Monday, January 29, 2007

Kind words and a reminder

This morning, a google alert revealed that Jas Banwait mentioned me in her daily blog. I surfed over to and read some kind words.

When the days get long, it's nice to know that you have impact in the lives of others. Thanks Jas!

BTW - if those thank you cards are gathering a little dust, please read the column today in the Globe and Mail's Facts and Arguments page. Sipping my coffee (no sugar, one milk) at Tim Horton's this morning and leafing through the paper, I was reminded how important (and long lasting) is the effect of the written word.

A quote to think about today:

"Memories soon fade, but in my hand I can still hold a piece of birch bark with a love poem printed by my father more than 80 years ago. "


A mailbox or a mouse? - RUTH BEST

I carefully turn the pages of my scrapbook to the tiny yellowed envelope postmarked May, 1916. Inside, in childish pencil printing, is a letter my seven-year-old mother wrote to a cousin describing a birthday party. I pair this keepsake with her photo, one where she wears a huge hair-ribbon and stands with one ankle turned, in front of a snowball bush.
A tin box in our attic is filled with my grandmother's 1892 love letters. The two-cent stamps bear the image of Queen Victoria. Grandmother was teaching school in Dundas, Ont., at the time and had received a proposal of marriage from grandfather. She pens her reply as she sits beneath an apple tree on her way home from school. Her turmoil at leaving her beloved profession seems clear as she writes, "my tears fall like these apple blossoms."
I am not a "tech-no" and do use my computer daily but I wonder if letter-writing is nearly obsolete. Will our grandchildren have any such keepsake windows through which to glimpse their family's history?
Although I understand that everything can eventually be retrieved from my computer's hard drive, will future generations have any interest in sorting through thousands of mechanically typed e-mail messages years from now? I doubt it.

Snail-mail postage increases yearly. Days when we have no mail delivery whatever seem more numerous, and the time it takes for a letter to travel across the country seems longer. Are these portents of the demise of the hand-written message?
Despite my questions, I am myself a constant e-mailer and quick to acknowledge the many advantages of keeping in touch electronically. The news is immediate. I heard about my grandchild's first steps just minutes after he took them. With no stamps to buy or walks to a post box, I am less likely to put off letter-writing and can sit down at my computer at any time and contact a friend with fresh news. I am now in regular communication with those whom I previously heard from only at Christmas. Still, I cannot deny the frisson of excitement I feel each time I find a hand-addressed letter in my mailbox.
Inside could be a snippet of fabric from a dress being sewn, a square of wallpaper from a renovated room or a pressed flower from the garden. The electronic devotée will argue that all of the above can be photographed and e-mailed as an attachment. But I would miss the luxurious feeling of delicate silk slipping through my fingers, the true vibrant colours of a wallpaper sample and an actual flower that I could hold.
One of my most prized possessions is the handwritten diary started in England by my great-grandfather when he was 21 and kept until his death in Canada. Pressed between its yellowing pages is the fragile remains of a boutonniere he once wore, plus his description of a visit to London where he recounts his reaction to the chiming of the newly erected Big Ben. "The sound was so great that I could feel my whole body vibrating and even the skirt of my coat if I touched it with my hand," he writes in hurried cursive under the heading Jan. 31, 1857.
I can picture this young Englishman shivering in his long skirted coat on the streets of London.
I fit him into my own history just as I do the frightened young mother, pregnant with another child that will strain the family finances. Her letter to her sister requesting money I found tucked beneath the boards of a drawer in my antique dresser.
Inside a wax-sealed envelope, written in perfect penmanship on fine vellum paper, is the official indenture of a 16-year-old ancestor apprenticed to an architect. The flowing cursive strokes are like a beautiful piece of art. Remembering my own ink-splattered pages as I tried to master the straight pen, I wonder how long it took the writer to perfect this document.
I understand that now penmanship is no longer taught in most of our schools. Has handwriting has become a lost art?
And what about thank-you notes from gifts received, or the "bread-and-butter" letters required by my childhood etiquette after an overnight visit? I recall my own blotched efforts when after much prodding I dutifully wrote, "How are you? I am fine. Thank you for the . . .," followed by a shout to my mother to ask, "What did they give me?"
My grandchildren's e-mails begin without salutation, are printed in multi-colours, interspersed with smiley faces and are shortened to "thank U 4 . . .".
I am delighted to get them.
And I am almost as happy when a black e-card dog carrying a bouquet of roses in his teeth bounces across my screen trailing a "HAPPY BIRTHDAY" banner.
Some of these e-cards are quite lovely: winter scenes with skaters silhouetted against a full moon, gently falling snow and Silent Night sung softly by a choir, or magnolia buds unfolding accompanied by the sweet strains of Mendelssohn.
Memories soon fade, but in my hand I can still hold a piece of birch bark with a love poem printed by my father more than 80 years ago.
And the long-ago summer camp letter from a nine-year-old son that reads "At 7:30 in the mornen we go for a wash in the lake with nothen on."
Or the Mother's Day card decorated with bits of lace and a large "M" made from silver gum-wrappers.
These are rich pieces of history I can hold in my hand and also in my heart.

Ruth Best lives in Dundas, Ont.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Rule #1

The first rule of being "a good guy" (and women can be good guys) is that you can't call yourself "a good guy." That's like leaning over in a bar and telling someone "I'm really good-looking!" Hey, if you have to keep telling someone you're good're not that good looking...

A buddy of mine shot me this email today with the above attached ad from a realtors website. See if you agree with him.

I sorta took what you said about good guys to heart…. Remember when you said that you can’t call yourself a good guy… this guy does and after what I thought was an excellent profile of himself he lost all his credibility when he says “I am a genuinely nice guy”

Don’t ya just wanna shake people sometimes…….. thought you’d geta kick out of it!

Cheers, S

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Still not Convinced?

Thanks Paul Copcutt for sending this link attesting to the power of a sincere, specific and searchable thank you card.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Let's help Brian out

Brian is the husband of a co-worker. Good guy. Background in sales and marketing. Was with Dun and Bradstreet. (Fitness fan: to be a personal trainer!) Please see his Outreach document and post any offers of introductions.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

How are your Mirror Neurons?

Cara Buckley's article in this week's NewYork Times discusses the theory of "mirror neurons" that may promote empathy and turn ordinary people into hero's.

Except for sociopaths, humans are built to feel and act out of empathy, said Stephen G. Post, a professor of bioethics at Case Western Reserve University’s medical school and co-author of “Why Good Things Happen to Good People,” scheduled to be published in May. Social support has always been important to survival, and people with strong social networks thrive more than those who are isolated.

Perhaps the key to being "good guy" is all about realligning your neurons.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Networking vs Strategic Networking

I chatted with two new people this week - both were relatives of associates, very nice people and both are in job search mode. Neither had been to my seminars and it was apparent they were challenged by the concept of "strategic networking." I had some conversations with both B. and R. and I thought this was worth a blog.


- email everyone you know and ask if they can help you (eg get a job)

- email your resume to everyone, including people you haven't kept in touch with for years.

- keep a stack of resumes to hand out to anyone you meet.

- rely on a friend/your Mom/your brother-in-law to get that perfect position for you
- recognize that "good things just sell themselves" and you'll get that position if you just wait long enough
- put all your eggs in one basket. Stop your networking as soon as you get short-listed for a job.

- get upset that you are unqualified because you are too old/young/under-educated/over-educated/not good looking enough.

Strategic Networking

- make a list of industries/companies or individuals you would like to be introduced to.

- buy 10 thank you cards and 10 stamps (minimum)

- put together an Outreach Document. If you are confused or frustrated by where to go and what to do to find prospects, try read this great book by Dr. Barbara Moses.

- pick up the phone and start calling friends and family. Invite them out for a coffee. Renew your friendship and then ask if they can help you. Show them this document and ask if they know anyone on the list. Ask how you can help them. Ask for permission to call these people and use their name. remember, these aren't job interviews, they are informational interviews.

- Start off with this script to open the conversation then have a list of questions ready.

eg how long have you worked for your company?

eg do you enjoy what you do?

eg how did you find the company/how did they find you?

eg where do you see the company going?

eg what are your biggest challenges?

eg do you see any fit for someone of my background and experience in your company or industry?

eg is there anything I can do to help you?

BTW Try to find something you have in common with the callee (residence, schooling, family, sports, etc) .

- send thank you cards to your friend who referred you to the individual and to the individual. Make sure they are specific, sincere and searchable.

- Don't be upset if people forget to return your call or are tardy in getting back to you. Keep the pipeline full. Be persistant but not pushy. Keep paying it forward and if you get down - keep asking people how you can help them. The go out and keep your promises.