[Life Back West] Autumn 2014 – “Meet You at the Quad?”

English: Quad at Willamette University

It’s a familiar refrain on many a college campus and more than just a few

Quad at Willamette University (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

companies: “meet you at the Quad?

A line tagged to a place and a time, it routes you to the familiar where you can bank on connecting with the right people at interesting times.

It’s also the place where more often than not serendipity intersects opportunity, where talent finds good fortune.

Create that ritual, like going to a specific place to bump into people, and things happen. There is something special about physically being with others, or even hearing somebody’s voice, and more often than not that something that happens turns out to be something good.

And rituals, as writers Tony Schwartz (The Only Way to Get Important Things Done), Jocelyn Glei and Scott Belsky (Manage Your Day to Day), and associated research, create efficiencies and make you more effective.

One senior client who was nudged away from an eating-at-his-desk habit to lunch a couple of days a week at the company cafeteria said that the suggestion alone was worth the cost of the coaching engagement.

Why? He started bumping into people who had problems he could solve early, and running into people who had opportunities that he could develop fast.

One startup client who shows how the ritual-with-people-stuff works has employees co-located in multiple locations call in on a regular weekly conference call to a “virtual water cooler” – a place to bump into folks who are available and catch up on what’s going on.

Whether it’s at home, at work, a school or church, these rites of occasion and location are secret tools to making the positive develop.

Establishing and nurturing rituals of time and place – like my alma mater Willamette University’s wise recent move from a solely class-reunion based “Homecoming” to a broader, more inclusive “Alumni Weekend” – is the smart way to make unexpectedly good things happen.

See you at the Quad?


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The Litmus Test: Would Donald Sterling Work Here?

I heard Tim Wise speak yesterday regarding race, gender, and the bagful of what gets summarized as diversity and inclusion. #74716269 / gettyimages.com Wise was forceful, funny and spot-on. Sample lines: “If race is a card (e.g. “race card”) it’s a two of diamonds” and “Some execs like to colorize their organizations the ways Ted Turner […]

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[Mentors Count] Paging Sue Leeson


"The right mentor can help you get ahead" according to the Boston Globe.

An article in Forbes headlines "To build a great company, start with great mentors."

And the wrong or no mentor? A recipe for more career detours or a life in the slower lane.

I got a chance last weekend at my alma mater Willamette University's terrifically done Alumni Weekend to spend time with one of my college mentors, Susan Leeson.

I met Sue when she was fresh out of grad school from earning her PhD at Claremont, just a very few years after she had graduated from Willamette.

Short on years and experience, Sue was (and is) long on EQ (and IQ) and advising smarts. While mentoring can be trained and developed in people, Sue had clearly done coursework on her own time for all of her life.

After I'd nodded off at one 1 PM Friday 12-person seminar - a class I'd asked to sit in - she observed that I must have a lot going on and asked how I was doing.

After turning in some work that was OK but not great, Sue noted "You can do better" and then talked about ways to meet a bar I'd set myself.

Mentoring is a little like dating - there is no formula for finding a great mentor. And Sue has that touch to nudge and care, prod and nurture.

Post Willamette we lost touch, though I continued to follow Sue's career which led to her going to law school to get a JD, teach law school, serve on the Oregon Court of Appeals and later on the state of Oregon Supreme Court. She now teaches and works as a (much sought-after) mediator; it was sweet to feel that same strong connection we had 40 years ago when we say each other last week at Alumni Weekend.

The Forbes article mentioned above has a very helpful list of things to do - and things to don't - when identifying and working with mentors.

And when you're lucky enough to find people like Sue Leeson, cherish them. They are as precious as rare jewels, and when it comes to your career, more valuable.

Life Back West is an occasional set of writings focused on ways people, teams and organizations can be both more effective (doing the right thing) and more efficient (doing the right thing well). More about executive, career and team / leadership coaching services can be found at the “About J. Mike Smith and Back West, Inc.” sidebar or the “Hire Me” tab. You can also read an online interview with me at WhoHub.

Picture: Susan Leeson - James Madison University.

Mentoring is hot, both on college campuses and in the private sector. “The right mentor can help you get ahead” according to the Boston Globe. An article in Forbes headlines “To build a great company, start with great mentors.“ And the wrong or no mentor? A recipe for more career detours or a life in […]

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Why were you fired? “I’m not altogether sure”

Fired red stamp

It happens. Out of the blue an exec (or anyone else) gets whacked. Sometimes it’s a clear quantitative reason (e.g. sales goals weren’t met). But many times it’s not. And that not-so-clear can be for a host of reasons frequently including “bad” fit. And at the top, where competence is a given, fit is what what sometimes […]

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[Life Back West] Early Autumn 2014 – The Big Reset

English: Value function in Prospect Theory, dr...

We might sell our Dolores Park area home, a house we’ve lived in for 20 years. But then again, if the price isn’t right, we might not. We might pare down early – accelerating a plan 10 years out – and buy a place in Stanley Saitowitz’ minimalistic 8 Octavia in Hayes Valley. But then again, if […]

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The Launch of Launch

ee97b218-598e-4af8-babb-55984ac3c7bcBecause Every Path is Different

My colleague Tricia Stone and her co-founder Kurt Wolfgang have started up a business geared to “connect education with the rest of life, starting in high school, and continuing throughout college.”  It’s a terrific and needed idea, and they’re going to be outstanding at this work. Here’s their August newsletter which has lessons for all of […]

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The Colleague: “Eeyore”

Eeyore as depicted by Disney

While not abundant, you can spot them everywhere. They are the sorts of colleagues who turn a ray of sunshine into a warning about skin cancer. In a world of glass half-full or glass half-empty, they manage to always find the latter. It’s as if the coin flip for heads or tails always landed on one […]

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