Meet Soccer Mom: Full Time Law Enforcement

Quick Mandy Moment

I read more and more about sport officials being abused, battered, threatened and killed, and it gets me pretty angry. I get angry that it happened at all, which I feel is a pretty reasonable way to feel. I get angry that often the offender feels right in their actions, blames the emotion of the game, and expects to go on without repercussions. I get really angry when I read and hear that people (real, live people) don’t see the big deal, fail to see why criminal charges should be allowed. If it’s during a soccer game or basketball game, it’s not assault, it’s “part of the game.” That’s toxic thinking and this girl thinks it’s time to cut it out.

Oh, Mandy!


My world is about crime and punishment.

I’m a parent, so I decide what’s against the rules and I decide what an appropriate punishment is going to be. I have a job (a really great one), and I have to abide by a certain set of rules to keep that job. And if I don’t follow the rules, I’m subject to discipline the same way my children are subject to discipline at home.

cartoon image of hand cuffs

I’m also a soccer referee, so I deal with crime and punishment on the soccer field – where I don’t make the rules, and I don’t receive the punishment. I enforce the rules. (I may not necessarily see it this way but to make it black and white) When you commit a foul on the soccer field, that’s like committing a crime (they are called laws, after all). There’s a prescribed way that I deal with infringement. I don’t make up what the discipline is going to be or what the next phase of play is going to be. It’s not arbitrary. It’s just not up to me.

Referees on the soccer field or in the rink or on the court are so valuable. They’re able to look, with an unbiased eye, at the situations that unfold in front of them. They are trained to recognise infringement, and they’re trained in what procedure to follow when an infringement occurs. Despite what may be said, I’ve never met a fellow referee who ever made decisions based on a personal bias against a player or team.58-182-whistle_xl

It may surprise players to know that often, referees feel bad giving out sanctions (ok, maybe not often, but sometimes). We’re human, and we know they are, too. We understand that there’s an element of luck (good or bad, depending on where you’re standing) and that you probably (think ‘c’mon ref, I didn’t mean to‘) didn’t mean it, but that doesn’t change what actually happened. What actually happened was that an infringement occurred, and there’s a sanction. When we all agreed to participate in the game, we agreed to abide by the rules, regardless of what uniform we wear.

That’s organized society. That’s how all of society works. Infringement, sanctions. Crimes, punishments. When we work, when we drive, when we enter into legally binding agreements; we are partaking in the privileges of living in a organized society. Where there are rules. There are checks and balances. There’s order.

When we allow people to infringe on our rules and go against the procedures that have been put in place, we do ourselves a disservice. When we allow people to act with bias or prejudice, we make it acceptable for people to repeat the same infringements.

We live in a world where social media allows us to see every little thing. Images, videos, stories; they go viral. We love debating it. We love trying to place it on a scale for how severe it is. That needs to stop. It’s cut and dry. You recognize the infringement, then you implement the procedure. Whether it’s in the workplace, out on the pitch, or at home with my family – and all the drives in between – I’m submitting myself to a society that is organized, with rules, and I agree to abide by them. I don’t expect to be an exception if I infringe on the laws or the rules. I expect to be dealt the same process as anyone else.Dollarphotoclub_67769755.jpg

That’s organized society, and I’m a fan.

~Feel free to share your point of view in the comments.~
Advertisements

Those Moments

I would like to say

That there have been moments,

Brief and fleeting moments,

In which I felt

Shall I say confused

About what life means…

But I can’t say

That there were only moments.

Unless I say

That there have been moments

Where I have felt certain.

There were times when

Without Doubt

I felt purpose and meaning

In the drudgery of life.

When I knew.

What’s funny still

Is that I can’t even say

What it is

That I knew

In those moments.

And then I wonder

If that isn’t more the point

Than we’ve all been figuring.

Perhaps

Just maybe

In a small way

Wanting to know

Is more important

Than knowing anything.

Maybe

Maybe the more we know

About all this stuff

That we feel we have to know about stuff

Is actually the stuff

We should be looking past.

It would be nice

If maybe this confusion

Was worth a little more

Than I think it is.

Why won’t you pay attention to me?

spotlight-300x225

I wouldn’t consider myself to be someone who always wants to be the center of attention, but my job often puts me in that position. Don’t get me wrong here, I like it! Some people like being at the front of the room, all eyes on them, while others prefer to be more part of the background. It became clear to me early in life that I wasn’t one to shy away from attention, but, maybe more importantly, I always seem to keep the attention of my audience.

My brother ended up being the one who went into performing arts, which surprised our parents given that he was less outgoing than I was when we were children. I admire that he can get in front of a room and start singing his heart out, strumming away some self-taught tune on his guitar and how he can travel with his cast mates and perform in live theater productions. As much as I love to sing and write songs, I don’t have it in me to get on stage and ‘perform.’

So, you’re wondering now how I manage to have a captive audience. I have what I consider dueling careers. I’m a soccer referee, which, if I’m being honest, if I could, that would be the only job I’d have for the rest of my life. It’s a passion and a big commitment. It also means that, at least for 90 minutes at a time, I’m the authority on the field. All 22 players on the field and everyone in the technical areas, even my ARs know that the referee is in control of the match. When I blow the whistle, use my voice, show a card, the eyes are on me.

My other career is my ‘day job’ where I have a variety of roles but the one that applies here is that I train different groups of people. Sometimes I train other staff members, but mostly I train new customers using a few different avenues. Much of the training my company does is via online meeting software, but I’m lucky enough to get to travel and do trainings or sales demonstrations in front of a group. The audience tends to be focused and ready to learn, mostly because if they aren’t, they’ll suffer later by not being fully informed.


 

A Mandy Moment

Recently, I was performing a multi-day set of training sessions and, quite honestly, for the first time in my role as a trainer, they weren’t paying attention. I found this pretty odd considering this might have been one of the largest projects I’ve worked on in this role and, the project meant even more to the participants. I was half way across the country in a room with nearly a dozen people, several more were connected remotely, and I was talking to myself. As a mother of two small children, I have ways of gaining attention back, but felt pretty strange about having to get stern with a group of adults who really needed to learn the material I was trying to show them.

How did I handle it? Maybe not that well at first. A few times I would hear the conversations start up around the room, see the younger people staring intently at their phones and I would stop talking. Some attentive folks would be urging me to continue, but I simply waited for the, quite frankly rude behaviour to stop. Other times, I would just speak louder. By the end of the first day, I debriefed with my coworker and we both just shook our heads regarding how inattentive some people were.class-pic2

By the end of the second day, I think my frustration started to show. Some one had the nerve to chat with their neighbour throughout an entire section and then ask me a question that was directly stated and answered in the last paragraph I spoke. I may have sounded rude, and maybe I wanted it to sound rude, but I made sure to point out that I covered that topic already and just summarized it “a moment ago,” before providing them with a answer.

On the last day, my time was more limited. I had a flight to catch late in the afternoon, so there was no time to repeat or delay any of the scheduled topics of discussion. So I did it. I pulled out all my Mom Secrets. I used The Look. This was effective because another mom in the room recognized it instantly and spoke up to the group. Then, I used The Voice. This was effective because it’s unmistakable that you’ve crossed a line. Finally, the room was quiet. I took that opportunity to explain our time crunch and the importance of the training we needed to cover and asked that everyone pay close attention.

We managed to roll through that last day with time to spare for Q & A at the end. I didn’t think I’d need to use those kinds of tactics with a group of adults, but, it’s a lesson I’ve definitely learned the hard way!

Oh, Mandy!


 

As you can see from the Mandy Moment I experienced recently, having people pay attention to you is not something to take for granted. Looking back on it now, I can think of things I’ve learned and things I would have done differently. As usual, I’d like to share my learning points so that maybe you won’t run into the same troubles I did!

  1.  Provide an agenda in advance whenever possible – this helps ensure that everyone is aware of the amount of material to be covered and can make special notes for themselves, making their learning experience more meaningful.
    I like an agenda with approximate timings for each topic.
    Keep similar topics together when possible.
    Use the audience’s terminology where applicable.
  2. Use a good introduction – this isn’t always easy, especially if someone else is introducing you. Make sure to prepare a good intro for yourself and allow for both scenarios so you know you won’t miss mentioning something important. Your introduction should be short and to the point, after all, you have an agenda to follow.
    “Thanks, Mr. Doe for the introduction. I’m glad to be here with you today. As Mr. Doe explained, I’m here today to discuss… but first I’d like to say a few words about our organization.”
    “Good morning everyone. I’m so glad to be here with you today. As you may or may not know, I’m here today to discuss… but first I’d like to say a few words about our organization.”
  3. Stress the importance of your presentation – no matter what you’re about to say, it’s important, otherwise you wouldn’t be there to say it. Tell the audience what you’re going to cover with the agenda, introduce yourself to begin and then relate what you’re saying to the people sitting in front of you. Don’t take for granted that they understand the importance of what you’re about to say.
    “Changing your business practice is never something to take lightly, so today’s training will allow for an easy transition for all involved.”
    “My goal here today is to work with this group to ensure you’ll be able to take this information back to your staff/department/team and be able to support their needs.”
    “Today we’re going to cover a few critical topics” or “policy decisions.”
  4. Keep on topic – it’s natural to stray off the beaten path from time to time, and, sometimes you can allow that, but know when to draw the line and reel them back in. You know your material, so refer to an item on the agenda later on in the presentation that will shed light on the issue and move on as scheduled.
    “There’s obviously some good discussion happening here, but let’s wait until we get to that item in the agenda later this afternoon. We’ll probably have a better discussion after covering the topic together.”
    “Since we have a lot to cover this afternoon, lets save questions on that topic until later when we get to that.”
    “That’s a great question and I do plan to address it, let’s make a note to come back to that because I don’t want to confuse the issue at hand.”
  5. Ask them to pay attention – this is another one that may seem silly, but we can’t assume that everyone will listen, or care, while you’re talking. If you start off the presentation by asking them politely but firmly to pay attention (try the ol’ “I’m asking but it’s not really a question” tone), they are more likely to take you seriously and, at least at first, give you their focus.
    “I think it’s pretty clear that we have a lot of material to cover throughout these meetings, so I’ll just ask that we keep our focus on the agenda items.”
    “I know we’re not at the movies, but if everyone could just make sure their phone’s are put away, that would be great.”
    “Please be sure to put the phones away, but at lunch time, someone has to update give me a World Cup update!”

So, to answer my own question, “Why won’t you pay attention to me?” It’s probably because I didn’t ask you to.

 

 

Why You Shouldn’t Discourage Silly Behavior

A Mandy Moment – The foam dart wars

When I first started working at my current job, I was a bit nervous. It was a new industry for me, although related in a lot of ways to some of my previous work experience. I received some training and then took up my place in the cubicles to get started. It took a bit for me to be comfortable talking with my new coworkers, which is quite unusual for me. Normally, I’m the first one to strike up a conversation.

It was clear that this company was different than any other place I’ve seen or worked at. Everyone seemed to know each other and get along together much better than I’d ever seen – inside jokes everywhere, a whole language I didn’t understand, relationships and friendships outside of work… I felt like the new kid at school who just moved there from some backwards place.

After a few weeks, I started to really understand the dynamics of the office. It was actually a very well oiled machine from the inside. All of the camaraderie was just one of the things that makes this place unique – and awesome. And that’s when it happened.

As I sat at my desk working away collecting data, organizing my day and what not, I heard a snap (or maybe it was a crack.. or pop..) and a yellow foam dart flew just inches over my head. Well, what the heck was that? Laughter ensued and more darts went flying around. One of the sales guys was walking behind me and so my coworker thought, let’s just shoot him with a nerf gun. Alright, I can get into this!

Before long, I was handed my very own nerf gun. It was like some glorious coronation ceremony or initiation into a fantastic secret club. When I fired that gun for the first time and narrowly missed hitting someone in the head, I felt like I belonged in this group. This was not just a place to work, not just a software development company… It was, and still is, like being on a winning sports team or part of a Brady-Bunch-kind-of-happy family.

Oh, Mandy!

You may be thinking that I’m going to advise you to stock up on foam darts to give out to your employees. That might be cool, but that’s not my advice here. What employers and managers can take away from this is that work can be fun. I posted once about how organizational culture can have far reaching effects; encouraging a fun work environment goes along way to improving employee satisfaction.

During particularly busy periods, whether expected or not, it’s easy to get overwhelmed, drown in your work and become stressed,IMG_20131205_165547 frustrated, even bitter. When the work starts to pile up and reality sets in regarding deadlines or the scope of a particular project, it’s tough to stay positive and motivated. That’s where the nerf guns come in. When tension gets high around the office, someone’s bound to fire a random foam dart in an attempt to mock-assassinate a manager or rival sales person. One of my managers tends to get the bulk of my wrath, only because I’ve grown fond of the sneak attack as he has to walk past my office door  to get in and out of his office. I’m lucky he’s a good sport.

Let your employees blow off steam. If you see them forming a bond over something (something SAFE and appropriate!), encourage them to continue, or at the very least, don’t discourage it. There’s a time and a place for everything, so don’t shoot your boss with a nerf gun when clients are around or if it’s just clearly not a good time. Maybe you shouldn’t get your boss at all, that’s all going to depend on the kind of dynamic your workplace offers. What’s important is that employers recognize these kinds of rituals or diversions as healthy ways to blow of steam.

If your office doesn’t embrace any notable behavior like this, be proactive and offer up an activity that anyone could do. Maybe it’s been a long busy month and there’s a hockey game going on in your town, a new restaurant open nearby, bowling.. anything that may be interesting and fun. Offer ideas so that your employees know that you recognize their effort, that they’ve been working harder than usual or helped complete a major project that benefits the whole organization.

You may not accomplish the close, family style relationship you want with your employees but you will notice an appreciation that goes a long way. Happy employees are productive employees. They are also more loyal. These kinds of things extend to your employees’ personal lives, too. When I head home after a hectic day at the office, I can smile to myself because ‘I totally got Ryan with that dart today!’ and it’s a funny story to share with my family.

Leave a comment with some of the ways your office keeps things fun!

Know Your Audience

A Mandy Moment – That time I wore red in Regina…

Recently, I traveled to Regina, Saskatchewan, for a sales presentation. I was traveling with my company’s VP for a pretty important presentation and we had prepared well – or so I thought. Being the fashionista-wannabe that I am, a big part of the planning for me was what to wear. I know, I know.. it seems like a girly thing to care about, but let’s face it; appearances matter. I was all set with my black pencil skirt, red cowl neck short sleeved sweater, statement necklace and, of course, my classic black patent leather pumps. After all, red and black are power colours, and I wanted to be taken seriously.

11801134-largeMy partner and I ate breakfast and headed to the meeting room to set up. As we’re getting the projector going, setting out our notes and opening the programs we need for the day, our host and a few committee members arrived and we began chit chat and small talk as we waited for the rest of the group. And that’s when it happened. I was told “you know, you’re wearing the wrong colour today.” But how could that be? I’ll tell you how… Regina, also known as Rider Nation, has this CFL team you may have heard of. They wear green. As it turns out, so does EVERYONE IN REGINA ON GAME DAY. So, I look around and realize that if the audience wasn’t wearing a Roughrider’s jersey, you can bet they were wearing something green.. All of them.

To make matters worse, this was not just any game day; it was the final game of the season before the Grey Cup. Regina was playing Calgary – the Stampeders, who wear red… I could have been mortified. I could have blown it out of proportion and lost my confidence. I could have bombed the presentation. I could have worn green. After all, as a ginger, green really is my colour!

So what did I do? I played on it, several times actually, throughout the day. First I plead charming ignorance saying “Oh goodness! I’m from Halifax and our Mooseheads are all about red!” My blunder was laughed off and forgiven. As the presentation went on, we played up the fact that our products and services are easily customized – so they can make sure there’s enough green on their website. By the end of the day, I could have been wearing an Stampeders jersey and I don’t think it would have made a difference!

Oh, Mandy!

So what did I learn from this?

Preparing for a sales presentation (or any kind of presentation, really) is a lot of work. There’s studying up on product knowledge, putting together slide shows, videos, demos, scripting (if you’re into that sort of thing!), timing, etc. I spent time making sure all of the data I was using was good. I researched the audience’s needs, current services and organizational structure. I confirmed travel arrangements and accommodations. I met with my presentation partner several times to make sure our presentation had good flow, kept on track and fit with the proposal we were responding to.

I didn’t learn anything else about where I was going or who I was presenting to. I was only concerned with the content and logistics. I didn’t notice that where I was going and the time of year were such important details (let’s not talk about my nice black pumps getting covered in snow and salt…).

I went to Rider Nation, known for their unwavering commitment to their local team, on game day wearing this red shirt.

And what can you learn from this?

  • Find out if there are any cultural taboos to avoid (or trends to gain some bonus points!). I’m not suggesting that I should have walked in wearing a Riders jersey or covered in green face paint, but being able to share in the cities ritual could have had them embracing me from the start.
  • Learn about events going on in the area. Think recent past or near future; have they hosted a big concert? Are they about to host a major sporting even like the Grey Cup 7 days from now? That kind of knowledge could have saved me some embarrassment.
  • Confirm with your travel companions if there is a dress code. Part of this may be the aforementioned fashionista-wanna in me, but I think it’s important to look professional, appropriate to the setting and coordinated. Showing up in a suit while your partner arrives in jeans will take away from the how prepared you actually are. You could appear disorganized, disheveled and unprofessional.

And if you find yourself in the situation I was in…

  • Don’t panic! As long as your blunder isn’t insulting or vulgar, you should be able to recover; just make sure you haven’t left your wits at home. Dig deep to find the confidence you need to nip this thing in the bud. If you are uncomfortable, try not to show it – that just gets awkward, right?
  • Draw on experience to change the topic. I was fortunate to have noticed that one woman wore a sweatshirt (under her Riders jacket) for a soccer tournament I had officiated in back in Nova Scotia. Her son played in the tournament. We reminisced about the awful Cape Breton weather we experienced and then noticed that most of the winning teams wore red.. What a fabulous coincidence. Your experience could be a life saver!
  • Don’t be afraid to laugh at your mistake – make them laugh with you, not at you! No one likes a stick in the mud, right? If your audience gets a chuckle out of it, laugh along. If you’re quick, take a crack at yourself to move things along a bit faster.

I should have asked more questions so I could be prepared for the presentation on all sides. I was lucky to get through the rough start; there’s no telling how things may have gone had the audience been insulted. Imagine, losing a sale or really botching a presentation all because of a simple fashion choice!

Affecting Organizational Culture

A Mandy Moment:

Some time ago, I worked at a fairly large call center. Inside the beautiful glass building, up the elevator and into the call center’s main floor, I would enter through the electronically secured doors to a sea of fabric cubicles and soft “productivity green” walls. Luckily, there were always seats available, but sitting at the same desk for more than a few days at a time was unheard of. No problem, all this girl needs is a desk and a computer that works. And a coffee.

Hmm. Didn’t have time to grab my Tim’s on the way in. Going to have to go at least 2 hours before getting a coffee, but that’s ok I get a 15 minute break. Wait. I’m on the late shift today so my first 15 minute break is at 1pm. That means I’m going to have to fight through the lunch rush hour to get to Tim’s half a block away, stand in line behind 28 people getting a toasted panini sandwich then boot it back to my desk. I can do this… Then of course, I have to give the queue monitor the ol’ “Sorry, I had to wait for the elevator…” 😉 story.

Oh, Mandy!

It’s no secret that an organization’s culture has a major impact on employee performance and retention, but what can employers to do to improve their culture? I’ve worked in a variety of environments ranging from chain retail stores to one-shop operations to call centers both big and small. Although large, corporate environments may seem to lack any real character, it’s still easy to see what kind of small, seemingly meaningless things can contribute to a positive organizational culture.

Clearly, the old adage “you can’t please everyone” rings true when it comes to organizational culture. What you can do, however, is look at your physical environment and make sure that environment is conducive to promoting a positive culture. Whether you are large or small, here are some things to consider:

Where are you located? Downtown with lots of public transportation and restaurants? Adjacent to a popular coffee shop? On the outskirts of town? In a business or industrial park? Are you open outside of regular business hours?

  • Public Transportation Subsidies – Everyone has travel expenses, that’s a given. Why not offer a partial reimbursement program for public transportation expenses? Employees will appreciate the offer and there’s a hidden benefit to this one! In this age of environmental consciousness, your company will be seen to encourage public transit which has a positive impact on the environment. Another way to deal with transportation issues would be to encourage carpool programs; grab an employee who’s shown some initiative and suggest they arrange a carpool program. Provide some space on a bulletin board or provide access to internal communications to facilitate such a program.
  • Coffee Time – If you’re not located next door to a Tim Horton’s or Starbucks, a quick and easy cultural pick-me-up is making coffee (or tea!) available in the office. Single serve coffee machines are all the rage and employees can contribute to the “coffee fund” so that supplies can be replenished. You could ask a frequent coffee drinker if they’d mind keeping tabs on it for you.
  • The Most Important Meal of the Day – When you’re located in a downtown core or business park where there are lots of restaurants, convenience stores and amenities near by, your employees have access to things like a donut or breakfast sandwich on their way to work. But what if you’re not? Bring in a box of donuts, croissants, fruit or other easy to grab breakfast treat for the office. Start small, maybe every Monday. You’ll be surprised how quickly your employees will start bringing in their own treat to share!

Why do these things make a difference? When you reach out and provide some of these kinds of comforts to your employees, it shows empathy. When your employees feel that you’re going beyond (even if it’s not far beyond) the needs of the organization to make their work day more enjoyable, the rewards are measurable. You may notice that employees are more productive in their daily activities, more friendly with coworkers and more committed to the company’s vision. Even if you’re only one department of a large company, this kind of cultural improvement very well might be contagious!