#PluckyWomen

I decided to spend Fridays in San Francisco for Q4 in 2016, half in an effort to grow my local network and half to prove that I’m out of ICU and back at work. So I set up a bunch of coffees and lunches. I learned how to ride the BART better and also learned that Coit Tower is NOT something to visit before you’re seeing a prospective client. (Holy. Sweaty. Steps.)

I saw a lot of people during my Fridays in the city. But after a few weeks I began noticing something that pissed me off. Catching up with the women in my network were social moments. Catching up with the men in my network were the only ones that seemed like they could lead to future work.

This was irritating but it was okay because we were about to elect the first female president. I could taste the broken glass ceiling. And then, by mid-November, I couldn’t.

So here we go.

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Plucky’s 2017 will be dedicated to #PluckyWomen. Once a month I’ll organize a spot for drinks, a networking space for women in the Bay Area who want to meet other women to talk about work. ANY WORK. Any industry. If you have been hungry for female networks, if you have been interested in events but felt too shy to go, if you have ambitions about sitting at the table but haven’t gotten there yet, come out for a drink. I am friendly and I know about work and I want to meet you.

Additionally, I will be spending my professional development budget this year to attend events that are specifically supportive of female leadership. And I’ll tell you which events I’ll be attending ahead of time. If you’re a woman and you were thinking about attending but felt anxious to attend alone or to ask for budget, I am telling you that you can always sit next to me at a conference.

You don’t have to work in DevOps to know how systems operate. It’s time to build some new systems and I’m ready to get to work. #PluckyWomen, I will see you out there.

The first #PluckyWomen meet-up will be Tuesday, January 24 in San Francisco at Press Club from 6-8pm. You can RSVP on Plucky’s Facebook page.

Want to hear about future meet-ups? Sign up for Plucky’s newsletter here.

Dear Plucky: Leader of the Pack

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Dear Plucky,

I’m managing a new team, and they’re not exactly getting along well. We’ve had some tense meetings lately with lots of passive aggressive remarks. How can I help them trust each other and communicate better together? They’re all pretty different and don’t have a lot in common. I’m worried that we won’t be successful if we don’t fix these issues.

Leader of the Pack

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Dear Leader of the Pack,

Have you ever seen that show called “The Dog Whisperer”? It featured a guy, Cesar Millan, who would show up at a client’s house and turn their snarling, ferocious dog who peed incessantly on the floor into a docile, well-behaved pooch by the end of the episode. I’ve never owned a dog but I loved catching the show every so often. It was a little like watching magic.

Some episodes featured families who owned 2 or 3 dogs. In those cases, Cesar would work with the pack (his word) to establish rank and bring peace to the dynamic. Your question reminded me of these episodes. (Don’t tell your team members we’re comparing them to canines! Ha!)

What you are worried about is group dynamics – and specifically, the relationships between the members of a given group. I’ve been there. Leading a group of mixed skillsets, differing years of experience and various personalities can feel dicey on the good days – and nearly impossible on the bad ones.

Cesar would start by establishing a “pack leader.” That’s you, leader person! It has to be. A “pack leader” is someone whose energy sets the tone and dynamic for the group. Often in our organizations, “pack leaders” are chosen for us. We join a new company and we’re told who we report to. Sometimes that “pack leader” has earned the trust and respect to lead… and other times they are merely “pack leader” by name, lacking the confidence, self-discipline and courage to naturally attract team members to their vision and leadership.

The first thing I would ask is how you feel about leading this particular pack. Your energy matters most. Do you provide a safe environment for team members? Are your employees empowered, productive and motivated? These qualities fall to your guidance and leadership. If you’re not feeling great about the tone you’re setting on the team, you’ve got to come in tomorrow with a new energy and see what happens.

But sometimes you’re doing everything right. You’re showing up with a healthy and supportive energy, yet the members of your team seem to hold tension or resentment with each other. In this case, we look to Cesar yet again.

Cesar’s philosophy starts with the idea that all dogs need enough exercise. If they aren’t burning off steam, they end up bored with pent-up energy. Are your employees underallocated? Is there a fear that there’s not enough work to go around? (This can lead to mega-competition vibes…) Or is it also possible they’re playing out of role, asked to do tasks or jobs that don’t play to their strengths? This leads to another kind of boredom, feeling undervalued and overlooked, which often sends them to the doorstep of another welcoming employer.

If you’re leading with the right energy and your team members genuinely have enough of the right work, then the only thing left is personal stuff. Maybe one team member is triggered by the personality or attitude of her colleague. Someone’s humor or sarcasm comes off the wrong way. The client is playing favorites and pitting them against each other. In all of these cases, the solution I’d propose is a long walk with you – their leader.

Giving someone the space and time to share how they’re feeling is one of the most generous things you can do as a manager. Take your most troublesome one of the bunch out for a walk to grab a coffee; ask how work is going lately. Mention that you’ve noticed some tension between the group members – have they noticed too? What do they attribute it to? Participate in this conversation, using it as an opportunity to reinforce healthy team dynamics and patience. Play out scenarios in which they confront (however gently) the person who has got them riled up… help them see that they’re fully capable of giving and receiving feedback. Because with your guidance and support, they are.

Lately I’ve been talking with leaders who are pretty burned out themselves. They don’t have a spare minute or dollar to put towards employee satisfaction and this stresses them out. In those cases, I give this simple advice: increase the amount of times each day that you say “thank you.” It costs you nothing and takes no time at all. Thank the employee for her upbeat tone in the meeting. Thank the teammate who stayed late to finish – or who rallied the team to do so. It’s a tiny way to create meaningful change and cultivate a culture of gratitude… this matters more than you think.

So care for your pack. Lead them, get them some fresh air and make sure they’re fully allocated. Then see how feeling accomplished and fulfilled in their job changes the success of the group. Because when an employee is challenged, motivated and fulfilled? There’s truly not much else for them to complain about.

Good luck out there,

Jen

Do you need some work advice? Send questions for an upcoming Dear Plucky column to: dearplucky@beplucky.com. Thanks!

People are your future.

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Reflections on my first year consulting, coaching and helping people find their way.

I never thought of myself as someone who would start and run her own business. I’m a good student; I wait for the bar to get set by someone else and then I throw every ounce of energy I have into leaping 15,000 miles over that bar.

I’m an authority-loving overachiever.

But two years ago something happened to me. I became a parent and Isucked at it. My kid didn’t sleep and he lost weight and everything was messy and I forgot people’s birthdays and I never called anyone and I got a little depressed, frankly. Because I spent several months at home with a boss who never gave me any gold stars.

I did some therapy. I did some journaling. I hired some babysitters. I started giving myself more credit than my bosses and parents ever gave me. And I started to wonder what my life could look like if the only person I had to impress was myself. (Even writing that sentence right this second still feels TERRIFYING and BADASS).

I boiled down the point of my existence on this planet into six words: I help people find their way. It wasn’t a business plan, but it was a purpose. And somehow I trusted that the details around monetizing one’s purpose were logistical and completely solvable and that I was smart and driven enough to do it.

So last summer I trusted my gut and I quit my job. I bawled through the entire announcement of my departure and I never told my parents until the quitting had already happened. I sensed that, if I were even slightly challenged in this decision, I would fall very quickly into Doing What Everyone Else Thinks I Should Be Doing.

I named my business Plucky because that adjective is exactly what I love about humans and what I love about myself and what I want to empower in the world. And though I wasn’t sure how to classify Plucky, I started with “HR Consulting for Tech Firms.” It didn’t line up with my degrees, but it totally lined up with my experience and that’s what I was hungry to leverage.

The first few weeks were incredibly liberating. When I saw my former boss a month in, he asked how it was going. “I don’t have any clients yet,” I admitted. And then he told me something that I think about nearly every day.

“Oh Jen, you’re not signing clients right now,” he said. “You’re planting seeds.Whenever things get slow, you gotta go out there and plant seeds.”

So I started calling people. I had coffees and lunches and asked everyone what their people problems were at work. I heard about noisy office mates and partners who took long weekends. I heard about lackluster meetings and broken office chairs and arguments that happened years earlier that never got resolved. It was a fascinating, deep experience and I was honored every time someone opened up enough to share their underbelly with me.

Later in the fall I signed my first clients. I started a tally on the wall for proposals accepted and proposals rejected. Some days I threw a dance party when I signed new work. Other days I was disappointed that I’d low-balled a proposal. I was hard on myself, but some days I celebrated and it felt a little like progress.

I designed annual reviews. I invented the Employee Experience Audit and had a total blast conducting them for clients. I did exit interviews. I held Office Hours and I had coffee chats. I taught lunch & learns. I taught workshops at Annual Retreats. I got edgier in my speaking topics. I even got invited to speak at a few conferences, which were experiences that broke me down in the hours before I spoke and then lifted me high enough afterwards to glimpse that I was helping people find their way.

I continued to attend Owner Camp, a community that I met as an agency person, to learn and to find new clients. I navigated the confusing identity crisis that took me from agency peer to consultant. Plucky grew. I added coaching to my repertoire. More clients came. I paid daycare bills without sweating.

This spring my husband got a job opportunity in San Francisco and we moved from New York to California. Plucky held up through the transition, my clients holding strong like constellations as I navigated life in a new place. And this is where I write from tonight, from my bedroom that is the length of a country and the depth of a year from where I was last year on September 9. I know who I am and I know much better what Plucky is and I am so damn proud of both those sentiments.

Plucky is a consulting business that hinges on the notion that people are your future. And if that’s true then the profits and the products, the sites and the pitches, all of them are contributing details to what your organization is building. You are the people you hireYou are the skillsets you employ. Your company cannot manifest the dream you have for it if the relationships between the people building it are broken. All of this, the messiness and the homeruns and the ability to sustain our lives through our ideas, hinge on the success of the elegant dance between humans who work together.

This is where my brain is at these days. I am obsessed with people — individuals, teams, companies. But actually I am more than obsessed with them — my purpose is to move them forward. And what I can tell you after being my own boss for a year is that I am a solid bet. I have big (enormous!) dreams for where Plucky is going and I cannot wait to see everything unfold during Year 2.

Year 1 is officially over and I’m not a freshman anymore.

So keep your eyes peeled, Planet Earth. I’m coming for your humans.

PluckyJen_48

Jen Dary

Founder, Plucky