That Time We Said “Still”

Almost a decade ago, I worked in a very rigid, structured (slightly uptight) office. I say that with a lot of love (and PTSD). That job taught me more than I could have ever learned in university.

Structured organizations are interesting – you either love them or you hate them. I was too young to know one way or the other. I just knew that my job was stressful. There were multiple levels of approval for everything I wanted to do, regardless of how big or small. My team and I were once told that our ad, laid out on a black background, needed to be 25% more black. That was a head scratcher, and not the last time I would hear something like it.

Structure. Routine. People want what they want.

One Friday at this place, my friend M had to follow up with a customer. We had been working on a time sensitive project – maybe a product launch or a promotion – I don’t remember what exactly but we needed answers. After having left a voice mail and following up with an email, she found herself following up again a few days later. Something to the effect of:

“Hi buyer,

Pleasantries go here. Blah blah blah. I still haven’t heard back regarding the (project) we had discussed. Can you please let me know how you’d like to proceed?”

The email had barely left her outbox, when we got called into the manager’s office. We’re thinking, ok we need to tell him what plan B might be. A million thoughts went through your head when a manager asked to see you in their office at this place, one of which was, very often…am I losing my job today?

As we stood in the doorway of his office, email still on his desktop, he turned over and said “why would you say STILL in this email?”. Well, because we are, in fact, still waiting to hear back! And so began a 15 minute lecture about why “still” should have never been used.

M & I joked about it for years after. But fast forward a decade later, I get his point. It could have been made more clearly, or communicated differently. It could have been used as a teachable moment versus a moment of discipline. But I get it.

Here’s a little Seinfeld to help:

Did you say “Jerry I didn’t think you’d show” or “Jerry I didn’t think YOU’D show”

You see?

Same as “Hey there I’m still waiting (normal tone)” or, “I’m STILL waiting (frustrated tone)”. We already have a hard enough time dissecting verbal communication. Now eliminate tone from it completely, add in the receiving party’s emotions and state of mind that day, and you can see why someone might feel like their back is up against a wall.

I’ve been on the receiving end of this more times than I’m comfortable admitting. Sometimes people come across harsh, sometimes their intended harsh message isn’t exactly received. It’s like receiving a text message you’re not quite sure how to respond to. “Hey do you want to read this and tell me what you think?” How many of us have done that with messages that come through, trying to decipher a secret code.

Here’s the point.

You have to pick your words carefully. It sounds silly, but that’s the world we live in now. Less face to face, more finger to keyboard. I’ve said this to almost every team I’ve ever lead. Pick your words. If you’re heated, STEP AWAY FROM THE COMPUTER. Try to receive the message from the other person’s perspective and see if it feels like a punch in the gut.

I once sat through litigation, where the opposing side pulled out one of my emails from a couple of years prior and questioned me over my use of “grrrr”. I am not kidding. They had a separate argument prepared over the word “subjective”. Words are no longer JUST words.

Communication is an absolute art. Most of us can do better. You have to consciously work at it. Now, before I send an email, I tend to read it at least twice. If I’m frustrated or trying to get a point across, I might get a friend to give me some honest feedback. And, because I’ve lived through it, before pressing send, a little voice in my head asks if I think what I’m saying in an email would cause another “grrr” discussion with a lawyer.

Words are precious. Take a pause before you use them. I mean it. Even face to face, they can be twisted and your intentions can be misinterpreted. And, icing on this complicated cake, you cannot take your emails back. They’re there. In the abyss. Even if you delete it, delete the deleted, and restart your computer, they are out there. Someone is printing it, showing it to their boss, complaining to YOUR boss.

OR

They read it, they acknowledge your message, they appreciate how it was communicated, you guys get along and you live to see another inbox.

Your Career, and Your Gut.

It’s been some time since I’ve posted. Honestly, I have been less motivated, and more overwhelmed. I’m sure most of you feel the same way. There’s a lot happening, majority of which tends to feel out of our control. So, I’ve given myself permission to stand still, which in and of itself is anxiety inducing for me.

Me. When I force myself to stop.

Not doing much has left a lot of time for reflection for me. On my life, my actions, and my career. I’ve been blessed with career progression. But now, looking back, I can tell you that there have been a LOT of flops. I can’t say that I have regrets, because through those flops, I’ve made incredible connections.

I met my mentor (and friend) through one such flop. He believed in me from the moment I started working with him. Literally, by lunch that day, he just left me to do what I do. Although that gig was short lived, I’ve followed him for the remainder of my career. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. And in this case, what I gained far outweighed the challenges.

I could go on and on. If I look back at all of those “flops”, they all had one thing in common – I didn’t listen to my gut. I went through the interviews, I asked all the questions, and the answers I got all seemed to make sense. But I can remember very clearly, as I was signing contracts, something nagged at me, and I couldn’t figure out what. And within a month, I could see clearly why it wasn’t the right fit.

So why did I ignore my gut? I regularly found myself wondering if its my gut telling me something isn’t right, OR, am I just avoiding something that I know is going to be challenging, because it is new. I know true growth only comes when you really embrace the unknown – that awkward, uncomfortable feeling – and power through. So for me, in those instances, the lines blurred.

Can I say I regret them though? Not really. I would have saved myself a ton of stress, that’s for sure. But all of these made me better, they rounded me out professionally. In some cases, they gave me a huge boost of confidence. “if s/he can be an executive/ own a company/ launch a brand, then so can I!” Would I have learned the same things had I trusted my gut? I don’t know. It might have set me on a completely different path, but I believe, I would have ended up in the same place (as a person) sooner or later.

I know a lot of you are out there searching for your next adventure. Be open minded. If something is nagging at you through your process, be inquisitive. Ask questions – of yourself, your recruiter, your potential new boss – as bluntly (and politely) as possible. We forget sometimes that the interview is meant to be a two way selling process. You need to show that you’re capable of doing the job, but the hiring manager also should show you why this job, and this company, is a good fit for you! I’ve compiled a list of questions I’ve asked over the years during interviews. If you’d like to hear about them, shoot me a message.

If you, like me, decide to go against what your gut says, trust that all is well.

Remind yourself that there is no such thing as failure when it comes to selecting a job if you’ve done your due diligence and based on what you know, the job seems like a good opportunity for you. Take it from someone who has fumbled a few times through this process. As long as you’re open to learning, and professional development, there is always something to be gained.

Above all, remind yourself that you’re exactly where you’re meant to be in your journey, right at this moment. It might feel uncomfortable, it might not fit the vision you had for your path. But trust. This. Is where you needed to be, right now. It will spark change, growth, and stepping into your full potential.

Breathe through it. I’m with you. Breathing in the good shit, Breathing out the bullshit. And enjoying one hell of a ride!

The One About The Shoe

Someone asked me last week how I ended up in sales. Honestly, I never intended to be a sales person. What I did always chase after though was career advancement, continuous education and improvement, and like many women, breaking the glass ceiling. That naturally put me on a long selling journey.

Fast forward to a decade later, and I’ve achieved more in sales than I ever did as a marketer, a field that I am to this day extremely passionate about. That’s what I went to school for. That’s what my skill set makes me great at. At least that’s what everyone used to tell me, because I’ve always been creative. “You’re a shoe, you’re a shoe, you’re a shoe!”

The truth is, until you force yourself out of your zone, you won’t really know. I’ve been fortunate enough (choosing that word carefully) to be pushed out of my zone a few times.

Once a few years ago, when in a desperate attempt to broaden my horizons, I landed a job as an alcohol sales rep. Had it not been for that experience, I would still be the most introverted person you have ever met. I would have been stuck behind a desk, barely speaking to clients on the phone, never travelling the World. But most importantly, I would have never fully stepped into my light, aware of what I am capable of and how much of a change maker I can become.

Then again, eight years ago, I agreed to run sales for a US brand attempting to launch in Canada. ALL of Canada. Plot twist: I’m scared of flying (or at least I was at that point). AND, my only sales experience had been the alcohol gig, for the cottage country in one territory. What do I know about the rest of Canada. Friends talked me through this. Selling is selling. Just go for it and see what happens. And I did. I flew in for an interview over dinner. I had to take drugs to get myself on the plane. When I landed, I had an hour or two to get myself ready -groggy and all. I was so nervous I spilled water all over my dress shirt.

It is scary. Trust me, I know. I used to call my bestfriend every morning during the alcohol gig and cry. I’m not ashamed of that. I was terrified. I don’t know if I can do this. What if they reject me. I know nothing about alcohol. (that part was a legitimate concern. Up until that point, my definition of alcohol was a fruity white zinfandel) The list of fears ran deep. Three months after that gig had started, my territory was one of the fastest growing in our region.

A year after that, not only had I helped launch a brand into Canada, and establish it as the fastest growing in the market within a matter of months, I was leading the global development of that business. If you had told me ten years ago that I’d get to be a VP by the time I was 30 and travel the world, I would have laughed. And laughed and laughed. Who are you talking to?? Me, fly for a living? NOPE!

It is incredible how we limit ourselves with our words, our thoughts, preconceived notions and extremely flawed understanding of our capabilities and limits, and how much we can achieve if we just tell the little negative voice in our heads to FRO.

Have you caught yourself doing that? In sales I was taught to address an objection with “What would happen if you did x”? It is highly effective, if you’re willing to listen and support. But it is even more effective when you use that same statement every time you put an obstacle in front of yourself. Every time you tell yourself no. Every time you think it cannot be done. What would happen if you did it anyway?

I beg of you. Cover your ears to block out the negative, open your eyes, and Leap. Out of your typecast. Out of your comfort zone. Out into the unknown. I promise you, there will be people ready to catch you if you fall.