Archive | May, 2010

It’s the Little Things…

27 May

Remember the saying “It’s the little things in life that…?” – neither do I. And while there’s ample variations to the ending, little things can make or break your day.  Sometimes it’s the little things in life that often have the biggest impact and leave the biggest impression  (positive or negative!)

Consider these little things with big impacts:

– A single careless remark from an adult to a child can have a lifelong impact (what were you told as a child?  You are too sensitive, you are fat, etc.);

– A thoughtful remark (you are thoughtful, you are generous) can be overridden in a second by another careless remark (somehow negative remarks bear 10x the weight of positive ones);

– A genuine, caring remark can change an entire outlook (think of statements like: what would I do without you? you are the nicest, kindest person I know);

– A smile from a stranger can brighten an otherwise dull day;

– A handwritten thank you note from a boss or a colleague is often saved for years;

– The song that played when you first fell in love (often hearing the music years later can create euphoric feelings even if the relationship fades);

– I could go on and on…

Today I participated in more meetings here in Japan and an acquaintance remarked that my help was really valuable.  It was a little thing, but it really made my day. I’m going to try to remember the moment the next time that I feel that my work doesn’t count.

What little things really make a big impact on your life and your days?

Regards,
Carol

Carol Dekkers, Software Measurement and Global Software Development expert, author, speaker. Want to engage Carol to be a speaker at your next event? Email Ms. Dekkers at dekkers@qualityplustech.com or carol@caroldekkers.com or visit http://www.caroldekkers.com for details.

Copyright Carol Dekkers 2010…

Why do we need to “get out of Dodge” to be recognized?

24 May

I pen this posting from International Standards (ISO) meetings here in Niigata Japan (2 hours train ride outside of Tokyo) where I am part of the USA software engineering delegation to ISO standards this week.  It’s great to visit almost any Asian country where I experience the best of western and Asian culture — and I love it! The food, the scenery, the camaraderie among countries working together are all great!

Does this seem strange coming from a single-white-female visiting a country (Japan) long stereotyped as treating women as lesser than men?  Here’s what is interesting to me: when I travel abroad, and especially to Asia (whether it be Japan, China, Korea, Thailand, or India, so far), I am treated as the American expert I am (in other words on par with men) during the day, and then treated with high regard (and even called “American eye candy” at times) at the end of the workday.  No where else have I been given such direct respect for the books I’ve published, the tomes of articles I’ve written, and the volunteer and consulting hours I’ve contributed to the software and project management industry.  Certainly not in the U.S. or Canada!

I remember growing up when Bryan Adams, the popular rock entertainer was first starting out in Canada, and he had to work years to gain respect of his peers. It was only when he made it big here in the U.S. that he was accorded star status back at home!

I wonder why it is that so many great people who deserve respect and accolades for their years of effort and achievements have to go elsewhere before they gain 1/2 the same level of respect at home?

I haven’t any idea why this phenomenon exists or what drives it, but all I can say is that it sure revitalizes one’s energy, motivation, and drive for success when one is granted “royalty” status – even fleetingly – in another country.

So, if you feel frustrated or stagnated that your efforts–  in the RIGHT direction — are going unheeded (i.e., not yet gaining the financial or other success that you know you deserve), find support overseas.  From my experience, the rewards are refreshing, and even temporary recognition makes it all worthwhile.  Imagine that someone, somewhere outside of where you are, appreciates your work as valuable and adding value to your industry.  Just food for thought…

Wishing you all a prosperous and happy week.

Regards,
Carol

Carol Dekkers, Software Measurement and Global Software Development expert, author, speaker. Want to engage Carol to be a speaker at your next event? Email Ms. Dekkers at dekkers@qualityplustech.com or carol@caroldekkers.com or visit http://www.caroldekkers.com for details.

Copyright Carol Dekkers 2010…

Am I the only one who…

18 May

Do you ever feel like you are the only one in the world who lives by some of the things we used to think mattered?  I’m all for the freedom of expression, freedom of speech, and government NON-intervention in our life, but lately I’ve noticed a trend where I feel like I am alone on the planet with unconventional – even radical – views.

Am I the only one who...Here’s a few examples of what I mean:

Am I the only one who…

Thinks texting shortcuts dumb us down? What is it about saving two letters that makes us think that it’s worth using shortcut words even though it confuses people? I just don’t get why we’d change great to gr8, you to u, your to ur, etc. OMG!

Thinks that good spelling is just common sense professionalism? I get lots of emails with shortcut text, misspelled words and poor grammar.  With spellcheck available with most mail programs, how hard can it be to spell check your work before sending.

Thinks that cellphone calls are not for public consumption? I’d like to know when the rules changed with cellphones that make it okay to use it as a pseudo microphone where everyone has to hear your business.

Still thinks it’s okay to let someone into my lane? I witness shoulder passing (“my time is more important than to wait in traffic with everyone else”), rude speedups (“you can’t come in my lane”), and just plain rudeness on the road.

Is tired of voice response systems (the menu systems that say “thank you for calling, press 1 for …”) where you can’t reach a real person? While I find offshore help desks frustrating when they don’t speak English, at least there is a real person somewhere at the end of the endless menus.

Thinks that if the voice system takes your keyed in information multiple times, the real person shouldn’t ask for it again. I get frustrated when an automated system asks for my Social Security number and account number and locates my account, then the real person asks for the same information as if you had never entered it.

Has turned into my mother because I find that most men my age want to date younger women, and senior citizens find me “hot”? I find that if I have to repeat what I say, wipe noses, or wait for a guy to adjust his equipment – their iPhone or a hearing aid – they are either too old or too young to date.  Oops, I forgot, welcome to Florida.

Thinks that there is a such thing as news without “spin”. I am tired of the slanted reporting and lies in the popular media and the internet. Perhaps I led a sheltered childhood, but I don’t remember questioning whether ever bit of news had a Republican or a Democratic or Socialist slant to it.  I want the facts without the rhetoric, and unfortunately Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart on Comedy Central seem to come as close to it as we can get.

Thinks that you can be friends without benefits. I used to love going out with male friends who were decent.  By decent, I mean they didn’t visibly lust at the waitress, make lewd comments to me about women in our midst, and who were interested in being out and having good conversation.  I don’t know where one can find “friends” today who simply like to go out, enjoy your company, are courteous to others, and don’t try to manipulate you to bed.

Sees the value of exploring the world. I’ve given up on acquaintances whose entire weekend plans (every weekend) involve getting drunk at the local pub every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night.

Can’t seem to find the “social” in the social media. While I’m in technology and have attended social media workshops, I still can’t understand why strangers with nothing to sell would want to “friend me” on Facebook. If they don’t know me or anyone I know – I just don’t get it. I’m not in the numbers pursuit (also known as the ‘I have more friends than you do’ game) and I don’t understand the “relationship” building one can do with 4000+ friends you’ve never met. I prefer to meet people the old-fashioned way – in person.

Goes to networking events without dollar signs in my eyes. I go to networking events for the sheer joy of handing out a few business cards and meeting some like-minded people in my area.  It seems that networking events have evolved into either meat market pick up joints (e.g., the bar scene) or gathering spots for ravenous marketers hungry to sell you whatever they are hawking (and they don’ t care what you do for a living).

Thinks that the world is becoming less tolerant. I find that there is more expressed racism, sexism, and general intolerance today than ever before. In our ‘flattened’ world I would expect more tolerance and not less, yet I meet people daily who dislike anyone who doesn’t share their views of the world.  Is it just me or are we becoming more judgmental as a civilized society?

Yearns for a more simple time when people said thank you, opened a door, smiled when they didn’t know you, and were interested in you as more than a sale prospect (and not a Facebook friend).

As someone who prides myself as being more open and tolerant of people than when I grew up, I wonder how my views can be as isolated as I think they might be.

At this juncture in life, I question —  Am I the only one who…. thinks like I do?

Have a productive, happy week!

Regards,
Carol

Carol Dekkers, Software Measurement and Global Software Development expert, author, speaker. Want to engage Carol to be a speaker at your next event? Email Ms. Dekkers at dekkers@qualityplustech.com or carol@caroldekkers.com or visit http://www.caroldekkers.com for details.

Work life balance… it’s like spinning plates

16 May

I recall fondly the days when my two children were young – I was a twenty-something entrepreneur whose daily life felt like I was constantly spinning a dozen plates.  Between dance lessons, soccer practice, karate, girls choir, homework, teachers conferences, school volunteerism, business trips away, marketing, volunteerism, finding new contracts, running a household, and catering to a husband who was either in school or busy working 12 hour shifts (3 times a week), there were months and years where I felt a little harried (to say the least).  I was overtaxed, but considered that I was happy as I could be – spinning so many plates at once. Multi-tasking was an understatement!

I have high respect and regard for women (and men) worldwide who struggle to keep so many plates in the air at the same time. Now that my children are grown and on their own, and I am in a new life of singledom, I can view my former busy life with 20/20 hindsight.  In retrospect I wish I had done a few things differently and I’d like to share them with you:

1. Realize that there is a limit to the number of plates you can spin at once!

When I look back, I realize that two kids + too many activities + pursuing a business + living away from supportive family + volunteering at school + out-of-town travel + a competitive husband = overload.  I wish that I had taken on less, nurtured personal friendships and sought help from friends and neighbors. Over time, this overloaded situation caused me fatigue and kept me from feeling personally fulfilled.

2. You don’t have to be all things to all people.

As a person with high ideals and a harsh inner critic, I sought to keep all the plates spinning all the time and at the perfect tempo.  I sought to be the best mother, the best school volunteer, the best homemaker, the profitable entrepreneur, and the perfect attentive wife – I now think that was an impossible feat. Similar to being a jack of all trades and master of none, I regret thinking that I was a superwoman who could succeed with so many demands on my time.  If I had only known then that 20% of the effort in the right places (my children) would give me 80% of the benefits (healthy happy adults), I would have sacrificed perfection in the other areas.

3. Accept support from everyone!

I remember times during my busy years that people would offer support or help — and I turned down the offers because I didn’t want to be a burden.  Instead of looking at offers to help as exactly that (genuine and giving), I viewed it as  take and give. I felt that if I took help, I’d be indebted to return the favor double.  My advice?  Accept the help when it will ease your burden, and don’t feel that you owe double.  Others will appreciate that you trusted them enough to take their help!

4. Keep your own “Cookie Jar” full!

One of the most life changing anecdotes I’ve ever read outlines how women (primarily) are taught to make sure to take care of others first. In other words, we make sure that we keep everyone else’s “cookie jar” full before we fill our own.  When we neglect our own needs (our own self-esteem and our own cookie jar) we find that no one else is looking after us (they are looking after their own needs) – and we have nothing to eat.  Instead, we need to fill our own cookie jar first so that we can then give to others.  I wish that I had learned this a long time ago.  I wish I had concentrated on self-love and acceptance before those same needs of my family, and then given more without regret.  I realize (too late) that I gave away my power and money (paying for three separate sets of schooling for my ex-husband) and accepted his needs before mine (friends ask me how much he actually worked). As a result, I regret that I neglected my needs in favor of those of my family.

5. Nurture YOUR friendships.

This goes hand in hand with #4.  Too often we give up our own needs for friendship in favor of becoming friends with our children’s parents, our spouse’s coworkers or choice of friends, and as such we lose our identity.

When your identity consists solely of being so-and-so’s parent, and so-and-so’s spouse, your uniqueness and identity is lost. (Fortunately I had my work reputation to fall back on!)  When I was no longer a spouse, and when my children moved away, so too did a big part of my identity.  I’ve since built up my own circle of friends who love me for me, but it was very lonely to discover that no one saw me for me – I was merely a mother and a wife.

Keep, meet and nurture your friends – they love you for who YOU are, not the role you’ve taken on.

In retrospect,

I loved spinning plates and raising two wonderful children, and I recall fondly the memories of the busy times.  I miss the challenges of spinning multiple plates and the feeling of being needed by so many for so many things.  I wouldn’t trade my past work life balance challenge for anything. Today my life is simple with far fewer plates to spin at once – and it is an easy task to balance work, friends, and pets.

I applaud everyone who spin multiple plates and do so with grace and skill.  As one who has been there, I share my observations with the hope that your spinning might be a bit easier.

Have a productive, happy week!

Regards,
Carol

Carol Dekkers, Software Measurement and Global Software Development expert, author, speaker. Want to engage Carol to be a speaker at your next event? Email Ms. Dekkers at dekkers@qualityplustech.com or carol@caroldekkers.com or visit http://www.caroldekkers.com for details.

Empathy without experience?

10 May

Anyone who’s been following the US economy knows that the “recovery” is tentative and more and more Americans continue to lose their jobs and/or are in financial stress.  In decades past, it used to be easy to dismiss those without work as unlucky, unambitious or even lazy.  But no longer.  Losing a job is no longer an anomaly as professionals coast-to-coast continue to find themselves out of work and often out for a lengthy period.

As a business owner whose workload has been up and down over the years, I’ve had great years and not so great years and I know only too well what is meant by feast or famine.  What I wonder today is just how many Americans can truly have empathy with those who are financially strapped through no fault of their own – unless they’ve been in the same place in the past.  As I attend various Tampa Bay events (sometimes as a volunteer) – I notice that there is a widening gap between those whose lives have changed little during this recession and have kept their jobs and their steady incomes.  The black tie and charity events continue to attract a good attendance and I’ve seen more money that usual spent in the past six months than I’ve seen before.

At the same time, I also know of many colleagues and friends who are grappling with the lowest incomes in decades and who are no longer the spring chickens they were when they started their business. The recession has dramatically reduced not only their steady incomes but often also their assets and the amount of years they plan to work before retirement.  Well qualified professionals who were once secure in their jobs have dipped into their retirement funds, taken out home equity lines of credit, and severely curtailed their spending. And despite all the belt-tightening and their fervent job searches, many professionals remain out of work and increasingly out of hope.

These two seemingly different groups were once a single unified workforce and many of those employed today but for the grace of god could as easily be alongside their professional peers on the unemployment line. Yet, I don’t see a level of empathy that one would expect from those who are lucky enough to have been unaffected by the economic downturn.  Which leaves me to wonder – can one have true empathy without experience?  Can someone who has never experienced financial strife identify with someone who does? Can a person empathize with another when you’ve never been in their position?   I’ve noticed that it is commonplace to say “I can imagine how hard it must be” or “I know how you feel” when there is no real empathy in place at all.

Our members of congress are unfortunately, some of these such people. It is easy to feign “commiserating” when you have a four year steady job without a chance of furlow. And, when some of our representatives vote to pass laws, many times the legislation involved will not affect them because they are exempt.  I believe that empathy is possible, but without a stake in the outcome of any situation, it is easy to feign empathy without really caring.

What do you think?  If you’re earning the same or more these days, take a moment out of your day to empathize and perhaps provide some relief (and hope) to those who are not so fortunate. After all, next month or next year, it could be you, and if that happens, I guarantee that you’ll be looking for empathy from those who were just like you.

Regards,
Carol

Carol Dekkers, Software Measurement and Global Software Development expert, author, speaker. Want to engage Carol to be a speaker at your next event? Email Ms. Dekkers at dekkers@qualityplustech.com or carol@caroldekkers.com or visit http://www.caroldekkers.com for details.

Why does self-promotion feel like bragging?

7 May

I want your advice…

I just received an email message titled “The top 20 webinars of all time” from a company for which I’ve done webinars in the past. It was sent to the 20 top speakers out of the hundreds they work with and it started out: “An interesting list. If you are receiving this message, you are one of our top webinar leaders based on registrations…” (Sidenote: This company has done thousands of free expert IT webinars over the 5 years). The list followed in reverse rank order.

When I perused the list I found visionaries from my industry (software development and leadership), authors, competitors, and friends. When I got down to the second last item (#19  on the reverse ranked list having the second highest number of registrations), I noticed that its 1000 registrants was 400 higher than the first (lowest) entry on the list. Then I got to #20 where the speaker had more than double that number (over 2200 registrants) and found MY NAME! No fanfare, no hype, just my name beside my topic and over 2200 registrations!

Top DogWhat would you do?

Here I am the TOP DOG of all the webinar speakers this company has ever had by far, and it’s going to be up to me to promote it!  Certainly it’s an honor (I’m also a speaker) and yet it feels like bragging if I self-promote this (yes, that’s how I was raised…)

Does this happen to you?  I know I deserve my own “A pat on the back, and a bit of applause” (my posting earlier this week) and I’ve done that, yet it still doesn’t make it easy to tout my successes to the world — but here goes:

Carol Dekkers is the top webinar presenter of all time!

(for this NY based company)

Now that I’ve told you, what’s the best way to tell the business world?  Please send me your ideas and comments.

Happy weekend!

Regards,
Carol

Carol Dekkers, Software Measurement and Global Software Development expert, author, speaker. Want to engage Carol to be a speaker at your next event? Email Ms. Dekkers at dekkers@qualityplustech.com or carol@caroldekkers.com or visit http://www.caroldekkers.com for details.

A pat on the back, a bit of applause…

6 May

“The person who seeks all their applause from outside has their happiness in another’s keeping”.
– Dale Carnegie, American Author and Achievement Expert

Earlier this week I blogged about the difference (and importance) of gratitude and expressing appreciation for others (Gratitude versus Appreciation, More please!) and I overlooked an important premise – the giving has to begin with ourselves!  If we aren’t savvy at being grateful to and appreciative of ourselves, how can we possibly pass it on to others?

Less than 6 degrees TampaLast evening I attended a popular Tampa Bay networking mixer full of seemingly happy, healthy, professional men and women called Less than six degrees. At the end of the event, I was at the bar finishing up my cocktail and a young 20- something, well-dressed woman sat down beside me.  “My ride stood me up”, she remarked, “so I think I’ll just have a cocktail before I order a cab.”  In the next few moments she unloaded on me the story of how she had recently reconnected with her estranged father who was now marrying his girlfriend of 20 years and who was pregnant with his second child. “I’m going to have a little sister” she sniffled, “but I don’t know what to do about it.” In a motherly response, I took her hands in mine and said “You’re going to be a great big sister you know.”  She responded with a “thank you. I hope so…” and confessed that she had looked for acceptance from her father for so long that she didn’t want to disappoint him now.

As we talked, it became clear that what was happening to her was what happens to all of us at one time or another.  So many of us get caught up in looking for applause and acceptance by others, that we lose sight of the fact that we deserve applause from ourselves!  We ought to recognize where we’re at, how far we’ve come and the great person that we are today. While it’s nice to receive support from others, the best, longest-lasting support has to come from inside ourselves!

We take ourselves so for granted that we’d be embarrassed if we did the same thing to someone else.  If you don’t agree, think about the last time you gave yourself a pat on the back for a job well done? How about the last time you looked in the mirror and said “Wow, you’re a great person, I really love you”. We are so caught up in trying to be perfect for others that we miss out on pleasing the only person who can ever make us happy – ourself!

Whitney HoustonThere is a song that epitomizes this — The Greatest Love of All by songwriters Linda Creed and Michael Masser, performed by George Benson (1977) and later made famous by Whitney Houston, (an excerpt of the lyrics follows),

“Greatest Love Of All”

I believe the children are our are future
Teach them well and let them lead the way
Show them all the beauty they possess inside
Give them a sense of pride to make it easier
Let the children’s laughter remind us how we used to be
Everybody searching for a hero

People need someone to look up to
I never found anyone to fulfill my needs
A lonely place to be
So I learned to depend on me

[Chorus:]
I decided long ago, never to walk in anyone’s shadows
If I fail, if I succeed
At least I live as I believe
No matter what they take from me
They can’t take away my dignity
Because the greatest love of all
Is happening to me
I found the greatest love of all
Inside of me
The greatest love of all
Is easy to achieve
Learning to love yourself
It is the greatest love of all

Click here for the full lyrics and to hear Whitney Houston’s rendition

Isn’t it time you gave yourself a pat on the back, a bit of applause, a kind word?

After all, you’re all you’ve got – and the good news is – that’s more than enough.

Have a great day!

Regards,
Carol

Carol Dekkers, Software Measurement and Global Software Development expert, author, speaker. Want to engage Carol to be a speaker at your next event? Email Ms. Dekkers at dekkers@qualityplustech.com or carol@caroldekkers.com or visit http://www.caroldekkers.com for details.

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