Category Archives: Uncategorized

How Improv Can Help You Become a Better Networker

 

 

Sapphire neon tumbleweeds, 2016
Dale Chihuly (American GLASS ARTIST, b. 1941

Improv or improvisation is often thought of as comedy with quick and snappy witticisms and can be very entertaining. The Second City is “The World’s Premier School of Comedy”! Who else has alumni such as John Candy, Tina Fey, Mike Meyers, Alan Alda, Steve Carrell, Eugene Levi, Amy Poehler to name a few?

As a recent grad of “RewireU”, an intensive 2.5 day improv workshop at Second City this summer, I aspire to the next level of improv classes. And I have also made improv an integral part of our #networking workshops at University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies.

“Yes and” (The Second City mantra) here are the 5 ways that #improv can help you become a better networker:

  1.  Make friends with uncertainty and change – be comfortable with reacting in unpredictable situations.
  2.  Get clear value – gain clarity on how you perceive yourself, what you bring to the table, and how you describe what you have to offer, your “brand”, your value.
  3. Act decisively – make quick decisions and be comfortable in changing your decisions.
  4. Build self-confidence – learn to speak clearly. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Get comfortable with silence and the power of the pause.
  5. Know your physical presence – how do you stand? Where do you sit in a meeting? How do you enter a room?

Why not join us on November 3rd Saturday to learn more about “Hacking the Networking Code”? Discover how you can shift your mindset from seeing networking as a necessary evil to creating opportunities for growth and building quality relationships and an amazing network. “Yes and” click here to register now or contact Jean Chow at info@msbizwiz.com for more details.

On Boxes & Belonging

 

 

 

 

 

 

For a very long time I’ve been trying to decipher this quote by the wise Ms. Maya Angelou. 

 

Can you be in no place and every place? Looking back, I remember my first place fondly where I first belonged.

I was born in Canada in a small prairie town in Saskatchewan which from above appear as big blocks of green and pale yellow – the colours of canola and wheat.

My first home was this Hostess potato chip box. Quite ingenious of my Mom so that she could keep her eye on me as she and Dad worked in my Grandpa’s café.

Home was a small room in a boarding house near the café for a short while. I remain grateful that my parents were able to squeeze in a crib as I didn’t fancy sleeping in that chip box. But I should have known then what was in store for me several years later.

We then moved to what we all called “the BIG house” because it had to fit us all in: Mom, Dad, Sister, Brother, Uncle, Auntie, four Cousins, and Grandma and Grandpa!

After awhile each of our families moved into our own homes. And after graduating from college, my parents decided it was time for me to see the world. In other words, “You’re on your own now.” So I left where I belonged and closed the door to find a new one to open as my own.

Since then I’ve had many homes. I’m extremely fortunate to have lived and worked in, not to mention travelled to places, near and far, some exotic and exciting, some not so, some twice –

Here’s a list: apartments in Regina, Saskatoon, gated 3 bedroom row house in Lusaka, Zambia, a farm in Kemptville or I remember “UnKemptville”, more apartments in Ottawa, basement apartment in Vancouver, a gated palatial new 5 bedroom home in  Ujung Pandang, Indonesia, one room loft in Calgary, top floor of a heritage house minutes away from Lake Ontario in Oakville, and Toronto where I once lived inside my factory for 4 years when I had my food business. That one had plenty of boxes the same size as the Hostess chip-like box.

So many homes, so many places to belong, so much packing and unpacking….lots of boxes! Will I always be a newcomer … even in my own country?

Learning to belong is not easy and I’m sure you have your own stories. I believe this has something to do with what is known as “reverse culture shock”.

Lusaka, Zambia

Upon returning from working in Zambia for two years, I remember the feeling of shock and awe in a supermarket, trying to decide which toilet paper to buy – the choices seemed infinite – tough choices indeed. We only had this mossy dark green stuff in Lusaka.  Is this where I belong?

Ujung Pandang, Indonesia

Upon returning from working in Indonesia for three years, I remember the feeling of frustration, trying to find the right word in English after speaking Bahasa Indonesia for  three years. I would literally inverse the word order like coffee table to table coffee, bookstore to store book as we do in Bahasa. Is this where do I belong?

I also remember being equally frustrated if not more, in a business meeting in Jakarta, trying to find the right word in Bahasa but all I had were sentences starting with “Saya” which means “I” and sounding like a naughty kid in Kindergarten. “I am, I want, I need, I have…. Saya syndrome!

Ms Maya Angelou, what do you mean belonging no place, belonging every place, no place at all?

Finally I arrived at  my AHA moment:

Toronto, Canada

It was in June this year when I was attending as an instructor a convocation ceremony for adult learners. I  had recognized one of our Program Directors and went over to greet her. Alongside her was her guest and I extended my hand to introduce myself but she spoke first.

Her guest said, “No Ho Ma.”

I replied, “No Ho Ma, I’m Jean Chow. And I’m an instructor here.”

At this point, the Program Director jumps in and said, “Jean, we’re so lucky to have Nancy here today to help us celebrate. She’s the CEO of  a big law firm in Chicago.” Hmmm…I thought in that cloud that hovers above our heads, I’m thinking, “Nancy? Her name is Nancy?”all the while making small talk.

Still thinking in the cloud, “Of course, it is. But she said “No Ho Ma”. Oh my God. She was saying “how are you” in Cantonese to me but I can’t speak Cantonese!  I totally missed her kind attempt to connect with me.

Not only that, she probably thought I was asking her “how are you?” too when I repeated it back to her when I was actually repeating it so I could remember her name. It hadn’t occurred to me how I looked to Nancy. She assumed I spoke Cantonese.

So Ms. Maya Angelou, I think I got it!  No matter where I live and work, I truly do not belong to any place but I belong every place because I will always be “new”, always a “newcomer”, and always be arriving, adapting, and belonging.

As two distinguished members of the Order of Canada would say:

“Very few of us share the same past but most of us will share the same future.” – Rita Deverell, Citizenship Judge

“As life long learners, we are learning to be, learning to become, learning to belong.” – Dr. Bruce Kidd, Former Olympian Runner 

Remember: there’s no place like “home” because home is where the heart is.

Wanted: New World Leaders

“Mom, when I grow up, I want to be the leader of the world,” says her four-year old daughter. “And we’ll be her advisors!”, chimed in her two older brothers. “Why not?” encouraged their mom, Tammara.

Indeed, why not? “Out of the mouths of babes” just in time to honour our moms today. Who are our young sages? Tierra (4), Kai (7), Kian (10) are our strivers and our future. They are Canadians who make us proud to be Canadian!

Tammara is one of our #Gals with Grit, a new movement launched this year on International Women’s Day to recognize newcomer professionals who are parents. We share their stories to inspire new newcomers and also leave a legacy for the next generation. You will know them as parents working sometimes at 2 jobs or running their own business while studying, or recently graduated post-secondary in Canada. They are remarkable people, everyday heroes, leaders in their communities, and also potential leaders on the world stage (if not already) as Tierra, our four-year old protégé exclaimed earlier.

We met four years ago while chatting at Eglinton Station waiting for the next train during rush hour. By then Tammara had already been to Canada, twice, the first time at age 6 years when her father did his Masters degree in Environmental Engineering at the University of Manitoba and again at 17 as a York University student. A couple of weeks later I was invited to her home for a very fine and full Indonesian lunch and met her young family – her husband and their two young sons. The “world leader” had not yet arrived. In complete awe of her amazing ability to do it all (studying for her PhD, working full-time, caring for her young family), I wondered who she really was and how she developed this remarkable fortitude, grit as we call it.

Fast forward four years, now a mom of three, with her PhD in Urban Planning, and also a Trudeau scholar, Tammara agreed to participate in our “Gals with Grit” project. Earlier this month, in our first interview, I asked her to describe for us her journey so far:

Tammara, can you please share with us some defining moments and who has made an impact in your life?

“When I was 13 years old, my parents sent me to visit my Great Aunt Irid, my maternal grandmother’s little sister. She is an accomplished public speaker. You see, I was very shy and was absolutely terrified to look her and anyone else for that matter, in the eye. My eyes were always downcast and I kept covering my face with my hands. When I was young, I was bullied and was very self conscious about my appearance, in particular, my weight. I believed someone was always judging me for one thing or another. Those few days with Great Aunt Irid helped me put my hands down and lift my head up and keep my eyes straight ahead, steady and confident.

Then my mother got a job in Winston-Salem, North Carolina so we all moved. This is where the biggest change happened in my life. I was 15 at the time.  My amazing American teachers were creative, innovative, and encouraging, which was different from the learning by rote which I was used to doing in Indonesia. I was very polite and was keen to learn, so my teachers helped me thrive and believed in me. I won the “Student of the Year” two years in a row!

I hope to inspire my students at the University of Toronto to believe in their potential,  just like my teachers inspired me.

What’s on the radar for you these days?

I wore a hijab on and off after I came to Canada. However, I decided to finally wear my head covering permanently a year after I became a Trudeau scholar in 2014. I felt more confident and less concerned about having to look a certain way to gain approval from others so my hijab felt empowering to me as a scholar. It also often sparks conversation and learning opportunities about the role of Muslim women in academia.  Now as an expert in my field, I sit at the table with CEOs and Ministers and I realized that I have opportunities to make a difference.

We need to dispel the stereotypes found in Orientalism and its monolithic framing of diverse Muslim cultures  as “ancient”, primarily middle-eastern, and “backward.” As a mother, a muslim and working professional,  I believe it is important for me to maintain a balance between the academic and spiritual aspects of my life so that my children continue to believe that women leaders are not unusual. There is no doubt in my children’s minds that a woman could indeed become world leaders.

Well, I know one four-year old who already has her eye on the job! Thanks, Tammara, for sharing your story and being a true “Gal with Grit”. Happy Mother’s Day to you and all Moms around the world!

The Power of Being a Newcomer Professional

Some see networking as a necessary evil. Having worked with newcomer professionals from all over the world, I don’t doubt they would agree – wholeheartedly. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Shifting perspective, having empathy, and being courageous goes a long way. In Daniel Pink’s 2016 convocation address to the graduates at Georgetown University, he asks them to do a simple test, drawing the letter, Capital E, on their foreheads. Not meant to be overly scientific but a quick snapshot on perspective-taking and how we see and communicate with others, take the test here.

In my networking workshops, I use two examples of how empathy can help shift perspectives for newcomer professionals. As learners living and working (hopefully) in a new cultural environment, they see themselves in a new light as they are constantly tested and face seemingly insurmountable barriers of communication.

In my first example, I set the scene by asking our learners to imagine themselves at a reception at an industry conference. Someone new approaches them and they stumble through a self-introduction. I ask, “How do you feel when this person is trying so hard to take the first step in introducing themselves?”

With our second example, I ask them, “Now how do you feel when someone asks you for help? Depending on the context, most likely, you would be open to helping them, right?”

“Now how would you feel if the situations were reversed?” I.e. how do they think the person listening to them would feel if they stumbled through a self-intro and that they were being the ones asked for help. Why would it be any different than when they were the listener?

Stories about my overseas experience working in Africa and Asia also as a newcomer professional has given me invaluable insights in relating and sharing with newcomer professionals to our country and whose English is their second/third language.

While living and working on a somewhat remote island, Sulawesi in Indonesia, all I could do was smile when I arrived, not knowing how to say “good morning”. In my first month, our project team leader sent to Yogyakarta for intensive language training, one-on-one with university students as tutors in a professional language training school, eight hours a day, and living with a home stay family for three months. I knew how it felt to speak like a kid in kindergarten when what I needed to express were concepts a bit more complex to my Indonesian staff.

Our newcomers in Canada have the added pressure of trying to find a job mid-career and maybe changing careers while providing for their families in a new country. It is a major sacrifice they have made for their future generation and is not for the faint-hearted but for the whole- smart- and brave-hearted.

What newcomer professionals bring to the workforce is untapped global talent and we would be remiss if we do not listen, engage, and be open to someone who is different from ourselves. Living in a digital age, the barriers will and are falling away more rapidly but our mindsets must also adapt and be agile enough to realize the potential and power of different points of view.

As Stephen R, Covey, the bestselling author of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” wrote, “Valuing the differences is the essence of synergy – the mental, the emotional, the psychological differences between people. And the key to valuing those differences is to realize that all people see the world, not as it is, but as they are.”

Perspective, empathy, and courage are essential for powerful networking not only for newcomer professionals but also for us to connect with others and also for us to help others connect. As newcomer professionals, network, introduce yourselves, and be of service to others are the first steps in building great relationships and being a part of a kinder, wiser, and more giving global community.

The Power of Perspective – All the light we can see

The Power of Perspective

Scrolling my Twitter feed, I stumbled upon Daniel Pink’s , an American author of bestselling books about business, work, and behavior, 2016 convocation address at Georgetown University on the importance of perspective-taking.

He asked the grads to do a quick social experiment with three simple instructions. Try it!

1) Identify your dominant hand.

2) With your dominant hand, snap your fingers 5 times.

3) With the forefinger of your dominant hand, draw for me a capital “E” on your forehead.

Take note, did you draw your “E” facing you inwardly  or “E” facing outwardly? Pink: “If you drew the “E”  facing you i.e. inwardly, it means you are self-oriented and take your own perspective. If you drew  “E” facing outwardly , it means you take someone else’s perspective.”

As time goes on, you will draw the “E” differently, depending on context. As you grow and acquire power and success, you might lose your ability to see the world through another’s eyes. “Use your power but sharpen your perspective.” –Daniel H. Pink

Saul Bellow, a Canadian author and Nobel and Pulitzer prize winner quoted Proust as he talked about life’s “true impressions.” “With increasing frequency, I dismiss as merely respectable opinions I have long held – or thought I held – and try to discern what I have really lived by and what others live by.” –Saul Bellow

Thirty years ago I was “gifted” this rare perspective. I haven’t used it very often…not until this month.  This “gift” came from being hospitalized for an extended period with no vision and no mobility. So when I peered into my best friend’s (30 years) one open eye last week, I suddenly realized that in order to connect with her, I had to take her perspective. I had to communicate in such a way so that if she was inside there, she could use her facial muscles to answer.  Being careful not to overtire her, we “conversed” as she responded neurologically well – acknowledging accurately and quickly. She’s smart, strong, and resilient. We pray.

“Valuing the differences between people is the essence of synergy … And the key is to realize that all people see the world, not as it is, but as they are.”–Stephen R. Covey

Did you draw  the Capital E facing inwardly or facing outwardly? Know your power of perspective and use it aptly, wisely, and compassionately.

 

The Power of Dad

I’m one of the lucky ones.  Although I seldom see my Dad (too late to teach him Skype. He’s 88 and lives 4 hours away by plane),  I can often summon up and savour moments of his love instantly.

Oh how he longs for my safety, health, and happiness as I do for him.  He expresses his love simply, clearly, and often, regardless if we’re on the phone or face to face.

He catches me off guard sometimes because his timing is not during those special celebrations anniversaries, birthdays, Christmas, but when we are alone together, just the two of us.  I’d like to think my siblings also have this special time with him, too.

He tells me he counts the days before I visit them in Calgary.  And once I’m there, we would go for our morning walks on our regular route and stop in for our senior’s coffee at the Golden Arches.  We always take a selfie before heading home.

Sometimes after a drive and I’ve dropped him off at their condo, spend 5 minutes checking my phone for messages, and about to drive off again to meet a friend. I would see him standing still in the front lobby waiting to wave and see me off.

In the morning, I would ask him how was his sleep and he would tell me how well he sleeps when I’m there.

We share the same love for and watch the Raptors on TV while yelling, laughing, and cheering so loudly that my Mom would say, ‘they can’t hear you!” which makes us laugh even harder.

I’ll be calling him today and we’ll have “our talk” which is a bit of a guessing game because he dislikes wearing his hearing aid at home.  Nonetheless to hear his voice makes me happy and when I call today,  I’ll hear him loud and clear this Father’s Day and also the next.

 

 

The Power of Hope

One of my favorite things to do is write “thank you” notes, not virtual but paper notes you post by tossing them in one of those big boxes on your street corner.  They’re still there. You could say I start each day grateful for being grateful.  Another is when I talk to people, I love  to look and listen for positivity.  So you could say I hope for Hope.  And my final confession is I can easily spend an hour or two listening to convocation addresses. This “secret” pleasure helps me aspire to inspire.

Yes, I’m the annoying person who jumps out of bed every morning, not with a partner (happily single) but with hope.  When all you have is hope, you jump … you jump for joy, for love, for the next big idea, for whatever the new day brings!

However, for some and understandably so, loss and suffering make it difficult to get out of bed.  Some fear having expectations because the disappointments are too big to bear. Some are grateful just ‘having a cup” because asking if your cup is half empty or half full would hurt too much to even ponder.  And some start their sentences with “But the problem is ….”

We all have and will continue to experience loss – large losses like losing your identity, your job, your love, your business, your purpose in life and small losses like losing your car keys, forgetting a name, sometimes your smartphone (maybe that’s a large loss).  This is what we call living.

Here’s how hope transcends loss.  Listen to Sheryl Sandberg’s recent convocation address to the grads at Virginia Tech.  Listen with or without judgement.  Given Ms. Sandberg’s position of privilege and working as the COO at Facebook, some cynics refuse to acknowledge and sympathize.  But we’re all human and when you suddenly lose your life partner, well, I feel very sad and sorry for her loss.

In her convocation address, Ms. Sandberg’s voice quivered and cracked slightly as she gave us a glimpse of her heart still raw and reeling from her loss – tender, emotional, and vulnerable.   She continues boldly and brightly, wishing the graduates hope.  She showed them the way to find hope:

“Seek shared experiences with all kinds of people.  Write shared narratives that create the world you want to live in.  Build shared hope in the communities you join and the communities you form.  And above all, find gratitude for the gift of life itself and the opportunities it provides for meaning, for joy, and for love.”

The power of hope is about setting expectations and intentions, building dreams, big dreams, and believing you can make and leave the world a better place.  “Resilience is a muscle. which we need to build.” says Ms. Sandberg.  Why not exercise our resilience muscle first thing in the morning by jumping out of bed?  Jump because you’ve been given another day. Jump because you are alive and kicking.  And jump because together, we can make a big leap forward.

Hashtag Talk #5 – Putting Women on The World Stage

#WomenEverywhere

#WiseWomen

#BozomaSaintJohn

This Stage Will Do - FOur Seasons Centre of the Arts

Have been thinking about how few women are seen and heard on the big world stage. Think TED Talks and you can count the number of women on 2 hands… as if … we don’t or maybe can’t count.

Recently I noticed the talks I’ve attended @rotmanschool @MaRSDD are mainly male speakers @AdamMGrant  @Eric_Weiner @TEDchris @benbernanke #AlvinERoth to name a few . These wise men are on stage because they are interesting, intelligent, and accomplished speakers with “ideas worth spreading”.

@TorontoSymphony #NewCreationsFestival March 2016 had one woman performer! One! In his tweet reply, the former CEO of TSO admitted their oversight, apologized & said they will do better next year.  “Where are the women?” Next year? Really? How many more years?  How much longer?

An event organizer once told me women are too busy to speak.  Their lives are not only running big corporate but changing diapers,  leading business in the office and in the home. They decline speaking engagements because they don’t have time.  Is this true? I wonder.  Leaders know the power of influence,  making a difference, leaving a legacy.

I believe #WomenEverywhere need, no, want to have a say, OUR say. #WiseWomen please speak up the  #BozomaSaintJohn way!

http://www.wired.com/2016/06/bozoma-saint-john-badass-long-apple/?mbid=nl_61416

Taking care of Business

With a stroke of good luck along with the red lunar eclipse last night and tonight, everything on heaven and on earth is now aligned.

After searching high and low for our next big biz opportunity worth pursuing, FOUR (yep 4) crossed our path in one day – yesterday – same day our new msbizwiz.com was relaunched!

Thank you, Christopher, our IT Boy Wonder! Now we can really get down to business!