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March in Review

Had a really busy March, which included a lot of travel, milestones and changes. So let’s start from the top!

Weekend in AZ: Where I learned hiking is not for the weak

A few of my favorite colleagues and I had the opportunity to attend Kurt Warner’s Ultimate Fan Experience at the beginning of the month. I will fully admit to completely geeking out while I mingled with Kurt, Drew Bledsoe, Larry Fitzgerald, Christian Palmer, Philip Rivers, and others. Almost every single one of those football players were incredibly friendly. I had one real mission, which was to get a Chargers hat signed for my sister…thankfully Philip was willing and I could continue my reign as “most awesome of awesome big sisters” without much trouble.

Best sister award goes to me
Best sister award goes to me

On our last day, Lindsey, Suzy and I got up early to hike a nearby trail. Lindsey had done the trail with her family back in November, or so she said. Turns out we were on the “hard” side. So that was awesome. At one point we were scaling a wall more so than hiking.  We took a few moments at the top to throw up some yoga poses because that is what you do at the top of mountains and then headed back down. I could absolutely see myself taking up hiking if I ever lived in a place where that was readily accessible.

AZ was a great "work" break
AZ was a great “work” break

My bestie gets engaged

The following weekend, I was back in freezing cold temperatures as my best friend ran the NYC Half Marathon. Her boyfriend (now fiance) planned a proposal at the finish line and asked us all to be there as part of the surprise…which continued into a surprise engagement party. We have traditions to uphold and each one of us has had the opportunity to celebrate our engagements with each other almost immediately. It is nice having those “major milestone moment” friends.

Standard "OMG she's engaged" picture
Standard “OMG she’s engaged” picture

I am convinced to run NYC Marathon 

While in NYC, surrounded by my biffles the peer pressure to actually sign up for the marathon reached an all time high. After discussing with the hubby, I finally took the plunge and signed up for the race. I am in training prep mode right now, which means I am building up my miles so that this summer I don’t injure myself. Amazingly, now that I am running three times a week again, I can’t imagine what I was so anxious about. Oh mind barriers.

The move is almost done 

We said good-bye to D.C. on Monday, and cashed in our one way tickets to Florida. This was of course after one last snow storm (seriously Winter??). I am currently enjoying working remotely outside(!!!!), running in shorts, and wearing flip flops (hello, pretty toes!). We move into the new place on Friday, and honestly can’t wait to just be settled already.


Having One of Those Weeks

I’m having one of those weeks. You know the kind where no matter how hard you push yourself (in work and in life) you don’t feel like you are crossing off anything on your to-do list?

This is where my head is at right now
This is where my head is at right now


I knew the weeks leading up to April were going to be rough. I have a client expecting a decision from the FDA very shortly and another who just launched a new app. The fact that my to-do list can’t seem to have a beautiful pink line drawn through it is making me beyond anxious. That lack of lines make me feel like nothing has been accomplished though I know we are making progress.

New motivational computer background? Probably
New motivational computer background? Probably

I’ve been forcing myself to  break for exercise, but other things are slipping like my nutrition. No seriously, the other day I had a bag of edamame for lunch at 4pm and dinners are well past the normal eating time. Knowing my anxiety level is starting to hit supernova level I decided to take my rest day and turn it into a yoga day. I could only get in 40 minutes before my brain told me I couldn’t continue, that I needed to get other stuff done.

I hate that. I just want to be able to relax at night and sleep. God, I would love some uninterrupted sleep. The time change (though I love having more daylight at night) has really wrecked me.

So yeah, it is one of those weeks where I just want it to be over.

I Don’t Find The Time to Exercise, I Make It

This week has been rough with work and something had to give….and it wasn’t going to be exercising because if I have learned anything about myself, it is that I need to exercise especially in times of high stress.

So since I put blog writing on the back burner this week; here are some inspiring “you can do it” fitness quotes. These have been my mantra all week.20 min one hour


invincible impt meetings

Exercise=More Excited and Enthusiastic Laney

The last two weeks have been one of those weeks where I am too stressed to function at life. Here’s an image for that…I am pretty sure the only thing that got me to change my clothing was the fact that I had to go into the office. It was an effort picking out clothes (more so than usual).

This type of week also means that my workouts typically are the first thing to go in favor of sleep, especially on the weekends. Then I saw the recent study from Penn State University, which found active people were more enthusiastic and excited! (The use of exclamation is a demonstration of my enthusiasm brought on from being active.)

The study also found that the positive feelings were especially evident on the same day they exercised. So, when I had to work the weekend I decided that I wasn’t giving up my workout–particularly because my new favorite obsession, Revolve, had a special Spring Break Boot Camp that was calling my name.

One of the reasons I love Revolve is because they jump right in to the workout. They don’t waste time and you are immediately feeling the burn during your warm-up.

Serious determination here, and we are in the first part of the ride

The partnership between Christianne and Grant was pretty rocking. Since they both have music backgrounds their selections are spot on when it comes to the transitions, speed work and climbs.  This ride had the total body aspect, which I find seriously awesome because it forces me to concentrate even harder. Keeping your legs moving while doing bicep curls is a lot harder than it sounds.  Did I mention that the 2 lb weights had my arms burning?

This is a LOT harder than it looks

By the end of the ride, my legs were crying and I was dripping in sweat (though I didn’t win the wet T-shirt contest). When I got home I easily plowed through my work and was able to enjoy a relaxing Sunday evening.

To cap off the Spring Break ride we even had shots (of green stuff, chased with orange stuff)


Can you be a leader and a manager?

Tomorrow I am attending a session sponsored by PRSSA-NCC on moving from PR Manager to PR Leader. I thought it would be interesting to provide my pre-workshop thoughts….

Management vs. leadership–it’s a distinction we all hear over and over these days. They are not the same, but must go hand in hand for a group to succeed. The question is can you do both?

Management focuses on getting work done on time, on budget, and on target. Management is in other words execution, while leadership focuses on change and innovation.

A few years ago management actually included leadership–along with motivating, planning. communicating, organizing– as one  of the many functions necessary to make groups of people productive.

One could argue that in the agency world you go through stages of being both a manager and a leader.

You can akin a manager to a very strong Senior Account Executive who works with the team to stay on track and deliver on the plan outlined. They are often asked for input and in some cases have the opportunity to develop the plan themselves.

As you move into the Account Supervisor role, you are still executing but at this point have given much of the tracking to more junior level staff and are heading toward the designing stage, the innovation. With the innovation and strategic vision becoming more important as you continue to move up.

Of course, in agency world EVERYONE is responsible for delivering the goods and doing it on time and within the budget. At some point everyone is still the manager. It really comes down to HOW you manage that determines whether you are a leader.

Creative Mornings

Last week a Facebook friend posted the below video. It’s the full talk given by Ben Chestnut, CEO and co-founder of MailChimp.com, to a group at the Piedmont Park Conservancy in Atlanta. It’s a long video, but it was the slow weeks of December so I was able to watch the whole thing.

2011/12 Creative Mornings with Ben Chestnut from CreativeMornings/Atlanta on Vimeo.

Chestnut believes there is a great difference between “doing what you love” and “loving what you do.” His example: if you love to bake and you open a bakery eventually the business part of it is going to suck all the loving out of baking. (He said it more eloquently.)

“It’s not about doing what you love, but loving what you do. Love what you do, be really good at it, and success will find you.”

Instead of getting hung up on the “dream job,” sometimes you just have to look right in front of you and make the most of it. Create projects that drive you.

Ben sets up a work environment where this can happen. As a manager he has to embrace the chaos to get the best work out of his employees.

The culture of giving people “permission to be creative,” has been one of the keys to MailChimp’s success. In fact, the company often finds “Easter eggs” in its own website design because of this.  In the tech world, an Easter egg is a practical joke or a hidden bit of content that gets included in the finished product, and they are so named because users have to search for them.

Below is an excerpt from the Fast Company article, Chestnut’s 5 Rules for a Creative Culture

1. Avoid rules. Avoid order. Don’t just embrace chaos, but create a little bit of it. Constant change, from the top-down, keeps people nimble and flexible (and shows that you want constant change).

2. Give yourself and your team permission to be creative. Permission to try something new, permission to fail, permission to embarrass yourself, permission to have crazy ideas.

3. Hire weird people. Not just the tattoo’d and pierced-in-strange-places kind, but people from outside your industry who would approach problems in different ways than you and your normal competitors.

4. Meetings are a necessary evil, but you can avoid the conference room and meet people in the halls, the water cooler, or their desks. Make meetings less about delegation and task management and more about cross-pollination of ideas (especially the weird ideas). This is a lot harder than centralized, top-down meetings. But this is your job — deal with it.

5. Structure your company to be flexible. Creativity is often spontaneous, so the whole company needs to be able to pivot quickly and execute on them (see #1).

Finally Answering the Feedback Question

One of the hallmarks of a millenial is that we don’t take feedback very well.  We roll our eyes, stare blankly at the person or just flat out don’t listen. And when someone asks how we would prefer to get feedback there is no response. Literally we can’t articulate what they want.

Over generalization? Yes, but think about it feedback or constructive criticism is judgement no matter the word choice. It is a threat to the way others see our value. Trying to answer that question may be easier if we think less about what is being said and more about how it is said.

Many managers see their success as a reflection of yours. This is great when you do something outstanding, but the same is felt when shortcomings are exposed. Anytime feedback is provided with the goal of getting someone to better meet a manager’s needs rather than being responsive to theirs, the outcomes will be less than desired. Managers are more likely to be reactive, insensitive and even hurtful.

Failing to hold the other person’s value makes it feel like an attack. The immediate response is then to defend, and not to absorb what you are hearing.

It makes more sense to think about offering feedback in an exploratory way–a honest inquiry and opportunity for learning for both people–with a careful eye to not be condescending.

Watch for things we do, and then comment “I noticed you did X, Y and Z to solve that problem and they worked really well”    Or, “I realize you are worrying about  X situation ,and I was thinking that if you tried  A, maybe it would work.”  In other words, confirm who we are when commenting specifically on good things, and don’t put suggestions in terms of something that we should do to correct a problem, but take the suggestion onto yourself (“I was thinking about”  instead of “you should do this”).  So when something is said, and it is in a couple of sentences, not a half hour lecture, you are more likely to absorb and learn!

Defying the Odds, Tim Tebow Style

So we all know I am a HUGE Tim Tebow fan. There is just no love lost once you meet him, shake his hand, and watch him take your university to two National Championships. A lot of what makes Tim such an impressive player is his determination. He knows he has weaknesses, but he works so hard to make up for those that people want to help him succeed.

Here’s the thing his determination is a start, but he is only part of the equation. The fact that his head coach and coaching staff have made adjustment in the game plane to take advantage of his strengths makes the success possible.

A recent blog post by Scott Eblin at The Next Level, discussed how this thinking can be applied to the workplace and I wanted to share.

Ignore Conventional Wisdom—the NFL says no one runs the spread option offense; but Denver is adjusting its offense to include it. Eblin recommends looking for the “we’ve always done it this ways” and then asking yourself what are we missing out on because of that conventional thinking?

Understand Your Tebow’s Strengths and Keep Adjusting—Tebow is not a classic NFL passer, great runner and a fast decision maker and an amazing leader. His coaches are making adjustments to play to his strengths and compensate for his weaknesses. Eblin says you have to commit to paying attention to coach your Tebow through the adjustments.

Be Clear About What You’re Really Trying to Accomplish—Tim doesn’t win pretty, in fact it’s not until “Tebow Time” (the last few minutes of the game) that he even wins the game. Something that really struck home for me was this:

“It’s a lot of work and can be heartburn inducing to make the changes you need to make to accommodate a Tebow. Fox and Elway appear to have crossed that bridge. They’re in it to win the game too. When you’re thinking through how to get the most from your Tebows, don’t forget about what you’re really trying to accomplish. Connect their development with the bigger goal.”

Five weeks after getting his opportunity the Broncos are 5 and 5, 4 and 1 with Tebow at the helm.  One case study, but a heck of a way to demonstrate that you can get a whole lot if you are willing to adjust.

Should I Stay Or Should I Go Now

I’m one of those people that works late. I typically start my day (even when I was working IN the office) no later than 8:20 a.m. and often don’t get finish up until after 7:30 p.m. First off, let me say I am NOT complaining, it is the nature of my job, which I love.  Also,  while it is the norm for me, I can take a break and go to the gym if I want to.

The interesting fact is I am not the only one. A recent study suggests that nearly two-thirds of U.S. companies report that their employees have worked more hours in the past three years. Your new new normal becomes these extended hours.

I have to admit though, since I moved in with the hubby, working late has become a little harder than it used to be.

So what can you do to avoid the stay-late work pattern or at least avoid its negative consequences?

  1. Reflect on your goals–both professional and personal. Figure out what is important to you. I want to have a family, but I also don’t want to start that until I am well established in my profession. So if that means putting in the extra hours now, so be it.
  2. Talk about it at home. When J and I first started living together he was still in school. It was a little different, now that we are both working, both striving to further our careers it makes a difference.
  3. Open up a dialogue at work. I am lucky enough to work for a company that appreciates work-life balance. They believe in divvying up the work to make sure not one person is stuck there every night


Managing Accounts as a Defensive Specialist

I’ve been a little MIA lately, between work exploding and wedding finalization I was just a wee-bit overwhelmed. During that time, I got a pep talk from a supervisor who I have to say has an uncanny ability to pick the right words and truly light a fire under you.  The pep talk got me thinking…

It’s a lot more noticeable now that I am remote when I get frustrated and down trodden my voice pretty much tells you.  I stick my head in the sand and just let it all wash over me. My supervisor hypothesized that this reaction was completely different from what I most likely used to do back when I was participating in team sports.

He was completely right. I didn’t hang my head in shame or defeat, I got back on the court and did what I needed to do to win.  What is it about mile-long to-do lists and ever changing client demands that sucks the fighting spirit out of me?

In truth my position on the volleyball court (I was a libero and defensive specialist) was not much different than my current position on my accounts. I was the person most likely to receive serves from the other team and the one responsible for setting up each play. Anticipating where the spike would land, and being there so the ball didn’t hit the floor. 

For me, hearing that analogy made something click. Yes, a lot of what happens on the accounts starts with me and my anticipation, but it isn’t all up to me. I make the initial pass and backup the rest of the team. The regroups and reviews aren’t opportunities to poke holes, they are finding weak spots so the ball doesn’t drop.

I actually hung up the phone not thinking someone was blowing smoke up my butt, but giving me the permission to push myself back up to where I need to be to win. It’s the first time in a while that I feel like I can actually look at and react to the situation differently.