The Unexpected Owl

My morning workday routine had just been capsized: My car had to go into the shop and I had to go with it.

I got there before they opened. I told myself it was better this way; first in means getting out that much sooner (theoretically).

While I waited, I was busy logging into work, answering emails, digging through all the supplies I’d brought in my bag, and basically doing everything that was the opposite of the mindfulness we hear so much about these days.

And that’s when I saw the owl.


The unexpected owl.

I don’t know how long he’d been sitting there. I certainly hadn’t been thinking I’d see an owl today. The area I was in wasn’t accustomed to owls at all.

Yet he, primed to be aware of everything around him, probably saw me drive up from quite a distance away. And just to anthropomorphize for a bit, he could well have wondered what fools these human mortals be, because…

Here was an opportunity to fully experience a moment and I was missing it.

I got out of the car. The owner and one of the mechanics drove up and also got out of their cars. And from a respectful distance, we all fawned over this owl, who just sat there being an owl the whole time.

It made an otherwise ordinary morning a magical morning. And I wonder: How many things have I missed because I’m plugged into my routine?


The full scene. I swear he posed for each of us, too.

What’s made you stop lately and just enjoy the moment?


Originally published on LinkedIn.

Job Seekers: A Right Way to Ask For Help

There are loads of wrong ways people have asked for help in their job search.

From “Can you send my resume to all the recruiters you know?” to the outright “Get me a job!” demand, when you’re desperately looking, you don’t want to wind up further from your goal because you’re not respecting the other person’s time (or interest).

So while I’m not saying the approach below is one-size-fits-all, it is one that impressed me enough to make me want to help.

I received this message on LinkedIn*:

Hi Everyone,

Thought I would send a brief message via LinkedIn to my favorite Twitter network. I just wanted to let you know that the company I have worked with decided to move to another state quite suddenly. To make a long story short, my state’s team was laid off and so I am on the look for a new opportunity, preferably in the same area. I am also open to working remotely, even if it’s part time. If it’s the right company I would also consider relocating. I just wanted to ask if you could keep a look out for any opportunities/positions that involve social media, marketing, entry level sales and/or brand management. I know that’s a ton of stuff but just thought I would get the ball rolling since I didn’t expect to be out of work.

Please don’t feel pressured at all.  I just wanted to connect and start exploring my options. You are all a great part of my day and I always appreciate the daily motivation!

If you want to email me or need anything like a resume just let me know. Thanks and see you on Twitter.

What’s so great about this message:

  • The job seeker sent this message to a group of us, but it was very easy to see it was a SMALL group, which still kept it personal.
  • All of us in this group are persons she’s interacted with before and on a consistent basis, not just suddenly after a long absence.
  • As a recipient in this group message, I appreciated that I knew everyone else (this isn’t a requirement, but a very nice-to-have).
  • The job seeker never once asks us to get her a job. Instead, she tells us what she’s looking for and where, and leaves the choice entirely up to us.
  • The message itself is engaging and friendly, and talks to us like we’re all people. You’d be surprised at how many such messages don’t.

Your takeaway:

Whether you send your job search message to a small group or one person at a time, keeping it light, keeping it relevant, and establishing some kind of common ground beforehand can positively influence someone toward helping you.

How do you recommend job seekers get the word out?

*Used with permission from the job seeker and scrubbed of identifying details.

Pic found here.

My Very First, No Mistaking It, I’m Into It Now BzzAgent Encounter

I did it. In a sudden decision made of equal parts impulse, calculation, and “Hey, what the Sam Hill have I been missing out on all this time?” I signed up to be a BzzAgent.

As a newbie, I haven’t been part of campaigns yet, but I received the below magnet. I’m eager to see what’s next! Plus, as a long-time marketer, I am fascinated by their methodology…


The star is courtesy of Horicon from their Jersey Music Street Festival (and a tin of Emergency Googly Eyes, which I use everywhere because it’s always an emergency).

What Yammer Did For Our Company (So Far)


We have to find our pot o’gold where we may! Credit: Truelight | Thinkstock

(This post was originally published on the AvePoint Community blog. Super-awesome people with a super-awesome org!)

“We’re on Facebook! …but we kinda sorta don’t know what to do next.”

Those weren’t the exact words that faced me when I arrived at my new job at the Crisis Prevention Institute in 2011, but it was the scene that greeted me online.

As with a lot of companies, we had an online presence because everybody had an online presence. What we needed to do next was show – not tell! – that there were people behind the corporate logo. And that, of course, was why I was there as a social media specialist and community manager.

We knew our products and philosophy helped tons of people every day, but of course we’d say that. We had to establish ourselves as authentic and real, providing Stuff and Things that were viable, and even better, find advocates to spread our story simply because they trusted and believed in who we were and what we had to offer.

If this isn’t trust, I don’t know what is. Credit: Chris Rogers | Thinkstock

More off than on(line)

Because social media as a whole was so new to my company, I had work to do on the inside, too. We’re a very person-centered company, which means everything from customers getting a real person on the phone by the second ring to having one of our staff trainers come to your facility no matter where you are in the country. Globally, too!

This is not something we intend to change, so I had to show that social media was a supplement, not a replacement, to all this awesome hands-on, personal collaboration.

What could we do with social that would help us serve our customers better? What would help us internally as well?

Thus came collaboration tech

It started with lassoing the unwieldy communication beast. Even in the most family-feeling organization, communication can break down among departments, within departments, across a cube hallway, and among teammates. We get into silos. We get into ruts. And if you don’t know what awesome product is being developed down the hall until it’s ready to ship, how are you going to help deliver it to your customers in the best possible way?

And so I looked into Yammer.

We’re a Microsoft shop, so we already had Yammer just waiting for us to begin using. We started using it…slowly. Then I had the opportunity to go to SharePoint Conference 2014 and become a Yammer Power User. I came home loaded with strategies to mold and shape our user experience.

This isn’t me, but I was at LEAST this excited. Credit: SerrNovik | Thinkstock

And thus came challenges

SharePoint, Outlook, Lync…with the addition of Yammer, there was an underlying (and occasionally vocal) feeling of, “Not another IT thing!”

How could I show, not tell, my coworkers that Yammer was worth a try? That it was a fluid, engaging way to keep us connected no matter where we were – not just adding another thing to the checklist when you start up your computer?

The same way I do it out in the public social media world.

It isn’t about “build it, and they will come.”  It’s about presenting a tool that makes sense for this particular community – this culture. It’s about providing use case scenarios and making it okay if, sometimes, Yammer isn’t the best way to get something done – yet.

That’s an important distinction, wrapped up with horses being led to water and herding cats: Yammer has to make sense for someone to use it, whether on an individual or department level. Some departments will avidly toss up a Group and use it for all their communications. Smaller teams may come to Yammer solely when they have a project.

The examples go on, but the point remains the same: Yammer is a tool for you to use, not a tool trying to use you.

(It’s also about getting early adopters and keeping the engagement going, but I could devote a whole blog post to that.)

This somber picture represents why communities aren’t about “build it, and they will come.” I loved that movie, though. Credit: Danny Hooks | Thinkstock

So what about the rewards of collaboration tech?

Now, we have every employee on the corporate Yammer site. New employees get to ease into our culture and see what’s going on in different departments. People use Yammer in many different ways – from single to evergreen team projects, to posting meeting minutes, to talking about photography and hiking.

By showing the softer side of our own people, I feel it helps us collaborate on the more complicated Stuff and Things that inevitably come up.  We also have a growing customer base using an external Yammer network I set up. It’s become a perk of being one of our customers!

We’re in soft launch phase right now, and have many thousands of customers to go, but we’re enjoying daily engagement with questions and answers flying about, hobbies being posted, and again, a chance to show that softer side of us when employees pop over and join in the conversation.

This isn’t us either because I’m all about protecting the innocent, but don’t these people look happy? This is what an online community can feel like when things are going well. Credit: monkeybusinessimages | Thinkstock

We train on very serious topics, but we’re also all people behind the presentations and workbooks. In the process, we have all sorts of opportunities to deliver microlearning to our customers in a platform they are comfortable using.

With the online world being 24/7, it’s more than a virtual guarantee that someone will be on the other side of your monitor even when the office is closed.

For an active customer community, this is a boon when you’re the Community Manager finally unplugging for the day; I can rest assured that questions posted at all hours will still get answered at all hours.

There are challenges around this, of course. Is the office ever truly closed? With the now near-mythical work-life balance on its final tour, let alone all the social media platforms just waiting for you to touchscreen your way in, I have to guard against the “Let me just check <insert tool of choice> for a second” so I can detox, unwind, and recharge.

Fortunately, a well-groomed community hive mind will understand that not everybody will be around all of the time, but somebody will be around every time.

And now we’ve reached the perennial advice portion of our time here

I will forever be grateful to the boss who told me, “It’s okay to fail.”

It’s not something you tend to hear a lot, especially when you just got handed your pack of goals for the year. It also wasn’t something I heard during my first several years in the workforce.

In fact, I remember being so uncomfortable if something went wrong that I’d find whatever excuses I could to deflect attention away from it.

I wasn’t taking ownership. But I also wasn’t realizing that not meeting a goal didn’t mean that I was somehow less of a person or even that my job was in jeopardy. Instead, it meant that there was something to learn.

And that was the key point right there: It may be an old adage, but as long as you learn something from whatever happens, you’re still coming out ahead.

Our Yammer implementation was not necessarily smooth. No. See above about horses and cats. But we worked through setbacks and found a formula that made sense for us, a combination of strong use-case scenarios, early (and eager) adopters, and a launch party (with snacks).

I couldn’t let this post go without a picture of an actual horse and cat. Thinkstock has everything. Credit: Sharon Morris | Thinkstock

Now, it’s as if Yammer had always been here, and we’re learning together how to make it work for us. And that’s how it should be!

How have you herded your cats and watered your horses to get your online communities up, running, and successful?

“I Didn’t Read the Article, But…”

badmanproduction | Thinkstock

badmanproduction | Thinkstock

There goes another one.

You see them all the time. Outraged opinions spewed all over social media, based on the headline only. Most don’t bother to open with the “I didn’t read this” line, but you can kind of always tell.

I’ve run across this in the company Facebook pages I handle, though fortunately not to the pile-on extent that other pages have, such as Jezebel and the ubiquitous George Takei. Of course, not all such comments are negative, but there’s a reason why there’s a brisk business in the “I’m just here for the comments” memes.

These comments can be entertaining, but if you’re the one trying to get a point across, frustrating, too. Especially when the outrage, condescension, and inevitable ad hominem attacks could so easily have never happened at all, had the person taken just a second to, you know, read beyond the headline.

As Heather Vaughn says, “It goes back to how the way you behave on Facebook (or whatever social platform you’re on) should be no different than how you interact in the real world: Would you jump into a conversation without at least SOME context?”

So I’m curious: What makes someone (you, me, any someone) feel qualified to comment without actually clicking the clickbait?

Meme found here. I love Gene Wilder.

The Most Valuable Work Skill You Need in 2015

DragonImages | Thinkstock

DragonImages | Thinkstock

Innovative. Empathetic. Creative. Personable.

Almost any career-related infographic or article today includes these and other so-called soft skill traits you desperately need for 2015’s dynamic workplace.

I’m not saying they’re wrong; far from it! And I certainly don’t want to add more to your already-overloaded checklist.

But there’s one trait that tends to go missing, whether you’re in a client-facing position or work solely with internal folks.

And that’s accountability.

What exactly does accountability in the workplace mean?

Showing up for work each day and on time is part of it, yes. But the concept goes far beyond that.

Here are a few examples from TimeWellScheduled:

  • Completing any tasks that have been assigned to you
  • Being responsible for the specific duties that go along with your job
  • Being consistent in doing the right thing in all aspects pertaining to your job
  • Working together towards a common goal for the business

Here’s one I’d add:

  • Recognizing that sometimes, you have to be the one to step up and get things done, even if it’s not in your job description.

And none of this might be intuitive, because…

yuriyzhuravov | Thinkstock

yuriyzhuravov | Thinkstock

Accountability isn’t a natural state to be

I will forever be grateful to the boss that told me, “Don’t be afraid to fail.”

It’s not something you tend to hear a lot, especially when you’re handed your pack of goals for the year. It also wasn’t something I heard, ever, during my first couple years in the workforce.

What did seem to come easily was feeling uncomfortable when something went wrong, and finding what seemed to me to be very valid reasons for why.

Yet those very valid reasons weren’t doing me any favors.

Why? Because what it comes down to is ownership. I wasn’t owning my decisions. I needed that realization that it’s okay to make mistakes, as long as you a) learn from them, and b) do something about them.

If you don’t have a sense of ownership yet, or don’t think you can get it, keep reading.

alphaspirit | Thinkstock

alphaspirit | Thinkstock

Three ways to get accountability

1. Drop “somebody should” from your vocabulary.

Here’s what I mean: I worked with someone who was great at coming up with ideas and overflowed with enthusiasm for them. Every chance meeting turned into an idea brainstorm. You really believed in this woman’s passion and drive and couldn’t wait to hear what she’d come up with next.

Yet one thing she didn’t excel at was the doing part—getting all these ideas done—even when they fell within her own job description.

The key phrase she uttered over and over again? “Somebody should.”

“I just thought of Idea X to help us promote Campaign Y! Somebody should do A and B to make this happen.”

By the end of the year, she had a whole list of great ideas she’d come up with, but couldn’t mark any of them as complete. That’s not a good legacy to look back on.

>>What you can do instead: If you’re an idea person, keep the ideas coming—but get selective. Pick out the top three ideas you’d like to focus on for the year. You can add or subtract ideas; you know your own workload best.

Then really look into what it will take to make your ideas come alive. Is this something you can do on your own? Do you need a team? What other duties or projects may be impacted?

The point is to set clear priorities so you aren’t always moving on to the next idea before the first one is even fully hatched, and so you don’t risk letting important tasks drop.

2. Stop the excuses.

It can be tempting to deflect the “What went wrong?” and “How did this happen?” questions with all the great reasons you can find. And these reasons may be valid ones, including things that were out of your control, and things that could happen to anybody.

The thing is, what people want to see is how you handle it if something goes wrong. They want to hear what you’re going to do to fix the problem, or better yet, see what you’ve already done. They may also may want to hear a sincere apology.

Fairly or not, without these factors in play, all they’re going to hear from you is a bunch of excuses. And down goes your credibility and their trust in you.

>>What you can do about it: Along with being responsible for getting things done, being accountable means learning to recognize early on when you might need help or when things aren’t going as planned. It all goes back to that point about ownership.

When you are able to take an more objective view, you can also start to look for solutions to help improve the process.

3. Realize it really is up to you, even when mistakes happen.

Being accountable and taking ownership of things may seem like daunting tasks, but when you break it all down into parts, you’ll find it’s way easier to manage, even when you run into problems.

>>How to break down the roadblock: Linda Galindo has a great set of four questions to ask yourself in her No Excuses: Being Accountable For Your Own Success article.

When something goes awry, ask: “What is the problem?” “What am I doing—or not doing—to contribute to the problem?” “What will I do differently to help solve the problem?” and “How will I be accountable for the result?”

Purestock | Thinkstock

Purestock | Thinkstock

Come on! Can this really work for me?

If you’re sitting there looking at this post and saying, “But taking up this level of accountability in my toxic, dog-eat-dog environment is opening myself to doom and dismay” (bonus points if you’re using these exact words), take just one more moment to consider this:

“You can create the type of environment you want to work in, but it starts with you,” says Robert D. Rettmann. “Saying otherwise is really not taking accountability for the part you might have played in helping to keep that toxic work culture alive.”

See what he did there? It’s a self-perpetuating cycle that starts and ends with you, your behavior, and how you approach things.

So take this with you into your next chapter: Once you’ve owned up to the role you played, and share that revelation with others, they too might find YOU as an inspiration.

How have you made yourself more accountable at work?

I owe the inspiration for this post to, which provides a wealth of instructor-led, technical and business training. Since they’re all about teaching essential skills and finding ways to help you improve yourself and become more successful in your career, this month’s campaign is to help you figure out what skills new and seasoned employees alike should sharpen for the workforce. Thanks, Bob Clary, for inviting me to participate! Here’s their blog:

Also read: Who Me? How to Build Accountability In the Workplace.

Why You Should Go To the Holiday Office Party

office holiday party

It’s that time of year again: The holiday office party. You’re already stuck with these people all day. Why should you give up your “you” time for mandatory fun?

Even if you truly enjoy being with your co-workers, you don’t always want to spend your off-the-clock time with them, too. But if you’re thinking of skipping the office or department party, take a moment to think of it this way:

This party can help you in your job and overall career. 

Having a more personal connection with your coworkers can enhance your professional relationships with them, and an office party is a great opportunity to get to know people in a more relaxed setting.

Not sure how? Consider these suggestions:

  • Go with a vision. I know. Just hear me out. Even if you can’t change anything else about the party, from having to go in the first place to having to do the planned activities, you can change one thing: Your attitude. If you set up the expectation for yourself that you’ll have a good time, or at least not a wholly unpleasant time, that puts some of the control of the situation back on you. With control, you get confidence, and that confidence will show on the outside.
  • Don’t just hang out in a corner with people you already know. It’s tempting. I do it myself. But this is a prime time to talk with someone you don’t know well or at all. You never know who may help you later, whether in this job or something else down the road. That said…
  • It’s okay to have a wingperson go around with you when approaching new-to-you people. You’ll be more relaxed and you’ll have someone else who can jump in to talk while you take a much-needed few moments.
  • Speaking of talking, have no idea what to say and hate small talk? Get the other person to talk instead. You don’t have to stick to work or holiday-related chat, either. This Master List of Icebreaker Questions by Liz Williams starts you off with 74 conversational ideas, including “Piece of art that moved you deeply?” and “What always makes you laugh?”
  • Don’t forget the bigwigs. Have 2 or 3 key influencers you want to connect with, but keep it casual: Get on their radar, don’t jam it.
  • Even if you know everyone and are completely comfortable, you can still use this time to brush up on your networking skills. Remember: At its most basic, networking is really just having a conversation.

Holiday parties can be a great opportunity to celebrate company milestones, boost morale, and do a little team-building before the new year starts. You might as well use the time to boost your own skills and connections, too.

What are your holiday office party dos and don’ts?

Adapted from this #careerchat session.

Pic from Ulrik Tofte / Thinkstock.


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