30 December 2012

Dare to Grow

“When the student is ready, the teacher will come.” There  have been times in each of our lives when we feel frustrated because things are not unfolding at the pace that we want them to. I have always been a “ducks in a row” kind of gal. I probably put a little too much emphasis on being safe and secure before I step out on a limb. But life has a way of delivering to me the kind of lessons that I have needed, not the ones that I have chosen.  I have learned to welcome each day because I know that the learning even in the crappiest of situations is invaluable and necessary.

What I know to be true, and wish I known known earlier, is that things are going to work out just fine. We grow to fit the  environment that we find ourselves in. No matter what circumstances I find myself in, the resources that I need to survive happen to appear when I need them. Ain’t it amazing?  So with this new found wisdom, I am able to take calculated risk earlier. I have yet to let me down. Even in those times when things were terrible. I always harken back to the nightmare of law school when I think of this – there is learning in this situation. I never thought I’d say that but the traumatic ending of law school ended up being the catalyst for greatest change. I survived that.

So to women who are ambitious and who want more from life, my advice is this  - don’t focus on what can go wrong because even when things go wrong, life will deliver the tools that you need to make them right. Look at the times that you stepped up and impressed yourself. Keep a log of those things nearby to remind yourself because we all like to have a pity party on occasion.  Take a minute today to see that you have the tools and the skills to take that next step. Dare to grow.

3 September 2012

Transitions – Surrender to the Process

Transitions are tough – whether it is in your business or in your personal life. We all say that we want change but let’s face it, we hate to do the work. The pain of transition is essential to normal growth and development. There are so many benefits, not only from a learning perspective but it’s nice to keep yourself interesting by trying new things on occasion.

Sometimes we choose to change and at other times change is imposed upon us. Neither of these are easy  but the more control that we have over the change, the easier the change may be. In my experience, I have found that being in control of our own lives is something we all strive for. That is why when change is imposed upon us – it is so traumatic. When my vision failed and I was kicked out of the military, I had no control over any of that process. I was tossed around like a small boat in a large storm. It was a shocking reality to have to wake up and realize that the old way of doing things were over. I had no real choice but to move on. It was not an easy transition.

Not all change is so traumatic. There are the times when we have lots of time to prepare. Does this make a difference? I had nine months to prepare for the birth of my daughter. There were no surprises there. I was prepared for the arrival – but was I really prepared? Even this most welcome change that I had lots of time to prepare for had built in challenges.

There are three stages to change. An ending, a period of uncertainty and a new beginning. These same phases were present in the loss of a career and they were present with the birth of my daughter. Yes, no matter whether the change is imposed on us or we choose to change, the process is the same.

My daughter was a welcome joy in my life but there were many endings also. My time being my own, the ability to say yes to an invitation without worrying about whether I had a sitter or the end of being totally selfish about when I woke up. The period of uncertainty was the adjustment to the new life. Worrying about whether you might do it right. did other people feel guilty when they wanted a break, please let her sleep one more hour, I’m so tired. Then there is the final stage of new beginning. After letting go of the old, navigating the uncertainty and then accepting that things are now different, you’ve managed to survive. Are you different – sure thing.  In all likelihood, you’ve grown in ways you could never imagine.

Ending, uncertainty and new beginning – that’s the process. You can’t get away from the process. Most people get hung up on that first step – letting go of the old. It is an essential step in growth and the sooner you realize that you cannot go back the better. Endings can be tough – even for things we are not fond of letting go can be a challenge. Failure to let go of the past will result in your becoming stuck.  People who are stuck change very little. They are usually uninteresting and they work hard to keep things the same.

The period of uncertainty is about surrender – before we have even seen the light at the end of the tunnel, we have to let ourselves roam around in the tunnel. It’s normal. Your questions of whether you are going to be alright are a sign that you’re in a period of uncertainty. When you stop asking and find peace, you are moving closer to that essential stage of surrender to change.

But it’s not an easy stage either because it’s all about not having control, not knowing for certain. We are not very good in this place but we can train ourselves to welcome uncertainty. Then we will develop resilience.

We’re human and what we like is certainty – so we want to know whether we will be ok if we let go of tried and true. Are there any guarantees in life? Will I survive the uncertainty? Will my life be better? There are no answers to those questions. Most people do come out the other end and many will tell you that even in the most uncertain time of their lives, there were valuable lessons.

Where in the process are you? Are you managing gracefully or trying to hold onto what used to be? Ending – Uncertainty – Beginning. Do you have what it takes to change?

22 July 2012

Vision Board and To Do List

I learned quite some time ago that there are steps that we can take toward achieving our goals in life before we can even see how we are going to achieve the goal. I use two tools pretty consistently and they are the Vision Board and the Daily To-Do List. There are times when things are not going the way that I want them to and if I slow down for a minute and really look at my day, I will notice that I’m not doing what I normally do. I’m not relying on my vision board to remind me where I am going and I am also not using the my Daily To Do List. When I do follow the list and meditate on my vision board, things seem to fall into place a lot easier. It works for me – why don’t you give it a try?

If you have never used a Vision Board – there is a great book by Joyce Schwarz that outlines how the Vision Board works. It is a great resource and I have used it over and over. I love how it helps to keep me focused on the future . I also appreciate the simple instructions for creating one with a group. We can learn so much from one another and others often know us better than we know ourselves. It is a fun workshop to teach and coach people through.

Moving through life without a vision board  reminds me of what it would be like to go to Europe without any set destination in mind. You may end up in a great place but it is just as likely that your whole trip will be ruined because there was nothing definite about your plan. A vision Board helps you to focus and be sure of what you are after. That makes it possible to then achieve that very goal. Create a Vision Board that comes to life with vivid imagery and one that you can almost smell. You need this type of vision board to see what you are doing. You need to go to this place. You need to make a vision board that captures it all. Once you have that in place – the natural and next step is to get up each day and take steps to get to where you want to be. A great way to do this is by starting each day with a to-do list.

I set aside time each day to plan for the next days activities. I even take time on Sunday to map out my whole week. It not only keeps me on track but it ensures that when I do achieve my goals, i am ready for them to happen.

In 2013, I will turn 50 and as part of my celebration I am going to Europe. I want to visit Tuscany, Italy and I want to check out the beaches. There are other places that I wish to see. In getting ready for what is going to be a busy trip, I want to lose weight – in particular I want to lose 50 lbs. It is my 50 by 50 plan and I’m on my way to achieving it.

I know that in order to be successful, I have to get up each day and take steps now to make that happen. You can’t wait for the last minute and then scramble. There are so many preparations that need to be done. I map out what needs to be done and then I set goals and sub goals. I even go as far as assigning times for when I will have what completed.

The first thing on my list is to be grateful – we all have so many blessings and it can be a struggle to see them in the worry of day to day life. I start my day with gratitude exercise so it is on my T0-Do list every morning. It really does set he mood for me for the rest of the day.

I also make the list long enough and substantial enough to include all the details. I usually always have three thing on the list but have had lists that were quite a bit longer. On those days when there is nothing real pressing to get done, I do a little research on destinations and look at what other people are saying about the place. There is always something to be done. It also keeps me focused on where I am heading. There’s a reason that I’m getting ready to go there.

Vision Board and a To Do List – two great tools that will put you on the path to success. Try it today and you will be surprised at how quickly you can achieve your goals. I dare you.

5 July 2012

Get off the fence…

Should I stay or should I go? Will I take my business in this direction or not? Will I go through official channels and make a complaint or will I let it go? Should I talk to her about how she offended me or will I sweep it under the rug? Will I deal with this now or save it for a later date? Will I buy this house in spite of how it stretches my income or not? Everywhere that I go I meet people who are struggling with very difficult decisions and no doubt you are struggling with your own. That’s not a bad thing – people who are not struggling with decisions are not living in my opinion. A life worth living is one that is full of opportunities for growth and development – one that is full of decisions.

The problem arises when we can’t make the decision – we stay on the fence beyond when it is healthy to do so. We end up either losing our nerve or losing the opportunity and we may not get it again. Then there are the times when we take an overly emotional approach to decision making that results in a poor decision. Many of the decisions we make are matters of the heart but even in these matters, taking a logical approach will result in a better decision.

First we must acknowledge that there are very few sure things. We have no control over what might happen in future, so we have to make our decision based on what we know to be true today. Things may change in future, someome may get ill or lose a job. People do change their minds. That is the reality we are faced with in any decision but we still need to make the decision based on what we know today.

Next, write a list of pros and cons. Sit down and write an extensive list of what will happen if you go in one direction compared with what might happen if you go in another. List every benefit and every pitfall. Leave nothing out. This exercise is beneficial because it begins to make it real for you. It gives you a new perspective.

This next step is underutilized. Ask for a trusted friend or colleague to give you their opinion. Be selective in who you ask. You want them to be supportive and objective. If you want to keep your decision a secret – then choose someone you can trust to do that for you. Instruct your friend to be honest and candid in what they think. They may have insight you had  not thought of.  Now add these considerations to the mix – do they change your list of pros and cons? Does it make you change your mind or are you strengthening your position because of the new information?

Imagine that you’re buying a home for the first time – speaking to another first time homebuyer would be great. They can tell you that buying an older home may mean that you have to replace windows very soon. They may also tell you about the burden of being house rich and money poor. Add this insight to your decision making process.

You’ve collected your information, done your homework and all you have left is to make the decision – what will it be? You have thought about the outcome from either side - what if you stick with the status quo – is it palatable? At the end of the day you have to live with the result — it’s your life.

Understand the forces that will undermine you – pleasing others, catastrophizing about the worse case scenario – turning a blind eye to red flags, failing to heed a very huge warning.

You’ve done your homework and now it’s time to get off the fence. Trust your instinct and go with your gut. Make the decision and live with it.  What if you’re wrong? There is always that chance of course. But let me tell you a secret – there is learning even in mistakes. There are no sure things in life….get off the fence and make a choice.

7 June 2012

Listening – between genders

Are you a good listener? How do you know? Is it because you can repeat verbatim what someone is saying?

Listening requires an understanding that not every speaker is needs the same thing.  Good listening takes skill and frankly, most people are not great listeners. How often, for example, have you been formulating a response while you were listening – chomping at the bit to get your two cents in as soon as there was a pause in communication?

This is not uncommon – I used to be a terrible listener. One of the benefits of Toastmasters is that we not only learn how to be competent communicators, we also learn how to listen well. It takes training to become a good listener. When you listen well, you pay attention to what the person is saying. You figure out whether they are just sounding off or if they require a response from you. You remain attentive and make eye contact. You pause at the end of the dialogue to see if they need to add more. You wait for an indication as to whether they need anything from you. The art of listening is not to be taken lightly – great leaders are great listeners.

What about listening across the gender divide. Many of us have gotten into trouble by responding inappropriately to the other sex. Women and men often have challenges when it comes to communication. I often say that women speak to men as if they are speaking to other women. Men speak to women as if they are speaking to another man. They have not quite learned how to speak to one another or how to respond appropriately to the other sex.  They have not learned the art of cross-gender listening which is a specialized kind of listening.

Women tend to use communication to build rapport and social connections. When they communicate, they are more likely looking for empathy from the listener. Men on the other hand are looking for solutions. Imagine that a woman is telling a man about a problem – all she wants is an ear – but a man will look for a solution – he will actually have one ready for her when she takes her first breath. In all likelihood she was just sharing feelings and seeking empathy and understanding. It would likely have been appropriate to say nothing but lend an attentive ear. When she hears the solution she may get offended because she will resent your desire to fix the problem. That is not the way that women do things.

Men like to solve their own problems, sizing things up and thinking instead of talking it out. Women feel left out of things when this happens even though the truth is – men are not thinking about anything but the problem at hand. Men have a tendency to not want to share their feelings or talk things out and when that happens – women may get offended because you’re not treating us like we treat one another.

Gender differences are varied and there are usually enough stereotypes around to say that enough men and women display these traits – so what is the solution – learn to be a good listener and check in if you’re not certain. Over time people get to know one another well enough to know what will work. Become a good listener and your life will be less stressful.

5 June 2012


“Are you the only woman on the job site? Does isolation cause you to despair? There are steps that you can take.” 

I feel so isolated here but I can’t really give up my job – the money is too good.”

Isolation is a terrible thing and it can lead to all kinds of problems in the workplace. Isolation can even impact our mental health and cause you to disengage. To promote your own well-being, it is essential that you take steps to ensure that you remain connected. We all need a support system in life. If your employer does not seemed concerned, you can take control of your situation.

There is always the option of connecting with like minded men. Don’t assume that they’re “all alike” – that’s stereotyping. Some of my greatest supporters in life have been like minded men. As a dirt bike enthusiast, I shared a common bond with my male counterparts as we came together to share in the fun of our sport. Hobbies in common are often referred to as the great leveler – a passion for something removes barriers to communication. Biking is a great example, people from all walks of life share that passion – learn to connect based on common interests.

You may not feel you have a lot in common with the women who work in more traditional roles in the office but if you’re a mom – that shared interest gives you a common footing for a wonderful conversation and maybe a friendship. Differences become less obvious when we find something in common. Regardless of our profession, we share common challenges and dreams as parents – connect with other parents to build relationships in the workplace.

If you work on a large work site, chances are that there are women around from other trades who are feeling isolated also. Seek them out and find creative ways to connect. Your employer has an interest in ensuring that employees remain engaged – request that you be allowed network time – make it sound like a win/win solution which is exactly what it is . Employee engagement is an employer responsibility and employees are more engaged when they are feeling connected.  Evidence shows that it also leads to increased in productivity.

Find networks outside of your place of work  - connect with other trade organizations to see if the women want to get together to form a social network. If you’re a member of the Carpenter’s Union, call up other unions and ask them to connect you with like minded women – you may be surprised at the similarities in your stories. If there is a local trades school in the area, form a network of women who are taking trades training.

I know what you’re thinking – it takes a special set of skills to network, negotiate and ask for what you want. Developing these forms of communication will serve you well and build your confidence – leaders are great communicators – stretch yourself. Isolation can often be a choice as well as a risk factor. Take steps to ensure you don’t allow yourself to fall into the trap.

19 May 2012

Overcoming Obstacles

Whenever I start to hang my head in front of failure’s face,
    my downward fall is broken by the memory of a race.
A children’s race, young boys, young men; how I remember well,
    excitement sure, but also fear, it wasn’t hard to tell.
They all lined up so full of hope, each thought to win that race
    or tie for first, or if not that, at least take second place.
Their parents watched from off the side, each cheering for their son,
    and each boy hoped to show his folks that he would be the one.

The whistle blew and off they flew, like chariots of fire,
    to win, to be the hero there, was each young boy’s desire.
One boy in particular, whose dad was in the crowd,
    was running in the lead and thought “My dad will be so proud.”
But as he speeded down the field and crossed a shallow dip,
    the little boy who thought he’d win, lost his step and slipped.
Trying hard to catch himself, his arms flew everyplace,
    and midst the laughter of the crowd he fell flat on his face.
As he fell, his hope fell too; he couldn’t win it now.
    Humiliated, he just wished to disappear somehow.

But as he fell his dad stood up and showed his anxious face,
    which to the boy so clearly said, “Get up and win that race!”
He quickly rose, no damage done, behind a bit that’s all,
    and ran with all his mind and might to make up for his fall.
So anxious to restore himself, to catch up and to win,
    his mind went faster than his legs. He slipped and fell again.
He wished that he had quit before with only one disgrace.
    “I’m hopeless as a runner now, I shouldn’t try to race.”

But through the laughing crowd he searched and found his father’s face
    with a steady look that said again, “Get up and win that race!”
So he jumped up to try again, ten yards behind the last.
    “If I’m to gain those yards,” he thought, “I’ve got to run real fast!”
Exceeding everything he had, he regained eight, then ten…
    but trying hard to catch the lead, he slipped and fell again.
Defeat! He lay there silently. A tear dropped from his eye.
    “There’s no sense running anymore! Three strikes I’m out! Why try?
I’ve lost, so what’s the use?” he thought. “I’ll live with my disgrace.”
    But then he thought about his dad, who soon he’d have to face.

“Get up,” an echo sounded low, “you haven’t lost at all,
    for all you have to do to win is rise each time you fall.
Get up!” the echo urged him on, “Get up and take your place!
    You were not meant for failure here! Get up and win that race!”
So, up he rose to run once more, refusing to forfeit,
    and he resolved that win or lose, at least he wouldn’t quit.
So far behind the others now, the most he’d ever been,
    still he gave it all he had and ran like he could win.
Three times he’d fallen stumbling, three times he rose again.
    Too far behind to hope to win, he still ran to the end.

They cheered another boy who crossed the line and won first place,
    head high and proud and happy — no falling, no disgrace.
But, when the fallen youngster crossed the line, in last place,
    the crowd gave him a greater cheer for finishing the race.
And even though he came in last with head bowed low, unproud,
    you would have thought he’d won the race, to listen to the crowd.
And to his dad he sadly said, “I didn’t do so well.”
    “To me, you won,” his father said. “You rose each time you fell.”

And now when things seem dark and bleak and difficult to face,
    the memory of that little boy helps me in my own race.
For all of life is like that race, with ups and downs and all.
    And all you have to do to win is rise each time you fall.
And when depression and despair shout loudly in my face,
    another voice within me says, “Get up and win that race!”

Attributed to Dr. D.H. Grohberg

One of the biggest challenges that we may face is getting back up after a fall or setback. I have had slips and falls – losing my military career because of vision loss, losing my driver’s license, a failed marriage have all been setbacks in my life. Quitting Law School was certainly not one of my proudest moments – but I am grateful that each time I fell – there was a face in the crowd encouraging me to “get up and win that race”. Not many of us are at the front of the pack, accepting the accolades in life – it is more than likely that we are like that boy. It can be tough at times to rise each time we fall – but life demands nothing less from the indomitable spirit.

9 May 2012

Let’s not talk policy…

CCWESTT Conference 2012 – great conference, great people, wonderful information and networking opportunities. All good stuff, except…ok, I have a thing about more policy talk. Personally, I’m sick of policies. I think that since WWII, we’ve probably hammered out enough policy to advance the position of women in every area of society – why is it then that it seems that we’re regressing as a nation when it comes to the position of our women in comparison with other countries – could it be that we need to move away from the policy table to putting money where our mouth is?

As I sat there listening to another diatribe on a new policy that was needed, I couldn’t help but wonder how many manhours (forgive my political incorrectness ladies) were we expending talking about this again. Where would that money have been better spent?  How many women would have remained in the profession if those same dollars were directed toward embedded supports that produce results? Just sayin…….let’s move away from policies for a moment and move into the real meat of it all – practices on the ground, where the rubber hits the road.

This is Canada for God’s sake – one of the most advanced capitalist societies – and we’re hung up on policy talk – it’s time for the hammer to land on all and any abuses. It’s time to acknowledge that women do not get a fair shake in industry. It’s time to acknowledge that real supports on the ground are the order of the day.

The business case for diversity is airtight. It’s time for real action – let’s move it, move it, move it.

19 April 2012

Giving the world a piece of my mind.

Women in Non-Traditional Roles

In 2011, I gave my maiden speech at the Women’s Worlds Conference in Ottawa called “A Run for the Glass”. It was a wonderful experience where women from all corners of the earth came together to celebrate and deliberate strategies to ensure that women continue to make progress around the world. It was an honour and a privilege to be there included in this event.

In two weeks, Halifax is hosting the  2012 CCWESTT Conference (Canadian Coalition of Women in Engineering, Science, Trades and Technology)  with over 300 hundred delegates expected to attend.  Once again, I have the privilege of being not only an Honorary Board Member but I will be presenting a workshop that I have designed called “Surviving an Adverse Environment.”

I’ve been journeying a lifetime - from rural NL to Law School and points in between. I’ve journeyed as a mechanic in the army. I’ve journeyed with good people and people who were not so good. On that journey, I’ve learned a lesson or two – where the rubber hits the road and often the hard way. I’ll share those lessons at the CCWESTT Conference.

As part of three diversity initiatives, I’ve learned that threshold diversity is like throwing a rabbit to the wolves if there are no embedded supports. The logic model of change management is a great tool for organizational change in commercial construction and unionized work. Self awareness and how we undermine ourselves need to be understood if women want to become leaders in industry.

I hope to see you there – it’s not too late to register. Go to the website and come along and meet 300 other delegates from across Canada who are committed to ensuring that courageous women who decide to do it their own way have all the tools they need to maximize their potential.

You will be inspired.

Debbie Adams
Diversity Strategist
PeopleCan Consulting


11 April 2012

Inspiring Sea Change - Women Networking

Inspiring Sea Change - Moving Forward Together

From May 3 - 5th, women from all across the country will come together to share information, learn from and support one another. 

CCWESTT (the Canadian Coalition of Women in Engineering, Science, Trades and Technology) had its beginnings in 1987. Since then it has evolved as a network of member organizations from coast to coast to coast in Canada. CCWESTT promotes the full participation and advancement of Canadian women in science, engineering, trades and technology 

What a wonderful opportunity to meet women from across the country who are working to ensure that we are always moving forward in work that we love to do. Often we have learned from women who have learned the hard way -  we can celebrate these women and their successes during this time. There is a wonderful opportunity for women to "Talk Trades". Looking forward to connecting with the sisters. 

Check out the programming at:

See you there.

16 February 2012

There's a trick to that - let me show you.....

Have you ever heard the words that are music to every tradeswoman's ears....

"There's a trick to that - let me show you."

Many years ago on the Saskatchewan prairie, (back when we walked 8 miles to Tims to get coffee in a snowstorm) I was installing a fuel pump in an army truck. It was a bit of a task, a real son of a b... to get off but I'd managed in spite of the cold. I cleaned up the area, put on a new gasket and slipped the arm into the hole.

But....it wouldn't go. It seemed that the arm was too long. I measured it against the old pump and they appeared to be the same. I was baffled - but being stubborn, I tried again and again. If you've ever looked at tradespeople they often make faces when they're concentrating hard and I have no doubt that I looked a little like Popeye at that moment. In those days, I would have stepped back, had a smoke and tried again. I suppose I thought that whatever was in the way would magically dissolve if I took a break.

My father taught me that every problem could be solved with a bigger hammer. I considered giving it a bit of a tap - maybe with the rubber mallet - surely it can't hurt.  But I knew better. I was baffled. I got my flashlight to looked into the hole. I couldn't see anything foreign just steel which was to be expected. I was perplexed - I had another smoke and adjusted myself. Leaning in over a fender produces wedgies now and again.

Being a typical tradeswoman and not wanting to admit that I couldn't do it, I decided it was a manufacturers defect in the new pump. Now I couldn't detect the defect but I knew it "instinctively" like we tend to when we don't know something. After all precision parts only need to be off by a hair to not fit. Right??

Then I heard it, those words that are music to your ears.

"There's a trick to that - let me show you." 

My buddy, my mentor, my hero was standing behind me with his weather beaten face and more patience than a saint. Move over he says with a chuckle and a wink. "I'll show ya."

My own little Macgyver - took a hacksaw blade out of my toolbox and bent it about 3 inches back from the end. He slipped it into the hole first and gave it a little jiggle. Then He put the fuel pump arm in under the blade and as it slid home, he pulled the blade out.

It was magical.

"Sometimes" says he, "the pushrod slips down when you take the pump out and you have to lift her up a bit to slide the arm in. Then he showed me the tapered edge on the arm that was designed with this in mind. I immediately regretted all my "intuition" about factory defects.

Me being me and glad that I didn't have to mess with it again said, "Wowwwwww, thanks dude and I gave him a hug."

And then he did the unthinkable......he pulled it all out and said the words of a great mentor and teacher,

"Now you try it."

Words to live by. "There's a trick to that." You know you've arrived when you hear those words.

Apprenticing is all about being included in the knowledge and the masters really do have the "tricks of the trade". As women we have not always been able to access that wisdom - wisdom that can only come about by doing instead of book learning. Some of us have been more fortunate than others. My sister and I have been very blessed. When we are asked about what we do to fit in, we always tell people,

"There's a trick to that, let me show you."

14 January 2012

From Surviving to Thriving

When I was growing up in rural Newfoundland and Labrador, most of the women around me were traditional. Let's get one thing straight - when I say traditional, I do not mean to denigrate what they did in any way. The truth was that most of these traditional women were pretty impressive. When you keep in mind that they were married to workers who migrated to other provinces to find work - these women could do almost anything.

It's really good to put this traditional and non-traditional into focus. I like to think of it in terms of a sliding scale. We have traditional on one end and we have non-traditional on the other. We might be traditional if we were doing the care work in the home - looking after everyone's needs and raising children. But at those times when we were feeding sheep, stowing wood, fixing the roof, plastering the hole in the wall or splitting wood, we were non-traditional in comparison to some of our more traditional sisters.

I prefer to look at traditional and not traditional as a sliding scale of sorts - not as two absolute positions. As a young lady, I had all of these women who were pretty non-traditional on the home front but they did not work in the non-traditional world. Let's save the discussion for the paid/unpaid for another day. If I were to put a dot on the sliding scale today, I'd be more non-traditional. I'm the sole breadwinner. I am the head of the household. I'm a journeyed mechanic and I am a leader. I am also a women - hear me roar!!!!! I have moved along that scale at different times in my life. We can do that on a scale.

I chose a non-traditional career - I joined the Army and became a mechanic. It was unheard of where I came from but the reality was - I didn't look at myself as doing anything ground breaking. I was surviving. Going on to higher education is often not a major concern when your basic needs are challenged - I needed to make a living and I wanted adventure. So off I went to join the Army. The attraction was the same that it is today for those of us who did not come from privilege. "They paid for your education and they gave you a job." At that particular time, they were recruiting women in trades. Voila - I'm a tradeswoman. I was also a great fit.

Let's look at this being a good fit or having an aptitude for the work for a moment - women who grow up in homes where their male family members worked outside the home in commercial construction are often well suited to the trades. It's not rocket science.

This is not accidental. Anyone who has spent a minute in our homes knows that when our men are not working - they're talking about work. So I always say to my sistah's "We may not have the practical experience when we start in the trades but we have all the theory." We may not be part of the conversations but we're certainly learning a thing or two. We're especially learning the "language of industry". So when there are initiatives that recruit from our neck of the woods, generally speaking they're getting a woman who has done a lot of the Orientation already. Funny how that works - eh boy??

There's more to learn of course and that's what I like teaching - the psychology of transitioning from a woman in trades to a trades woman. There is a transition that takes place in how you look at yourself and it impacts your relationships in the workplace. It impacts your relationships with other women who are often somewhere else on this sliding scale.

Real success in the trades comes not only from being great at your job but from understanding who you are. It means coming to terms with the feelings of isolation and knowing why you feel the way you do. Real success is much more then strapping on your tool belt ladies - it's about sticking on your thinking cap too. That's the part that I enjoy now - reaching out to the sisters and journeying with them to real leadership in trades.

Oh the joy of self acceptance.....

First Impressions - Lasting and Inaccurate.

Have you ever met someone and knew right away that you did not like them? Have you ever met someone and connected them immediately? I have had both of these things happen to me? What if I asked if you have regretted those decisions after a couple of meetings? Oh come on now, we've all made this mistake on occasion. A rush to judgment that we regretted later.

This week I met with a group of ladies to talk about first impressions. One story that was shared, made the point real well. Laura was waiting to meet a client at a local restaurant. When the client pulled up in her Red Toyota, Laura could feel an instant dislike. Keep in mind here that she had never met the woman face to face but had spoken to her on the phone. They actually connected quite well on the phone. We had spoken often enough about first impressions that Laura knew to hold off on making the judgment.

As a coach, I journey with people to a place of self discovery. After a little probing, she recalled a situation a couple of years back where she had a tangle with a toxic coworker. Guess what colour car that toxic coworker drove....yep, you got it. She had a red Toyota.

The car was a trigger for Laura and it caused her to project all of the dislike from the past experience onto the present experience. When she saw the car, it was a trigger for the situation that had happened a couple of years ago. This caused her to dislike the lady without even waiting to get to know her.

When speaking with my friend Tom the other day he said he worked the other way. He really loved some people after one meeting only to regret it later. Oh yes, it works both ways for sure.

What a shame if we don't recognize our own tendencies to project. What opportunities will we miss out on? What great friendships will we forfeit. Will me make rash decisions that we will regret or get stuck spending time with folks that we don't really enjoy?

The solution is an easy one - wait and see. Don't rush to judgment. Take some time to get to know the person. Acknowledge the tendency to project and to make assumptions. I've been wrong about people often enough now that I take a bit of time before I make a firm decision, when it is practical to do so.

Sometimes it serves us well to make a rush decision but there are times when we are wrong - you be the judge but not to quickly....

7 January 2012

Marketing Me

I drool at the thought of all the work that is coming up the pike in eastern Canada. I wish I was an able bodied woman again and could strap on my tool belt and head out there to join the wave of workers who will be heading into town to make it big. Oh the thought of purchasing my own big ass truck with the latest bells and whistles is almost too much to think about. Back in the day sista, I would have been right there with the best of them.

Now I get to work in an advisory capacity - it's not so shabby, keeps me in the loop. I believe that knowledge is right up there with chocolate when it comes to the trades. If you are a woman who wants to get in the game, there are a couple of things you need to know.

I'll start from when you graduate from college because you're not going to listen to me about buckling down at college - you may regret the partying and skipping class. But for those of you who are listening - get a great education now because the learning environment gets a lot tougher where the rubber hits the road. Be a sponge in the classroom and read up on the women who are doing well - they maximize their own potential.

Get a trade - the days are long gone when people got hired without any formal training. The industry is very technical and you need as much information as you can get. Put your nose to the grind at Community College because marketing is going to be tough. Landing that job will take perseverence and creativity.

Be a great communicator - people don't understand that communication is a learned skill. The more you do it the better off you will be. You may be saying right now - I can communicate, I use my Blackberry. There's a time and a place for your texting but I mean functional communication - the kind you will need in the trades.

Let me put this into perspective. When you go looking for a job, competition will be tough. Let's say that two ladies show up at the same time. One has all As on her transcript from her course. The other as Bs and Cs. Guess who gets the job.....the one that can communicate best. The one that can articulate best. The one that make them laugh and knows her stuff. In this game, you learn on the job and those who fit in well get the opportunities for learning. That may be unfair but it's the way things are.

Imagine you're on the site and you notice a hazard that you need to alert your fellow workers about. You don't get to text that message with multiple recipients - you get to holler so that they get their attention. When you go out into the world and want to land the client, you have to have the savvy to be able to communicate with them in a fashion that is professional and courteous. Then there is the biggie - you're going to own your own business someday - that means you'll need some pretty great communication skills. Start now - when you're young and you'll impress everyone. It will give you an edge over those who are also looking. I learned all that I need to know about communicating from Toastmasters - find a local club.

Join the union - I can't stress this enough. Join the union. Go to meetings. Use your newly acquired skills. Volunteer to do some tasks. Be around the men, learn from them, listen to them. Their communication style may seem harsh at first but it's the way the culture is. Don't let it intimidate you - there are a lot of teddy bears under that tough exterior. Know that - you'll get used to being around the culture. Big jobs are unionized and they make lots of money there - if you're interested in commercial construction, join the union and keep current on your dues.

Visit job sites and enquire about work. Now this might seem kind of intimidating. But if you're not working anyhow, you have time on your hands. Maybe you can't be hired but you can hang around and get used to the culture. Speak to women workers - even the flagsperson can tell you a lot about the culture and the rules of the game.

The real leaders in life learn to do things in the downtime that give them an edge when things are going well. Do you spend your unemployed time complaining or are you taking advantage of free learning that is available in the community. I know where I would be.

Don't show up with an attitude that you're going to change the world. Yes, there are things wrong with the industry but you don't reveal your hand too early. There are ways to do things right and showing up with an agenda is not a way to get ahead. There's a process to fitting in at work.

If you're an older worker who has taken up the profession lately - after the best are hired, the woman who is low maintenance is hired. She is the woman who fits in with the men. She has a great personality. Personality is a learned characteristic. Study people with great personality - what do they do. Try and be like them. People with a bad attitude wear it on their sleeve for the world to see. Do what it takes to become a positive person. There's nothing worse than a wet rag.

People ask me - how many times do I call the union to try and get hired. I say call once a week if you know that they're hiring. Drop in from time to time to let them see your face. The reality is that when a job comes up and you happen to be there - you're the person who is hired. Become known. You may say to yourself - that takes a lots of guts. Well, personally I think that you're up to the task. When you chose a career in the trades, you demonstrated that you had lots of guts. If you wanted an easier transition you could have taken esthetics....traditional work with different hurdles. No disrespect to the profession - I love my gel nails for special events.

I can't stress enough how important it is to join the union. I just met 6 ladies who graduated last year and only two joined the union. Guess what folks, those other four just created a new hurdle - getting known and getting in the loop. Join the union and take the free courses that are being held there.

The truth is this - the time is ripe for women entering the trades - they need people. You have to be a bit assertive to get there. Learn how to be assertive by practicing. If you get it wrong, try again. It's an exciting venture....good luck in your journey.