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Women In Biz-Do We Limit Ourselves?

Women in BizThis post started from a Twitter conversation with Margie Clayman and Caroline Di Diego about a post written by Carol Roth titled “At the Business Table, Where Are the Ladies?”. In this post, Roth talked about how there are so many men who are acknowledged as experts and gurus in their fields while there are very few women represented in the same way. But if you were to test yourself, which women come to mind with equal stature. They are out there! Are you familiar with Liz Strauss, Aliza Sherman, Valeria Maltoni or Lisa Petrilli? These women are just a few of the many out there doing great work that is changing the world. Margie Clayman followed up with her own post, “Women Don’t Want a League of Our Own” and asked how separate but equal can still exist in the 21st century business world?

I suppose I should add my disclaimer here…I have mixed feelings about women-centered business groups and intiatives. I think it’s only fair that you know this from the start. No, I don’t think they are completely bad or wrong. And…if your business focuses on women, then it would be ridiculous to eliminate them from your marketing plan. Just so you know, my feelings come from participating in women-centered business groups as a member and leader.

So how does separating the women in business from the men in business limit growth? This is where my mixed feelings are most apparent. For some of us, we need a place to begin that seems safe to test our ideas and ourselves. A lot of women seek a place where they believe it is acceptable to discuss business and personal life seamlessly. And that’s fine for a start but this cannot be the stopping point.

It’s not that women should not have these groups. In my small business coaching, my question is not “what are you doing?” but “why are you doing that?” Most groups have their merits and women can find these valuable places for ideas, connections and encouragement. So join NAWBO, NAFE, attend women-centered business conferences or blog on a women-only business site. Use these groups as a springboard to where you envision your business is going. But there are some things to consider if you make this your only focus.

  • It makes women invisible. Did you know there is a TED talk for women? What are they talking about? There are important, world-changing ideas that are not being shared. As an example, funding for women entrepreneurs and their startups can be hard to find because venture capitalists don’t know the individual’s track history. Equity companies tend to invest in people they already know.
  • It keeps women off the hook. For a number of women, staying separate from the men in business allows them to not stretch beyond their comfort zone. Getting into the elite business thinkers means risking rejection and learning to manage a multitude of personalities. It also means we don’t learn more sophisticated philosphies or business practices. Could you be elite material but playing it safe?
  • It allows cultural norms and sexism to continue. Separate has never been equal. Are we minimizing someone’s talent because she built a successful skincare company or has a chain of assisted-living facilities? There can be the perception that someone is pushy because she simply asked for a sale. If there is still a message that “nice girls do not (fill in the blank), are we missing out on socially acceptable behaviors that will transform our businesses? Having different rules for each gender in the business world stifles innovation and competition.

What do you think? I could very well be off base. My experience is certainly not the be-all, end-all of what is possible. Men don’t have a monopoly on the best way to do anything in business. They have good ideas and women have good ideas. What if we had a fuller conversation? According to research, businesses who have women in high-level decision-making positions (c-level, board of directors) tend to perform better than businesses who have main men in these positions. 

I’m not saying eliminate all of the women-centered business initiatives. Many of them serve important functions (e.g. Make Mine a Million). I merely ask one question…

Why do (some) women in business keep themselves separate?



Someone You Should Know

There is a lot of talk about what Twitter can do for us. Maybe it can make us money. Maybe it can make us famous. Maybe it’s just fun. Maybe it’s about the people…

Valeria Maltoni, Conversation AgentI’d like to introduce you to someone who deserves to be considered an influencer of the best kind. Everyone, meet Valeria Maltoni.

I met Valeria on the Twitter chat, #kaizenblog when I used to participate in the conversation. Actually, it was Caroline Di Diego who was kind enough to send me reminders about the chat as she knew how much I enjoy exploring ideas and seeing how they apply in real life. So, I joined in and became intrigued by the host, Valeria. At that point, I only knew her as @ConversationAge but she seemed to truly care that the chat, #kaizenblog and that the participants did more than just enjoy a conversation. This passion was refreshing and I wanted to know more.

Passion, intellect, curiosity and a thirst to connect with others are all characteristics of Valeria that are easy to see. She brings her whole self to everything. Perhaps this is because she is Italian but it’s probably more true that this is just how she is. Sure you can learn about her on her site but to truly get to know her, have a conversation. My first full-blown offline conversation with her contained references to Dante Alighieri’s The Inferno, social media and other philosophers. Nice and light, just like any “how to get to know you” kind of conversation should be.

 She is a Connector. Valeria thrives on getting to know others and hearing them think. There are two things that I delight in and deeply appreciate since we partnered up to be co-hosts on #kaizenblog. The first is that she has introduced me to interesting people like Tom Asacker , Taylor Davidson , Aliza Sherman and, of course, the core group of tweeps who come every Friday to explore “kaizen” and business. Her passion for connection isn’t simply for her own gain but to make the world more cozy and ready for a good conversation (with or without espresso).

The second thing that delights me is her reminders every now and then that I “should” do something. Having someone who gives an occasional nudge (or shove) to go beyond my regular way of operating is such a gift! She inspires me to see the world even more broadly, to explore other possibilities and to act according my grander vision. Since she is a marketing strategist, she can see what is coming two or three steps ahead. As someone who doesn’t inhabit that world primarily, her perspective fuels my imagination and my tendency to test how an idea can work in real life. It’s a cliche, I know, but Valeria does inspire me to bring my A game.

She nudges people on a regular basis. This is not a gift she has given just to me. When she founded #kaizenblog, it wasn’t good enough to explore an idea. Valeria wanted people to grapple with an idea, take it home with them and find a way to implement it in their work and lives. She continues to do this in her work with her colleagues, her clients, her blog, her Facebook page and on Twitter. As she reminded us in her last time on #kaizenblog, she’s not going anywhere!

Take some time to check out her Twitter stream, her Facebook page or her blog. Engage with her. It’s something that will be illuminating and valuable! Have a conversation with the Conversation Agent. After all, her message is “connecting ideas and people-how talk can change our lives.”



Managing Transition To Next Stage of Business or Career-#kaizenblog recap

This #kaizenblog chat was more than just our usual chat. We said goodbye to the chat’s founder and co-host, Valeria Maltoni. Valeria has created a chat on Twitter that goes far beyond the 14o “soundbite” and asks all of us to think a bit more about our ideas about business, social media and ourselves. Her passion for connecting with people and seeing where conversations can take a person are infectious and always an experience.

The real gift here is that Valeria is not really going entirely away. She will be around, as always for a good conversation full of big ideas, on Twitter. If you haven’t connected with her, you can find her on Twitter as @ConversationAge. Do connect with Valeria! Your world will become much more interesting!

In that vein, Valeria wrote a lovely post about Passing the Baton. Managing a transition to the next stage in your business or career often involves passing on the “job” to someone else. What is embedded in this process? To see the whole conversation, check out the transcript Transcript for #kaizenblog – ManagingTransitionInBizCareer_!

We spend time dreaming and working towards a vision of where our careers or our businesses can go. Another thing to keep in mind, as Valeria reminded us, “So many companines don’t have a succession plan, or traning to help you manage your career…need to have one for yourself.” How would you describe the a career or organizational change/transition/shift to a more sophisticated level?

  • Laura Crum “A1: I like the term “movement” but that’s pretty broad, too. Doesn’t necessitate forward motion.”
  • Parissa Behnia “a1: having direct honest communication about how difficult change is. be a bull in a china shop, kinda”
  • Lois Martin “A1 I think back to how my business and I have grown by “stretching” — taking on new, larger, more challenging clients, projects”
  • Jason Mikula “Sometimes you have to reach, take on something you’re afraid of & force yourself to grow”
  • Rob Petersen “Q1 Explain why change needs to occur and make everyone see what is value in their being  behind it”

There were references to how change can be uncomfortable so we asked, Given the ebb and flow nature of managing change, what makes change more complicated or simple?

  • Penelope Singer “It’s important to not overwhelm yourself with too many changes at one. That leads to paralysis”Growth and change in business and career
  • Tanja Ziegel “Frame of mind”
  • Laura Crum: “A1a : true change is never simple. t’s EASIER to stay in a bad situation than make move to a good one”
  • Jason Mikula ” ‘Voluntary’ change vs. ‘forced’ change — both can be complicated or simple”

The thoughts behind the comments about change and the process of managing change brought up an interesting idea. Often with change, good or bad, we feel a sense of loss. For big changes, it can even be grief. For example, entrepreneurs who put everything on the line to make their venture go and then have to close the doors, maybe even file for bankruptcy. Those with business partner may see friendships end. Certainly one’s identity depends partly on our roles. When I’ve talked with clients about their past business failures, it is not unusual for them to describe a stage of grief.

Now clearly, not everyone is going to be distresed to that extent but do we even recognize the feelings when they occur? However, we often resist change in the early stages. We fret over how things will be different or we will be different. This can happen even when the change is in our best interest. What would happen if we took the time to grieve what we use to have or do before the change started?

  • Mary Ann Halford “Who has time to grieve – have to focus on keeping up w changes”
  • Amber Cleveland “A2: I’d rather celebrate what I have rather than grieve it. When I left my last co, there was a nice partyfor me=felt good”
  • Ken Rosen “Q2 Maybe not grieve, but acknowledge. Chg adopted when anticipation overwhelms fear, uncertainty”
  • Penelope Singer “intermix your grieving with change by remembering past positives and linking to future positive change”
  • Lois Martin “A2 Grief and disappointment will happen. The loss of  a client. Learn from the experience and move forward. Don’t dwell”

So if we’re sensing that change is coming and (hopefully) noticing the discomfort, How do people know it’s time for a change?

  • Jason Mikula “Even if it looks like a -, find a way to leverage it, improve yourself, your life, your mind”
  • Parissa Behnia “Q2a: if they are in tune with their “gut” feeling, they will sense the need for change. our intuition is smarter than we are”
  • Tanja Zieg “It may be just a feeling of restlessness or being antsy…something quite “right’…pay attention to that”

Valeria Maltoni gave some great advice,  “to me, it’s about learning to listen to yourself Feel when the party is going great and you can make a gracious exit”

Certainly the question about grief touch a nerve as there was quite a discussion about acknowledging grief or permutating it into another emotion. This led to an interesting side thread about how emotions fit in and whether or not they are even appropriate to have them in the business world. Interestingly, there was no consensus as to what to do with these emotions. It’s worth reading the transcript and see where you land in the conversation.

As with most #kaizenblog conversations, we take the topic and take a look at how we engage with the ideas in the conversation. We ended the conversation with this question, What changes are you experiencing in your career or business?

  • Penelope Singer “A3 Full realization of need for clearer paths. Mores structure in some areas, less in others”
  • Parissa Behnia “A3: it’s hard but be content and expect change. your success depends on emotional maturity in dealing with it”
  • Elaine Rogers “I often find pushing myself out of my comfort zone empowers me to accept change and not fight it – hard work tho”
  • Rich Becker “A3 It’s becoming easier to be the content publisher than it is to guide clients toward becoming marketing-content publishers”

 Change is an interesting part of our life experience. Perhaps Thoreau is correct in his observation that there are those who lead lives of quiet desperation and are slaves to their work and their employers. Avoiding change is impossible. As we move along in our careers or in leading our businesses, let us take Valeria’s example and know when to leave a party graciously.


Community Building Through the Art of Connecting-#kaizenblog recap

Connection and Building CommunityThere are just some people who seem to know everybody. Maybe they’ve been in their industry a long time. Maybe they are “collectors”. Maybe even both. What are “collectors”? They are people who have mastered the art of connecting and they meet people and add them to their network in a meaningful way. They just seem to know that this person will fit in somehow.

Inspiring connector as well as co-host and founder of the Twitter chat, #kaizenblog, Valeria Maltoni led the way with this conversation. As usual, there are a lot of great contributions from everyone in the conversation and you may want to look that the transcript here Transcript for #kaizenblog – CommunityBldgConnection There was an interesting side conversation started by Yann Ropars (@yannr) about makes a good community leader. Definitely worth checking out!

Maltoni started the conversation on her site with the post, “Why Believing is the Most Important Thing You Can Do” By using her experiences with others, she illustrated how making true connections with another person leads to expanding one’s understanding of the world and thus, leads to opportunities for each of us. These opportunities could be for personal growth, philanthropy, or even business. But…it starts with the connection with another person.

What makes connecting important to you? Responses seem to center on how connecting with another human being is central.

  • Stephen Denny (@Note_To_CMO) ” ‘Satisficing‘ –  we look for shortcuts because we’re busy. Connections are shortcuts.”
  • AngelaDunn (@blogbrevity) “Q1 I find inspiration from connecting others, finding synergies between people & ideas”
  • Amy Blake (@BlakeGroup) “IMO, one aspect of being human means wanting to connect , in biz + life”
  • Bruno Coehlo (@bcoehlo2000) “In an Era of mass cold communication, warm human interaction has become even more important!”
  • Patrick Prothe (@pprothe) “Forming meaningful, relationships/Rising above superficiality”
  • Bernd Nurnberger (@CoCreatr) “learning, helping, exchange, trust, trade – make connection important to me”

Maltoni summed it up, “Shared interests, emotional investments are the fuel that makes connecting work!” Many of the comments followed this theme. It may be that we spend a lot of time in the online world but that hasn’t changed our need and desire to deepen the relationship with those we meet.

How do we help others succeed? The interesting piece is that truly connecting opens us up to want more for others. Sure, we start relationships wondering about what the person may offer us. This can be as simple as an enjoyable conversation to a benefit for our business. However, when (and hopefully not if) you move past that initial stage, you begin to want something for the other person. What do you have at your disposal that could be helpful?

  • Caroline Di Diego (@CASUDI) “contributing/communicating U name it > OUTPUT = other 50%”
  • Yann Ropars “Be present and create meaningful space for participants”
  • Jerry Evans (@inspiredtrain) “Knowledge, sharing, empathy, sympathy, encouragement, leadership, clear strategies and policies”
  • Rob Petersen (@robpetersen) “Add show willingness to help, make connection in return to your list; could be long list”
  • Heidi Cohen (@heidicohen) “Consider what others need/want 1st”
  • Rick Alcantara (@jerseycoach) “Q2-You help others succeed by providing them with the ideas and tools to achieve/become something greater”
  • Amber Cleveland (@ambercleveland) “Connect others to success by listening to their goals and providing insight on how they can achieve them. Share yourself”

Helping others in an altruistic way seem to resonate very much with the #kaizenblog participants. There were several tweets that echoed deeply listening so you can hear what the person might need and/or want. Providing one’s insights and experience was another thing that people wanted to share to foster others’ success.

As she often does, Maltoni brought the conversation into an unexpected place with the third discusssion question. How to give power away? She clarified the question when she tweeted, “Q3 clarification = another way to let go of control.” Building community is less about the leader per se and more about how the group can gel and move as a unit. There were many ideas of how the leader could set the stage for enabling the community members to have power.

  • Amy Blake “Q3 This is where mentoring kicks in…sharing away power while maintaining direction.”
  • Lizzie Pauker (@lizziepauker) “Q3-power in numbers. motivation skyrockets when people feel greater purpose & satisfaction”
  • Namrata Rana (@futurechat) “Community is built by enabling, enthusing and empowering. This builds trust and a self fulfilling cycle of relationships”
  •  Cathy Larkin (@CathyWebSavvyPR) “Q3: Power is often tied to or tied up in Ego. Let that go. Earn trust, yes, but let ego go – & the energy & workflow grtr”
  • Joe Sanchez (@sanchezjb) “Q3 Power is not “given away.” It’s authority that’s delegated & while authority can b delegated, responsibility cannot”
  • Bruno Coehlo “Define clear & measurable goals. Praise good performance and redirect them when they go off track. Build leaders!”
  • Torrey McGraw (@torreymcgraw) “Q3 Don’t be afraid to be wrong as “expert”. Ask, listen & throw preconceptions out the window to achieve goals”
  • Lois Martin (@LoisMarketing) “Q3 Key is being open to new ideas, new voices, new perspectives”

So the conversation ended with an opportunity for everyone to turn the focus onto their own actions and how they build their own communities. What are 3 things you do regularly that help you build community? It was fascinating to see the myriad ways people engage with their communities.

  • Caroline Di Diego “I mentor small biz to be sustainable =help local community”
  • Diane Court (@dc2fla) “Q4 Ask questions, Listen, Recognize & appreciate contributions w/out judgement <= require my constant attention to improve”
  • Rick Alcantara “Q4: Send articles about interesting topics, mentor young professionals, connect my biz contacts with one another.”
  • Cathy Larkin “Q4 3 things 2 build commty: ID community needs, be the connector 2 help solve needs, be positive/upbeat”
  • Joe Sanchez “Q4: Engage (two-way comms w/ feedback), assess (how r we doing towards achieving our goals), recognize (reward/incentivize).”

This week’s #kaizenblog conversation had a lot of energy! For many of our participants, asking questions is a favored strategy to discover what community members are thinking, feeling, and doing. It seems, from this conversation, that egotism is  community killer. There were many references to managing one’s ego and insecurities as being important to having effective communication as well as understanding what needs and wants are present in the community. Writing this recap is part of how I help build the #kaizenblog community and it’s a pleasure to highlight both our regulars and our newer members.

How do you rate the importance of serving others to build communities?

What could this mean for your business/work?

What 3 things do you do regularly that helps you build community?