Friday, July 30, 2010

Among Corporate Spouses: Are We Really Friends?

Early in the learning curve as their executive partners are climbing the corporate ladder, corporate spouses often comment and inquire, “We socialize often with people within our company at events. I really do like these other spouses since we connect on many levels. But I want to know, are we really friends? Where do I draw the line?”

What a great question! And if you’re asking the question, you’re already a step ahead by understanding that there should be a line.

It’s true, as spouses in the corporate world, we do connect on many of same subject levels . . . married, trailing, children, often alone, feeling solo, relocated, little time with our spouses, and the list continues. Pretty soon, spouses are commiserating their lists of complaints at parties, over coffee, and the “allied or angry” balance can weigh heavy on the angry side finding blame all around them. With “the list,” they view themselves as bonded friends who have common ground. But as I view them, they’re bonded by complaints.

However, corporate spouses can learn the skills it takes to turn this scenario around 180 degrees to be a positive experience. Through an ExecuMate seminar or one-on-one mentoring, the informed executive spouse develops the awareness to know conversations such as these can quickly turn negative, and use their learned skills to maneuver those conversations in a positive direction. Through sharing ideas, maintaining a positive mental attitude, practiced skills of adaptability, finding your own passions to enrich your life, and sharing the ‘power of two’ experience through seminars or mentoring, corporate spouses can be transformed into a supportive group, helping each other through the journey. They now connect as problem-solving friends.

OK, so did I say “friends?” Well, corporate friends. In the business world, these people will be coming in and out of your life as they continue their own journey. And keep in mind, something that is easier to learn before than afterwards, the information you share with another spouse could be used against you if that person chooses to share that information you consider private. When silently debating whether to share information with them, ask yourself these questions: Could this information hurt another person in the company? Could this information hurt my own spouse’s career? Would I want to read my comments in print?

The balance of corporate friendships tip in your favor when you have the tools and guidance helping you define such gray areas and often controversial subjects.

One final note: I have always been told that you can count your real friends on one hand and have fingers left over. Although this may not be exactly true, it does make a point.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Racing Ahead: A Checkered Flag!

The Andretti family is one of the most well-known names in the racing industry: Mario, Michael, Marco. All capable of driving at incredibly high speeds, winning numerous famous world races.

Today, my story is about Michael Andretti. He uses the same amount of well-honed skill and focus helping people – which he’s made part of his life’s work through the Michael Andretti Foundation and lives it every day, as you’ll read in a moment - as he does successfully maneuvering a race car or coaching from the pits.

While in Toronto, Canada, for an Indy race this past weekend, I dined at the CN Tower, a stunning view atop the second highest building in the world. While lunching, an engaging server asked my friend and me about our visit to the city. When we shared that we were there to support the Andretti Team, especially Marco Andretti driving the #26 Venom car, he beamed a huge smile. “About 15 years ago, I was a bus boy here, and Michael Andretti dined here,” he shared. “He was so nice to all of us. He autographed hats, shirts, and had his picture taken with each one of us. I still have the photo plus the things he gave us. It was a highlight in my life!”

I shared this story with Michael at dinner that night, and he smiled, blushed a bit, and nodded with “that’s great,” sotto voce.

I exclaimed, “You can’t buy that kind of great advertisement, you have to live it!” I knew he did. Every day.

Isn’t life remarkable when the good seeds we sow find fertile ground and the crops may be reaped for years? Isn’t life great when we choose integrity and kindness as a balance of life and work? People do notice.

As we all race ahead in life, those who win practice what each of us in any walk of life is capable of doing every day: small acts of kindness, integrity and respect.

The checkered flag is waving - Michael Andretti, once again, you are a winner!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Executive Promotion: The Transition

Regardless if it is our first job or one later in our career, the news of a promotion feels joyful. I often compare it to when I was auditioning for a major role in a play or musical. I would tell my friends, “Oh, that’s the easy part.” When you hear the news that you landed the part and you’re handed a five-pound script . . . now that’s the time to get nervous!

Recently, I attended several Broadway shows. During the outstanding performances, I was curious to know the daily schedule of such a performer. It boils down to the same questions I would ask of executives and their spouses concerning quality time, unusual work hours, etc.

Executives or couples in a dual-career family experience the same types of high-pressure challenges those Broadway performers do. The promotion means more time spent at the job (rehearsal), huge focus on your new role (getting your role face on), new people to work with (cast and crew) and delivering great work (an encore performance).

Moving into a new work role is challenging, time consuming and often a bit frightening for both executive and spouse. However, your bridge in a successful performance is to gain the support you need – and this is where ExecuMate can help you. I’ve played the supporting role of executive spouse for more than 20 years, and while each couple’s experience is different, we understand the issues and challenges – and can help you balance your life and work through personal experience shared in
seminars and one-on-one coaching where spouses can feel at ease discussing these issues in confidence. We’ll help you achieve success in the form of an encore performance at work and at home!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Traveling: The Art of Packing

I would like a dollar for every time I have presented a carry-on for a week’s worth of travel, and heard a gasp! I would definitely have some fun pocket money. It’s true, I have the gift . . . truly, just lots of experience. Regardless, I hope these tried and true packing tips will take you a long way, whether executive or spouse:

Practice discipline. It is absolutely necessary when packing. Make a plan – then stick to it. Do not be tempted to throw in a few more items “just because” or “just in case.” Yes, already, I can hear the groans.

Outline your trip on paper. List a daily schedule and note if it is necessary to change clothes for the evening.

Ladies first. Choose two colors to coordinate, and then find a splash of color to accent such as a top, blouse or sweater. For example, black is a basic color that is forgiving when traveling, so I add beige, brown, or silver as the coordinating color. Next, I choose my accent color, often red. Using a couple of suits, I add blouses or sweaters with the skirts or slacks and create multiple outfits. Don’t leave it to chance – list the designated use of each piece according to the time you will wear it, and with accessories including shoes. Choose your travel shoes, knowing when you will wear them again, and the same with evening shoes, handbag and daytime shoes. I limit myself to three pairs only, one I will wear traveling. After I have chosen my clothes, I add one more blouse in case of a spill. I place travel-size toiletries (cosmetic counter samples) in a gallon baggie, meds and basic make-up in my purse and I’m ready to go!

And the gentlemen. Men, we ladies think you have it very easy. Use the same outline for the trip. Wear the blue blazer, pack the suit, dress slacks that coordinate with the blazer or suit jacket, add dress shirts (don’t forget your cufflinks and color staves), and an extra pair of shoes for rotation. Add one short sleeved knit shirt as an extra. Prepare your ditty bag with mini-sized products from the travel aisle (new one each trip), and away you go! Meds go in your briefcase.

Ease of packing comes with practice. What one MUST adhere to is the discipline not to start improvising or compromising towards the end. The bonus of this discipline and well orchestrated plan? A lighter and smaller travel bag you will have in your possession the entire trip, more time – not wasted standing near the luggage belt – and no risk of the airline losing your luggage. Try it!