What does it mean to be a Tall Poppy?

Being different. In some countries it’s undesirable. I use to work for an Australian company and we’d hear mention of ‘Tall Poppy Syndrome’. Australia has changed greatly over the last decade but Tall Poppy use to be part of the culture. I had to ask when I first heard it too. The term originated with Aristotle, that’s how old it is. The idea is that a uniform field of poppies is ideal and the ones that are taller than the rest should be cut down. The official term is actually intended to be pejorative.

I feel like this Tall Poppy sometimes- at least I hope I am. Is that odd?

So how is it relevant in this day and age?

I see this in corporate contexts. Say the boss spends $1M on a outside consultant to deliver a finding. The Boss agrees with the finding and cascades it out to the generals and then to the troops. In a corporate culture, the people closest to the the customer, the troops, have no say in the strategy. It would be a rare example to hear about a soldier (keeping with the analogy) who pointed out flaws in the finding and was able to make positive change to the project. Soldiers may be able to affect the implementation, but we do see a higher scrutiny and less tolerance for someone in the ranks to question leadership decisions. The Tall Poppy Syndrome is that feeling that the soldier who makes waves will be scrutinized. That is how it’s been explained to me and how I interpret it.

I’m a passionate person – passionate about my industry and my work ethic. I thrive on making educated leaps, being a first mover, and persistence. I believe that if you haven’t failed, you haven’t tried hard enough. In an environment that favors diplomacy, following protocol and subtlety, you don’t do well being celebratory, insistent, innovative, disappointed, or proud. Some would say that until you reach a certain level you’re best to just tone it down, go with the flow. (It’s the opposite in the start-up environment. The more personally invested you are, the better.)

I’ve worked with my share of battle-worn colleagues who have been put in one box on the org chart and then moved to another box the next year then back again. And with the economic downturn these are the lucky ones to have survived numerous waves of lay offs. Perhaps this has something to do with mellowing of emotions in large corporate environments. And it’s the culture of tan cubicles, layers of management, but mostly keeping your eye on the horizon of long term goals.

My field of Digital Marketing is constantly reinventing itself and it excites me to no end! So being housed inside of a 40k person company has been such a juxtaposition of large and nimble. Working in the corporate environment has made me a better professional and employee. I don’t want to lose the Tall Poppy in me, that entrepreneur. I’m not going to change the way corporations work but I’ve come to understand the perspective. Corporations are built for long, steady progression. But even though we invest ourselves in our work, sometimes at our own personal expense, corporations manage in thousands not by individuals. The loyalty and passion you invest has to be rewarding to you first. Brave the harsh winds, the sun is worth it.

President’s Day 2012: Who’s Your Fav?

Someone asked me who my favorite President is. It didn’t take me long to answer. I love JFK because of all he did for Civil Rights. JFK believed in his core that the freedom our forefathers imagined should include equality for all citizens, even ones that our forefathers didn’t give rights to. JFK knew that this was his challenge to face and that it was critical that he succeed. He made great gains in registering African American voters, appointing African American’s to leadership positions, desegregating the schools and public places and eliminating discrimination in housing. He did this regardless of the anger, strong-arming and danger that accompanied this mission.

During Kennedy’s Inaugural address on January 20, 1961, he said, “All this will not be finished in the first hundred days. Nor will it be finished in the first thousand days, nor in the lifetime of this Administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin.”

He wasn’t about the first 100 days and picking low hanging fruit to prove delivery on campaign promises. He wasn’t about posturing.

I started thinking about the similarities between what JFK and Obama faced in their terms. Why was JFK so successful and Obama, not so much? Is it the whole bi-partisan problem?

– JFK helped us stay out of nuclear war with Soviets
– Advanced anti-discrimination laws
– Helped recover from stock market crash of 1962 & drastic unemployment rates

So what’s your opinion on who did it better and why?

Read a poem I wrote about JFK from college!

Remembering Howard Goldberg, Qantas

When I think of Howard I think of him more as a friend or family. But he was also my previous boss at Qantas Airways and my mentor. While I was trying to connect with my feelings over his recent passing I started sifting through old files. I ran across a document I wrote nominating Howard for an eXcel Award- a Qantas internal recognition award. I don’t think Howard ever knew I submitted this for him. Politically, I knew it was a long shot so I just didn’t mention it.

Here is that letter circa 2005:

I have had the opportunity to work with many powerful and entrepreneurial managers before and thrive well working with visionaries. But above all other Presidents, Vice Presidents, and CEOs I have followed, Howard Goldberg manages with the most important leadership characteristics.

Customer and Company Loyal: Howard runs the sales and marketing department with the mission of improving our relationships with our partners and customers. He finds ways to reduce strain and barriers that would otherwise hinder our partners’ success. Every contract and project created or overseen by him assures that the company’s best interest is first and foremost. Howard leads by example and it is very easy to see his loyalty to Qantas and his genuine love of his staff, the product and the potential for growth in N. America.

Challenges the staff: Howard doesn’t have to create superficial expectations and milestones for his staff. In his own way of showing his motivation and eagerness to succeed, Howard challenges his employees to achieve increased results and improve our region’s earning potential. He leads through encouragement when he focuses more on what we are doing right than on what we are doing wrong. Consequently, we are all motivated to keep improving and optimize our methods for the good of the company. Personally, Howard takes the time to meet with me and discuss my strengths and foster my career.

Chief Fireman: In the course of every project, problems arise. Howard has a unique ability to not only listen but to also advise the best ways to solve problems. No matter how busy he can get, he always makes time for face-to-face meetings to help us straighten out our business issues. It takes a lot of energy to juggle all the projects and personalities in Sales and Marketing but Howard has proven incredibly adept at being a chief fireman and leading us to find ways to prevent future outbreaks.

Respects Me: Howard lets me do my job the way I know it needs to be done. If I find myself in conflict with a colleague, vendor or policy, I can always ask Howard for advice. No one likes to be micro-managed. By allowing me the latitude to do my job and set my own course, he is actually gaining productivity from me. I feel more invested in my position and work to achieve my personal best with goals that are set very high. The best bosses manage by being very clear about what’s important and what are critical success components of a job or project.

Howard encourages us to stretch and take risks. Taking risks is essential to the field of online marketing. There is nothing ‘tried and true’ for this new and evolving form of marketing. It is only by trying new strategies and media partners that we can test and measure for future success. Great leaders encourage employees to make mistakes (small ones). Even more important, they treat those mistakes as learning opportunities.

Howard recognizes our strengths and thinks of his employees as individuals. He is very supportive and effective at nudging me toward the goals I have set for myself. He praises my work when I am heading in the right direction and is available with helpful advice when I go off the path. He celebrates my success, which makes me more motivated to exceed previous performance.

Has a sense of humor: One of Howard’s most endearing qualities is that, a long time ago, he learned that having a sense of humor is an important survival skill. It is with this optimistic and funny outlook that he guides us through budget cuts and swings in bureaucracy and helps his team weather many situations.

Shares information: In a company that receives directives from head office, it would be easy to feel lost or disconnected from the company’s mission. Howard makes it a priority to continuously communicate pertinent information and elicit our responses and feedback.

Howard comes to work everyday with a refreshing outlook and genuine goal to help Qantas grow revenue and create lasting relationships. He always tries to make customers happy and present Qantas in the most favorable light. It is with great enthusiasm and pride that he leads his team.

Howard has the unwavering respect and admiration of his staff because he has earned it. It does not take 5 years working with him to see that he is a man of his word. Truly most of us hold Howard in such high regard that we follow his decisions and advice and are eager to make his team a success. He is a model boss and a major contributor to the success of Qantas North America. He is an amazing, caring boss who I personally and professionally respect and recommend for an eXcel award.

Love What You Do

If you love what you do, you’re passion propels you forward. You find yourself so engrossed in the work that 1pm comes and goes and you finally remember that you forgot to eat lunch.

The pathways in your brain are firing and if you took a minute to listen to your body you’d feel your heart rate dancing the samba. And success follows.

So how do we get to that nirvana? First, you should realize that not everyday will be like this. There’s going to be one day you have to be the heavy and lay down the law with someone, and another day that is filled with frustrating tasks that have to get done. And yes, there may even be a day where you thought you were going in the right direction and you have to back track.

It’s important to love your everyday. But it’s more important to love the direction you are going in. You can make the most meticulous plans but keep some flexibility in there for diversions, for research, for instincts. Eye the horizon and not your feet.

(Get out the crackers, I’m about to lay on some cheese…) And as Terry the yoga teacher in Daytona Beach quoted, “It’s the journey y’all”. So love your journey and success will come.

5 things a Facebook addict should do before giving birth

Life on the maternity ward has definitely changed since Facebook. Ever notice how you can spend hours on FB and look up and it’s midnight? That same bliss is ever-useful to distract you from contractions too. Since you’re about to be a new Mom (or Dad) and you’ll probably be in radio silence for at least a couple days to six months, Zuckerberg has perfect timing.

So before the big “ahhhh” moment, here are some things you Facebook addicts might want to do:

1. Expand your network- make sure all your friends, family and anyone who might miss you over the next few years know you are about to be sucked into parenthood. Getting them all on Facebook makes maintaining all these relationships easy. This also means your parents, uncles, aunts and people who claim, “Oh I’m too old for that”. Lure them with baby pictures to be posted on FB only! You’re about to go into a new-baby cocoon where you barely have time to eat and shower- if they want to hear from you they need to get on board with Facebook.

2. Send last minute status updates so everyone knows where you are and when this is likely to go down. Important: Be sure to let everyone know that your hubby will call them or send a status update when it’s a good time to visit. I recommend you mention you will ‘schedule visits’. It’s pretty hard to be a new mom, get used to nursing, doctor/nurse visits and juggle 3 sets of relatives in a small hospital room when baby is fussy. Use a schedule to set time with visitors and give yourself blocks of time for naps and rest.

3. Download Facebook to your smartphone. That way when your darling baby is born you can upload their picture straight to FB for all your family and friends to see. No mess, no fuss. Having FB on your phone will also be great as you’re walking the halls of the delivery floor trying to get through early contractions. Remember that distraction breathing exercise from birthing class? Viewing your friend’s adorable baby photos from their albums might just do the same thing.

4. Have all your friends suggest a calming song to add to your birthing playlist.

5. And last, don’t second guess the baby names you have picked out. But if you’ve procrastinated or changed your minds, check out the GoodToKnow Baby Names Generator or Baby Names Finder from PajamaBaby.com.

Good luck Mom and Dad!

Safe Baby Products

I’m about to have a baby and enter the world of motherhood. The protective instincts are kicking in and I’m nesting my little heart out. I want the best for this little girl so I started changing the products we use at home for cleaning and my own shampoos, lotions, and deodorant. When I’m snuggling with my baby I want to give her every advantage for a healthy life. (Well, and eczema runs in my family)

And then my eyes were opened. If you’re an ‘ignorance is bliss’ kind of person, maybe you should stop reading now. I hate to ring any alarm bells or send other pregnant women into a tailspin. But here it goes:

You know that lotion you use, the shampoo, the laundry detergent- yep, they probably cause Cancer, birth defects, reproductive issues or are bad for the environment.

I wouldn’t state a problem without also giving you the solution- Cosmetics Database. Search for your current products by brand or category and EWG (the organization who created site) will show you the ingredients, what concerns they are linked to from scientific studies and then, brilliance, they rate the concern level so that you can determine how pure you want to be. A score of 0 is best, for me, over a 2 seemed unnecessary. When there are great products available with quality, clean ingredients, and the prices are only a bit higher, that’s one decision that is easy to make.

Examples:

Johnsons No More Tears Baby Bubble Bath and Wash- rates a 6/10, Health Concern: MODERATE, the red flags on this were related to allergies & immunotoxicity.

Banana Boat Baby Sunscreen Stick, SPF 50 scored a 7/10! HIGH concerns: Developmental & reproductive toxicity, Endocrine disruption, Persistence and bioaccumulation, Multiple, additive exposure sources, Irritation (skin, eyes, or lungs), Contamination concerns, Biochemical or cellular level changes; Other MODERATE concerns: Organ system toxicity (non-reproductive)

This is not OK.

    If these are the ingredients they put in the baby products… why are they considered baby-friendly at all?
    California Baby
    There are some things I didn’t give up, and some things I gave up entirely (like fabric softener sheets)(poison).So what treasures did I find? Some fabulous brands like Weleda, Alba, JASON, California Baby and Avalon. You can price shop them online. But, if you feel immediately compelled- Target is starting to carry some of these more organic, natural brands in their beauty section, health food stores like Whole Foods stock them and try The Vitamin Shoppe. As a general guideline, the fragrance is commonly the problem. If you have a choice between two products, it’s likely the unscented is the healthiest.

    Please consider donating to the EWG to keep this database up to date and a tremendous resource for all.

Langa Township, South Africa 1994

The People of Langa Township

At the entrance we were greeted by drying sheep’s heads and the routine of shearing wool. Cows roamed freely with the hens in trash piles near the main roads through Langa.

Throughout the day there were uneasy warnings from the streets, a sour look while passing a shop, a scream of pain from somewhere off, signs posted saying, “One settler, one bullet.” And though I was not, and my people were not, of the Dutch decent that conquered South Africa 350 years ago, I felt a danger for having the features of them.

Thick metal shipping containers in the hot South African sun sound more like ovens than shelter. These corrugated, window-less shoe boxes serve as schools for the children of Langa, though walking in them with bare feet could leave you with blisters.

This is Langa Township and just a few of the friendly faces and warm hearts that greeted us with curiosity and laughed at these odd visitors from America. More than a town, this place was more about kinship. The children played freely amongst the housing as they did in the thick dry grass lots. And even though Langa had hundreds of houses and many different families, there was a feeling of community child rearing and a strong sense of communal support.

Escorted by ANC (African National Congress) members, I wandered in and out of streets, was welcomed to share the shade of the tin shack homes and was handed children to bounce in my arms.

But our visit was merely a distraction on a momentus day. Filled with a sudden energy and anticpation, the town prepared for a special visitor.

This afternoon they would welcome Nelson Mandela and hear his views on the past and the future. They would hear him speak about ending apartheid and an election that will never be forgotten.

“The Suit” must have shown me his Sunday best four times before I realized what he was trying to communicate. His pride lights up his face and his laugh could be heard like a confident chuckle down the street. He wanted his picture taken and I was honored to do that.