The Socially Conscious Lifestyle

Since thinking about social responsibility and sustainable practices is something that ingrains our education today, I can’t help but struggle with some of the concepts. For many, being socially responsible is a deliberate decision that they make. An organization may add on a CSR initiative, things as small as giving employees free hours to volunteer and initiatives as big as funding medication production and distribution to cure river blindness.

Then there are the deliberate decisions that are more focused on identifying green opportunities. “I can make this product, improve the environment, and make a profit at the same time.” There are the pretend-green firms doing this, and then there are sustainable entrepreneurs.

What about if you just “are”? You didn’t have to make a conscious, deliberate decision to be sustainable, you just did it because that’s how you wanted to do things. Or even better, because that’s just how things are done?

I use my turn signals when I drive. My benefit for doing this behavior comes from the fact that I have signaled to those around me what I intend to do…and they don’t smash into me. We all can go about our day because of turn signals. It’s just what drivers do.

While I may be overly optimistic, I’m getting the feeling that “going green” isn’t a new fad or initiative anymore. It’s just the thing to do. Yes, there are added benefits (hopefully a melting ice cap won’t submerge your factory), but I don’t get the impression that people are sitting around a table and wrestling with the decision to me smarter about production, planning, or even living. Yes, there are some decisions that need wrestling, but I imagine it’s not so much the going green part, but the how to get there that’s stumping people.

And then for others, it’s a no brainer. There’s an empty mall? Why not revive it and move our headquarters there? It can improve the neighborhood instead of being an eyesore (and we didn’t have to level it and build a new building–bonus!). Alright, let’s do that.

A lot of this will just be about lifestyle at some point. The way you use your turn signal. It’s a sign you give because it’s just what you do.

Photo credit. 

Posted in Sustainability Tagged , , , , ,

Being the Linchpin

After a long time of hearing about the book, I am finally reading Seth Godin’s Linchpin. I avoided it for so long because it seemed as if the book was going to be explaining something I already knew: be irreplaceable. And then as I walked around career fairs for a week, I realized that recruiters aren’t hiring for irreplaceable.

They want to hire the status quo, or at least for the job description their boss gave them before heading out the door.

As I had conversations with recruiter, many of whom didn’t care what I actually accomplished in the past, I realized that they don’t want linchpins and they don’t consider themselves linchpins either. They probably already consider themselves unlucky drones who had to go stand at career fairs for hours on end when their company is only hiring two positions. Eager students ready to work probably exhaust them instead of inspire them.

So it got me thinking: it isn’t just about an individual being irreplaceable, but a company being a linchpin. That’s probably why so many startups embraced Godin’s book. You want to be the company that changes the game and everyone needs to start relying on.

It’s tough to want to be relied on, especially because it means you then have to deliver. There’s a lot of pressure with that, and I wonder if sometimes that’s why some non-profits have issues with being a linchpin themselves. If they are the one answer to a certain issue, why do they end up being like doormats? Is it because we don’t like asking for things and don’t feel we have a right to ask? I know I am making a generalization, but we all know people and organizations just like this. The doormat.

So if you are going to have a mission, for yourself or your organization, strive to be irreplaceable. I’ll keep reading the book and maybe we’ll both learn how to do that.

Posted in Professional Development Tagged , , , , ,

So Much Potential

If I am ever truly disappointed in a person or organization, usually it has to do with the fact that there is wasted potential. It could be the person giving up on himself, or more often, it’s an organization getting in its own way. Whatever the reason, when I know there is so much that could be done, I hate seeing the void.

Then there are people who see the potential and wonder what it is they can do with it. Then I get excited.

One of the things I am learning is that when it comes to potential, we often become hindered by the fact that it can seem overwhelming. One idea can inspired hundreds of second ideas, then thousands of third ideas…you get the picture. For some people, they are able to grasp the potential and move forward. For others, there’s a little voice that says, “Why are you even bothering to dream? You’ll never get it done…”

My best advice is to talk to other people about this idea, share the potential with them. Often they have solutions you may not have even considered. I know for me, I am always amazed to find a volunteer base or source of funding to which you might have access if you just ask.

Then there’s the issue of context. Context plays a huge role in whether or not people see potential. For example, in many MBA programs, it is expected that you “start” a number of companies through your coursework. You learn a lot of what goes into just making one or two things happen in a business, and you probably walk away with a greater appreciation for things like industry standards and the Internet.

The problem, however, is not that we must start companies, but that the context is all wrong for the lesson learned. We do not all want to be entrepreneurs, but it seems like a forced culture we must endure if we’re going to be competitive leaders. There’s the argument that the entrepreneurial spirit is critical even in corporate settings.

I agree, however, the messaging is mixing up the lesson to be learned. This isn’t about corporate vs. startup. It’s about seeing the potential. If we are better at framing the need to see potential, then we would see more engagement and innovation when it comes to these business ideas.

This isn’t just about the opportunity. While we need to know how to take something from nothing, most of us will walk into a company and inherit projects with baggage and outside factors that present more boundaries than a wide-open opportunity may have. I argue that you have to see potential from these pieces, and then make something of that potential.

The difference between all of us down the line will be this mark of potential. Did you see it? Did you waste it?

Did you not only live up to it, but did you live past it?

Photo credit. 


Posted in Leaders Tagged , , , , , ,

LinkedIn Report: Claim Your Volunteer Hours on Your Profile

One of the things that I learned in my household was to always donate my skills and time. Serving is beneficial to your community, but you get a lot out of volunteering, as well. I’ve talked about career development on the cheap, and if you volunteer, you can gain a lot of skills depending on the work. A local organization may need a fundraising chair, and you essentially turn into a marketing and project manager. If you think you might be interested in healthcare, there are plenty of hospitals and hospice facilities that could use your time.

As more companies embrace socially responsible initiatives, knowing that top talent are looking to get additional fulfillment from their careers, it turns out we aren’t really claiming those volunteer hours on our resume.

LinkedIn (NYSE:LNKD), the world’s largest professional network with more than 120 million members worldwide, today announced that members can now add a “Volunteer Experience & Causes” field to theirLinkedIn Profile. The company also released data that reinforces volunteer work is a key piece of your professional identity.

LinkedIn surveyed nearly two thousand professionals in the U.S. and found that 89 percent of these professionals have personally had experience volunteering, but only 45 percent of professionals include their volunteer experience on their resume. “Professionals often have the misconception that volunteer work doesn’t qualify as ‘real’ work experience,” said Nicole Williams, LinkedIn’s Connection Director and best-selling author of the book, “Girl on Top.” “You may be a sales person by trade, but if you organized your nonprofit’s fundraising event, you can add skills, like event planning or event marketing, to your profile. Having those additional skills can potentially make you amore attractive employee and business partner.”

In a world where there are many people fighting for a job, and differentiating yourself becomes more difficult, noting that volunteer time says something about you as a candidate. Not only can you add these additional skills to your resume, but you demonstrate you go above and beyond the call of duty. You demonstrate commitment. “New research from LinkedIn shows that one out of every five hiring managers in the U.S. agree they have hired a candidate because of their volunteer work experience,” said Williams. “Your volunteer experience counts, and if you don’t include it in your profile, on your resume, and as a discussion point during an interview or when you’re negotiating for a promotion, you’re not getting the credit you deserve.”

Also know that volunteering, or running the volunteer program for an organization, also can get you into a job you love. Many people want to give back professionally, but it always seems that it is so difficult to find that right kind of job. Social entrepreneurs are creating companies that are “for-benefit,” and they need volunteer coordinators, event planners, fundraisers, and so on. Those social entrepreneurs will be looking for people who already demonstrate social consciousness through volunteer work. So why not put it on your LinkedIn Profile?

In the new “Volunteer Experience & Causes” field, LinkedIn members can add volunteer positions, causes they care about, and organizations they support. LinkedIn members can now list Big Brothers Big SistersDonorsChoose.orgHabitat for HumanityInternational, The Humane Society of the United StatesOxfam International, the American Red CrossTeach for America, or any other organization they support on theirLinkedIn Profile.

If you’re like me, already juggling a lot of balls, you might as well tell people about it. You may not always have room on your resume (there’s still that one-page preference last time I checked), but you might as well claim those hours on LinkedIn. Include your LinkedIn Profile hyperlink the next time you update your resume, and include your passions and things you have accomplished through volunteering on your Profile. This is yet another excellent way recruiters, colleagues, and even other foundations can get a better portrait of you. Just point them in the right direction.

To add the “Volunteer Experience & Causes” field to your LinkedIn Profile:

  • After logging in, click “Profile” at the top of LinkedIn.
  • Click the “Add Sections” hyperlink.
  • Select “Volunteer Experience & Causes.”
  • Click the “Add to Profile” button and then fill out the applicable fields.

View a screenshot of the new “Volunteer Experience & Causes” field and get moredetails on the impact volunteering can have on your career on the LinkedIn Blog:

Posted with professor permission. Image via CrunchBase. 





Posted in Professional Development Tagged , , , , ,

Making the Decisions with the Right Info

Just because you can, it doesn’t mean you should.

In thinking about all the options an organization has to expand into new markets, geographies, or products, it is understandable why a company might get a little carried away. We learn there are a number of elements that may help us make the decision: ROI, cost advantages, make vs. buy decisions, and so on.

Yet, you could have all the calculations in the world that scream, “Danger, Will Robinson!” and a CEO could still turn to the BOD and say, “I think we should go ahead and do it.”

The reason we attend business school, watch CNBC, and network with other professionals is that we’re supposed to get pretty good at making strategic decisions. Ideally, we’re not so stubborn that if we get advice that might point us in a better direction, we will change course.

However, we know that isn’t the case. Perhaps the worst part is that it may not be just one person making the bad decision. Usually it’s a group decision, which is even more frustrating when we know that the group should have had the ability to steer things in the right direction. That’s why there’s “groupthink,” and phrases like: when everyone’s accountable, no one is accountable. It is incredibly easy for a group to make a bad decision.

What should we do?

Keep up a system of checks and balances. If there’s a make vs. buy decision, keep up rigorous criteria each time you need to make that decision. “Oh, I know someone who can hook us up,” isn’t always the best reason to go with one particular firm over another. You don’t want to let opportunity pass you by, but you should be proactive instead of consistently reactive. You’ll never be ahead of the curve if you’re following everyone else.

The key is, whether you need to expand to another country or you want to add another feature to your product, you have to consider the information that is going into your decision. Ask yourself if you really should pursue this new avenue.

If not, look for the next one.

Photo credit. 

Posted in Thought Leadership Tagged , , , ,

Stepping Out of the Nest

When we think of great products or companies, it isn’t unusual to think of great people. One of the first examples in your head may be Steve Jobs. That makes sense, he’s a force in his industry.
Even with the announcement that he is stepping down from his role as CEO of Apple, however, we know he will continue to a dynamic force.

Is that a good thing?

A colleague and I were discussing what the company environment will be like at Apple when someone new is in charge, but Steve is still around. Will he micromanage even when decisions aren’t really his to make anymore? Will the more-than capable team brought in feel they can’t reach their full potential because the founder has a certain vision, and doesn’t he know best? Will we forget the new CEO in Apple’s history or is he like a placeholder since he may be under a pretty impressive shadow?

Or will everything work out just fine?

I can’t answer those questions about Apple, but I can think about myself as a leader. While I want to be passionate about my business, I don’t ever want to get in the way of it succeeding. It may have started out as my “baby,” but sometimes you’ve got to leave the nest yourself.

Follow me for a moment: What reactions do you have when someone says, “mama’s boy”? Do you immediately recoil, think back to a time when a significant other’s mother destroyed your relationship? Was your boyfriend a complete doormat? Or were you excited because you could be the replacement mother and have a position of control? You don’t have to be a boy for this phrase to apply to you, but it does suggest a lack of independent thinking.

At some point, a customer does not want to have a relationship with a product’s mother. Sure, sometimes it s important to meet the family, but at the end of the day, you want to have the relationship with the product, and one that’s not damaged from lack of independent thinking.

Sometimes you need to let go. But the beauty of entrepreneurship is that you can have more than one baby.

And it’s nice to watch the family grow.

Photo credit. 

Posted in Leaders Tagged , , , ,

Why We Must Write

You are one of the many. Business people are a dime a dozen.

In reality, there are plenty of people out there who can do what we do. It reminds me of people who have looked at paintings by Mark Rothko or Barnett Newman and say, “I could do that. What’s the big deal?”

But did you? Did you do what you say you could do?

When it comes to execution, we know not everyone has the talent (or the motivation) to actually deliver. They could have grand ideas and the noblest of intentions, however, the “getting things done” part of the plan seems to be an obstacle that these people can’t overcome. Somehow anxiety or expectations get in the way, or they can’t understand how to manage projects or groups to get the best outcome. I personally have seen that these kinds of people want everyone to play a role, making everyone accountable.

Well, you know what they say: When everyone’s accountable, no one is.

In a world where everyone could start a business, and technology has brought the marketplace to our fingertips, how do you know who will succeed? The ones to make things happen. The ones who get things done.

Many of my blogging peers are entrepreneurs. I can say a good 80% are currently pursuing their own ventures. The other 20% have ideas, but they are select about opportunities and timing. I do not doubt they will be starting their own companies some time in the future. Is this entrepreneurial group a self-selection on my part? I associate with those who have this business pursuit in common? Or is it an independent trend that those who blog naturally want to stand out? That having our individual voice is one of the reasons we want to take the reigns?

I actually think that the answer to those last two questions is, “yes.”

We write because we want to make things happen and have a voice. The entrepreneurial spirit doesn’t dictate that you must start your company by the age of 30 or forget it. And neither does it mean you have to be anti-corporate. Google was a start up once upon a time, so was Apple, Starbucks, and Netflix. It is the living spirit that keeps those companies going and allows us to be a part of their brands. You do not have to blog to be an entrepreneur, but what better way to have a calling card.

To be known for your ideas and thoughts, and then by the amazing things you have done. That is why we must write.

Posted in Thought Leadership Tagged , , , , , , , ,