Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween...Oh so sweet


This weekend we took a ride down to DC to see our favorite Sarge become our favoriate 2nd Lieutenant. (Photos and story coming tomorrow). But today, I've conquered Little Man A's Mom's Mac just in time to upload a few highlight photos of LMA and Baby Brother Z and poor exhausted Mom....Happy Halloween.









Moments after awaking from her exhausted cat nap above, Mom rallies for Halloween festivities.


Want to see what Baby Brother Z was costumed as? You have to go to Searching for an Even Balance to see it.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Other Side of the Desk

Dateline: April 1990. I was a young office worker in a marketing department. Our job was to sell senior living apartments to retirement age homeowners. Somehow the job had turned into a cold-calling telemarketing nightmare. And cold-calling can only be made worse when you are cold-calling elderly people.

"Hello, is Mr. Smith available?"

"MR. SMITH DIED LAST YEAR!!!!"

"Oh, I'm terribly sorry...um...are you Mrs. Smith?"


"I CAN'T BELIEVE YOU PEOPLE KEEP CALLING HERE - MR. SMITH IS DEAD."

"I apologize Ma'am, I'm calling from XXX and was hoping to talk to you about an opportunity to live in a place with more amenities and services that would enrich your life."

"WHY WOULD I LEAVE MY HOME??? MR. SMITH BUILT THIS WITH HIS OWN HANDS AND I RAISE ALL 17 OF MY KIDS HERE AND WHY DO YOU KEEP CALLING HERE ASKING FOR MR. SMITH?"

[probably because Mr. Smith is still the name on all the utility bills and public records...but I get how it is upsetting]

"Well we thought you might enjoy a day out and a tour and learning a little about what we offer - we like to compare our community with a cruise ship on land, we have activities, and restaurants, and organized outings, and..."


"I DON'T LIKE TO CRUISE, I GET SEASICK. AND MY NEIGHBOR MILDRED DRIVES ME TO SHOP I DON'T NEED AN ORGANIZED OUTING. AND I COOK FOR MYSELF...THOSE FANCY FOODS DON'T AGREE WITH MY DIGESTION."

Multiply this conversation by 100 and you had my typical workday.

And yet, as miserable as I was at this job, when I sat across the desk from my boss that morning and expected the usual pep talk about how to handle the calls and her expectations for at least 7 appointments to be made that week, I was unpreprepared for her announcement that I was being let go.

It was devastating. I hated this job, but to have someone take it away was like a blow to the gut.

In the end, after unemployment and frustrating job searches, and finally a relocation to find work, I found my real professional home. And after some time had passed I realized that boss had done me a real favor in kicking my complacent miserable ass to the curb.

Fast forward 20 years and here I am. On the other side of the desk. And I'm here to tell you that the message is no easier to give than it was to receive.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Truth to Power

10.27.09 Post Script
CEO Daughter just stopped by my desk with a smile and offered me a Russian candy. After contemplating it for a moment and wondering on the odds of poisoning...I decided to give it a try. A delicious lemon drop. And I'm still alive.
----

One of the buzz phrases of the business environment is "the ability to speak truth to power". I think it may actually have originated in politics - you know - in order to be a good advisor, you need to be able to speak truth to power, but it is valid in the business environment today.

I had my chance on Friday. Not in a way that would affect a business decisions, but a more personal discussion. You see, my department intern is the CEO's teenage daughter.

[pause for reaction]

Yes, I know. But luckily I have a CEO who is honest, forthright, and approachable and who told me on day one that I was to hold his daughter accountable just as I would any other member of the team...and maybe moreso. He is also paying her salary. And I don't mean that in the sense of he oversees her budget, I mean that he writes a check to the company to cover her salary to make it a net zero impact on our budget. This is not about getting his kid a job for some pocket money, this is about teaching her to EARN her pocket money. You gotta respect that.

So, needless to say, when it came to my attention that we had a situation with her attendance...I struggled with how to deal with it. I mean, it's not like I would call anyone else's Mom or Dad who works for me to address this...even an intern...but he asked me to hold her accountable and I had a complicated situation.

You see, she called in on a Friday saying she had a mid-term to study for. While we had some deadline work for her, we respect our interns are students first and we said ok. Then, when she arrived on the following Tuesday she let it slip that she had actually been hanging out with her friends because her parents were both traveling and she was grounded, so this was her way to skip out on her punishment. Why was she grounded? Because she had come home drunk when she was supposed to be studying with friends. Lies on top of lies.

I really thought I would deal with this directly with her, but then I thought about her safety and our responsibility should anything happen to her if we didn't clue in her family on what was going on. The added complication is his daughter has only been in his family for about 4 years having been adopted from an orphanage in Russia when she was just 15 years old.

I was still debating what to do while eating lunch with the CEO and some execs last week. Then he said, "So I hear [daughter] is working extra hours these days." And there it was. My opportunity to cover for her with a bald-faced lie, to play clueless and pretend I didn't know what me meant, or to come clean with everything I knew.

What would you do?

Many people I asked said they wouldn't have said a word. Or if anything, they just would have so, "No, not that I'm aware of" and have him go digging for the truth with his daughter. But I'm not good at games and I totally respect this man, so, I did it. I took him aside and told him the whole story. When I was done, I told him that it was awkward to have to do this, but that I hoped it was the right decision.

Then...and here's another place you can question my judgment, I came back to the office and told his daughter that as of that moment, her Dad knew everything. She, of course, turned bright red with embarrassment (there's hope for her yet!). I asked her to take one important lesson from this: Don't put me in a position to have to lie to her father. I value his trust too much.


Today, he thanked me. He apologized for putting me and my team in an awkward position and he thanked me. They are struggling with allowing her some independence and trying to trust her with it, and then having to discipline her bad judgment. He also learned that the family she was staying with were told by his daughter that she was not only working on Friday, she worked longer hours than usual. Lies on top of Lies on top of Lies!

I feel sorry for her a bit. She is going to be 19. Most kids her age and in her situation are away at school, making their mistakes without Mom and Dad looking on. She doesn't have that luxury...she has to make her mistakes in the spotlight. Learning to make decisions based upon what others expect you to do, based upon a level of respect for them and their judgment...this is a tough life lesson.

The daughter? She comes in tomorrow for the first time since this went down. I don't think she'll thank me. But maybe some day when she has a child of her own, or a staff of her own, she will.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Right Person

video














And this picture is why I know he is the right person. I've never seen her so happy. Thank G*D for 2nd chances.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

12 Hour Countdown

In just 12 hours I'll be walking down the aisle again. This is my 7th wedding.

Not as a bride....of course...you just read about my 20th! As a bridesmaid. I've been in two rainbow weddings (ah, the 80s), 2 black and white weddings (ah, the 90's) and 1 polyester navy wedding (ah the 70s) and of course the floral wedding.

This is a first...or should I say a 2nd. It is the 2nd time I've walked the aisle on behalf of this bride, and I'm hoping this one will take. We'd never want to negate the first, since it brought her the most beautiful twin girls, but this one brings her a great man, another daughter, and two sons to add to her current brood.



It's a Sunday morning outdoor wedding in upstate NY. On our drive upstate yesterday? We drove through snow....beautiful...but more winter-like than harvest fall weather.
Tomorrow's forecast?? dicey at best...

8 am 35°F Partly Cloudy

9 am 37°F Partly Cloudy

10 am 39°F Partly Cloudy

The setting is incredible (pictured above), so the bridesmaids are determined to ignore our frigid toes in strappy sandals in the frosty grass and the goose pimples scattered amonst the pearls the bride gave us today and running down our bare arms. We did the run-through today in the drizzly rain and survived, so here's hoping for tomorrow.


Send good vibes our way....this bride and groom deserve a beautiful memorable moment overlooking Canandaigua lake and the gorgeous fall colors around them.

12 hours to go....

Thursday, October 15, 2009

LOL

Laughing out loud is such a joy, isn't it? On Monday night, I was watching the new comedy "Accidentally On Purpose" and experienced such an LOL moment that it has recurred several times a day since. The show is not tremendously good, and Jenna Elfman can get on my nerves pretty quickly, but I was so startled by the joke that I didn't just giggle, smile, smirk, but I really laughed...out...loud.

I experienced a similar moment today at work, where a meeting was interrupted by a short hysterical interlude having to do with the sound the styrofoam plates were making (think chalk on blackboard) on the polished finish of the conference room table. You'd never get it, so not worth explaining, but the side-aching laughter was such a welcome relief to the MERGER environment we've been under.

Thinking about this also brought back a memory of my Dad. We were sitting on a couch watching, for the first time, the Paul Newman movie Slapshot. When it got to the scene where he puts the crazy brothers into the hockey game and they proceed to beat up every other skater on the ice in the most random and aggressive ways, I remember my father starting to chuckle. Not one to react to TV very often, except to call it the Boob Tube, I was surprised. He often sat there with his thumbs aggravatingly twiddling, but he didn't often laugh with the comedies. As the scene went on for moment after moment of ridiculous and brutal sport, my father and I begain to really laugh...and laugh...and laugh. I think we were both wiping away tears by the time it was over. Not sure the movie (clip below) is as funny now, but the memory is priceless.



I hope you find something today that really makes you laugh. No wry quirk of the lips. No minor, "ha, that's funny" comments. But true, uncontrolled, giggles, belly laughs, snorts, and maybe even a little pee your pants kind of laughter. It is truly a joyous thing.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Where were you 20 years ago today?


I was marrying my best friend.

THEN



NOW


Happy anniversary friend.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Priceless

  • 600 miles on the Subaru - $100.00
  • Two nights at Crook Jaw Inn, Yarmouthport - $300.00
  • Price Fixe Menu at the Ocean House - $98.00
Weekend Getaway with Hubby to celebrate 20 years of marriage....PRICELESS

For the first time, Hubby and I visited Cape Cod in the Fall. Expecting to see an explosion of autumn colors, we were quite surprised to instead find it a very mild 70 degrees and very green. The ocean waters apparently warm the area and delay the season. Nevertheless, it was a beautiful time to be at the Cape. We stayed at a lovely B&B (Crook Jaw Inn) right on the famous 6A in Yarmouthport. This 1780's house was so well appointed and charming, and we immediately felt at home.

This little trip was just a small treat to mark our 20th anniversary (coming on 14th). In contrast with our 10th anniversary where we spent 2 weeks in Hawaii, we really had to squeeze it in this year between work, school, and family commitments, but squeeze we did. Although fighting the Columbus Day traffic on I-95 made me think we were a little nuts, we finally arrived and had a lovely weekend. We topped off a day of wandering (and of course, with Hubby at the lead - plenty of photography) ...



...with a fabulous meal at the Ocean House in Dennisport. Their fall price fixe menu was incredible and for a very reasonable amount, we had a spectacular 3 course meal.

While Hubby is the pro photographer...I had fun with his old castoff 35 mm SLR and posted some of the results here. (Note: Hubby was a real help with the photoshop techniques I could use to make the images even better for printing...but it was ME who used the posterize filter to create some fun shots where the lighting just wasn't working for the plain photo.) I think the Americana of the Cape works perfectly with the poster technique.

Of course, art is nothing without sacrifice. In this instance, I sacrificed some shoes.


< Teaser: Next weekend...the WEDDING OF THE CENTURY. Me, the bridesmaids and the bride all in sleeveless gowns for a lakeside ceremony in mid October...and yes - high temps in the 40's are predicted..... >

Cape Photos
























































Cape Posters





































Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Transparency, Sort of

On the communications theme, I spent today in three meetings (clones of one another) as our merger leadership gave presentations to offer our staff the opportunity to understand what is happening as we integrate and also allow questions. Our staff? the ones who regularly beat down our doors, grab us in hallways, accost us at the water cooler, and fill our email boxes? yes those same staff were nearly silent in the Q&A portion.

In my youth and inexperienced days I might have actually thought that meant the presentations were so thorough they answered all the questions.



Ah youth.



About 10 years ago, when I remained a little innocent and ignorant of group dynamics I may have thought people were just not engaged or interested.



Ah ignorance.



But today, I know that it comes down to how people function - both culturally within the organization and due to their own fears and inhibitions. Why else would you see a room fill to standing capacity but yet no one will take the 20 seats still available in the front row? Why else would you hear questions as people entered the room as they spoke to their buddies, and questions as they exited the room - again to their buddies - but silence when an opportunity was presented to ask something.

As the communications professional in the room, it's usually a bad idea for me to ask questions - I look like a corporate plant, put there to lob softball questions at the speakers and be a general kiss-ass. But eventually I did ask one, just because there was at least one burning question that no one else was asking.

It is not easy to convince leaders that transparency and sincerity in communications is a requirement - especially in times of change - but we did convince them and they are here to offer information. It is not easy to convince the MERGER company that our organization is used to getting lots of information and having a stake or ownership role in every decision ... they are used to consensus processes, not top-down led direction. And if everyone keeps their mouths shut at each of these meetings, we'll never convince them of that.

So today, we made a stab at promoting Transparency...sort of.

And it worked, sort of.

And now I have to work really really hard to convince the leaders to do it again, and again, and again.

I wish the staff would help me out with this a bit. But I'm getting used to scaling the wall alone.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Communications Strategy When You've Done "Terrible Terrible Things"

I'm a marketing communications professional...so when I was watching the Letterman Show last week, I was absolutely fascinated by the communications strategy.

If you've been out of the loop for the past week, you may not know the story. David Letterman, of Late Night Show fame, was being blackmailed by a man who had evidence of Letterman's various affairs with women in his office. Rather than pay the blackmail, David Letterman consulted with his lawyer and worked with police to catch the culprit and subsequently testify to the Grand Jury about the fact that Yes he had done the things the blackmailer accused him of. (at this point, Hubby rolls his eyes and says, "I couldn't care less about this if I tried.")



But I care. Not about Letterman and a sex and blackmail scandal, but about the communication strategy employed to save Letterman's persona.

Letterman made the choice to out himself and this situation immediately, or at least before the media got hold of it. Not so unusual these days, people - especially famous people - are beginning to learn that there is nothing that turns off the media so much as being hand-fed their info. They prefer the hunt and the bloody kill to the sacrifice.

But HOW he did it was the real twist. He monologued it (if that's even a verb). I'm sure he was thinking that this controlled environment, with an audience full of fans who were completely prepped to respond with chuckles and applause was the way to get it out in the open without possibility of tough questions, accusations of sexual harassment, and really anyone who could derail his side of the story. It reminded me of times when I have shared stories of embarrassing moments in my life with friends, asking them to laugh with me, rather than at me, and embellishing the story to get as many laughs as possible while surrounded by people who love me despite my foibles and faults. And truthfully, sex scandals can barely even bring down a politician nowadays, and certainly an entertainer can almost count on an uptick of TV ratings.

I guess it was the source of the blackmail material that made the communication strategy a little off kilter for me. The fact that Letterman actively garnered laughter and applause for his misdeeds...for his "terrible terrible things". Like an errant schoolboy caught pilfering from the teacher's lounge instead of a head of a multi-million dollar business who had been caught with his pants down with women who worked for him. I mean, let's be realistic too. Perhaps everything was consensual and the only real injured party here is his long-standing (and finally wedded) partner of 20 years. But how, I wonder, did she react to his delivery of the message to the public? Has her dignity been sacrificed at the altar of his career? What did she feel when subsequent guests came on the show with wise-cracking comments to make light of this situation?

These are the kinds of current event topics that come up in class in my master's program. Last year it was the A-Rod steroid scandal and if we were his communications consultant what would we recommend? Mea Culpa's was the consensus. Stop denying and excusing, and admit wrongdoing and apologize. Ask for forgiveness. I wonder what would have happened if A-Rod had taken his admission of guilt to Comedy Central and made self-effacing jokes about it?

Sincerity. Any expert worth his/her salt will tell you that's the key to any communication strategy. Whether personal or professional, eventually bullshit falls apart, spin is dissected, and flat-out lying is brought to light. If Letterman's admission had been a little more tinged with embarrassment and a little less self-congratulatory I might have been convinced of HIS sincerity. As I watched him, I think I picked up on the non-verbal cues of someone who is actually physically in discomfort. Each time he seemed to be getting serious about the story, and getting uncomfortable with the subject, he returned to a comfort zone of a quirked eyebrow, smart-ass comment, or some other comedian's tool. He actively encouraged the audience when they laughed, playing on their "inappropriate" enjoyment of his plight. "Now why is THAT funny?" he'd ask - obviously begging for more. All in all, it was fascinating to watch and pick apart with my brain engaged in strategic dissection.

Regardless of my reaction, I'm sure David Letterman will survive this latest debacle. I'm sure people will rally around him as just your average good guy from Indiana who was made a victim of someone else's greed. So in the end, isn't he lucky that it was an extortion scheme that brought this to light and not a sexual harassment claim?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Alma Mater

Ok, so a truth about Wenderina. She is a college student...AGAIN. I'm halfway through my master's at Manhattanville College in Purchase NY. And really, except for the lack of hangovers, pizza/beer parties, and bunk beds. It's all about the same. It brings back moments of nostalgia, especially when I'm trying to find the most comfortable way to sit in those stupid chair/desk combos that are not meant for anyone over the age of 14.

This weekend though, my undergrad school was featured on Today. It was pretty fluffy, hokey, and all that, but just watching the shots of campus, how it is the same and yet so changed, seeing the sunset over the valley one more time, and hear the mention of my favorite sub shop, that just made my mouth water...yeah...nostalgia city.