Friday, June 18, 2010

fieldnotes on executive coaching

yesterday I had my performance review conversation with my new boss. my review document had a 'developmental' comment that i had never heard before - to wit;

Consider ways to enhance executive presence so as to consistently position self as a role model to fellow leaders and staff by establishing immediate credibility through professional style.

This was followed by this statement:

Truly a smart, bright and insightful professional who should not hesitate to offer her voice in all forums and discussions, whether directly or indirectly related to immediate role and responsibilities.

and then lots of positive valuation of my 'transparency,' 'frankness,' tact,' and 'strong voice and leadership. "

so what did this 'executive presence' comment really mean? I was surprized, and really intruiged to hear what my boss was thinking and commenting on when he made this statement. He had a hard time clarifying what he meant. he used illustrative examples that all had to do with clothes - 'you know how kathy k dresses the part,' ' i felt awkward when i wasn't in a suit for a leadership presentation and i had wished someone had told me before hand how to present myself...' but he insisted it was not about my clothes. so what was it about? i let him off the hook, suggested that the firm give me an executive coach (which he jumped on and thought was a great idea) and then pondered for a day.

So what was it about me that makes it difficult for my own team leaders to establish 'instant credibility' with me? and how are these qualities perceived by the organization at large? was it just my leadership who has this challenge with me (i suspect it might be) or is this sentiment more broadly held by my internal clients as well? This is my new research project. here's why.

my organization spends an enormous amount of corporate energy promolgating the idea that they respect and value difference in their staff. they use the blanket term 'diversity' to cover a very broad range of 'differences,' and they say that difference has value because it brings more opinions and perspectives to the table, which is always 'good' because the alternative is 'group think,' which is bad, because it doesn't create room for progressive change.

i'm wondering what is different about me that cannot be incorporated into this 'diversity' spectrum? or more to the point, that my colleagues can't recognize as a 'legitimate' difference that they then must accept under the rubric of being supportive of diversity of perspective?

I have a suspicion that it's that 'transparency' thing......and perhaps also the fact that I am not a hieracrchical boss. To illustrate - we have an internal process called "PULSE" - a questionaire that asks our staff 20 questions every 6 months about how they feel about the relationship between the organization and themselves. My function consistently scores more low on questions relating to trust with leadership. My boss was discussing with me and wondered why this is still low, since the leaders 'are always available and all of them are always open to being asked anything.' and that's true. there are lots of 'ask me anything' forums - anonymous email boxes, submissions to webcasts, local face to face meetings. I pointed out, however, that 'ask me anything' is not the same as 'tell me your opinion.' the first reiterates a hierarchy of knowledge and in fact perpetuates the notion that leaders know things that underlings don't, and that they won't know about unless they ask. the second assumes that leaders have something to learn from their staff. I don't think my leaders think they have anything to learn, however, and that is exactly why they are not trusted.

more later.

I have a few different ideas, and i'm really looking forward to pursuing them with this coach person. they better be smart and good because i am going to work them hard.

i have a few different ideas on where to go with this.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

and out

comms was a disaster. tell you all later when i stop weeping about the shitty-ass "performance feedback form" i got from the worst backstabbing suck up shit down boss ever. off to tampa next week to interview for a fresh hell - internal learning. but at least i'll have a 4mm budget...

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

countdown to communications

I'm gearing up/fearing up for my interview friday with the king of assurance. Is there something I don't get about comms? it all seems pretty fundamental to me.
I was wondering, though, if i have to learn to talk in california sing song if i want to really sound comms-y. That appears to be one of the things you learn in comms school, or at least that's what i hear from every person who tells me they work in said "area."

Friday, October 13, 2006


i've decided to start up the blog engine again because it's the only way I'll ever manage to maintain anything like communications between me and the people I wish I was a better friend to. I'll continue to rant obscurely about work, but will now add rants about children and my singing group. I know you can't wait.

rant work update: applying for a job in communications. how the mighty have fallen. i could call it strategic communications, like the job says, and it's true i won't be the one writing the "the new database is up" messages, or more to the point, the ones that say things like "the FASB announced yesterday that it will revisit its intangible asset evaluation guidelines for reacquired business units." i guess it means I get to write the ones that say shit like "i want to congratulate you all on another great year in Assurance, and thank you for your contributions; you have indeed made it a year of service marked by distinction, quality, and relevance." I guess i can't write the ones that should say "we kicked tax's ass again, people. check out the haircut they'll be sporting end of Q4."
rant singing update: concert in 5 weeks. half the songs still not memorized. three not yet arranged. some completely not functional. and it's at fucking symphony space. with kremena! (NOTE: My new fictive kin mother in song, just the right age, with a dead daughter just my age, who was also a singer, with the added filip that the babi started to say not only did I sound like Kremena, I sounded like HER DAUGHTER - cue eerie bulgarian village music)
rant of children: my daughter is a whiner. and a tantrum thrower. she threw one today in the jamaican patty store, because i would not get her a cupcake to top off the donut she had eaten earlier. she threw a full on fling to the floor. you can imagine the caribbean looks I got for that. I was ashamed. almost said "I'll give you something to cry about" to save face, knowing that Vi would have no idea what I meant by it. but stopped myself and remembered it's better to be a good parent than to impress other parents. still. tough.
ok, done for today. I'll see how long I keep this up before I let whatever remains of my circle of friends know I'm really back on board.

Monday, May 15, 2006

undone by the plan

bad blogger. i know. once you stop providing, the masses (all 2 of you, not quite sure and the sistah, and thank you both, i love you) stop coming. but i'm back. sort of.
problems in workland as a result of my continued tenuous attachment to structures of power. grappling with the fact that I've been asked to "oversee" a project (and I quote; "I don't expect you to roll up your sleeves on this one") by biggest boss, but man actually tasked with sleeve rolling has not been notified of my "role." which means i'm totally out of the loop. Biggest boss assures me he'll include me on all calls he's invited to - so why do i need to be there too? also, calls that have biggest boss on attendee list will be calls that reveal none of the chaos most probably roiling through the project. if they would set me up as QA, that would be perfect. but they won't. because none of them were ever PMs.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Problems with Pull - the politics of "common sense" model

I took the time to read Hagel and Brown's "From Push to Pull - Emerging models for mobilizing resources" where they argue that "rather than seeking to dictate the actions that people must take, pull models seek to provide people on the periphery with the tools and resources (including connections to other people) required to take initiative and creatively address opportunities as they arise" (p. 4) and all was going along just fine until I got to the last section, entitled "broader implications of the transition from push to pull models" where they posit that our political organizations will be reshaped by this new model. They illustrate with this projection; "for example, public policies often focus on push programs for development of talent - agencies identify promising talent arenas and then design targeted subsidies to create training programs to develop specific skills. Pull-oriented approaches fostering freer movement of investment funds and more stable legal infrastructures are likely to be much more effective in enabling talent to find its highest value outlets and in creating more effective mechanisms for sustained and rapic development of that talent." (pp. 45-46) Which freaks me out. Because it is also easy to imagine this as a call for the end of any development program that targets the development of skills in those who may not have other means of skill development. Implicit in their thesis is the belief that "taking initiative" and "being creative" are innate human behaviors, and not socially derived capital assets that individuals create and accrue as a result of investments made in the development of their own sense of easy access to power and authority. The social and economic forces that foster inequal access to education into power are bracketed by the very theory of economics that posits rational, abstract markets as the model for social interactions. Where is the intelligible Bourdieu who can make this known outside of academia?

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

golf + signage + newt = my life

I can't link you to tyhis, because it's behind a firewall. so here's the blather in full. I think it doesn't really need much commentary......notice they use the word signage. Signage. That's a joke word, right? like the way my daughter always call wet "wetness," and dirt "dirtiness?"

From our marketing leader:

The lessons of golf are the lessons of life.
Connected Thinking is about living our values.
Stay focused on the shot in front of you... Think through your shot before you take it... Act with integrity and play fair. These are some of the lessons we learn from the game of golf. And, these same lessons and values apply to other aspects in life, including the world of business. That's why we're particularly proud of our long-standing relationship with the PGA TOUR, which exemplifies the values THE FIRM stands for: Excellence, Leadership, and Teamwork.This weekend, we will continue our ongoing affiliation with the PGA TOUR through our partnership with THE PLAYERS Championship golf tournament, which will be held in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida this Thursday through Sunday. The tournament is often considered the "fifth major" of golf and attracts many of the game’s top professionals. Our Firm will be prominently associated with the tournament through advertising in all tournament publications, as well as on-course signage. Approximately 50 senior executives from our top clients will be our guests at the tournament this weekend. In addition to networking with their business peers and enjoying the world-class golf experience, our clients will also participate in our 4th Annual Executive Forum to discuss issues facing Corporate America. A highlight of our Executive Forum will be our Keynote Speaker, Newt Gingrich. In conjunction with our partnership with THE PLAYERS Championship, the following advertisement about the life lessons golf teaches and our support of The First Tee will run in a special section in USA Today on Thursday, March 23:The First Tee is a World Golf Foundation initiative dedicated to providing young people of all backgrounds an opportunity to develop, through golf and character education, life-enhancing values such as honesty, integrity and sportsmanship. For a third year, we has invited The First Tee Scholars, who are students with outstanding academic performance, community involvement, and leadership qualities, to join us and our clients at our Executive Forum.During THE PLAYERS Championship on Saturday and Sunday, which will be broadcast on NBC television (check your local listings), we will also premiere our new series of television commercials, which also highlight our support of The First Tee. In addition to our PGA TOUR golf activities this weekend, we are also continuing our successful partnership with the Jane Blalock Company (JBC) in sponsoring the LPGA Golf Clinics for Women. Again this year, THE FIRM and JBC will sponsor clinics in 15 major markets around the country, which provide women with the opportunity to improve their golf skills and learn how to use the game of golf to enhance business relationships.We are proud of our association with all of these organizations, the values we share, and, in particular, the activities that use the life lessons that golf teaches to help empower so many people. As always, I look forward to your feedback.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

how to make dorky friends in KM

I was put on a list serv that deals with value networks (link here if you actually want to know what that is - i'm alienated by most of the literature about it, mostly because the anthropologist in me HATES the assumptions and the methodologies....but I digress oh so boringly). Which means that I get even more distracting email. But what was proving increasingly frustrating about this list serv was the fact that a significant amount of the mail was personal or private messages being sent inappropriately to the entire list. Folks clearly didn't understand how to use the oh-so-complex "reply to" functionality. So some boring post about using the Zachman model to analyze networks would get response posts like "hey eric, are you going to brain trust? i'd love to catch up and here's what happening at datamine. i'm working on a paper for KM review - maybe you could take a look?" So I finally snarked out and send a note to the list registering my surprize at the fact that so many folks were broadcasting their social plans, and noting that it was hard to take folks seriously as KM professionals if they didn't understand how to use email correctly. I got one great response back - to the list, of course - suggesting that I reconfigure my list serve preferences to receive one summary a day. I wrote back to the dude - personally - and pointed out that the problem was not the number of emails, but the content within them, and of course got a note back saying basically "wow, i had no idea that i had even sent that configuration note to the whole list! thanks!"

But more to the point of this blog, I got two invitiations to join other virtual KM communities. Which demonstrates that if you simply make it known publicly that you are not a raving idiot, people will invite you to their parties. Dorky parties, I'll grant you. But the only parties out there in the KM zone.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

international women's day day

every year, this day makes me more and more angry. today i felt like throwing a bomb.i looked at every woman in the subway and inferred that they all had shitty underpaid jobs where they were undervalued, and raged. the escalator at work was broken and the security drone insisted on fidgeting with the on/off key instead of letting us (we were all women) just walk down the stairs. I inferred he would have let men go if they had asked. i raged. i was ignored in a teleconference and KNEW it was because I'm a woman. And I raged. I figured every slight, injustice, denigration or other form of dismissal as gendered - and raged. intermittently I thought about how international women's day in russia had become an ultimately degrading expression of women's relegation to the margins of housework drudgery and unvalued labor, as men "celebrated" them by buying flowers. who the fuck needs flowers at a time like this - as the lithuanian women's party pointed out, give me a fucking cuisinart so i don't keep grating the ends of my fingers off making the national dish of grated potato (and finger) dumplings. that got me thinking about mother's day as well - what a farce. thank me every time i ovulate, lactate, menstruate and every other ate while working for my 72 cents, prick weed.
Gosh, am i feeling a little "you can have it all" backlash today. it's just that I don't have it all, i just have to do it all.

Monday, March 06, 2006

a day without metatags...

HR thought they could make me cave and use their retarded "skills" instead of my rockin metatags and taxonomies for industry, business process, and technical knowledge. HA! They should know better than to have a category they ADMIT is "the one that's everything that's not a rule or regulation." Or a category called "Process." It's like a category called "verb." But I was good. I innocently reviewed how we had validated the development process with leadership, and leveraged the practice to develop the taxonomies, and asked them how they had come up with their approach - what was their development strategy for stakeholder management, business buy-in and user requirements gathering? (Of course I knew the answer was "we reached up our ass and found a spread sheet.") I offered to help develop the deck that would demonstrate "synergy." And in the process, I heeded big texas boss' advice as best I could and made my slides, well, kinda stupid. I leveraged a lot, linked strategically, and proposed a governance model. I worked the back channel lieutenant network and got Learning to sign up, along with HR, to follow KM's metatags and taxonomies - both their development processes and their current vocabularies. And after it was all over, I was thanked for "my objective eye." HAHAHAHA.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

accounting is a sign of illness

well, sort of. According to the boston globe (you'll need to register [for free] to access this), Parkinson's patients "tend not to smoke, drink, or seek thrills. They work hard. They show up on time, keep their homes neat, and follow complex medical instructions to the letter. Doctors have noticed for decades that their Parkinson's disease patients often seem to share certain personality traits...If there is a Parkinson's type, it also implies that people with a shortfall of the brain chemical dopamine early in life may have certain personality characteristics, such as risk aversion. Those same people, as they age, may develop Parkinson's. So, complex traits that seem like integral parts of a person's identity might actually stem from the early effects of their disease....(the) list of traits associated with the disease include industriousness, punctuality, orderliness, inflexibility, cautiousness, and lack of novelty-seeking. Other doctors mention drive, ambition, altruism, cleanliness, and a tendency toward obsession with details... ''The feeling in the trenches is that there's definitely a personality," said Dr. Jang-Ho Cha, a neurologist at the Massachusetts General Institute for Neurodegenerative Disease. Parkinson's patients are ''music teachers or accountants or professors or bankers or lawyers."

Thursday, February 23, 2006

I'm a plant today

Today I have to show up at a massive conference/teleconference call and "pretend" to ask questions that have in fact been pre-written for me by a comms person. I am "asking" questions that allow leadership to get various PR points across. I guess this makes the info appear less didactic? As it is given in response to an audience question? Except I am asking two of these here fake questions. I have some sidekicks in this endeavor, also asking planted questions. And there will be hundreds of attendees. but only 4 of us will be asking dontcha think it will become clear that we are shills?

Friday, February 03, 2006

Constant consensus building effort underway to create uber program office for change in the firm. you wouldn't think the idea was so hard to understand - but then i forget that not everyone who's in professional services is by necessity interested in process and project management. I can write that down, but it still confounds me, honestly. How could you not follow such a generalized and recognized format for managing delivery, expectations, and effort? don't clients expect to work this way?
But the point here is to talk about the different project offices across the firm that will need to coordinate their change management efforts. as various big boy partners tell each other and My Big Boss that yes yes yes we need to do this, I hear constant invocation of the air traffic controller analogy - the need to bring the planes in - the metaphor gets stretched beyond viability as the scope by necessity gets extended (planes landing assumes someone is authorizing flights to take off - on what basis? too many planes and not enough gates means some have to circle - who decides who gets to land? who decides how quickly? etc etc - you get the idea, and anyway i prefer the cattle drive (as it references the much more appropriate cat herding analogy, as well as the goat rodeo analogy, but I come from IT, they don't))- but I digress. But here are the two things that stun me in the midst of what seems to be quite rational observations of organizational needs.
1. The assumption that we can make this happen ourselves. In the words of recovery, if it was that easy to do, we would have already done it. Again, I have to assume that this is part of the partnership culture. The partnership means that serious positions of power, senior leadership of the Firm, has to be staffed by partners, and you can only become a partner by having kicked ass in client service. But that really doesn't make you any good at running, for example, HR. It really doesn't. Running HR (and IT, and marketing, and KM, and Finance, and everything else inside an organization that makes it run) takes a certain set of skills that you must learn, and practice, and grow into, and if you want to run an HR department that services 25,000 people it helps if you make HR your career, not something you are asked to do to move yourself forward in the power structure of the firm, or asked to do in the twilight of your career, as a public service to the Firm. Which explains why both our CKO (twilight) and our KM leader (up and comer) are KM neophytes. So we take good auditors, and make them sales people, and then if they are any good at that, we eventually make them run things like KM, or Six Sigma initiatives, or things called UCE (Unique Client Experience). which they may or may not be any good at. Because we can't hire anyone from outside the firm - maybe maybe maybe we might admit a partner from a competitor, only maybe - to actually RUN anything, because they don't have partner-ability. So we can't hire a consulting firm of ALL EX PARTNERS AND LEADERS FROM A COMPETITOR who led KM and LEARNING and IT and METHODOLOGY and managed to successfully integrate them, to help US integrate KM and learning and IT and methodology in our pratically identical partnership think that if you get enough partners in a room, you can figure it out. So according to the twilight king, I don't even need to hire an outside facilitator to lead a two day come to jesus session with 11 partner leaders of hr, methods, km, it, learning, comms, compliance, marketing, and sales, where we hammer out the master project plan milestones and dependencies and everyone leaves with 18 months of integrated marching orders. just get them in a room, we'll do it. we don't need any help. in the words of my 3 year old, "i can do it mysewf!"
2. The fact that our nominal head of strategy is not interested in taking over leadership of this initiative, and that no one disagrees with his assessment. because our head of strategy is a nothing. A NOTHING! a man who drives the effort to define, plan and coordinate the strategies of our significant business units. when told to put together a business plan for him, I was given the following instruction, and I quote; "oh, just put any old shit down - it doesn't matter."
I think I'll leave it at that.

more stunned moments to come, I'm sure.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

wise counsel

until recently i had the hands down greatest boss of all time. On the face of it, it seemed improbable - large republican from texas, of course avid golfer. but also a serious gold wearer - big chunks of it. a clue that all is not as it seems. turns out he's also a serious autodidact, and likes to have very 19th century debates like "is there such a thing as real happiness," and "what makes something criminal," etc. and more to the point, extremely open to having his opinion changed by a compelling argument (wildly rare trait in anyone), never a micromanager, often apt to ask extremely insightful questions that reveal fundamental flaws in strategy, extremely good at knowing what he can and can't change, and interested in new ideas. and also prone to swearing. so i'm in heaven. but things change, he's no longer my direct boss, although still on my leadership team. new bosses seem nice enough, but one loses all credibility with a really dumb homophobic practical joke that involves him and his neighbor secretly hoisting gay pride flags on each others' flag poles (these are the kind of people that have flag poles). jury's still out on the other - he seems to get at least some of it, but also likes to hear the sound of his own voice a lot, and doesn't seem very action oriented.
so strange incident last week, in which pp that i didn't write, but did send, to homophobe boss ends up confusing the bejesus out of him. his response is to call gold boss for decoding session. instead of calling me, the supposed (but not actual) author. why doesn't he call me? according to gold boss, it's because new boss 1 - and maybe yappy boss 2 as well - don't really understand anything I write. Apparently i'm too, how do you say, smart. and here's the punchline. gold boss' counsel is good - write down much less. write up extremely high level bullet points only, which will intrigue them, and get them to call me - apparently they understand me better when i talk. and then he says, not once, but twice; "darlin, you either have to dumb yourself down, or start workin with smarter people." christ.

Friday, January 13, 2006

ad rant number 1000

Assume that someone had to invent a new line of dog snacks. That has its own logic of product development. But then something else happens, when brand kicks in...Someone had to come up with the name Snausages. Then someone else had to come up with campaign based on Snocrates, the spokesdog. Then someone had to write this copy, the biography of Snocrates. And someone had to approve the idea that Snocrates was 25, from Chicago, etc. (25 dog years?) Maybe the writer thought he should have been 22. Lead copywriter says no, scratch that. 25. And definitely NOT from Denver. He's a midwestern, yet urban, dog dude. Chicago.

And someone else had to make sure that every time they wrote the name Snocrates, that it was SnocratesTM. Then someone had to animate the flash files of Snocrates adding his head to Mount Rushmore. That crazy mutt. And someone had to create the Snocrates TM wallpaper and screensavers. And maintain the entire Snocrates TM funhouse website.

And that's why advertising really is a creative act.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

dingue fever

Bec sends me a link to a blog by a girl who is cool and smart and funny and not hateful even though she lives in paris, is thin and pretty, etc., etc., etc., (check out her 31 things about me me me to confirm) and here i am reading it while eating a corporate-produced burrito at my desk, drinking a vat of diet pepsi, getting ready for a conference call where we will confirm the change management approach for the launch of improved digital search capabilities for our industry content. what happened? 20 years ago (argh) i was cool and smart and funny and living in paris. and even like her i had a husband named maybe we know what's in store for her, poor girl.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

power down

i have gone from total automony for a million dollar budget to getting second guessed on 15K. That's what you get for having 3 bosses, only one of whom actually reads the powerpoint that describes what the fuck you plan on doing and delivering all year to justify your paycheck. also paying the price for dear yet deceitful colleague who racked up 250K in consulting costs without telling the partners.......they thought it was 25K. And so it was going to be - back when originally forecasted. Then it wasn't. But she didn't tell them. Now I pay the price; "why do we need a white paper on why fee for services for KM doesn't work?" Because you asked for it so I went out and got bids and got a good one and told the guy go and had the courtesy to let you know so that when the invoice came through you would know why but you forgot and now don't know what the fuck I'm talking about....

Friday, December 16, 2005

rabbis and bagmen

I don't know if these roles only exist in partnerships, but I have one of them - bagman.
Your rabbi is the man who makes you a partner - brings you up, introduces you to the right guys, gives you the right projects, and visibility, so that when he sponsors you everyone who matters knows who you are. Your bagman is your lieutenant (looked it up and it's clearly the right word since the bagman gets to take your place in battle so you don't have to die...), and if you're anybody around here you have one. If you're very important your bagman is on a tour of duty and you're part of his "make partner" plan (visibility and the right projects part). Also, the tour starts you on your relo journey - partners here expect to move whenever and wherever they're sent. Like Kansas City. Yet another reason why this place is like academia - and yet another reason why i do not want to be a partner.
Is there a pattern to these aspects of work? The need to demonstrate committment to the effort by being willing to move anywhere they want you to? The mentoring and the grunt work required to make it to partner/tenure? The importance of fictive kin and lineage?

Friday, December 09, 2005

and another thing...

I still read Filler on at least once a month. because it is damn funny. still.

what's english for leverage?

There's an entire vocabulary that i've picked up, and as a result, another that i've probably lost, because a few days ago i had lunch with a long lost anthro friend and i could not recall what word I would have used instead of "leverage" to describe some work thing. is leveraging something you only do in business land? and what about operationalize? and do real people actually prioritize? or risk manage? or have critical success factors? or create strategic alignments? or forecast? or develop decks to update leadership? or rationalize their spend quarter to quarter?

Thursday, December 01, 2005

why doesn't anyone think about work work?

i constantly toy with the notion of an ethnography of middle management, or of professional services, or of generalized white collar work places, and wonder why it is that no one has really done any good ethnographies of workplaces that are just humdrummedly marching late post-capitalism along at its right good clip. maybe the discipline is dead - i haven't really looked for it in a while - or maybe it's still the residual inability to research us here now, where the complexities of complicity, and the difficulty of estranging the incredibly familiar, become too difficult. it's always more fun to go to japan, or botswana, or really just about anywhere novel. the office is not novel.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

david reis is my hero

most everyone loves him for get your war on, and that's no surprize, but i love my new filing technique more than just about anything. sometimes i forget to look for a week or two or more, and then when i go it's like christmas morning. He did one recently that seems like it was made in my very office - THE GOOFY GENTLEMEN IN: we are addicted to things. They debate the merits of filing vs golf. If only they had used some accronyms like CTEKMUSE it would have actually been a conversation that has been held in my office. Instead, I do get to claim that I'm involved in a project whose goal is to find a better technique for filing files. really.

Monday, November 28, 2005

tables turned

now that i'm internal i get to be the client when consultants come to call. they always act as if you are very interesting and smart - but having sat on their side of the table, I remember cleraly how often i thought clients were idiots but nonetheless opened my eyes wide and nodded and said "very interesting" untold numbers of times.
i of course don't care after a while and just blather on and on, loving the sound of my own voice. times like these i miss academia, when whole classfuls of students would have to listen week after week. many of my academic friends have tended to become blowhards after years of captive audiences (no, not you, Bec) - it's so easy to think you're interesting when others keep acting out their part in the charade - whether for grades or money.

Monday, November 21, 2005

plan it, don't do it

Extremely relieving conversation with my boss today (who is, hands down, the best boss i will ever ever have, but that's for another blog) who reminded me that it is my job to point out the need for a program office, but not my job to be the program manager. Now i understand how to be the change management leader - point out all the change that needs to happen, but don't actually make the changes happen - those of you who know me personally understand my obsessive need to be queen bossy boots, and how perfectly this new job definition suits me.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

managed failure

I hired someone about a few years ago who turned out to not have the skills and abilities I thought they did. But as my dear readers know, that does not mean they got fired. The amount of change we've been through operationally - new mandate, new jobs with new roles and responsibilities, new org structure - means that he has been able to bounce from project to project, delivering sub-par efforts with stellar consistency. I gave this person a "meets with some exceptions" review in June, but it had no effect on their employment. So now I'm devising a way to get them fired - creating a project for them that they can fail in in a public and documentable way without incurring any risk to my project. I feel creepy.

Monday, November 14, 2005

business blather day

today i'm spending my time defining knowledge transfer diagnostics for the change management component of our internal six sigma effort- also known as KM for CM for CTE. I came up with a good acronym last year that combined all three "strategic firm initiatives" - CTEKMUCE - pronounced steckmoose. that combines Connected Thinking for Excellence, Knowledge Management, and Unique Client Experience. steckmoose is about as meaningful as all of those phrases anyway...

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

job security

I think i already wrote about how an accounting partnership is like academia - partner=tenured faculty, cadre of super egg-headed arcane knowledge repositories, lip service to a teaching culture but good teachers are not rewarded, etc etc.

My new interest is how it happens that once you achieve Director level at the Firm (non-partner track seniorest position, can get there either by being hired, or by getting promoted), you apparently will never face the firing squad. they just won't do it. and the longer you stay, being incompetent, the less likely you'll ever be asked to leave.

we hired the most innappropriate marketing director two years ago - he had none of the social skills needed for the job here (such as ability to build personal networks, since all his leadership would have had to have been through persuasion [no one in marketing actually reported to him], demonstrate baseline social intelligence [got drunk and told someone who works for his boss that 'they would make beautiful brown babies together,'], ability to bite tongue [told others they were 'stupid,'], etc) and yet he was not fired. His boss actually refused to meet with him one on one for the last YEAR of his time as US marketing leader. last month he became our global marketing leader.

The guy who used to run another part of the marketing function (competitive intelligence plus promotional sponsoroships) managed to run 1mm over budget by not going through procurement to buy third party content, and getting himself stuck in a perpetual license, as well as building ridiculous AI technology for competitive intelligence (included voice recognition software for capturing interviews, and massive database with no usable data points) In addition he NEVER DELIVERED ANYTHING. He is now head of middle market marketing.

and of course once you make partner, you're sinecured for life/retirement.

Friday, November 04, 2005

dumbest money spent today

my firm sent me, via UPS express mail, to my office mailstop, two copies (with their compliments) of the firm's big not-shiny (matte) yearly global annual review. which i totally do not need. but if i did shouldn't i be able to pick one up somewhere in the mailroom? dumb.

participant observation - the untold story

so there's this...."conference"....this weekend - the 7th annual belly and womb conference. here's a link to the site about it, and below is what avi sent, from a posting. so after busting a gut reading this thing - i think it was the grief work with our wombs and bellies that started the guffaws, which were then extended by the $20 Maps of the clitoris session, topped by the all night belly painting, and cinnamon dusted with the addendum "women without wombs are so welcome here" - i thought man oh man it would be so excellent to attend this thing except i would have to be invisible. because i could not keep a straight face. I'd vacilate between total red-faced embarrassment for all concerned (the way you blush watching particularly bad "three's company" episodes, for instance), and outright sniggering.

Which brings up the participant observation dilemma - what do you do when the "natives" are acting retarded? you tend to pull back to strict observer - but have you lost anything, in terms of analytic methodology, by doing so? I'm not so sure. What was ever meant by participant? Back when Cushing et al took on this approach, the qualitative insight they felt they were gaining did not require them to actually participate in cultural practice, but rather to gather data by observing cultural practice in action, as opposed to gathering data by categorizing behaviors and then measuring performance intensities of those behaviors. Somewhere along the line, though, it was not ok to have manservants and drink with the colonial administrator (a la malinowski) while in the field. Perhaps it was the advocacy politics that became part of anthro - the notion that ethnographies had a political purpose - a Sullivan's travels politics of empathy through participation - which then led to the ultimate "must take peyote to write ethnography" school. But playing native also had its problems - just like slumming - and then we had the whole "can't do fieldwork" set - back to the archives, as the politics of empathy were revealed to be the self-indulgent fantasy escapes of ethnographer colonialists. Which has yet to move the field to the next stage (but what do i know - i'm out of the loop now) to ethnographies of privilege - and if the 7th annual belly and womb conference is not a perfect place to observe the politics of privilege, then what is?

From the Life-Giving Belly
Return to the Wild and Sacred Spirit of Woman
(Includes bellydancing, herbs, rites of passages, shamanic journeys, belly painting, ceremonies, healing, communication, voice from belly, pilates, medicinal herbs, empowerment, sexual education, women's blood mysteries and menstrual activism, women's council and community, drumming, grief work with our wombs and bellies, cultural change, unity and celebration among the women where we share a common bond in our life, the belly and the womb space. Let's share our stories. We will have a RED Tent for women to enter too.)
To register and find out more go to this website
Saturday, November 5th, 2005
near Amherst, Massachusetts
Registration fee of $150 includes vegetarian lunch and dinner
Facilitated with ALisa Starkweather and special guest teachers
Pre-conference Friday November 4th
Our world is calling women to be in our power, our gut-knowing, our truth right now. Women are aching for changes internally and externally. We are facing terrible destruction and disease and growing hardships. Many of us have already lived through inner and outer wars long before now. In spite of this we still long to be in our bodies, know our ecstasy, share our gifts and be present with life as life is occurring. In an unprecedented container, the Women's Belly and Womb Conference deliberately makes space for collective healing. It is not just a learning and informational day. It is a day to make new choices, to come out of denial, to recommit to our visions, our lives through loving our bodies and who we are in this world. It is an unforgettable moment in the life of a woman when she recognizes more of who she is and what is possible in her life. It is fertile ground for transformation. We make space for what needs healing in hearts, bellies, wombs and lives as women. Welcome to the 7th generation of the Women's Belly and Womb day! JOIN US! It is going to be even more awesome than ever before because we just keep getting more beautiful as we gather year after year. Come dressed in red!
If you have problems with this Google "ALisa Starkweather" and go to my website. Click the Belly icon.
November 4th Pre-conference events on Friday evening:
Opening the RED TENT to honor all women and share our stories
Maps of the Clitoris; The Truth About Female Anatomy
Sheri Winston $20 7:30- 10pm
Sparkling the Jewel: Playing with and Strengthening our Deep Muscles Through Belly Dance
Hel?na Melone $15 8pm- 10pm
November 5th, Saturday 8:30 am until 1O:30pm
Showing Up and Loving Ourselves Right Here and Now
ALisa Starkweather and Morning Star Chenven
Toltec Womb Passes: Clearing the Fog form the Belly's Intuitive Center
Kimberely Eve aka Jaia
Awakening the Fire in the Belly - Middle Eastern Dance
Shakti Rowan
Into the Belly of Grandmother Bear
Trish Casimira
The Blood Mysteries: A Ritual of Empowerment for Maidens, Mothers and Crones
Camilla Parham known now as Opeyemi
Voice of our Spirit the Song of our Body
Special Guest Artist of Goddess Chant, Shawna Carol
Personal Boundaries as Sacred Trust
Sandra Boston
BodyDance Belly Power
Alisa Wright
Your Body IS the Sound of Power and Joy
Julie Woods
Red Power - Honoring the Medicine Wheel of the Moontime: A Celebration of Menstrual Health, Traditions & Wisdom
Sheri Winston
Priestessing Your Relationship with Your Belly's Hungry Desires
Joanna Lindenbaum and Dawn Copeland of NYC's WomanVision
Community Healing Ritual: Sourcing Power in Our Bellies for Strength in These Times
ALisa Starkweather
Herbal Teas for our bellies and wombs
Celebration of Our Bellies and Wombs
Shakti Rowan assisted by Hel?na Melone
Women's Council
ALisa Starkweather and Shawna Carol
An evening SURPRISE and an All Women's Dance Event with Belly Painting at night
Contact with questions or call 978 939 5366. Registration forms can be printed online. It is held in Shutesbury, Massachusetts at Sirius. Pre-registration is necessary and will need to be done ASAP to assure correct numbers for cooking meals. There is a limit of 100 women who are able to attend due to space so please register soon to save your place here if you are planning on coming. You can call Sirius office for lodging (413)259-1251 at $40 per night including your breakfast.
Why Would YOU want to attend
the Women's Belly and Womb Conference?
First of all, because it is way fun and very alivening to be in such a rich circle of women who are awake, alive and ready for a day like this in their year! Our Women's Belly and Womb Conference is for us as women. We gather as a strong community of women for you to know but first one must show up.
Do any of these things apply to you? If you are a woman, than you have a belly and womb story. It is a radical idea to pay tribute to our journey concerning our lives. There is not another Belly and Womb Day on the entire planet like this one! Let's stay healthy and honor ourselves. Note: Women without wombs are so welcome here. Your story is important.
Are you able to love your body, your belly, your self, your womanhood with unequivocal acceptance? Do you carry shame about your body? Do you have a cultural base that honors your beauty and your size? Have you ever suffered from an eating disorder? Can you allow yourself to age?
Are you disease free in your colon, liver, pancreas, small intestine, spleen, stomach, sexual organs (including sexual diseases and viruses)? Do you still have a uterus? Have you had any major surgery for childbirth or for your health that involves your belly and or womb? What is your mother's herstory with her body? Do you suffer from PMS or hormonal imbalances?
What is your herstory with fertility? Are you able to bear children? Are you resolved with your birth stories (i.e. C-sections, stillbirths, traumatic births, adoptions)? Are you resolved in your decisions to terminate a pregnancy? Did you ever have an opportunity to grieve your loss or release your guilt? Did you have support for the choices, the losses, and the destiny of your path as a woman? How do you feel about yourself as a mother? How do you feel about yourself as being childless?
Have you suffered sexual, emotional or physical abuse in your life? Are you able to deal with how you may abuse yourself by your internal dialogue or your actions? Do you feel empowered to thrive and shed another layer of pain? Are you depressed in your gut?
Do you honor your gut feelings and intuition? Do you get indigestion, stomach upsets or sluggish digestion? Where does fear live in your body? Where does power live in your body? If you got in touch with the power you hold deep in your belly how could it be used as a catalyst for truth, action and empowerment for good in your life?
What happened when you first began to bleed as a young woman? Was your period or moontime celebrated? How do you honor your rites of passage now with your daughters, your Menopause years, and your monthly cycles? Do you participate in women's circles, rituals or ceremonies intentionally honoring the Goddess in every woman? Do you want to?
Do you maintain any spiritual practices that cultivate energy in your belly for longevity and well being? Our chi, or life force, generates from our hara below the belly button. Do you know how to gather universal energy, store it and renew it? Do you breathe well? How much ecstasy do you allow yourself?
How are your relationships with other women? Do you trust them or compete with them? Do you feel superior, inferior or equal to them? Do you want healing that happens in the context of what we have endured together in this culture? Have you done any Shadow Work to find out where you might be projecting parts of your self onto others? Do you want find meaningful ways to connect right now?
Do you have a yes or a no inside your belly that aches to be spoken? Do you have a love for life on earth that demands you to know what you know and to voice your opinions? Do you need more energy to act from? Have you let sound out of the silent places inside? Is it time for you to come out, to come up, to be seen?
These are some of the many complex issues and questions that the Women's Belly and Womb Conference seeks to address. Any woman can find something of importance for her own healing and growth.
As you can see the Belly and Womb Conference has a wide "birth" of reasons why it is important for us as women to gather and as women we have a distinct journey with our belly and womb. When we detest, reject, or disown it we cut ourselves off from the very source that could feed us, nourish us and empower us to live more meaningful lives. It is a time for all women of all ages to meet one another eye to eye, heart to heart and belly to belly. It has been said that this mere day, this precious time together, has permanently changed lives for the better in meaningful ways that matter to us on a day to day basis. Please consider joining us for this eventful community day. If you are unable to come, please hold us in prayer. We are showing up in our power as women in multitude of ways, especially now. Blessed Be. ALisa
"When ALisa wrote that it would be an unforgettable day in my life as a woman, it was an understatement. It changed everything and I have been blossoming ever since. It was the day of many firsts as a woman and it was like going inside out with myself or from flat to three dimensional. I found my voice for the first time and discovered my own uniqueness. I have traveled far to attend because I consider the day a celebration of rebirth of my own inner Goddess. It is a homecoming but without coming you never really know who you are missing." Mariella Bozzuto, Graduate student of Ancient Languages

Through your heartfelt efforts women discover this healing day. Thank you!
"Because as women, we hold the possiblity to regenerate life from our creativity that is fertile in a multiplicity of meanings, it may very well be time for us to birth from our collective wisdom new paradigms for our world to live from." ALisa Starkweather

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

hurdy gurdy tears

The carousel was closing this weekend, and so we took Violet on Saturday. She knows the names of many of the horses, which you too could name if you were rich enough. She particularly loves the non-horses; Lisa the deer ("She's a buck!" says Violet, because of the antlers - I don't know how to explain why this sentence is impossible...), Uncle Max the giraffe (Bruce Ratner sponsored that one) and the Lion. She rides each one in succession, takes a popcorn break, then gets back on for a few more rides with Happy Dancer, November, Sunflower, Dobbin, or perhaps Wildfire. She has also named two enormous stuffed bears at home Lisa and Max, and "rides" them at home - but that's another story. So we go to the carousel, and I take her on a ride (Lisa). Violet can ride alone when the ride starts, and ends, but when it's going full speed she wants to be held tightly. So I've got my arms around her and we're whirling around and "Do you know the way to San Jose" is playing, and I start crying. I thought I had gotten over my calliope problem, but I broke down saturday. I once went to a French folklore museum with my (now) ex inlaws, where they had a whole room of them - I had to go and cry in the bathroom. I could not explain to my inlaws, nor would I have wanted to, why the sound of slightly off-pitch pipes and rat-at-tat drums and hammered glockenspiels makes me weep weep weep. It's pavlovian, I think, because the real culprit is the merry-go-round itself. Little faces going round and round, glowing with joy, or fear, or both at the same time, passing by the same waving parent time after time, the lift of energy as each pair looks for each other, and catchs each others eye, each others wave, and then lets it go, only to start again in seconds, the full physical capture of the the whirl and the breeze and the loud sound - it's all so tragic. The frozen horses, grimacing, the garish colors, the maudlin decorations, the grime and dirt in the corners, the wheezing music, the awkward rise and fall of the ride - and the bright, sweet, open-faced faces going around and around, going nowhere, and so so happily.

Friday, October 28, 2005

matronly tyranny

I went on a tear with my singing group - via email, of course, which is NOT NOT NOT what I'm supposed to do (none of us are) but I was incensed and so of course violated protocol and lightly flambeed the group about moving rehearsal locations and times. You'd think a suggestion to move reherasal from 6:30 to 7, and from Fort Green to Williamsburg would be no big deal at all. Not for crazy controlling micromanaging mom of two. Not when it means having to bring home the pump from the office, so I can pump in case I miss Clayton's 10 feeding because of the fucking G train taking forever to get me home, getting home late and having zero time alone all day, and spending an extra hour of my life on the subway, instead of getting the one outdoor walk I enjoy once a week to and from rehearsal. Or if we keep it at 6:30, getting the babysitter to show up early, and missing an extra hour of my kids awake (there are a limited number of these hours in my life now). I know theoretically that requiring everything to stay the same all the time causes me pain, because it definitionally can't happen, and I won't be getting things the way I want them, and thus I'll be pissed off, and if I was more relaxed, I'd be happier with whatever happens, but frankly that's not me anytime soon. Strike that. Any time ever. And I am seething with resentment at the rest of the group who cancel rehearsals because they want to go to a concert, show up late because "there's traffic" (there's ALWAYS TRAFFIC. PLAN FOR IT), don't practice outside of reherasal, and then wonder why we sound like shit at shows. I used to think I felt this way and they didn't because I was older. Now I know it's more than that. And it's not because I'm a mom. The underlying reason is that I'm damn responsible. That's why I have kids, that's why I plan for traffic, that's why I never cancel, that's why I stress about 30 minutes, that's why I'm miserable.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

why do people call you "cool" in a pained yet mocking way?

There are certain people at work who react to my clothes - in particular my outside clothes (coat, hat) - by saying things like; "you're looking very downtown," or "i see you're looking very cool, Soho, Village...". Which I will caveat immediately - I do not look like any of these things, at least by my understanding of these loaded terms - i'm not wearing anything by obscure belgian designers, anything you might see in a self-published groovster mag whose models are guys in bands i never heard of, or anything even vaguely sexy. And 90% of my indoor clothes are distinctly frumpy - ann taylor pants, eileen fisher sweater, naturalizer shoes, and target underwear. The act of naming this stuff explicitly is powerfully depressing. I think my ass got lumpier, my boobs saggier, my hair greyer, and my politics more uninformed just by writing this all down. So what do the work people mean? I've been thinking about it - 90% of what invokes these comments are my thrifty clothes. Which clearly date me, as my idea of thrifty nice is 40's, 50's, early 60's - not the 70's, 80's and 90's stuff that actually cool kids like. Which means that the work people and me are officially uncool, as we are stuck in the patterns of our youth. We froze our assessments of groovy by about 30, and stayed there. which means i'm as lame as they are. because frozen groove is distinctly uncool. I think. well, I know frozen intellectual thought is insanely awful and sad (the "i had one good idea and wrote a book and got tenure and i still have that same idea and all the theoretical apparati that went with it and i'm not moving one inch" professor comes immediately to mind). Great minds move. Is it the same for great looks? Are signature looks ok, but signature thought is not? or can the thought/look be sufficiently dense with productive materials so as to continue to be creative, even if it's not "new?" Neither my intellect nor my wardrobe are sufficiently loaded to let me be creative via pastiche/collage/reorganization, let alone supportive of true avant-garde new production. So I guess i'm back to frozen cool, which is just plain sad.
I started thinking about this in part because of the way the work people said the words "cool," "downtown," etc. - and now i think i understand the impulse behind the tone. the tone was one of very light anger/envy - somewhat sneering even as it was admiring. And it's because they think I am/was one of the (here comes a stomach-churning embarrassment painful phrase even to write) "cool kids" in high school, back when we used these very clothes to mark the terms of cool-for now/then. It's what they wanted to say to me 20 years ago, but only thought. Yuck. The whole thing is depressing.