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!

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.

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, Reflection, Tips, Work/Life Balance, Working Women

#3. Create Good Habits

Creating good habits…so much easier to say than to do, but it certainly depends on one’s definition of good habits.

From last week’s blog I would share that for me a priority good habit is being kind to myself. Taking it easy and letting go of angst, anger, and drama. Balancing my time and being less focused on work outcomes and more focused on defining who I am and searching for the definition of my new future.

Eating well, exercise, reading more are all part of what I try to incorporate into each week. But I am also creating a positivity practice whereby I can see goodness, kindness, and love in the world. Starting most days with a positive intention of how my world will be and what the universe will bring forward.

Many of us start each New Year with resolutions – a strict practice of what we will do (diet, exercise, school, etc). Let’s begin the journey differently this year with a focus on good habits. Creating good habits is a journey – not an act of perfection or rigid focus. Be kind as you bring a new habit into your life – be healthy and choose wisely. Celebrate yourself and your progress…….

Remember Goal #2 – Let Kindness Rule – especially when it comes to YOU.

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.

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

Going Back to Work

How do you decide? What are the “rules”? What are the company policies?

I knew I needed to return to work – I needed the normalcy that work and the structure provided me. I needed the distraction. My husband’s service was on the 10th and I was then distracted with grief counselors, finding a support group, meeting with my financial advisor and going through paperwork, will, trust, and insurance forms. That carried me through a few days. I then began toying with going back to work. Caring family, friends, and co-workers thought perhaps it was too soon. I know myself and I knew if I waited any longer I might not be able to go back…..at all.

Like I do in all situations – I created a plan. One that would work for me and it gave me some sense of being in control – when nothing else in my life was in any sort of control. I proactively shared my plan with my leader and my HR leader for alignment. I got full support of my plan – and encouragement to not try and do too much too soon. (For those who know me this is comical and the rest of the story here is in typical Leslie fashion).

I returned to work on Thursday August 17th – I worked a couple of hours in the morning to get through the start of the day and then left for appointments and came back to work an hour or so at the end of the day. This was designed to get through a beginning of day and end of day experience. The next day I worked 5 hours straight (from 9-2) in order to see how my “work stamina” would be for a 5 hour workday run. The first day was cleaning out emails and reorganizing my calendar. The second day I scheduled two calls and listened in to 3 others to get caught up vs. active participation.

One of the things I did immediately was to do what I typically do – walk by people’s office to say good morning and hello. I also ensured I said hi and connected as people walked by my office. I did not want anyone to feel uncomfortable or strange around me. It helped them, it helped me.

The following Monday, my intention was to work until 3 and go home and take calls from home. I had a large break of time where I was making some phone calls and decided to do so at the office and take my 5pm meeting in person instead of over the phone, at home as planned – BIG mistake! I still have no idea what was said at that meeting – my brain was in a fog and my capacity to absorb anything was shot.

My work days are not what they used to be – I am trying to be kind to myself. I am taking each day as it comes. Some days I am in the office by 8, somedays by 9. Some days I leave by 4, some days at 5. I don’t do work much at night anymore. In fact I have only done so once. My team that I work with have been amazing – they are so smart, so focused, and great leaders. I am blessed.

My days are still interweaved with appointments, lawyers, wills, insurance, grief counselors – I’m not going to lie, it’s a lot. But I have support to help me through some of the decisions that have had to be made and that has been meaningful and helpful.

I am getting through – one day at a time. Not sure what next week will bring but I do know that there are better moments. Work helps for certain. I am grateful for the career I have and the work I do at Comcast.