Self-Limiting Behaviors

Have you reached your full potential in your current situation? While my focus is typically on women’s career success, a personal life review (particularly at this time of year) also merits some healthy introspection. We were born with an unlimited capacity to think, create, achieve and love.  Through the innumerable situations we experience, we either ‘grow and go’ or ‘slip and slide’.  The difference in our reaction is locked within our thinking patterns and self-belief, which combine to form limiting behaviors that either propel us forward or keep us grounded firmly in fear.  A limiting behavior or belief can be like a broken record or set of tapes that play a continuous loop in our minds, typically in our subconscious.  They are riddled with negativity.  Sometimes we are vaguely aware of them, often they’ve been there for so long we just accept them as the norm.  Let’s explore.

What are the top limiting behaviors?  In my over 25 years experience in working with women in all levels of management, three limiting beliefs rise to the top again and again.  They play out in the professional world, to be sure, but can also play a significant role in our personal lives.

1.  Not enough self-love – This is the number one issue so many women face.  It’s also the best-kept secret many women hide.  You would be amazed at the number of powerful women I have coached over the years whose outward presence, confidence and communication style exude success.  Yet, when we dig a little deeper, sometimes just beneath that seemingly solid shell, what lies beneath is a lack of self-love.  The reasons are manifold; a childhood issue, an unresolved relationship, a past (perceived) unforgivable error, and the biggest culprit – the comparison game.

The common thread among each reason is also the most important yet challenging thing to accept; the past cannot be changed.  A perfect upbringing is virtually nonexistent. Relationships and errors of the past are ancient history; most often only thought of in the prisons of our own mind.  Granting forgiveness to someone that hurt you, or to yourself for a past error is one of the biggest gifts and favors you can give yourself.  Doing so enables negative feelings to flow out and positive thoughts and the beginning to self-love to take root.

You are a masterpiece of your past; from the genes you received at birth and the formative years of learning to life experiences and choices, you are who you are.  Small changes are possible, but for the most part what you see is what you get; both in the mirror and in your mind.  My point?  Stop the comparison game!  Embrace who and what you are (the good and bad) and use it all to the best of your ability.  You will never be the best ________________ or the worst ____________.  Fill in the blanks for yourself.  With almost 7.5 billion people on the planet and over 330 million in the US, this is an undeniable truth.  Accepting yourself as who you are and were created to be is the beginning of self-love and one step away from self-limiting behaviors.

2.  Not enough ‘other-love’ of other women – If we suffer from the comparison game (and I think it’s safe to say we’ve all afflicted at some point) it festers on the inside, but worse, it creates significant damage in its outward manifestation.  Negative thoughts and energy don’t just sit in a vacuum.  They flow outward and reach others whether in body language, written or verbal communication, or in the way we treat people.  And no one is immune.  Just as we have our own strengths and talents to use, the same is true for other women.  However, if you play the comparison game, it is one of the biggest barriers to collaboration, creativity, achieving a mission and bonding.

When we busy ourselves not liking ‘her’ because she speaks up for what she wants, maybe a better approach is to appreciate the assertiveness skills that can be helpful in bringing a negotiation to a close.  If you don’t like that ‘she’ is too bossy, try to appreciate that someone can lead others to get the job done.  Ultimately, remember that those same women (and men) all have their own insecurities and self-doubt.  This applies to women in all areas of our lives; business colleagues, relatives, neighbors, in volunteer situations, etc.

Instead, make a commitment to stop comparing, and replace those thoughts and feelings with acts and words of empowerment.  You will be amazed at the difference in your own thinking and feeling, in the relationships you have with other women, and in their behavior.  For example, when you publicly recognize someone for a job well done the positivity has a domino effect.  Your positivity reflects well on yourself and feels good, the recognition is both motivating and affirming to the person receiving it, and others are motivated to both do well and emulate your behavior.  Such positive outcomes won’t happen immediately or spontaneously, but over time the payout will create an environment where everyone feels more loved, accepted and able to reach their fullest potential.  Ultimately, working harmoniously and practicing ‘other-love’ for women will dispel and help eliminate limiting beliefs and thinking.

3.  Now, claim your power! – After clearing the way for positive thoughts for yourself and toward others by emptying out negativity and eliminating the comparison game, it’s time to claim your power!  That’s right!  Your power; it lies deep within you and was there from the moment your conception.  Think about it – what a process to become a human being.  That’s a lot of power. Learning to eat, talk, walk, run, think and other life skills; that all takes a lot of power.  When we are young and full of imagination, we believe we can do and become anything.  Yet, somewhere along the way, we begin to collect untruths, limiting beliefs and restrictive behaviors, which all combine to hold us back and restrain our power.

The good news is that the same power we were born with, tapped into as a young child and now call upon occasionally still resides within us.  But, oh do we have our reasons for letting it lie dormant.  Although we want to be successful in our career and other important areas of our lives, so many women hold back due to fear of success.  At first glance, it’s a paradox.  If we possess the power to achieve, what are we waiting for? Why hold back?

No one answer is the same or true for each woman, but I have discovered a common list:

  • If I succeed at first, how will I continue, and will I have the strength to keep it up?
  • What will others think of my success, and how will they treat me, especially if it means a promotion?
  • What if I claim my power and fail at what I try?
  • What if I make the wrong decision either in the short or long term?
  • It won’t feel safe or secure, and I will be out of my comfort zone.

Fear of failure or use of personal power often leads people to ask for more information before they will decide to move forward.  It makes people stuck.  If you feel stuck, I would love to help you work out a plan of success to move forward. Please give me a call at (513) 561-4288  or connect with me via email at Kay@highheeledsuccess.com or so we can tap into your power together!

Top 5 Barriers to Delegation

We all have so much to do, and so little time.  It’s become the way of life for most of us.  The affliction is expressed in many different ways; “I’m so busy,” “I have so much on my plate,” “There is never enough time,” “I can’t catch up,” “I have no idea how I’m going to get it all done.”   With the frequency we say and hear these things, it would seem that we’d be open to help for our condition.  Yet, with many of my clients, the opposite continually rings true.  The mere suggestion that a co-worker, employee, manager or subordinate could help lighten the load is more often than not met with “Oh, I could never to that!”.

Women in higher management tend to struggle with delegation the most.  Seems paradoxical, but it’s true.  Delegating was an easier task for many when coming up through the ranks, but I find that once women reach a certain level, they are remiss to let go of the reigns so to speak.  Below is a list of the most common barriers to delegation, and their common rationales behind them.

  1. PerfectionismThis issue is by far the most difficult challenge women face, regardless of their level, but it is especially pervasive at the top.  Many women feel they’ve worked really hard for a long time to get where they are, and fear losing what they’ve gained.  To them, delegation means losing control of the outcome or that the work or project won’t live up to their high standards or expectations.  In reality, having everything ‘just right’ can often cause much larger issues such as missing deadlines and burnout.  The anxiety that accompanies this often leads to depression and never feeling that they or their work is ‘good enough.’
  1. Do It Myself AttitudeThis excuse is common in technical fields, finance or analysis-heavy projects.  Women who have this attitude often take great pride in their knowledge base and find it very difficult to accept that someone else could do just as good of a job.  Some women in this category fear that if they do delegate and someone else does a good (or better) job, the employee will get all the credit and recognition.  This issue runs strong in women who crave affirmation and thrive on recognition.
  1. Guilt in Delegating – Guilt is a combo issue.  On one hand, you may have the assumption that you should be able to do it all and if you delegate you may look weak and unable to carry the load.  On the other hand, you may be reluctant to add more to your employees’ plates.  Perhaps they are already working hard, don’t make high salaries, or the organization is going through a difficult time.  This may have some validity, but it still does not warrant stunting the growth of your team.
  1. Fear of Telling Others What to do and Reaping Criticism – As a female leader, you may garner some criticism for telling others what to do.  You may get responses verbally and through body language that imply, “Who do you think you are, anyway?”  Well, you are the boss.  Time to grow thicker skin!  If you don’t delegate for fear of receiving push back or criticism, you are allowing yourself to be held hostage by others.  Others may call you bossy.  Heed this quote from Mikki Paradis, “I’m not bossy.  I am THE boss.  Those who don’t understand the difference have no room in my world.”
  1. Understanding of What the Job Entails – This happens when women think they have to have ‘all the answers’ and can’t ask for help.  They worry that if they don’t know something, they will appear inept.  Women leaders who don’t delegate because of this roadblock can overcome it when they realize that no one has all the answers or the inside scoop on how to do it all correctly and efficiently.

Benefits of Delegating

When rising to the ranks of leadership, your role should naturally become more visionary with a focus on the bigger picture and outcomes.  Your role transforms from working ‘in’ the business to working ‘on’ the business.  As such a top priority as a leader must include developing the leader in others.  Below are some of the key benefits of delegating as it relates to leadershipes’.

  1. Empowers othersDelegating gives others a sense of empowerment.  Any control issues you may have at the onset will diminish as your team members feel empowered to take tasks head on.
  2. Builds confidence in othersYou were given a team because someone had confidence in you and your abilities.  Someone took a chance on you.  Model that behavior by showing your confidence in others with delegating tasks that are either new to them, or just out of their comfort zone.
  3. Develops othersDelegating something complex (that you may think takes too long to explain), has a big payout here.  Teaching and training develops others to a higher level, increases their capacity, and makes them a more valuable asset to the team.  It also increases their sense of self-worth.
  4. Builds trustThere is nothing worse than secrets, mistrust and skepticism in the workplace.  It not only destroys relationships; it is incredibly counterproductive to the business.  Delegating important projects builds trust, especially when comes with significant responsibility.  It says, “I know you can do this!” to your employee.
  5. Breaks down barriersDelegating takes time and can strengthen relationships.  Done correctly, it can create an environment of transparency where manager and employees feel safe in their roles and responsibilities, and know that someone always ‘has their back.’
  6. Builds a strong teamDelegating based on team members’ strengths will grow each one stronger.  Instead of fearing that you won’t get the credit, letting individuals shine in the limelight will reflect well on the whole team.
  7. Developing leadershipWhen your team grows strong and their leadership is recognized throughout the company, it will reflect well on you.  While it’s true that something could indeed go wrong (if that is your fear) people learn through their mistakes and the mistakes of others.  It’s all an important part of the development process, as the learning is applied going forward.
  8. Shows your faith in themIf you are known for perfectionistic tendencies, delegating to a team member can convey your faith in them.  If your team knows you have very high standards, and you delegate with words of encouragement and positivity, they will be assured of your faith in them.
  9. Builds loyaltyIf your employees feel like they are on the receiving end of your trust and faith while also being developed as a leader, they will become fiercely loyal.  Your fear of appearing weak to others will be allayed when your company recognizes how committed your team is to you and their work.
  10. Encourages new ways of thinking – You may have always done things a certain way, and it’s been good.  Imagine delegating some of your favorite tasks and having them tweaked or built upon to be even better or stronger. This provides both an opportunity to recognize someone for their abilities, while providing efficiencies that have a positive impact on the business.

I’ve seen transformative results when women conquer hurdles to delegation.  One such instance occurred when I helped a client to delegate by overcoming her fear of being too bossy.  Growing up she continually heard messages from her mother like “stop being so bossy – you’ll never have any friends.”  She internalized this message through adulthood.  It manifested by her pushing down her ideas and needs, deferring to what others wanted in the hopes that everyone would “like her.”  Some of her needs were to delegate, and it was almost impossible for her to do it.

I helped her realize that she could establish boundaries for herself and outline the needs of the business (which included delegating) without being bossy.  This was a huge revelation for her.  Further, I helped her understand that if she executed these requests with diplomacy and professionalism, others would respect her more.  This was a completely different way for her to operate versus trying to be a pleaser all the time.  As a result, she was able to work with a new empowered attitude and work much more effectively and efficiently.

Smart Steps

Did you find yourself identifying with any of the barriers to delegation, but also encouraged because you sparked to some of the benefits it could have?  I have guided hundreds of women who have successfully faced and conquered their challenges of delegating projects and authority.  If you would like someone to walk with on this journey, I would love to be your guide.  Email me at kay@highheeledsuccess.com or give me a call at (513) 561-4288 to discuss how I can help.

 

The Art of Negotiation

Is your career where you want it, or do you have work goals and future ambitions to conquer that seem out of reach?  Working hard at what you do won’t always garner a promotion or contract.  More often than not, you have to ask for it, or negotiate your way to it.  Now, don’t let the word ‘negotiation’ scare you off.  And, if you think the art of negotiation only applies to top-level politicians or six figure salespeople, think again.  Negotiating skills are a necessary tool for every business person, and the mastery of it begins with assessing your own self-worth.

Begin your negotiation plan by asking ‘how much do I value myself, and what do I need and want’?  Do you feel worthy of the very thing you have your sights set upon?  If you dream about a career advancement, but deep down feel you are undeserving, or don’t have what it takes, begin your work there.  Set aside feelings of unworthiness for a moment and take a look at your resume, or Linked-In profile.  If you haven’t created either, it’s time to begin a chronological inventory of your work history and skill sets.  A full review of your accomplishments and abilities should provide a realistic picture of your background and an objective representation of what you’ve accomplished.

After such an exercise (given you’ve been in the workforce a while) you should have an undeniable sense of your value as an employee, entrepreneur or freelancer.  When you doubt your value, do a self-check by looking at your accomplishments in black and white.  With a boost in confidence, then ask yourself ‘what do I want, or what is it I need?’  Sometimes we feel we need more, but can’t always define it for ourselves.  Here are a few goals and needs some of my clients have expressed to their employers over the years:

Promotion Pay increase Benefits increase
Bonus Vacation time Special assignment
Larger workspace Work from home Earlier/later start/end time

Perhaps these examples pertain to you, or maybe they’ve helped you connect with what it is you want or need in your career.  Negotiation is a give and take, so the next step involves figuring out what others need and looking toward the future.  What are you willing to give, give up, invest in or do in return for what you want?  Whatever it is, link it to what interests your negotiating partner.  Your company, team or manager could have the following wants or needs:

New product innovation Increasing revenue Company merger
Reducing overhead Employee reduction Industry nomination
Company award Reduced workload Successful project completion

Do you have the ideas, capacity or skill set to help your manager reach his or her goals?  Maybe a combination of these suggested ideas and/or other unmet company needs would make an attractive proposition to a manager.  If your manager’s future or unmet goals are tiered up to a greater company goal, even better.  Now it’s time to create the deal or build your negotiation strategy.

Consider multiple combinations of ideas, and begin simply.  For example, you would like a raise, and in return, you agree to take on an important project.  In presenting the idea, demonstrate how your work on the project will help achieve your manager’s goal of increasing revenue, reducing their workload, or keeping within budget and timelines by avoiding a salaried new hire and training time.  Or, propose that you could increase revenue as the new assistant sales manager with your training and motivational skills.  The negotiating combinations are almost endless, just make sure the output is not.  Know your breaking point.

Define and understand what and when you are willing to walk away from.  Enter into the negotiation with a plan A, B and C.  Offer to assist with the most obvious goal, and ask for what you want in return – time off, raise, etc.  If the deal is met with some resistance, don’t give in immediately.  Tell your manager you understand they may need time to think about it, and set a time and date to reconnect on the proposal.  When you meet again, if your request is rebuffed, increase the stakes, but just a little.  Put option B on the table.  For example, if you offered to take on a special project in return for a raise, say you’ll deliver the work 4 weeks earlier than the original due date.  Whatever the second offering is, make sure it demonstrates that you are sincerely invested in the first offering in return for the raise (or whatever you asked for).  Upping the ante typically results in an acceptance or refusal, and you will know where you stand.  If, however, you still sense some resistance, now would be the time to pull out the ace in your back pocket.  On top of the first two offerings, include a clincher to the deal that you know your manager can’t possibly pass up.

If the negotiation has gone this far, know your bottom line.  The overall atmosphere and attitude during the negotiations should provide a gut check on how far you are willing to go.  If you feel the process is being considered in a fair light and a respectable sense, throwing down the gauntlet with your third offering may feel right.  If instead, you sense that you’re being exploited, be willing to walk away.  Further, before you enter into negotiations, understand how much you are willing to give, and stick to your resolve.  What are the non-negotiables?  Have a tough conversation with yourself prior to the negotiation, otherwise, you are at the mercy of the person you are negotiating with.  Your time, experience and talents are valuable.  Don’t give, give, give until it hurts.  The danger here is selling yourself short by giving too much away in return for too little payout.  Do so, and you will not only devalue your self-worth but your perceived worth by your employer as well.

Standing out in the Crowd

Gaining a competitive edge in today’s business world requires a unique combination of skill, experience and the ability to stand out in a crowd.  Searching for a job, shining in your company, or being an industry expert; these activities and goals require various and many talents to be sure.  However; making your mark requires more than skill and experience.  You have to be truly unique to rise above the competition and stand out in the crowd; a daunting task.  In a society with pervasive social media noise and 24-7 news feeds, and a business climate saturated with voicemail and email overload, standing out in the crowd is challenging at best.  So how do you do it?

Deliver the unexpected.  In the business environment, this can range from a creative resume or job search approach to going above and being truly unique in the workplace.  The Huffington Post recently highlighted a young Australian job-seeker who created a candy bar wrapper out of her resume and sent it out on a chocolate bar to would-be employers.  When the story hit the news, she received offers from as far away as Europe.  Someone else I know sent her resume along with three copies of US News & World Report’s top-rated hospitals issue when applying for a marketing job at Cincinnati Children’s.  She shared how she would like to contribute to their marketing efforts to help keep them in the number 3 spot in the country.  Unique and unexpected; these two candidates stood out above the crowd.

In your daily job, experts give so much advice on how to stay ahead of the pack and get noticed.  ‘Under promise and over deliver’ is oft-quoted guidance.  Also popular are; be on time, work hard, be professional, stay goal-oriented, etc.  While these are solid ideas, the one I believe will make the greatest impact is effective communication skills; both speaking and listening.  In John Maxwell’s book Everyone Communicates, Few Connect, he maintains that “The ability to communicate and connect with others is a major determining factor in reaching your potential.  To be successful, you must work well with others.  To do that at your absolute best, you must learn to connect.”  Being powerful in your communication is unique in the workplace.  If you want to stand out above the crowd, try listening more and talking less.  You’ll be amazed at the attention and people it draws.

Now, let’s turn our attention to standing out in the crowd as a speaker.  In my experience as a speaker and an audience member at any event, I have found one common thread that garners the most attention – delivering the unexpected.  The element of surprise –  something that catches people off guard, makes them pause and think, or knocks them of their normal course of thought; these are the things that cause you to rise up above the crowd.  I have two personal stories of the unexpected; one giving, the other receiving.

I attended a James Malinchak Speaker Bootcamp in Los Angeles one year, and wanted to get noticed among the hundreds of attendees that would be there.  In researching his bio, I learned that James was a former UC basketball player under coach Tony Yates, whom my husband knew through a friend.  Prior to heading to LA, I purchased UC spirit items and made a gift bag for James, and obtained permission from Tony to give his cell number to James.  When the opportunity arose at the bootcamp, I presented James with the gift and shared Tony’s number.  James was absolutely blown away by the gesture because it had been years since they last spoke, and Yates had had a profound impact on James as a coach.  No doubt, this connection was memorable for James and it definitely made me stand out in the crowd.  He referenced me many times over the course of the bootcamp, and in doing so I made 10 times the connections than I typically do at such events.

Just a few weeks ago, after joining a coaching program, they followed up with the unexpected.  I was surprised when UPS delivered a package one day, as I hadn’t recently ordered anything.  To my pleasant surprise, the organization sent a surprise gift to me as a new member.  I had absolutely no idea it was coming, and the bonus of this gesture increased the value of the investment I’d made with the program.  The unanticipated event made them stand out above myriad other membership programs I’d joined in the past.

As a speaker and presenter, passion, humor, and storytelling are the top three elements of delivering the unexpected to my audiences.  People are wowed when I come in from the back of the room with boxing gloves asking, “Do you come out punching every time you speak?”  This combines a little bit of humor with the unexpected.  Women love the red vinyl shoes I use to mark the way to the training room for public workshops.  This is storytelling in a sense, in that it connects with how to achieve High-Heeled Success.  I’ve been known to use many props in my workshops, some humorous, some to drive home an important point, and others to underscore an idea I am passionate about.  One of my favorite props is a wand that lights up and plays a magical chord when I wave it (thanks to Jenifer Quin-Wilson for the gift of the want).  The wand is an unexpected object that underscores breakthroughs, ‘ahah’ moments, and steps of courage that many women take when they grow and develop in my workshops.

Are you delivering the unexpected in what you do every day?  If you need help standing out above the crowd I’d love to help.  We can explore ways to develop your presentation skills, increase your passion, your delivery or storytelling skills.  Connect with me via email at kay@highheeledsuccess.com, or give me a call at (513) 561-4288.

The Art of Self-Care; Lessons from Michelangelo and Painting the Sistine Chapel

How fast, how much, how high? From an early age we are measured by our achievements. From first words as a baby and sporting accomplishments as an adolescent and teen, to top grades in high school and college and how high the salary at the coveted job – we are measured, judged and evaluated. Messages from social media, management, self-improvement books, and prominent business people or publications encourage raising the bar, achieving your greatest potential, and place ‘best in class’ on a pedestal.

Goal setting and accomplishments are important, but we need to balance and evaluate the toll they take on our personal life and health. Letting ‘how many’ or ‘how high’ define and rule our lives can lead to significant, and sometimes life-altering burnout. When we feel over-worked, stressed out or trapped, it’s time to see what we can let go, and take steps toward self-care. Over the years, I’ve discovered three behaviors that pose the greatest risk to self-care for my clients; 1) being prone to perfectionism, 2) taking on too much and 3) have difficulty relinquishing control (lest someone else doesn’t do it as well, or worse, does it better!) This is nothing new for humans, nor is it unique to women. Let’s explore a lesson in history to learn how detrimental these behaviors can be when taken to the extreme.

It took four years for Michelangelo to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Although completed centuries ago, he exhibited the same self-sabotaging behaviors enumerated above in his approach. They are fairly easy to identify.

Michelangelo was commissioned by Pope Julius II to paint a fresco on the Sistine Chapel ceiling in 1508; a vaulted structure almost half the length of a football field and 15 feet wide. Michelangelo had never painted anything in his life; sculpture was his primary art form. After reluctantly agreeing the task, and reviewing the ceiling, he sketched a composition that was to include 300 figures in the finished fresco. Never working with this medium, he recruited other accomplished fresco artists to demonstrate the technique on the ceiling, but not liking their procedure, he sent them away and decided to do it his own way. He constructed a scaffolding of his own after not liking the one provided, and painted in a standing position with his head continually bent backwards. He worked hard, and slept little.

After completing the first section, he took the scaffolding down and reviewed it from below. Upon finding it was too small, he reproduced the entire work. Although he did take a significant break in 1510, he over scrutinized his completed work during that time. (Note: the break was due to a disagreement with the Pope, not for relaxation or self-care). Finding numerous areas to improve upon, he set about finishing his work to correct any perceived imperfections in the first section. Even after finishing the masterpiece, he never considered himself a painter. Michelangelo developed significant health issues as a result of painting the massive fresco, which included a goiter, going half blind, significant back issues, and arthritis.

In this extreme example, it is very easy to identify Michelangelo’s perfectionist tendencies; building his own scaffolding, not using proven fresco techniques or the help of accomplished artists, complete reproduction of a finished work and nitpicking his own skills. Let’s compare his behavior with some common modern world example in the workplace:

  1. Creating a new work procedure without input from others, which equates to the “I know best” syndrome.
  2. Scrapping our work and effort or that of a co-worker because it’s not ‘good enough’ and going back to a blank canvas.
  3. Going through every detail with a scrutinizing mentality to find fault.
  4. Dismissing anyone who doesn’t measure up or meet your standards.

Perfectionism is one of the most detrimental and common roadblocks not only to self-care, but ironically to success as well. Perfectionist tendencies not only deplete our own energy; they are exhausting for the people around us because they take up a considerable amount of time and effort. A manager with perfectionist tendencies has the potential to breed a culture of fear in an organization, create a ‘watch-your-back’ mentality, and completely demotivate a team; none of which lead to success. In addition to physical fatigue, it can be mentally draining as well. Consumed with getting it right or presenting flawless work detracts from things that bring joy, the mental capacity to focus on things we like, and true accomplishment.

It’s plain to see that Michelangelo took on too much, the second most common factor contributing to burn out and not taking care of ourselves. Can you imagine saying ‘sure I’ll paint a 5,00 square feet vaulted ceiling’? While we don’t sabotage ourselves to that degree, our own ‘taking-on-too-much’ tendencies show up in over-scheduling our families and ourselves at work and in our personal lives. Going from one thing to the next makes us feel like a mouse in a maze, and sorry is the poor soul that gets in our way. We can begin to think we should be able to do everything well, and paint others into a box when we expect the same of them, or get angry when they are inefficient or not quick enough.

The problem with taking on too much is that we are so focused on what and when we have things to do, that we can’t see beyond our calendars and to-do lists. It’s all too easy to see how taking on too much impacted Michelangelo. He slept little, suffered much discomfort during the process, and ended up with horrible physical ailments as a result of his work. In modern-day society, our over committing creates a continuous sense of urgency and stress for ourselves, our families and co-workers; and health hazards which can include physical reactions to stress like numbness, stroke, or a heart attack.

Lastly, not relinquishing control can be the final brush stroke of self-sabotage. During the initial work, Michelangelo hired assistants to help him paint, but became frustrated with their efforts and fired them all for not meeting his standards. To his credit, he did keep some of them on to mix paints and plaster. Perhaps he could have taken a month or two to mentor one of them, and ultimately cut his worktime down significantly. Instead, he took all work upon himself and encountered intense disagreements with the Pope Julius II about the finish date; suffered the setback of recreating a huge portion of the mold-damaged work (alone); and put other projects on hold.

When we refuse to ask for help, delegate tasks, and keep everything under our direct government, we will eventually run out of creativity, patience and sanity. Our rationales for not delegating are similar to the plague of perfectionism; we think we are the only one capable of the work, and of doing it just right. While it can be hard to let go of control at work and home, in the end, delegating contributes to working strategically and intelligently. We also provide the opportunity for others to grow and shine.

Delegating, letting go of perfectionism, and not taking on too much requires us to slow down a bit. It necessitates taking stock of the people in our professional and personal lives, and appreciating the palettes of qualities and skills they bring to the big picture. Further, when we delegate it not only reduces stress, it builds relationships and allows us to show our true colors to people; to be real with them. When we are our true selves, and allow people to bring their abilities to the forefront it is easier to let go of perfectionism. When we delegate, we appreciate. Taking things off our plate allows us margin for taking care of ourselves, and the opportunity to be thankful for the gifts and efforts of others.

After doing the hard work of letting go in some areas, you will also have more time to rest and rejuvenate. Read Kay’s Corner to discover three ways you can begin positive habits of self-care.

Dealing with Lack of Motivation

We’ve all suffered from lack of motivation in our careers at some point, there’s no way around it.  External stress factors beyond our control, negative emotions, feeling overwhelmed with the task at hand, feeling ill equipped; these are just a sampling of reasons that may impact our motivation levels.  Whether for an hour, a day or a season, dealing with lack of motivation is a common issue for which many of my clients seek resolution.  People ask for a secret formula or silver bullet with which to combat lack of motivation.  Oh, how I wish I had the cure!  People are often surprised when I share that the best recipe for lack of motivation is creating a vision of passion and purpose.

That prescription doesn’t always settle well.  Some clients actually ask me if I can inspire and motivate them, either through a pep talk, words of wisdom, or actually checking in and keeping tabs on their progress with a certain project.  The last of which I would never agree to.  News flash folks – relying on others to motivate you doesn’t work!  Sure you can gain inspiration from a book, a class, a Ted Talk, or even enlist the help of an accountability partner, but sustained motivation must come from within.

Motivation isn’t conjured through emotion or the environment.  You can’t wait until the mood is right, or strikes you just so.  Neither can you wait for the circumstances in your life to align in the perfect fashion.  Waiting for the precise mood and perfect setting is like counting on the lotto to serve your financial future; it ain’t gonna happen.

Creating and sustaining motivation begins with identifying your vision.  What do you really want out of life, or in the short-term?  If you’re not sure what your short or long-term goals are, you have a little work to do before you can get motivated.  Create a list of things you want in the short-term and in the future; maybe even as it relates to retirement.  Make sure they are achievable and realistic.  With my individual coaching clients, I provide them with a set of vision questions that always jump starts the process.  Above all make sure it is your vision, and that it is aligned with your spirit and your passion.  This is a very important distinction and part of the process.  You must be true to yourself when determining what you want, anything short of that will hinder the process of motivation.  My point here, is that if your goal is actually someone else’s dream for you, or their dream that they want you to be a part of, it won’t fill your heart with hope.  Others’ expectations of us often hinder us from living out our own vision or dreams, which is no way to live, and is certainly not motivational.

Which brings me back to the prescription for motivation.  Once you’ve identified your own future goals, bring them to life with a ‘vision board’.  Whether it’s a dream home, new car, vacation, new wardrobe, promotion, or certain retirement lifestyle, imagine what that looks like.  Using either a small poster board or document on the computer, fill it with pictures and words of your short and long-term goals that comprise your dreams.  Put the board in a place where you will see it every day; on your bathroom mirror, refrigerator, in your office or workspace.  Over time, you can add to it, or change aspects of it if necessary.

Now, with the end goal in mind (and your vision board), remember why you started in the first place to help you with motivation.  You may not currently be in your dream job, or particularly excited about the project or task in front of you, but remember this: it is a means to an end.  Knowing that the work at hand is part of the path to your future dreams will motivate you if you make that connection in your mind.  Piecing work tasks and projects together over time are the building blocks to your vision.  Holding that knowledge top of mind will serve as an excellent source of motivation.

Is a vision board a fail-safe, sure-fire method to motivation?  Of course not.  However, it is an excellent way to deal with the negative emotions that can be de-motivators and hold us in our patterns of inactivity.  And, although no one can intrinsically motivate you, and be responsible for your actions, you can surround yourself with positive people and enlist their help.  Share your hopes and visions with a friend, spouse, significant other, or trusted colleague.  Sometimes a more neutral party, or a coach, can be most effective in aiding you in your vision.  If you feel comfortable, show them your vision board.  If they are willing, ask your accountability partner or coach if you they can check in with you once or twice a month.  Not that they will play the role of keeping you on task, but to serve as someone who might offer up a sobering dose of reality, or knock you out of an immobilized state if you’re feeling stuck.

Just a word of warning as I close.  As I mentioned, we all suffer from lack of motivation from time to time.  It’s just part of life.  However, if you are feeling chronically unmotivated, and at the same time not finding joy in the things you used to enjoy, you may be suffering from depression.  If you feel this describes your situation, please seek the help of a physician or mental health professional.  Identifying the root of the problem is essential.  If you suffer from typical lack of motivation, and would like help identifying your goals and dreams, and making the connection work for you, I would love to help.  Please reach out either via email at kay@highheeledsuccess.com or call me directly at 513-561-4288.

Crafting and Assessing your Reputation

Everyone has a reputation.  Through our actions and interactions over time, we build a reputation that defines and eventually precedes us; whether for good or for bad.  Most people really don’t know what their own reputation is, and you may even doubt you have one.  Let me assure you – you do!

Spend a minute going through your mental Rolodex and think of one relative, one friend, and one colleague.  As you go through this exercise, jot down the first adjective that comes to mind that identifies their reputation.  You may characterize some acquaintances as having some fairly common reputations; perfectionist, cynic, unreliable, or even a risk-taker.  Many people have one defining reputation, and a few ancillary ones as well.

As easy as it probably was for you to quickly peg someone else’s reputation, you might find yourself equally stumped about your own.  Perhaps you think you couldn’t possibly have a reputation.  Think again.  You have a reputation that precedes you in the workplace, and others can identify it just as easily as you did in the above exercise.

The nuts and bolts of a good business or career reputation are not too difficult to surmise; being on time or early for work, a positive attitude, a strategic thinker, problem solver, a good work ethic, being a team player, even having someone’s back, doing ‘whatever it takes’, etc.  All the things that make us like others, or working with them, are qualities that build a good reputation.  Take a few minutes to inventory your strengths, and since you aren’t broadcasting your answers, be real about your gifts.  Are you a great public speaker, an analytical thinker, good deal maker, key negotiator, master task executer?

While that may have been easy, figuring out what blemishes may reside on your reputation is quite another endeavor.  People usually fall into three categories during this exercise.  Some people name their shortcomings with proficiency and ease, even adding disparaging qualities or inadequacies that are not merited.  The second group of people have some idea of where they lack skill, knowledge or savvy.  Then there is the group that thinks they are free and clear of any faults, blemishes or failings whatsoever.

A bad or blemished reputation is a mixture of actions, inactions and poorly reflecting behaviors.  The tough part is coming to grips with the reality that you may need to do some damage control.  So, what causes blemishes on a reputation?  Below is a list to get you thinking:

Unmet promises.  Examples include delivering an assignment late, not showing up for a meeting, poor contribution to a project, or consistently delivering low quality work.

Poor follow up.  Are you non-responsive to emails, voice mails or meeting requests?  Do you recap meetings or provide project updates with regularity and on time?  After submitting a proposal, do you follow up with your client to clarify questions or cost?  Follow up and follow through shows others that you can carry work through to a successful completion.

Lateness.  Are you on time for meetings and work in the morning?  Do you take a 1-hour lunch, or push the limit and take extra time more often than not?  Being late tells others that you value your time over their time, agendas or activities.

Excuses and Whining.  Shirking responsibility and pointing the finger will quickly degrade your reputation.  Complaining about your job responsibilities to others wastes both your time and theirs, and is completely unproductive.  It also labels you as high-maintenance and someone to stay away from.  Results speak louder than words of blame and excuses.

Being overwhelmed/Dropping the ball.   Are you consistently frazzled by your workload?  Do you respond with emotion and drama to your ‘to-do’ list versus handling it in a professional manner?  This type of behavior often leads to dropping the ball with responsibilities because so much effort is spent on swirl and reaction that it steals time from productivity.  If you fall into this category, come to my June 18 Equilibrium in High-Heels Workshop.  You will leave with a full toolbox of techniques to successfully balance work and life.   (See details and register here:  http://www.highheeledsuccess.com/events-20160618.html.)

Interrupting.  Whether in meetings, on the phone, one-on-one, or butting in on someone’s conversation, this pet peeve can create a huge black mark on your reputation.  Interrupting causes others to lose their train of thought, can convey a ‘know-it-all attitude’, and tells others that you are not listening.

Be a Leader, Not a Follower.  Do you merely carry out the plans and projects assigned to you, or do you truly think about your work?  The learning curve in a new role can be steep, and it’s perfectly acceptable to execute tasks as assigned during this period.  As you grow in your position, however, stagnating or doing the bare minimum will negatively affect your reputation.  Leaders truly thing about the work at hand, how it will impact other initiatives and the future of the business.  Leaders also anticipate outcomes, consequences, and new opportunities by looking at the big picture.  Acting on these types of leadership thoughts by crafting a plan or proposal for consideration is definitely thinking like a leader and will reflect positively on your reputation.

Social Media Errors.  Last, but definitely not least are social media faux pas.  Posting pictures or statuses about any of the following subjects should be done with the utmost discretion and prudence: alcohol, sex, religion, politics, dating, and opinions about your workplace.  A picture enjoying a craft beer with a friend is fine.  Posting pictures of heavy partying is not.  Uploading a picture of you and your date at dinner is suitable.  Posting about the private details of your dating life is not OK.  Positive remarks about your company or one of its initiatives is fine, ranting about your boss is not.  Hopefully, you get the idea.

Did some of these areas strike a chord with you, or create some self-awareness?  If you think you need to do some damage control in any of these categories, it’s time to put a plan together.  To uncover the truth about your own reputation, you’ll need to humbly enlist the help of others and be open to feedback and growth.  Check out Kay’s Corner (in the May 2016 newsletter) for a three-step action plan to rebuild or repair your reputation.

Asking for What You Want in the Workplace

Childhood experiences can affect us for a lifetime, whether for good or for bad.  I share one such memory with you as it relates to this month’s topic.  I call it my Lemon Drop Story:

It’s a lazy July afternoon when my grandmother and I strolled into Neibur’s grocery store, in the tiny town of Cobden, Illinois, population 500.  Time has forgotten Cobden and Neibur’s; the store could have easily been a set for a movie set in 1904.  It has wooden floors, baskets of fruit, burlap bags with potatoes and barrels of hard candy.  To my 8-year-old eye, the most important barrel is the lemon drop barrel, I LOVE lemon drops.  Tiny and shy, I stand close to my grandmother and eye the lemon drops.  I am just about ready to summon the courage to ask for some lemon drops, when Mrs. Neibur comments, “Helen you are so lucky to have such a quiet and well-behaved granddaughter, she isn’t like most of the children that come in here throwing a fit for candy!”  My grandmother replies, “Yes, Ethel, we are so fortunate, Kay never asks for anything.”  Those words were like a knife, a reminder that good little girls never ask for anything.  I swallowed my request, as usual, and left the store with only visions of lemon drops.

That day is etched in my memory and behavior.  It has taken me a lifetime to ask for what I want, and it is still an ongoing battle.  The good news is, deep-seated thoughts and behaviors can change!

In my experience coaching women, I have identified the top five reasons why women don’t ask for what they want.  Interestingly, the barriers that block women for asking for what they want are the same for women in traditional workplaces and women entrepreneurs.  The number one culprit is thinking you shouldn’t have to ask for what they want because others should already know their wants and needs.  This thinking is flawed for several reasons.

First and foremost: no one is a mind reader.  You and you alone are responsible for communicating your wants and needs simply because you are the only one who knows.  Even though this basic truth is so simple, I can’t tell you how many times women raise it as the main reason they will not ask for a raise, promotion, or more time off.  Second, your manager likely has a lot on their plate and many other employees in their organization.  If you don’t speak up, it is reasonable for them to assume you are good with the status quo.  Lastly, if you allow others to decide what you want and need, you are yielding your power to control your career path to someone else other than you.

Fear of seeming too greedy also tops the list.  The underlying issue with this feeling is not valuing your work contribution enough.  If this fear plagues you, think about how much time, effort, talent and attention you pour into your work.  Communicating your wants and needs to be fairly compensated or recognized for your competence is not greed.  It is simply logical and reasonable.

Some women are concerned about appearing too needy if they ask for what they want.  This fear is similar to feeling greedy, but centers around personal self-esteem versus competence.  Your relationship history can play into this fear more than you may realize.  Have significant others downplayed your desires as too needy or ‘high-maintenance’ in the past?  Over time, such collective messages build up and can block out the truth; you have every right to ask for what you want and need.  Notice I did not say you are ‘entitled’ to your every want and need, but asking for what you desire in and of itself is not needy.  The key here is discretion.  Repeatedly asking for unrealistic desires will definitely garner a reputation of being needy.  If your request is fair and reasonable given what you do, or are willing to do, in return, then it is not needy.

Some women feel they should wait their turn for reward, recognition or favor.  Perhaps because they came from a large family, are ‘others’ focused, or feel that the wants and needs of others are more important than their own.  Newsflash: if you wait around in the workplace for your turn, you’ll be sitting alone in the same cubicle for a very long time.  Fulfilling your wants and needs is an independent function relative to the timing of when others’ have theirs met.  Being considerate of others is a courtesy issue, always putting the needs of others before your own is an issue of low self-worth.  You are worthy of having your wants and needs met.  Asking, not waiting, is the first step.

A less common, but also not rare barrier some women encounter is that they only speak when spoken to.  The reasons for this can be complex and varied, but overcoming this hurdle is more important than identifying why it’s a problem.  You are not a child of the 50’s!  Rather, you are a grown, capable woman in a career or position with responsibilities who delivers outcomes for your company.  Whether this is in an entry, mid- or upper-level job is irrelevant.  Speaking up and advocating for yourself is a core competency that any employee must possess for their own protection and advancement in the workplace.

You may have identified with one or more of these hurdles, and feel they are legitimate reasons for not asking for what you want.  The reality is that asking for what you want and engaging in self-advocacy actually garners respect.  That’s right, respect.  When you speak up for yourself, you demonstrate confidence to others and send a message that your contributions are worthy.  You may ask, ‘But Kay, how do I do that?’  The answer is to focus on the outcome rather than the process.

Focus on the benefit, not just to you, but to the person you are asking.  Just like any relationship, those in the workplace, or with a client, are give and take.  Before you ask for what you want, consider what benefit the person in a position of power, or your customer, will receive from your request.  For example, your promotion may take a significant amount of work off her plate.  Additional time off may enable you to recharge your batteries or restructure your life a bit to enable a more efficient work process.  With a raise request or fee increase, you could offer to take on additional responsibilities.  Each scenario provides something of significance to the person who has the power to grant your request.

How can you move past your own barrier, and into a state of mind that enables you to be strong in your communication and self-advocacy?  I can help!  Call me today to set up an appointment, and we can work toward a solution together.

March is Women’s History Month

Most people don’t even know this simple fact.  Further, the majority of Americans do not know their women’s history well either.  In fact, a recent online survey from the National Women’s History Museum reveals that most Americans receive an ‘F’ on their knowledge of women’s history.  By way of example, do you know Ida B. Wells (July 16, 1862 – March 25, 1931), Elizabeth Blackwell (February, 3 1821 – May 31, 1910), or Sally Ride (May 26, 1951 – July 23, 2012)?  Probably not, but do you know Martin Luther King, Sigmund Freud and Neil Armstrong?  Respectively, these two lists of women and men were civil rights activists, doctors and astronauts.

It could be due to the history books we studied in school, maybe the media doesn’t highlight women enough, or perhaps we tend to skip over or discount significant contributions made by women.  Regardless of the reason, the reality is that countless women have made significant contributions to our country, society and government that have and will make a lasting impact, but that sadly, we know little about.  Let’s explore.

From the first US settlers, through the industrial age, and within the last 150 years, women in journalism, civil rights, science and business have continuously worked to improve their fields of study and work.  Today, as women who mentor or touch the lives of other women, knowledge of women’s history is an important and useful tool.  The accomplishments of women before us can inspire, challenge and pave the way for the continued success of our current generation of women.

Know this – someone is always watching you.  Whether it’s your daughter; a neighbor girl; a female colleague at work; a woman you volunteer beside; a young mother you encounter frequently; even a sister or cousin – someone is learning from you whether you realize it or not.  Often, what they emulate is non-verbal.  Your actions and behaviors speak much louder than your words.  Ask yourself what messages are they internalizing about assertiveness, taking a stance or even self-value based on you as a role model.   Would you want a female you care about to emulate your behavior?

Further, if someone is emulating you, they will look to you for guidance and advice.  If in those encounters, you can draw on the example or parallel situation of a woman in history who has made a significant impact, what a powerful lesson and message you can teach.  To know that a woman has forged a path before us in a certain area is very empowering.  Read on for more than just a few examples (I had a hard time narrowing it down!)

Nurse Clara Barton, most famous for treating injured Civil War soldiers, later founded the American Red Cross.  Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony were a fierce suffragist duo who also fought very hard in the war against slavery.  A major contributor to literature, Louisa May Alcott was the first author who produced literature for the mass market of young girls.  She published nearly 300 works, most notably, Little Women, which was published in 1868.

In 1932, Florence Allen was appointed to the US Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit after serving on the Ohio Supreme Court.  She was the first woman appointed as a federal appeals court judge.  Today, 1/3 of those serving on the US Supreme Court are women.

In science and technology, Sally Ride was the first American woman in space in 1983.  Mae Jemison was the first African-American woman in space just nine years later.

As a mentor, leader, counselor or otherwise encourager to other women, we assist in unfolding the future for our younger generation.  As you go out and positively impact women, consider the lives and accomplishments of those before you and share their stories in honor of them, and in the building up of strong women around you.  Inspire them to make a difference and challenge them to reach to higher levels than they ever thought possible.

In closing, I’d like to share this timely video of my own granddaughter, Samantha, speaking about the life and accomplishments of the first African-American female astronaut, Mae Jemison:

Mae Jemison, presented by Samantha Shannon

When Samantha, age 8, learned about her, she was inspired and excited.  Our goal is to inspire you as well.  I challenge you to learn about one woman that changed the course of history and share it with a young female in your circle of influence.

Unrealistic Expectations

Self-expectations are one of the biggest stumbling blocks challenging many women I coach.  Pressure to perform to a certain level on a daily basis in work, career and home or personal life can be overwhelming.  In this month that we celebrate love, I’d like to demonstrate how easy it is to fall away from loving ourselves and suggest some paths back to realistic expectations, which provide opportunities for self-growth and care.  Let’s begin by exploring the ‘ideal’ day.

In your quest to perform, deliver and achieve, are the expectations you put on yourself attainable or loaded with unrealistic vignettes that fill and overflow your life?  What does your perfect day look like?

Here’s one for you:

  • Arise at 5:00 (after going to bed at 9:00 pm).
  • Have a healthy breakfast.
  • 5:30 yoga.
  • Ready, energized and out the door (in the perfect outfit) by 7:15.
  • Arrive at work and take some quiet time to think and plan your day while sipping a skinny latte.
  • Spend the morning in deep concentration to complete a project which is due in three days.
  • Give a late morning presentation showcasing your department’s recent achievements and an outline for continued success.
  • Eat a nutritious lunch.
  • Engage with several colleagues in a fruitful brainstorming session for an upcoming project, offering many thought-provocative ideas.
  • Finish the afternoon getting a solid head start on a project due next week.
  • Leave work at 5:00.
  • Prepare a healthy dinner with ingredients from a fully-stocked fridge and pantry.
  • Check a few things off your ‘to do’ list for your home/personal life.
  • Spend the remainder of the evening engaging in meaningful relationships or enriching activities.

Do you feel that only after you have accumulated weeks and months of your version of the ‘perfect day’ that you will have it ‘all together’ and possess the discipline needed to be successful?  I have coached many women who feel that anything short of a rigid schedule, and specific daily accomplishments means they have to ‘start over’.  They literally found themselves ‘throwing in the towel’ day after day if they didn’t accomplish certain things within a given timeframe.  Many women perpetuate these behaviors for years before coming to terms with how unrealistic and hard they are being on themselves.

The problem with this thinking is that the ‘perfect day’ doesn’t take into account real life, allow other people to enter our circles, or allow us to be ‘human.’  Unscheduled events happen daily.  Things like oversleeping, emergency meetings, not making it to the grocery store, crisis management, interruptions, traffic jams, the needs of significant others, illness and countless other real-life events.  These things keep us from the perfection we seek, and they will always exist.  Yet, many women constantly fight this uphill battle by trying to strategically devise ways to achieve everything on their ‘to do’ list, and place unrealistic burdens upon themselves that are only achievable in edited movies or airbrushed ads.

Do you find yourself in this situation?  If so, take your version of the ‘perfect day’, and place it on a loved one’s plate.  Would you expect your spouse, significant other, child, sibling, friend or parent to reach the same expectations day after day without fault?  Most likely not, and if they fell short of their own self-expectations you would likely be the first one to advise them not to be so hard on themselves and cut themselves some slack.

Today, I offer the same advice to you – begin to love yourself more by throwing away one or two unreasonable expectations.  Maybe for you, it’s giving up the fact that you can’t keep a perfectly clean house or apartment, post an enlightening article on Linked-In every week, or continue to volunteer at the same level you have been.  Take a look at your January calendar, or three months prior if possible, and place your to-do items in a four column list.  Below are some examples:

1

2

3

4

Non-Negotiables

Necessities

Electives

Unreasonable Expectations

Work

Well check-ups

Volunteering

Every meal nutritious

Pay bills

Car maintenance

Girls’ night out

Perfectly completed work projects

Grocery shopping

Home upkeep

Hobbies

Consistently early bedtime

Eating

Continuing Ed

Vacation

Size 2 clothing

 

Just looking at all the items together should begin to eliminate any notion of having to ‘do it all’.  Keeping our untold amount of responsibilities and activities flowing flawlessly is impossible.  Scrutinize the activities in columns 3 and 4. Beginning with just one item, make a plan to eliminate some of your unreasonable expectations, or reframe them.  For example, instead of shooting for perfect nutrition at each meal, perhaps you stop snacking after 8:00pm, or leave a few bites on the plate.  Similarly, instead of delivering the perfect PowerPoint at work, perhaps it’s 85% ‘there’ when submitted, providing necessary room for feedback, and making room for other important things in columns 1 and 2.

Take a good, hard look at column 3 and see what activities are not serving you well, especially those you feel are sapping your personal time or energy.  Volunteering is great on many levels, but in doing so at this point in your life, are you neglecting responsibilities in columns 1 & 2 just to live up to your own unreasonable expectations?  Your list of elective activities might also include watching TV, social media or other time sapping actions.  If you find little room in your day for things you’ve listed in columns 1 & 2, it’s time to unburden yourself of unrealistic expectations and open up some room for a little self-love instead.

We experience the most stress when the gap between our self-expectations and reality is wide.  Start by changing two or three small things.  Doing so will make an impact big enough to feel, but also provide the feeling of not losing complete control.  Need help with both the practical and mental aspects of simplifying?  I can help put a plan together to streamline your professional and personal life, and provide the tools you need to stay on track.  Through the process, I can help you be accountable to your commitment and provide guidance to get back on track if needed.  Email me today to get started, and take that first step toward loving yourself, and your life, more.