Sunday, November 9, 2014

"You Don't Look Like Someone Who Can Raise Millions"...and Other Crazy Things I Have Heard

The job search can be painful, even when you have a job and you are looking to move up in your industry.  Painful is an understatement. It can be downright soul crushing if you let it.  NO, I am not searching for a new gig at this time, but I certainly have had my share of nightmare interviews.  Some I have begged to get and then been sorry I had.  Some can be life-altering, for the good and for the bad.  My worst interview experience became the birth of my multi-million dollar revenue generating career. 

I was working at non-profit that helped mentally ill children.  It was gut-wrenching every day.  I watched parents and sometimes grandparents come into the center with all the belongings of their little loved one in trashbags with notes attached that said things like " We will not be returning for little Billy today.  We are just too scared of him".  I literally would sit in my office with tears in my eyes because I knew these young souls were suffering.  It was too much for me.  I am not proud to admit it, but we must know our limitations and mine is children suffering.  It renders me unable to function.  So started the job search.

Resume updated and on the fax to several organizations a week, I found myself in a position many know well, successful- yet getting no call backs.  That in and of itself was a shot to the old confidence.  I did not really want the jobs I was applying for, but I wanted them to want me. 

Finally, I found one open position at a big Philadelphia based non-profit that was right up my alley- empowering people to rise up and succeed.  Hooray!  I zipped that resume off with the quickness(yes, I am a young professional of the 90's- this term was used often). Then I proceeded to call EVERY day and leave messages for the hiring supervisor.  First call, I did the obligatory check in on the receipt of the resume.  Check- they got it.  Second day, second call, I left a message thanking the hiring manager for considering me.  Calls 3 and 4 were spent espousing the virtue of my experience.  Call 5, the hiring manager got on the phone and invited me for an interview.  SCORE!

I went and had my hair cut and my brows waxed(cmon- I am Italian, we are hairy).  Suit was pressed and new stockings purchased..  Yes, I was looking super profesh and ready to go be hired.  Who wouldn't hire me? I was fantastic with a list of successes in the region and an equally long list of corporate folks that would undoubtedly come with me on my new adventure.  I was half an hour early for my interview.

Into the office I went, with my best smile and 17 copies of my resume.  You can never be prepared enough.  In walks the hiring manager.  Mid-40's, dark hair, small glasses, she resembled me as I am today.  I thought, "I got this, she looks like me, we are going to hit it off".  I proceed to stand to shake her hand and hand her a copy of my resume on the watermark paper- you know fancy schmancy style.  The hiring manager looked me dead in the eye and said she would not be hiring me because I did not look like someone who could raise millions of dollars and represent the charity in the community.  Gut punch.  No air was getting into my lungs.  I had not even started to tell her how fabulous I am.  I stuttered out one question, "Why did you invite me to interview?".  Her answer stayed with me for years.  "You were the only candidate to call to ensure I got your resume.".  WHAT?  I tried to keep it together and push a little bit, but she was more than sure that I was not the candidate for her organization.

In the hallway, I fought back tears as I went to my car.  Then in the car I cried for 10 minutes before I started my drive back over the bridge.  I could of let that moment in time define who I was going forward.  Instead, I decided to take it as a challenge and show her and everyone else exactly how to raise millions of dollars and represent organizations across the region.

If you do not know me, I have raised literally tens of millions of dollars in my career and helped literally thousands of people.  Some day, our paths will cross again, me and that hiring manager and I will have my Pretty Woman moment where I tell her she made a big mistake- huge.

For now, I will tell this story and share with you, my reader, that only YOU define YOU.  People say and do stupid things to other people for sure.  It is how you take what they say and do and transform yourself that makes the difference.  It is okay to cry- I do it all the time, but then put on the big girl pants and shake it off. Show them who YOU REALLY ARE- on your terms. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Katniss - Leadership Qualities That Will Have Your Tribe Follow You Into War

There is this personality test circulating on Facebook today- so you know I took it.  I love to know more about how my mind works.  Those things are amazingly accurate.  I do not remember what my type was, but I do remember the picture.  It was of Katniss Everdeen from the Hunger Games.  It got me thinking about that movie and the life lessons in it.  Here a few things I have observed about Katniss's character that made her a successful leader.  I happen to focus in on these as well.  I am pretty good at some and working on others.  It is a constant learning experience.  See which ones you rock...

Sacrifice.  Good leaders sacrifice.  Katniss volunteers to be tribute to save her sister from having to be. In my career, there have been many sacrifices I have had to make. At some point you must make the difficult decision to do the less "fun" plan for the betterment of your organization. I am not saying you need to fall on the sword, just think about what you could give up that would make you a better leader.  Maybe start with a small item then work up to the bigger.

Know your audience or tribe.  It did not take Katniss long to understand those who watched the Hunger Games and what they needed. Even more importantly she knew what the sponsors wanted.  That keen understanding of her audience or tribe would indeed save her life in the end.  Do you know your audience/tribe? What do they want? What do they need?  In my organization, we use a technique called the compass.  In our compass North stands for Needs, East stands for Expectations, West stands for Wants and South stands for Stereotypes.  As a leader I refer to this exercise often to determine what our tribe is needing and wanting, as well as what they expect.  I use this to help our team break the stereotype and exceed expectations. Once you get this concept folks will follow you to war. Just call me K!

Living and leading with integrity requires bravery.  Now, I am not saying you will be fighting to the death for what you believe in, but kind of I am.  Leading is lonely.  Living with integrity is not always easy.  Leading with integrity is actually hard.  It is not a popularity contest and some people will not like you or may take issue with your actions.  Don't eat the final berry because you want to win.. stand up for what you know is right.  In the end you will win anyway.(special thanks to DPhiE - my sorority for drilling this one home at an early age).

Perseverance.  Even when it seemed like death was eminent, the team from sector 12 never ever gave up.   Being a good leader is tough in good times.  Being a good leader in war time- well- don't give up.

Here is a bonus one- Showmanship. To some this will seem not seem congruent with some of the others.  It is a delicate balance and most leaders will NEVER admit they do this.   Katniss- the girl on fire- understood this as did her dress designer(those who have seen the movie get this).  People like to know that the leader has it together and is going to be successful.  A level of show is needed to instill that sense of security to your tribe.  Rock your inner girl on fire and defy gravity(woops- that is another show..maybe another blog post).

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Damn That Lynn Doyle! How Local Celeb Friends on Social Media Affect Your Clout.

Let me start by saying, I do not know if I used affect vs. effect correctly there.  I spent 3 minutes reading a website to help me determine if that is right-- I still do not know. Sorry grammar bugs.

Every week or so I check my Linked In ranking amongst my "friends".  I secretly hope I win the popularity contest and make it into the top 10.  I don't. Ever.  Why? You may ask. I mean I am popular and connecting to me will connect you to a network the size of Oprah's(this is according to my husband who has 1 friend on LI- me.).  Today, I checked and I am still not the top 10. Why is this the case?

Well, here is my non-scientific finding.  My circle contains too many SUPER Pops.  What is that?  I make up my own words, so do not feel like you are the only one lost here.  Super pops are local celebrities.  They have the power of mass media behind them.  Lynn Doyle for example.  My friends in Idaho will not know her, but if you are from South Jerz  she is a super star.  Thanks to local cable television this phenomenon happens.  Radio show hosts are also in this mix.  Friends to the every gal, but also promoted by the main stream local media.  This creates a big fat vortex of views. ( Note to self- get on cable tv.) Anyway, I digress, so, why friend these people?

The amazing result of being friends with local super stars is that while you are not in the top 10 viewed in your circles, your clout score is higher.  Maybe not on the social media klout with a K, but where it counts- real life.  There is a certain credibility that comes with super pops. Being on TV/Radio in the 70's and 80's was a big deal. This phenom had waned in the 90's but it is back.  Today's generation(and some closeted Gen Xers-like ME) watch the Kardashians, the Shah's of Sunset, the Real Housewives and It's Your Call with Lynn Doyle.  These stars have clout and a big following.  Being in their circle, gives it right back to you. Pretty cool.

Disclaimer- I am not a social media guru by any means.  My claim to fame is real life revenue doubling behavior. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

You Never Know Who Is Listening!

It is true. You never know who is listening to you.  I often open my mouth and insert my foot, but as I have aged I realize it doesn't much matter.  It is part of who I am.  I believe you should just be who you be.(Listen grammar nuts- I know this is not correct, but it is cute)

For years, like 20 of them, I have worked in the non-profit sector.  I am good at it.  No, like really, crazy, amazing at it.  I am not bragging. I am being honest.  I have taken  at least 3 non-profit organizations from mid-range to wildly successful or from nothing to success.  It is a gift, but it is not my only gift.  Because I am good at it, I keep doing it.

You know how you put an actor in a box?  Like, Don Knots is funny or Jeanna Davis is serious or worse, you box them to being one character  like Daniel Radcliffe is only Harry Potter?  Well, I have done this to myself. 

I am "non-profit Nicole".  Some might call it a brand.  I consistently deliver good advice on how to make your non-profit, well, profitable.  It is what I say about myself out-loud for all to hear.  And guess what? "All" are listening and repeating it, so I stay in this box.  It isn't bad here -actually rather comfy.

I have a friend.  She is a direct-seller. Not just any old direct seller,  she is really good at it, like million dollar sales good at it. She stepped into that box in the 80s and has been there ever-since. 

Just about three years ago, my friend poked her head out of her box and she shared with me her vision to become an inspirational speaker.  I was listening. 

Shortly thereafter, an opportunity for her to speak to my networking group arose.  She shared her story on how she got to where she was in direct sales and that her vision going forward was to help a gazillion women share their glow.  Those people were listening. 

Fast-forward to today.  My friend is a best-selling author, a sought-after keynote inspirational speaker and is making appearances in our region- not just our backyard.  She busted out of her box by changing her story and her life- just by saying it aloud.  You never know who is listening.

Are you in a box? Where it is safe? Doing what you do because you are good at it? Are you really being who you be? Is it time to explore the world outside your box?

What is the first step?  Tell someone, ANY ONE about your vision.  It doesn't have to be super thought through. It will take shape.  (Someone once told me to fly the plane as I am building it.  Good advice- sorry I forget who said it! ) 

Comment on here or on my facebook page and share with me. I am listening and you never know who else may be too.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff- Featuring Pizza-YUM!

School time again.  This year there are 2 little people to get up, get shoes on, brush teeth, find socks, then put shoes back on, pack lunches, remove apple sauce, repack lunches and finally walk to school.  Every week day we hit the same routine, yet it never becomes old hat.  Mornings have nothing on evenings.  Soccer, homework, reading, dinner, baths, bed.  Sound familiar?   The big stuff in some houses, becomes small stuff in mine. Let's take for instance- dinner. 

Picture me(if you will) with my apron on, coming to the table with the pot roast and potatoes of yester-year, bun in the hair lipstick on, table set with my children sitting, hands in the lap, smiling. 

Now erase that June Cleaver moment and picture the real deal.  I come in racing from the train, the dog is barking, the kids are yelling, my mom is delivering whatever news from the day that is super important as the door is shutting on her rump because she can't get out fast enough.  A little voice in my head says- take me with you.....then the singing starts.  My kids can make up some songs, usually about eating.

Jillian is upset this day, because the teacher would not let her eat the powdered donuts I sent for snack(jeez they were serious about healthy snacks). Anyhoo- I have to focus on dinner.  In my head, I make the quick timing calculation on how long it would take to defrost the chicken I forgot to take out this morning whilst packing yummy healthy snacks.  My subconscious is three steps ahead of me as I hear the woman on the phone say, "Pick up or delivery?".  Yes, my reply is delivery, 2 pizzas and a bottle of gingerale(hubs upholds the no cola rule). Thirty minutes later, ding-dong(if the door bell actually worked) and there he is in all his glory, my knight in shining (under)armour, Uncle Bob with hot pizza and soda. 

Yes, my kids call him Uncle Bob.  No he is not their uncle.  He is the pizza delivery man.  Don't judge.  He visits more than my childrens' real relatives.  If you are a mom, you get the direct message here.  We are not all perfect.  I know what I am good at and I play to those strengths. Often this means laundry is on the floor- not the washer, dishes are in the sink -not the dishwasher and Uncle Bob is bringing dinner and I am okay with that, so you should be too(if you like to fold clothing- see me).

What are your strengths?  Are you playing to those or are you sweating over pizza for dinner - again?

Monday, August 25, 2014

Mo-ti-va-tion- Where Can I Find Some?

Every now and then I have a day- like today- where I cannot focus, even if my life depended upon it.  I am sure you know what I mean.  Where I hit refresh 3003 times on Facebook only to see the same first entry over and over and think- c'mon people- someone has GOT to have something that is going to get me moving.  It's like a case of the Mondays- yet it can happen any day.

I have had some seriously non-productive days, sometimes those days stretch on to a week.  It is a little scary I will admit.  What if my mojo never comes back?  Well my friends- it always comes back.  You then start whipping out tasks like a boss.  Here are a few tips that usually work for me when my inbox has 1045 new messages(only 3 spams) and I am low on the flow.  These are in no particular order of effectiveness.

Make a list- not just any old to-do sir, this is a tough time, you need inspiration. You need pep. You need your flow back.  The list must be of 2 things that you WILL finish before you leave the office, or get off the plane, or the sun goes down(hey- I have friends who are mommies. They get stuck too).  Things like- write a blog post(hint hint) for my friends blog or review one page of the financial report due next Friday(bet you read the whole thing once you start? Say $5? That'll pay for my coffee. Keep reading.).

Jack it up, um music that is.  Put on your pandora, your spotify- whatevs- not important the source, then really- your booty off.  Then get back to step one( I know you people read ahead, I do too).  Get the endorphins moving and grooving.  I have been known to bust a move on the streets of Philly, whatever you need to do man.

Stop trying to do the "work at hand" and do something you absolutely love to do.  Example: This weekend a friend of mine, was going to paint the insides of her closets and couldn't get started.  Now c'mon who wants to do that? Put it on your list (see above) and go much more fun.. no really it is.  Once you are out shopping, you can use that momentum to keep going right into the closet for painting.  See "Objects in motion stay in motion" in your science book from like 3rd grade.

When all else fails- seek caffeine.  Yes, my go to is Dunkin- I think there is something in that brew besides coffee but hey it works for me.  You might be from Canada where it's Tim Hortons (or some such nonsense-- Help me Canadian friends from the north) or you may be the triple shot mocha-chocka- latte fancy pants.. it's all good.  JUST move. 

Ok, back to the refresh button on the email-- or maybe I will turn up some Morris Day and the Time- hey don't judge, I am from the 80s.  Ohh - Weee - Ohh - Wee - Ohhh!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

"So You're Telling Me, There's a Chance" - Three Tips to Get What You Want Even When the Chance is One in a Million

One of my favorite movie lines of all time is from the Jim Carey movie, Dumb & Dumber.  After asking out a pretty lady and her saying his chances of dating her were one in a million, Jim's character's response was "So you're telling me there's a chance!".  I love this because it rings true for me. Maybe not in the dating scene anymore these days( happily married mom of three here!), but definitely in my work life.

At the office there are some co-workers who love to reference Nicole's world.  Things happen in Nicole's world that do not happen in "real life".    At first this hurt my feelings a little bit.

When planning a massive convention a few years back, I insisted that we would not pick from the predetermined hotel menu, but rather, the chef would design a menu FOR us.  Someone made an off-hand comment like, "well you know in "Nicole's world" people do that".  It wasn't until I called the chef myself and explained our budget constraints and that I knew that at other hotels this was common practice that the chef gave in and gave me what I wanted- a pizza bar.( You are welcome attendees- it was delish)

Suddenly, Nicole's world went from a derogatory place where Nicole was the crazy pants, to wow- Nicole can make things happen.  Here are a few tips to becoming the gal that makes things happen.

1.  Do not take no for an answer.  No really, don't.  Keep on asking for what you want.  The key to this is asking in different ways.

2.  Make sure you are speaking to the person with the power to change the outcome.  As women, we tend to not want to make people uncomfy, so asking for the supervisor is not a move we make early on.  Don't waste your time.  If the chef is the decision-maker that orders the food, ask to speak to him out of the box.

3.  You must believe that what you are asking can be done.  This is critical mindset guru type stuff.  YOU  must believe in your heart that what you are asking can happen.  If you do not, you will phrase your questions in a way that let's the listener know that you can be dismissed.  "Can we have pizza buffet? I know that it is not on the menu, but I know that our people love pizza and it would make us super happy." NOOOO.  Try this "At our price point, we would like to work with the chef(decision maker) to create our own menus. We will call him at his convenience to make this happen."

Super-charge your girl power and ask for what you really want.  I know you can do it- no matter what others may say.  Pretty soon, you will have your own world and believe me, it is nice to be the queen of Nicole's World!