#CollectiveWisdom: Lather, Rinse & (Maybe Not Always) Repeat

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Joanne Worden is a believer that work matters and “work is good” – she should know; she’s been an HR executive for most of her career. She is also an alumna of The Collective. You can learn more about her via LinkedInJoanne

I’ve been working since I was 16 years old (and before that, if you count babysitting and odd jobs). For the most part, I’ve loved – or at least liked – every job I’ve had. I found each one sort of fascinating in its own quirky way, and through each position I learned, grew, accomplished, built relationships and, of course, spent some amount of time banging my head against the proverbial wall. Even the experiences that put bumps on my head taught me something – the importance of knowing yourself, knowing the environment, being realistic, and figuring out if the job is a good fit.

And so, for years and years, I was on what I called the ‘lather, rinse, repeat’ cycle.

You get up, you show up, you do your best. Promotions and new projects come your way. You meet wonderful people, and you meet some asshats. If you wise up along the journey, you learn to appreciate the former and manage the latter.

I was fortunate. I had way more good bosses than bad, and colleagues who were patient and kind and giving of their time and talents. We did cool things, we won awards, we got shit done. . . with lots of laughs and, yes, a few tears along the way.

And then, like that (at least that’s what it felt like), I was done. I had the opportunity in the fall of 2015 to take a very lucrative ‘package’ from the company I had been employed with for five years. I weighed all the options carefully and decided it was a good time to pack my boxes and go.

But then what? I figured out pretty quickly that I wasn’t ready to ‘sit’ – and, in fact, chances are good that I never will be. Work and working is woven into my DNA, and I doubt I can be content to be a ‘lady who lunches’. However, I do recognize that I want my second – and third – acts to be meaningful and focused, with the ability to ‘do some good’.

Enter my time in the Collective. Getting connected to this wonderful group of smart, talented, open-minded and open-hearted folks is one of the best things I’ve ever done, personally and professionally.

I was able to bring my semi-blank canvas to our meetings each week and talk to the group about what colors I thought I wanted to paint with. I got lots of affirmation about being sure to use the ‘greens and blues’ that interest me and that are my strengths, and also great ideas about potentially blending those colors to form some new shades. I’m finding out that purple is indeed a beautiful color that belongs on my palette. And while others in the group were so helpful to me, I felt that I could be helpful to them in return. By offering advice at times, simply by listening at others.

The Collective taught me that simply lathering and rinsing is enough – and repeating, without intention can actually be pretty black and white.

I’d rather live a colorful life, creating new and exploring – career adventures and otherwise. One where my story can be of service to others, continuing on March 7 at the Life of Yes Storytelling Showcase – the culmination of my storytelling class with Mac & Cheese Productions. Join me, join us and share yours!

Staying Stuck or Moving Forward

Posted by on 10:10 am in Psychology, Strategy, Uncategorized | 0 comments

During this month, The Collective explored the topic of “moving forward” – we looked at how we are motivated, the pro’s and con’s of making a decision, and reflecting on our progress. Just as moving forward is important, we are also big fans of reflection. Taking stock of where your mind and your body is important. During our “tuning in”, what continues to pop up? Are there barriers in your life that make you feel…stuck? What does moving forward look like for you right now?

Erika Anderson, the author of Growing Great Employees, Being Strategic, Leading So People Will Follow, provides insight on how great leaders have had success with moving people forward. According to her, they are key ways of keeping a company or team motivated which include:

  • Don’t indulge in distractions
  • Recognize your impact
  • Remove obstacles
  • Encourage enthusiasm
  • Support conclusions

Sometimes knowing where to start is difficult. In a TED Talk from Dr. Lani Nelson Zlupko we get to see an inspiring and relatable picture of staying stuck or moving forward. Being a founder of LNZ Consulting and Adjunct Associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania certainly gives her some experience in the art of problem solving.

Are you ready? There is no better time than now to “Get on the arrow” as Dr. Nelson Zlupko would suggest.

We’ve enjoyed exploring similar career-building elements this month within The Collective. Adding a powerful community to your process only increases your potential for success – and there isn’t any direction more rewarding and more freeing than, well, forward!

The Most Important Research Project: You

Posted by on 11:50 am in Collective, Finding Your Mission | 0 comments


The opinions on how you should start your day for “maximum results” and “increased productivity” are vast and varied. . . some may even be helpful. Whether the advice is “avoid the snooze” or “drink water right away” it can be hard to sift through all the recommendations to find one that really makes an impact. . . for you.

So, we’ll keep it simple and suggest something we’ve offered and observed has an impact with the hundreds of people who have come through our programs:

Tomorrow, start your day with an intention (Source: Huffington Post) – and end your day with a reflection.

Lately, we have been asking participants in Crain’s Academy and other F5 leadership programs about journaling:

Do you do it? Have you ever done it? And who cares?

Astoundingly few do. And most aren’t sure why it matters.

Well, it matters – to your ability to be successful and move forward (Source: Harvard Business Review).

You are the most important research project of your life, so knowing what your intention is and reflecting on how you lived it out day to day gives you a lot of data to pull from to make better career and life decisions.

intentionSo what is an intention and how is it different (Source: TED* Works!) than your goals?  

  • It’s present focused (today) versus future-focused
  • It’s a lived experience versus a destination
  • It’s internally driven, versus externally

If you begin with an intention you can reflect at the end of the day how you lived it out. If you wanted to “Remain open, flexible and kind with all people” or “Stay in learning and avoid judging” and you felt you didn’t live it out, don’t be too hard on yourself. Living out an intention takes a lot of practice and in research, sometimes experiments fail.

Involve community in your intention setting and increase your chances of “coming back to center,” making better decisions and being more successful throughout the day. The Collective and Crain’s Academy are great communities to join as you conduct your research! 

Introducing Josh Johnson, Marketing and Growth Coordinator

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I’m no stranger to change and adaptation. I’ve experienced many typical life “curve balls” and I’ve never been happier than current state:

Continuing to try on as many “hats” as possible to find one that fits – or maybe quite a few, knowing me.

Breathing into the importance of self-awareness, the value of wisdom, and regular reflection is becoming more of a routine for me these day – AND I will always have the need to  strive to be better.

From my experience in retail, I’ve had the opportunity to work alongside inspiring individuals who have just graduated high school. By supervising them, I quickly saw myself showing signs of multiple passions and strengths while developing my managerial skills.

My path in retail earned me a few promotions and, more importantly,  helped me ultimately gain an understanding about the difference between management and leadership.

While my work life flourished, my urge to finish college was still really important. I made the decision to step down from my position in 2014 and finish my final two years at Columbia College Chicago, graduating last month with a BA in Music Business Management with a focus in marketing. Throughout my life, I’ve been known to many as a “musical individual,” growing up and participating in district and state level choirs. By the end of my high school education, I began diving into music production and working with local musicians in Chicago.

Returning back to school a couple of years ago opened up my eyes to new opportunities. My career journey has helped me learn to embrace change and possibility as the only way to move forward and it’s from that realization that I was so excited to get the opportunity to work with Flank 5 Academy as their Marketing and Growth Coordinator. May my own growth continue!

Don’t Hoard Your Self-Awareness

Posted by on 12:25 pm in Collective, Finding Your Mission, Strategy | 0 comments

It’s become a month of visioning within our community, from our current Collective small group to our large group experiences, folks are ready to stop “just plowing ahead” and want to find an intentional and guided path forward on their career journey.

And we love it.

If you’ve been around these parts long enough, you know that Flank 5 Academy is all about starting with self-awareness as a way to get to a vision, an ideal future, a way of working that is aligned with who you are – the stuff that yields that juicy long-term happiness (hint: you’ve got to have a higher purpose) versus the pleasure-inducing short-lived happiness (quick hits of success, accolades or experiences)

Self-awareness being shared at October's (RE)CONNECT event.

Self-awareness being shared at October’s (RE)CONNECT event. (Photo credit: Maureen Kennedy, Collective alumna)

But it’s not enough to be self-aware – and while journaling is a great place to start – the real clarity comes from sharing what you learn about your core ideology and your ideal future with others.

Chade-Meng Tau, Google engineer, self-described Jolly Good Fellow and co-founder of Google’s Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute agrees: “Values and higher purpose are fairly abstract topics and the act of verbalizing them forces us to make them clearer and more tangible to ourselves.”

Getting clear is critical. To get started on your own vision, we invite you to start with a method Tau offers in his (charming and incredibly accessible) book, Search Inside Yourself. Start with the question, “What do I stand for?” What are those core values that drive you – that motivate you – that are non-negotiable in your work? Make a list. Check it twice, and check it against your activities day to day. If you value justice, how are you exhibiting this value on an average Tuesday?

And if you’re not, would you like to? How could you take it upon yourself to introduce it into your orbit?

Stanford’s Graduate School of Business offers great worksheets to take this a step further too.  

Once you’ve done some cataloguing, why not ask others – then – “What do I stand for?” See if there’s alignment – see if there’s something you might be missing, or if you’ve got too much on your list (a list of six is easier than a list of three). Share what you’ve come up with – and what ideas may spark as a result of sharing.

Once you’ve done this, you’re on your way to your ideal future (disclaimer: one with a higher purpose, not one where you’re happy all the time).

What Have You Always Wanted? + Idea Potluck

Posted by on 5:27 pm in Events, Finding Your Mission, Psychology | 0 comments

Last night, CEO Emily Drake got the opportunity to be a “dish” at Chicago’s infamous Idea Potluck monthly series, curated and hosted by Mac & Cheese Productions.

From their web site: “Idea Potluck is about ideas rather than food, bringing together a diverse array of pre-selected people who each get six minutes to share whatever they’d like to share. As an audience member, you sit back, absorb, and enjoy! You DO NOT present. Relaxed, fun way to meet others, learn, and be entertained.”

Look at all these cool DIshes? Click on the photo to learn ALL about them. (Photo Credit: Mac & Cheese Productions)

Look at all these cool Dishes? Click on the photo to learn ALL about them. (Photo credit: Mac & Cheese Productions)

So many people in the Flank 5 Academy orbit are looking for community in the career, or as leaders – as high-achievers redefining success. We’re passionate about that pursuit and asking the tough questions.  Click above to hear Emily’s share, where she asks:

“What have you always wanted? Give yourself the gift – whatever it is. What are you waiting for?”

Emily’s answer looks something like this, and arrives in time for Halloween:

Cue the awe. Photo credit: Dutch Acres Labradors.

Cue the awe. Photo credit: Dutch Acres Labradors.

We often procrastinate that which does not have a deadline – and that which we want most. Because it’s big – on risk and possibility. So that you’ve always wanted something and don’t have it is OK, and it may be just there on the other side of fear.

If you want to get inspired and meet incredibly cool people, register here to attend the last Idea Potluck of the year on October 18!

Why We Need Permission

Posted by on 2:51 pm in Uncategorized | 0 comments


It’s been proven: People are happier after making a major change.

And yet, the list of “things you’ve always wanted to do” (i.e. the major changes) tends to be much longer than the “things you’ve done.” The NY Times’ Carl Richards calls this The Permission Gap.

In the context of career, we believe this correlates strongly with the things you choose to do (i.e. “I’m going to quit my job and use my time to get reconnected to who I am and find a great fit”) versus the things that happen to you (i.e. “The phone rang, and the job was more money and a better title, so I took it!”). The choices are MUCH scarier than having “permission granted” to make a change.

So what’s the hold up? Fear, you say? Absolutely! Terror even. But, according to Dr. Steven Levitt, co-author of Freakonomics, “People who aren’t sure about uprooting their lives probably should. As a basic rule of thumb, people are too cautious when it comes to making change.”

We talk a lot about this caution in The Collective. And last week we addressed the idea of how much easier it is to make a change when you get permission – from someone else and better still, from yourself. Everyone came to the room telling each other, “I need permission to focus on myself” or “I need permission to say no to a client.” Permission was granted freely by the group; we were delighted, in fact, to give it. . . but that may only be where it starts.”

As leaders and in our careers the stakes are even higher.

Richards says, “Seeking approval and external validation is part of the human experience, but when it comes to making a big life change, they can be hard to find. . . if you get bogged down looking for that affirmation to make a change, you may never make it.” Beth Comstock, Vice Chairwoman of G.E. recently shared the same sentiment.

So, the magic wands at Flank 5 Academy are happy to give you permission – to quit your job, ask for a promotion, step out into the world of freelancing – but really, we’re waiting on you. . . to give yourself the same gift. You deserve it, we and Richards say!

Yes, there’s fear – that won’t change – but consider, what else are you waiting on?

#CollectiveWisdom: Say Yes. Respond. Act. + Maureen Kennedy

Posted by on 9:59 pm in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Maureen Kennedy is a brand and interactive marketing leader and proud risk-taker. She is also a current member of The Collective. You can learn more about her via LinkedIn.Maureen Kennedy Headshot

Dateline: Chicago.  August 15.

Off the SidelinesThe Young Feminist Conference

@otschicago #YFC2016 #OTSCHICAGO

Last week I said YES! to the pursuit of an opportunity to attend a conference. The conference was aligned with my values. I knew one other person that would be attending. Others were attending that I had identified as people to connect with.

The conference was full: no matter! I found a way and got on the list.

Then. . . I started talking to myself.

UGH!  Another networking opportunity.”

I dread the prospect. We’ve all been there. You do the pre-work checking out the subject matter, who’s speaking, plenty of business cards, sincere smile in place, small-talk ready, blah blah blah.

I wanted a different approach.

So my critical question during the The Collective last week was: “What has worked best for you in networking situations?”

The answers: Have an agenda, but be open. . . align mission with a business goal. Look for inspirations. Be available. Others’ passion will guide you. Stay tuned in to your energy. Energy will feed you. When you make the connection: Follow-up – right away. Tweet. Retweet. Follow. Demonstrate passion, sincerity.

Armed with great advice I was ready to RESPOND!

With my mind open and authentic self at the ready I arrived at #YFC2016. Getting off the elevator, I immediately heard my name called out in greeting by the key organizer of the conference AND the main person I wanted to connect with. I’m convinced this would not have happened without a little pre-work. A little pre-work goes a long way.

Throughout the morning I met incredible women doing incredible work. I asked for and scheduled a meeting with Ce Cole Dillon the co-founder of Student Loan 411, LLC, a recent startup providing a unique solution to student loan debt. RESPOND.

I reconnected with a former colleague I hadn’t seen in more than 10 years. YES! Who knew?

The action is ongoing even days later. I’ve connected through emails, LinkedIn, following, liking, retweeting. I am creating opportunity and “networking” differently, with a focus on ACT.

The next big ACT is getting on the calendar of Cook County Commissioner, 10th District and Off the Sidelines Founder, Bridget Gainer, about her passion around re-booting our neighborhoods and mine for reclaiming used spaces connect.

I’m on a roll. My new mantra is:  Passion will guide you. Energy will feed you.

Repair Your Relationship with Time

Posted by on 6:18 am in Finding Your Mission, Psychology | 0 comments

One of our favorite podcasts is The Accidental Creative, hosted by author Todd Henry and billed as sharing how to “build practical, everyday practices that help you stay prolific, brilliant and healthy in life and work.”


(Prolific is a great word.)

One of Todd’s recent AC episodes offers a way to tell Your Time Story and starts with the question, “What’s your relationship to time?” We are willing to bet it’s one of three answers:

+ I don’t have enough of it.

+ I don’t have enough of it and I don’t use it wisely.

+ I don’t have enough of it, I don’t use it wisely, and I feel lousy about that.

Do you have another comma you would add?

Of course, other than money – the most popular “why I can’t” answer when we talk about hopes and dreams in our career and leadership programs – time is the asset we’re all tortured by and don’t have enough of.

But, as we think of our “body of work” versus the next job; our legacy versus our year-end numbers; are we running out of time as fast as we think? Part of what Todd posits is that we aren’t, and instead we are suffering from “being increasing efficient at doing decreasingly effective things.”

Let that sink in. We have plenty of time, but we are wasting it (see #2).

A TED Talk we fell in love with earlier this year, Inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator, offered a similar lens: that humans put off that which isn’t deadline-driven and, in fact, those things are probably the most important: the skill you’ve been hoping (or needing) to build, the relationships you haven’t tended to, the stuff that creates excellence and expertise – and becomes what you are known for.

Instead, we fall victim to the “ping” as Todd calls it – the experience that we should be doing something other than we’re doing. We should be working, instead of taking time off to restore (and data proves why we need this – NEED not want). We should really check our Twitter feed or see if any email came in since we last checked five minutes ago.

We hear a lot of leaders praising themselves for being able to focus on a lot of things. And we hear a lot of leaders lamenting that they aren’t expert in anything.

The trade-off Todd states, and the urgency around paying attention to those long-term investments like skills and relationships, is we either:

+ Live out our career calling

+ Live out our career compromising

We choose calling.  Let’s all choose calling.

#CollectiveWisdom: Stop Thinking and Do + Rebecca Lakin

Posted by on 10:36 am in Collective, Psychology, Strategy | 0 comments

Becca LakinRebecca is an alumna of The Collective and the founder and principal of Rebecca Lakin Consulting. She helps help companies navigate their business and risk landscape through in-depth research, translating the data into actionable plans and solutions, and managing the resulting plans from start to finish. You can find more of her wisdom and aspirations on LinkedIn.

I’m more motivated to do something when that something impacts others. When it came to making a career change, it initially seemed like something that only impacted me – it’s my life, it’s my career. My motivation stayed pretty low in this mindset, even though the desire to change was high.

I knew I needed to do something different and thought about it all the time, but I struggled to motivate myself to act.

That’s where the Collective came into play. It turns out my career doesn’t just impact me – it impacts how I interact with friends, families and even the people I accidentally bump into on the sidewalk. I was consumed with my own thoughts about my job.  But it’s not all about me; I wasn’t alone in needing to make a change and needed others to help me get and stay motivated.

To make a career change, you have to get out of your own head and act.

With the support and encouragement of my fellow “Collectivists,” I did just that. After only one meeting with The Collective, I started making the change – in small steps.

I didn’t quit my job right away.  I did begin to change my mindset, first, and set aside time to discover what it is I wanted to be doing and in what environment I wanted to be doing that work in.

The small steps I took included:

  • Set a time for working on career “discovery.” Every work day from 5 – 6 a.m., I worked on defining my career; what I wanted to get from it and what I want others to get from my work.
  • . . like crazy. This started with coffee meetings with old connections and lunches with those in my current network. I then moved to meetings with connections of connections and cold emails to people with jobs that could be a good for me.
  • Read and listen to inspiring things. To get you started, here are two of my favorites: The Accidental Creative podcast or Adam Grant’s Give or Take.
  • Write down everything. By writing or tracking it, you can start to discover the trends that might point to a direction you could take your career. To get the things to write down, I took a tip from a fellow Collectivist and created a “pie chart” of my career skills and attributes. I also read the old favorite What Color Is Your Parachute to help guide me through the discovery phase of the career path journey.

With a three-month process of discovery, I took action and quit to focus on finding the job that fits what I discovered in my process.  Without The Collective, I wouldn’t have been able to take that action.

About The Collective

A career and leadership journey is not meant to be a solo endeavor. The most fulfilling careers are built in community, with a personal board of advisors involved – asking critical questions, providing affirmation and applying pressure where needed to help you be brave, bold and inch toward mastery. The Collective is a ready-made board of advisors, led by a trained facilitator, that delivers engaging and intelligent career development strategy in a small group coaching format. Become a member of The Collective.