Challenges, Empowering Women, Family, Leadership, Tips, Work/Life Balance, Working Women

Thoughts on Work Life Integration Part V

Vacation time is an important employee benefit – it is critical for people to have time away from work to relax and disconnect from the pressures of the job. You won’t earn a promotion or get an achievement award for working on your vacation. If you manage people, just imagine the pressure you put on them if you are working most of the time while you are on vacation – you are setting/modeling the expectation whether you realize it or not. Rest, relaxation, and recovery of your resources are important to ensure you are bringing your best to your job. So take that vacation – delegate accordingly, let go, and relax……you have earned the right!

If you manage people, be the person who “walks the talk.If you encourage your team to disconnect on vacation or days off, do the same yourself. As my colleague did so well, if you are leaving work to be at an event that is important to youvolunteering, a child’s event, taking a parent to the doctor, whatever it is, say it – out loud. It gives others “permission” to do the same and know that an integrated life takes commitment and practice.

Take small steps in your commitment to create an integrated life and build on them over time. Be an example to others around you. Being always on/always connected in a global economy means that you become the gatekeeper for your life because the intricacies of this global work world will not allow for “operating rules”.

Make it work for you to ensure you are your best integrated self – your best professional and personal YOU!

Challenges, Empowering Women, Family, Tips, Work/Life Balance, Working Women

Thoughts on Work Life Integration Part III

With no clear cut rules” in place on how to operate in a work life integration model – we need to create our own models. Models that serve us well – let’s consider starting with some simple things. 

Have you ever observed the moms of little ones at the playground? Looking down and tied to their smartphone? Missing the precious moments of fun at the playground. Now I am not saying it is easy but perhaps 5 minutes of smartphone and 30 minutes of fun. The children will grow and be out of the playground stage before you know it – be present for every minute.

Putting that smart phone with company email away at the dinner table and never bringing it into the bedroom. 

Taking that call from your child’s school or your partner during the day – that 10 minute break goes a long way! 

Taking time to be at an event (volunteerism; your child’s activity; a doctor appointment or getting your hair done) and NOT be frantically tied to your work email for that hour. 

Be there – be present in whatever activity you have committed to. And perhaps commit 30 minutes or an hour to your work email to make up for it later and be fully committed at that time.

Challenges, Empowering Women, Family, Leadership, Work/Life Balance, Working Women

Thoughts on Work Life Integration Part II

Consider the “good old days” when a person could come home from work and unplug! We are all plugged in all the time – so it is all business, all day, every day! Work doesn’t stop when we are sleeping, on vacation, or out of the office. Life happens during the day – a teacher calls about a child, an elderly parent calls to connect during the day, lawyers, doctors, and dentists connect with us during our workday. So the solution becomes integrating our personal and professional lives together as they are not two separate and distinct worlds anymore. Can we do this without feeling guilty, without sacrificing our personal life or our career? It is in our hands (each of us individually and as leaders) to model strategies for an integrated life. 

A colleague of mine (a 40something man in a leadership role) would leave wherever he was every Wednesday at 4pm to take his young daughter to ballet class. At monthly leadership meetings that would end at 5:30, he would be certain to be on the early part of the agenda and get up at 4 to leave the meeting. What I loved about this was that he would proudly and confidently announce it was Wednesday and his daughter had ballet. A father of four children, this was one way he modeled the practice of managing an integrated life. 

Until large corporations can make significant headway toward a culture that emphasizes work life integration and truly embraces, models, and supports this new operating model….employees will continue to struggle with how to make all facets of their lives work. This “stress” contributes to employees being disengaged over time. The challenge then becomes ours as individuals to manage and control what we can in this blended world.

Challenges, Empowering Women, Grief, Reflection

Everyone Has A Story To Tell

https://brenebrown.com/blog/2018/06/07/everyone-has-a-story/.

A colleague that I have never met sent me this link to Brene’ Brown’s post on LinkedIn. Laura (my colleague) reads my blog and noted she appreciated my transparency in sharing about my husband’s death by suicide. Laura was kind to say that she thought of me after reading Brene’ Brown’s post and wanted to reach out to see how I was doing. A remarkable act of selfless kindness.

What was so fascinating to me was that my week has been difficult and challenging….I had a hard time keeping it together. With the death of Kate Spade, I found myself going back to the same conversations people had when Mark died – we never knew he was in that much pain; what could have happened to push him to that choice; he had a wonderful family, a wonderful life – what went wrong….

My heart ached for Kate Spade’s family. I know the pain of being a survivor. The journey is daunting and oh so difficult. What I wasn’t ready for were the barrage of thoughtless comments and people’s judgement of those who die by suicide. Brene’ Brown’s blog: “Everyone Has a Story” is on point with the impact of that harmful commentary. Best 2 minute read – please take a moment.

Then on Friday as I was just beginning to see a bit of light through the fog of sadness, the alert pops up on my phone about Anthony Bourdain. That hit me like a punch to the stomach – knocked the wind out of me. I became overwhelmed with a sadness so powerful that I needed to call my sister. I couldn’t stop crying, I felt like I was going to be sick…..I was right back at that moment when I found Mark. The floodgates of questions, of trauma, of terror, of fear ……. came back in a very powerful way. I was able to regroup and get through the day but as I sit here on Saturday writing this blog, I am still shaken. My longing for my husband is the strongest it has been since he left us. I miss him terribly and my heart aches.

As I think about Mark today, my heart goes out to the families of Kate Spade, Anthony Bourdain, and all of the suicide survivor families not quite as famous. There are far too many of us left behind to deal with something so very difficult. My heart goes out to every person that struggles with depression; anxiety and any facet of mental illness.

The world is a tough place and sometimes people just can’t stay – no matter how much love, how much money, family support, and therapy. People do the best they can every day – that’s all I know. I also know how very lucky I am to have “my village” (family, friends, colleagues). The love, your support and patience during this journey has given me the strength I have needed to continue my journey even without Mark by my side. Remember, our stories don’t need to end. If you are struggling, or if you know someone who may be struggling – reach out, connect, and share this number 1-800-273-8255 (National Suicide Prevention Hotline)

#stay #youmatter

Challenges, Confidence, Diversity and Inclusion, Empowering Women, Leadership, Tips, Working Women

Women Having a Voice in a Male Dominated Workforce

I had the opportunity to serve on a panel last week and share my insights on Women Having a Voice in a Male Dominated Workforce. The authentic and grounded conversation…..as well as some of the questions from the audience reinforced the need to continue these conversations. Over the next few blog posts I will share some of the conversation with you in hopes that you find the conversation helpful/insightful and meaningful. Perhaps to share with others as well! The panel structure was interesting – there were three women and two men on the panel which provided some interesting and balanced perspectives.

With 20 years of leadership experience in the network and field operations industry across the country – network operations; construction; plant maintenance; dispatch and field operations – it was interesting for me to reflect on my experience as an operations leader as I prepared for the panel conversation. I have come to appreicate the unique opportunities I have had throughout my career. And I also have come to understand my responsibility to others in support of their career journey. #payitforward

The first question from the moderator was: “As a female in the cable industry, what are some challenges you were faced with throughout your career and how did you overcome some of those adversities?” Kind of awkward for the men panelists but generated a laugh. I jumped in to share my response to the question along with some potential steps the audience could apply:

The challenges and the steps to address the challenges:

Having my voice heard

o Learn to project your voice and speak with confidence

o Always sit at the table and sit strategically at the table

Being taken seriously

o Never offer to take notes

▪ Don’t allow yourself to be delegated as note taker

o Review agendas for every meeting

o Practice before presenting and ask for feedback

o Anticipate difficult questions

Being “tested” and having to always prove myself

o I never felt like there was anything I couldn’t do while I was growing up. My parents believed in us and often told us …..”You can do anything you want if you put your mind to it and work hard.

▪ No promise of being the best. No easy way to achieve your goals. Hard work. Focus. Commitment. Simple, practical advice

o Trust your instinct and understand if you are being tested

▪ Seek time with the tester – ask for coaching/feedback/support

Challenges, Empowering Women, Personal Branding, Reflection, Tips

Spring Cleaning

We have all heard about “spring cleaning” – our homes; our yards etc. The process of refreshing one’s home décor; clothes; gardens and getting rid of old things and welcoming new is typical of the change of season from winter to spring.

I am challenging myself this year to “spring clean” professionally. I am realigning some goals and working on some brand repositioning. It is interesting to consider “spring cleaning your professional life”. We have the opportunity to clean up and refresh our personal and professional brands; tidy up our networks and networking goals; and perhaps refresh our goals for the rest of the year (most peoples “New Year’s goals” are either already done or they forgot about them by now).

This is a great time to stop and pause and fine tune the job search for those on the job search. A great time to pause and consider your personal/professional development for the next leg of your career journey.

Just as important as it is to spring clean your house, spring cleaning your professional life can be just as rewarding and crucial to success.

Challenges, Empowering Women, Family, Grief, Reflection

Spring Blog

Spring. A season of new beginnings and living in gratitude.

As we enter the season of spring (finally for those of us in New England!) I find myself thinking back over the past two seasons (winter and fall) and understanding more the journey of life I have travelled. Today I am grateful….for so many things:

  • A 34 year friendship that included a 30 year marriage. Years of happiness joy tears sadness sacrifice struggles and an inordinate amount of love laughter and lightness. I love you Mark
  • Beautiful caring and kind children whose family love is unbreakable
  • My littles who bring a smile to my face and a spark to my life and fill my heart with love
  • My family – they are my foundation, my people and I am blessed
  • Friends near and far – these people are my village and I love them all
  • Work that I enjoy – my work keeps me learning; keeps me sharp and keeps me focused on things other than myself. The work I do helps people live and enjoy their lives and that is important – I know the work I do makes a difference

I have climbed a steep mountain these past 8+ months and this journey has not been easy. I see the top and the lightness. I know that all of you have been with me along the way. That has helped tremendously.

Today I can say I am proud of myself and I know my truth. I am proud of my husband Mark and the life he lived. He was loving, he was kind and he made a difference to all that ever knew him. He was light. I am proud of our life together- all of it. Our experiences created a life I am grateful for today. I miss him terribly but I know he would be proud – of my journey; of the journey of our family; of our strength and of the knowledge of what truly matters in this world. It is kindness …… in whatever form it presents itself that matters. The kindness in a simple thank you or in letting someone into traffic. Kindness in a phone call simply to say hello, I am thinking about you. Kindness at work when you see someone and smile.

In this season of Spring think about new beginnings and kindness – to yourself and others.

#lovematters  #livemytruth #family  #tookthehill #kindness #seasonofspring

Challenges, Empowering Women, Leadership, Reflection, Work/Life Balance, Working Women

#2. Let Kindness Rule

Being kind is an important way of bringing meaning to our lives and the lives of others. Being kind allows us to communicate better, be more compassionate, and also be a positive force in people’s lives. Kindness has its source of truth within each of us. Some people are innately kind and yet it’s something that everyone can cultivate by choice.

How can one begin a “kindness practice”? Begin by being kind to yourself. Many people make the mistake of trying to be kind to others while at the same time not focusing on being kind to themselves. Ask yourself what you think it means to be kinder to yourself. Recognize your gifts, embrace your uniqueness, and shine the light of kindness on yourself.

I do participate in “random acts of kindness” but for 2018 I am working on the practice of intentional kindness. Like anything, some days are better than others. When I lose my patience in traffic (which does occur) – I try to shift my thought to what is perhaps the cause for an aggressive driver. Are they enroute to the hospital to see a loved one? Late for work and perhaps worried about an attendance issue? I shift my thinking away from myself to the other person.

Life has a way of shifting us to a place where kindness matters – an intentional practice of kindness is work (for some of us that is) and when that skill is practiced, life becomes calmer.

Let kindness rule……in a world where kindness can be fleeting…..let’s be what we seek in the world and in the workplace.

Challenges, Empowering Women, Reflection, Work/Life Balance

#1. Guard Your Time

Sounds easy enough right? How many of us overcommit? Say yes to things when we want really want to say no? Feel pressure to join a board? Attend an event? Volunteer? Meet for lunch? Squeeze in one more meeting? One more conference call?

Guard your time – what a concept. Time is so precious and for so very long I made certain I filled every moment of the day. I said yes to social events, volunteer gatherings, commitments to mentor, etc. even when I truly didn’t want to say yes. I felt pressure to be available and do what others wanted me to do, never fully taking the time to do what I wanted. I did get better at this later in life. Mark and I would always make time just to do what we wanted – movies, sporting events, our endless list of activities. But there was always an overlay of expectation both personally and professionally to commit to things. On some level there were some things I really didn’t want to do but did them anyway.

Guarding one’s time is a key to balance. A key to focused priorities. A key to putting yourself first, making yourself a priority. Guarding one’s time means not being afraid to say no and to own your time and how you spend it.

Let’s practice guarding our time – preserving moments for ourselves for the things we choose to do. I have started this practice and have had two opportunities to say no to things and to do something for myself. It is difficult at first – guilt and pressure (real or perceived) can invade our thoughts. Practice will make perfect.

Challenges, Empowering Women, Family, Grief, Leadership, Work/Life Balance, Working Women

Managing Grief. Managing Life. Managing a Career. 

It is extremely difficult (more so than I ever imagined) to manage through the grief journey. I have also become quickly attune to the common misconceptions associated with grieving. Let’s begin with the notion that grieving is a “process” and somehow eventually you reach an “end point” of grief. What I have come to experience is that grief changes you and the process is lifelong. There is no end point. There is no “finish line” to reach.  

Another very common misconception is that there are defined “chronological stages” of grief that one goes through (denial, anger, bargaining, guilt, depression, acceptance) – clearly not the case. You fluctuate through them constantly. Just because you’ve gone through one, doesn’t mean you won’t revisit it. It is not predictable nor orderly. Grief is not linear – it is more like a jungle gym. You can revisit one or they can all come and revisit you all at once. There are days of great strength and perseverance. Life cooperates. Accomplishments happen. However just as quickly there are days of great struggle. Getting up and going is a challenge. Putting together a sentence is difficult. Maintaining focus at work is non-existent.

Grief and the process of grieving is unique to each person. You cannot fit grief into a neat little box. Nor can you expect someone to be somewhere in their grief journey. Expectations have no place in grief.

One does not “get over” grief. You do not resolve or recover from grief. You are forever changed by grief, learning how to reconcile grief and integrate this new reality. While the rest of the world moves on and goes about their life (whether it is business life or personal life) the grieving person needs to figure out how to manage in a new normal that they weren’t ready for, weren’t prepared for, in an often unwanted situation. We simply just don’t want to have to figure this out – it’s hard, it hurts, and it is exhausting!

Today, this is my life. It is a process, not an event. Grief and grieving affects every single aspect of my life. I can manage my personal life in a compartmentalized fashion – I have experienced many tragedies and challenges in life. I can manage through visiting family or making decisions around family functions. I have an amazing system of support (my family) and they get it, they get me. I can manage through the details of life – day-to-day activities – on my own terms and in my own way. Even if it means crying in the cookie aisle at the grocery store (yes, it’s happened).

But managing grief and grieving while trying to lead and operate in the workplace requires managing through a very different set of challenges. Meetings, conferences, conference calls, speaking engagements, getting up and going to work, driving home from work …… they all present unique challenges. I have been in meetings where my mind wanders and I think about my husband. I have had to leave meetings (not many, but a few) because I have experienced overwhelming emotion and sadness. I limit the amount of social hour and networking events I attend that have an open bar. Let’s just say alcohol and grief don’t particularly go well together! I also am fully aware that social hours can present awkward moments of conversation. I never want anyone to feel uncomfortable.

I try to tell myself I am doing the best I can, I believe that to be true. It is fascinating to me though that as the world continues on and picks up where my “life” left off, I am many times trying to keep pace, trying to determine what I do next. Patience, kindness, and caring – things I am trying to practice for myself and others as I continue on this journey.