The other day I was chatting with a friend about road trips. I love them. Assembling meals from the gas station, scenery, random giant landmarks, debates over the best choice of radio station.
I used to struggle with long trips as I viewed my destination as the goal and the drive to the destination as the cost rather than a part of the experience. Today that is not the case.
A few years ago I went on a road trip in an RV and surrounded by some of my best friends I experienced the journey. I discovered that the trip including late night coffee stops, peeing roadside and trash talking one another for their choice in music, snacks, apparel, etc. was as much a part of the vacation as the things that we stopped to see or do. I have more pictures and fond memories of us in that RV than at any other location and would go on the same adventure again tomorrow (SNCKR’14?).
Along the way I learned things about myself and that somewhere in between here and there is when I truly realized that memories do not require destinations to be made. They happen with every kilometre you cover, so no…. we aren’t there yet, settle in and just enjoy being here right now.
Filed under: Commentary, Cycling, Personal | Leave a Comment
Tags: #adventure, road trips, travel, vacation
So often people are afraid to look unprepared in a meeting and because of this will make something up rather than just admitting that they don’t know the answer. These ad hoc answers are often incomplete at best and completely wrong at worst and do nothing to move the business forward.
It’s not worth the risk…
Many years ago I worked on the sales floor of a Home Depot store. This is a place where the wrong answer can cause a customer to be electrocuted from bad wiring advice or see their basement flooded from bad plumbing directions. This is where I learned to say that I didn’t know.
The risks of the wrong answer were just too high to take, so instead you offered “I’m not sure, but let’s find out together”.
In the end I learned as the customer learned and was better prepared to answer the question the next time a customer asked me.
Changing my habits
A few years ago I started to implement this in my work life. If I didn’t know the answer I said so and would do the research and follow up with the correct response as the information became available. This meant that I became a resource that learned the answers in many categories because I was spending a great deal of time researching each vertical.
At first I was afraid that saying I didn’t know would make people think I was unprepared, but it became quite the opposite. People discovered that if they added questions into the meeting notices I would come armed with as much information as I could and realized that if I gave an answer it was because I had the research to support it.
Challenge the desire to know everything. There is no person who can possibly know everything. Experts in all categories reference their research and that of others before they make a claim.
So if you don’t know, don’t bullshit. Accept it and start digging up the answers.
Filed under: Branding, Commentary, Customer Service, Leadership, Marketing, Motivation, Strategy | Leave a Comment
Tags: #business, #leadership, commonsense, ego, personal branding
Growing up my parents had opposing opinions on politics and I learned that political conversations shouldn’t leave the kitchen table. They rarely agreed on much in terms of candidates or platforms, but they always came to the same point. You could have your opinion as long as you acted on it.
This lesson stayed with me. You must have your vote placed and counted to deserve the right to an opinion be it good or bad in another’s eyes.
Don’t like your mayor? Did you vote for or against him/her or did you stay home and eat pizza?
So…why am I talking politics today?
Too many of us don’t vote. We don’t voice our opinions where they have impact. We need to start. We need the people that we elect to impact what we want our cities, countries and world to reflect.
The magic of living in countries where we can select our leaders is that we can choose the ones that reflect ourselves.
Our world is in trouble. The resources are starting to diminish faster than they restore. Our kids are obese and brand logos are more familiar than authors or types of trees to them. Our politicians select weapons over words. Our food is modified. Our world has changed and the only way to ensure it is changing the right way is by voicing our opinions on ballots.
Please vote. Vote for your Mayor, the leader of your country and any other role that you can help to select.
I don’t care who you support.
Red, Blue, Left, Right.
Do what matters to you. But please. Act on your views by casting your vote.
Filed under: Commentary, Leadership | 2 Comments
Tags: opinions, Politics, Vote
It’s funny, when I started writing each new paper I kept hitting a wall when I wanted to credit my sources. When I was attempting to follow the formal rules for citing a source, I was also breaking apart the framework that made my argument solid with a clumsy transition from my interpretation of the idea into the actual source of the idea itself.
It just occurred to me that the easiest papers to read were written as though the writer had just had a chat with the original idea guy or gal. They were discussing a concept and using evidence from other peoples work seamlessly because of the level of familiarity that they had with the raw concept and the source writer.
In many cases the research papers and journal articles that I am reading are written by some of the greatest minds in the business community. These writers are prolific and have produced books, articles, case studies and even have YouTube channels all about their concepts. What I discovered is that I too, am getting to know these brilliant minds. I now understand and can use examples from the different works because I am getting familiar with their theories.
I will be referring to these gifted academics in papers (respectfully and with the correct CMOS footnotes) as though I know them. The risk of not giving sources credit is too high to not work as hard as I can at finding a way to do this well. I am going to try this approach for my next two papers. Kaplan, Miles, Kotter et al are now my friends and trusted inner circle. Starting today I will be crediting them the same way I would credit an idea from a call with my mom or lunch with a friend.
My goal from this test is to see if it helps my writing become fluid again and see if it helps me to take some of the crispy tone out of the sentences supported by a citation. From what I understand this is a skill that needs practice and will someday become something I no longer have to work at. Until such time as I can integrate credit with the best of them, these celebrities of academia are my peeps.
Filed under: Personal, Strategy, The Road to my MBA, Writing | Leave a Comment
Tags: academic writing, citing a source, creative writing, MBA, Royal Roads University
I find it funny that my very favourite month of the year in Ontario (September) has become my month away from home. For the last three years my September’s have been filled with life changing adventures, loaded with new ideas, given me new friends and sent me home to Ontario with fresh perspectives on life, work, and who I am.
It all began in 2010 when I decided to ride my bike across Canada as a member of the Sears National Kids Cancer Ride (SNKCR). I joined a group of strangers in Vancouver for a bike ride to raise funds for paediatric cancer causes and to drive awareness. I had no idea that I would get so much back for my effort. The group of volunteers and riders (approximately 100 people) come together for an amazing cause and became my family.
In my quest to pay forward all that I experienced from the 2010 ride, I hopped on the bandwagon as a member of the support crew for SNKCR 2011. Armed with the knowledge of what the riders were going through and the feeling of how much my volunteers gave to me, I headed across Canada again. This time it was a different experience. Many of the people there started as my family and each of the new riders and crew were a welcome addition to our world.
Motivated by the last two years of giving back to my community I made the choice to give back to myself. Enrolling in the Royal Roads MBA program was a big step for me in helping to move forward as a professional and as a person. What I was not expecting was that this was another huge adventure. School has been something I have thought about for quite some time, but not something that I was prepared to commit to. I was sure that I would learn a lot, but I had no idea I would change as a person. The program includes two residencies and a bunch of online learning and programs along the way.
I spent the last three weeks in Victoria BC on my first residency engaged in team projects, outstanding classes and absorbing as much content as I possibly could. During all of this academic learning came a great deal of personal growth. Being in a safe place to ask the question “how does my action effect another person?” was incredibly empowering. It helped me to better understand my own choices and to listen before making a judgement about another person.
Each year I have taken a number of personal lessons away from my experiences. These lessons were not easily earned and in many cases came with many obstacles that I had to overcome before I could get to the lesson at all.
In 2010 I learned how to feel genuine emotion again by learning how to cry after years of thinking that tears were a sign of weakness. I became liberated by understanding that emotion is what makes us whole. In 2011 I learned that the little things you do for another person can make their lives better in big ways.
This year was the biggest personal lesson so far. I learned that asking others to help you is sometimes more of a gift to them than to you. Navigating the campus on crutches was hard, but learning that I can ask for help will last a lot longer than a broken leg.
Now I find myself wondering what life changing adventures are ahead of me next September…..The world is full of lessons if you are willing to show up on time for class.
Filed under: Bucket List, Commentary, Personal, The Road to my MBA | Leave a Comment
Tags: life lessons, MBA, personal growth, snkcr, travel, vacation
Late last week my team found it’s groove. We began to communicate effectively, and discovered that as a group we can really work together to get things done. We became a high functioning team after a number of challenging tasks were presented for us to complete together.
On more than one occasion I was struck with the idea that I could get so much more done alone, and during those times I could have. What is magical is when the team shifts as a group and starts to produce to the volume of their communal capacity. It took us twelve days to get to a place that many teams may never reach. It wasn’t easy, but it does say a lot about what effective communication can do to help a group move forward together.
I’ve worked on lots of “teams”, but they were more just groups of people following the demands/requirements that a boss set out for us. We didn’t collaborate on the best methods or approaches to problem solving, we just did it the way the boss said to.
I can admit that I have also been a”boss” at times when I thought I was a leader. Instead of having a dialogue with my reports I was mandating that they complete a project or task my way. Being a leader is an evolution. You need to grow with your team and take turns following another person’s ideas through so that you can understand what the best way to tackle a problem really is. You need to do things wrong, so that you really know and understand when you do them right.
Leading means learning and growing, not dictating.
Filed under: Commentary, Leadership, The Road to my MBA | Leave a Comment
Tags: Growth, leadership, MBA, Personal Development, Team Work
This is my topic sentence. Anyone who has ever gone “back to school” after a time away from academia knows that the sentence above is funny. Not funny as in “Ha! Ha!”, more funny as in “ouch…hehehe”. This is mostly due to the fact that we as business professionals are more used to keeping our messages down to the most condensed bullet points that can be read in one screen view of a mobile device and less concerned with whether or not our overall communications have flow.
The idea of going back to school was not forced upon me, but has actually been something that I have been toying with for a couple of years now. I am not sure when I decided that getting an MBA was a must have bucket list item, but I know that once I decided that I was doing it, it all came together very fast. The school and the program type came to me organically as I rated and reviewed all of the programs available. Once I decided on Royal Roads , all of the rest of the items just flowed right behind it.
MBA @ RRU
At the end of May I had a conversation with the Dean of the Faculty of Management and the program manager and knew that this was the right program for me. With an outstanding level of academic achievement and a much higher than average age (43 versus 26), I was going to go to school with leaders from many different industries, and I was going to be able to learn from everyone there. The other learners in the program would be leaders from every industry there was. The perspectives and life lessons presented were going to come from talented professors AND every other person in the room. I was going to learn so much in this program!
I applied… now what?
Much like anything in my life it all came together almost overnight. Not quite “Erin Burrell please cross the stage” fast, but speedy, none the less. From application to the first day of class, just over five weeks passed. From the day I was accepted to today it has been less than two months, and here I am in the fifth week of the program.
Back in Class
The program is designed as a mostly online model, but includes two three week “intensive” residency sessions, the first of which I am at the end of day ten. I’m tired. My brain is so busy, that I’m not sure it is going to have room for the readings I have to do for tomorrow’s classes. I woke up this morning unsure if the case study I read last night, had been read thinking of the right course (for those of you who are interested… I was thinking strategy when I should have been thinking of organizational behaviour and yes, I re-read it). We are busy, between team and individual assignments, reading and trying to absorb the materials most of the students, myself included are going from about 6am-midnight.
Over the last ten days I have had my writing and thinking processes ripped apart in order to make room for the new tools that my professors and fellow learners are giving me. This exercise is not just necessary in order to help me grow as a leader, it is mandatory in order to help me to expand my notions of what it means to be a leader. Each comment in the margins of an assignment is designed to help me to understand the lessons that my instructors are teaching me, don’t get me wrong…they still hurt a little but I am learning my ass off!
Have I mentioned my broken leg?
Oh… so…yeah, I fell and broke my leg practicing hits at roller derby. When? Well gee… I was in the hospital the morning of our first day of online classes, but it’s ok. Yes, it is hard to get around a campus that has more than it’s fair share of stairs on crutches, but the entire campus is helping me! Every member of the staff has gone out of their way to help make my RRU experience better. It goes well beyond opening doors and offering me shortcuts, they have made the girl on crutches feel welcome and not even slightly out of place.
So here I am… just around 5% of the way through the program and couldn’t be more pleased that I made the choice to come. I will do my best to share my journey along the way, but really… both you and I know that I should be doing homework right now. Conclusion goes here.
Filed under: Bucket List, Commentary, Leadership, Motivation, Personal, The Road to my MBA | Leave a Comment
Tags: MBA, motivation, Royal Roads University, School