How do you walk into a room?

Here’s my latest LinkedIn article:
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“There are two types of people,” said Frederick L. Collins. “Those who come into a room and say, ‘Well, here I am!’ and those who come in and say, ‘Ah, there you are.'”

 

There may not always be a clear divide; things aren’t always black or white, but there are many types of rooms, some literal, some metaphorical, and we all know someone who bursts into these rooms like Kramer from Seinfeld, without any thought for what they are bursting into, or how it may affect other people. They are driven by their need for attention; they enjoy making a big entrance. Meet the Narcissist. They will holler, with words, actions or demeanour: Here I am!

In contrast, some people walk into the room and begin searching for ‘the other’. The thought, idea, feeling, vibe that is different to their own, that could, perhaps, enhance the outcome. Their desired result is not based on ego. They are self-aware without being self-absorbed. They convey, with humility, the message: There you are. And with this, they leave a positive impact on the room, and on themselves.

These two types of people also exist in the workplace. You can recognise a good leader because they champion others. They don’t need to be centre of attention. They are keen to find out what other people bring to the table, not to constantly highlight their own offering. And most importantly, they are willing to learn.

There are many papers on why leaders should speak last in meetings. Simon Sinek, leadership expert says, “It gives everybody else the feeling that they have been heard.” (There you are) “..and you get the benefit of hearing what everybody else has to think before you render your opinion.” (eventually, here’s where I am.)

Here’s a real example: I had the pleasure of listening to the very successful former Facebook CEO for Australia & New Zealand, Stephen Scheeler, speak at the 2018 TEDx event in Sydney. He described his experience of being one of the oldest hires at Facebook in 2013 – he was 47. Rather than burst into the room and declare his expertise, Scheeler adapted his leadership approach and embarked on what he later called his ‘Ignorance Tour.’ He sent meeting invites to his colleagues (average age=25) asking, ‘Can you help me learn?’ There you are.

This theory can also be applied to friendships. Dale Carnegie, author of best-selling self-help book How To Win Friends and Influence People says, “You can make more friends in two months by being interested in other people..” (There you are) “..than in two years of trying to get people interested in you.” (Here I am.)

Some people focus on making an entrance, and others on making an impact.

The next time you walk into a room, which type of person will you be?

©2020 Seetha Nambiar Dodd

be.

mol 3

Flashback to 2011. Conversations with my daughter, then 3 years old.

“What would you like to be when you grow up?”
“A vet,” she says. “Or maybe a teacher.”
And then she looks at me earnestly and asks:

“What about you, Mummy? What do you want to be when you grow up?”

My first thought is this: How adorable.

My second thought is this: Wait, does she think I’m still a child?? Am I failing at this parenting business?

Then I get it. She is a wise soul who knows it is never too late to be what you want to be; never too late (as George Eliot said) “to be what you might have been.”

A new decade is upon us, full of opportunities and possibilities. Along with striving to reach goals and creating a future self to be proud of, here are two present-moment ideas I want to practise in 2020:

276355797278db47010925c32ad8b7c0--kindness-matters-kindness-quotes   peanuts.jpg

©2020 Seetha Nambiar Dodd

 

 

The Four People You Meet in Da Club

I don’t know about you, but lately I’ve noticed that going out dancing has become increasingly bothersome. Maybe it’s  the lower threshold of tolerance that comes with age and wisdom. Maybe it’s just age. Or maybe, it’s these four people who never fail to turn up in da club:

metro-trains-packed-like-sardinesThe space-invader – I know the dancefloor is crowded. I understand it is not reasonable to draw an imaginary circle around myself and call it my ‘personal space’ when there is barely enough room to wave your hands in the air like you don’t care. But there is a limit to how much uninvited bodily contact is considered acceptable. Especially when you’re hindering my dance moves and barging into my girl gang. I get grumpy if I have to body-roll and eye-roll simultaneously – it’s too much coordination for me. So be warned, I have unusually pointy elbows and I’m not afraid to use them.

glass-splashing-whisky-drink-14579681The drink-slosher – If you struggle to hold a drink while busting a move, please could you sip Bacardi like it’s your birthday away from the dancefloor? Regardless of whether you believe it is half full or half empty, your glass contains liquid that is sloshing all over me while you attempt to get jiggy wit your pals. I like rum, but not down my back, or in my shoes. I find it not only uncomfortable but also wasteful. So for the love of Will Smith, slosh somewhere else.

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The hair-flicker – Your tousled locks are so magnificently bouncy that I have a serious case of hair-envy. Yes, I love your hair, but not so much that I want strands of it in my drink, or in my mouth. Please save your slow-motion, Pantene shampoo commercial-esque head gyration for when you have at least a 3-foot radius to operate within. (Tip: you won’t find this by the bar or on the dancefloor.) PS. how on earth are your waves still perfect after 4 hours of flicking + drink-dipping?

hillary-clinton-epic-group-selfie.jpgThe selfie/wefie queen – If there is no documented, immediately-shared evidence of your night out, did it really happen? It’s understandable that you want to photograph your gorgeous selves, but do you really need twenty-three thousand shots of every possible permutation of solo/duo/trio/group from every available angle? Enjoy the moment, people, it is passing us by! Also, your iPhone triple camera flash is interrupting my vibe.

So there you have it, the four people who can turn a night out into a soul-searching exercise with one key question: Why am I here? And yet, I persist. Most of the time, it’s a fun night out despite all evidence (whinging) to the contrary. On one occasion I even found myself next to a Sir Mix-a-Lot soulmate who (also) knew all the words to Baby Got Back and was happy to temporarily share her personal space for an impromptu performance. I didn’t take a photo, though, so I can’t prove it.

Still, if you have a favourite place that plays a little Blackstreet and a lot of soul, let me know. Against all odds, I’ll be on the dancefloor. In a waterproof onesie, elbows at the ready.

©2019 Seetha Nambiar Dodd

Oh, that’s clever!

I noticed an advertisement at my local bus stop the other day that made me smile. It was a NESCAFÉ ad for its Blend 43 Black Roast.

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Their ‘most intense coffee ever’ has a terrifically clever tagline. ‘EATS OTHER COFFEE FOR BREAKFAST.’ It’s bold. Menacing, almost. And so is the typeset. A little research into this ad campaign reveals more clever copy in the print ad: ‘…a true blend of strength, because mornings are no time for weakness,’ and ‘all in the name of full on taste.’

I don’t usually drink instant coffee (oh dear, that sounds like I’m a coffee snob) but I might have to give this one a try. All because it claims to be Rich, Dark and Bold and I like coffee with a bit of attitude.

Some ads are so clever they make me want to be a copywriter. Just as watching L.A. Law made me want to be a lawyer. Or watching the movie Nadia about Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci when I was a kid led to repurposing the arm of our sofa as a balance beam and the corners of the carpet for final poses (minus the multiple backflips). Gymnastics and law were obviously short-lived dreams – my flexibility is restricted to bending my thumbs backwards and I find that slamming my hand on the table and shouting ‘Objection!’ doesn’t have quite the same effect as when Jimmy Smits did it in court. But copywriting, there may be life in that dream yet….

The best ads are memorable. The ones that have carved their way into my Advertisement Hall of Fame include:

vidalsassoon

 

1. WORDPLAY: Vidal Sassoon’s 1980s slogan “If you don’t look good, we don’t look good.” A simple play on words that worked for the haircare industry. The models looked good, because supposedly they used Vidal Sassoon haircare products. So the company looked good, because they’ve created products that work, can be trusted, and have an invested interest in you looking good. Simple and so effective.

 

 

 

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2. DIVERSITY: United Colors of Benetton‘s billboards and posters with models of varying ethnicities and skin tones wearing bright, colourful clothes.

Memorable because it was very rare in Malaysia in the 1980s or 90s to see darker-skinned models featured in local advertising, despite the make-up of the local population.

A welcome respite from all those Fair & Lovely commercials, these Benetton ads appealed to me even if no one really wore sweaters in 33°C Kuala Lumpur heat.

3. SHOCK: Pathway Project, a UK-based charity that supports adults and children affected by domestic violence, released an image that quickly went viral on social media just before the 2018 FIFA World Cup. It wasn’t pleasant, but it stuck. abuse

The statistic was based on a 2013 study by Lancashire University, looking at the number of domestic abuse incidents reported to the Lancashire police force over three World Cup tournaments from 2002 to 2010. The authors of the study called it ‘relatively small’. But still disturbing, and I was curious about the rest of the study.

When England lost: domestic abuse rates were 38% higher (than on tournament days when England were not playing).

When England won or drew a match: domestic abuse rates were still 26% higher. I hated the stats, but I loved this ad, and I hoped it had a positive effect.

Which ads, current or past, stick in your head?

©2019 Seetha Nambiar Dodd

Eight ways to lose yourself in a bookstore

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One. Walk around aimlessly. Soak in the atmosphere of your favourite place to while away a few, blissful hours. Grab the first book you see on the New Releases shelf, sit on the cosy armchair in the corner and lose yourself in another world.

Two. Pick up the latest bestselling picture book, flick through it, laugh out loud, and then kick yourself for not thinking of that clever idea first. Of course farts are funny. Remind yourself to pay attention the next time your five-year-old laughs. Not for a story idea, but because his laugh is the best sound you’ve ever heard.

Three. Browse through the children’s section. Note that the famous cowboy and his astronaut buddy are still doing well on the shelves. Wonder if there will be another instalment to the series. Remember the day your daughter graduated to chapter books. Remind yourself to always read just one more story at bedtime.

Four. Before you know it, you’re in the Young Adults aisle. Suddenly your world is a supernatural, science fiction fantasy with a dash of romance. Potentially with vampires. Lose yourself in a parallel universe. Wonder why you never wore black lipstick as a teenager. Recall fondly that your father would have been amused, but secretly concerned.

Five. Time for a fully-fledged Romance. Greedily devour romance novels with impossibly attractive covers. Remember sneaking a peek at the Mills and Boon on your mother’s bookshelf. Remember the soft flutter of young love. Remember turning the pages of your own love story. 

Six. Right next to Romance is Music. Wonder why there are so many songs about broken hearts. Then find the books that tell the stories behind the songs. Remind yourself to listen to more songs about broken hearts, as well as songs about mended ones.

Seven. Head to the Travel section. Close your eyes and point to something. Open your eyes and smile. It is the city of your childhood. Decide this is a sign to visit the stories of your past, and the people who helped you shape your present.

Eight. Marvel that there are so many books on Parenting. Wonder if your mother ever had this much advice at her fingertips. Know for a fact that your grandmother didn’t, but they both survived motherhood, and so will you.

Look up from your New Release. Look down and be amazed at the contrast between the beige carpet and the colourful, stimulating worlds held together within the pages of the books that have absorbed you.

Know that it is possible to lose yourself and find yourself at the same time.

©2019 Seetha Nambiar Dodd

What’s news?

On my bus journey to work, I usually try to read something. Most of the time I succeed, barring occasional distractions. I either read a book, or an article that I’ve saved on my phone. Recently, I read a few articles that made me wish my bus ride was longer, but not all of what I read was pleasant. Certain stories just require more contemplation than a 15 minute journey will afford. Here are the three that stuck in my head and continued to work my brain long after I’d read them, much like those HIIT workouts that keep burning fat even when you’re sitting on your bottom. Or so I’ve been told.

Story #1: The Good

laposte-francetv
The French postal service, La Poste, identified two modern dilemmas that needing solving – one financial, one social:

  • the decreasing number of letters being sent in today’s digital world, and
  • the increasing number of elderly people who live alone.

In a move that has received mixed feedback, they came up with a new service called ‘Veiller sur mes parents,’ or ‘Watch over my parents.’ This allows customers to pay for postal workers to check on their elderly relatives.

The uptake has been positive – about 6,000 elderly people (average age: 82) use the service, which includes weekly visits and a report sent to the family. There is also the option of a 24-hour helpline and alert system.

Critics say that friendly gestures of calling in on the elderly were already happening, for free, by postal workers. But La Poste claim this service is pioneering and much needed when many adult children live far away from their ageing parents. It provides human connection for the elderly and reassurance for their children.

The article made me happy and a little bit sad at the same time.

Story #2: The Bad

nobel face palm

Business news website, Business Insider India ran a story on the joint winners of the 2019 Nobel Prize in Economics. The piece quickly spread across social media for its choice of headline:
“Indian-American MIT Prof Abhijit Banerjee and wife Esther Duflo win Nobel prize in Economics”

So the headline tells us that Abhijit Banerjee is a professor at MIT, and that he is Indian-American. But all we know of Esther Duflo is ‘wife’. I get that there are different narrative voices in journalism, but this is one perspective that needs to change.

Esther Duflo is also an MIT professor. The article, in fairness, does mention this later on, and that she is French-American, but these details are in relation to a different endeavour, from 2003 (not the Nobel Prize she has just won in 2019), and is again tagged onto her husband’s achievements. The headline also neglects to mention the third member of the winning trio – Michael Kremer, professor at Harvard.

Consider the difference:
“Nobel Economics Prize Goes to Pioneers in Reducing Poverty – Three professors, Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo, both of M.I.T., and Michael Kremer of Harvard, were honored.” (New York Times)
American trio win Nobel Economics Prize for work on poverty.” (Agence France-Presse)
3 economists share Nobel Prize” (NHK World Japan)

Esther Duflo – professor, American, economist, youngest person to be awarded the Novel Prize in Economic Sciences – commented after winning the award: “Showing that it is possible for a woman to succeed and be recognised for success I hope is going to inspire many, many other women to continue working and many other men to give them the respect they deserve.”

Business Insider India – please take note because your bias is showing.

Story #3: The Ugly

japan

Tennis pro Naomi Osaka has been subjected to media scrutiny and controversy over her ‘image’ and racial identity due to her mixed heritage. (She has a Japanese mother and a Haitian father.) The Japanese press question how ‘Japanese’ she is, and often insist she speaks in Japanese, even though she grew up in America and has stated that she prefers to speak in English. Earlier this year, a Japanese noodle company was forced to remove a commercial in which Naomi was depicted with pale skin and light brown hair (so nothing like Naomi at all).

On the day Naomi won the Pan Pacific Open, Japanese comedy duo ‘A Masso’ joked at a live comedy event that Naomi ”needed bleach” because she was “too sunburned.” The audience was not impressed with the ‘comedy’ but Naomi maintained her cool.

Then in a powerful, classy return that has been hailed as a ‘masterclass in public relations,’ Naomi took to Twitter in response to the duo’s nasty comments and plugged Shiseido, for whom she is a brand ambassador, with this winner:
“Too sunburned” lol that’s wild. Little did they know, with Shiseido anessa perfect uv sunscreen I never get sunburned.

Game, set, match – Osaka.

©2019 Seetha Nambiar Dodd

Breaking the ice, warming the soul

My most recent LinkedIn post on icebreakers and connecting at work.

icebreaker

Forging the way – The Polar Explorer Icebreaker in Rovaniemi, Finland

At a recent stakeholder workshop, I ran an icebreaker to….well, break the ice. The participants were not all from the same business area. Many were meeting for the first time. So, the icebreaker had to be suitable – nothing that required prior knowledge of one another, nothing too personal, something to forge common ground.

Armed with post-it notes and a list of A/B questions, we went through an activity called This or That? which involved me calling out two options for a number of categories, and participants holding up a blue or a yellow post-it note to indicate their preference. (Note: The activity was designed for everyone to stand up and move into A/B groups. We didn’t have the space, but we had post-it notes and creativity.)

We started out with everyday, ‘safe’ preferences – Coffee or Tea? Dog or Cat? Beach or Countryside? – to get everyone comfortable with the idea. Then we moved on to the more entertaining – Singing or Dancing? AFL or Rugby? Star Trek or Star Wars? Adele or Justin Bieber?

justinbieberIt was a simple exercise but allowed us all to look around and learn something about our colleagues. There were smiles, nods of understanding and some moments of surprise. We learned that within this group, there was a church choir singer, several Trekkies, and…..just one Bieber fan.

But we don’t need to wait for scheduled opportunities to form connections. These are usually few and far between. Just as RU OK Day should be a starting point for regular conversations, icebreakers can be useful to kick-start connections with colleagues. And why wait for a workshop?

Considering that we spend a lot of time at work, how well do we really know our colleagues? Let’s take the time to get to know the people with whom we spend a third of our day. Don’t just ask if they’re OK on one designated day of the year.

iceberg

Conversations over lunch or in the office kitchen, discussions of weekend plans, noticing a photo or a book on your team-mate’s desk – these can provide insights into someone’s life outside of work and open up beautiful opportunities for connection.

Small talk can have a big impact when it grows into something greater that can break through barriers and reveal what lies beneath. Take the time to ask, to share, to connect.

After all, “We’re all just walking each other home.” – Ram Dass

©Seetha Nambiar Dodd