Bliou Enterprises


Posts Tagged ‘conference’

Fix It Or Forget It?

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

Molly* approached me about how to deal with a troubling issue without clear protocols: sexual harassment that couldn’t be reported to HR, because it wasn’t from a coworker, but other peers in the industry during training or networking events.

“I saw that you had recently been blogging about topics dealing with attending conferences,” she told me, “And I hoped that you’d address the issue of networking gone sour, but I didn’t see it, so I wanted to ask you directly for some advice on the issue.”

I told Molly that she was by no means the first person to mention this or to have it happen – and not just at larger conferences, but also during smaller gatherings, such as one day seminars or half-day workshops, or less formal networking events, such as happy hours.

“Oh, I definitely see people step over the line during events that have more alcohol,” Molly told me.  “In fact, I’ve made it a policy not to go to them alone.  I always find another woman to attend them with me, and either I leave when she does, or, if I can’t find a companion, I don’t attend.  Period.”

Molly’s most recent incident occurred while she was in a social gathering with nearly a dozen people, but as she was networking (she thought), one man in particular began by showing interest in her career and mentioning people he could introduce her to . . . only to make more and more off-color jokes as he ingested more drinks after dinner.

“At first, I told myself that it was simply the alcohol talking, since he was professional prior to drinking so much,” Molly said, “But at an event with hundreds of people over the next day and a half, he seemed to ‘bump into me’ quite a bit.  And his comments and jokes continued until the end, including an inappropriate offer.  I had difficulty enjoying the conference, frankly.”

“It didn’t seem to make any difference when I tried to emphatically mention my husband, since he was married, too.  He was – or pretended to be, more likely – oblivious to my declining of his advances and offers.”

“After I returned home, I was a bit surprised – not to mention revolted! – to have gotten an invitation to connect on LinkedIn,” Molly said.  “I mean, it took a lot of work on my part to remember the good things about my time at the conference, and not let him ruin it for me!  WHY would I drag the bad part home and continue any more of it?”

I told Molly that, although the experience was definitely a negative one that she didn’t want to repeat, since it wasn’t in her day-to-day workplace, she did have the option to Forget It! and purge this man from her life, essentially.  Beyond that, we wanted to work on some preventative tools in case something similar occurred in the future.

Her idea of teaming up at social gatherings was a good one, and had been serving her well, but as she discovered, there would still be times when she would be on her own, social setting or not.  Cheating herself out of career networking opportunities because of the jerk potential wasn’t really a good long term strategy.  Instead, we worked on her defense mechanisms and behavior toward said jerks.

Many women, particularly those in service-type positions, are very uncomfortable taking an aggressive stance.  Not only does society in general condition women to be polite and non-confrontational, but for anyone who works in a service-oriented profession, they, too, are coming from a position of, “How can I help you?”

It’s a double whammy for women in these professions to counter both layers of conditioning and go on the offensive, so to speak; however, this is the stance that is absolutely necessary for dealing with sexual harassers.  They are counting on not being challenged – and if they are, their immediate response will be that they have been “misunderstood,” “taken out of context,” or in some other way, it is the fault or shortcoming of the victim they are trying to intimidate.  (“Can’t you take a joke?”)

A more effectively disarming response is a cold stare, accompanied by, “I don’t think that’s appropriate,” “No, I don’t think so,” or “Obviously not,” and so forth.

When reviewing what had happened with Molly, and how she thought things might have been different had she initially responded negatively, instead of trying to be polite, understanding or forgiving, Molly realized that it would have been a much better conference.  Either she would have “insulted” him to the point he didn’t speak to her anymore (fine), or he would have gotten the message and behaved more appropriately (also fine).

Since Molly strongly prefers either of these outcomes in the future, she plans to execute one – or more – of the disarming responses we’ve rehearsed if and when she encounters a jerk atmosphere while networking.

When Nina* got downsized from her sales and marketing position, income was a concern, and she wanted a job – any job – right away.  She preferred to get something comparable in her field again, but in the meantime had to pay her bills.  I suggested that she take a position waiting tables at a local restaurant.  This would make good use of her sales skills, and free up her daytime hours when she did get interviews scheduled.

Getting hired as a waitress didn’t take very long, and I coached Nina on how to make the most of that position, while we were still working on finding her a job in her chosen field.  I pointed out to her that being successful at waiting tables, like her previous position, depended upon working well with other departments and distinguishing herself and her talents from the rest of the staff.

For example, I encouraged Nina to make a point not only to say “Hello” to the staff members in the kitchen, bar, hostess stand and bus stand, but to learn everyone’s name as best she could.  She also went beyond her waiting duties and helped out when she had an extra minute to refill condiments in the kitchen, garnishes in the bar, or clear a plate or two on the tables for the bussers, and so forth.

She soon noticed that, during busy times, her special orders were given special attention in the kitchen, her drinks came out a little faster from the bar, and when there were many dirty tables, hers got cleaned and reset a bit faster than the others, which turned into more revenue for her over time.

Nina also networked with the other servers, and picked up additional shifts of theirs when she could.  Not only did she want the additional income, but there were times when she was scheduled for day shifts that would occasionally conflict with an interview, and I pointed out that the best way to ask for a favor was from someone for whom she had already done a favor.  This strategy helped her be versatile and available whenever interviews did come along.

Of course, Nina was also already good at sales, so she suggested additional menu items, such as appetizers and desserts, upsold the brands of liquor, and generally made her customers feel welcome.  Management soon noticed the trends in her sales and customer feedback, including some customers who started requesting being seated in her section.

Within about a year, Nina had only had a couple of job offers in her field, but the pay was so poor, it didn’t even compete with what she was making waiting tables, so she turned them down.  Shortly after, the restaurant manager approached her about becoming the marketing director for the restaurant, due to the talent she had demonstrated there, combined with her people skills working with the staff.

Nina was a bit stunned but pleased to Fix It! by getting promoted back to what she had been doing, from what was only supposed to have been a temporary part-time job.  She got her “new” job without an interview, since her boss already knew her, and ended up making almost as much as her previous salary.  Not only did she have very little training required, but she was pleased to learn that she had a great deal more creative control, because management had a lot of faith in her judgment and talent from the start.

Do you have a Fix It or Forget It? story to share?  Send it to me, and it might help others.  Identifying features will be altered prior to publishing.

Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.
—  Rita Mae Brown

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My Director Will Never Go For That

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

It’s conference season. Too often, I’ve witnessed a person in a session, hearing a great idea being presented – and then turning to me and saying, “I’d LOVE to do that at my place, but my director will never go for it,” typically followed by a sigh.

Don’t get me wrong . . . I don’t claim to know their director or their organization.

But, this person presumably attended this session to learn more about the topic at hand – and while we’ve all had difficult bosses to work with, this person has already cleared a substantial hurdle:  they’ve been sent to a conference to learn more about their field!  A lot of people I speak with would love to be in their shoes!

Whenever you’re approaching your director with a new idea it always pays to put yourself in their shoes first.  What is the likely response?  More importantly, why?  If the answer is no – why is it no?  Is it due to additional cost, staff time, or something else?

You can’t address an objection effectively if you don’t know what the objection is to begin with.

For example, when I speak at sessions about Incorporating Online Giving With Direct Mail, a reason people often give me that their leadership doesn’t want to add online giving has more to do with ignorance:  I wouldn’t give my credit card number over the web, and I don’t think our constituents really want to, either.”

A way to combat this argument is with a one-two punch:  First, by demonstrating industry standards – showing results of a study that demonstrate how pervasive online giving is, regardless of age, for example.  This can be followed up by results of the organization’s own online giving results to counter another common, but ignorant objection:  “That may be true for that population, but it doesn’t apply to our constituents.”  (We’re different.)

It’s also essential to realize that even if you’ve heard – or had – the best idea in the world, it probably isn’t realistic to expect that absolutely everything is going to go your way and be fully implemented immediately.  Once you accept this, you can prioritize your requests and ask for the most important aspects first.  Change can be difficult for people to accept, and it doesn’t always have to do with the price tag.

This is why tracking is so vital.  When you return with tangible, visible results of the success that your proposal is starting to yield, NOW is the time to request that Stage 2 be implemented, and so on.

Of course, you can get these ideas from many sources – not just attending conferences.  You might be inspired from reading various related websites, blogs, taking online training courses, as well as old fashioned networking.  Each person must use the resources they have available to them.

A few days of exposure to the full throttle of session after session at a conference can leave one with a combination of being inspired and overwhelmed, though, when seeing what other very successful organizations are doing with their campaigns.  The thought of trying to implement such changes into your program with staff and/or officers who are resistant to change can even bring about anxiety.

Here are all these wonderful campaigns, strategies and tools – but how will you take them back and implement them, you wonder?  What if you are also lacking the staff and/or budget that they have?  It can seem daunting, if not impossible.

Taking notes during the sessions on how they began their campaigns is always a good idea, as well as asking questions about how difficulties were handled along the way, since all projects have them.  Most presenters welcome being contacted after their sessions, so be sure to take down their information for follow up questions later.

If I don’t see you at NTEN or AFP International in Chicago, perhaps we’ll meet up Pittsburg next month, or Richmond this July, when I am presenting about online giving again?  I can also be reached via my LinkedIn button below.

If you really do have a director who refuses to try anything new – ever – regardless of the idea’s merit, then perhaps it’s time you asked yourself if you should Fix It Or Forget It?  Where do you see your career headed, and can your current position take you there?

Keep the base of the pyramid strong

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