office. Not being able to reach out and connect with people whenever I felt like it was strange. And, yes, I did often think “I should totally post this photo” before realizing I couldn’t. It was unsettling at first, but the feeling passed.

Still, social networks are all about connecting with other people. I did miss those connections.

Looking ahead

The last two weeks were absolutely blissful and we couldn’t have had a better honeymoon. With that said, I return from it reinvigorated and re-energized, and I look forward to diving back into the things and relationships that matter to me – friends, family and colleagues – with more energy than ever before!

Criticism is Good

Yesterday I published a post (ok, fine, a rant) about people who sling unconstructive criticism at others and the effect it has.

Several people seemed to take that to mean that I think all criticism is bad, or that we should avoid commenting on other posts. That’s my fault – I buried this line way within the post (as, per the previous paragraph, I was ranting):

“As I’ve said before, criticism can be good. For that to be the case, it needs to be informed and it needs to be constructive.”

My concern is that there’s a big difference between these two statements:

“‘Company X’ did this. I don’t think that was the best move – I might have considered [change A], [change B] or [change C] to make [aspects D, E and F] better.”

“‘Company X’ did this. What a dumb move – who in their right minds would do that? Fail.”

One is constructive; one is unhelpful. One offers useful suggestions; the other tears the organization down. One builds; the other tears down. One makes you look smart and helpful; the other does the opposite.

Happily, the people who read my post and took that meaning from it (again, my bad) chose to do so in a constructive way and made some constructive points in return. For that, I thank you.

Criticism is good. Most people don’t receive enough feedback — the kind that builds and helps them to be better, that is, not the kind that makes an example of them. I know I always strive to receive more, as I know there’s a lot to improve. We just need to get better at both providing and receiving it. The aim of the last post was to let those who aim to knock others down rather than build them up know that that’s not part of the equation.

Make sense?

#thatisall