Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Diversity- I'm not worried- are you?

"Panel discussion - diversity in Auckland businesses, from the boardroom to shop floor".  This was the title on an email that popped into my inbox this morning.  I was annoyed about this email for two reasons.  Firstly the content stated "....will discuss the challenges of improving diversity at all levels of an organisation and what directors can do to encourage and promote diversity".  It then went on to let me know that there was a paid event.  Shame on you Institute of Directors!  As a director of many companies, and a CEO I do not recruit my staff based on diversity or gender.  That in itself to me is discriminatory.
I have a mixed team whom I have bought together not on background, culture, gender or the fact I need a diverse team.  My belief is different- these are the  rules I follow for all teams I have the chance to create:-

* Skills and Talent
* Ability to Learn
* Ability AND willingness to work in a team
* Attitude
* Honestly
* Openness
* Willingness
* Respect of other people, including peers,customers and of self
* Ability to receive and to give feedback
* Customer focused with a sense of urgency
* Self belief

I got asked this by a mentee this evening- what do I look for in people I bring into my teams or hire.  I told him the above list.  I also said that I do not believe in recruiting for diversity as in todays world it IS a diverse world and to me its common place- the new normal.  He looked at me in a slightly odd way and I wondered why.  Then I realised.  This is his normal- why am I even talking about this!  I have to stop!  This is why I cannot believe we are still making specific points on this.  Perhaps it has something to do with the fact I was raised with an upbringing that saw me being taught to be inclusive of all people.  I will never forget my mother always saying- 'treat people like you would like to be treated yourself'.  As a leader, I believe whole heartedly in this.  I also live by the rules I expect of my team. The most important rule to me is Self Belief.  If I don't believe in myself- why should anyone else believe in me?

Gender is a word hardly ever spoken in our office.  I’ll say "come on guys- its meeting time without a second thought".  When I say ‘guys’ I mean all, not in the true meaning of the word ‘men’.  I also respond to the same phrase and won't batter a mascara filled eye-lash over it.  I’ve actually been getting a little tired of hearing people complain about Gender balance, or imbalance.  My belief is that it doesn’t matter if people are male or female, transgender or whatever else people identify with, as long as a person can do the job and relates to others in the team and my customers, does it really matter?

I believe that I have succeeded in my own career because I’m good at what I do.  I make the hard decisions and deal with the hard issues.  Some days I’d even call myself a bitch.  Why?  Because some days you need to fight like a dog.  I have such a strong sense of self belief and self-motivation that I believe I can get through anything.  I also believe that you need a strong team around you to make this possible, yes both male and female or whatever the balance may be.  I have the right people for the right jobs- regardless of culture or gender.  They are an awesome team and they know it.  I encourage my team to openly talk about their backgrounds, culture and differences in the office.  Openness and willingness breaks down barriers and makes us a better team.

I was thinking this morning about any actual real differences that would make me work differently with males and females and I could think of only one.  It is in my Health & Fitness career and that is that Men and Woman have different anatomies and this can cause different injuries and tightness in the bodies.  The example I was specifically thinking of was hips when woman’s hips are generally wider than men’s due to being designed for child bearing.  I have noticed specifically than men have tighter hip flexors than woman.  I have also noticed on the flipside that woman’s anatomy can sometimes restrict them then doing some exercises.  Now I’m sure Men are from Mars and Woman are from Venus may disagree with me but I’m just saying it as I see it.

Yes, I do work with a larger amount of men than woman.  Sigh, apparently I keep being told I am working in a Male dominated industry.  Do I let this bother me.  No.  Do I think that then men in the office are good at what they do – yes.  Do I think the females in the office are good at what they do?  Yes.  Do any of them have faults or things they could improve on?  Yes.

I’m getting tired of the Gender debate.  When I took my first Management position, I was the youngest on the management team but some 10+ years and also one of only 3 females of a team of 10.  Did it bother me?  No.  Was I thankful to have the opportunity at such a young age? Yes.

I think we really do have to look beyond the gender.  I’ve worked with trans-gender people, gay men, lesbian woman, straight guys, straight females, old, young, retirees and the list goes on.  I have even worked with people with illnesses I care not to describe which I was asked to keep under wraps for the persons privacy- I respected that but never let this get in the way of them doing their job.  I have always worked in and run multi-cultural and diverse teams from early in my career.  I believe opportunities should be distributed amongst those who work for them and those who want them.  I think those people who are hung up on gender or diversity need to look beyond and work out what skills and talents they want to be surrounded by and view people by these traits rather than their gender label. 
The young talent I mentor coming through know nothing other than working in mixed gender and culturally diverse teams.  This is the new normal- I've been working this way for years- is it me that needs to change or do some organisations need to simply understand what the new normal looks like?
And to add to that, I’d have Caitlin in my team any day- a talented athlete I admire who is not afraid to believe in themselves.  That’s all I ask of myself and that’s all I expect from others.  Let’s start working on self-belief and encouraging our teams in this way, not gender or diversity belief. 


Friday, July 22, 2016

Pokémon Go or Pokémon Stay?

Pokémon Go or Pokémon Stay?

Who wants to go to the waterfront at lunchtime to catch Magikarp? 

Anyone who doesn’t know Pokémon go might simply suspect a few of the team were going to go fishing off the local Wharf.  How wrong you would be.  Its Friday night in our office and would you believe we have had staff COME BACK to work to wait for those finishing so they can go Pokémon hunting in their pack-group.  Back in my day we used to go out drinking on a Friday night.  The thought of going walking around outside in the rain pointing my old flip phone in the air would probably seen me arrested and locked up for the night with suspected substance abuse or intoxicated behaviour in a public place. 

Also back in my day if you congregated in places that are not often frequented, you’d also be looked at sideways.  Matters would be made substantially worse if you were a 20 something year old male seen facing a famous landmark holding something in your hand you are violently swiping.  Being arrested would be a light consequence for that one.  If you then went on to tell the nice officer that actually the main reason you were at this famous landmark was that you were actually at a gym. And… Oh,  the reason you’d been walking around and around this famous land-mark was that you were waiting for your egg to hatch.  The nice officer may have a room with padded walls in mind for you for the evening.  Matters would be made considerably worse if there were multiple 20 something year old males in the dark displaying the same behaviour.

After seeing things rapidly unfold over the past few weeks, I asked the team for a show of hands for who played Pokémon Go.  Every person’s hand went up except one.  I was quite startled and asked the one person why they were not playing.  He just said- ‘my phone is too old and won’t run it’.  Apparently he’d tried to download with no success.

As the CEO I had to make a conscious decision on what I would do myself.  Do I simply download the game and play in private so I knew what my team was talking about?  Or do I download the game and quietly get tips on the side from members of my team to gain my own confidence with what this phenomenon was actually about.

So I went with the later, first asking the 18 year old school student I mentor to show me how to get sorted.  I was on my way playing Pokémon Go.  The feeling of catching my first Pokémon made me feel like I was part of the team….that is until they told me that you pretty much get given the first few.  Like a total novice I was sitting at home trying to work out what you actually had to do with these strange squares in front of you.  Apparently these were to be Pokestops which on clicking would reveal pictures of my landmarks nearby and if you were close enough you could spin and get prizes. 

To be fair, I didn’t actually know you could spin them until yesterday.  My bashing and swiping at the screen must have had a similar effect, but apparently does not show you are in the know as a Pokémon expert.

On exploring the other odd objects in the game, I managed to find another shaped object, I tap and it told me it was a gym.  As a real life Fitness trainer, this got me pretty excited.  Wow, it knows I’m into gyms and fitness training.  What a cool game. It actually knows a bit about me.  I was pointing my phone in the direction of Shane Cameron's Gym thinking it was pretty cool that the game actually knew where a real life gym was too.  So I tap to go into the gym and it then tells me that I don’t have enough experience to be a gym trainer.  This just annoyed me.  My real life self knows very well that I have a lot of experience as a gym trainer and I in fact own my own gym.

I came into work the next day and told the team how upset I was that it told me I was not experienced enough to be a gym trainer, even though I actually was one.  Howls of laughter came from the team in the office.  How was I supposed to know that gyms were part of the game and they had nothing to do with my personal identity?  How was I also to know that it was just a sheer co-incidence that I happened to be pointing my phone in the direction of Share Cameron's Gym and a Pokémon Gym was in that general direction!  I later discovered that gyms were everywhere and actually had nothing to do with real gyms.  Quite a let down!

That weekend I spent time at my holiday Bach which is quite remote.  I was interested to see if there were any gyms out this way, or perhaps some rare Pokémon.  I walked and walked and walked along the beach.  My loan Avatar, the beach and me and nothing else.  No gyms, no Pokémon…not even a loan Zumbat to show its ugly face.  It was a barren new land. Where did all of the Pokémon Go?  Where were the Pokestops?  At first I thought I phone was broken, but my battery was running down pretty quick so I knew something must have been working.  Nope I was in the game,.  My personal heaven started turning into my Pokémon hell.  I just knew the team would be coming back to work on Monday showing off about how well they were doing and then asking me what level I was on and how I did over the weekend.  Things would have to change in my Pokémon world and soon.  It was now starting to make me look bad and embarrassed.  I had committed to play and my team knew.  Backing out know would make me look like I’d given up…and  I’m not a quitter!

So here I am, between Government meetings in Wellington with another of my team walking from meeting to meeting yesterday hunting for Pokémon.  Thankfully he was watching over my shoulder and telling me that I had just got eggs and I needed to incubate.  I did think that was a rather person statement until he then showed me I had a rather good prize waiting for me.  He swiped away on my phone and told me he had ‘incubated my egg’.  Awkward.  I was loathe to ask him how it would hatch until he told me I had to walk 10km.  For me as an endurance walker I will have no problem.  I was however concerned about a number of others in my team- could they or even would they walk 10km to hatch a virtual egg? 

The answer appears to be yes.  I got a few of them to check today how far they had walked since playing the game on their phones.  I asked 7 people who played- some had been playing for the entire 21 days and others only 2 weeks.  Over the 7 people, they have accumulated a walking distance of 334.5km.  OMG nearly an average of 50km per person!!  Some playing on average for 1 hour a day with others up to 12 hours per day.  This is highly impressive for a bunch of IT guys who usually do their gaming sitting behind some big screens from the comfort of their chairs at home!

I always cringe when I travel about my phone battery running low as I usually have to make calls between meetings, check emails and look things up online.  Yesterday I found a whole new way to run down my battery.  Playing Pokémon Go saw me use up the last 26% in about 30 mins flat hunting for Pokémon.  Its actually the first time I’ve asked a Taxi driver if I could plug in and charge my phone on the way to the airport.  Knowing my colleague was sitting in the back catching Pokémon on the way back on his phone while mine was dead clearly made me once again look like a Pokémon Novice and out of my depth with this game.

I did however have one up as I had a PowerBank in my handbag in case of emergencies.  Yes, there I was at Wellington airport listening to my colleague telling me I should be catching Pokémon.  This was the time to use the emergency PowerBank.  So there I was, in high-heel boots walking around Wellington airport catching Pokémon trying to look like I was actually reading email or doing something equally as important….

This evening, one of my team even showed me his setup to go Pokémon hunting.  He brings his MacBook with him with his phone plugged in and walks around Auckland, on a Friday evening with this setup.  I just hope he ends up with both his iPhone 6 and MacBook after he's been down those dark alley ways hunting Pokémon this evening……

I also raised the question with my team- have you thought about privacy?  Today at lunch I was sitting down and had a look at Pokémon Go.  To my surprise I was actually sitting in a Gym.  I entered and I could see other yellow team players in my virtual world.  Steven1275 was there.  As I looked over a few tables I realised in my real world there was another Pokémon player.  I would be anything his name was Steven.  I was a little horrified to realise that my Pokémon identity was being exposed in that way.  Thankfully when I registered for the game I decided I also saw it as a marketing opportunity for my new Start Up business- FindMyStudy and I registered my player as this name rather than my own.  The team laughed at me until I explained my rational.  I also pointed out that other players could see their identity of what they had set.  Some of the boys told me they had chosen girls identities so they would be fine.  Apparently for some it’s a gamer thing- as if you are staring at a screen for hours on end its better to be looking at a member of the opposite sex…OK, got it!  I’m guessing a few of them will be trying to reset their player name this evening!

 So the question is Pokémon Go or Pokémon Stay?

Here are the pros and cons as I see it, especially from my position:

Pros- Pokémon Stay:

·         Team Dynamics: Encourages fantastic team dynamics and closer relationships between colleagues

·         Improves Geographic Knowledge: Gets people understanding the geographic regions more and helps when staff have to drive to clients or work appointments

·         Encourages Team Work: When Pokémon hunting its an unwritten rule that you help show others nearby or with you to show where the good Pokémon are.  This is a great trait for my team to have and I love seeing this unfold in both the workplace and through Pokémon Go

·         Exercise & Fresh Air: People are outside walking around for kilometres in the fresh air- such a fantastic health benefit, especially for those in my time who don’t exercise much.

·         Meet New People: It encourages my team to meet new people and talk to them when Pokémon hunting.  This is something they can sometimes have problems with in a business environment when meeting new people so gives them more practice talking to people they don’t know for the first time.

·         Compassionate/ Caring Attitude: Encourages a ‘how are you going’ behaviour and interest in what others are doing and where they are it.  Colleagues are asking colleagues what level they are on and if they need to know where rare Pokémon are found.  This is great for all but I especially think it is great for those who suffer Mental Health issues- people showing others they care.

·         Inclusiveness: The game is inclusive.  Even those in my team who are new to each other or those who are shyer than others now have a common ground and get excited sharing tips and tricks.  This helps with their working relationships and confidence.

·         Creates a Project Focus/ Team Goals: Pokémon go is able to be used as a comparative in a working sense about all working together to meet a common goal- catching Pokémon together or completing a work project or Sprints together have the same things in common.

·         Effort = Reward Mentality: Walking 10km to hatch an egg to get a good prize also shows that to get something good, effort must be put in to get the best rewards.

·         Learning to be Patient: Pokémon hunters know that the rare Pokémon are hard to find and sometimes you have to wait and keep trying to get the good ones. Another handy trait to have in this instant world we work in.

·         Being observant: is also important as a Pokémon hunter- you need to know what's around you in both the virtual and the real world to do well in the game.  This is also an important trait in business and certainly helps in our team.

·         Listening to and taking advice and feedback from others:  I have watched may of my team offer advice on where the best Pokémon or Pokestops are.  We always try to encourage a constructive feedback loop in our office and this is certainly helping in both the office and the Pokémon world

·         Improves Memory:  Pokémon definitely improves memory.  Knowing where the Pokestops are that will give you eggs will help get you further, and you can keep refuelling.  This is also an important trait for business.  Remembering places and names will get my team far in their work life. Its just annoying that the Pokestop closet to our office is also the one that’s closest to my desk out the window!

·         Phones are charged: Keeping phones charged and with them at all times.  This is something we have had issues with in the past with staff’s batteries running flat at critical times at work.  Thanks to Pokémon go, phones appear to be well charged at all times.

·         Encourages team to be Social and network.  We try to encourage our staff to network with others outside of the office environment so that their people skills improve.  Pokémon gets people out and about in close range of others, it encourages social behaviour.

·         Problem solving: One of my team has even worked out a way he can code a robot to beat the game.  Thankfully he's decided not to do that.  I still admire the problem solving attitude.  Something we praise in our office.


Cons- Pokémon Go

·         Addiction and Compulsiveness: I asked those in the office who thought they were addicted to Pokemon Go.  This averages to 20% of the team.  A worrying statistic.  Some even asked me what the definition of addiction was.  They then decided that they were addicted as they thought they were unable to stop playing at will.  I said I would challenge one of them to stop playing the game from this evening until Monday morning.  He simply said ‘ you know that’s not going to happen’.  This is a worrying negative of the game.

·         Decrease in Productivity.  If people are not talking about Pokemon go, they are playing it.  Even taking a toilet stop now appears to be a reason for some to divert to the otherside of the floor to visit a Pokestop.

·         Office Conversation is one sided: The old water cooler conversations now seams to steam around Zumbats and Pidgey’s or Magikarp and Phyhorns.  Not very inclusive for those who don’t know Pokemon Go.

·         Focus is diverted Many a computer screen around the office seam to have maps up with people trying to work out their next plan of Pokemon hunting and where they can go to capture rare or large volumes of Pokemon.

·         Time Waster: There seams to be little point to the game and the consumption of large amounts of time for no real benefit, only kudos

·         Waste of Money: Some of the team here have actually paid money to buy additional things to give them more power or help them achieve further.  It might only be $24 now, but it could end up being $100’s later or worse $1,000’s.


In summary, my call is Pokemon Stay.  I’m sure like any other fad, it will simply be that but one that I don’t think I will forget in my lifetime.  I’ve seen my team grow closer together in the working environment because of the way the game bands them together outside of work.  Anything that improves people’s relationships and gets them exercising in a heathy way is a plus in my books, this far outweighs the one-sided office conversations or temporary diversion of focus.  If you are tempted to play however, watch out its addictive and you are going to need a good on the go phone charging source!  If you don’t want to play, I know of a good place where there no Pokemon or Pokestops and it has the most beautiful sunsets I have seen in the world- my little slice or heaven and my escape from all things Pokémon.

Ultimately the choice is yours, I’d say its at least worth a go so you can form your own opinion like I have.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

When Cancer Looms- Kick it to Touch!

I've recently acquired a new hidden talent.  I'm really good at growing pre-cancerous polyps in my bowel.  When the doctor told me after my recent colonoscopy that I would have had 1-2 years before they would have turned cancerous, I wasn't surprised.  Thankfully they were removed at the time they were found, but I'm now on an Annual screening programme.  I do feel guilty however as these polpys take 8-10 years to develop, meaning my busy life saw me flitting around for years making this a low priority when I should have paid way more attention to a 'pre-cautionary colonoscopy'. 

I had in fact already been given a referral form some 3-4 years earlier but didn't bother going past putting the form in my hand-bag.  Guess I thought being a fitness instructor who maintains a healthy weight and has a good diet and doesn't eat much red meat was good enough.  Wrong.  I never had any symptoms either, although thinking back I wonder if what I thought was 'having eaten something bad' was actually the start of a symptom....who knows!

I guess I always knew it would be a possibility as my father had Bowel Cancer at the age of 36 and had a large chunk of his bowel removed. I was told that my brother and I would need to be screened at a young age because of Dad.  My Dad's still around today - thanks to modern technology and cancer screening procedures like the Colonoscopy. I'm also lucky to have dodged a bullet -this time round at least.

I must admit, even though I'm generally a positive person- this has affected me.  I spend a large portion of my spare time googling to see if there is any way to stop the darn things growing, because yes, they come back.  Unfortunately, my type of Polyp- Sessile Serrated Adenoma/ Polyp was only discovered in 1996.  And worse yet, it appears to be relatively rare compared to others. On the plus side, I'm now a walking Wikipedia on polyps!
The only thing I've found so far which has been proven to help is to take high doses of Asprin...but that has other side effects.  Why is there not more Cancer research being done!

I think though that although you might have to live with things like this, you also have to evaluate what's important to you in life.  I've chosen to 'Kick mine to Touch'.  I'm also using my drive and ambition to push for Genetic testing for my family so it can help research and help others.  After-all, I'm the 4th generation in my family to have the darn things!  I'm on a 6 month waiting list for the genetic testing.  I can't wait to contribute to helping find a cure for this nasty Cancer.  I'm not one to just sit back and say 'poor me'.  Nope.  I've been pushing my family to get checked (another one has been found to have polyps and had to have them removed since I went in).  I'm also pushing for the testing so we all know what this hereditary cancer actually is.  It makes me feel good that I can contribute in some way to Cancer research and I'd love to think that perhaps my family can contribute to finding a cure- at least to this type of Bowel Cancer.

I did have a few moments of clarity going through this when I realised that my result could have been much worse.  I was then digging through my hand bag looking for those 'other' referral forms that I'd been sitting on.  My gosh- I've been poked and prodded in so many places now in the past month that I think I'm running out of places to be poked and prodded in!

I've also been very open with the staff in our office.  I told them I was going for a Colonoscopy, and I also told them the results.  It was really neat to have the conversation about genetics and finding a cure for cancer.  We also discussed the moral dilemias around genetic modification.  I have found out that with some forms of genetic bowel cancer, that if you choose to have children, through IVF, you can have the faulty gene removed so the next generation doesn't have the defect.  I just think that is such a gift of modern science to do this.  Others in my office thought it was morally wrong as you may modify other cells which might have a different impact.....

When I told my Dad that from the reading I'd done that it appears that he had past on his damaged DNA to me, he turned to his friend standing near me and said 'I think I must have damaged my DNA when I rolled the tractor all of those years ago' and laughed.  Its that spirit we all need when we have cancer in our lives.  He's still smiling and he also had 8 stents put in his heart in December last year- apparently his Cardiac Heart Disease is also genetic....hope I didn't inherit that one too with that faulty DNA!

In my moments of clarity, I did stop to think, if I do have problems when I go back in a year, what do I want to achieve or do with my life from now until then?  If you only had that short amount of time.  Interestingly, my thoughts were not as I excepted.  I am already fortunate to spend the time I desire with my family and friends, although I'd like to see my Australian family a little more.  The one thing I really wanted to do and achieve was to see my start-up company- Find My Study successful.  Some people may think this is an odd thing, but for me, this is something I feel I have been working towards my whole career.  It ticks so many boxes for me.  I can do social good, I can change the world, I can help others, I can make money (hopefully!) and I can do something innovative and different in a sector I've been working in for most of my career.  I then decided once I've done this and have made enough money to have a sustainable business, that I would like to push more for research in the cancer space.  I'm far too young to be thinking about cancer! But sadly this is the reality for so many people.  I'm one of the lucky ones- modern technology allowed me to have the fast track to cancer stopped, just imagine, only 50 years ago or even less, people in my position would have died from this dilemma.   

My advice to you all is to get your checks done.  Don't put these things to the bottom of the list like I did because you are 'too busy'.  Without your health you have very little.  Make it a priority and Kick those worries to touch!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Working in an office with boys

Last week the gender balance in our IT office changed even more in favour of the boys, to the point where this week, I am the only female. This small shift played to my advantage today.  I'm not saying the males in the office don't notice things, its perhaps they don't notice SOME things.  This afternoon I found myself coming back from teaching my Pilates class and changing into my office attire.  Dress- check.  Tights- check. Shoes- check....that is until I went to put the shoes on.

Now at 7.00am in the morning I'm usually desperately trying to get out the door.  This morning was particularly bad as I was getting texts from sick staff and at the same time a critical news item had come on TV concerning the area my start-up is working in, not to mention the cat under my feet.  No time to race down-stairs and get the my-sky recording.  With iPhone pointed at the TV, I was recording, a great little clip to take into work and show the team.  Being proud of myself and now 5 further minutes late, I rushed around getting my change of clothes for coming back from teaching classes- stuffed into a bag and out the door I flew.

This incident wouldn't have been than bad if I had not just been discussing over lunch with a friend and fellow Pilates participant how funny it had been when she came to a fitness expo with her pants on backwards.  Not to mention we also realised that another gentleman in class appeared to have his pants on backwards today with the zip at the back!  After a few laughs we both flew off to our busy lives.

Now back in the office around 2.00pm and changing into my next set of clothes for the day, putting my shoes on, I start to feel a little odd.  I felt almost off balance or like I had something on the bottom of my shoe.  I look down and cringe.  I have managed to grab two different shoes in my hurry this morning.  This left me with 4 choices.  1. Put my gym gear back on with my sports shoes. 2. Put my sports shoes on with my corporate wear.  3. Don't wear any shoes around the office for the afternoon.  4. Put on the shoes and hope no-one notices.

After a few seconds deliberation I thought to myself, if this was last week and the girls were in the office, I would NEVER put on an un-matching pair of shoes, especially different height shoes!  Today there were all boys.  I decided to opt for option 4- wear the different height non-matching shoes and half limp around the office.  I did this for two reasons.  Firstly, I didn't have much of a choice, and secondly as a bit of an experiment to see if any of the boys noticed.

Now at this point I do have to add that I am in an office of IT boys, lets say 'Geek Guys'.  Not to say they aren't observant but I think they pride themselves in being more into computer games than shoes if that makes sense.

So the afternoon pressed on and I'm up and down from my desk- over to the printer, back to my desk, over to another desk- up and down with my different shoes.  Now they have all gone home.  No one either noticed or said a thing.  Now I know they would have said something if they noticed as we have a 'Dick of the Month' award and this would have seen me in top spot.  I chose to stay quiet on this one for once!

So, back to the topic heading.  Working in an office with mainly boys over the years due to working in IT, a very male dominated industry has taught me a great deal.  Here are the pros and cons I've found as one of few females working in an office with boys:

1. Guys don't notice if you wear non-matching shoes to work
2. You have a clean toilet all to yourself (most days)
3. The office plants near your desk look the healthiest
4. Your perfume does not compete with others
5. You can talk about Motorsport all day long if you are a Petrol head gal
6. Your clothes will almost always be brighter than theirs (almost always)

1. Guys don't care if they don't match their cothes and even sometimes congratulate others on doing so.
2. On the days they may use the ladies due to over-flow - the seat can be left up
3. They put pant food in the office branded drink bottles so you don't know they are trying to revive their plants every day
4. They don't wear perfume of any kind, and possibly some days no deodorant
5. They don't watch My Kitchen Rules or Married at First Sight so don't even try discussing it with them
6. New shirt crease marks don't bother them and neither does not washing or ironing a new shirt right out of the packet.

If I'm being serious, I actually love working in an office with boys, after all I've done this nearly my whole career.  The gender balance does not bother me as that's what I'm used to. I simply enjoy working with smart and funny people who are professional about their chosen career, boys or girls.

I will say though that I'm pleased they never noticed my shoes or how awkward I felt all afternoon.  I guess the jokes on me!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Would you tell your team you are having a colonoscopy?

My Dad was 36 when he got bowel cancer, thankfully he's still around with us today.  Genetics can be a frustrating thing but we all have to live with the consequences both good and bad.  I have to be screened for Bowel Cancer as I'm supposedly high-risk as my Dad, my grandfathers brother and my great granddad all had bowel cancer. 

So here I am, sitting at home trying to work while doing bowel preparation.  I've literally just sat back down in front of the computer to do some more work after sculling back my 6th glass of Glycoprep, waiting for things to happen, literally.  I've been on a low fiber clear fluids diet for the past few days- no fruit and veges, no good fibre- this is just not me at all.  I'm grumpy and cold...oh and bloated. I've just finished drinking 1.5 litres of this glorious lemon flavoured liquid that's meant to 'clear you out'. I have a timer set for every 15 minutes to have another one until all 3 litres has gone. 

OK so now its happening, I clearly spoke to soon, here I was thinking it was a complete waste of time because it wasn't happened.  Wrong.   I'm now finding by self blogging between trips to the kitchen to drink the Glop and the bog.  I think the pattern is kitchen, blog, bog, blog, bog, blog kitchen.  In that order. However I think it may change in the very near future. Actually it has.  I think its more now like kitchen, blog, bog, blog, bog, blog bog, blog, bog, blog, bog kitchen.  If I was at work repeating such an efficient pattern I'd be patting myself on the back with just how productive I'd been in one 15 minute block!

I've been in the wars lately- I tore my calf in March and just after I recovered from that, tore a tendon in my arm.  My team have seen me racing from Sports Doctor appointment to Physio to Ultrasounds and now this!

So I thought about this procedure for a while, knowing I need to just get on and get it done. I'm not sure why I've been avoiding it.  To be honest I've just not been prioritising it, knowing its just a precautionary screening, or perhaps just not wanting to face the music if something was found. I think we all do this as humans to an extent. It probably one of our ultimate flaws, simply not prioritising things because they are precautionary.  And just as I'm about to make my point, the 15 minute timer goes off for my next glass of lemon bliss,  Back in a minute..... ( If that glass was a shooter and I was in a bar, people would be cheering me on the way I am handling these glasses of Glop!).  I think I will time myself on the next one. 

Now, back to my point about priorities and things that are perhaps a little awkward like my current situation.  I think we don't openly discuss these awkward things as they are embarrassing.  This in itself perhaps makes it harder for us to actually set about doing them.

At the start of this week I had to tell the team I would be working from home today and would be having a 'minor medical procedure' the next day which would require me to be knocked out.  I announced this in our stand-up morning meeting.  One of the team then innocently asked 'Is it for your arm?'. 

I stood there for a few seconds contemplating my answer.  So do I tell them what I'm doing or not?  I'm the boss.  Do I sweep this awkward procedure under the mat and simply tell them its 'private',  or do I tell them I'm actually having a Colonoscopy?  For those who read my blogs, I refer you back to my Are you being your Authentic Self? blog.  From this you know that this is what I've been trying to do.  So guess what I did? 

Instead of brushing it under the carpet like I might have done in the past, I just told them.  "I'm having a Colonoscopy because my father had Bowel Cancer at the age of 36 and I have to be checked too".  I could see a few puzzled looks so I continued.  "So guys, I have to be on a low fibre diet for a few days this week eating ham and cheese omelettes and fish and rice and no fruit or veges".  One of them said- wow that sound awesome and a few others nodded with smiles on their faces and visions of cheese omelettes.  I then told them the rest.  And after that I have to go on a fluid only diet, take laxatives and drink this stuff until I'm cleared out for the procedure". That wiped the smiles off their faces! (In case you are wondering, as a side note, I just timed myself and its 40 seconds, that's my new record for skulling the Glop back, this now appears to have bought on another new record, but that's perhaps for another day.  Put it this way, I'm close to officially blogging on the bog now).

As they all stood in silence I started to question my actions.  They then started asking questions and I started discussing things with them.  When we departed from the meeting I felt good.  I'd managed to take an otherwise taboo topic and make it easy to talk about openly with my team.  I felt proud about the example I was setting for them.  Being open and honest is important, it simply builds better teams. I hope I am teaching the team this.

I decided I would do the same with my Pilates class.  Rather than just tell them I would be away for today's class, I would tell them exactly where I was going to be. So during our foot facia release and neck stretch and the start of the class, I told them the same thing- I was having a Colonoscopy and I went on with instructing the class as normal.  I completed the class with some relaxation and closed off by telling everyone to have a great day.  Afterwards a few ladies came up to me.  This was not that unusual as I usually get questions after the class and I stay and chat to members on a regular basis.  These three ladies came up to me, one of them new to the class and said 'we want to talk to you about your Colonoscopy'.  They then went on to give me the most excellent tips about drinking the Glyco Prep fluid, the clear fluid diet and being prepared for the procedure and what to expect afterwards.  These ladies touched my heart.  Because I opened up to them, they opened up to me. Some of them have never met each other.

I left with a smile on my face again.  Just look at what being open and authentic does.  People feel engaged and want to help.  Taboo topics are discussed and people band together to help others out.  My team knows where I am and why and can support me.
I just wish I had the confidence to do this years ago.  Being open, transparent and authentic about difficult subjects makes a difference to those around you and how you feel.

So, the advice for anyone facing a Colonoscopy Prep process, just simply set your office up in the bog with a mini drinks fridge next to you.  Life is so much easier when you know what to expect and when you can expect it! 

Wish me luck for tomorrow team!   Either way with a good or bad result, I'll be proud to tick this off my list and at least a few more of you may know what to expect and I've potentially helped you out too.

P.S.  I'm signing this off while drinking my final glass, I think I'll take my time with this one and celebrate.  At least I can have clear chicken broth for dinner, I made three litres of it in case I needed it.....

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Why you should bother to remember someones name

Cassie.  She is 31 weeks pregnant and works at Pita Pit.  I visit Cassie every week on the way back from teaching one of my Pilates classes to pick up a healthy lunch.  I know Cassie's name because its on the badge on her hat.  I also know she is pregnant and how far along because I take the time to ask her this every week.  I also know she recently moved.  See the thing is, Cassie and I might be from different worlds and at different stages in our lives, but Cassie is a person.  I sometimes watch when I'm queuing for my Pita Pit and see not one person acknowledge her. 

She just goes about her work like a robot.  Cassie serves me nearly every week so I decided a while back that instead of just placing my order, that I would start to use her name- either when I greeted her or when I said goodbye.  I also decided each week I would ask her how she is feeling and how things are with the baby.

I saw a robot transform.  When she sees me each week queuing for my Pita Pit, she flashes me the biggest smile.  I only see Cassie for probably less than 10 minutes a week.  She knows what I order as I know how she's doing.  While she's making my order, she tells me how things are going.  We chat for probably 2 minutes.  Today, the 'Pita of the Day' had changed which I usually get for my husband.  She said 'no problems, we can just do the usual at the same price if you like. Cassie is great, she always puts extra tomato in at no extra cost- she knows I'm a good customer and I treat her with respect.   I told her not to worry about the new Pita and I'd try the new one and report back next week- with a twinkle in my eye and a little wink!  She gave me my order and I said- "thanks Cassie, have a great week" and left, I glanced back and saw the smile on her face.  I left feeling happy too.

I thing is, I don't have any reason for knowing Cassie's name.  I don't have children and don't know that much about pregnancy, but I took the time to ask how she's been.  I saw no-one else do this in the queue.  It made me feel positive for simply knowing I knew her name and asking about a random stranger.

I often wonder why as humans we struggle to treat others with humanity.  I've certainly worked out that you get what you give.  If you want to be ignored at Pita Pit, then Ignore the people who serve you.  Pretty simple really.  If you do the minimum, then they probably do too.

The reason I've learnt that names are important is to connect with people.  I also try to learn at least one personal thing about that person so I can connect on an even deeper level.   As many of my blog readers know, I have multiple jobs.  In my Pilates classes, I try to remember peoples names so I can connect with them on a personal level.  I use their names at the start of the class and sometimes point them out by name when they are doing things properly or well.  If I greet someone with a hello 'Agnes', they usually smile right back at me.  I feel warm and happy myself and it creates a connection.

In my business world, I've learnt through my years in Sales that knowing someone's name and something about them is a vital Sales strategy.  Again- people buy of people who just happen to work at companies.  I've also learnt that people are more likely to buy off people they connect with.  I deal with a lot of people trying to sell me things and to be fair most of them don't care about me as a person, they just want their commission.  I get annoyed and frustrated and lose respect for these people rapidly. Just think if they bothered to learn one thing about me, they might have been able to connect on a better level.

I've watched previous leaders in companies I've worked for admit they don't even know their staff's names, let alone anything about them.  Just imagine what its like working for a company like that!

I always try to make a point about knowing something about my team.  Perhaps its what they are studying at Uni, maybe its discussing the sort of cakes they are baking, perhaps its talking about their new flat.  Connecting with people is vital.  Simply put, it builds better teams.

I've certainly learnt that knowing someone's name is a vital part of my day, I just wish I had the capacity to know everyones names I deal with in a day- I could add so many more smiles into a day for both them and myself!  I challenge you to do the same and see how it changes the way you feel and makes others around you feel.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

My Morning as a Dragon on Dragons Den- NZSE Style!

I do love a good negotiation.  I’ve watched Dragons Den and now Shark Tank Australia for years.  I love to listen to the comments the Dragons make and the rebuttal from the pitching party.

This morning I had the pleasure of being invited to be a Dragon on a Dragons Den Panel with 2 others for New Zealand School of Education (NZSE).  Simon Cope who runs this event for NZSE is doing a fantastic job with this programme.  What a great idea for the students to work with to teach them valuable and real-life skills in business and entrepreneurialism.  I took part in this process last year and loved it so much I was back for more this morning. 

Just like the TV programme, teams of students have to pitch their ideas to the Dragons and we get to decide if we invest or not.  The students spend time preparing based on what they have learnt- financials, legal, marketing, business plans, target markets and more.  I just love to see Entrepreneurialism shining through...these poor students would have no idea what was coming next!
The process is simple, the Dragons are given monopoly money in which we decide to invest…or not and the students have about 20 mins to pitch their idea and about 20 mins of questioning from the Dragons.

Today was a smorgasbord of pitches, mainly based on food.  Shredded was a word that I would use to describe the happenings today.  Those poor students got shredded by the Dragons, but to be fair a number of the groups deserved it!

I had to leave before all of the pitches were completed but got to be around for the first four. Here is my take on what happened and the great ideas these students had:-

Group One: International Students Concierge Service

This was my idea group.  I know International Education well and have a start-up business myself in this area.  Unlucky for them this was my area.  This team of 7-8 students started strong and then fell apart mid-pitch.  With commas in the wrong place in their financials and confusion if they meant to say costs were $5.6 million or 560,000 amongst the group and then the Dragons being told they were using Indian Accounting started to have us worried!

The idea was simple- a meet and greet service for International students at the airport as well as on-going services to show students the best restaurants and places to go.  Even supervised shopping trips.  When we saw the budget only included $7,000 for a car and no allowance for a commercial driving license as well as no research into the International Student Pastoral Care laws, it was enough to put each Dragon out.  I was the first to exit when they didn’t understand the numbers of International Students in NZ and also said they would only target Uni students.  The $2,700 price tag was enough to make me wary of there service, despite only 2 of the 7 fessing up they had drivers licenses to operate this meet and greet service.  I’m out!

 Group Two: Indian Tea and Snack Stall

I was intrigued to start with this one, despite the initial technical difficulties with the presentation.  They started off saying tea was complimentary then later added that snacks were also complimentary.  Which confused all of the Dragon as to how the business model was ever going to work!  The shop was going to be in Sandringham and the tea $2 (a change from the earlier suggestion it was free!).  The numbers were staggeringly good- $300K in revenue and $60K Cost of Goods with a staggering $240K profit!  They were going to put up $1M initial investment and wanted only a mere $84K from the Dragons for 15 percent of the company.  When we asked what they were going to do with the $84K we gave them, confusion reigned amongst the team until one student quickly said’ Marketing’, we will spend it on Marketing!  We then asked them where they got their $1M from and they quickly looked at each other and one the spot decided half of it was bank financed.  Alarm bells were starting to go off in our heads!  One of the Dragons then asked, and what’s the bank interest rate.  Another bright young student paused and said 18%!  I did some quick calculations and worked out that this would be a mere $100K in interest if not compounded, which started to make the profit margins look awfully sick.  I was also intrigued and had to ask one last question before I bowed out.  “You mentioned that you had a new market in South Auckland and you were going to offer them Home Delivery”.  I simply asked “And how do you propose to keep your tea hot delivering it from Sandringham to South Auckland.  Another lot of quick thinking later and another student says “It won’t be made of course- they will make it up when they get there”.  I then let them know I was out…..swiftly followed by the other two Dragons who also did not invest!

Group Three: Japanese Wheel Cakes

Firstly, I had to admit I had to do a quick Google to check what one of these was while they were presenting to make sure they actually exist.  They do!  Its like a Japanese Pancake.  This was an all-girls team of a smaller group size to the other groups.  Their presentation was slick.  The had only one competitor in Auckland and had their financials well thought through.  There were some issues around them wanting to import ingredients rather than purchase local, but they talked their way around this.  Their marketing plan was solid using social media to promote their products and allowing online ordering.  They were going to be better than their competition and be located in a different area of the CBD to their competitors who already have queues out the door.  They were also planning to stock at Gas stations and supermarkets, which their competitors were not doing. This team had costs of $206K and managed to have a reasonable profit margin of $77K (unfortunately they confused the word income with profit which all had us baffled for a bit!).  They wanted a reasonable $20,000 for 40% of the company.  The numbers seamed to stack up and the investment seamed like a cheap one.  I decided that I needed to make an offer.  I offered $10,000 for 40%.  Then the next Dragon went with his offer, which from memory was the same as mine or very similar.  We were then battling.  My time to sell.  “So girls, firstly, I loved your presentation- very slick, I really believe I can help you here- I’m a female entrepreneur and in support of a team of young females.  I studied Japanese for 4 years also.  I also have qualifications in Nutrition and I’m great at Marketing”.  Then Tony started (the other bidding Dragon)- “I have a background in hospitality……” and the fight went on!  The girls were then asked to decide which offer they would take, but they couldn’t decide- saying they would take both!  They were asked to decide which offer.  And guess what- they took my offer!  I got my Monopoly money out and handed it over.  I was now the proud owner of 40% of a Japanese Wheel Cake Company to be opened in Auckland CBD!

Group Four: JCO Coffee Franchise (ex Philippines)

On a totally different tack to the other food businesses, this team simply wanted to purchase franchise rights of a popular Philippine Coffee & Donut Company and bring it to NZ.  Not only this, their Donuts were HEALTHY Donuts.  Yup, Sugar would be substituted with Stevia and the Deep Frying would be done in Coconut Oil instead of regular oils.  They even gave each Dragon a sample!  We had the Donuts and were listening and chopping away.  I must say how impressed I was that the usual Stevia after-taste was not there and the fat flavour was just right, even with the coconut oil.  I was baffled.  On taking another bite I suddenly realised that the Donuts were like our monopoly money- not the real products and I was in fact eating a full sugar and full fat Donut which I would never ever eat!  Despite our attention being fraudulently gained, we continued to listen!  They had done their market research and new their target market.  Stats were being thrown at us left right and centre.  We were impressed…until they threw out a stat- that there were 4,125 people living in Auckland…wait what??  Although all Dragons were a little baffled, the group continued pitching away.  Now the numbers came at us.  They had a net profit margin of 15% and they were investing an initial $120,000 of capital and financing the remaining $195,000.  They were looking for $100,000 for 15% of the company from the Dragons.  This put their company at a valuation of $670,000.

I then asked how they were going to protect their secret recipe for the Donuts.  I was looking for a Patent. One of the team came back with the fact they had confidentiality agreements with their staff.  Not a bad start I thought!  I decided not to bid as the Donut was starting to repeat on my- that much fat and sugar is never a good thing at 10.30 in the morning!  The other Dragons joined forces and ended up stealing the company for $50,000 for 15%, basing this on the fact that the franchise fees seamed cheap at $100K!

 At this point I had to leave with 3 more groups to go- I would love to have stayed as I felt like I was just getting warmed up!

Thanks to the students for putting up with a good nailing in the Dragons Den- we hope you learnt some valuable lessons from the Dragons questions today.  Thanks also to NZSE for being a fantastic customer of Business Mechanix - I love doing things like this to show how a great partnership can work.  Thanks also to Simon Cope for asking me to be a Dragon on your Dragons Den Panel, just like last year I loved every minute and I most certainly will be going and finding the Japanese Wheel Cake stand in Lorne Street for a real sample of what I actually bought into with my Monopoly money!