Archive for the ‘Business’ category

Why I found a personal mission at work

August 13, 2019

This week I’m sharing something a little more personal than usual.

I work at a small nonprofit counseling center in Hawaii. My job involves a little bit of everything on the administration side, from client intake and billing to operations and marketing. Some days I feel exhausted by the routine tasks and overwhelmed by the things that need to be done.

Last year, I watched Simon Sinek’s TEDTalk, “Start with Why.” He emphasized that “People buy WHY do you it, not WHAT you do.” That was a turning point for me. I knew that to keep working with energy and enthusiasm, I needed to know WHY I was working.

Most businesses and organizations have a mission, and I needed a mission of my own – something that would reflect my values, goals, and priorities.

The organization’s mission is to serve clients. I serve more than just our clients – I also serve our counselors, board members, and donors, and I help them in different ways.

For clients, my goal is to make them feel welcome and find the right counselor for them. For counselors, my goal is to support them clinically and help them have a good work-life balance. For board members, my goal is to provide the information and support they need to make good decisions for the organization. And for donors and partners, my goal is to share how our mission is an extension of their mission.

At first, I didn’t know how to pull all of these needs together.

Then I realized that the common thread is people – and the connections between people.

My first personal mission was something like this: I connect clients with a counselor who fits their needs, so they feel accepted and supported. I help our counselors connect with each other and their families, so they feel supported and have a good work-life balance. I connect board members with the organization, so they can make good decisions to serve the community. I connect the organization with the community, so we can help where the need is greatest.

As the months went by, I distilled my personal mission into this: At heart, I help people make connections with each other and the community.

Having a personal mission really helped me clarify the reasons I go to work every day (and it’s not just for a paycheck). It helps me make decisions, prioritize my time, and keeps me going through setbacks.

It even extends to my family, helping me focus on family connections when work spills over into evenings and weekends.

Do you have a personal mission at work? How did you find your WHY? Has it changed over the years?


Emerging technologies in fishing

July 2, 2019

My husband is an avid fisherman. I am not; I get seasick even on calm waters. One night, he told me about the 2019 Fishers Forum, part of the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council meeting. I rushed home from work and we attended the Forum.

I thought that the evening would only be about fishing techniques, gear, and fishing stories, and I was completely wrong. The forum agenda was Fishing in the Future: Emerging Technologies in Fisheries.  All of the presenters shared something new and interesting about fishing, for fishermen and land-lovers.

Releasing bycatch safely. Caleb McMahan of Hawaiian Fresh Seafood shared his path to designing a device to cut wire line (not just filament), so that bycatch (the fish or other marine species that are unintentionally caught, such as sharks, sea turtles, and dolphins) can be released unharmed. His prototype is still in development, but it was interesting to take a peek at the design and engineering process. He stressed the requirements of safety (no damage to the user, the boat, or the marine life), affordability (one prototype cost $3,000), and effectiveness (cutting through the wire, with minimal trailing gear), as well as evidence that the bycatch survive the interaction via a satellite tag.

Using drones to harvest fish more efficiently. Local fishermen Carl and Matt Jellings talked about the how drone technology has impacted the way they fish. In the past, they would climb a mountain or charter an airplane to spot schools of akule. Today, a drone can provide accurate, real-time video of the size of the school, the position of the boat, and even the ground (sand, rock, or coral) beneath the school. Carl and Matt showed amazing drone video from a Mavic 2 of their boat driving in circles through a school of akule. “A lot of it is still the old way… a lot of skill involved, a lot of hard work,” they said. “We go out less but we produce the same.”

Connecting fishermen with an app. Jim Hori and Ed Watamura introduced the free Lokahi Fishing App. The app connects fishermen to fish by providing all the weather-related information they need in one place (wind, weather, tides, moon phases) and giving them a way to record catch reports. It also connects fishermen to other fishermen, by offering alerts about news, events, and fishing-related legislation; sharing tips and videos from expert fishermen; and offering safety/mayday options to connect other app users in case of an emergency. * Must be in cell-phone range *

Researching bottomfish with 360 cameras. Ruhul Amin of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center highlighted three new technologies in bottomfish research: the Modular Optical Underwater Survey System (MOUSS), which can identify the count, species, and size of bottomfish; the Moana 360 Degree Camera System, which can provide 360 degree, 15 minute digital video at a depth of 300 meters; and early research into eDNA, a process to take water samples at bottomfish depth to determine which bottomfish have passed through the area.

Global Fishing Watch, United States Exclusive Economic Zone (Hawai‘i), one month ending June 26, 2019

Tracking fish and fisheries for ocean management. Tim White of Global Fishing Watch discussed how satellite tracking, combined with observer data on fishing vessels, can help us better manage our fisheries. Using electronic tagging, researches can track individual marine animals for up to one year. Using the Automated Identification System (AIS), researchers and governments can track commercial fishing patterns, monitor restricted fishing zones, and identify global trench shipment activity (when fishing vessels offload their catch to refrigeration vessels, and then continue to fish). This was the most controversial presentation of the evening, with attendees expressing concern about sharing proprietary information (fishing spots), questioning the availability of the data (maps are free and there is a three day delay), and challenging how this technology will be used responsibly. Tim stated, “We are very soon going to live in a world where we can see the whole planet every day.”

Technology is helping us fish more effectively, improving the way we manage marine resources, keeping us safer on the ocean, and giving us more time doing things that matter.

Do you enjoy shoreline or ocean fishing? Are there other technologies that you think will change commercial and recreational fishing?

Saying yes to more

June 25, 2019

If you’ve been reading Better Hawaii, you may remember that last year, I accepted a new position at my organization. At the time, I was doing many of the tasks already, but I wasn’t sure whether I was ready to actually take responsibility for them. I’m a behind-the-scenes person, and this job meant I would be out in front.

I said “yes” because the company needed me, and also because I found myself thinking of the book “Do Hard Things” by then-teenagers Alex and Brett Harris. At odd times, their words spur me to step outside of my comfort zone.

For anyone who feels like they have to “fake it until you make it,” I want to share some of the changes I chose to make after that first “yes” – and what happens when you start saying “yes” to other things.

Yes to more learning. I’m a planner and a list-maker, so saying yes feels like running in the dark, over uneven ground littered with sharp rocks. To feel more comfortable about the new job, I read books from the library and took free online classes. Most online learning is self-directed, so you decide how much effort you put into them. The extra learning helped me gain confidence. It also kept me busy, so I didn’t have time for second thoughts.

Yes to more invitations. One morning, a woman called and invited me to speak to her group. As if I were listening to another person, I heard myself say “yes.” When I hung up, I was a little horrified. But I relearned a great tip: tell yourself that you’re excited, not nervous. The butterflies and racing heart are exactly the same, but your mindset is completely different. So I told myself (a lot) that I was excited. Another day, I was invited to a fundraising dinner that I would usually not attend, and I had an amazing time meeting people and being part of an inspiring evening.

Yes to more opportunities. My way to open myself to new opportunities, for my organization and myself, was to say a personal mantra a few times a week (or whenever I needed a boost). I chose words that remind me that I want to help my organization become more successful and I want to feel that I am giving back to our community. “I open myself to the world,” I would say with arms arching overhead. “I share myself with the world,” I say with arms circling forward. I can’t claim that my mantra makes good things happen, but I can say that I feel more appreciative when good things happen – when we receive an unexpected contribution, when the office chairs I needed where donated to us, when the right people ask to join us as staff or volunteers.

Yes to more time for myself. It’s easy to say “yes” to too many things, and sometimes I wasn’t as selective in the opportunities I accepted. I found myself overwhelmed and stressed. I realized that I had stopped doing a creative hobby that I really enjoy. So I made time to do it. After an evening at the studio, I felt more relaxed and more cheerful, connecting with friends who share a similar passion.

How do you respond to new opportunities and challenges? When was the last time you stepped out of your comfort zone?

Trust, taking risks, and leadership

June 18, 2019

When I first started working at a small nonprofit organization, my job came with a lot of trust. No one clocked my hours or looked over my shoulder at what I was doing. I hadn’t earned that trust; it was given to me, mine to keep – or lose.

The trust was necessary, because I was handling all the day-to-day operations.

With that trust cane an unspoken choice: I could do the day-to-day job, to ensure that the organization ran smoothly. Or I could take risks and do what needed to be done to ensure that the organization grew. Both choices are good choices.

I chose to take a few risks. But to take risks and make changes, I needed to build trust within our organization.

Take time to build trust.

The best way I could think of to build trust was with communication. I became committed to giving people the information they need to do their jobs and make good decisions. It started with creating readable monthly reports for board members, sending updates and educational events to staff, and sharing good news with everyone.

One day, someone replied, “Awww. I needed to hear that today!” It was like a mirror-effect — I felt happy that I could brighten her day. Another day, someone raved, “I love my profession.”

Do what you say you’ll do.

People started coming to me with their problems. I could choose to think of them as complaints, or I could choose to think of them as people who want to make improvements in the organization – and who trusted me to try to fix things.

If I could help them, I did. If I couldn’t help them, I explained why and suggested options or gave them a timeframe for when I could tackle the project. Sometimes I tried to teach them to do things themselves, not just to save my time, but to show that I trust and respect their abilities.

Lead by listening.

People need to feel that they are contributing in meaningful ways, and I needed to trust that people knew their own strengths. I started listening to what staff and board members said is important to them, so that I could find ways they could help the organization that fit their interests and skills.

Looking back, I was working toward a definition of leadership that involves identifying common goals, helping your team gain the confidence and resources to achieve them, and trusting your team to lead.

Do you trust your leaders at work, in the community, and in government? Do you feel that they trust you?

Great friendships at work

May 21, 2019

“Members of the good-to-great teams tended to become and remain friends for life,” Jim Collins wrote in “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t” (2001).

He was writing about the importance of finding the right people for your organization, and added this observation the last two paragraphs of the chapter. It’s not even highlighted as a “key point,” but I think it’s an important insight.

Our co-workers don’t need to be our friends, but it helps when we are. We spend so much of the day with our co-workers, and sometimes evenings and weekends too.

Looking back over the years, some of my co-workers became strong friends. We share similar interests and a similar commitment to our jobs. And some of our most personal moments involved sharing a meal.

At one job, four of us played golf together almost every weekend, starting as beginners and improving together. We played nine holes at sunset or made day trips to local courses on Saturdays.

At another job, a co-worker became one of my best friends. We ate together, met on weekends, and I even helped to teach her to swim.

“Friends are wonderful to have,” my then 11-year old son wrote. “Friends are people who can help you and who you can rely on… You do not need to have friends, but it is more fun if you have people who can keep you company.”

Recently, two co-workers and I volunteered for a charity walk. We walked together and then ate lunch under a tree, listening to music.

Collins stated, “If we spend the vast majority of our time with people we love and respect – people we really enjoy being on the bus with and who will never disappoint us – then we will almost certainly have a great life.”

Who are your closest friends? Do you have co-workers who are your friends? How easy or hard is it for you to make new friends?

A better work-life balance

May 7, 2019

Working for a growing nonprofit, I struggle with balancing the things I should do, but can’t do within a “normal” workday; and taking work home. Sometimes it means that my work-life balance is more work than home, and that’s okay – but only if it’s an occasional thing. It’s not okay if it becomes the new normal.

Taking work home is easier than ever because technology and social media are 24/7. It has an even greater impact on millennials, because this is the world they grew up in.

So I was really interested to attend a panel discussion about “Millennial Work/Life Balance” at the Hawai‘i Book and Music Festival last weekend.

Moderated by comedian Pashyn Santos, the discussion centered on how panelists “escape” from social media, their favorite “failure” story, and some of the initiatives that companies are doing to create a better work-life balance.

Psychiatrist Sonia Patel shared that she is no longer on social media at all. She stressed the importance of having structure outside of social media, like getting enough sleep and healthy meals. We have to learn to be advocates for ourselves and our time.

Clinical psychologist Jeff Stern suggested that we use social media as a reward after completing a task or achievement, rather than using it as an escape or avoidance. We need to learn to manage our time, or companies will try to manage it for us. He wondered if companies will start requiring employees to leave their phones at the door.

Stern mentioned an intriguing idea: some companies are offering a pre-cation, a vacation before the first day of work as a way to give employees breathing space before starting a new job.

Jade Snow of Jade Snow Media admitted that “I only realized my [social media] addiction when I experienced burnout and reminded us that we need to set healthy boundaries. She said that we need to appreciate being with people in the moment, and then be more intentional about the time we spend on social media. We should practice gratitude and surround ourselves with people who are like-minded.

Snow speculated that perhaps we are not looking for a work-life balance, but a work-life integration. The goal is to incorporate healthy practices into our daily lives.

KHON2 TV personality Mikey Moniz stated that we need to stop comparing ourselves with who we think we should be. “Have a strong group of friends,” he said. “You become who you surround yourself with.” Moniz added that when going out to eat, he and his friends are trying something new: they put their cell phones in the middle of the table, and the first person who touches their phone has to pay the bill.

Is social media a “reward” or an “escape” for you? Do you think about work at home and think about home at work?

What do you love doing most?

February 19, 2019

A few months ago, I was struggling with an unexpected job offer – one with more responsibilities and more risk. But something was holding me back.

I was reading Adam Braun’s “The Promise of a Pencil” (2014) and he wrote about starting every conversation with potential volunteers by asking the question, “What do you love doing most?”

The question, asked at just the right time, made me realize that this new job would challenge me and take me out of my comfort zone. It could take me away from doing what I really enjoy or it could be an opportunity to see what else I might enjoy doing.

I looked back at all the jobs I’ve had and all the volunteering I’ve done, and I can see how I’ve gravitated to the parts of the job that fill me with enthusiasm.

Just out of school, I stumbled into marketing, which let me put my love of writing to good use in brochures, manuals, and press releases. I followed that path into direct mail, sales presentations, and trade shows. Each move game me the freedom to be more creative.

We don’t always have the luxury of doing what we love, but I try to make sure that what I do fits with what I value most in life. Values stay with me much longer than a job title or an employer.

Valuing family and home, I moved back to Hawaii, though I had a creative and rewarding job. And living in Hawaii has made me open to other creative and rewarding opportunities.

Valuing art, creativity, and education, I volunteered for a children’s art project, school fundraisers, and after-school classes.

Valuing kindness and compassion, I now work for a nonprofit counseling center, changing career paths entirely.

While I don’t enjoy paperwork, operations, and administration, I’m good at it. I do it so that I can do what I love: writing something new, designing something compelling, and being part of something that makes a difference.

Did I take the new job? Yes! I accepted the job on an interim basis. I’m still figuring out how to keep the parts that I enjoy, and delegate or contract out the parts that need to be done (not necessarily by me).

But I’m glad I took that risk. I think that I’m right where I need to be.

What one thing do you love most about job? What work would you do even if you didn’t get paid to do it?