“I think I’m Doing Too Much”

I think I’m doing too much. My family had never heard me say those words. Never. And I don’t just mean my kids – my mom, everyone/no one. Those who know me might recognize that I am a hyper-personality, high spirited, too “damn” perky – pick your descriptor. I have always been busy. I started work at maybe 13, 14 years old. I know in one job, I lied about my age….could never get away with that now!

I never cared much for grades, so it is not that I was one of those over-achieving students. I wanted the knowledge, not the external recognition. Given that I generally scored in the top half percent of the top 1% of all those standardized tests, I was classified as a classic underachiever. You laugh now.

But I became too busy. Personally and professionally. privacy lawyer, silicon valley global med tech company check. BCRs (controller and processor – first ever dual application) check. HIPAA check. Emerging tech check. lawyer check. executive check. consulting check. blogging check. start writing a book (check, but leave unchecked that I finished it) – same with PhD  in dissertation phase for 3 years now. Check check check. Happily married finally. 2 amazing, accomplished daughters. Leadership roles in global professional organizations. volunteering with non-profits. great friends. good books. loving pets. awesome home. 150+ pairs of shoes. Mrs. Scottsdale America. Speaking on a variety of subjects to different audiences. teaching law classes. Mercedes AMG. money in savings. off most lupus meds. I even lost 30 pounds. checking all over the place. BUT….

– I was busy, but things were getting accomplished. Yet for the first time in my life – I was overwhelmed. I mean, hell – I survived things that killed others. I know I am lucky – and I give the praise to the God I trust and worship. But I was overwhelmed. Even my adult ADD wasn’t saving me this time.

I have learned that when you need to slow down, you either do it or you’re forced to do it. 

So I have slowed down. I am able to take stock of my goals and my 5 – 10 – 15 year plan. I kinda sorta had a plan, and executed it immaculately despite myself. I know what it important for me professionally and personally – and everything else. everything. is nonessential to my life.

Face the hard decisions. And face them head on with determination and consideration. Be brutally honest with yourself about what matters – and what is simply busy work, or chasing a dream that you thought you should have, or doing things that are expected of someone in your field. Focus on what matters. And yes, professional goals matter too. We spend most of our waking hours working (which can suck if you don’t do what you love), so don’t knock having professional goals and dreams.

Some of us may not be in a position to be choosy, but if it is at all possible – take a step towards being in a place to choose. One step at a time. My goal, growing up poor in Mississippi was 1) be able to walk into a superstop (quickie mart, 7/11, whatever the local corner store is) and buy a coke without having to balance my checkbook first and 2) go on a great vacation every year. #1 I can do. #2 – my definition of a great vacation seems to be morphing.

I’m still young (I tell people I am 74 and looks dayum good for my age), but I am 47 years old. I am young and in a field (privacy law) that is growing leaps and bounds. I know and love some amazing people, both personally and professionally, and I work for some phenomenal people/companies that I respect and hope to continue those relationships.

And I still need to finish that dissertation. this year.

So being too busy was my come to Jesus moment. And I survived it with some hits to the pocket book, ego, health, and personal matters. Maybe that is what it took. I do not ever want to say or feel those words again. I want to be in deliberate control of my life. Live with purpose.

 

ACC WITH: Global Women in Law

20160621_172608Tonight, a dream came true. A vision took form.

The Association of Corporate Counsel (the organization for in-house attorneys with about 40,000 members worldwide) launched their global initiative supporting women attorneys.

It all started with one question “Does the ACC offer programming for women?” The answer was no, but we should. And two years later, here we are. In the brilliant hands of Jennifer Chen, the Director of the ACC Foundation, this program has not only been put in place, it has grown wings.

It took a cadre of amazing ACC attorneys (Tracy Stanton, Jennifer Mailander, Katia Bloom, and many others) along with the ACC (Veta Richardson, Tori Payne, and also many others) to share the vision and take actionable steps to make it happen. Last October, we did a soft launch of WITH at the ACC Annual Meeting, where we held a breakfast with inspiring, accomplished women attorneys. We did surveys, wrote articles, developed toolkits, and spread the word.

That word resulted in honoring three women tonight who have truly forged the path and had a vision and a plan long before us: Irina Bokova, Director-General, UNESCO; Gloria Santona, Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary, McDonald’s Corporation; and Charisse R. Lillie, Fellow and Vice President of Community Investment
Comcast Corporation, Executive Vice President, Comcast Foundation. The fabulous Sunny Hostin, Senior Legal Correspondent & Analyst, ABC News led the discussion, which touched on many key points – mentoring and having a sponsor for one’s career, situations in which they noted “this is what it means to be a woman in the legal field,” salary, plans, and advice. They held the room enthralled – about 200 attendees all nodded their heads in agreement and there were more than a few “yeah. Yeah!” heard around the room.

And this was after David Nabarro, Special Adviser to the United Nations Secretary-General on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Climate Change inspired the room with his talk on the 17 goals in the 2030 Agenda – and how many are related to the empowerment of women.  Knowing that 193 countries are committed to seeing women empowered is simply incredible.

And the room was not just women. There were many men present as well – as it should be. Men are a critical component if women are to “live under the sky” (as opposed to breaking the glass ceiling in a few spots here and there).

We all hope to see this field equalized and celebrate the difference that women make. One thing Irina said really resonated with the audience. When a woman reaches a certain position or role, there are high expectations – people are watching. She must do an exceptional job and far surpass expectations. Yet men in the same role are only expected to do the job. They don’t need to surpass expectations, no one is “watching.” At some point, we – as women – want to be average. Let us simply do the job. Because we can. But it is really hard to always exceed expectations that are only set for one half of the profession. Hitting a metric that should not exist is simply unreasonable.

We are excited about our next steps. And we welcome you to the effort. We have a huge initiative in place with Diversity Lab and the onRamp  Fellowships. Caren Ulrich Stacy, the founder, is truly a giant among giants (I think I fell a little in love with her). Five corporate powers have signed on to her program to help women re-enter the legal workforce.

You know you want to be WITH us. Feel free to contact me or the ACC Foundation to learn more. http://www.acc-foundation.com/

 

 

Why Work in Privacy?

top 5Often, when asked what I do, the person is totally flummoxed when I respond that I am a privacy attorney. Sometimes, they will even ask – what does that mean? Well, if I said I was a contract attorney or a patent attorney, they would understand, right? It means I handle contracts or patents – or specifically in my case, I handle privacy.

Ah – that’s the problem, they don’t understand privacy. I mean, seriously, how do I find enough work to fill 40 hours a week?

Privacy is the concept that information about ourselves is only shared to individuals/companies  whom we want to know those things about us.

Simple, right? Not so much.

So why would anyone want to work in privacy? All day long, every day, the whole year, for decades, we fight a battle that few people ever see. It’s like starring in a vampire drama – there’s a fight happening in a world that most people don’t see and would not believe. And like vampires, we typically work in the dark, our emergencies happen at night, and we live off a critical element that is very personal to people….data. And to most of our colleagues, we’re the boogie men who come to steal your profits while you’re sleeping (or when you’re bad).

So why work in privacy?

My top five reasons:

  1. I’m such a geek rebel that I C# and bleed java. I am building a complete Padme parade dress costume for ComicCon. My UAV isn’t even registered. I speak in movie quotes. And Sheldon is my hero. Bazinga!
  2. Unlike most corporate attorneys, I may work for the company, but my job is to protect the little guy. I always did go for the underdog – I liked Tom Wopat not John Schneider and I preferred Larry Wilcox to Eric Estrada. I may look like a heartless corporate attorney, but really…I’m all squishy inside.
  3. The field is growing by leaps and bounds. Everywhere you turn, there is data being collected, used, shared, abused, lost, forgotten, manipulated, and more! Technology is getting smaller, stronger, and can  hold more data.
  4. The privacy field is a gender neutral one.  Perhaps because of the way it grew up, women tend to  have equal pay and leadership roles.
  5. My ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) has free reign! I am  never bored; I can work on 46.3 projects at a time; and given how fast the field changes – if I don’t like something, it is likely to be different tomorrow.

Being a privacy professional is a calling for certain people and requires flexibility, rampant curiosity, thick skin, and a relentless gift for persuasion. If you don’t love it – don’t get in it. It is not a profession for those seeking glory or an easy desk job.

Stretch Yourself

stretch yourself

photo courtesy of Marc Scott 

What we think determines what happens to us, so if we want to change our lives, we need to stretch our minds. ~Wayne Dyer

Have you ever really thought about what it takes to stretch yourself? Physically, we understand this. But what about our minds, our dreams – a mind and a dream in motion stays in motion as well as a body does.

This wonderful blog by Ron Edmonson provides seven ways to stretch yourself as a leader:

  • Read something different from what you normally read.
  • Hang out with people not like you.
  • Move forward on something with uncertainty.
  • Attempt something you’ve never done.
  • Spend more time on opportunities than on problems.
  • Schedule and discipline time to dream.
  • Stay physically active.

When you consider each of the points, they apply to more than just being a leader. They apply to life. But go further – step outside your comfort zone and reach for something that is a little beyond your limits.

Professionally, reach for that dream job, but do so in a deliberate manner. Reach out to your heroes. I just read an article about a young entrepreneur who encourages her team members to do that – reach out. It’s only an email. It may be ignored and it may yield amazing results!

Personally, take a chance. Now, this doesn’t have to be take a chance with your life or your love – although it may turn out to be just that. Rock climbing is certainly dangerous, as is skydiving, driving a racecar, climbing Mount Everest – but if that is your dream, reach for it in a deliberate manner. Prepare yourself properly. In love, well, I met my husband online and we married within 6 months. 14 something years later – still going strong. And that was a chance for me as I survived two abusive marriages. I felt I was putting my life at risk to try for love one more time, but I stretched myself and had unfathomable results.

Stretch yourself. Reach for that dream – be in personally, professionally, or physically. With all things, prepare yourself properly. And it is scary, most things worth winning don’t feel really comfortable in the effort. Maybe you take baby steps – maybe you throw all in and dare the fates (not legal advice here!!), but challenge yourself to do one thing every day that stretches you in some way.

Every day. Read the news (that’s a stretch for me). Ask the janitor’s name. Give a flower to a stranger. Shake a cop’s hand. Let the other person go first at the 4-way stop. Little things.

Plan that dream vacation and determine how to get there. Apply for that once-in-a-lifetime job. Email your hero. Start that book – chapter 1.

If you want a raise or a promotion, talk to your boss and make a plan. Find out if you have opportunity where you are. Ask to be in on a big project. Identify an issue that needs to be addressed and formulate a plan. Never take a problem to your boss unless you have  a proposed solution as well. Try for a certification. Submit a panel for a conference proposal.  Sit at a table with people you don’t already know. Stretch yourself.

Reach for the moon and if you miss, you’ll still land among the stars!

Teachers gone Wild: Lifestyle Privacy

Many public sector employees are held to higher standards than the average person due to the nature of their position and their potential influence on other people. Should they be? Is this discrimination? Is the discrimination justifiable?

bad teacher

courtesy of sony pictures

At times, we see a morals clause used to address potential misbehavior. A morals clause is a contract provision, typically used in relation to public figures (athletes, acting, news and political personalities) that prohibits the employee engaging in certain acts. These disallowed acts may include inappropriate sexual acts or drug use, but can include requirements that the employee “dress neatly in public, to conduct himself according to the highest standards of honesty and sportsmanship, and to refrain from doing anything that would be detrimental to the best interests of the team or league” (for further information, please see this article).   Engaging in social media insults of one’s employer could fall within a morals clause, but would not be something the typical employee/employer would encounter – although it is becoming more common for executives.  This, however, completely aside from the National Labor Relations Board’s decisions and guidances on social media policies.

Additionally, there are still certain career fields in which the employees are seen to be role models to our youth. One example of this relates to the private lives of teachers (see this story on a kindergarten teacher fired for nude photos). Before the advent of social media, teachers’ private lives were more easily separated from their professional lives. While being subject to public scrutiny may not be new, having one’s personal life so easily available is relatively new, as is facing severe repercussions from them (and this does not acccount for the egregious phenomena of impersonators).  Courts have taken two avenues to evaluate whether a teacher’s private actions are subject to employer review: a public official view or a student-speech view (whether the speech would substantially interfere with the educational duty) (Miller 2011).

Miller states that “[t]here are basically four types of internet speech that could put at risk a teacher’s relationship with his or her school district: 1) befriending students on social media sites and communicating inappropriately with them, 2) criticizing the district, school, students, parents, or the community online, 3) posting what school districts may deem as inappropriate photos  or comments (usually things that are sexually explicit or that promote alcohol or drug use, and 4) commenting on political or social issues.”  Teachers may see more disciplinary action and control if their private-life postings are viewed from a perspective of being a public official and in a position of trust than if considered whether their posting substantially disrupt the educational duty.

The question that we face is “Is this right?” Is it okay to restrict a teacher’s private life because we feel that they should be held to a higher standard than other people? What about cops, firemen, nurses, doctors, lawyers, preachers, etc.? More specifically – or more generally, I guess – is it fair to hold anyone to a certain standard in their private life as long as the behavior is not illegal?

Which brings us to lifestyle laws (more appropriately called lifestyle anti-discrimination laws, but for the sake of brevity and ease of conversation, I will call them Lifestyle laws). Lifestyle laws prohibit discrimination against someone at work based on their personal lifestyle choices – and in most cases, this is directed towards risky health behaviors, such as smoking, as applied to health insurance premiums through one’s employer.  In many states plus the District of Columbia, employers are prohibited from banning employees from smoking off work premises. Plus, twelve states protect the use of any lawful product during non-work hours, such as alcohol or even unhealthy foods. Currently, only California (CAL. LAB. CODE § 96(k)), Colorado (COLO. REV. STAT § 24-34-402.5(1)), New York (N.Y. LAB. LAW § 201-d(2)), and North Dakota (N.D. CENT. CODE § 14-02.4-03) have comprehensive protection statutes that protect employees for any lawful activity outside work.

Not only do the various state laws differ in what behavior they protect, but courts interpret them differently. Once you mix in social media, it’s a circus out there! People should be free to do what they want to do within legal boundaries and laws should not be required to permit people to do so. Good googli moo.

Keep in mind that there are federal laws (Title VII of the Civil Rights Acts of 1964) against discrimination of protected classes and disabilities (Americans with Disabilities Act)- so lifestyle laws are in addition to any protection under these areas. Plus, in general, government employees are protected by equal protection and due process clauses of the federal constitution.

I leave you with this thought – are we as a society free to engage in lawful behavior even when it indirectly impacts others’ lives (such as higher health care costs)?

 

RN2JD: What being an RN taught me about being a Privacy Attorney

nurse scales

Nursing school is harder than law school. Seriously.

As a nurse (and a nursing student), you really do have someone’s life in your hands. As an attorney, some may argue that you do, but you really don’t. There are many failsafes built into the system.

As a law student, I rarely took my books into the house. No, I did not read for class. (and yes, I still did really well in my classes). As a nursing student, I lived, breathed, and sweated with my books.

Being an RN has helped me be a better privacy attorney. I was an oncology, hospice, clinical research, cardiac, and unit (ICU/CCU) nurse. Here are the top ten ways being an RN helps:

  1. Stay cool in an emergency.

When there is an emergency, you need the quarterback (usually the one who knows the most, like the doctor), you need the experienced nurses, and you need a recorder – someone who documents what was done when.  You don’t need someone who loses their head. One must be knowledgeable, experienced, fast, decisive, and accurate.

  1. Check your work twice or three times and have a witness when it is critical.

Sometimes, something is just important enough that you need to not only check your work, but you need someone to check it for you – and perhaps even go on record that they have done so. In both professions, this seems to happen more at the start of your career, but there are many times that it is still needed for an experienced professional.

  1. Use your time wisely.

Do what needs to be done, when it needs to be done. And if a meeting is required, have the right people in the room – and don’t waste time.

  1. Weird things happen at night and during the full moon.

Be prepared for anything. This is not an urban myth. If something weird is going to happen or something is going to go tragically wrong, it will be at night or during a full moon. People act differently. Those in comas may wake up. Those who can’t move, start dancing. It’s just weird. Be prepared for weird. Take it in stride. Manage your business.

  1. Document. Document. Document.

Enough said.

  1. Be an advocate for those you serve and to those you serve.

Those you serve don’t always know what they need and are not always rationale, be they patients or clients (or family). People tend to set their sights on something and that something may or may not be right for them. At times, you have to advocate for their wishes when it is something you don’t personally believe in, but your job is to advocate ethically for the one you serve. Other times, you have to advocate to that person when what they want, what they really really want, is not the right choice or the smart choice. Sometimes the wrong choice is what they select and despite your best advice and guidance, it is all they can see. Sometimes, it hurts to see that choice made, but you are not them. There have been times when I have had to advise a family and I cried doing it. It was a painful choice, but the right one for the person affected who could not speak for him/herself.

  1. Fight to win.

When you are going in to fight an enemy, pull out all of the stops within legal and ethical boundaries. Be creative. Attack on multiple fronts. Identify what is most important and fight for that, even if it may not seem like winning to others. Put all you have into winning and at times, be willing to redefine what winning means.

  1. Root problems may not be seen, but cause just as much damage.

You may not see the disease that is growing and causing issues. Until you realize it, you must fight the symptoms and not the cause. Sometimes that is all you can do, but along with treating the symptoms, keep looking for the root cause. If you can find the cause, hope that it is curable. If it is not curable, then look for what you can do – reduce it, contain it, something. If however, you cannot find the cause, then fix the symptoms – alleviate the suffering and prevent complications. In law, this applies to people as well as processes. You can always tell when there is a problem, you just don’t always know where the root of that problem lies.

  1. Just because you love what you do, doesn’t mean you love every minute of it.

I loved being a nurse.  I even loved being a hospice nurse and more about living during that time. But I did not love every minute of every day. Same with being a privacy attorney. I love what I do. I am very passionate about it, but I don’t love every minute of it. Sure there are frustrations and problems.  If, however, the negatives started outnumbering the positives, I’d have to find something else to do.

  1. Things are done a certain way for a reason.

Some may not still be warranted. Don’t be afraid to question them, but don’t question them just for the sake of argument. In nursing and in law, there is a reason for traditions, norms, expectations, policies, practices, and processes. Some of this is general across the profession and some is localized to your region or employer. Don’t come into a new place and start shaking it up without sizing it up.

Bonus: When you get the answer you want, shut up.

Executive Women in Privacy – my recollections and reflections

This past weekwip,  I had the privilege to speak on a panel with three amazing women, Ruby Zefo (intel), Sharon Anolik (Privacy Panacea), and Debra Bromson (Jazz Pharmaceuticals) – moderated by Lourdes Turrecha at the inaugural Privacy+Security Forum in DC. Our topic: Breaking the glass ceiling – executive women in privacy.  We have all been to other presentations on this same or a similar topic, so we were determined that we would present candid, authentic, and hopefully inspirational content. I did not take notes, so we are relying on my admittedly poor memory to bring you the best of what I took away – without attribution to the speaker in an effort to preserve the safe environment.

Challenges we faced and how to overcome them:

In privacy, whether staffed in the legal department or not – it is hard for others in the business and in legal to comprehend the impreciseness of our area of law. Privacy means complying with laws/rules/regulations. We all happen to be attorneys, but privacy executives don’t have to be lawyers. Privacy is a fluid, rapidly developing, and capricious field. For us, we have faced the same challenges that most women in law face. We have faced people not knowing what the heck we are doing or aiming for. We have faced the typical challenges of working in male-oriented fields – technology, medicine, etc. And that is a situation that women in privacy face whether they are lawyers or not.

Best advice

  • Be flexible. Be creative.
  • Be business savvy.
  • Demonstrate your value. Toot your own horn.
  • Do not waste 30 seconds in an elevator with the CEO cracking a joke…be prepared with a recent accomplishment to share that contributed to the company.
  • Bring yourself to work, but keep it professional.
  • Be authentic.
  • Leave toxic environments.
  • If you are meeting with executives, be an executive presence. If you are meeting with IT, dress to fit in. You don’t have to agonize over it, but impressions count. Do they see you as one of the gang? Don’t set yourself above them just to make a point.

Is the privacy field an equal playing field for women?

In most part, yes. Some of us have not really seen the inequality in our privacy area, but it still exists within the company. We have met the “Queen Bee” – that woman who rules the roost and is unwilling to help others or share the limelight – but not really worked with such people in privacy. Okay, well, maybe we did, but it’s old school and we managed to change the situation.

In general, our technical counterparts are typically male. Learn to work with them. And in most cases, form a bonding relationship where there is mutual trust and respect (mine was my “at work husband”). Don’t be afraid to ask them to “dumb it down,” but also don’t be afraid to challenge them.

We are often still the only woman in the room. I am unapologetically feminine and proud of it. It does not mean that I am inferior. And we certainly don’t help ourselves with apologizing for being women – which is what we do when we act as if we expect to be treated as inferiors. Do we have to prove ourselves? – yes. But we already earned the position, so we deserve it. which leads to the….

Imposter syndrome

Do we feel like imposters? I do, just sitting on this panel. I am ambitious. I have been an executive and also not an executive – and not in a linear path. I have taken jobs that were a step back in rank in order to step up in expertise. All four of us came from different perspectives, but in general, the tone was that we have earned what we have. It may be a tendency of women to think that we have somehow been put in a position that we don’t truly deserve, but that is our own self-doubt and not something that anyone pushed on us.

When given more responsibility, one women faced quite a few people who asked if she was okay – was she going to be able to handle it? Her response – if I were a man, that person would have said congrats, it will be tough, but you have already shown that you can handle such responsibility. And she told him so.

Take-aways

The points to take away from this panel were that we are accomplished, qualified professionals who happen to be women. We face unique challenges, but being confident in your talents and skills will take you far. How to take that next step? Volunteer. Network. Don’t be afraid to stand up or stand out.

Be unapologetically you. As long as you are not a serial killer.

Life takes you to unexpected places. Love brings you home….

sunsetI’ve been radio silent lately – not only did I switch jobs, but I moved states.

I consider home to be in Arizona – a true transplanted southerner. Although I did not move from Mississippi until I was almost 30 years old,  I’ve made up the time in the states I have lived: TN, AZ, TX, and CA (and a short stint in AR as a traveling nurse).  I had moved to Tennessee from MS in 1996 to work as a registered nurse. and was later I admitted to law school at the University of Tennessee, but had to defer. My then husband had a psychotic break and it was dangerous for us to stay in Knoxville. So I gave the best dog I ever owned (a wolf mix named Elliott) to my attorney, packed the girls (ages 7 and 9), and took a one-way non-stop flight to Phoenix.

What a culture shock.

See, my home town is Meridian, MS, population around 30,000 (50,000 with the surrounding area). Not really small. Trust me, I don’t know everyone there. But there is a certain standard of living that is easy to become accustomed. It was the only standard I’d really ever known. Even TN was still the South, so while it was a change. .. the people did not really change.

In AZ, I went to work for a start-up fabless semiconductor company based out of Canada that was working on streaming video on cell phones – unheard of 15 years ago. Loved it!

and then the technology market crashed in 2000. I had put off law school in TN for a year, but fell in love with Arizona. So I applied way past the due date for Arizona State University. They had no obligation to open my envelope…but they did. I suppose a top 3% LSAT is worth something. Not a scholarship, but late admission. I took it.

I met my beloved husband here. Never thought I would marry again – and he broad-sided me. I had mentioned to someone that I wanted a love that soaked into my very cells, a visceral level of love. And he found me.

Then his job took us to Texas in 2008, and forced me to give up one of the best positions that I had ever had working at the College of Law at ASU in student life and pro bono. What a fabulous way to make a living.

But Texas was good to us. We livedin Plano with the second best school district in the nation. The girls received an incredible education. I got into privacy and security at Concentra. If working with students is my first love, privacy is my second. Once the girls graduated, we started looking how to get back to Arizona…and wound up in San Jose, CA. I never was really good at geography.

Working for Align Technology (Invisalign) in the Silicon Valley as a global privacy attorney – WOW. Not much I can add to that. Amazing colleagues. Amazing company.  And amazing location. We thought we were set.  We bought a house. Done.

But circumstances drove us back to Arizona. My family is everything to me. So we are here. And I was lucky enough to be recruited by one of my best friends into a growing company that focuses on securing mobile communication (voice and text) for regulated industries (CellTrust Corporation). So not only am I the privacy attorney, I am also the subject matter expert for privacy in product and service delivery. It’s quite a rush.

Further, being back in Arizona has worked well for my girls, who are both doing amazing. My husband started working here before I did with another start up that appreciateshis incredible talents. And I am getting back involved in local activities – volunteering for Arizona Foundation for Legal Services and Education, appointed back to the state bar committee for minorities and women in the law, reconnecting worn the Volunteer Lawyers Project, adjunct teaching at the law school – the fun just keeps coming. We close on a house in Scottsdale next week and it’s a dream house!

My lesson – life takes you to unexpected places. Love brings you home. I am where I am supposed to be.

Go beyond Talking Heads: How to build a panel presentation that Pops

Wanh. Wanh. Wanh.fireworks

No matter how interested you are in a topic, talking heads start sounding like the teachers in the Charlie Brown cartoons. Sometimes, the panel can even put their audience to sleep.

Most people who speak at an event choose to do so – meaning that they have a message that they want to share. I am not a professional or fabulous speaker, but I do speak on occasion at the typical talking heads conference. And while you cannot please all of the people all of the time, there are some basic tips that can improve just about any panel presentation.

My ten top popping panel tips:

1. Create a diverse panel
Whether the diversity is in gender, sector, perspective, opinion, race, title, role – whatever – make the panel diverse. Give the audience someone to whom each one of them can relate.

2. Be creative, but keep it within limits
There are ways that even talking heads can present the same material, but creatively. I have participated in presentation based on the dating game, family feud, a political debate, and more. Recognize that not everyone in the audience will relate to creativity, but the overwhelming majority will like it.

3. Get organized before the presentation
Get on the phone. Speak to each other. Know who is going to change the slides. How will the chairs be organized? Determine if you want to sit behind a long table. Will you rise to speak at a podium? How will you handle too many questions and comments? How will you handle none?

4. Appoint a control person
Someone needs to be in charge of keeping the presentation moving. This should and could be done with ruthless charm. You can disclaim at the beginning how you will handle questions and comments. If time starts running short, the control person can keep it moving.

5. Do a true dry run
You may have everything planned out, but a true dry run – a real one – (cannot emphasize realism enough) should help ferret out problem areas, such as a long-winded speaker.

6. Speak to the slides, rather than read from them
There is not much worse than a presentation with paragraphs of material on each slide. Ugh. The audience will be reading them and not listening. You should have impactful slides that you can easily speak to. You can develop substantive material to submit for continuing education credit, and inform the audience that such material is available, just not what they will see in the panel presentation.

7. Stay on time and on point
Often, panelists have no say in the topic, title, or description of presentations. Yet the audience chooses that session based on those. Panelists should ensure that their presentation lives up to what is promised. I hate walking away from a presentation not having learned what was in the description. For the time, see #4 above on control person.

8. Interact with each other
Have a point person on each topic and interact. Whether in agreement or disagreement, the panelists should interact. Please do not separate the program into evenly divided topics and let one head bobble for ten minutes. Have fun. If you don’t, they won’t.

9. Have questions teed up
Seems basic. Is basic. Do it.
It’s pretty disheartening to save ten minutes for questions and there are none. You can announce at the beginning that although it is a safe environment, anyone who doesn’t want to raise his/her hand can submit questions electronically (in the manner of your choice). If you don’t address the questions during the session, you will at the end.

10. Engage the audience
Yes.

You have arrived: how does one define success?

I once had a navigation system that when I reached my programmed destination, it would say “You have arrived.” I would circle the block just to hear that over and over.

success

In a professional world, when do you know you have arrived? Is there ever a point where an individual who has accomplished much thinks “this is enough” and stops trying to accomplish more?

As a hospice nurse, I worked with many patients who faced their last months, weeks, days and were able to look back over their lives and say they did well, they were happy with the totality of their lives if not some particular details. Outside that environment, it seems to be rare.

How do you define success?

Some undeniably successful people define it in this article:

  • Success is more than wealth and power – it is wellbeing, wisdom, wonder, and giving according to Arianna Huffington, founder of Huffington Press.
  • Maya Angelou believes it is about enjoying what you do.
  • Deepak Chopra says success means constantly growing.

Oprah provides this article of the ten signs of success – or rather, that your life is on the right track. It includes such things as:

  • Your reputation precedes you;
  • Having a deep connection to those you love – like picking up the phone to call each other at the same time; and
  • To not be burnt out.

That’s all well and fine, but this is not about recognizing if you are doing the right thing or have become successful as measured by wealth, title, accomplishments, awards, or recognition. It’s about knowing when is enough enough? When should it be enough?

This study by Princeton University in 2010 says that the pivotal salary is $75,000 annually.

The lower a person’s annual income falls below that benchmark, the unhappier he or she feels. But no matter how much more than $75,000 people make, they don’t report any greater degree of happiness.

The Wall Street Journal helpfully converted that salary for cost of living in different locations.

So, once you make $75,000, then that is enough? And enough for what? Do we strive for a meaningful job, to help other people, for future stability, to have good health, to ensure your family has food, shelter, and the other necessities of life? At what point can you determine that all your needs are met – be it the basic necessities, the desired luxuries, or satisfaction in one’s actions?

Let’s return to the original question: In a professional world, when do you know you have arrived? Where is the point where you can honestly feel that you have accomplished what you wanted in your career and stop clawing to reach the top – and who defines the top?

For each individual, this is an intensely personal decision. I do believe that for most people, career gain tends to wain and gives way to some level of altruism. Some people may never view a career in an ambitious manner. They take pride in what they are doing and are happy  doing that for as long as necessary – a job is a way to earn the funds required to live in our world as well as fulfill some need of which there is a value assigned.

My grandfather James D. Fairchild never seemed to be ambitious. He delivered gas in rural Mississippi most of his life. There never seemed be his goal to advance to management. He spent his days delivering gas to people’s homes – for their residential gas tanks (propane). He knew everyone. Everyone knew him. I don’t recall him bragging on any accomplishments, winning awards, or getting big promotions or titles. He was proud of the service he provided. And he was valued by customers and the company. In fact, the company – when ready to shut down – refused to close its doors until the last member of family retired. It’s a Southern thing.

My younger self had a goal – to be able to walk into a convenience store to buy a coke without having to balance my checkbook first. I have accomplished that.

My other goal was to live somewhere other than Mississippi. I accomplished that.

Then I developed professional goals – to do something i enjoyed. To be intellectually challenged. To help others. And to travel internationally. Most I have accomplished. One I have not – not really. I don’t think Costa Rica truly counts.

So is this enough? And if something is enough, do you stop? One lady informed me that her professional goal was to take a start-up to IPO. And she did that. She was still not in a position to retire, so she looked for something she enjoyed doing and stopped focusing on professional ambition.

It is a reality that even if most of us accomplish our career goals, that we are not independently wealthy enough to stop working. Some may have independently wealthy as their professional goal, but for most of us, it is not realistic.

Some of us would never stop working even if we acquired status of being ridiculously wealthy. Maybe our career goals then change and we work to be busy, help others, improve the world in some fashion – or maybe to indulge personal passions such as traveling, writing, or designing homes.

Some people have no drive to accomplish something professionally. They are content and fulfilled in their lives – and their job is a means to an end in which they take pride in doing. They may be the happier people.

If you are using professional recognition and success to serve as personal validation, you may never reach enough. You must learn to value yourself as a person.

If work is your escape from your personal life, you also may never reach enough; but you may not care. Your drivers are different.

The rest of us (not in the three groups above), the point the we reach enough is driven by who we are, what we are looking for, what we need and/or want, and how we balance the rest of our lives. “Enough” may never be reached.

Set specific career goals and anything beyond those – you’re gravy.