I must confess!

Because this is the Lenten season and it is also the day following Equal Pay Day, it is time for me to share a confession. I used to be one of “those” women who cast down an eye on my female counterparts who expressed the importance of women’s rights. My firm belief was that we shouldn’t label initiatives for one group or another. That if I proved to be a worthy colleague and peer that I would be treated with dignity and respect…boy was I naïve.

I didn’t even appreciate my poor judgement until I was struck in the face with blatant harassment in the workplace. Even more, I did not understand the severity of it until I was completely removed from the situation. When I was provided with the opportunity to join the executive team of an advertising agency, I was through the roof…this was what I had worked tirelessly in my career to achieve. I brushed off the comments from a colleague and fellow executive who said to me upon my promotion “Now, you have to deal with my dirty comments because we are equals.” OK, I thought I’m part of the club where you crack disgusting jokes and talk nasty about others. I wanted so much to be there, I didn’t realize how wrong it was.

I wanted a seat at the table to talk about the goals for my team and how we can learn from each other during team building activities. I craved to develop the talent management and planning tool for my company. And I was proud to present at company meetings about the tremendous results we had accomplished. So, I ignored the comments about his “lack of concentration because” he was “staring into my eyes.” I overlooked his inappropriate comments and the texts he sent to me after a work party. I believed this is what I had to do to be a part of the leadership team.

So, I must confess, I was wrong. Very wrong. Women’s rights are important and degrading a colleague does not make them an equal. It actually demonstrates the lack of intellect and dignity from the person dishing out the comments.

Paging Dr. Hazen…

My First Leadership Challenge

I have no problem with public speaking.  In fact, I enjoy the task that can crumble even the more confident leader.  I have been known to convince myself that I am the smartest person in the room to shake off any nervousness and jitters.  But this situation was different.  I was in front of my learning team cohort members, delivering the valedictorian speech in the chapel at Seton Hall University and to my left were the instructors from the Master’s program.  My mind game of being the smartest person in the room did not work in this situation. My head filled with the lessons from the past three years and the works of Kotter, Kouzes, Posner and Collins.  I had a few handwritten notes in front of me, which looked like Sanskrit under the stained-glass reflections in the chapel.

Somehow, I delivered a speech.  The audience laughed, cried, and provided an approving round of applause when I finished.  As I left the chapel wearing Master’s hood surrounded by family, friends, and colleagues, I declared, “I am done with school.”  My mentor replied to me, “that’s too bad, because you finally learned to encourage the heart.”  With all the lessons delivered from Kouzes and Posner, encouraging the heart was the one which had eluded my true understanding.  I had just been given the affirmation I had worked so hard to achieve from a speech that I cannot recall one word.  It was this moment that I realized that my leadership journey was just beginning. Within the year I had applied for one doctoral program, the Interdisciplinary Leadership Program at Creighton University.  My promise of being “done” with school was broken and I could not be happier with my decision.


My Secret is Discipline

I am not the traditional doctoral student.  I have not worked in industries where self-improvement is encouraged and supported.  In fact, my professional experience has taken the opposite approach by promoting big egos, competitive workplaces, and cut-throat behavior to win the next account.  This environment has been at advertising agencies.  Many of these organizations breed competition within their own walls as well as make decisions based on the moves of competitors.  My interest in advancing my degree, and more importantly my education, has been fueled by my desire to be a more effective leader and understand what motivates my followers.  I do not think I am unique, I just think that I have not come from an environment where a terminal degree is respected or desired.

I learned quickly that having a holistic view of the world has made me a better employee, colleague, and leader.  I have spent my time and resources on pursuing my advanced education without any employer assistance.  My key to success is discipline.  I have spent weekends reading and writing instead wining and dining.  I have spent lunch hours working on my laptop instead of spending the time at the coolest lunch spots, and I have taken business trips and paid for the WiFi on flights to keep up with my studies.  Many have asked me how I do it all.  My response is that discipline and the commitment to finishing this journey is the secret to my success.

Jesuit Values and Contemporary Thinking

I have been able to blend the Jesuit values established thousands of years ago with the contemporary thinking of Kouzes and Posner to create the leader that I am today.  The deep-rooted care that the Jesuits have for the entire person has been present in my leadership style as I work to encourage the heart in my followers.  A few months before I started the ILD program, I was promoted to the department head of the public relations and social media team at SBC Advertising and joined the executive management team.  I created the first vision and set of values for the team inspired by many Jesuit values.  These guided my team and the rebranding of our department to reflect and honor the many changes that have impacted the industry.

In 2015, I was inducted into the “40 under 40” class presented by Columbus Business First.  Each honoree was asked to share a word that helps define their character.  I selected magis which drives my endless search for finding more in life-both personal and professional.  For me, the teachings of the Jesuits just make sense as I work tirelessly to become a better and more effective leader.

Over the course of the ILD program, I still refer to the work of Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner (2007).  The same authors I studied during my Master’s curriculum. The blending of the five leadership principles with the Jesuit values point to a leadership style that honors the relationship between leaders and followers.  I truly believe that a leader without the respect of his/her followers is simply a manager with a great title.  Furthermore, there are leaders throughout an organization that are not always recognized by titles or large compensations.  It is my responsibility to simply find these leaders and provide them with the right tools and resources to achieve their own potential.

The Final Chapter

As I get closer to the final chapter in this formal journey, I am confident that I have achieved the desired outcomes and have the tools to complete the doctoral degree. I can also confidently state that I am done with school, at least as the student, but I will continue to be a scholar of life and leadership.


Just Keep Swimming

Who would have thought that an absent-minded fish could encapsulate what we need to do to be effective leaders in today’s continuously evolving world? “Just keep swimming.” swimming.jpgThis isn’t to say that we need to keep floating that would only be maintaining status quo, but we need to keep swimming to stay abreast of the new and emerging technologies; we need to keep swimming to see and experience new situations; and we need to keep swimming to remain relevant to our followers.

I enjoyed the post by Michele Martin, however, I do not think that we should eliminate the word “hero” and its derivatives from our language and descriptions of modern-day leaders. The use of a language is important for leaders as well as how those words are used. If we were using “superhero” to describe a leader, then I would wholeheartedly agree with Martin’s thesis that we should not call our leaders “heroes”; however, I do believe that as a society we have embraced heroes to be police officers, first responders, physicians, nurses, mothers, fathers and even the school teacher that greets each student with a different handshake.

I would also argue that in today’s uber connected world we still need leaders who will take on the risk of discovering new and emerging technologies and allow followers the freedom to explore the possibilities that these tools and resources can have on our lives. I do not think it is by accident that our studies at Creighton began with the lessons from the heroic Jesuit leaders (Lowney, 2003). These heroes learned how to truly know oneself, which provides the foundation for immersing oneself and taking leap into the evolving world. Risk takers are heroes, not hosts.

Heroes also have sidekicks. As Weinberger (2011) and others taught us, there is just too much knowledge out there for any human to comprehend. He also suggested that we need to surround ourselves with people who have diverse experiences and beliefs in order to get exposure to the vast amounts of knowledge. Again, this sounds like a pretty heroic view and one that those with insecurities cannot value.

Finally, heroes are human, not super human. Today’s modern leader, through self-reflection, needs to occasionally eat humble pie. A true leader is not defined by titles and compensation, but rather by influence. One of my favorite TED Talks is from Drew Dudley. Recently I started a new position and I was challenged to bring together a diverse group of people, both in terms of tenure at our organization and in professional experience. I shared Dudley’s TED Talk because one person cannot save the day like a super hero, but one person can help others reach their full potential.

We cannot slow down the adoption of technology and the rise of artificial intelligence, but we can just keep swimming, just keep exploring and just keep encouraging. So, jump on in. The leadership water is just fine.



I Fell into a Digital Rabbit Hole this Week


I admit, I fell into a digital rabbit hole that consumed my life for what is going on to 18 hours. I am officially on #giraffewatch. Before going to bed last night, I had my second screen streaming the live giraffe cam and I would check on the expecting mother every hour or so. Then, I happened…the stream went down on YouTube at 7:30 a.m. I was now in my thirteenth hour of #giraffewatch and I felt that the day would be worthless. Great news is that is came back and has a permanent bookmark on my second screen.


While my plight to see the live birth of the 150-pound, six-foot tall calf seems slightly insane, this tale details the future of the Internet. As David Weinberger asks (2011) is the Internet making us smarter or stupider, I have to reflect on my personal adventure of the past 18 hours. I have tried to will the giraffe to having a contraction (I swear, I have seen her belly move); I have Googled facts on giraffe births (questioning); I have commented on the Facebook Live stream (sharing); I have watched other YouTube recommended videos and watched the entire circle of life take place in Africa (filtering); I have been amused by the trolls discussing that giraffes birth striped eggs (screening); and I have donated money to the animal sanctuary where the mother resides (interacting).  These 18 hours demonstrate the insane amount of information that is available at our fingertips and how access to this information can motivate us. I had an entire adventure and learned more about giraffe births my only using by screens. This encapsulates the beginning of the second industrial revolution!

The thirteen hours of my #giraffewatch were driven by artificial intelligence from the recommended videos and searches on Google to the constant notifications of Facebook friends who were also watching the video. As I reviewed the videos from Corning, I realized that my giraffe obsession could only be maximized if I had interactive and adaptive glass all around me. I was ready to sign up for my glass house immediately.

While this is a comical example of the digital impact on our daily lives, it also has merit on the world in which we live, learn, work and play. Leaders must embrace not only today’s technologies, but plan for the emerging ones. As a marketer and a leader, it is important for me to understand the technologies that target audiences are using as well as those which can help motivate and support team collaboration. I can only accomplish this by realizing (as suggested by Kelly, 2016) that my own intelligence is only performing on limited planes. Technology allows me to connect and interact with others that can fill my own symphony.

Yes, I fell into a digital rabbit hole last night and seemingly let my dreamerresponsibilities appear misguided, but I think we have to do that sometimes to help foster collaboration and open our eyes up to something new. Even with the explosion of artificial intelligence which helps organize and search engines that filter news feeds, we still need thinkers and dreamers to imagine how to continue to use and evolve the technology in the future. An effective leader must be balanced in both.



If a Cricket Figured it out, Why can’t the Rest of Us?

In Disney’s classic tale of Pinocchio, Jiminy Cricket offered the young puppet advice when having to choose between right and wrong. Always let your conscience be your guide.

This seems like sound advice, but what Jiminy could not predict was the growth and scale of the Internet which challenge the ethical compass of both children and adults. The unlimited amount of data and information provided by the Internet is outpacing the laws that are created to protect copyrights and intellectual property. What’s more, when you add in the fact that the Internet is truly global, upholding these laws is nearly impossible.

It is easier to police a physical act, such as photocopying a copyrighted book and many academic settings go to great lengths to ensure that copyrights are protected, but when this information is freely available on the Internet, many wrongly assume that the information is there for free use. Philosophically upholding copyrights and intellectual property makes sense, but it continues to get muddied in the digital space. How many people really have access to your Netflix account? Or how do you tell the originator of an idea that is crowdsourced?

Uncoupling the copyright and intellectual property rules of engagement for the Internet is like finding the Deep Web on traditional search engines. Many of the personal uses of protected content would be protected under the Fair Use doctrine, which allows the unlicensed use of copyright-protected material under certain circumstances. But wait, that sounds too simple. One author noted that you should assume all things written are copyrighted the moment they are produced. But if everyone operated under that fear, nothing would be created or shared again.

And then there are those awkward moments, because a meme is parody, right? Not always. The awkward penguin became the poster child of a meme lawsuit. penguin

The original blog that started the meme paid $900 for the copyright infringement. Yes, apparently, National Geographic owned the image.

As Gerd Leonhard described (2014), the entire concept of digital ethics creates more questions than answers. He continued that technology has no ethics, only the people using the technology do. So, how does one ethically create content? Nearly every Web entry that provides some guidelines for Web content instructs the reader to consult the actual law.

It might be more effective to just ask Jiminy.


Networked Workers are like Citizens Serving on Jury Duty

This week I am serving the second of my two weeks of jury duty for the Franklin County Municipal Court. I have been told at least ten times that this is the busiest court system in the state of Ohio and one of the busiest in the country. In fact, Franklin Muni is being studied as a beta test for how to handle and schedule jurors to improve one’s experience when the summons arrive. I have been here for seven days and only one case had gone to a jury trial—and I was fortunate to be a part of the selected jury.


The case itself was pretty cut and dry. There was a car accident where one driver was cited and accepted responsibility. Five to seven days after the accident, the plaintiff started feeling sore. He went to the emergency and physicians racking up $7,000 in medical bills that he wanted the defendant to pay for since he caused the accident. But, then it got interesting. The plaintiff has five felonies in his past for crimes involving dishonesty and lying. The defendant’s lawyer argued that the injuries were not incurred from the accident, but were chronic issues suffered before the incident.

As we went into jury deliberations, it was clear, we were a group of networked individuals. Many of the jurors wanted to talk about their own experiences in car accidents or how pain can show up after an injury takes place. Others wanted to make several assumptions on the plaintiff and the defendant based on their own belief system. “This guy seems honest.” “He lives with his mom and goes to church.” “He couldn’t remember the gender of his physician, but that could be a cultural thing.” While we had one purpose, we had differing points of view and experience which we all brought with us. As the magistrate told us later: this is the beauty of juries. Juries have the advantage of bouncing ideas off one another to come to a verdict, a judge only has him/herself.

In many ways, the statement from the magistrate sums up one of the advantages of networked individuals. While each person brings his/her own belief system, experience, training and thoughts to the situations, each one is working together to achieve the common goal. The provides the leader with the opportunity to have a multidisciplinary solution or course of action as described by Rainie (2013). The rise and accessibility of the Internet has made these networks larger and across entire enterprises as connecting with others is easier than ever before.

Organizations with multidisciplinary, cross-functional teams are connected as a wirearchy, not a traditional hierarchy. Wienberger (2011) shared that Wikipedia has embraced a networked approach to its community by developing a set of policies and processes to enable the community to have control of the content. My concern is that this strategy might never achieve the desired results. This approach can lead to more robust discussions and dialogues, but can it also paralyze a company from moving forward? It could lead to analysis paralysis.

There are times when a decision needs to be made and too much time is spent in discussions. A leader is needed to make a decision and stand by the decision. Smith and Anderson (2014) interviewed several executives about the changes that will be impact jobs in the coming years. One respondent (Jonathan Grudin) discussed that technology will continue to disrupt jobs. He continued that jobs will still need to be created. A leader will help ensure that the workforce is prepared for the new tasks which are required.

networks-650x400The best solution for leading the workforce through these changes is to have a hybrid approach to a fully networked organization. Flexibility in the workplace will be necessary to accommodate the needs of works and adapt to the needs of the workforce as some tasks are automated and new job functions are created. The ten most important skills of 2020 focus on intangible skills such as critical thinking, social intelligence, and cross-cultural thinking. These soft skills are not always taught in the classroom, but instead are taught though the actions of great leaders.

Oh, and about that jury trial. We found in favor of the plaintiff, but there was one holdout. You’ll never guess who that was.

Predictions of Workplace Changes Should be Left to the Magic 8 Ball

For this week’s reflection on how the nature of work is changing with the proliferation of the Web, I thought I would consult the only “expert” I could find: The Magic 8 Ball. According to Weinberger (2014), we cannot anticipate all of the changes that will be coming in the next year, let alone further into the future.

So, this is how my conversation with the Magic 8 Ball Oracle went:


Q: Will the Web impact the way we conduct work?

A: Ask again later.

Q: Do leaders need to be more flexible in their leadership style to accommodate both technology changes and employee motivations?

A: Signs point to yes.

Q: Can we accurately prepare for these changes ahead of time?

A: My sources say no.

While this is a light-hearted way of looking at the evolution of the workplace, I cannot really argue with these answers. Many researchers and insights professionals get paid a lot of money to predict upcoming workplace trends, but how should leaders use these trends? I would suggest that the reports from Gartner, Fortune and Glassdoor.com should be used directionally. Yes, the trends of more collaboration, spontaneous work, and increased automation are helpful to leaders, but these are not the Holy Grail of how to approach one’s own teams and environments.

I have a very diverse team in terms of experience and tenure with our employer. One of my challenges is to bring a connection and collaboration to a group of people who might have never talked to one another in the past. Instead of creating a hierarchy, I am wiring together a group of seemingly diverse individuals under a collective and shared umbrella. This is the exact definition of wirearchy. This system will allow for greater effectiveness and efficiency.


As the leader, I am charged with helping define the collective goals and demonstrating how each team member has a purpose in achieving these goals. This is not about connecting more effectively through digital tools, however, I am considering adding Slack to our inter-team communications. This is about truly understanding how to break down any barriers and build trust among the team members. I find this approach less reliant on technology and more reliant on human capital.

I have utilized some of the strategies outlined by Gartner to complement the changes in the nature of work. I have found that using work swarms, spontaneous work opportunities and changing the “routine” have helped to create the culture with my new team. But, reading an article did not impact my approach, I was utilizing these methods before being formally presented with these, so I question whether these trends are that revolutionary.

And, if all else fails, ask the Magic 8 Ball!

It’s not 1997: Stop worrying about Knowledge Management

Knowledge Management (KM) had a time and place in the history books regarding “effective management principles B.I. (Before Internet).”  According to Nancy Dixon (2009), Knowledge Management, the goal of KM was “to make sense of collective knowledge in an organization.” With the adoption and implementation of social learning tools and the Internet, KM has been doomed because:

  • It is too inward facing
    • KM relies on the expertise of an exclusive group of people. It does not recognize the importance that connected experts can bring to solving problems and issues (Weinberger, 2011). Jarche (2010) pointed out that a collection of the “right” people can lead to success above those holding only internal knowledge.
  •  It cannot change fast enough
    • We move at the speed of the Internet (or real time). Employees do not have the patience for waiting for lengthy corporate training sessions to take place. By the time these do happen, many workers have developed their own solutions or learned about it on YouTube. We are living in the Twitterverse. What do I mean by this? We have the incredible ability to connect and interact with others in real time (Drexler, 2014). Google can provide us with instant answers, but Twitter and other social networks can instantly create a two-way conversation with others experiencing the same thing. People are learning in crowd settings (Weinberger, 2011) not just in individual siloes.
  •  It no longer meets the needs of the workforce
    • Diversity, diversity, diversity.  The environment is diverse, workplace settings and cultures are diverse and workers are more than diverse than ever. The knowledge that is shared and used to teach others must also be diverse to add to its stickiness. Developing expertise in a connected world naturally connects pieces that are different from one another (Weinberger, 2011).

It is worth noting that Dixon herself has not posted on the topic since 2012.


The Leader’s Role: Model the Way

Kouzes & Posner (2007) developed five practices for exemplary leadership. The first being Model the Way. To me, this describes, in the most basic terms, the role of the leader-you must walk the walk not just talk the talk. walkthewalkIn the unfiltered world, a leader should help followers navigate through the myriad of information and knowledge that is available literally at one’s fingertips. At times, the leader must act as the filter to help followers uphold a shared vision. The leader must invest into the right digital tools to help this filtering process. Through the analysis of these tools, it is clear that there is not a one-size-fits-all tool, so the leader’s ability to find and vet (or appoint a follower to handle this) the right tools for the job. Even when these tools are adopted, there is a continuous cycle of networked learning.

Even when the right tools are implemented to encourage connected knowledge, the leader’s role does not end there. Too much filtering on one extreme or too much diversity on another extreme can lead to more paralysis than production. The leader must find the balance to meet the demands of the environment, the culture and the workforce.

I’m a Total “Slack”er

I admit it, I’m a total Slacker, but I’m also an avid Tweeter, Linker, Grammer, and Snapper. In this sense, I’m referring to my addiction fondness of digital tools that help us connect, learn, lead, and innovate. This week I researched the digital tool Slack, which is self-described as “where work happens”. It is an online communications tools where teams can collaborate with one another and has tremendous integration with other tools, such as work flow management tools like Asana, microblogging tools like Twitter and video platforms like YouTube. The cloud-based software was first launched in 2013 by the founder of Flickr, Stewart Butterfield after a failed attempt at creating an online game. Slack provides users with more than instant messaging tools or internal communications portals because it connects with external programs and incudes this information into the Slack content stream seamlessly (Koetsier, 2013). If you insert a video, it automatically plays in the content stream.

As David Weinberger (2011) discussed, this aggregation of content provided by Slack allows for filter forward, or the phenomenon when filters do not decrease, but increase the amount of information and knowledge the user has access to; however, Slack takes this a step further by presenting this information in one interface and with full search capabilities. The tool also provides users with the ability to categorize conversations into channels to keep projects, initiatives, and topics organized for the user.

The tool has quickly been adopted and utilized with both small and large companies with great benefits. Clay Shirky (2014) commented on the importance of studying how people collaborate, I would argue that Slack has been recognized as the tool that disrupted traditional collaboration in the workplace. One of the best features of Slack is its simple user experience, making it attractive to a seasoned technology geek or a smartphone newbie (Brown, 2014) and allowing for a similar experience in both mobile and desktop versions.


From a leader’s perspective, Slack creates an easily accessible and free, communications platform for connecting individual team members both on- and off-site. Did I mention the Slack emoji integration? 100 This feature can add “tone” to sometimes toneless written and emailed communications to one another. It provides a virtual community to team members where documents can be shared or lunch plans can be arranged. In the words of one user, “If you go to work in a drab, colorless building, work can feel sterile. Slack isn’t sterile” (Tetzeli, 2015).

From my own personal experience, I found Slack incredibly useful to connect my team within an advertising agency. Agencies tend to draw employees who are naturally curious and passionate about digital tools. As the former leader of the public relations and social media department, I noticed that Slack not only provided the tangible benefits of decreased inter-team email and increased levels of collaboration, but it also brought the team closer. It was common for our Slack channels to light up over the weekend as team members shared their weekend plans, client projects, or just shared a virtual drink with one another.

Can this constant this connectivity lead to information overload, employee burnout, or blur the lines among a leader and his/her followers? These can be potential downsides of the tool. In addition, because users can set up new, private channels, there is the possibility that the tool can be used to fuel rumor mills and water cooler gossip. But a leader faces these challenges in both the virtual and real world. The key is for the leader to provide a forum for addressing these issues before the run amok.

Given the benefits and drawbacks of Slack, with great confidence, I still profess: I am totally a “Slack”er!

Flat, Spiky or Somewhere in between: The World is Still Round to Me

Thomas Friedman (2007) makes a compelling case for the flattening of the world in his book; however, given the current levels of connectivity in the world, I claim that it is still round and becoming rounder by the day. When one reflects on their contacts and relationships, these are often visually displayed as interlocking circles and spheres. It is where and how these circles overlap and collide is where the While Friedman provides a solid argument for why this should redefine the world as flat, what has happened in an elimination of geographic, socioeconomic and racial barriers. Today these circles bring Muslims and Christians, Americans and Europeans, and rich and poor together through the use of digital tools. Tools which are now available to nearly everyone in the world. If not right now, then in the very near future.

Richard Florida (2005) argued that the world is not flat but describes it as spiky. These spikes are created through the lens of economic prosperity and population density. Globalization requires that countries and regions are connected with one another to thrive and remain competitive. Florida’s spiky interpretation goes a bit down a rabbit hole as the spikes of the world decrease based on the lens through which he observes. His final map with the least spikes that define scientific discoveries provides a very limited view and disregards the reliance of turning scientific discovery into mass market products and services. For this to happen, the discoveries must rely on the globalization to become adopted by mainstream consumers.


So, the world is round because of the vast connections that have been created through the ten forces that made the world flat for Friedman, such as infrastructure, globalization, and people to provide and share the content. A great example of this info sharing comes from the many TEDx events held throughout the world and the vast library of these talks shared online. At the opening of TED2016, Astro Teller, Captain of Moonshots (CEO) of X, Alphabet’s moonshot factory for building ideas, described how his company is working to provide WiFi in the most remote places of the world—using balloons. X allows for super geniuses to dream of the endless possibilities of science and technology. X also allows for the celebration of mistakes because without the mistakes, the dreams will not continue to thrive.

It is true, we are on the verge of creating the machine super intelligence as described by Nick Bostrom (2015). IBM’s Watson is currently working alongside physicians to diagnose and provide treatment options for cancer patients (2013). We still need the most important force that makes our world round, and that is people. People need to create the infrastructure, create the content, share the content, connect with others, dream and fail. That is why the world is round to me.