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!

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, Leadership, Tips, Working Women

Professional Success

“Success looks different for everyone.” Professional success for me is:

• Building a team – a strong connected team

• Living with kindness and transparency – being my authentic self

• Respecting the business and operating like an owner

• When someone tells me I impacted their life; their career

What does professional success look for you?

What are some words of wisdom you can provide to both women and men concerning women working in a male dominated workforce?

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, 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, 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.

Challenges, Leadership, Tips, Working Women

Dealing with Change: Action, Reaction, Pause

As we all know, the ever changing landscape of the work environment can cause angst at times. New leaders, an organizational shift or restructure, changing priorities and projects – all of these things can create feelings of uncertainty within the organization. During these times of flux, leaders have the responsibility to ensure that there is crisp, clear, and consistent communication on what’s important, what’s the focus and the roadmap – even if it’s a short term road map.

In my experience, people respond to organizational changes in three distinct ways – they either take action, they react, or they pause. The people that take action are the most agile – they quickly adapt and embrace the change. The action people ask what needs to be done and quickly get into a “move forward” mode.

The reaction people spend a tremendous amount of energy worrying about the change and the impact to them, the organization, and the work they were doing up until the change. This group of folks can spend a great deal of time in turmoil and this is harmful to both their well-being and their brand. There are degrees of reaction people – some process in a few days and are back on course quickly. Others spend forever in the turmoil – seemingly resistant to come out of it. 

The final group are the pause people – they wait and neither act nor react. They wait and take a pause in their work until someone gives them new direction. This is the most interesting group, as they seem to manage the change cycle well personally (no stress; no angst) yet they pause professionally – not willing to jump in or, at the very least, continue on the journey they were on prior to the change.

We have all experienced playing any one of the above roles at times during our career. The fast pace of business today requires agility and ability to be in the action space. As leaders, we need to demonstrate the best and most positive approach to action. 

Change is not easy – it certainly is not easy when it recurs. Change management is an organizational discipline and a behavioral discipline that can support people and organizations through the ever changing business climate. Leaning into change requires leaning onto one another – as leaders, as colleagues and as friends. As I always say – it takes a village!

Empowering Women, Leadership, Tips, Working Women

Your Work Journal: the art and benefit of taking notes

Seems silly right? Who doesn’t take notes? Go to a meeting – take notes. Join a conference call – take notes. Meet with a client – take notes. We try and listen to the call, pay attention in the meeting, and ensure engagement with a client. Add in the rigor of taking notes – well each of us is likely to miss something in the discussion and conversation. We all listen for what is important and what matters to us specifically. That information we capture.The meeting ends and someone inevitably sends out a follow-up from the meeting – you scan your notes. You don’t even recall that follow-up, never mind that topic of conversation. Yikes – now what?

I have found this occurring recently and have identified a “meeting buddy” (unbeknownst to them) and after the meeting (or call) will ask to share notes or to validate what I captured and if I missed anything. This has been a tremendous help as we hasten the pace of business actions and initiatives – assuming everyone captures every item.

I like the discipline of taking notes. I like capturing the experience in words and phrases that mean something to me and that can easily generate recall. But again, like many of us, I miss taking notes on certain parts of a call or a meeting.

My next experiment in this art of capturing information will be to ask someone overtly to be a “meeting partner” so we can debrief and fill in gaps we may have each missed during the conversations.

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

Is Your Glass Half Full?

Is your glass half full? Is it half empty? Might it be time to fill your glass?

I was going to blog about this for the week and had some thoughts planned in advance. During my week at Wharton last week, I got some in-depth knowledge into Emotional Contagion – which reinforces the beliefs and conversation I wanted to share.

Don’t you find it interesting that when you interact with certain people they approach life with the “glass is half empty” mindset? Critical about everything in a negative way? No solution to whatever the challenge is before them? We try and avoid these people and if we are on a team project with them – well, it can be disheartening. These types of colleagues, friends, leaders can literally suck the joy out of the room and drag down a project or initiative.

I have always been a glass is half full type of person and when I have moments of my glass is half empty, I immediately jump to a solution space. My energy shifts to the solution and I become positive, engaged and full of possibility. When I talk to teams and people about leadership, I always talk about putting on our game faces – suit up for the game! Our teams deserve this from us and frankly, who wants to follow a leader who is always critical, in a bad mood, frustrated, and on the verge of throwing in the towel?

We all have those moments in our lives when our glass is depleted – half full: we have a fight with our partner, forgot to fill the car with gas, spill coffee on our work shirt, hit every red light when we are already late for work, the project we are working on lost 30% of its funding but still needs to get done on time and with high quality……and all of that happens on one morning. Yes – our glass is half full, if not empty.

If you are expecting an answer on how to best fill your glass – I am sorry but I don’t have the market on that solution set. I believe that the solutions are as different as we are as people. Music works for me, some quotes of inspiration, and I think my general viewpoint of life’s challenges – “Okay, how do I turn this around.” I also know that as a leader – people watch EVERYTHING that you do and will create their own stories around your actions and behaviors.

Then, this week I learned about Emotional contagion which is the phenomenon of having one person’s emotions and related behaviors directly trigger similar emotions and behaviors in other people.

We learned (and truly we all already know this) that emotions, both positive and negative, actually spread among employees like viruses. Ever wonder why you’re happier around happy people and annoyed around annoyed people? The concept of emotional contagion influences employees’ moods and significantly influences business decisions as well…..and no one typically knows that is happening (sometimes until it is too late).

 

A couple of examples to consider:

• Walk into many Registry of Motor Vehicle locations and you can feel the impact of the prevailing mood instantly — dreariness, irritability, and listlessness.

 

• Walk into almost any Apple store and you’ll experience the opposite — a sense of aliveness and excitement that raises your energy (and makes you want to buy something).

 

Thinking about our actions is critical to leadership efforts and the atmosphere of our teams!

 

Fill your glass and then raise your glass!