Quick and Dirty Leadership, with special guest: Mignon Fogarty

Today, I’m going to take extra care with my writing as in this post, because I had the honor of sitting down with Mignon Fogarty, or more popularly known as Grammar Girl. To this point in her young career she’s already created so much great content I don’t mind saying I was a little excited, and a little bit nervous about our scheduled interview.

We met downtown at the Reno Collective, a collaborative workspace for designers, creatives, technologists, entrepreneurs, freelancers, rocket scientists and startups. It’s a great space and an even better project. It was my first time there, so I really appreciated Mignon inviting me down to check the place out and more importantly, to talk with her.

Typically when I’ve been lining up these interviews to discuss leadership and project management across industry platforms, I’ve had an idea, at least an inkling of what I wanted to discuss with the interviewee and how it would tie into the subject matter. Not so with Mignon. I knew that she offered a very unique perspective, one which I hadn’t considered until the opportunity of talking with her had presented itself. I attempted to formulate a loosely structured direction the conversation could’ve gone, but it was pretty much chucked as soon as we started talking.

Rather than try and force her perspective and accomplishments into a leadership box, we ended up talking about her passion(s), what excited her and how she arrived at this point in her life. That’s where the real magic appeared to come from, so I’m very happy to share some of that conversation now.

Let me interject quickly here, she started out in English then matriculated into science. Have you ever heard of such a thing? I’ve heard of failed scientists turning towards an English degree but not vice versa. Chuckle. It really speaks to her broad interest and her thirst for knowledge, not to mention her intellectual capacity. Let’s see where it takes her.

Accepted into the biology PhD program at Stanford and then dropping out to work on a startup during the late ’90s .com boom! Man, this woman has lived! Haha! But, she took advantage of opportunities and it sounds like she took calculated risks. Very daring and yet necessary sometimes to see what sticks. As managers and leaders we’re required to do this quite often when searching for a solution, when searching for results. We need to be daring, we need to take calculated risks and play it away from the vest a little. It reminds me of my interview Mark Estee of Reno Provisions and Campo. He definitely plays it away from the vest and so should we in certain instances, with our own level of extreme applied accordingly.

Quality content is difficult to produce as attested to by Mignon, twenty hours for forty minutes of content. But for her it was worth it, it wasn’t sustainable, but worth to effort. Through the process she was able to experience some great enjoyment it sounds like but more than that, she was able to determine what wasn’t feasible. We’ll talk a little bit more about this in a few moments but I’ll preface with this: just because we love it, doesn’t make it the right fit. Also, let’s not lose sight of something here, before Mignon was Grammar Girl, she did a weekly forty minute science podcast, man that’s great!

“Snackable” content, or “Bite Sized Quanta”, that’s the nerd in me that’s appreciating the science gal in Mignon, such great stuff. I think the point here is we as leaders and managers don’t need to say a lot to be effective. Sometimes it’s necessary to package our message in lengthy statements or speeches, but you’ll probably find the shorter to-the-point messages stick better and can have legs of their own, longer lasting. Again, just because we love something, that’s not the whole story as Mignon said. We have to be sustainable too and when those two can merge, when our passions cross paths with a good business model, well then that’s where the magic can and will happen as seen by Quick and Dirty Tips for Mignon. Wrapping up, I talked with Mignon about her TEDx talk: Who Votes for New Words? You Do! she did earlier this year for the University of Nevada Reno.

Beyond this clip I talked to Mignon a little bit more about the rules, about abiding by those rules, and about those who have staunch opinions regarding language rules. I believe it’s very safe to say she has a real respect for those rules and those individuals. But, as with all things we need to maintain perspective because as she said, in two-hundred years from now we’re the ones who are going to look ridiculous, and our rules will be picked apart. So, in all things, maintain perspective because staunch opinions and absolutes breakdown and don’t hold water in the face of perspective.

From being first in her family with a college degree, to budding scientist, to author and creator of Grammar Girl, the point is you never know. The path we travel is long, and as leaders and managers we need to maintain perspective that just because we’re not seeing immediate results, or if we get frustrated and bogged down, that doesn’t mean we’re on the wrong course. In fact, the hard the road traveled usually has the more rewarding the end result.

I said at the beginning of this post that I was going to take extra of my writing in this post. Well, after sitting down with Mignon, I found her to be very much accepting of people’s writing styles, unique quirks and honest mistakes here and there. After all, that’s how it sounds like Grammar Girl was started. A girl who wanted to write and didn’t know quite all the rules or how to better her writing. And in her research she decided to share what she was discovering with the rest of us. I don’t think I could feel more at ease when it came to my writing than after sitting and talking with this extraordinarily accomplished woman, with an extraordinarily approachable and humble spirit.

Image Credits: Video by Author