Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Flattered or freaked? My world is a fishbowl.

This week, I spoke with a search engine marketing company who had met our company's president at a recent conference. The call started off fine, and then the VP of Business Development said something along the lines of, "Hey, you're really busy! We read your LinkedIn profile, and your tweets, and your blog. So you go to yoga, huh?" I honestly was a little caught off guard by this, but laughed it off and said, "Wow, you guys are thorough. I don't know know whether to be flattered or freaked."

The fact of the matter is, I am well aware that what I put out there online is visible to anyone who cares to view it. (The one thing that isn't a virtual free-for-all is my Facebook account, which I have locked down pretty tightly.) But with the exception of possible future employers, or perhaps speaking opportunities, it never occurred to me that someone would bother to find out as much about me as they could. And the kicker: this "background research" was for a sales call.

My question is: is this in-depth research a common practice? I'm honestly curious to find out what people do when they're prepping for meetings. And, if you do this type of pre-meeting digging, do you tell said subject?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Please don't call me "kiddo."

As some of you might know, one of my pet peeves is being "ma'amed." Quite frankly, it makes me feel ancient, especially if said ma'amer is a well-meaning teenage bagger at the Whole Foods checkout. I know it's polite, and I'd certainly rather be ma'amed than called, "Hey, lady." I also know that in certain environments, the usage of ma'am is quite common (the South), or even required (the military). Still, for whatever reason, I feel like ma'am is a title that should be reserved for little old ladies.

At the complete other end of the spectrum, I can't stand being called "kiddo" (though I will confess that I get a secret thrill when I'm carded by bartenders). And, believe it or not, it happens on a frequent basis, hence this blog post. My dislike of the term stems from a former manager who used to call me kiddo, as in, "Great job, kiddo. Keep me posted." I often left meetings feeling as though he'd ruffled my hair with the palm of his hand. While I think my manager meant to be nice, his use of kiddo did not make me feel all warm and fuzzy.

Why not, you ask? Answer: I am not a kid. I am in my mid-thirties (Gulp. I almost typed "early thirties," but let's call a spade a spade here: I'll be 35 in a few months). I carry myself like an adult, because I am one. I run a department at a respected company. I'm well-educated and have a good head on my shoulders. I'm married, own a house, and I'm a mom. What on earth about any of those things says "kiddo"?

Yes, this manager was older than me, and I was one of the younger managers at the company, but why should that give him license to call me a kid? When I sat down and thought about why exactly I was so perturbed, it hit me like a ton of bricks: I found his comment disrespectful. While often very funny and charming, kids are not always responsible, and you sometimes take what they say with a grain of salt. (Case in point: my almost-two year old doesn't always pick up after herself, and she thinks every day is her birthday.) And most importantly, you certainly don't trust kids to make important decisions or entrust them with valuable information. This manager, perhaps without even realizing it, was making me feel as though what I could contribute to the company didn't matter. I wish I had taken the initiative to speak up and say, "Please don't call me kiddo," but I never worked up the nerve.

Like it or not, we live and work in a multi-generational world. Our coworkers may be much younger or much older than we are, and we all bring unique things to the workplace: tech-savviness, operational expertise, different managerial styles. The generational mix helps make a good company both stable and cutting-edge, and everyone, no matter what their age, should be treated as an equal.

Please, for the sake of building a high-performing team, don't call your coworkers and/or customers kiddo, sweetheart, honey, or any other term of endearment that you'd normally reserve for a family member or pet. (And may I respectfully suggest that you not call anyone under the age of 75 "ma'am." Unless, of course, you're from the South, are in the military, or work at Whole Foods.)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Me, a role model?

Over the past few weeks, a few (childless) friends said, "I don't know how you do it: work full time, parent, and generally have your act together. You are such a role model!" My response each time has been to gape at said friend like a fish, and then burst out laughing.

True confession: 99% of the time, I feel like anything but a role model. Yes, I work full time, parent, and manage to make it out of the house looking somewhat presentable. But I have got to tell you, this whole juggling thing is damn hard. And for a self-confessed Type A gal, I usually am stressed out that I am not doing something (OK, everything) as well as I could be, or as well as I feel like I should be. Case in point: just last week, C's school had a pumpkin painting party, which started at 5. I rushed out of the office a few minutes early, after wrapping up some loose ends for my business trip the following day, and made it to school at 5:15. Unfortunately, my husband and I were the last toddler parents to arrive, and C was beside herself, apparently thinking that we had abandoned her. Hello, massive guilt trip. And as far as being put-together goes? I put on a great game face, people. (And I have a love affair with concealer...but that's beside the point, I guess.)

When I think about my own role models, many are very successful women, who also happen to be moms. And though they'd likely laugh at my calling them role models, too, they are more "seasoned" than I, and therefore seem infinitely more capable when it comes to juggling things. As we approach C's second birthday, though, I've come to realize that not everything has to be 100% perfect all the time. If everyone is happy and healthy (and by everyone, I mean both at work and at home), then shouldn't that be good enough? I will admit that "good enough" is sometimes not good enough for me, but I'm really working on retraining my brain to understand that no one/nothing is perfect, and that it's much healthier to just let things be a little bit "wrong" instead of driving myself and everyone around me crazy. I'm also slowly coming to realize that if others see me as a role model, I must be doing SOMETHING right. 

So thanks to my friends for calling me a role model. I might not have shown my appreciation very well, but I really am very flattered. And when you ladies have kids of your own, I think you'll understand where I'm coming from on this one. :)