When I was a 12-year-old girl, I loved baking cookies. It was fun. I would have a friend over on a Saturday afternoon; we would bake and then snack on the cookies. I didn’t know at the time, but I discovered recently, as a mom and engineer, that baking a cake has a lot of skills in common with basic engineering projects.
This past weekend my daughter had one of her friends over. They both love to bake and decorate cupcakes, so I expected they’d be in my kitchen creating something. I didn’t know they were going to engineer such an unusual product – a swimming pigs cake!
Here are some of the engineering skills the two girls used over the course of the afternoon.
So you are not the CEO, not even the manager, but you can hone your leadership skills and start behaving like a leader no matter what you do or what level you are in the company. The HBR article “Act like a Leader before You Are One,” author Amy Gallo outlines several strategies to start acting like a leader.
I have been employing a few of these over the past few years. Here are the ones I know work.
- Knock your responsibilities out of the park
This one is a given. You have to be a rock star in your current job. Which means you have to pick jobs and assignments where there are meaty project you are passionate about. Make sure they are challenging enough to keep you engaged and that there are clear key performance indicators, so it’s obvious when you have nailed it. Or hopefully over-nailed it. And don’t be shy about letting others know what you have done. A great way to do this is to send a thank you to the people you worked with on the project thanking them for making the project successful. Build visibility and good will at the same time.
If your job is social media or working on a hot project or a project with executive visibility (or in my case, both), you are plugged in a lot – maybe even while brushing your teeth at night, flipping through your streams of communications. If you volunteer in the evenings or have kids on sports teams, you are plugged there too. It’s the only way you can keep all of that going. It’s modern life. Always being plugged in is how we communicate and stay in touch.
I am fortunate enough to work at a company that provides employees an amazing benefit – a two-month employee sabbatical every seven years. I took my second sabbatical this summer and it was great! It was great because I made some tough decisions on my plugged-in-ness. Although my job was going awesome and I was super motivated by my work, I did a full hand-off of all of my activities (and even used it as an opportunity to ditch some things that really weren’t high value). I handed off my duties at the non-profit and let everyone else who depends on me know I was going to be gone and truly not available. And I have to admit, I didn’t do all of the pre-unplugging planning that Baratunde Thurston did, as he documents in his article on unplugging, “Baratunde Thurston Leaves the Internet.” In fact, I just kind of told a few people, set out of office on my laptop, and walked out the door.
I didn’t even realize it. In our modern world, it just creeps up on you, you know. I’m talking about busy-ness. Before you know it, you are taking on more juicy projects on top of your already full workload, signing your kids up for more and more activities, volunteering at school and in the community, pledging to cook healthy meals and exercise, and on and on. Then you have to make it all work. You have the entire day planned completely back to back. You have to make cuts. Drive time between events starts to seem frivolous, so you snip and cut to make everything fit into the day. And things like getting your hair cut is pretty low on the list. But you resolve to yourself that that’s the way it is.
Several months ago, I had to travel for work. My hair was a wreck, so I squeezed in getting my haircut during the day. The appointment was going to be tight, but I was pretty sure I could drive to downtown Portland and get back to my office for a meeting right after. In reality, the drive and the appointment both took longer than I thought they would. It’s a good thing I have a car with some guts! I broke out of the downtown traffic and the road opened up. I hit the pedal and I was going 45 MPH…55 MPH…65 MPH… I would make it back to my meeting on time, with good hair. Hooray!
Working in social media really puts you are out there. People you don’t know or ones haven’t met face to face can easily draw some assumptions about you, socially speaking, by doing a quick scan of your Twitter feed or checking out your Klout score. I learned this the hard way.
I had a colleague tell me he didn’t think I could lead a social media project because he had checked my Twitter feed and basically I was irrelevant. Ouch. But I respect this person. And while the criticism was harsh, there was truth within it. I asked myself whether I was I truly irrelevant (i.e., not adding value). Or was I not doing a good job communicating the value of what I do?
Originally posted August 9, 2012 on Women’s Center for Leadership
I was impressed by the determination and focus of the US and Canadian women’s teams in the Olympic Women Soccer Semi-finals earlier this week.
What made the biggest impression on me when I watched the game was the display of resiliency on both teams throughout the entire game – after every set-back, injury, questionable call, and penalty kicks. The teams rallied on. These female athletes exemplify resiliency – and it has stuck with me over the past two days.
We have all had career setbacks: projects canceled, employees leave, funding dries up, and on and on. We all have had to adapt and rally.
Originally posted June 5, 2012 on Women’s Center for Leadership
Recently, the 2012 Fortune 500 list was released. When I first saw the list I had no idea that there were a record number of female executives, until I saw in a blog that detailed, “The 2012 ranking of the 500 largest corporations in the United States includes a record 18 firms helmed by female CEOs, up from 12 companies in 2011. The previous record for women-led companies in the Fortune 500 was set in 2009, and included 15 firms run by female executives. Just seven Fortune 500 companies had female CEOs in 2002 and 2003.”
There are 2.5x more female CEOs than there were 10 years ago. So what advice do these accomplished 18 women have to share? In Career advice from Fortune 500’s women CEOs, KeyCorp CEO Beth Mooney advises, “If somebody hands you a torch, what do you do with it? And I think the answer is easy. You light the way for others to follow.”