Career | The Brainzooming Group - Part 5 – page 5
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Every year at this time, I’ve published a post recounting new (and reconfirmed) lessons from the past year. It is a way to mark the anniversary of another year away from living the corporate life in a Fortune 500 company.

I tried stopping last year, but had requests to keep going the annual article going.  This year, however, I think is going to be the last one.  I’ve been realizing how much I’ve changed since living the corporate life full time. My frame of reference for recognizing new lessons isn’t the same as it used to be.

25 Lessons Learned (or Reconfirmed) in Year Six Away from Corporate Life

six-years

For at least one more time though, here are my twenty-five lessons learned (or re-confirmed) in the year six away from corporate life:

  1. You can afford to take your eyes off of some balls, but needing to take your eye off the business development ball is killer.
  2. Not all DIY initiatives make sense. I’ve learned a lot about using Hubspot but feel like I’m barely scratching the surface and not getting far enough, fast enough.
  3. There are some things you do even if they make absolutely no sense.
  4. Going to confession once a week can have an incredible impact on your life.
  5. Even when they don’t get used as much, those old event planning muscles get right back into shape – even when you’re doing it from home and not in Las Vegas.
  6. Taking more speaking risks always seems to lead to rewarding experiences.
  7. You can tell how good a conference is by how many blog posts it inspires on the way home.
  8. It’s great to have a navy suit in the closet.
  9. Just as you accumulate stuff around the office you think you’ll use but never do, you also accumulate prospects that talk about wanting to work with you but never do. I need to clean out both more frequently than I have been.
  10. God will withhold what you think you need right when you don’t really need it as a distraction.
  11. You’ll never be able to harvest when you need to harvest if you haven’t planted a lot more seeds when it didn’t seem you needed to plant seeds.
  12. If a situation doesn’t look like it’s going to provide sufficient value, don’t hesitate to re-frame it to create a more equitable value distribution between your brand and others.
  13. It’s not always easy to know when patience has outlived its usefulness, and the time to definitely act has arrived.
  14. Just because every situation seems like it is different from every other situation doesn’t mean it really is.
  15. Judging whether you are making progress can be way more abstract than you would think it ever should be.
  16. The mind games you play on yourself can go from helpful to harmful with little notice.
  17. Some people will simply never speak up no matter what.
  18. The little, mundane graces God is willing to give you are almost more incredible than the big ones.
  19. In this day and age, attention seems to be less like a dimmer switch and more like an on-off switch.
  20. Starting over seems like an attractive option, but it’s scary. More power to those that are able to do it successfully.
  21. Every time I see a picture of the Director of Enthusiasm, it makes me stop in my tracks.
  22. Trying, even trying earnestly, only goes so far.
  23. You can adapt yourself so far you don’t even recognize yourself anymore.
  24. This has been a year of multiple homecomings, although none were the formal kind of homecomings that happen at football games. I like the surprising, informal ones a lot more.
  25. A lot changes at your old corporate home, but a lot seems to stay the same.

Mike Brown

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(This is another in a week-long series on forming oneself as a Catholic business person.)

While still in the Fortune 500 world, we were continuing to downsize. The word came down during one round of layoffs to include a specific individual working for me. My perception was that cost-cutting wasn’t the primary reason for including this person on the list for layoff. I still believe this layoff was motivated by a senior leader’s sense of revenge; he wanted to “get” someone new to the corporation that had struggled to fit in, ruffling many feathers along the way. Having personally experienced the ruffling and other challenging behaviors, I understood why people were pissed and would want the individual gone.

Yet, having worked with the individual closely in the previous year, I witnessed the most dramatic turnaround in personal leadership I had ever seen in a co-worker. This person made big changes, working to take a different, more productive approach to co-worker and executive interactions.

A Personal Leadership Test

Based on the personal leadership turnaround, I made the case several times for a demotion and not a termination. The answer was, “No.” I suggested other alternatives. Our HR rep told me, however, it was a lost cause. The senior executive running things wanted this person out of the organization.

During the weeks leading up to the mass layoff date, I worried and agonized. This person had become a friend I had invested time and energy helping to develop. Carrying out layoffs always bothered me; it was especially troubling in this case. Working out one evening, my fretting and negative self-talk escalated. What happened next is as clear as if it happened yesterday. In the middle of ab exercises, I worried about not having the talents and personal leadership wherewithal to terminate this person. While thinking about what was ahead, I heard a voice in my mind that wasn’t my own. It carried a message I would never consider: “The talents aren’t yours. They’re mine. Quit doubting them.”

I looked around, realizing the message hadn’t been uttered by someone near me. The message had been delivered to me personally and internally. It was completely clear to me God was sending this message. Who else could claim ownership of the talents I completely doubted in myself? Wondering whether this was simply self-talk, it was clear this message about talents was something I would never consider. It was a message that had originated externally to get me on the right track.

st-anthony2

This was the first time I remember, after many years of trying to cultivate a more rigorous prayer life, hearing a message from God directly.

It’s reassuring, however, that it wasn’t the last message. It’s not as if these messages are frequent, but they have happened again at very important times. I test them on whether they are things I want or already think. If so, I dismiss them as my own thinking. When they are messages clearly beyond me, I pay attention and look for external confirmation.

What types of confirmation?

In the case of the layoff, the night before it happened, I received a mysterious, supportive email in the middle of the night from someone who checked out as a real person I didn’t know. Additionally, the person I had to terminate handled it in the most positive, professional way I could EVER imagine. These external signals confirmed for me this message originated from God, even though I still have no absolute proof of that to this day.

Listening for Answers

People who know me as fact-based and logic-oriented will likely struggle to understand this post. Trust me, though. The answers are out there. And if you’re open to listening everywhere, God is more than willing to share the answers you need. – Mike Brown

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Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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From September 22nd to 27th, Pope Francis will be visiting the United States. Based on his office, his personal popularity, and the media’s fascination with spinning the free-speaking Pope’s comments to seemingly counter orthodox Catholic teachings, expect mega-news coverage during Pope Francis’ visit.

I don’t often directly write about my Catholic faith here. I have, however, introduced spirituality as an occasional theme. Anything about faith I try to link to strategy, creativity, and innovation, all pillar topics for our work and the blog. These connections aren’t difficult to make, having discovered over the past decade that my Catholic faith positively and meaningfully influences every aspect of how I think and what I do, even in business.

Since Pope Francis’ US visit will place Catholicism at the top of the news this week, we’ll use this opportunity to share how faith can underpin and inform one’s life as a Catholic business person. I’ll share real-life examples that touch on strategy, creativity, innovation, and EVEN social media and content marketing.

Forming a Catholic Business Person through Daily Mass

Being a Catholic business person doesn’t happen by accident.

For me, the foundation of growing and forming myself as a Catholic business person starts with attending a Catholic mass daily. In a typical week, I attend mass all seven days; my regular time at the local parish is 6:30 a.m. on workdays. I have worked up to this faith commitment starting back in November, 1998.

All this time spent in church during the heart of my business career has profoundly shaped my perspective and learning. In what ways, you might ask?

For me, attending mass daily . . .

1. Provides a definitive start each day

Making the shift from the structure a corporate job offers to entrepreneurship, it would have been easy to sleep in ANY DAY without an early meeting. That is rarely an option, however, when I want to be at 6:30 a.m. mass. Having a daily, very early commitment is a big positive since it creates the discipline to start the day early and in a positive way.

2. Creates external accountability

Headlines are full of business people who go astray ethically, morally, legally, and multiple other ways. I completely understand how this happens. There are many temptations out there to cut corners, take the easy but questionable way, or engage in behaviors that seem okay in secret but are clearly not okay when exposed in the light of day. Having daily accountability to God, and even to other people attending mass, continually grounds me in what is moral and what isn’t. And when I slip, as we ALL do, the sacrament of penance is even available daily in one church I attend; this helps get back on the right path immediately and receive grace to improve in the future.

3. Provides the opportunity to engage with people daily

It’s easy to become a recluse if you aren’t in a traditional business office environment. Daily mass creates engagement with other people first thing. And beyond people I know locally through daily mass, seeking out a church whenever traveling creates opportunities to meet people all over the country. In the cities where I travel and attend mass regularly, wonderful people have opened themselves to welcome me into their communities, even if I’m only there a few times.

4. Grounds me in sacrifice and humility

Fifth-Station

Going before Christ in mass daily creates a unique opportunity to LISTEN to God’s word and receive blessings through his real presence there. This creates humility, access to supernatural wisdom, and a profound sense of what is important and what isn’t in this life . . . and beyond. There’s an old story about how if you have a variety of rocks to fit into a container, the only way to get them all in the container is if the biggest rock is placed there first; then all the pebbles fit around it. Daily mass is for me the biggest and first rock every day. This creates focus to better handle times when things appear to not be going well.

5. Creates a visible demonstration of my Christianity

There’s a popular rhetorical question about whether there would be enough evidence to convict you of being a Christian if being a Christian were illegal. For me, being public about my commitment to attend daily mass is one piece of evidence. It also creates daily sacrifices in my life through giving up sleep, time, and freedom – all to be with Christ in the mass.

6. Offers a quiet, predictable time daily to reflect

We can all use more quiet in our lives. The opportunity for silence both before and after mass creates quiet time every day for prayer, reflection, and listening to what God is trying to say. This opportunity is coupled with the comforting predictability of mass. When life seems chaotic and random, there’s tremendous value in participating in a service that’s much the same every day. Even the Bible readings cycle through a structure that immerses attendees in the same readings annually or biennially (more on that later this week).

7. Puts everything in priority

These points simply scratch the surface on why I attend mass daily. The benefits are genuinely incalculable and eternal. There is no way to articulate them all. That’s why when people ask me about attending mass daily, I simply tell them it’s the most important thing I do every day! – Mike Brown

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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If you had the opportunity to spend an entire week dedicated to getting smarter, what would your professional growth plan be?

Thinking about that question relative to improving and growing my talents, capabilities, and knowledge prompted this list of eleven professional growth plan possibilities for a week dedicated to getting smarter. The idea would be to do JUST ONE of these activities for an entire week to boost your professional growth.

11 Ideas for a Dedicated Professional Growth Plan

How might I spend a dedicated week getting smarter?

University_of-U

The whole week’s professional growth plan could be dedicated to:

  1. Participating in days full of multiple webinars as a way to create a personal virtual conference program
  2. Reading books, trying to get through as many books focused on professional growth as possible (Okay maybe I would just SKIM books)
  3. Interviewing smart business people around the world for future blog posts
  4. Immersing myself in one application, especially to get back up to speed on video production
  5. Learning (via videos and articles) and implementing (via prioritizing and DOING THEM) all the things we need to implement for the website
  6. Visiting both new (to me) and favorite museums around the city and regional area
  7. Taking professional mini-courses and seminars each day at a community college
  8. Attending a lunch seminar every day, with the added benefit of getting away from the office and talking with a variety of new people
  9. Reading all the unread magazines in the office and writing a two-sentence learning recap from each of them
  10. Scheduling each day full of in-person meetings with smart, intriguing people around the city (and interviewing them for future blog posts)
  11. Reading every eBook I can download (or that I have already downloaded and never read) and doing the two-sentence learning recap for each of them

There are other ideas that could be part of a professional growth plan, but these make the top of the list for ones I could see working well with my learning style.

The BIG question is, however, why don’t I pick one idea and one dedicated week (or heck, even one dedicated DAY), and just get on with getting smarter?

How about you? Are you ready to dive in deep for a week of dedicated learning? – Mike Brown

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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How important is your job description? And is it more important BEFORE you take a new job than after you start?

I was working with a senior executive on a career strategy change. After an initial interview with a potential employer, the executive had perceptions about the new job’s responsibilities, sphere of influence, and reporting relationships to the CEO and the department team.

The perceptions formed via conversations; nothing was in writing. In a subsequent conversation, however, the CEO unveiled other organizational and position changes underway. Following this second conversation, the new job’s responsibilities and reporting relationships seemed different than originally portrayed – different enough, in fact, to make the new position unattractive.

Question-Marks

How Important Is a Job Description to Your Career Change Strategy?

At that point the question was whether the next move should involve demanding a written job description before confirming acceptance of the new position. The thinking was that forcing the CEO’s hand about a job description would clear up all questions.

Discussing the concerns, it was clear there were two BIG factors necessary for success up in the air. Each issue involved a reporting relationship:

  • Did the new position report to the CEO or not?
  • Would a key supporting capability within the organization report up through the new position or not?

Answers to these two questions were sufficient to know whether the new position could create the type of impact the CEO SAID he wanted it to have.

While a written job description would typically address these questions, it wouldn’t be a guarantee of the new job being exactly as promised. That understanding would come from having a strong sense the CEO does what he says. If there was an underlying uncertainty about whether the CEO says one thing to please someone yet actually do something else, a job description wasn’t going to address that.

The best strategy was having another conversation with the CEO about the two open questions. This strategy positioned the job seeker as a legitimate senior level executive that didn’t need everything spelled out to make a decision.

The conversation answered the two questions. Yes, the position definitely reported to the CEO, and the important function within the organization would report to the new position.

Questions answered and the best career strategy change was decided, all without a written job description.

The conversation, however, provided greater assurance the CEO will follow through on what he says. And at a senior level such as this, knowing you can trust someone is typically more important than spelling out a bunch of job duties in a job description! – Mike Brown

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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It used to be when a lot of us were kids that soap could just show and be soap, and everybody was happy.

Soap was in a bar, and you used it (if you were particularly hygienic) or were MADE to use it (if you weren’t particularly hygienic) to wash your hands and your body.

Times have changed.

Now soap shows up and has to do lots of things. What used to be “soap” now has to be a “Foaming Antimicrobial Handwash with Moisturizers” if it expects to get the job done.

The_New-Soap

That is a big career change strategy for soap.

The thing is, it’s the same career change strategy a lot of more experienced people need to make, too.

It used to be you could show up and do one simple thing . . . and that was enough.

Those days are gone, though.

It doesn’t matter how successful you’ve been or how much experience you have at that one simple thing.

One simple thing isn’t cutting it anymore.

You have to figure out all the other things you can lay claim to in your job and your career. You have to figure out what YOUR version of “Foaming Antimicrobial Handwash with Moisturizers” is going to be.

It may take going to school on people half your age to see what they’re bringing to the workplace now in the way of talents and skills. Then you have to go out and hone what you do to be just as good as they are at all those weird sounding new things.

Because when you couple all those weird sounding new things with all your experience AND an openness to change . . . THEN you have a career change strategy.

Get going! – Mike Brown

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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We all encounter strategic bumps in the road in both our business and in our personal lives. To help you address the problem solving associated with some of the more common bumps in the road you may face on a daily basis, here are twenty-five articles to help you devise your plan of attack.

25 Articles on Problem Solving and Handling Bumps in the Road

Bump-Bump

Problem Solving Exercises

Brand Challenges and Turnarounds

Innovation and Change Challenges

Getting Things Done

Personal Bumps in the Road

Career Challenges

 

10 Keys to Engaging Stakeholders to Create Improved Results

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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