Empowering Women, Family, Grief, Reflection, Work/Life Balance, Working Women

Being Grateful…Always

2017 and 2018 have been the most confusing, challenging, emotional, hardest, eye opening and unforgettable years of my life. Through it all, I have learned the meaning of gratitude – both receiving and giving.

As we enter the week of Thanksgiving, there are many conversations around being thankful. Thankfulness and gratitude are the sisters of appreciation. The meanings (to me) are slightly different but certainly aligned. I am thankful for so many things in my life – my family, my career, my health, and living in a country of a free democracy. 

Gratitude for me is a deeper emotion, a deeper feeling. I am thankful for my family but so grateful for how they have helped me manage the past 15 months. Always available, ready to listen, and simply be there for me. Thankful and so grateful!

Gratitude means an honest open appreciation and genuine candor for those things we are truly thankful for. The difference between being thankful and showing gratitude is well captured in this quote: “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” -William Arthur Ward

As I pause and reflect – I am grateful for the following:

 My daughter and her amazing ability as a mom. I tell her often that she does a wonderful job with her children (my littles”) and how so very grateful I am to be able to watch her and be a part of her journey.
 My son. He is a warm, caring soul – a genuinely good person. I am so grateful for all he has done and continues to do for me and with me since Mark died. He was struggling with his own grief journey but has always taken time to check in with me and do things for me that needed to be done.
 My family – for letting me cry, for picking me up, for celebrating successes with me. I tell them how very much I appreciate and am so blessed for each of them. It takes a village!
 My colleagues – I work with great people who support me and let me be my transparent self. I can have a great day and a rough day – they are there. We laugh and sometimes I cry. They let me experience life without hiding behind a mask of perfection.
 I am grateful for the ability to share my stories and for each and every one of you that reads and perhaps reflects. I want to share to help others and am grateful to those of you who have told me my stories have made a difference to you.

Gratitude is a demonstrable emotion tied to thankfulness. As you sit down this week and think about what you are thankful for over Thanksgiving holiday – remember gratitude and let someone know how very grateful you are……a true Thanksgiving gift.

Here’s a Thanksgiving Gratitude Challenge for you: Every night this week, write a gratitude list with at least 5 things you’re grateful for. Try it out this week and see what it can do for you! And maybe it can be worked into your daily routine in the future!

Empowering Women, Leadership, Mentorship, Working Women

A Mentoring Moment

Being nominated for recognition as a “mentor-protégé” award is a humbling honor for certain. And while this is truly exciting, I would say the experience to again “pay it forward” is more meaningful and certainly more of an honor. Mentorship and coaching is a responsibility I take very seriously. 

Mentoring, guiding, and coaching support have been a part of my leadership philosophy of “paying it forward” for the past 15 years of my career. The beauty lies in the effort and commitment of the mentee/protégé. My partnership with my mentee through WICT this year has been one of the most memorable relationships I have had the privilege of being a part of in many years. There were two key tenets I have taken away from this partnership. First – the skill of active listening for understanding and clarity is something I have had to and will continue to practice. It is so important in a mentoring relationship to listen, assess, process, and remove judgement. As a mentor, it is critical to provide the opportunity for the protégé to share their experience from their vantage point and to not jump in and immediately provide direction. The art of asking open ended probing questions affords the protégé the opportunity to gain their own clarity. That being said, the protégé needs to “do the work” and this is the second and most important (and most rewarding) take away from this partnership. My mentee was an eager learner and open to feedback and suggestion. During our relationship thus far, she has done ALL of the HARD WORK! She is a model protégé and I will be utilizing my experience with her to share with others I mentor who aren’t investing in the hard work it takes to learn, evolve, change, and grow. We tackled some very difficult and some very sensitive topics. She was able to take some strategies that she was comfortable with and try them for success. The beauty of our partnership was that it covered a wide spectrum of topics – career growth, networking, handling difficult situations, and developing leadership communication tenets.

I am so proud of her and quite honestly she had all of the elements inside of her! What I enjoyed and appreciated was her eagerness to learn and her willingness to challenge herself. She simply needed an aligned partner to guide, coach, and support her. Again she did all of the tough work. A lesson for us all!

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!

Empowering Women

Thoughts on Work Life Integration Part IV

As a working mom one of my most “awakening” experiences was when my children were older and gave me their view of “the truth”. Let me step back to the days when they were young – playing sports, dancing recitals, music shows, etc. I was “always” at every one. And I was happy to tell them and anyone else that – I was a working mom but I was at almost every one of my children’s events. Fast forward – these two twenty somethings had the courage to tell me – “mom, you were there but you were always distracted with an email or a conference call. You were always on that phone. OUCH – painful to hear but it was their experience…..their reality. Here I thought I was balancing work life well and I truly wasn’t fully present for neither work nor family in those moments. What was I teaching my daughter and my son? 

I have had to work at creating an integrated life that ensures I am present in whatever facet I am focused on in that moment. One thing that worked well was to create an accountability partner to ensure you are managing those facets of your integrated life. I chose my husband and it stemmed from some of our dining experiences when I would have my cell phone on the table or in my purse at a restaurant – sneak peeking my email “just in case”. I am not an on call doctor so what could be so important that I couldn’t be with my husband at dinner for a couple of hours. So we made a commitment – I would not bring my cell phone into a restaurant anytime we went to dinner – and he held me accountable to ensure I met that commitment to him – to us. 

I have now taken that strategy into meetings with others – I leave my computer and move to a table to ensure I am fully connected in that conversation. I leave my phone aside and check it only on breaks during meetings – people understand if they are trying to get in touch with you and you are in a meeting. We need to set and model those boundaries of instant connection – not everything is mission critical in that moment. If it is – someone will always know how to get in touch with 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.

Empowering Women, Work/Life Balance, Working Women

Thoughts on Work Life Integration: Part I

Over the next 5 weeks I will be sharing segments of an article I wrote on work life integration. It’s a bit of a long article so felt it was appropriate to share via my blog in chunks. Hoping that you find some pearls of wisdom in the musings over the next 5 weeks.

My best, Leslie

 

Thoughts on Work Life Integration Part I:

 

Technology advances and our always “on” – always “connected” global workforce has blurred the lines between one’s professional life and personal life. Technology has provided us so many amazing advantages but it also means we are all available 24/7. Technology has changed the way we work, the way we live, and the way we get things done. Everyone – colleagues, friends, family – demands immediacy in terms of instant communication and an instant connection. Where are the boundaries? Should we even be looking for clear cut boundaries? Or do they appear in small segments on an as required basis? 

Work life balance is seemingly not even a possibility to strive for – our work life bleeds over into our personal life and our personal life requires our attention during our “workday”. Integration of work and life is an approach to consider to best care for all facets of our lives successfully – given that compartmentalizing our lives is no longer a possibility …… if it ever truly was.

When we consider an integrated life we need to reconsider these boundaries between our work lives and our personal lives. How do we manage them? How much control do we feel we have in this integrated life we live? How willing are we to take that control for ourselves?

Empowering Women

A Million Little Things

A Million Little Things premiers on September 26th. The dramatic series begins with a suicide of a friend; a husband; a father and how the lives of those left behind are impacted and forever changed. The pieces that resonates most for me in the trailer (other than that they are from Boston) is the never-ending question of “how did I not know”?

My hope is that this series keeps the conversation going in a transparent and realistic fashion. Perhaps it will reinforce some key “people” attributes: that we are kind to one another; that we are free to share our fears, our worries and our fragile state sometimes; and that we connect and outreach to our loved ones.

Finally my hope is that these messages create moments for people to reflect and then truly live their lives – do what you love; be your authentic self; enjoy every moment in front of you and live your life.

https://abc.go.com/shows/abc-new-shows/news/shows/a-million-little-things-coming-soon-to-abc

(I do realize that this is an ABC show – you can stream from your Xfinity app on your Xfinity mobile phone) #IamComcast

Empowering Women

Gifts from Grief

I have learned so much over this past year – about myself, about the concept of grief, and about humanity as a whole. This first year without my husband has been so very difficult and so painful…..for so many reasons. But it has also been a year of some amazing “gifts” – many of which I never would have fully realized or received had we not had to take this journey of grief. It’s hard to look at the “gifts” through any life tragedy but they are there and frankly this is not the first life tragedy I have had to walk and I have also realized gifts from the other journeys traveled.

The gifts (and in no particular order):

1. Our family. Blessed beyond belief for the family we have……because of family we were able to make it through the first year without Mark. When we weren’t sure we would make it through the first day; the first week; the first month…..our family lifted us and carried us over the rough patches. Our family has become stronger and we accept one another for being simply who we are…..we survived because we had each other.

2. Living life….in the moment. Appreciating each and every day for the experience it has to offer. Being present and engaged. Life is precious and has taught me that each moment matters.

3. Precious memories of a life well lived. Through the heartache and sadness we have glorious memories of my husband and the moments etched in our hearts and in our minds of him and the life we lived with him. They are like paintings in our minds and in our hearts. We call on them and share our version of those paintings/memories with one another – it brings smiles and laughter.

4. Understanding and embracing strength. A commitment to move forward and be a guide for my children; my siblings and my colleagues. Life is all about lessons and although you may not like the cards you are dealt – your response and the manner in which you rise to those challenges are the gifts we give others. I am stronger now than I have ever been and my fragile moments simply make me stronger. Suiting up and showing up to live life – to be a mom; a sister; a daughter; an employee; a citizen of the world – are truly my obligations.

5. Kindness. Mark lived a life of pure kindness and caring. Kindness matters. A simple comment or connection with another goes a long way. You never know what that moment and that act of kindness can do for someone. Be kind. Always. It is my purpose in carrying on.

We come out of the darkness of this first year – still strong – as Mark would have wanted. Telling his stories and sharing memories of our lives together…..sharing his stories – as he would have wanted even more.

There are silver linings to every dark cloud. Sometimes you have to wait a bit but they are there. Life offers us gifts …… even in grief.

Empowering Women

My Year of White Knuckling My Way Through Life

My year of white knuckling my way through life….

Not proud of it and certainly not sugarcoating my journey. For the past year, August 6th, 2017 through today, I have been holding on…for dear life. I am terrified to let go, to breath, to fully exhale….terrified because I don’t know what is on the other side of the release.

I am holding tight to my memories of my husband, I think I am afraid I will forget. I can’t ever forget, and honestly that fear scares me.

I am holding tight to maintain composure and check my emotions. I am afraid if I don’t, I won’t ever stop crying. I am afraid if I don’t, the people in my life will walk away ….. afraid and unsure of how to help me.

I am holding tight to get through every. single. day. It’s exhausting…..I’m exhausted. But I must hold tight because if I let go or release the grip I don’t know how to manage what may be the “fallout.”

Living your life in a white knuckled fashion is draining. I try. I try to live a life – not one of my choosing but one I was left with……the colors aren’t as bright and the joy isn’t as deep. I can “do things” but they bring me less joy and happiness. It’s different joy and happiness as expected but it measures below the scale of joy and happiness for most people.

Will the next year be as painful as this year? I don’t know. Will I continue the white knuckle journey? For now it seems that way. Grief and grieving is not for the weak….this is tough work and a tough journey. Thank you for supporting my journey in whatever way you have – in whatever way you could. Every gesture has meant so very much. There are gifts in grief – even when we don’t want to acknowledge them. I have received many ……. and that will be the next blog article, so stay tuned.