What Would Be Your Signature Job Title?

A year or so ago, I met someone during a training seminar in Washington D.C., and she introduced herself as a Director of First Impressions. As a fellow Learning and Development professional, much of her job revolved around orientation and on-boarding new employees. She was bubbly, enthusiastic and kind – the type of girl who exhibited all the characteristics of what it means to Positively Sparkle. As we connected, I began to realize that her title was more than just a job. Being a Director of First Impressions was at the core of her identity, values and strengths, and it wasn’t just a title, it represented her purpose.

So what’s in a job title anyway? All of us seem to have job titles at work, and we tout them around even after hours– at networking events, at social happy hours, house parties, and family gatherings. They’re on our business cards, our email signatures, our name badges. Some of us find immense pride in our titles, others, not so much. In the corporate world, titles help us to establish hierarchy. We know that the letters C, or VP mean that you are a leader in the organization with significant impact. Some of us would say that our title represents exactly what our job functions entail, yet again, others, not so much. There are such a vast variety of job titles that even knowing which one to search for on online job posting boards requires intensive research. We mold our resumes to fit the job title and description, painstakingly researching keywords and applying relevant knowledge and experience to fit the “role”.

Yet, if a title is a representation of who we are and what we bring to the table, why shouldn’t we create our own? Several organizations have begun the process of letting employees choose their own job titles. At Berkshire Hathaway, there is a Director of Chaos. The IT department at Netflix are called NERDS, and the CEO of the Make a Wish Foundation is called the Fairy Godmother of Wishes.

People say that their self-created job titles help them to focus on the joyful parts of their job versus the hardships, and research shows that the titles provide self-verification, psychological safety and external rapport. Now while not all of us are going to be able to create our own job title at work, let’s take a moment to discover, just for ourselves, what would be our signature job title?

Mine would be: Sparkle Creator. Because I love creating experiences that delights, invigorates and brings joy to others. I seek to innovate on learning for leaders that spark positive change for people and organizations. My life purpose: to leave a little sparkle wherever I go.

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Fancy Bites for a Upscale and Casual Girls Night In

I love planning parties. I love the idea of bringing people together and I love cooking for others. I love the challenge of planning a menu, especially when it comes to lots of different little bites.

To truly sparkle as a hostess, you’ll not only want to delight your guests’ taste buds, you’ll also want to be calm, cool and collected, and have everything nearly ready by the time people arrive so can you really mingle. Creating a menu with many things that have to be served hot and made to order can take away from the party’s ambiance. So to create the best experience for both you and your guests, I aim to plan carefully on what can be made ahead, what can be kept warm, and what can be plated and served at room temperature or cold.

When I plan a menu of hors-d’oeuvres, I try to choose 5-7 bites. I like to err on the side of being able to serve most things room temperature or cold and have a balance between bites that are savory and sweet, decadent and refreshing, and a good mix of meat, seafood, and vegetarian. I always ask my guests if they have any dietary restrictions prior to the party and make sure that all guests can eat at least most of the items.

For my Valentines’ Day girls night in, I invited about 12 girls over to my tiny New York City apartment for a treat of fancy bites and cocktails. Here’s how I did it.

menu

Prep the day before: print out your menu, prepare a tealight candle and grab a neutral tablecloth and some spray roses. Nowadays, I opt to frame my menu in a simple gold 5×7 picture frame. I got this one from Target.

 

 

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Planning your display ahead of time can be really helpful. I typically place my buffet setting the night before – that way I already know how everything will look before the food is ready to be served.

gourgeres2

I had my guests start with gruyere gougères. These can be made in advance, frozen and placed in a hot oven for a few minutes to warm up. Not only does it make the house smell wonderful, it also allows you to greet your guests with a delightful, fresh warm bite with little effort and stress.

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As guests snacked on the gougères. I started to put together the rest of the appetizers. Several friends came a few minutes early and were able to help me with a few last minute touches.

eggs

These beet-pickled deviled eggs are not only beautiful, they also pack in so much flavor! A little bit of curry powder adds a unique twist to the classic deviled egg, and soaking the boiled eggs in beet juice gives them their pretty hue.

chicken liver

These almond financiers are made perfect with the addition of creamy chicken liver mousse. This sweet and salty combination is inspired by a dish I had at State Bird Provisions in San Francisco. They use a duck-fat financier, but I opted for the classic brown butter version of the little french cake.

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Buckwheat blinis with smoked salmon, crème fraiche, paddlefish caviar and chives are the perfect fancy bite. It’s luxurious, delicious and makes a serious impression.

 

four appetizers on plate

Each of the bites were approximately the same size, and ranged between 1-2 bites, which is perfect since I didn’t need to provide my guests with serious silverware. Instead, I put out tiny cocktail forks in a glass.

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For dessert, I prepped a tower of sweets and refreshing fruits that the girls could dip in either dark or milk chocolate fondue. Not only was this easy to prepare, it was also really fun and delicious. I typically spend a lot of time baking, but wanted to focus on the savory food instead, so I ended up buying things like cookies from Trader Joe’s and pound cake for dipping.

dessert

We had so much fun! To me, this was the perfect way to treat my girls to a night of decadence, love and celebration.

friends


Menu

Paddlefish Caviar and Smoked Salmon Blinis

Chicken Liver Mousse on Almond Financiers

Beet Pickled Deviled Eggs

Roasted Shrimp with Green Goddess Dressing

Carrot Ginger Shooters with Gruyere Gougères

Milk and Dark Chocolate Fondue

Salted Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies


Recipe Sources:

http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/alain-ducasses-gougeres

https://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/carrot-soup-with-ginger-and-lemon-4083

https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/roasted-shrimp-cocktail-with-green-goddess-dressing-2329991

https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/blini-with-smoked-salmon-recipe-1950644

Here are a couple of books that I used for reference and recipes for this night:

State Bird Provisions: A Cookbook

By Stuart Brioza, Nicole Krasinski, JJ Goode

 

Payard Cookies

By François Payard, Anne E. McBride

 

The Latest in Mindfulness is Pasta Meditation: Making Garganelli

For a long time, I felt that I wasn’t good at meditation. In my mind, meditation meant that I was sitting cross legged, hands gently resting on my thighs, palms up, head clear, breathing in and out slowly and purposely without letting my mind wander of falling asleep. Whether it was guided or unguided, I felt like even 5 minutes was too long for me. Not only did I always feel like I didn’t have time to meditate, when I could find the time, I couldn’t even sit still for the short duration. Thinking that this type of meditation wasn’t for me, I knew I needed a different solution. And that’s when I stumbled upon the idea of cooking meditation.

Cooking is an activity that inherently requires us to be fully present. After all, if you’re not fully present while chopping vegetables, you might just cut your fingers off. You have to be fully present to put the right amount of salt and seasoning in your food, you have to be present not to burn dinner, and you most definitely have to be present while measuring ingredients for baked goods. Not only does it require full presence, it also allows for connection. To me, cooking provides me with a way to connect. I connect with food through my hands, and I use food and cooking to connect with others. It’s an activity that is both productive and creative, purposeful and meaningful. When we fully engage in cooking, we engage with all of our senses – our sense of smell, taste, sight, touch and even sound.

When I think about all of my favorite hobbies and things to do, cooking ranks up there as probably my favorite thing to do in the world. I love cooking for myself and my husband, entertaining our friends, or challenging myself to make something new and exciting. Cooking satisfies my soul in a way that nothing else does. It provides me and the people I love with nourishment and pleasure; it satisfies the the mind, body and soul.  It calms me down after a long day of work, and it gives me the space to be creative and to enjoy beauty and excellence.

So, of course, one of my favorite youtube stars is Andrew Rea, or Oliver Babish from Binging with Babish. If you’re not familiar with the show, it’s basically short tutorials and recreations of recipes from television and movies. In one episode, Babish makes il timpano, a baked pasta dish filled with meatballs, boiled eggs, red sauce and garganelli. As soon as I watched the episode, I knew I wanted to make garganelli one day.

A few weeks ago, I finally got my chance to make homemade garganelli – a tubular shaped hand rolled pasta that requires fresh pasta sheets being cut into small squares 2×2 squares, folded on a wooden dowel and rolled on a small wooden comb called a pettine. Similar to their less glamorous cousin, penne, garganelli differs in that a “flap” is visible where one corner of the pasta square adheres to the rest, as opposed to a perfect cylinder in penne.

To understand this specialty of Emilia-Romaga, I  read a cookbook called Making Artisan Pasta by Aliza Green. Aliza described garganelli as coming from the Italian word garganeli, meaning a chicken’s gullet, or “gargle” in English. The dough contains a healthy amount of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and freshly grated nutmeg, giving it a speckled appearance and a delicious smell. The dough is slightly moist but pretty firm, and has the texture of a nice cool playdoh.

 Here I am, rolling out dough using this awesome kitchen-aid pasta tool. It's an absolute must have for all your homemade pasta sheets, and it's 100x easier than using a traditional hand crank pasta machine.  Here I am, rolling out dough using this awesome kitchen-aid pasta tool. It’s an absolute must have for all your homemade pasta sheets, and it’s 100x easier than using a traditional hand crank pasta machine.   Once the dough was rolled out to the right thickness, I used a ruler and a fluted pasta cutter to cut the dough into 2x2 squares. This particular cutter could cut either a fluted or straight pattern.  Once the dough was rolled out to the right thickness, I used a ruler and a fluted pasta cutter to cut the dough into 2×2 squares. This particular cutter could cut either a fluted or straight pattern.

Though immensely tedious, I gave my full concentration on each of those fluted square shapes, taking the time to gently place each one on the dowel and rolling it onto the board just so- that the tiny ridges formed and the edges sealed perfectly, resulting in a perfectly shaped garganello. Sliding the tube gently off the dowel, I reached for the next piece of square dough.

 The gentle yet firm folding technique on the board that creates the grooves in the pasta and seals the edges.  The gentle yet firm folding technique on the board that creates the grooves in the pasta and seals the edges.   Each completed garganello brought me a little bit of joy.  Each completed garganello brought me a little bit of joy.

The purposeful balance of being not too light- as to not stamp on the ridges and give the dough a proper seal, or too heavy- which would make the dough stick on the dowel and in the board was my only task. With each gargenello, I improved my technique. It was as natural as breathing, yet it required sheer concentration. When one didn’t come out as perfect as the others, I simply noted it, letting the pasta gently slide onto a wooden board without judgement. Soon, a portion’s worth of garganelli was laid in front of me. I kept going. 6 portions later, I was done. A few hours must had passed. I’m not sure exactly how much time had elapsed, but I felt so calm, so satisfied, a container of perfectly formed hand rolled pasta sitting in front of me. I had just meditated for hours and didn’t even realize it. My mind had been clear, completely in focus. My hands moved organically yet purposefully. I had entered into a complete flow state, where I lost track of time, the temperature, hunger or thirst. I was fully absorbed in this beautiful activity of making pasta.

 Once I got into the grove of this activity, I completely lost track of time.  Once I got into the grove of this activity, I completely lost track of time.   6-8 portions of garganelli, all done.  6-8 portions of garganelli, all done.

When it comes to mindfulness, I believe in doing what works for you. What calms your mind? What makes you feel completely at ease? What activity can you do where you feel completely absorbed, where you enter the flow zone? Where your hands, mind, and heart are all connected and fully engaged? For me, it’s making this labor intensive, beautiful pasta. If you don’t believe me, try it! It might just work for you too.

 The second best part of this mindfulness activity: eating it.  The second best part of this mindfulness activity: eating it.


Want to try making garganelli? Here are the tools that you’ll need.

The Secret to Engagement? Great Recognition

Now think for just a few minutes, when was the last time you sincerely thanked your employees, your colleagues, or your manager? 

Having an attitude of gratitude is not only important in your personal life, it’s also profoundly important in your work life. Recognizing others in the workplace leads to enhanced relationships, improves corporate culture, strengthens teams and motivates people and teams to shine brighter for themselves and for the organization.

Research studies from UC Davis psychology professor Robert Emmons, a leading author and researcher on the subject of gratitude and the O.C. Tanner Institute,  have proven that appreciation and recognition are not only a way to make our colleagues feel warm and fuzzy, it also drives business results.

In leadership courses that I teach, I always emphasize the power of classical conditioning – that is, what gets recognized gets repeated. People who are recognized for the work that they do are not only more satisfied with their workplace, they are also likely to be more engaged. In fact, Gallup has demonstrated that people who receive recognition or praise every seven days tend to be more engaged than people who do not.

So what are some practical ways that you can become better at recognizing others? Take an inventory to see if you are doing these four things today. 


1. Make it a priority. When I ask managers what the number one barrier to giving their employees frequent and meaningful recognition is, they usually say that they just don’t have the time. However, great recognition doesn’t take a lot of time – it just takes thought and prioritization. Make it a part of your engagement strategy as a leader and a part of your practice.

2. Make it personal. Recognition isn’t one size fits all. While some people like the loud and sparkly types of recognition such as public awards or very public shout outs, others prefer quieter recognition such as a hand written thank you note or a private conversation. Some people enjoy Starbucks, other’s might not like coffee. Consider the person that you’re recognizing and make it personal for them. Don’t how how they like to be recognized? You can always ask!

3. Make it specific. Being specific about what it is that you are recognizing the other person for helps the them to link their behaviors or achievements to the recognition moment. While generic thank yous are nice, specific and timely recognition ensures that what gets recognized, gets repeated.


So what do you recognize people for? If the recommendation is to recognize people more often, does that mean that they should be recognized for simple things like coming into work? People often tell me that people should only be recognized for significant accomplishments. And to that I’d like to ask a question:

Consider that you are a true fan of a sports team, and you are watching that sports team perform live. When do you start cheering?

If you’re a true fan, you would start cheering even before the first pitch, the first touchdown, the first goal. You would be cheering right from the start. And if you are a true fan of your people, you would want not only to celebrate their achievements, but all of their efforts along the way.


Books & Resources on Gratitude

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Make Generosity a Part of Your Growth Strategy

Peter Drucker, the father of modern management said it best, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

When thinking about the types of skills one would need to succeed in a business environment, generosity isn’t usually something that comes up. Leadership, yes. Vision, absolutely. Ability to execute, you bet. But I’d like to argue that just as important as all of those skills is the skill of generosity. It has the power to make or break your career.

It was time to make an adjustment to the way I thought about success and growth. It was time to make generosity a part of my growth strategy.

Now, what does it mean to be generous at work?

Generous people at work share information, credit, time and expertise freely. In short, generous people think of themselves as a part of a larger strategy, a piece of a puzzle, and seek ways in which to improve the entire team instead of just themselves. Because of their nature, generous people are prized as great communicators and collaborators.

Here are a few quick ideas that can jump start your generosity today:


1. Share information. Sharing information that you have with others on your team makes you look open, authentic and trustworthy. Making sure that people have the information to make the right decisions is not only important to achieve great business results, but it also helps people to feel like they have buy-in in the process. When people aren’t left wondering what’s happening, they have more opportunities to collaborate and get things done quicker and better.

2. Share credit. Time and time again, we have learned from leadership studies that people want to be recognized for a job well done. Remember, recognition doesn’t cost you anything. If you see your colleagues doing great work, recognize them for it! Sell up your colleagues to upper management and let them know that everything that you do is a team effort and therefore the entire team deserves credit for a job well done.

3. Share time. Taking extra time out of your day to chat at the water cooler isn’t a wasted effort at all. In fact, bonding with your colleagues makes it easier to get things done together in the future. When in meetings or in conference calls, take a few moments to ask your colleagues about their weekend, or how they are doing. Then listen generously to their responses, showing that you really care.

4. Share expertise. You’re brilliant, and everyone knows it. Don’t let all of that accumulated experience and intelligence go to waste! Take the time and effort to share your experiences, whether highs or lows and your learning with others. Better yet, consider taking on a mentoring role to help others achieve the success that you have accomplished, whether inside or outside of your organization.


Remember, there’s no “I” in “team”. Nowadays, I make generosity a big part of my work life, and in fact, a part of my growth strategy. None of us work in a vacuum. No one is able to do it entirely on their own. To make big things happen, you need a big team of people, rowing together in the same direction.

Generosity doesn’t come up often in leadership content. Yet I truly believe that this is one of the most important principles of thriving. In listening to some of the most inspiring leaders, what I have been hearing is that you can’t do it all. You have to relinquish your power, to empower others.

Start with Strengths

Strengths psychology is based on the premise that instead of focusing on what is wrong with people, we should focus on what is right with people. Imagine if you were able to do only the things that you do best at work. How productive would you be? Each of us has a unique set of talents that we are born with. Think about what your talents might be. What do people consistently recognize you for? What comes naturally to you? Now answer the following questions below. If you respond “yes” to these questions, they might give you some insight as to whether you have talents in those areas.


  1. Do you have a color-coded, or otherwise very organized closet?
  2. Do you find it easy to talk to anyone anywhere, whether it is in elevators, supermarkets or while waiting in line?
  3. Do you find it easy to relate to others, their pains and joys?
  4. Do you enjoy puzzles and board games?
  5. Are you considered the “fixer” in your family? Are you always solving problems?
  6. Do you feel like it’s difficult to let go of work, even on vacation?
  7. Do your strong beliefs guide what you do everyday?
  8. Is it easy  for you to stay on a diet or regimen?
  9. Are you competitive by nature, even when there is no competition?

If you answered “yes” to several of these questions, they might clue you into whether you might have talents or strengths in that particular area. Notice that while some were an absolute “yes”, others might be a resounding “no”. For me, I know I lack discipline and self-control, and staying on a regimen to me sounds almost torturous. So a job where repetition is important may not be the best job for me.

Knowing what your strengths are is not only important because it is a frequent job interview question, but also because it had tremendous implications in unlocking your potential at work, and in your personal life. By knowing what makes you tick and understanding how strengths play into your day-to-day, you’ll be able to strategically utilize your strengths while managing around your weaknesses. What do I mean about managing around your weaknesses? Perhaps it is finding a partner at work who had different strengths from you, or perhaps it is minimizing the types of tasks that don’t play on your strengths and talents. That way, you can maximize your success by engaging in projects that increase your opportunities for success.

Research in strengths have consistently demonstrated that people who have the opportunity to do what they do best everyday are not only more successful, they are more engaged. In fact,

People who respond positively to the question, “I have the opportunity to do what I do best everyday.” are 6 times more likely to be engaged and 3 times more likely to report an excellent quality of life in general.

— Gallup

People who are working in their strengths zone look forward to going to work, have more positive than negative interactions with their colleagues, treat customers better, tell their friends that they work at a great company, achieve more on a daily basis and have more positive, creative and innovative moments.

Now take some time, to think about your strengths. What are you known for at work? You might be the go-to person for this. Are you particularly strong in coming up with fresh, new ideas? Are you able to make the world’s greatest, most organized Excel spreadsheets with built in formulas and pivot tables? Maybe you’re the go-to girl for winning over new customers. Take a moment to think about where you truly sparkle at work. Write down three things that you’re known for, which we’ll call, your strengths.

Now that you have three strengths written down, think about how much time you spend utilizing these strengths at work. How much of your week is spent doing the things that you’re naturally good at? How much time is spent doing things that you might struggle with, or not enjoy? These might be great opportunities to take a look at how you are spending your time, and readjust.

What Does it Mean to Positively Sparkle?

Imagine waking up, feeling invigorated, energized and ready for your day. There is a peaceful calmness to your surroundings. The sun is shining and the weather feels pleasant on your skin. Your clothes, professional yet flirty hug your curves just right, and you’ve got just the right swing in your step.

No matter where you are headed, your commute is pleasant. You are able to simultaneously relax and engage with your surroundings. For me, I take the NYC Subway every morning. You might drive or walk to work, or take other forms of public transportation. You might listen to a podcast that teaches you something or inspires you. You might listen to music that is upbeat and fuels your soul. Birds are chirping and trees are green. The blue sky above reminds us that we are fully alive.

As your commute comes to an end, you are excited to embark on your day. The air is fresh and the greetings are warm. The hospitable aroma of coffee lingers in the air. You drop your bag down and sit at your computer. You’re ready for another amazing day.

While not all days can be this perfect, you absolutely can positively sparkle at work and at home. By bringing the best version of yourself to your every day, by believing in the mission and purpose or your organization, by having an optimal team that has your back, by having a boss that is more of a coach and cares about your personal development, and by making sure that you are focused on all dimensions of your well-being – physical, social, financial, relational and purposeful, you will certainly shine.

What does this all mean? The purpose of this blog will explore positive psychology and leadership topics that will inspire you to positively sparkle at work. Stay tuned for more posts on practice tips, advice and life-hacks that will ensure you are consistently living your best self.