Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Mid-Week Motivation (MwM) From Sarah Aubrey

In this week's Mid-Week Motivation (MwM) from Sarah Aubrey she discusses how to assemble a project team. Read more to see what the perks are to having a solid project team!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Mid-Week Motivation (MwM) From Sarah Aubrey

In this week's Mid-Week Motivation (MwM) from Sarah Aubrey she discusses what happens after a grant is submitted. Read more to see what the grant funding cycle entails!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Ladies, Let’s Go All In, a Review and Commentary on Sheryl Sandberg’s new book, Lean In, Women Work and the Will to Lead

I started out this article as a book review. What I ended up with is a manifesto...

Lean In , Women, Work and the Will to Lead, is authored by the reigning Chief Operating Officer at Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg, an accomplished executive with mounting accolades to her name including a place among Time’s 100 Most Influential People in the World. She’s a mother of two and a first time author with this new work. Her book opens by using facts and figures to frame the status of women in the workplace and women’s education. Here’s one of note: As females, we now earn more than 50 percent of the undergraduate diplomas in the U.S. and nearly 60 percent of the graduate degrees. So armed, we enter the workforce earning as many solid entry-level roles as men. We begin to move up and we begin to excel. Somewhere, though, we quit. The number of women in the workplace is declining for the first time in a generation. We’re educated, we’re ambitious, and we’re dropouts. Top companies today are not run by more women now than in the previous decade, Sandberg says. She adds that “a meager twenty-one of the Fortune 500 CEO’s are women. Women hold 14 percent of executive officer position, 17 percent of board seats, and constitute 18 percent of our elected congressional officials.”

We’re educated, we’re ambitious, and we’re dropouts.

            Lean In is peppered with solid references, some so interesting I actually read the footnotes in detail and looked up some of the sources. She comments: “The pipeline that supplies the educated workforce is chock-full of women at the entry level, but by the time that same pipeline is filling leadership positions, it is overwhelmingly stocked with men.”  Ms. Sandberg could have made her book bleak, but that wasn’t her intent. Rather, she’s seeking to motivate women at all career levels to aim for their best. She says: “This book makes the case for leaning in, for being ambitious in any pursuit…I do not believe that there is one definition of success and happiness.”  Great point, I thought, and one that set me to thinking about the concept of lean in. What does that mean?

          I am a corporate dropout having left employment on November 10, 2004. I started my own business in the fall of 2003. I aimed to grow the company quickly, to leave my job, and I did. Nine years later I’ve sold that original company, founded two new ones, expanded and added new divisions to my businesses. I’ve been offered various jobs over the years, including one that I in turn offered to my husband; he was a much better fit, anyway. Bottom line, I’ve never looked back. The entrepreneurial world is my place.

            Upon leaving the brokerage firm I worked for in 2004, the HR people never called to do an exit interview. My boss, a man that only appreciated females with loose morals or with 36X 24X 36 measurements, certainly didn’t question it-he’d never expected me to excel anyway and probably, should he recall me today, wouldn’t believe I’d yet done much. Oddly, someone did notice, though. Two days after I left, I received a call from the corporate headquarters. Assuming it was about benefits, I returned it and was surprised to hear the young marketing team lead on the other line. I’d met him a few times during my training, but honestly I didn’t assume he’d remember me. Thinking back, I should have-I stuck out obviously among my training class of 30 given I was both the only women and the tallest. He’d only just heard that I had left and called to learn why. He sounded genuinely concerned. Was it my work environment, he queried, his voice creaking with the fear.  Perhaps he worried I’d file suit against the aforementioned Neanderthal boss known company-wide as a pervert. No, I said, scowling. What had they overlooked, he asked. Nothing that I could think of, I assured. He then offered me a job at Corporate in marketing. I didn’t want to move out of state; he offered to let me do some sort of a territory option; but I just wanted to go, I said. Puzzled, he seemed genuinely alarmed that I just wouldn’t consider other options within the firm. Finally asked:

“How have we failed to support you?”

            At the time, I just wanted to be done. Before quitting, I’d spent a year of mornings crying daily as I drove to that job. Fact was, I hated it. I was bored, too. I was ready to tackle something on my own. But reading Ms. Sandberg’s book brought back the memory of the marketing guy’s very pointed question: “How have we failed to support you?” Recalling the young woman of 10 years ago, I wondered about the course and direction of my life. If I had not always possessed the entrepreneurial urge, and I believe some people do and some people do not, what would have happened to my career? Why on earth would I have stayed with that firm? Had I missed something being young and perhaps impetuous?

            Even looking back with the benefit of 10 years behind me, I still struggle to find any advantages in staying there. What if I had chosen to have a baby during those years? Once my maternity leave was over, why would I have bothered to go back? Honestly, the job had been a sad creativity suck and a constant battle. I recall spending inordinate amounts of time avoiding the break room as the Branch Manager/boss often lurked there (he apparently drank a lot of coffee because he milled around in there a lot…) or cringing at the expectation that I suffer through yet another beer drinking event-aka vendor-sponsored golf outing. These occurred at least weekly during spring, summer and fall. Worse than spending the afternoon receiving unsolicited advice from drunken golf experts, were the weekly confrontations with the Office Manager (read: Head Honcho of the secretarial staff aka all women besides me). This woman believed it her duty to strictly enforce make certain that I followed the corporate women’s dress code. She found me particularly lacking in the leg-covering department. Admittedly, I bucked the “Pantyhose Policy” often. I could not stand that requirement. Ladies, we are not talking about options for cute tights, or even patterns, we are talking only nude, tan, or beige hose, including for trouser socks, every single day. Yes, the manual/Bible even listed the approved shades.  Her reasoning: I was to set a good example for the other women of the office, all of them a generation older and evidently teetering on the precipice on non-compliance should I lead the flock all astray with my defiance!

At 27 I interpreted the message as:

“Good girls play nice, tolerate much, and wear panty hose.” At 37, I still do. 

            So, there I was, the island in the middle of the brokerage sea. I had always felt like that; like a little island hoping not to sink when the big waves came. I had to fight all the time. I longed to do more! I knew I was more! I was young, female, and ambitious. Sandberg comments in her book: “Professional ambition is expected of men but is optional- or worse-sometimes even a negative-for women.” I lived that culture once. I was not administrative staff like all the women and not a man like all the other brokers. So, thinking back to the gentleman’s question, did I get the support I needed to stay, much less grow or excel-well, hell no.

Here’s the kicker; that lack of support, or whatever you want to call it, was equally lax from both genders, too. Ouch.

Today, I’m in the throws of finishing my third book, a book about how to strategically evaluate grant funding aimed at entrepreneurs. My manuscript is due to Wiley by May 31st. It’s early as I write this, I couldn’t sleep well, and so I’m up. Maybe I’m cranky and tired. Maybe I’m seeking a diversion from the writing I should be doing. Or, maybe it turns out I have quite a bit to say on this topic.

            Ladies, if haven’t, didn’t, or currently aren’t feeling the support you need to grow in your career, I cannot say I am shocked. As you know, I never did. However, if you are not getting what you need right now, at what cost are you staying in the status quo? Like me, will you drop out? Or, will you suffer drudgery with a job you hate for the sake of working? Will stifle your uniqueness and your gifts to stay in a so-so job where you’ll never rise about a certain level because “it just won’t happen here” or that’s “just not the culture”.  I hear you; I’ve been the only girl in the Ye Olde Boy’s Club, too.

Ms. Sandberg raises some important questions and she has certainly set me to thinking.  I cannot total the number of conversations I’ve had with women my age that have dropped out of the professional world remarking: “You know, if that’s all I’m going to get out of working there, then I might as well stay home with the kids.” And, so they do.  Of course, some women desire to be full time parents, so it’s great they have the choice. I suspect others do want to achieve professionally while co-raising children with their spouse, but the business world just wasn’t rewarding. Without quality opportunities to contribute and be challenged, staying home made sense. A career just wasn’t worth it, if that ‘was all there is’.  Still, something is missing. I feel it.

Here’s where things get interesting. I receive a call a week from women seeking part time work. I know many of these women; they are friends, colleagues, clients, friends of friends. I even get queries from women around the country that I’m connected to simply by social media. Linked In appears to be quite the habitat for would-be freelancers. These callers ask if I have any work, saying: “Just something part time, you know, maybe just 10 hours a week?” Sheryl Sandberg’s term is Lean In. I’ll borrow from my callers and use Dialed In. “I’d don’t want to have to work too much, but just like even to stay dialed in, ” is the refrain.  

Uh-oh. That’s a problem for me. Now, I am looking at this person not woman to woman but as business owner to potential contractor. You see, that comment sounds very, very wishy-washy. It says to the potential client or employer: “I want you to give me something because I have a need I want to fill and I’ll fill it with your job, but I’ll do it at my leisure, not at your deadline, because, really, I just want something for me but I don’t care what you are trying to accomplish.”  Some of you might be offended about what I just said, but I say it from experience; I have contracted women who start off with this phrase and it has not worked well. The level of commitment is not there to merit the desired compensation. Sorry, but it’s a fact. This ‘dialed in’ phrase sounds to a client/employer as if you don’t want to be committed, responsible, or dedicated. It’s like sticking a toe in the water, but telling everyone you went swimming. You’d didn’t, you just got one foot wet.

When I hire a contractor, I do not necessarily need 40 or 60 hours a week, or even a month. However, for whatever amount of time I hire, I do need 100 percent. I hire talent and expertise because I am either swamped or I simply don’t possess the skill and you do. When I hire a gift I don’t have, I need it and I’m counting on the person to show off that skill and get the work done well.

Some readers may now deem me harsh. But, the need is not about me; it’s about my client’s needs and their goals. Still, some of you will say that no, you don’t want to commit, thank you. But I ask you, why? Your time is precious, why use it on something ‘just 10 hours a week’ if you don’t care?

         Ladies, be present, even if it’s part time. Be all in, not just occasionally dialed in. If you’re interested enough to try something, why not do it well? I’m not suggesting that you replace your family life, work fulltime, or start your own company. But all in does mean letting you shine. Make this part of your life matter, too.

Know what you want. Know what you’re good at and where you could get better. If you’re in the corporate world, ask for what you need, don’t wait for it to be offered. As they say, ‘it ain’t happenin’, at least not in my experience. If you’re interested in politics, by all means, gather a talented team and run-now! If you are a stay at home mom that wants to freelance, decide on your services, be up front about your available time and commit with the level of seriousness of the business owner. Why? Because you do own something serious; no matter where you are in your career, you always own brand YOU. Keep it polished.

Finally, I liked Ms. Sandberg’s book. It reminded me that I need a checkup in my own commitment level. I’m evaluating what I want professionally and where to best focus my talents. I’m thinking of developing a couple of skills that need a brush up and trying out those that have potential but are untested. I’m asking myself what I asked of you: Where do I need to lean in and stop dialing in? There are clearly areas of my life where I need to fully engage or move on. I recognize when I’m not offering myself fully and abundantly, and it shows to others, too. I encourage you to read the book and consider your own personal and professional lives. Ladies, we’ve got this! We have to ask and aim for what matters. Don’t accept so-so when you want awesome.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Allow Me to Introduce Myself...

Greetings! My name is Meredith Deem, the new summer intern here at Prosperity Consulting, and I would like to take this time to introduce myself. First, a little background: I graduated from Indiana University in 2012 where I studied English Literature and Communication and Culture. I have previous experience working in marketing for Daviess Community Hospital and the Daviess County Community Foundation in my hometown of Washington, Indiana.
            Now, a little insight into my life right now: This summer I will be doing research for Sarah Aubrey for her third book – a work about grant writing for entrepreneurs. I will also be doing some PR work for the book, and, well, anything else they may need help with around the Prosperity office this summer! Once summer is over and fall is upon us, I hope to be enrolled at Indiana University Purdue University-Indianapolis to earn my Masters in Philanthropy so I will ultimately be prepared to start my own nonprofit organization.
            I am very excited about this opportunity to work with Sarah and the Prosperity team for a number of reasons, but the ones that come first to mind seems very serendipitous to me! As an English major, it is probably pretty evident that I have a very tender spot in my heart for books and all that comes with them. I am quite nearly giddy over the prospect of getting to be involved with the behind-the-scenes process of how a book comes to life! Personally, I think it’s going to be a very special experience getting to learn how all the books I know and love really came to be.
            Furthermore, with my hopes of starting and running my own nonprofit someday, I can’t imagine a better experience than working for a successful grant writer and business woman. In many ways, a nonprofit organization is a lot like a small business; the same tools and tactics used to run a successful business can also be utilized to create a successful and sustainable nonprofit. Most notable, of course, is the acquisition of grant money. Well, then, I am certainly in the right place and with the right person! I can’t wait to see what I will learn from Sarah’s experience and the entrepreneurial slant that she offers.   
            Anyway, time to wrap up. Thank you to those who took the time to read my very first blog post and learn a little about me. I hope to meet and get to know many of you in the future! Very exciting things are happening with Prosperity, so be sure to keep up with Sarah’s Midweek Motivations, and stay tuned for future blog posts, which will actually be about Prosperity activities ;) 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Mid-Week Motivation (MwM) From Sarah Aubrey!

This week Sarah Aubrey, Principal of Prosperity Consulting, discusses how to improve grant success by partnering on applications . Read more in this weeks Mid-Week Motivation by Sarah Aubrey.