Cross-Cultural Competency

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What are the work skills of the future?

My last post on Working Globally prompted me to revisit a fascinating report that the Institute For the Future published called Future Work Skills 2020.

It sets forth six change drivers in the world that will reshape how we work:

  1. Extreme longevity. How will you think about living your life that may extend to 120 years . . . or beyond?
  2. Rise of smart machines and systems. How will you effectively interact with machines in the worlds of work and play?
  3. Computational world. How will data drive your life and your decision making?
  4. New media ecology. How will you communicate effectively in a more networked, visual world?
  5. Superstructed organizations. How will you communicate and connect on a massive scale, beyond traditional organizational boundaries?
  6. Globally connected world. How will you increase the diversity of your connections and your adaptability to multiple cultures?

These disruptive changes then pointed to 10 key skills for the future. And while they apply to all workers, it’s interesting how many of them have specific implications for communicators.

That means corporate communications will take on even more significance in the future. Communicators have a key role to play in helping people make sense of complexity and focus on what’s most important to the organization and its stakeholders.

Let’s look at cross-cultural competency. As one of the 10 key skills of the future, it’s defined as the ability to work effectively in different cultural settings.

You could end up working anywhere in the world. Or working with other people around the globe, regardless of your geographic location.

And if you don’t see that opportunity in your current role, it’s something important to seek out where you are or in your next move.

And to work effectively anywhere in the world, you have to be adaptable and flexible. You have to quickly get a read on how people think, how they get things done, and what social and cultural norms they follow. These are great overall change management skills, too, by the way.

Striking the right balance in cultural adaption is also important. As Andy Molinksy of the Brandeis International Business School says, “adapt to a new culture, but don’t go too far.”

Not only should you assess how another culture is different from yours, he says, but you also need to understand the level of difference and adjust your behavior to the right degree.

This is where a focus on diversity and inclusion is invaluable. The Future Skills 2020 report highlights the important role of diversity, in both cross-culture adaptability and in innovation.

This is the ability for diverse teams to come together, identify their points of communality as well as the different perspectives and experiences that enable them to innovate, and created a shared agenda.

In my current role, the markets we serve in the United States and Latin America are diverse and evolving rapidly. Our workforce must fully reflect our customer base, as well as understand the needs of each customer segment.

We also depend on a constant stream of innovation, which is fueled by new ideas and new thinking that come from a diverse workforce. And an inclusive workplace culture is one that fosters collaboration, productivity and engagement.

Want to know more? Check out DIRECTV’s Corporate Social Responsibility Report.

And speaking of diverse teams, pictured above are just a few of my incredible colleagues. Every day I’m amazed and awed by their ideas, insights and accomplishments, and how they all come together to create a highly engaging work environment and corporate culture.

What other skills help to operative effectively in any environment? One is speaking the language. I’ll explore that in an upcoming post.

Working Globally

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“Mom, do I ship to Croatia?”

My teen daughter asked me that last year when she started selling items on Etsy.

She launched a small business from her room in Southern California. All she needed was her laptop, a broadband connection and some starter items to sell.

Questions began. Did she know how to research shipping rates and timelines to Croatia? Did she price her items with enough margin to cover the shipping costs? What about insurance?

Talk about a great learning experience. And it got me thinking about what it means to be a global citizen of the world. And how to work effectively with people across countries and cultures.

Karie Willyerd and Jeanne Meister have a great definition in their book, The 2020 Workplace.

We’ve been fortunate to have Karie speak at DIRECTV’s annual leadership meeting, global HR conference and our Young Professionals Network.

As the world becomes more global, social, digital and diverse, Karie and Jeanne define global citizenship as:

  • Understanding how to conduct business in another country
  • Developing increased cultural intelligence and a deeper appreciation of the relationship between business and society
  • Being able to understand complex policy environments, and
  • Knowing how to work in virtual teams with people from all over the world.

The best way to do that is to live and work in another country or region. The next-best alternative is to travel globally for your work or on your vacations.

And there are several other ways you can become a citizen of the world. I’ve been reminded of this recently by some of my colleagues in our DIRECTV Latin America business – Ana Diaz, Pamela Gidi and Sandro Mesquita to name a few.

Observe. Watch how people do things. Take your cues from how people communicate with you. Give as much weight to what is unsaid as to what is said. Pay attention to how people react to things – their words, actions and body language.

Early in my career I bought hardware for satellites. While most of my suppliers were U.S.-based, I also worked with companies in Japan, France and Germany. I learned how to observe people’s behaviors as much greater cultural indicators than only their words. I even wrote a magazine article about international subcontracting, a precursor to my corporate communications career.

Ask. In a respectful and thoughtful way, ask people for their ideas. Their perspectives. Their preferences. Ask why and how. As Stephen Covey said, seek first to understand.

Read. Libraries are a window on the world. So is the internet. Harvard Business Review has great pieces on global business. Nicholas Kristof and Thomas Friedman at the New York Times have fascinating global perspectives. Financial Times and The Economist are other favorites.

When I shared my daily news rituals in LinkedIn, Dan Weidman made a great comment about perspectives in The Guardian and the Daily Mail, so I’ve added them to my list.

Sometimes I’ll toggle my Wall Street Journal app to the Asia or Europe editions.

To fit in this reading, I follow my usual news scanning framework – scan the headlines for a quick sense of the news, and read at least one article.

Think. Make time and space to simply sit and think. This is great advice in Dorie Clark‘s new book, Stand Out, about generating breakthrough ideas and building a following around them.

How does what you’re observing, learning and reading all fit together? What development in one part of the world will likely to affect another? What business opportunities could result? How does that change how you prepare for the future?

Empathize. Put yourself in other people’s shoes. Ask how they’re likely to think about a new development. Ask how they are used to working. Ask what would be most convenient for them.

It can be as simple as scheduling meetings at a time that is convenient in their time zone to trying to write or speak at least a few words in their language.

Network. How diverse is your network? This is a great question that BCG’s Roselinde Torres asks in her TED talk on 21st century leadership.

Are your colleagues, friends and acquaintances of different ages, perspectives and backgrounds? How great is your capacity to develop relationships with people who are very different from you? It’s this diversity, Torres says, that gives you broader ability to see patterns and solutions.

At DIRECTV our seven employee resource groups are a great source of connections and insights. And in keeping with my work/life blend where everything is interconnected, I’ve enjoyed insights into a variety of cultures by getting to know the parents of my son’s soccer team members.

Learn. As in, learn a new language. For me, it’s Spanish. Because I live in Southern California and half DIRECTV’s employees are in Latin America, this makes the most sense.

I’m trying to use my commute time for learning and practicing. In part this is because no one is around to laugh at my pronunciation in the sanctuary of my car.

And if I can scale the significant hurdles of learning a language after the age of 10, there are multiple mental benefits according to a recent New York Times article by William Alexander.

How are you becoming a global citizen of the world?

 

New Ways to Work

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Speaking at the Intranet Global Forum this week at USC made me reflect on new ways to work.

At Toby Ward‘s invitation, I joined a variety of speakers including digital luminaries Shel Holtz, Dion Hinchcliffe and Aadam Zaidi.

The focus? The future of corporate intranets, spotlighting the design, governance and management of enterprise and social intranets.

My talk was a DIRECTV case study, looking at how we’re changing the way work gets done in our connected enterprise.

Today it’s more collaborative, productive and innovative. And tomorrow it should become even more so, as technologies and cultures evolve.

It started four years ago when my Communications team began working with the I.T. team to explore technologies for social collaboration.

We began with a vision – to make it easy for employees to connect, collaborate, access and share information with each other and partners, leading to greater engagement and productivity, along with better decision-making and increased innovation.

Our work was informed in part by the McKinsey & Company study, The social economy: Unlocking value and productivity through social technologies.

Across four sectors studied, it reported that social technologies improving productivity could potentially contribute up to $1.3 trillion in value. And two-thirds of this amount lay in improving collaboration and communication within and across enterprises.

Those are hefty numbers. And big potential to achieve.

We embarked on our journey with a group headed by Michael Ambrozewicz on my team, and later joined by Thyda Nhek and Mani Escobar.

We have a great technical partnership with I.T. strategy leader Frank Palase and his team, along with insight from various consulting partners.

Together we could put a social collaboration platform in place, but how could we encourage people to use it? How could we achieve its full value?

We had to make it part of how people did their daily work. Not a separate site that people would visit and engage with when they had time.

It had to be a way to get important work done every day. It had to foster new ways of working, with employees creating content to share in places where teams collaborate in real time.

Senior leader involvement is a key way of doing that. If leaders are active in a social intranet, then employees will join the dialogue and the action.

In our beta phase, I launched a communications leadership blog. My purpose was to encourage the beta participants to experiment and learn. And I’d learn enough about blogging from first-hand experience so I could advise our C-suite leaders on launching and growing their own blogs.

In the next year’s annual leadership meeting, we wove social collaboration into the program.

  • Our CEO talked about its importance in the context of our overall business strategy.
  • Michael and Thyda manned kiosks and helped leaders set up their profile pages and get started with initial actions, like following colleagues and bookmarking key content.
  • Each day I blogged for all employees about what was happening at the meeting. Our CIO jumped in with blog posts and perspectives of his own.

Blogging for me created a “flow state” experience, where time drifts away and I’m completely engaged in the art and craft of thinking and writing. It’s one of the things I wrote about in my very first post.

And it’s one of the reasons I launched this second blog, Leading Communications, earlier this year. I wanted to continue learning, sharing knowledge and engaging in dialogue.

What are we doing with our social intranet today?

First, we’re providing company news and information in real time, that employees can like, share, comment on and add their own perspectives.

Second, key teams are regularly collaborating on projects and keeping their colleagues up to date on emerging industry trends, new technologies and consumer insights.

Third, major work locations and teams use spaces to engage colleagues with relevant information and project-based resources.

And where are we going tomorrow?

First, our social intranet will sustain and build on organizational knowledge. Information is increasingly less likely to be buried in individuals’ email accounts, and more likely to be available for colleagues to access and build upon.

Second, our word-based content is becoming more visual, with photos and videos increasing in importance compared with text. People can process visual information much faster, not to mention that it’s more engaging.

And in our rapidly changing world, that provides tremendous upside. Step by step, we can all make that trillion-dollar value creation a reality.

 

What Makes a Top Workplace?

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Visiting one of DIRECTV’s Denver offices this week, I felt a special energy.

People were upbeat and friendly. A hum of activity filled the halls. Lively conversations spilled out of the elevators.

A lobby sign reminded employees they’ve made the company a Denver Post top workplace for three years in a row.

(Kudos are in order here for Denver-based communications leader Anthony Martini, HR leader Carlos Botero and all of the leaders and employees at our Denver sites.)

It was not unlike the company’s many other locations, where people are highly engaged in entertaining the future by delivering the best video experience in the world.

What makes a top workplace?

While there are many models and methodologies for identifying top workplaces, for me there are three things. They all need to be present for an engaging and energizing employee experience.

Purpose. What is the company’s vision? How is it changing the world? And how are employees part of something much bigger than themselves as individuals?

A compelling and inspiring purpose motivates people to pour their heart and soul into their work. It drives discretionary effort, where employees put in significant amounts of effort above and beyond what their jobs require.

Many companies today report low levels of engaged employees. That’s why I’m especially proud of my colleagues at DIRECTV, whose high engagement and strong financial performance put in the company in Towers Watson‘s high performing companies norm.

Leaders play a critical role. They’re the ones who articulate the purpose and communicate every day in their words and actions how their teams further that purpose. One of their most important roles is also to express a genuine interest in employees and inspire them to deliver their best efforts.

Communication is the catalyst. It gets back to the tree-falling-in-the-forest question in my first post. Without effective communication, a compelling purpose is nearly nonexistent.

“Start with why,” Simon Sinek said in a TED talk with 22 million views, How Great Leaders Inspire Action.

People. We spend most of our days with our work colleagues. Talented and positive people make the workplace come alive.

It starts with having a compelling employer brand, articulating the promise of the employee experience your company offers. That branding brings top talent on board, and ongoing development keeps everyone growing and stretching.

Add to that an inclusive work environment that values everyone’s ideas and insights. This leads to a constant stream of innovation, not to mention better decision making and happier employees who enjoy coming to work each day.

Possibilities. Limitless potential encourages people to keep stretching and growing — to learn and develop themselves as they contribute to the success of their organizations and their teams.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone is on track to climb what used to be known as a corporate ladder. It does mean that people have an opportunity to build valuable skills and experiences, that they’ll put to use at their current organization or another one.

LinkedIn’s Reid Hoffman and colleagues call these “tours of duty” in The Alliance. In this framework, “Employees invest in the company’s adaptability, and the company invests in employees’ employability.

This creates multiple possibilities for the future, strengthening both people and organizations in the process.

A top workplace isn’t about free food, yoga classes, pet care or a myriad of other perks.

While those are nice and most people wouldn’t refuse them if offered, those are extrinsic rewards. This makes them more ephemeral and less powerful than intrinsic rewardswhere the enjoyment of the work itself is the reward.

Enjoyment and inner fulfillment come from a strong purpose, great people and limitless possibilities. These are a lot less expensive than 24/7 meal service. And much more sustainable and satisfying to boot.

Say It In a Subject Line

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How can you get your message into the first three to five words?

If the recipient read nothing else, would they get the main message in those first few words?

And how you can grab their attention right away?

These are the questions I’m asking when I’m reviewing materials my Comms team or others have drafted.

Is the main message in the subject line? Or the slide headline? Or the blog post title?

It’s in those first few critical words – or increasingly, images – that your audience will decide if they should engage further or move on to the next message.

Your subject line and preview text may be all your reader ever sees of your email, so make ’em count. Check out some great email subject lines to inspire the ones you write.

And make sure you’ve included keywords, “an informative word used in an information retrieval system to indicate the content.”

Even The New York Times, long known for its lyrical headlines, is now including keywords.

And there’s a bigger goal as well.

“What matters more than a story’s ‘searchable’ factor is how ‘shareable’ it is on social media,” the article by Margaret Sullivan goes on to say, “so headlines need to serve that purpose too.”

And what makes something interesting and shareable and interesting echoes the themes in 4 Questions to Transform Your Elevator Pitch.

So how can you say it in a subject line?

4 Questions to Transform Your Elevator Pitch

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This week, I’m preparing to give a one-minute elevator pitch.

This should be easy. I’ve done personal branding sessions. I’ve defined my unique value proposition. And I’ve drafted a pitch, complete with words like strategy and collaboration and results.

But somehow, those formal statements are things I would never say. They wouldn’t feel natural. They wouldn’t sound believable. They wouldn’t be interesting.

And as Tim David says in his HBR post, Your Elevator Pitch Needs an Elevator Pitch, they wouldn’t be authentic.

So what should I say? What should you say the next time you’re on an elevator or at conference and someone asks you to tell them what you do?

In one minute, you have about 120 words to pique someone’s interest and spark a longer conversation.

Being in the TV business, pivotal scenes or compelling narratives often come to mind. As The Wall Street Journal reported in a tribute to Mad Men, elevators have been described as a neutral zone where “time, physical space and tension get neatly compressed.”

So how can use use that to your advantage?

First, who are you pitching to? As with any communication, consider your audience. Who are they and what’s important to them? What problems are they trying to solve? And how can you help? Answering these questions will help you tailor your pitch.

Second, why are you pitching to them? What do you want to accomplish? Your general objective should be to generate interest in a follow-up conversation, not to close a sale or land a job. Think of your elevator pitch as opening the door to more dialogue.

Third, what do you want them to know about you? If the person were to remember just one thing about you, what would you want it to be? Focus on that area and edit out everything else.

Fourth, how can you say it authentically? Translate corporate jargon into real words that anyone could understand. Could your parents understand it? How about a kindergartner?

Here’s the start of mine for this moment in time:

Hi, I’m Caroline Leach. I help people learn to love change. Whether it’s winning customer loyalty, working in new ways or creating a culture of volunteerism, I use communication to lead change. And involving people makes them more excited about the future. 

Best-selling author Daniel Pink has great ideas about creating an elevator pitch for our digital world. One is having a one-word pitch. If, according to Pink, Google equals search and MasterCard equals priceless, what one word defines you?

I chose “transform.” I also considered “change.” But while many people are inspired by the idea of transformation and its possibilities for reinvention and growth, people resist change, as Rosabeth Moss Kanter summarizes so well on ten different levels.

People don’t always like to change. But they would eagerly transform their lives. And communication can connect the two in a powerful way that ultimately leads to sustainable change.

Pink also suggests summing up your pitch in a tweet. In 140 characters or less, what’s your Twitter pitch?

My tweet is I help people learn to love change.

And that’s what I’m exploring right now in my work and in this blog. And as that changes and evolves, so will my elevator pitch.

 

Why Not?

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If you think you can’t do something, ask “why not?”

Probe a little further and dig a little deeper before you write off a potential solution or a course of action.

Two graduation events in the last week week made me think about this.

Our Comms team celebrated the USC graduation of Jamie Zamora, a terrific intern who will join us full time on our Corporate Citizenship team led by Tina Morefield.

Jamie’s colleagues Brooke Hanson and Brynne Dunn asked our whole team to share their words of advice for Jamie. A few of the themes? Build a network, take time for yourself and enjoy the journey.

The whole world is before you, with problems to solve. And you can be part of the solution, starting with the questions you ask.

Some of these themes were echoed in the UC Berkeley commencement I attended this weekend to see my nephew Kodiak Spydell receive his degree in architecture.

And for all of the challenges in the world today, I was encouraged and inspired by this group of students now entering the work world.

Enthusiasm and idealism were tempered by the sober realities we all face — environmental concerns, increasing inequality and economic instability, to name a few.

The “a-ha” moment for me was the extent to which each person can be part of the solution.

No degree is required. Just one simple question can unlock ideas and solutions, no matter who are you.

Instead of thinking “that would never work” or “they won’t let us,” try asking “why not?” instead.

What are all of the possible solutions? What would need to happen to make one or more of them work? And how can you take the first step?

Why not try one of them? What’s the worst that could happen? And what’s the upside if something works?

This kind of thinking struck me in Marc Benioff‘s commencement address at Cal.

As a pioneer of cloud computing and the CEO of Salesforce.com, Benioff has built “the fastest growing top ten software company in the world and the largest customer relationship management company.”

Deeply troubled by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Indiana that could have allowed discrimination against the LGBT community, he spoke out.

In doing so, he galvanized the support of fellow tech leaders and took steps in his own business to make it clear that the threat to civil rights carried consequences.

This had strong echoes of a TEDx Manhattan Beach speaker, David Hochman, whom I mentioned in my first post. He shared his life’s mantra: Why not me? Why not now?

This kind of thinking was evident in Marc Benioff’s actions.

And it came full circle in a story my dad told about his days as an engineering and business student at Berkeley in the tumultuous 60s.

A final exam in a course asked only one question — “why?”

Almost all of the students began writing furiously, filling page after page with lengthy responses.

Except for one student (no, not my dad), who aced the test with a two-word response — “why not?”

You Matter

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What are our deepest human cravings?

To feel that we are important. That we have something valuable to contribute. That we matter.

Tony Schwartz summed it up well in an HBR blog post called, The Only Thing that Really Matters.

“How we’re feeling — and most especially whether or not we feel acknowledged and appreciated — influences our behavior, consumes our energy and affects our decisions all day long,” Tony wrote.

“Our core emotional need is to feel valued,” he continued. “Without a stable sense of value, we don’t know who we are and we don’t feel safe in the world.”

That reminds me of a great TED talk by Simon Sinek, called Why good leaders make you feel safe.

(And as an aside, if you want something engaging to do during your commute, get the TED app and listen to a playlist of talks on a subject of interest. Work Smarter, Before Public Speaking and How to be a Great Leader are favorites.)

Back to Simon. He talks about the importance of creating trust among people and fostering a safe environment as a way to build up people and organizations.

The result? “When we feel safe inside the organization,” Sinek says, “we will naturally combine our talents and our strengths and work tirelessly to face the dangers outside and seize the opportunities.”

He describes leadership as a choice, not a title. Looking after your colleagues makes you a leader, Sinek says.

That can sometimes mean acknowledging a hard truth. The principal of my son’s school wrote a poignant email to parents the day that people across the country heard of the horrible tragedy at Sandy Hook.

“The randomness and unfairness of this event remind us the deeply troubling fact that we can never fully protect our loved ones,” he wrote. He named our unspeakable fear. Which made it just slightly less awful, to be reminded that we can’t, in fact, control everything. Even if, as humans, we would like to. And we strive to.

What does this have to do with communicating effectively with employees? With winning their hearts and minds? With showing people that they matter?

It means listening – to hopes as well as fears. It means building trust. It means showing by your actions that people are important. That they have value. That they are needed. And that they have an opportunity to be part of an inspiring vision that is bigger than themselves.

Two people I know are really good at this.

First is Joe Bosch, DIRECTV’s CHRO and my boss. He gets the HR team together frequently, and a tradition is his presentation of a  “Bosch toolbox.” For an individual who’s done something notable, Joe invites them to the front of the room and reads his personal note on the box, which is filled with fun tools.

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Second is Andy Bailey, who leads employee recognition on my team, with a focus on our frontline employees. Andy’s mantra to “start every meeting with recognition” is something I’m proud to experience every day as part of our culture at DIRECTV.

When the Myers Briggs personality types came up in conversation yesterday, it reminded me how many thinkers, versus feelers, are in leadership roles (myself among them as an ENTJ). And thinking is good for many important activities – strategy, operations, analytics and metrics, to name a few.

But people have to deliver on those strategies. And they’re more fired up to take that next hill if leaders and colleagues are touching people’s hearts as well as their minds. So people know they are appreciated. That they have value. That they matter.

That you matter.

5 Lessons from Blogging

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New Year’s Day always seems so full of promise. Remember that feeling of being on the brink of something great?

That’s the day I launched this blog. My goal was to go on a learning journey to explore the future of corporate communications. I’d post every Tuesday and Friday. Life would be perfect.

This isn’t my first blog. Three years ago I launched a blog on our company’s social collaboration platform. My goal was to drive adoption and role model what colleagues could do with social business.

What have I learned so far from blogging?

Pursue excellence, not perfection. It’s important to write great posts, but it’s also important to publish with some level of frequency. Find the right balance, whether it’s a blog post, a work project or an exercise program. Know when to take the leap. And make the “thumb slam” I wrote about in my first post.

Do your most important work in the morning. That’s the only time you can truly control. Texts aren’t stacking up; people aren’t asking for a minute of your time. This is the best time to do what’s most important to you. For me it might be a blog post or a big work project. Getting something important done first thing makes me happier and more productive for the rest of the day.

Don’t be afraid to look silly. In launching social collaboration at work a few years ago, I felt out of my element. But I realized I could learn what I needed to know. I started an internal blog to share my learning journey and ask for help from others. Earlier this year I debated whether to post “What’s Your Theme for 2015?” It seemed too soft and self-revealing. But I gave it a thumb slam. And 2,154 views and 61 comments later, I’m glad I did. Colleagues inspired others by sharing their themes for the year – from brave to intentional and from growth to transformation and more.

No one knows all the answers. Doesn’t it always seem like everyone else but you has it all figured out? Except they don’t. And the way to figure it out is by doing it. One step at a time. Have a plan, sure, but take in feedback along the way and make adjustments as you go. Pamela Druckerman summed it up well as, “everyone is winging it, some just do it more confidently.”

Work and life are one in the same. No more searching for an elusive work/life “balance.” They are one in the same, and it makes life easier to approach it as one big mashup. What am I learning in one area of my life that I can apply in another? And as my HR colleague Linda Simon wisely says, “enjoy every day.”

On New Year’s Day as I was fine tuning my first post and figuring out how to point the servers with my domain name to WordPress, my husband, Kevin, made me a cake. The one that opened this post. Sweet.

And although my posts aren’t perfect and neither is my life, there’s joy in losing myself in the thinking, the writing and the learning. Sweet.

What Would You Do If You Weren’t Afraid to Fail?

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#MPOWR was a perfect theme for Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day on April 23.

At DIRECTV, our headquarters campus was filled with the energy and excitement of visiting children. They got to see what their parents do each day to bring the world’s best video experience to more than 39 million customers in the United States and Latin America.

They also got to meet two amazing filmmakers, Sarah Moshman and Dana Michelle Cook. We screened their documentary, The Empowerment Project, which encourages girls, boys, women and men of all ages to dream big.

My daughter and I were introduced to the film at a National Charity League event. After the first few minutes, I couldn’t wait to bring it to colleagues in the DIRECTV Women’s Leadership Exchange and beyond.

With backgrounds in reality TV, Emmy-award-winning filmmakers Sarah and Dana wanted to show more positive images of strong women in the media.

So they launched a Kickstarter campaign, formed an all-female crew, and took a 30-day road trip across the U.S., interviewing  “ordinary women doing extraordinary things.”

It didn’t take long to see that the women were far from ordinary – both behind and in front of the camera.

“Be bold and naive,” said architect Katherine Darnstadt“You are a leader of your life,” said pilot Sandra Clifford.

“Do right by people,” said Navy Admiral Michelle Howard. “Treat people with dignity, and then that means in the last days of your life, you have no regrets. That’s a measure of success.”

“You don’t necessarily have to find passion in your work, you just have to find passion in your life,” said chef Mary Nguyen. “Just know that if that passion is your work it will become your life.”

How true. Writing is my passion. Why? It’s about thinking. It’s about making connections among sometimes seemingly disparate ideas and people. It’s about changing beliefs and behaviors. It’s about expressing thoughts and ideas in interesting, inspiring and engaging ways.

This is why I love my work in corporate communications and why I love writing this blog. They both absorb me in the amazing “flow” state that Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi described as “the creative moment when a person is completely involved in an activity for its own sake.” In the film, Dana described her empowered feeling during the road trip as not having worked a day of it.

So what would I do if I weren’t afraid to fail? I’d write more often and share this blog with others.

When I launched this blog on New Year’s Day, my intent was to post twice a week. And while I haven’t been as prolific as I planned, I’m happy that a goal I set on January 1 is something I’m still doing four months later.

Now it’s time to move on from “designing at the whiteboard” as yet another extraordinary woman, Tara Sophia Mohr, would say, and leap into sharing this blog with others for their input and feedback.

What would you do if you weren’t afraid to fail?

 

To learn mThe Empowerment Projectore about The Empowerment Project and bring it to a school, business or community group, visit the film’s website, check out the project tour video and follow @EmpowermentDocu on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Their Instagram collage opened this post.