Artisan Blog

UPDATE: Artisan Interviews Olympian Soren Thompson, Part 2

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

UPDATE: Artisan Interviews Olympian Soren Thompson, Part 2

 

UPDATE: Before you get to the interview, the Olympic Fencing events have begun and there has already been some controversy.  In the Semifinal of the Women's Epee, there were questions about timekeeping which affected which fencer moved on to the Final.  

Don't forget to come back tomorrow for our Liveblog of the Men's Epee Semifinal and Final matches!  We can't wait! 

Just a few months ago, the U.S. National Fencing Team defeated the French to win their first World Championship. Here is what Soren had to say about that competition:

The U.S. Fencing Team recently defeated the heavily favored French National Team at the World Championships. The win was the first for the U.S team ever an.d the French team have won this competition every year since 2003. The U.S. team beat the teams from Kazakhstan, Switzerland and Hungary before defeating the French team in Kiev in April.

Unfortunately, the International Olympic Committee removes one event from the games each Olympiad and this time Épée fencers will not compete as teams, only as individuals, so this team will not all get to go the Games in London. Ben Bratton, the youngest and latest member to join the team, as we discussed last week, will not get to compete in this Olympiad.

I talked to Soren about competition, the World Championships and how they feel about their whole team not getting to go to London together.

What is it like to have to compete at such a high level in an unfamiliar environment?
There are many challenges to competing around the world. Sometimes we compete in standing venues for the World Cup and those are familiar places. Other times we have to adjust to entirely new environments. Transportation to and from the competition and getting food can be especially hard. We also often have to compete while suffering from jet lag. These are just parts of the sport and experience helps us deal with difficult situations.

Is it important to all be in the same frame of mind going into a match?

Fencing is a highly individual sport—there is only ever one of our team against one of the other team. We have to take responsibility for ourselves and for our own preparation. What we expect from each other is respect for our preparation, a high level of commitment and professionalism. We prepare together by discussing our strategies for each upcoming match and reconvening after a match to discuss what just happened. Win or lose, we always have this closing discussion in order to “put away” the last match so that we can prepare for the next one.

You had to know you were underdogs going into the World Championships. How did that affect your strategies?
Actually, we were the favorites to win the first two bouts, but we don’t consider the rankings going into a match. We consider only who is on our team and who is on the opposing team. We think about how to maximize our strengths and how to minimize those of our opponents, individually and collectively. This approach never changes, no matter the opponents or their ranking.

What is the biggest difference between your team and the French team?
The French training system is the best in the world. The team lives and trains together all the time and has a great deal of funding as well as a dedicated, state-of-the-art facility. Our team is spread out across the U.S. and has to get into a team mindset specifically for each match and our system relies on personal commitment and investment. We are capable of competing with anyone in the world on any given day, but their level of funding and professionalism helps them perform well over an entire season.

To what do you attribute your win most?
Our experience, our preparation and our trust in each other.

How will your World Championship affect the Olympics?

I don’t think it will impact the Olympics very much. We will only have individual competition and in a sense the World Championship was our Olympic Team event. Individual preparation and focus will take precedence of anything that happened in those team matches.


I love Soren’s answer to the penultimate question: experience, preparation and trust are essential to success on any team, in sport, in business, in design, in a family.

If you missed Part 1, you can learn more about how this team came together to win as a team in an individual sport.

 In part 3, we will talk to Soren about his plans for the Olympics and the future.

Wendy Stackhouse, Consultant for Artisan Creative


UPDATE: Artisan Interviews Olympian Soren Thompson, Part 1

Thursday, July 26, 2012

UPDATE: Artisan Interviews Olympian Soren Thompson, Part 1

 

Tomorrow we will be watching the Opening Ceremonies of the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London so we thought you might like to revisit our interview with US Olympic Fencer Soren Thompson.

Artisan’s President Jamie Douraghy has been a competitive foil fencer since he was 17 and is a two-time 40+ U.S. National Champion. Jamie’s lifelong interest in fencing has led Artisan to our support of Soren Thompson, a member of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Fencing Team. Jamie asked me to sit down with Soren and find out how he achieved such great success, what his process is and what we can learn from his experience of becoming a world-class athlete.

In the first part of our interview, we will talk to Soren about how the team came together and what roles they play in their team success in an individual sport.

In Part 2, we will hear about the World Championships where they beat the heavily favorite French team.

And in Part 3, Soren will tell us what he thinks about the upcoming Olympic Games in London and beyond.

There are four of you on the World Championship Team, how did you meet?

Seth Kelsey, Cody Mattern and I were all born in 1981 so we first met as rival athletes when we were 14 or 15 years old and have been competing against each other for over half our lives. When we made the U.S. team, we became teammates. Ben is younger and so came later to competition and eventually joined the U.S. Senior team as well.

How long have you been fencing together as a team?

Seth, Cody and I became the primary members of the U.S. National Team in 2003 and were members of the 2004 U.S. Olympic Team, so we have been fencing together for almost a decade. Ben has been with us for about five years and has integrated really well into what we do.

How did you help Ben become part of your existing culture?

Ben started out several years behind us in his development as a competitor. We had already made an Olympic Team, multiple World Championship Teams and dozens of international team before he made his first team. There were a lot of tough learning experiences for all of us as we paid our dues, working with our coaches to create a unique vocabulary and mental approach, which Ben has embraced.

For example, we would strategize to push the score up or keep it low depending on our match-ups. We have developed a system for managing all nine bouts in a team match individually. Going into every situation with clearly understood and defined goals has reduced randomness and helped all four of us to achieve greater success as a unit by fencing within our abilities.

Do you each bring different strengths to the team or are you all similar fencers?

We all have very different fencing styles, so we feel we have an advantage in certain bouts. We definitely try to utilize our individual strengths. We also have set positions when our bouts occur in a match, which helps us be consistent from bout to bout. Of course, since matches often unfold in unexpected ways, forcing us to adapt continually, at least having consistent positioning gives us something to rely and build upon.

Do you mentor each other?

We are always sharing information, whether it is recent experience with an opponent or something we have noticed during a match. Communication is a continual process that happens before, during and after our matches.

I can see already that there are things for us to learn from Soren, even if we never try fencing:

  • There are always times when we need to integrate a new team member into an existing culture quickly and effectively.  Making sure they are part of the learning process is essential.
  • Someone with a different background, even from a different generation, brings elements that your team didn’t have before and can now take advantage of.
  • Knowing each person’s individual strengths, and utilizing them well, can make for very consistent results.
  • Communication is key - in any field.

Don't miss Part 2 and Part 3 to follow in the coming weeks as we countdown to London 2012!

The Epee competition will be held on Wednesday, August 1st but starts in the middle of the night here in the US. Bookmark our blog for the overnight results and liveblogging of the Semi-final and Final rounds!

Wendy Stackhouse, Consultant for Artisan Creative


Artisan at the Olympics

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Artisan at the Olympics



You may have noticed that Artisan Creative is pretty excited about the Olympics. It would be hard to miss!  Here are the details about our upcoming coverage of our sponsored athletes and the events.

First of all, we will be reposting our blogs about US Olympic Fencer Soren Thompson (with some updates) during the Games but that is not the only way to find out about Soren’s competition.

Although the Men’s Individual Epee competition will not be broadcast on television here in the US, NBC is livestreaming every Olympic event on their website so we don’t have to miss a minute!  The Epee competition will start at 1am on August 1st and yours truly will be reporting the results of Piste 1 through the Quarter Finals just as early as possible.

However, the rest of the Individual Epee competition starts at 9am Pacific Time and I will be there, liveblogging and Tweeting! So bookmark our blog or add us to your RSS feeds and Follow us on Twitter for real time updates on Soren Thompson and the other US fencers on August 1 at 9am!

Artisan is also sponsoring a Paralympic Fencer, Gerard Moreno, and I will be publishing a profile on Gerard on August 14th.  Gerard was just named Team Captain!

We go into these exciting days of competition with thoughts of the Olympic Creed:

"The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well."

Sounds like a good philosophy for just about anything. Struggle. Fight well. Take part.

Faster, Higher, Stronger.

Wendy Stackhouse, Consultant for Artisan Creative


Artisan Interviews Olympian Soren Thompson: Part 3

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Artisan Interviews Olympian Soren Thompson: Part 3

 

Soren Thompson is being sponsored by Artisan Creative for the London Olympic Games which begin in July. We finished our interview by discussing Soren’s plans for the Olympics in London.

You still have a couple of months before the Olympics. What are you doing now to prepare?
Right now, I am in the midst of daily training for the Olympics. I manage and control my own training with the help of a variety of trainers. I am also focused on rehabbing an injury. I have two competitions before London, The American Zonal Championships in Cancun, Mexico and the last World Cup event in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Both of those events count toward Olympic seeding. The entire month of July will be spent getting ready for London.

As an Olympic veteran, does this Olympics feel different from previous competitions?
I think I have a better sense of what I need and what I want to do than in previous year. During my other Olympic cycles, I was much more focused on the team event because the Games had a team component. Since I will only be competing individually this year, I can really draw on my experience to do exactly what I feel I need until the Games.

What can we expect to see as you compete?
I plan on being as prepared as possible for this Olympics, so presumably my very best fencing will be on display in all my matches. I plan on bringing great physical and mental preparation to my competition.

Well, I don’t know about you, but my DVR is going to be set for all of Soren’s matches in London and I’m sure you join me in wishing him all the best in this exciting competition. It’s been fascinating to get an inside look at what it takes to be an Olympian and to learn that the same elements of success apply in his work and our own.

Wendy Stackhouse, Consultant for Artisan Creative

P.S.  Did you miss the first part of our interview with Soren?  Don't forget to check out Part 1 and Part 2?

 


Artisan Interviews Olympian Soren Thompson: Part 1

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Artisan Interviews Olympian Soren Thompson: Part 1

 

Artisan’s President Jamie Douraghy has been a competitive foil fencer since he was 17 and is a two-time 40+ U.S. National Champion. Jamie’s lifelong interest in fencing has led Artisan to our support of Soren Thompson, a member of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Fencing Team. Jamie asked me to sit down with Soren and find out how he achieved such great success, what his process is and what we can learn from his experience of becoming a world-class athlete.

In the first part of our interview, we will talk to Soren about how the team came together and what roles they play in their team success in an individual sport.

In Part 2, we will hear about the World Championships where they beat the heavily favorite French team.

And in Part 3, Soren will tell us what he thinks about the upcoming Olympic Games in London and beyond.

There are four of you on the World Championship Team, how did you meet?

Seth Kelsey, Cody Mattern and I were all born in 1981 so we first met as rival athletes when we were 14 or 15 years old and have been competing against each other for over half our lives. When we made the U.S. team, we became teammates. Ben is younger and so came later to competition and eventually joined the U.S. Senior team as well.

How long have you been fencing together as a team?

Seth, Cody and I became the primary members of the U.S. National Team in 2003 and were members of the 2004 U.S. Olympic Team, so we have been fencing together for almost a decade. Ben has been with us for about five years and has integrated really well into what we do.

How did you help Ben become part of your existing culture?

Ben started out several years behind us in his development as a competitor. We had already made an Olympic Team, multiple World Championship Teams and dozens of international team before he made his first team. There were a lot of tough learning experiences for all of us as we paid our dues, working with our coaches to create a unique vocabulary and mental approach, which Ben has embraced.

For example, we would strategize to push the score up or keep it low depending on our match-ups. We have developed a system for managing all nine bouts in a team match individually. Going into every situation with clearly understood and defined goals has reduced randomness and helped all four of us to achieve greater success as a unit by fencing within our abilities.

Do you each bring different strengths to the team or are you all similar fencers?

We all have very different fencing styles, so we feel we have an advantage in certain bouts. We definitely try to utilize our individual strengths. We also have set positions when our bouts occur in a match, which helps us be consistent from bout to bout. Of course, since matches often unfold in unexpected ways, forcing us to adapt continually, at least having consistent positioning gives us something to rely and build upon.

Do you mentor each other?

We are always sharing information, whether it is recent experience with an opponent or something we have noticed during a match. Communication is a continual process that happens before, during and after our matches.

I can see already that there are things for us to learn from Soren, even if we never try fencing:

  • There are always times when we need to integrate a new team member into an existing culture quickly and effectively.  Making sure they are part of the learning process is essential.
  • Someone with a different background, even from a different generation, brings elements that your team didn’t have before and can now take advantage of.
  • Knowing each person’s individual strengths, and utilizing them well, can make for very consistent results.
  • Communication is key - in any field.

Don't miss Part 2 and Part 3 to follow in the coming weeks as we countdown to London 2012!

Wendy Stackhouse, Consultant for Artisan Creative


Make Meetings Count!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Make Meetings Count!

 

Creatives are not known for their love of business meetings. Give them a project and let them run with it, don’t make them sit and talk about it.

However, since clear communication between designers, marketing experts, developers and their clients is essential to happy and successful results, business meetings are a necessary evil. 

But they don’t have to be!  Evil, I mean.

If you are in charge of a meeting, you are also in charge of the elements that can make or break it in terms of productivity.

Here are a few tips for making your meetings smooth, efficient and engaging:

No electronics - I know, everyone will groan. But having people check out of the discussion even once during a business meeting makes it take longer and be more repetitive. No one wants to hear an explanation twice. Remind your attendees that it means they will be out of the meeting faster!

Make a schedule - It might feel over-controlling, but make a schedule for your meeting of how long you will spend on each topic.  Build in time to cover "other" items or things that might come up during the meeting as well. When you are out of time for something, move on. If your team really wants it to move quickly, set a timer, so when the bell rings, that’s it! 

Stay on-topic - If someone starts to go off on a tangent, politely remind them that there will be an opportunity to discuss it at a later time.  Or, if required, another meeting can be scheduled to discuss it further!

Be mindful of Body Language Cues - Are your meeting participants showing signs that they are bored?  Or is everyone interested in the topics being discussed.  Keep attendees engaged by asking questions, encouraging participation and keeping the schedule moving.

It might sound like you are supposed to be the “bad guy” at your meeting - always telling people “time’s up!” or "off topic".  One way to avoid that is to try assigning roles to different people in the meeting - note taker, time keeper, etc.  If you can get everyone into the habit of running efficient meetings, your team will stop complaining about them.  Promise!

Any other tried and tested techniques you can recommend?

Wendy Stackhouse, Consultant for Artisan Creative


Communication 101 for Freelancers

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Communication 101 for Freelancers



It’s World Communication Week (November 1-7) and a good time to think about the challenges of communications in today’s working environment. Many more people are working as freelancers and working offsite, presenting communication issues that don’t arise when everyone is working in the same office together.  

Some things to consider about communication as a freelancer:

Time Zone

If you are working offsite, you might be in a different time zone or even a different country from your client. Either one of you might have expectations of prompt responses to emails or calls which seem unreasonable to the other. I have one client in Central Time, which means he takes lunch right when I’m working. If I send him an urgent email, he won’t respond until it’s too late for me to make my deadline. I know I have to text him to get a quick answer. Talk to your client about your working hours and the best ways to communicate with each other.

Get it in Writing

Phone calls are great for saving time when exchanging small pieces of information or asking a question or two. However, having detailed instructions or answers in writing proves invaluable when you sit down to actually work on your project. An email can serve as your checklist, ensuring haven’t missed any important elements. Even when I have a meeting by phone with a client, I take notes and write them up clearly when it’s over. This might seem like a bit of extra work, but the wasted time over mistakes or having to clarify is much more significant.

Updates

Clients can get nervous if they haven’t heard from you in a while during your project. Even if you haven’t finished anything, regular updates, about what you have accomplished so far and what your next steps will be, are essential. For some clients – this means a morning and evening update. For other clients it might be every few days. Confirm with your client ahead of time how often you should be in touch. Services such as Basecamp can be a great tool for managing your project, timelines and updates.

Ask Questions

We all want our clients to feel like we “get it” right away and are off and running. But we’ve all delivered a project we thought was complete only to find that it needs significant reworking. Sometimes this is because the client doesn’t really know what he or she wants until they see it. But often, it is because we failed to ask key questions throughout the process. If in doubt, check it out!

Use Collaboration Technology

With the amount of technology out there to improve communication – there is really no excuse not to be better communicators. Skype and Chat services (AIM, iChat, etc) allow for instant, free communication. You can even share send and share small files. Services like Dropbox, box.net or Google Docs make it easy for you to share files with your clients and get their feedback, no matter what time or place you are working. Google Docs even allows you both to edit and track changes to your documents in real time. These tools are just another way to allow clients to monitor your pace of work and deliverables.

As we talked about last week, freelancing has a lot of good points: flexibility, choice, environment, independence. Successful freelancing, like any other work situations, thrives on good communication.

If you put some thought into the best ways to keep the lines of communication open, your freelancing relationships will not only bring you monetary rewards, but also more clients in the future.

Wendy Stackhouse, Consultant for Artisan Creative

Wendy has worked as a freelance singer, transcriptionist, legal assistant, writer, web designer, choral conductor and web content development instructor. Right now, she is freelancing full time for clients in recruiting, environmental services, public relations, web content and music, and will be teaching a workshop in Website Content Development next month. 



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