No longer here, but there –

I’ve rolled up three blogs into one:

In the beginning, there was YouGottaWonder at Our Own Oasis, created for sharing updates with my extended family. The focus was generally on random things like landscaping, interior decorating, exercising, etc.

Then came A Mother’s Angst, created for sharing foibles and lessons learned about life and parenting. Especially parenting.

Then came the early FGHart blog, a place to write about career aspirations, both corporate and independent. That’s this blog – i.e. You are here!

Now there’s – this is where it’s all happening now. The other, older blogs (including this one) are dying on the vine.

But it seems that many of the blogs I visit have restricted options for comments, requiring WordPress, Google or Twitter. So I’ve created this post, which will hopefully help point folks back to my blog at If you’re here in response to a comment I left on your blog, please go to to find me.



My 3 words and the goals that go with them

This year I was introduced to the concept of identifying 3 words to be the focus and guide for personal goals and development, rather than going through the exercise of creating resolutions that might fall to the wayside before the end of January. I wrote about how I came to my 3 words here.

For 2011, my words are: Prudence, Mercy, Humility

Prudence = the characteristic of exercising sound judgment in practical affairs; act justly.

Mercy = a disposition to be kind and forgiving; compassionate treatment of others; a blessing

Humility = the quality of being modest, reverential, never rude or self-abasing; temperance (restraint against inordinate desires or appetites).

As January nears its end I’m pleasantly surprised to realize these 3 words continue to resonate for me. But the real trick is to define SMART goals that support these words. SMART goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound. I’m sharing my goals here as an example and as a way to hold myself accountable.

  1. Exercise 4 hours per week
  2. Write a minimum of 4 blog posts per week (one each: Here, Here, Here &  Here)
  3. Read one leadership book per month, write a one-page summary for reference and share the content/learnings with my staff
  4. Save $5/week from my lunch allowance to give away in unexpected places in December
  5. Read/review one novel per month
I’m not off to a great start but I’m making progress and I’m not giving up.
Have you set goals or made resolutions for 2011? If so, how are you doing so far?

Are you a Coach, a Mentor, a Leader or a Manager?

In the world today, everyone is someone – at a minimum, you are your own boss. I don’t mean in the sense of owning your business; I mean in the sense of how you manage yourself. Whether you like it or not, you are responsible for your own actions. You’re accountable for the decisions you make. How well are you managing yourself? Seth Godin recently wrote a post that suggested the odds are that you’re doing it poorly.

Here’s a summary of the fundamental differences between the roles of coach, mentor, leader and manager:

Coach A person who trains (athletes), tutors (students) or instructs (performers).
Mentor A wise and trusted counselor or teacher. An influential senior sponsor or supporter.
Leader A guiding or directing head, as of an army, movement or political group.
Manager A person who has control or direction of an institution, business, organization. A person who controls and manipulates resources & expenses.

The differences in practice can be subtle:

Managers are individuals assigned to a specific role with defined scope, typically paid to fill that role, and responsible for the day-to-day operations and expenditures of that organization. Not all managers are effective leaders. Ideally, managers are accountable for the decisions they make.

A leader in an organization can be identified as the person that everyone tends to follow. This may not be an organizational (assigned) leader. A friend of mine worked for a local school district. She told me about a teacher that all of the other teachers’ turned to during difficult discussions. The teacher always provided sound input and her guidance was typically followed. Then the school district “put her in charge” (i.e. made her a manager) and she turned into a hated dictator. The school district quickly returned the teacher to her previous role. Had they taken the time to invest in her leadership skills they might have enjoyed a different outcome.

Leaders are not necessarily accountable (if they are not also the “manager” for the organization); a series of bad decisions or a change in conditions might cause a leader to fall out of favor or get left behind by an evolving organization.

A mentor is also a go-to person. This is an individual whose experiences and reputation make them a great source of advice. They’ve learned from their own mistakes & successes, as well as from others and they’re able to distill those learnings into practice and useful advice. Wisdom, a key attribute of a good mentor, can best be judged in hindsight. Does an individual’s decisions (and advice) generally turn out well? That track record builds a person’s reputation as a wise and trusted counselor and grows his or her sphere of influence.

The advice and opinions offered by a mentor are generally of the take-it-or-leave-it variety. A mentor is not likely to be held accountable for the failure of others, although they might credit themselves with another’s success.

A coach has an area of expertise or interest and a particular talent in helping others within that area. Not everyone with expertise has the ability or inclination to coach. You don’t have to be an expert in an area to coach.

A year ago I began a workout routine. Over time I became increasingly more proficient with my Wii-Fit exercise. A friend suggested I begin to run, but I laughed, argued, made excuses and generally avoided running. Soon my friend became my coach. Before I knew it I’d run in my first 5K. She’s not a professional runner, but she has useful experience running in 5K’s and she wanted to see me succeed. She encouraged me. She gave me tips and suggestions. And she cajoled me into finally signing up and participating in a 5K. She effectively coached me, mentored me and led me through the process of defining and meeting a specific goal.

It’s great to have someone in your life that can help you succeed but sometimes that “someone” must be you yourself. I’ve recently come to appreciate the need for me to be that person for myself. As the head of US-based operations for a Taiwanese company I rarely see or hear from my boss and when I do, his input does not typically take the form of constructive feedback, mentoring or coaching. I can choose to be a victim, remaining stuck in old behaviors or I can identify opportunities for my own improvement, set personal goals and develop action plans for bringing about the desired changed. I also have to find ways to measure progress and hold myself accountable.

I am in the process of managing myself: I have the assigned responsibility and accountability for being the best me I can be. That means I have to move from the role of “Engineering Manager” to “Director of Operations”, which carries more than just an increase in responsibilities. I need to define goals for the team and strive to meet those goals in an ever-changing climate. Failure could mean the demise of the organization (i.e. closing shop and handing out pink slips). While that may be an extreme view, it keeps me motivated to outswim the sharks.

I am in the process of leading myself: I am an avid follower of Michael Hyatt, Chairman & CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers. His blog is sub-titled “Intentional Leadership”. He regularly posts tips that are useful for leading, mentoring and coaching oneself and others. I am choosing my path.

I am in the process of mentoring myself: I’m paying attention to the leaders I consider effective, and those I don’t (i.e. “what not to do”). I have a stack of management & leadership books (some I’ve read before, some not) that I’m reading with a fresh eye. As I read I’m thinking about how I interact with others, but also how I interact with myself. I’m identifying a few key areas for improvement and focusing on opportunities for immediate change.

I am in the process of coaching myself: I’m setting goals, defining expectations and deliverables, and most importantly I’m devoting the time needed for these efforts. I’m encouraging myself, cajoling and pushing and striving for continuous improvement.

I am a proponent of intentionally leading myself, how about you? Are you ready to take the initiative and be accountable? Think about these questions:

  • How do you set goals/expectations?
  • How do you measure progress?
  • How do you give yourself feedback?

These are key elements in effectively learning to manage yourself to success.


November 2009 and November 2010 sit like bookends on opposite ends of a year, bounding another transitional period of my life. Most of the world lives a cycle that starts in January and ends in December but I, perhaps because it is the month of my birth, seem to define my years starting and ending with November.

On November 1, 2008 I began a new life. From that date through 2009 I effectively ran the US-based engineering operations for my Taiwanese employer, a supplier for my former employer (MFE), operating out of MFE’s building, working with most of the same people I’d always worked with at MFE, just paid for from a different coffer. My boss was a new element, though. He had no real experience with MFE and was a lame duck in the immediate situation. I spent most of ’09 doing his job and my job. As the year drew to a close, I’d had enough. I was ready to quit.

I spent November ’08 blogging every day as part of NaBloPoMo. In the year spanning Novembers between ’08 and ’09 I wrote over 300 blog posts (between A Mother’s Angst and Our Own Oasis). I began to imagine a different life. A life as a Writer. An Author. And with that in mind I spent November ’09 writing a novel as part of NaNoWriMo. Immediately after finishing (68k words) I headed to China on business. I’d barely recovered from jetlag when a twist of fate (karma, the almighty justice of God) eliminated the era of my old boss and put me in charge of the US-based operations.

In January, 2009 I became the Acting Division Director of an engineering organization. So, I did what any aspiring author would do. I started a 3rd blog. This one. One intended to chronicle my experiences as a leader. A site where I could share the wisdom gained through painful experience. Or something like that.

That’s not exactly what happened. I’ve posted about a dozen times on this site. Ironically my first post was a list of all of the books I wanted to read this year. I’ve read 2 of the books on that list. I’ve read other books, mind you…but it’s a sad reflection of my ability to be intentional.

In total, counting all three blogs, it seems I’ve posted a grand total of somewhere around 50 times in the last year. Compared with the over 300 the year before. Sure, I’ve been busy. Sure. Yes. I’ve been busy. Unh-hunh…yeah.

To my credit, before this year I’d never run in a 5k and this year I ran in 3. I spent the better part of the year absorbed in a battle with physical fitness. On top of that, my husband & I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary with a ceremony/reception. We went to Hawaii. And I started playing the piano again (referring to my efforts to diligently practice). On the work front, I’ve made 2 trips to Taiwan. I manage Payroll and Benefits and IRS {shudder} things I don’t want to talk (or think) about. I publish bi-weekly operations reports. I’ve hired some, fired some, laid off one and lost (through attrition) other key members of a relatively small team. It’s been quite a year.

And then came this November. After my August post about my workaholic ways I’ve been diligent in my efforts to push away from the office and my compulsion to log into e-mail afterhours, etc. And somehow life filled the void. That’s not a bad thing, but it’s not…intentional. There’s no discipline in busyness. And so, in mid November, I cracked down and finished my second novel.

Which brings me to the point: this year I intend to be intentional. I’ve recently developed some marvelous habits. My inbox is under control (Alleluia!). I am taking time every day to peruse news of the industry. I am training myself to act like a Director (more on this later).

My theme for the next 12 months is “Boundaries & Balance”. I’ve got to say “no” to some things so I can say “yes” to others. I plan to use this space for mentoring myself and holding myself accountable. I hope you get something out of it.

Do you have a natural rhythm? Is your year bounded by the calendar or your birthday or something else altogether?

Confessions of a Workaholic

When I googled “Workaholics Anonymous” I was only half-joking. Last week was my first serious effort to break free from the pit that mires me. Like any addiction, she calls to me, tempting me with her siren song. I want to understand her better.

There have been times when I’ve succumbed to the addiction because work gives me a strong sense of job satisfaction. It feels good to work. It feels good to know I’m doing well at something. Elsewhere in my life I’m a puddle of incompetence and insecurity.

These days the compulsion seems to be driven by my need to conquer – “I. WILL. NOT. LET. THIS. GET. THE. BETTER. OF. ME.” And yet, in the battle I’m giving the best of me. As a result I’m depleted. Exhausted. Practically defeated.

I began to dream of retiring and writing full-time…but that’s impractical. Maybe a more realistic goal is to find a job that allows me to have balance in my life.

Although I’ve been diligent in my commitment to P90X (1-1.5 hrs per day) and the arrival of a new used piano in my living room has brought extreme pleasure and a commitment of 30 minutes practicing each day, my dream of writing finds me staring wordless at the screen. All of the brilliant posts I craft during my commute, run, shower, or boring meetings … all of those words evaporate when I sit down at my desk and position my hands on the keyboard.

So in the rare moments I claim for non-work-computer-time I surf, reading the blogs of the truly brilliant, the witty, the articulate, the creative, the popular. And I shrink further inside myself. The snarky voice in my head that tells me I’m a fool feeds on my discontent and my fear. And I slink away.

Hi, my name is Fran and I’m a workaholic

There are two types of addictions in this world. Some addictions, like cigarettes and alcohol, when you quit, you quit. I believe* that social smokers and social drinkers are not really addicted. Other addictions, like food and work, are far harder to control. You can’t quit work or quit eating the same way you quit alcohol or cigarettes. Or rather, you can…but the consequences are remarkably unpleasant.

*I would love to hear from social smokers/drinkers who believe they are addicted. My claim is based on personal experience.

In my last post, I quipped about the need for a 12-step program for workaholics. Shortly after posting my commitment to work less, I committed to a 10pm conference call with my Taiwan-based boss. Because…well…I’ve got a problem. And the first step to recovery is admitting that I have a problem. So, I’m confessing it here and now. Cue: Those who know and love me can suck in their fake gasps and raise their eyebrows for effect.

I’ve struggled with this addiction for years. It’s classic behavior for the goal-oriented overachiever. No biggy. Except it’s time to move on and I can’t seem to let go.

Why do I work so many hours? I could bore you with my theories. I’m addicted to the glory? I seek affirming praise? I’m filling a void in my heart & soul? Most addictions seem to stem from our desire to fill a missing element of our being that is best filled by our Creator.

These days I seem to be clinging to the comfortable discomfort of the known versus the frightening unknown. The time has come for me to walk in faith. Just as I’m exercising and trying to have discipline in my diet, I must have discipline in how I’m spending my time. I must devote myself to developing new skills. I must say “no” to some work demands in order to say “yes” to the new habits that will bring me to a new place.

I’m not ready to quit my job, although it sucks me in like an addiction. I am confident that I can change some habits and break free from the addiction’s stronghold.

What are some effective ways to break free from this type of addiction? What’s worked for you?

Work can be an idol

Have you ever said something out loud (or hit “publish” on a post) then realized the implications of what you articulated? Last week I lost sight of my priorities. More accurately, this weekend I realized I’d lost sight of my priorities. The dimming of my vision happened gradually over time; it wasn’t an event that occurred last week. My last post helped me realize my spiritual vision was muddied by the scales covering my eyes.

I was struggling with the dilemma created by my need to recommend pay increases for myself and my team based on a limited budget. In these times of rampant unemployment and folks living from paycheck to paycheck, I suppose it’s not a bad problem to have. Unfortunately, I’m frustrated by my workload. I feel taken advantage of. I’m doing the work of 2.5 people for the same pay I was making 2-3 years ago.

What I forgot is … I’m not that into my career these days. The best thing that could happen to me is for me to turn away from my current devotion. I have to confess, I have an unhealthy and inappropriate devotion to my job. It happens occasionally. My work consumes me. Endless conference calls at the start and close of each day, working through weekends, needing to be in the office during the “normal” business hours. My responsibilities seem to be growing like a virus. The weight of my little organization is causing my shoulders to droop and my head to bow. My thoughts, my time, my spirit are filled with work, work, work.

I pray for relief. I pray for intervention. “God, Please guide me!”

Finally, with the realization I’m inflicting these demands on myself I’ve decided to cut back on the hours I’m devoting to work and allow myself the time I need to devote to other things, like writing. Maybe, just maybe, I don’t need to be doing the work of 2.5 people. It’ll be a blessing to redirect my devotion. Work should not be an idol.

Now it’s just a matter of changing my compulsive bad habits and forming new, healthy habits. Is there a 12-step program for workaholics?

What other idols capture our souls?