Who would you like to thank?

20784960_sWhile I’m not a movie goer, I always enjoy watching the Oscars with my daughter.  When Patricia Arquette championed equal pay and equal rights for women during her acceptance speech, I was cheering right along with Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lopez.

Though I would say, the most deeply moving acceptance speech came from Common and John Legend who jointly brought to light the racial issues that still burden our nation. During his demand for equality, John Legend stated that currently more black males are incarcerated then black men under slavery in 1850.  I was impressed with their decision to use their moment of glory to stand up for justice. They took the world stage and leveraged their careers and credibility to move people to action.

As I listened to the many acceptance speeches of the evening, what really struck me was the focus on teamwork. From actors to costume designers, the winners thanked their managers, staff, assistants, and families.  As I listened, I thought about my clients.  So often, many of them feel like they have to roll up their sleeves and go it alone.  If the Oscars are any indication, you need to have a strong team to make it to the top.

In what areas do you need support?

An assistant

Anyone who has a career that produces a product or service will need an assistant at some point.  If your focus is to  interact with clients, you need someone who can help you with the details.  Be it travel, scheduling, short edits or client support, someone else needs to be able to get you where you need to go.

A word of advice – you need a good assistant, not just help. Often, we hire assistants that need more of our help and instruction than our clients. If you wouldn’t get up on stage and thank him or her in your acceptance speech, they aren’t good enough.

Colleagues

As your business grows, you will also need someone to do the auxiliary work for you.  Whether it’s running the analysis, drafting a document, or managing others on your team, you need a colleague with autonomy and drive that gets the essential work done.

I need an editor, an accountant, and soon, I will need an online manager to help me run my business.  I rely on the expertise of these professionals.

Family & Friends

I have advocates that are always rooting for me.  My husband and my mom are my number one supporters.  I also have a coach and other entrepreneurs that keep me accountable and give me invaluable advice and perspective.

While you may not need all of this type of support right now, you do need to recognize that your success will be limited if you don’t start incorporating support into your career.

Not sure where to start?  Simply connect with me at support@foodonourtable.com.  Together we can build a plan that gets you team that works for you.

Is that Your Problem?

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14556681_sThe NY Times article, Madam C.E.O., Get Me a Coffee, by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant, on doing “Office Housework” struck a strong cord with what I see in many of my clients.  Office Housework involves volunteering (or being volunteered) for mentoring, training, party planning, organizing fund-raising events, etc.  These activities, while helpful to the organization, often do nothing for your career.

The first example in the article tells of a woman who kept volunteering to do the office housework thinking it would help her become a shoo-in for a promotion.  Instead, her promotion was delayed for a year.

Women who help more benefit less. I highly recommend that you read this article as it can change your perspective on the virtues of helping around the office. The main take away is to volunteer only in ways that are more visible and make sure your help is balanced with actions that build your career.

There’s another aspect of office housework that we need to acknowledge which wasn’t discussed in the article.  I work with numerous women who do “everything” for their departments even though it isn’t their responsibility.  They take care of the things that fall through the  cracks.  If they see something wrong with a report, they take it upon themselves to fix it.  If someone doesn’t show up for work, they cover that person’s responsibilities for the day.

These caretakers strive to make sure everything runs smoothly, regardless of whose responsibility it is.

After all this fixing, they began to resent the people they’ve been covering.  They are frustrated that policies and procedures aren’t followed. They begin to resent their colleagues for not working as hard as they do.  They are  also frustrated because they don’t receive credit for all that they do to keep the department afloat. When they complain, the complaints fall on deaf ears.  The slackers aren’t reprimanded, and no one steps up to plan the next party, and no one seems to care.

When I have a women tell me her version of this same story, I ask her, “Whose problem is it?”

She’ll often stop in her tracks and say it’s everyone’s problem.  Then I tell her the truth, the only one who has a problem is her, because she’s so busy making sure that she’s fixing everyone else’s.

As Jo Miller says in her article, 6 Critical Missteps that Hurt Your Career Advancement, “If you are a hard worker and develop a reputation for hard work, guess what you’ll attract more of? More hard work! And not necessarily the visibility and recognition that is due to you for the work you do.”

If you want things to change, then the problems have to affect everyone.  People are more than happy to let you shield them from the day-to-day hassles of managing a department.  What’s worse, is that because the problems don’t affect them, you don’t get credit for making things run smoothly.

What can you do if you’re a chronic fixer, if you volunteer to help even when no one’s asking? Stop fixing things!

You want your department or practice to run smoother?  Make sure you boss has some problems.  Your colleagues need a few problems too.  Otherwise, they will surely out perform you based on the productivity that really counts.

Run an experiment and let something that is driving you crazy fall through the cracks.  See who notices and see if they begin taking action.

Why set yourself up to hate your job because you’ve volunteered to be the problem solver?  It helps no one.

More importantly, problems, challenges and disagreements are the best way to build collaboration.  When it’s everyone’s problem, people will come together to solve it.

Your Network is Key to Your Success

10012587_sOpportunity doesn’t come from hard work, going to the right school or having the right resume.  Opportunity comes from other people.

You might have the education or skills that make you qualified for a great job or equipped to help a client, but the only way to truly access that opportunity is through someone else.  Whomever that person is, he or she has to feel like they know and trust you in order to give you the chance to succeed.

This is important to remember, because many of us feel like if we work hard enough someone will notice and opportunity will come on it’s own accord – not true.  It takes positive interactions with others – building relationships..

If you are reluctant to reach out and connect with people you know, whether personal friends or colleagues, you are putting yourself and career at a disadvantage.   Want to gain the advantage?  Follow this advice to build your personal network:

1. Reach out.

Most everyone seeks acknowledgement.  Why do you think Facebook and LinkedIn are so successful?  They provide opportunities for people to be seen and heard.  For example, yesterday was my birthday, and I started getting FB birthday wishes on Monday.  It made me feel great. Facebook leverages people’s desire to be acknowledge by promoting their posts.

It’s human nature, we all want to be seen.  When you reach out and tell someone you are thinking of them, you have a captive audience.  Of course, it helps if you are genuine and truly have something to say, but they’ll be interested if you want nothing more to see how they are doing.

2. Express interest in helping others.

Along with reaching out, you have to be interested in them and their needs.  Be curious, ask questions and genuinely offer assistance.  It’s what we do naturally in most of our friendships.

Why should the give and take be different for colleagues and people we are getting to know better? There’s nothing shifty about being interested and developing a relationship, unless you’re not genuinely interested in the person.

3. Find out how they function. 

Be curious about what they do and how they do it.  We spend most of our days on automatic pilot.  We think and do the same things over and over again.  Reaching out to new and different people helps us to become aware of different ways to reach our goals.  This can also open doors to new opportunities.

4. Learn to give and take. 

Overall, people like to help each other. Don’t hesitate to ask for what you need.  The key is creating a balance of give and take. Whether it’s providing acknowledgement, advice or active support, make sure that you are doing your part in nurturing the relationship, and this will most often be to your benefit as well. Reciprocal relationships are truly a win/win.

Don’t shy away from developing your network.  The people you know and the relationships you develop are the best way to sustained success.

There’s No Formula to Leadership

29294827_sRegular readers of my articles know that I frequently offer steps and ideas to help people build and create fulfilling careers.  While these insights are key, simply trying to implement them won’t blow you career wide open.

One of my clients who is following the steps and advice I’ve given keeps running into stumbling blocks.  Why haven’t things just clicked and fallen into place for her?

Things usually don’t “just” fall into place. We develop the perspective and strategy that helps us to stay in the game and ride the wave toward success. There are two things that are fundamental to developing the perspective and strategy of a leader – Mindset and Bravery.

Mindset

The best way to become a leader is to understand and adjust your default thinking.  Do you understand and believe in your value?  Do you think that hard work is your best, and only, asset?

If you don’t know how to manage the doubts that plague you, it’s hard to develop the skills that allow you to advocate for yourself.  These doubts are beliefs and rules that limit our ability to see opportunities.  Instead, they make the path ahead appear to be full of insurmountable challenges.

A strong and clear mindset allows you to see choices instead of obstacles.  A strong mindset shifts your perspective from thoughtless reaction to anticipation and decision.

A strong mindset enables you to develop habits that teach people how to best work with you, so you will no longer be  twisting and turning to meet other expectations.  It allows you to do things your way and pave a new way to success.

This is important, because a true leader doesn’t follow what everyone else does.  A leader creates a path that others want to follow.

Bravery

As a leader, to create a path that others want to follow, you have to be brave enough to stand out.

I find so often that my clients want to wait to take action until the fear disappears.  It doesn’t work that way.  The fear doesn’t disappear until we take action.  Taking action when you are leading the way takes bravery.

Following rules, steps and strategy will only get you so far.  If you are only one of a few women leading in your organization, you will have to create your way to the next level – there is no well worn, clear path.

You’ll never know how to do everything. You need the mindset and bravery to experiment  and see what happens.  Regardless of the outcome, you’ll build your instincts and learn to rely on your intuition.

You’ll learn to trust yourself.

This isn’t about building the confidence that you’ll always be right and always find success.  It’s the confidence that you have what it takes to handle the challenges and the rewards that come your way.

I can’t give you a formula for that -  it comes from practice – but I can help you begin!

How To Ace Your Interview

Does this scenario sound familiar? You landed the interview for what you think might be your next big position. This could even be your dream job. They must have liked your resume, although you wrote it so long ago, you don’t even remember what all those bullet points say. Then, you remember how uncomfortable an interview can be, and you start feeling nervous.

You aren’t sure what to do next, so you plan to do a little research on the company. But instead, you are consumed with the day-to-day projects of your current job. You figure you’ll have time right before the interview to view the company’s website and come up with a few intelligent questions to ask.

As the interview date gets closer, you call your friends and contacts for advice and insight. You begin to think about how to make the best impression. Your focus shifts to what you should wear rather than actually preparing for the interview.

When you finally walk into interview, you feel flustered and unprepared to present yourself in the best light.

What you needed was a plan.

To be fair, most people don’t know how to prepare for an interview. Next to public speaking, interviewing is one of the most dreaded social interactions people face .

That dread will cause you to focus on how to deal with disappointment, rather than how to confidently walk into an interview with clarity. 

Interviewing well takes preparation. You have to put in time to research and prepare so that you can walk in confident in your abilities and clear about what you want from a potential employer.

Here are five steps to prepare you for a successful interview:

1 – Define Your Priorities

Why do you want this position? What do you care about deeply? What does the job need to include for you to feel like taking this position is the next best step in your career?

What is your priority?

  • Money?
  • Flexibility?
  • Work Environment?
  • More Responsibility?
  • A Better Title?
  • A Good Boss?
  • An Office?
  • Independence?

There is no right or wrong answer; there are only your priorities.  When you know what you want, you can be clear about why you are interviewing.  And this will be of keen interest to the people who interview you. 

2 – Know Your Value

Take out a pen and paper and answer these questions:

  • What is your profession?
  • What are your top 25 skills and talents?
  • Why are these valuable?
  • How did you develop your expertise?
  • How do your skills and expertise make you qualified for this position?
  • What appeals to you about this position?
  • What is important to you in your career?
  • What brings out your best work?

These questions are designed to help you understand how your strengths will be of value to your potential employer. And mostly importantly, they build your confidence. Be thorough and think through your answers. Nothing is to trival.  Your goal is to have tools to create common ground with the interviewers and the organization.

3 – Do Your Homework

  • What is the culture of your potential employer?
  • What are the job requirements?
  • Who would be your new boss?
  • What do they believe in?
  • What is their management style?

To answer these questions, you can research companies on the web via sites like Glassdoor and LinkedIn.  Ask people in your network who know other people who work for the organization. You can also consult your alumni association to see if other alums work for that organization.

But first and foremost, you need to carefully read the job description.  Is this work that you honestly want to do?

Once you have your answers, think about how they resonate with you.

  • Where would you fit in this organization?
  • Would you feel inspired and engaged if you worked there?
  • Is this position a challenging next step or would it be more of the same?

4 – Match Your Skills and Build Your Story

Once you understand more about the job and the culture of the organization, begin to match you skills, expertise and priorities with the qualities that are important to your potential new employer. Do they match? How?

Write out the specific areas where you can see that your skills compliment what the employer wants and where their standards and culture intersect with your priorities.

Once you have written it out, build your signature story based on those intersections.  Include how your skills, growth, interests and talents brought you to this point in your career.  Your story explains why you want the position, which will helps interviewers emotionally connect with who you are and what is important to you.

Your story also needs to match your resume. If you haven’t thought about how to organize your resume, make sure it outlines your story. You resume is a brief introduction; your story is designed to fill in all the gaps.

5 – Questions, Questions, Questions

You know that your prospective employer will have questions for you. You should practice answering interview questions with a partner.  Find someone to play the role of interviewer.  Tell them to give you feedback on your body language, long pauses or awkwardness you may have while talking about yourself. This will help you be more comfortable during the actual interview.

Remember, an interview is a two-way street. A potential employer is interviewing you to see if you are a good fit for the organization, and you are interviewing them to see if it is the right place for you.  Employers make judgments about you based on the questions you ask. You need to develop probing  questions which will enable both of you to get the answers you seek.

All this preparation will help you focus and create a true connection with your interviewer. It also helps you to remember that your worth.

What questions do you have about interviewing?

Crafting a Resume for Your Career

10436891_s-2When most people think about writing their resume, their biggest concern is the format. While you do want to format your resume in a way that best highlights your experience, the most important part is the content.

Most people write their resumes, and bios for that matter, to get the job they already have, but not to get the job they want.

There are five essential things to consider about your career and where you want it go before you even begin to think about the format of your resume.  Any recruiter or HR professional will tell you that a resume is a poor indicator of a great employee.  One’s resume can only shed  light on their potential to be the right skill and cultural fit.

Here’s how to shout that you’re the right fit for an organization:

1- Be clear about the next step in your career

Decide if you want to change professions or industries.  Maybe you want more challenge or responsibility.   Think about what you want out of your next job and how it supports  your long-range career plans.

Randomly applying for jobs that sound good is a waste of your time. I can’t repeat that enough. Job hunting is a time and energy consuming process.

You need to make sure you’re targeting positions that will deliver what you’re looking for in your career.  If you don’t take time to think about what you want, you’ll probably end up with a job similar to the one you’re trying to leave.

Don’t just take a job to get away from a bad situation, choose a job that brings you closer to what you enjoy doing.

2 – Think about your ideal employer

Seth Godin has written a provocative manifesto, Stop Stealing Dreams, on how currently school trains us to be good employees. Being a good employee means keeping our head down, working hard, and hoping that someone notices us.  When we realize that doesn’t help us get fulfilling, well-paying work, we get discouraged and want a new employer.

However, we don’t stop to ask who we want to work for and why we want to work for them.  If you don’t know, it’s time to put aside the resume writing and do some research.

At this stage in your career, it’s important that you find a company that shares your values and gives you the opportunity to grow.  You can’t find the ideal employer if you don’t include your needs in the equation. Complete this sentence – If I am being honest, I most want to work with a company/firm that…

Once you’ve established your ideal employer, start thinking about how they’re challenged to find people like you.  Then consider what they need in relation to your skills and expertise.  What problems can you solve for them? ? Could you add innovation to their work process?  Find the answers to those questions and you’ll be more desirable

3 – Build your story

Now build a story that shows your passion about your targeted company and their work and how your experience intersects with their needs.  Your story is an integral part of your job search because it shows people who you are.   If you need help with this, download my free Story Building tool. Using your story as your resume’s foundation helps pinpoint your most relevant skills and experience.  It guides you in communicating the selling points necessary to obtain the job you want.

Remember that your resume alone won’t get you a job. You’ll need to leverage your network and have people refer and support you.  There is no better way to get their support than to share your compelling story.

4 - List your results

Now start thinking about your workplace success.  How does your history of accomplishment and service meet the needs of your ideal employer?  What specific skills and experience support your story?

Take time to list your former employers and write out the results you delivered for them.  Determine the relationship between your results and the type of job you want.  If you don’t see a correlation, continue to dig into your history.  You have certain experiences that can get you to the next step.

5 - Your resume will become the outline of your story.

Now you can start building your resume. You started at job A and built X skills and accomplished Y.  When you moved to job B, you enhanced those skills and found your passion by doing Z.  You followed your passion to job C, where you completed D and are proficient at skills X and Y.  These experiences prepare you for the challenge of your dream job.

Whatever your story and history, share the results that show your progression and why you’re ready for this new job or challenge. It might be tempting to simply list your accomplishments. Don’t. The accomplishments themselves should only help support your story.

You want to develop a resume that supports your compelling work history and clearly shows what you are ready to do next. This takes time and effort but the clarity will pay off in better interview opportunities.

Do you have any questions or thoughts about leveraging your resume?  Leave a comment and I’ll reply.  If you find crafting your resume truly daunting, reach out to me at support@foodonourtable.com and let’s schedule a free strategy session to get you started.

The Secret to Accomplishing Your Goals

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My friend Nancy tells a familiar story of the challenges she faced with a former boss.  Like most of us, Nancy is intensely motivated by a strong work ethic.

However, she was simply overwhelmed with tasks on the job.  Initially, instead of approaching her boss to discuss her workload, she worked harder to get everything done.

Nancy got so busy that she was afraid the quality of her work might suffer. On top of the overwhelm, she began noticing that the projects she was assigned no longer interested her.

What was her stellar work ethic earning her? More work she didn’t want to do. Nancy tried to discuss the situation with her boss but her concerns fell on deaf ears.

Have you ever found yourself frustrated and overwhelmed because you had no interest in the work you were doing? And the only reward you received for your effort was more of the same type of work?

How do you stop the cycle?

You have to learn to say no.

By saying no to the work you don’t want to do, you will have the time and energy to pursue the work you do want to do.

Nancy ultimately said no by quitting her job. While quitting is a valid option, here are three alternative strategies to employ to effectively say no to work you no longer want to do.

1.  Develop an area of expertise.

Think about an area in your industry that you enjoy and want to learn more about. Find someone in the office who does this type of work and volunteer to work with them. Shadow them and take on projects that will build your understanding of that specialty. Then, when your boss comes and asks if you have time for an additional project that doesn’t interest you, tell him or her with much excitement about the project(s) you are busy working on.

Eventually, you will develop a skill in a specialized area, and people will go to you as the expert.  When you start saving other people time and energy by helping people with what they don’t enjoy or have deep knowledge of, you increase your value to the organization.

2.  Find an advocate.

Make an effort to find someone in the work place who advocates for you to get more interesting projects. After you find an advocate, invite him or her to lunch and find out how you can work more closely with her. You could ask how people branch out to other areas in your organization, and if she will help you get assignments better suited to your interests. To do this, you have to stop being available for work you don’t want to do.

3.  Be clear about your time and workload.

If you find you are constantly fixing other people’s emergencies, you have to learn to gracefully say no. This means that instead of reflexively saying yes to every request, you have to pause and think about what you have time to do. Nancy was not in the habit of taking a deep breath and looking at her calendar before she said yes.

When someone asks if you can take on an additional assignment, tell them you have to see where you are with your current workload. Buy yourself time to figure out a diplomatic way to say no. And then say no without elaborating or apologizing.

Once you get past the instinctual fear of saying no, you will find that people respect your time much more. The first step is to value your time by learning to say no.

Get a Partner with a Plan

14019947_sHow’s 2015 starting for you?  Do you have intentions, words, and plans ready to power you through January?  If you’re like me and my clients, you are ready to go.  Great , but what’s your plan to stay on track in February, March and the rest of the year?

One of the best things I have ever done for myself is to get an accountability partner. For over three years now, my accountability partner and I have worked together to keep each other on track and clear-headed. This relationship has been more helpful than the coaches and training programs in which I’ve invested hundreds of dollars.

What is an accountability partnership?

We all know that it’s easier to exercise with a buddy.  Having an accountability partner is something like that, but it takes more than friendship.  Too often, friends will sympathize and tell you what you want to hear, rather than what you need to hear.

While you may be friends with your chosen accountability partner, this arrangement is  not about counseling and comfort; it’s about mutual commitment and success.

How do you find an accountability partner?

The most important aspect of finding a suitable accountability partner is to find someone who has at least the same level of ambition as you.  You might not be in the exact same field, but you both must have the determination to move your careers forward.

Remember, you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.  If you don’t want to be like a certain person, then don’t pick them as an accountability partner.

If you want to build your business, find a colleague who is also building his or her career and ask if they want to schedule regular calls to check in on each other’s progress.

Basic Guidelines for Accountability Partnerships:

  • Decide on the frequency of contact.  I suggest you have calls at least once a week. Set a definitive dates and times to speak.
  • Outline specific goals each week and share them with each other.  These can be related to your health, family or career.  However, make no more than three goals per call.
  • Set a consequence if action is not taken. Create an agreement about what the consequence will be if action is not taken as committed.  Whatever is agreed to should be invoked.  Hold your partner accountable!
  • Let your accountability partner know how to support you when you don’t reach your goal.  Give them something to remind you about your commitment to yourself.  It should be a bit of tough love.
  • Integrity and confidentiality are important.  There will be times when you will not meet your goals and vulnerability is a necessary part of this partnership.  You have to agree to trust and respect each other.
  • An attitude of service also helps.  It is tricky to build vulnerability while holding someone accountable.  In order for it to be a success, you must genuinely want the very best for your partner.  Your partner will respond at a higher level if they’re motivated by your genuine interest and desire to see them succeed.
  • No judgement.  An accountability partnership doesn’t include analyzing why you did or didn’t accomplish your goals.  It is a quick call to check-in and ensure that you are focused on accomplishing your goals.
  • Most importantly, you have to be consistent.  When you don’t complete your stated goals it can be tempting to not hold your calls.  This might even become an implied  agreement. If you don’t hear from your partner, reach out to them. If you find your partner isn’t meeting her goals, help her break her goals down into smaller steps to get back on track.

Ready to get started?

Invite a friend or colleague to lunch and ask if they would be willing be your accountablity partner for 2015.  Or send them this article and ask if they would like to commit to work together this year.

Once you’ve found a partner, pick a day and time and schedule the calls on your calendar.  Also, set a date to evaluate your process.  Are you speaking frequently enough?  Is your partner tough enough or too tough?  Have the calls turned into gripe or sympathy sessions?

Keep in mind that accountability takes practice and improves as you build trust.  Write down your weekly goals and accomplishments.  Be focused on writing, checking in and taking action.

The best part is that you’ll have a partner to witness and share your great success.

About Ferguson

31088929_sMy daughter Zoë is soon to be eight years old.  What’s remarkable about her is that although her father is white, she has always strongly identified as African-American.  I would say black but she proudly says African American.

I could tell you all the ways that she has reached out to people with brown skin all of her life but trust me when I say, she loves black people.

A few weekends ago, my husband turned on PBS and we began watching the series The African Americans:  Many Rivers to Cross with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.  It’s a six- hour series that chronicles the 500-year experience of African Americans.  On this Saturday, they ran back-to-back episodes.  We were transfixed and spent most of our day watching that program.

As we watched the program Zoë kept asking me, “Why?”

Why was there slavery, and why did they pick the Africans?  Why were they whipped?  Why couldn’t families stay together?  Why couldn’t African Americans learn to read?  Why couldn’t they own property? Why was “separate but equal” unequal?

It was so unfair in her seven-year old mind.  Well, it’s unfair in my 47 year-old mind. I’ve just learned to live with the inconsistency. Still, I didn’t have the language to explain the tragedies and contradictions of being black in America.

Then, she haltingly asked, “Am I African American?”

Ah, my heart broke.  For the first time in her life she wasn’t sure she wanted to be African American. She got it. Where’s the dignity in how African-Americans are treated in this country?

Do white parents have to answer these same questions and instill pride in their culture?

That’s why the decision not to indict the officer who the shot Mike Brown made me so sad.  It wasn’t whether or not the shooting was justified; it was that Mike Brown deserved the dignity of a trial.

That’s why it was hard to answer those questions Zoë asked as we watched The African American Experience on PBS.  It detailed the history of this nation which was built upon the backs of slaves.  It outlined the determination and bravery of black people to win their freedom.  We saw again the long road to civil rights.

African Americans forged their own culture and won their rights against “unimaginable odds.”  Yet, we still fight for dignity and respect.

My heart breaks, because at the age of seven, my daughter has to contemplate this.

I asked her tonight as I was writing this if she thought she was African American.  She looked up at me sharply and snapped a fully assured, “Yes.”

I can breathe again.  I was second guessing my judgement for exposing her to all this at her age.  But, I felt she needed to understand the circumstances around the death of Mike Brown and the lack of an indictment for the police officer that shot him.  It’s my job to expose her.  Better me than someone else.

Black parents around this country have to have these types conversations with their kids for the safety and sanity of their babies.  If I wrote this newsletter as business as usual, I would have lost my opportunity to say that what African Americans want is dignity, respect and a sense of protection under the law.

I talk everyday about the challenges of women in corporate America.  Yet, our entire nation remains deeply divided by race – even when it seems like we all get along.

I share all of this with you because it won’t change until we change.

I share this because I advocate for what’s right, and it’s my responsibility as an African American to use this platform to say we can no longer tolerate business as usual.

How Can You Manage Your Personal and Professional Life?

iStock_000011530814XSmallWhen I submitted my first article for The Shriver Report, the editor mentioned that she was intrigued about how I could help women truly manage their personal and professional lives.

She wanted to know if I had any tips that could be presented in an article on how working mothers balance the two.

I assured her that I had a ton of tips, each of which could be it’s own article. I told her that while working with my clients, I usually focus on four main strategies:

1. Manage yourself and your energy

2. Understand and articulate your value

3. Build boundaries that protect your priorities

4. Ask for what you need and want  – at work and at home

In a nutshell, if we could practice these four strategies, managing our professional and personal lives would be much easier. Ultimately, these strategies teach us how to say no to what we don’t want or don’t have time to do.

We become accustomed to saying “yes” because we feel we need to. We feel like we have to go it alone so that no one is inconvenienced.

We stay at work and take on assignments we don’t need to, because we’re afraid that saying no will get us fired.  We think: “I can’t leave when everyone else stays.”

The thought of saying no to save ourselves makes us whirl with anxiety. We think: “How could I?”

The idea of asking for more money based upon our value causes us to break out in a cold sweat. We think: “I already have a good salary.”

Asking our husbands to arrange and manage childcare over the summer makes us wonder if it’s really a battle worth fighting. We think: “It’s easier to just do it myself.”

Here’s the thing….

As I contemplated writing the article, I began to realize that these issues all boil down to habits. We are simply in the habit of putting everyone else first.  Habits happen automatically, at a subconscious level.  A habit is based on feeling  – not thought, and two things create habits: a trigger and a reward.

Why are we in the habit of putting everyone’s priorities before our own?  Because we are triggered by discomfort and rewarded by avoidance.  We think we win when we avoid discomfort.  But the truth is, we just pile on the burdens which results in overwhelm.

Awareness is the answer. 

Strive to become aware of other triggers besides discomfort, such as fatigue, anxiety, and feeling scattered.  And, seek new rewards like peace, rest, fulfillment, and fun.

When you find yourself about to say yes, and there is a pain in the pit of your stomach, pause before you respond.

Stop and think about all your feelings and choices in any given moment.  Step off autopilot and become fully aware of the consequences of your choices.  Then make a decision that triggers a new feeling, and experience the reward that comes along with that feeling. If you experience a feeling of relief, then you are on the right path.

Practice this with me. Let’s see if we can develop new, healthier habits.

This week, I’m going to say “no” by delegating work to my new assistant.  It’s going to take practice to get comfortable with this, but I already feel so much lighter.

Will you join me?

Pick one new positive feeling to focus on this week. When a thought gives you a feeling of relief, enjoyment, or satisfaction then take the actions that will reinforce that positive feeling.  Let me know how it goes.