Tag Archive for career

Don’t Let Women’s Unique Vulnerabilities Get in Your Way

It’s February, the middle of winter…blah, blah, blah, am I right?!   While we’re plugging along at work and also juggling the many roles women have, we often struggle to take care of ourselves.  Valentine’s Day and Heart Health Month remind me that this is the most important time to be sure that we value and love ourselves first.  My mentor mantra for women is: Take care of yourself, so you can be the best version of yourself with your family and in the workplace.

Throughout my decades-long career of coaching women to achieve the next level of success, I have become very aware of the fact that women have their own unique vulnerabilities.  While we strive to achieve c-suite level careers and equal pay in both the corporate and non-profit sectors, along with increased opportunities to start our own businesses, we cannot ignore that women’s life stages and ever-changing roles are unique.

My High-Heeled Success® list of women’s unique vulnerabilities is below.  Please read the list and honestly assess which of these eight characterize you and don’t flip out if they all do.  That’s not uncommon.  Think of this as a self-assessment, and maybe pick one or two that you can work on right away.

Women’s Unique Vulnerabilities

  • Tendency to belittle and de-value themselves
  • Strong need for perfectionism
  • Allowing emotions and feelings to color their experiences
  • Doing more than one task at a time
  • Assuming much responsibility from role overload
  • Difficulty relinquishing control
  • Difficulty nurturing self
  • Taking stress everywhere they go

Now that you’ve taken time to focus on yourself, to assess yourself, you’ve taken a high-heeled step or a track shoe leap in the right direction.  The beautiful thing, the loving thing is to care for yourself this Valentine’s Day and every day.  When you take this time for yourself, hopefully doing for others – whether it’s volunteering at the local homeless shelter, helping a child with his or her class valentines, planning a night out or caring for parents or in-laws – will bring you more joy.  Without time for you, the caring can reap resentment.

As long as you acknowledge what our unique vulnerabilities are, note them and think about how you can manage them, you will be surprised by how the results will also impact your work-life balance and your career success.

If you are eager to make a greater impact in your career, it would be my honor to be part of that process with you.  Please give me a call at 513-561-4288 or connect with me via email at kay@highheeledsuccess.com, so we can empower you to achieve that goal.

©Copyright 2018.  Kay Fittes.  All Rights Reserved.

Politics is a Mirror of Our Society

It’s election season and early voting is available in most states.  As I continue my life’s work to mentor women and guide each to achieve her own personal “High Heeled Success,” I’m hearing about more and more women running for office and engaging in the political process.  This inspires me!

This year is the 97th anniversary of Women’s Suffrage – women’s right to vote in the United States of America.  Women, it has not been that long, which is why it’s no surprise that women hold roughly 20 percent of elected positions at the federal, state and local levels.  And now, women are running for public office in record numbers.

Politics and women in public office is a mirror of the workplace and the rest of society.  There is definitely a gender bias when women run for office.  Women are not asked as frequently as men if they would consider taking on the challenge.  Women tend to think they’re not qualified enough, which is a problem men rarely have.  It’s harder for women to raise the funds needed to run a campaign.  These issues are the same, whether we’re talking about politics or the workplace.

Just as you face challenges in the workplace, you will experience similar challenges as you take on the political process.  Remember, however, the risks are worth the rewards.  At any given time, reassess your risk for seeking a political appointment or running for election.  In other words, what do you have to lose?

Please don’t be afraid of rocking the boat.  Remember, the women rocking the boat nearly 100 years ago were the ones who earned us the right to vote in this country.  When you stand up for yourself in traditionally male-dominated groups, you run the risk of being perceived as overbearing or nasty.  As long as you assess your risk and think it all through, you’ll be in good shape.

I also encourage you to support each other in political endeavors.  Men certainly support each other and help each other all the time.  Just like in the workplace, we need to do also do that in the political realm.

For example, help amplify other women and lift them up.  When another woman puts an idea out there by writing an op-ed or communicating with a political group, join the conversation and share your thoughts.  Just by responding, you validate her and make sure our place at the table doesn’t get lost.

Just like in the workplace, you need to call out blatant sexism in the political arena.  Women will be judged by different standards when they are running for office or succeeding in the workplace.  Be aware of it and don’t be afraid to speak up.

Being aware of these challenges is important, yet you still need to be both collaborative and competitive at the same time.  We can’t get anything done without learning how to do both.

To all the women running for office right now, I’m inspired by you and I’m proud of you.  In some ways, you’re taking on the most difficult glass ceiling to break.  I’m with you.  Now, don’t forget to vote on November 7 and let your voice be heard!

If you are eager to make a greater impact in your career, it would be my honor to be part of that process with you.  Please give me a call at 513-561-4288 or connect with me via email at kay@highheeledsuccess.com, so we can empower you to achieve that goal.

©Copyright 2017.  Kay Fittes.  All Rights Reserved.

Finding Balance When You Want to Wear Flip-Flops

Successfully balancing work and life are always challenging, yet finding your equilibrium in high heels can be even more challenging as attitudes shift during the summer months.  The entire work world seems to redirect a certain amount of focus toward summer life style and vacation, and you might find you want to swap your high heels for your flip-flops.

There are unique circumstances to consider in the summer as you plan to take vacation, do more at work while someone else is on vacation and possibly juggle out-of-school children while maintaining your normal work schedule.  Let’s dig our toes into the sand and ponder how you can take advantage of this time to improve your work-life balance.

It’s summer, so the pace at work will likely slow down a bit.  At the same time, there will likely be fewer people pulling the weight at the office.  You and your co-workers will renegotiate the office work load to be sure everything is covered and your client needs are being met.

Nothing is more frustrating for a customer or client to find out that a deliverable is on hold while their primary contact is on vacation.  With planning, a team can cover for each other and allow everyone to go on vacation with peace of mind to enjoy a complete break from the office.

As the pace slows, take this time to assess how well you are balancing your busy work and home life.  Seriously take stock and ask yourself if you tend to overschedule, find it hard to ask for help or let go of control at work and at home.  Self-awareness will go a long way toward helping you find your work-life balance.

As the pace slows, you can also time to assess your own schedule, everything you do and why, and start to dream about the life design you want.  Life is too short to do something just because you were asked or you have a hard time saying no.  If everything seems important, you need to learn how to identify the real priorities and be satisfied with your achievements.

Your day-to-day mental health is paramount.  If you begin experiencing increased fatigue, headaches, stomach problems, anxiety, anger or insomnia, it’s time to make yourself the highest priority.  When it comes to taking care of yourself, you need to take time to connect with others.  Ask yourself if you’re spending time with people and doing the activities that provide support or that undermine support, then do what’s needed to invest in yourself and create more relationships and situations that support you.

To take more time for yourself, you will need to take something off your plate.  Realistically, ask yourself what would you be willing to take off your plate?  If you took that thing off your plate, what would you be willing to do for yourself?  This is the only way to take actionable steps toward assessing your work-life balance and creating change.

Finding equilibrium and knowing when to take off your high heels and put on your flip-flops is best achieved when you avoid being the martyr or sacrificing yourself when you need to be delegating and asking for help.  When you do for others that which they can rightly do for themselves, you rob them of opportunities to raise their self-esteem and sense of competence.

In addition to your colleagues at work, use this strategy at home with the kids.  Think about having a summer chore list – having a family plan for everyday household tasks will teach your children a great life lesson.  We all need to feel needed – even kids need to know that they are contributing.  By not doing everything for them and having them contribute in age appropriate ways, your children will have their own sense of accomplishment.

The regular school/academic year calendar has a faster pace for everyone, whether you have children at home or not, so take advantage of this opportunity to slow down your pace.  If you do have children at home, it’s beneficial for you to slow down the pace with them.  Remember work will always be there tomorrow.  In the meantime, life is waiting.  Whether you’re wearing your high heels or your flip-flops, take time to enjoy the summer — reflect, vacation and spend time with the people and doing the activities that give you pleasure.

If you are eager to make a greater impact in your career, it would be my honor to be part of that process with you.  Please give me a call at 513-561-4288 or connect with me via email at kay@highheeledsuccess.com, so we can empower you to achieve that goal.

©Copyright 2017.  Kay Fittes.  All Rights Reserved.

Think Strategy Before You Say ‘Yes’

April was National Volunteer Month – a time to honor all the volunteers that contribute of themselves to improve our communities.  The month also brings attention to volunteer recruitment, so maybe you’ve been thinking more about how you might contribute your time and talent.  Our time is our most valuable gift, so I encourage you to differentiate strategic volunteerism that provides leadership enhancement opportunities vs. other volunteerism for altruistic reasons.

Volunteerism for altruistic reasons is personal and leads you to a cause that provides pure personal satisfaction, such as serving in a soup kitchen.  While this is very important too, I’ll focus on strategic volunteerism to help you choose volunteer positions with visibility in mind.

The most obvious and accessible path is to choose opportunities within your industry or field of expertise, such as a professional association.  An example would be women in commercial real estate getting involved with Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW).  Stepping up to serve in professional organizations is especially important if you’re working in a male dominated field, such as engineering.

Once you’re settled in a volunteer position, don’t be shy about it.  Broadcast your volunteer leadership roles in emails to the boss, at annual review time and even in social media.  Unfortunately, women are less willing to toot their own horns, yet we absolutely must to be recognized and advance.

Look around your community, read the news about accomplished business leaders and the organizations they serve.  If you are more thoughtful about determining who in a volunteer position is a powerful leader, then you can go after opportunities to lead with them.  Think about the leaders you want to know, and find a volunteer situation that meets your other parameters.

Some volunteer positions can help you advance professionally and gain certifications.  Toastmasters is the volunteer experience that provided this opportunity for me.  I was already a seasoned presenter when I joined Toastmasters 20 years ago; however, I was joining to further develop my leadership skills.

I believe I have held every office in our club, serving several terms as president.  Additionally, I served as an area director for our district.  My volunteer job was a perfect match for the skills I wanted to hone – to develop leadership in others.  In a volunteer organization, there are no bonuses or raises, so you must find ways to inspire your colleagues.

In my business, I wanted to become a leader of leaders, a developer of talent.  The goal to be able to recognize the spark, then fuel that spark into greater leadership.  Gradually, I developed step-by-step ways to hone in on the spark and groom the right person for leadership succession.

As I moved up to take more responsibility within Toastmasters, I became a more skilled delegator.  Eventually, I was an area director, overseeing several clubs, coaching and developing other leaders.  I had successfully leveraged my volunteer role with Toastmasters into one that provided exactly what I needed professionally.  I developed better delegation skills, better meeting planning and execution skills, effective talent search and development in creating a succession plan both as a president and as an area director.

While I was taking my own skills to a higher level, I was also helping others, which is the pure essence of volunteerism.  The opportunities with Toastmasters provided both the feel-good opportunity to volunteer and serve others at the same time I was growing my own skills and taking my leadership abilities to the next level.

If you are eager to make a greater impact in your career, it would be my honor to be part of that process with you.  Please give me a call at 513-561-4288 or connect with me via email at kay@highheeledsuccess.com, so we can empower you to achieve that goal.

©Copyright 2017.  Kay Fittes.  All Rights Reserved.

Be Smart When Taking Risks

We all know that taking risks – the kind that will pull you into the C-suite or grow your business or simply change your outlook on risk-taking as a woman – is a defining characteristic for those who are successful.  When deciding whether this risk or that risk is the right thing to do, you should be aware of some basic concepts to help you examine your options and ask yourself the most important question, “Is this a Smart Risk?”

The risk can potentially be the kind that will give you the courage to jump to new levels, to go beyond what you thought was possible.  Many women tend to be cautious by taking baby steps, yet jumping levels is exciting.  Picture grasping the brass ring, the position you’ve always dreamed of having.  At this stage, ask yourself:

  1. “Do I have the skill set behind me to do the job?”
  2. “Can I gain the skills to do the job?”

If either answer is yes, it’s time to take the big step.

Men have no trouble thinking and believing that they are qualified for the next level.  In fact, a man will often believe he’s competent enough to advance having acquired one or some of the skills necessary for the next level.  While a woman will believe she’s qualified or ready to advance, if she has mastered ALL the skills in the job description.

For example, a woman often needs to be invited, and sometimes more than once, to take on a new and unfamiliar role, whether it’s being committee chair, advancing to the chief level at work or running for public office.  Have you ever heard a man say, “Oh, I couldn’t do that?”  Well, women, you shouldn’t either!

As a woman, whatever risk you’re considering will likely be a challenge to the way things have always been done.  Women have had to buck history for centuries, so don’t let the way things have been done in the past be your albatross for taking a risk.  Women also suffer from wanting to be liked, so please put that need on a shelf and look at your situation with new perspective.  When you do, you’ll realize you’re probably ready to take the risk.

Unfortunately, risk-taking has been suppressed in women since they were girls.  Think about it this way.  Parents, family members and school teachers more commonly discourage girls from taking risks, both academic and physical.

Personally, I was an only child and my parents were terrified something bad would happen to me.  My mom was always telling me to “be careful, be careful!”  Thus, I didn’t learn to ride a bike until I was 12 years old, taught by my best friend in secret.  This issue requires consideration from two angles, how it affects our own decision-making and risk-taking as an adult professional, as well as how we may be doing our own daughters a disservice if we’re telling them to be careful all the time.

You will take smart risks when you have made sure your self-esteem is not wanting.  If you believe you’re struggling with low self-esteem, I have a must-read for you: Women and Self-Esteem: Understanding and Improving the Way We Think and Feel About Ourselves, by Linda Tschirhart Sanford and Mary Ellen Donovan.  Many women worry that they don’t deserve success; harbor fears that they are not bright enough, not talented enough, just not good enough.  This book examines how women’s harmful attitudes about themselves are shaped and offers concrete help to help build higher self-esteem.

When deciding whether to take a risk, assess the reality of the situation.  Remember, there continues to be a double standard for men and women in the workplace.  Failure is perceived differently for a man vs. a woman.  When a man fails, the failure is viewed as something that will be fixed and he is given another chance.  Unfortunately, when a woman fails, that failure hangs with her and she might be judged by it for much longer.  Like so many things, failure is viewed through a different lens for a man, than it is for a woman.

Risk-taking doesn’t always have to be in the workplace to empower you.  It’s possible to take a risk that helps you overcome a fear in your personal life.  With a lifelong fear of swimming, snorkeling in Jamaica made me feel incredibly empowered to take risks to advance my business.  Every time I look at the t-shirt, “I snorkeled the Cali wreck,” it empowers me to take additional risks!  Taking a step forward in terms of risk doesn’t always mean a workplace risk.  Anything that helps you flex your muscles will move you in the right risk-taking direction.

Read Kay’s Corner to find practical tips for SMART risk-taking.

©Copyright 2017.  Kay Fittes.  All Rights Reserved.

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!

©Copyright 2016.  Kay Fittes.  All Rights Reserved.

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.

©Copyright 2016.  Kay Fittes.  All Rights Reserved.

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.

©Copyright 2016.  Kay Fittes.  All Rights Reserved.

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.

©Copyright 2016.  Kay Fittes.  All Rights Reserved.

Lessons in Leadership

Do you aspire to a leadership role within your organization, but the climb up the ladder seems insurmountable?  Start with small steps!  Leadership doesn’t happen all of a sudden at the top rung.  Developing leadership style, skills and tactics begins on the ground floor.  Let’s explore how to lay a game plan that builds to successful leadership.

A high profile title is not a prerequisite for being a leader.  You can be a leader whether you are in an entry level job or somewhere in middle management.  The best place to begin is to master your job responsibilities and execute them with excellence and authority.  Executing with authority should show mastery of your skills, and does not refer to upper-handed or arrogant authority.  Consistently executing your job deliverables with excellence (and without drama or martyrdom) will demonstrate your ability to drive projects and business forward, which is a true hallmark of a leader.  In tandem, scrutinize your work process and how it flows into your organization and aim to identify ways to implement change improvements.  A combined, continued effort in delivering with excellence and aiming to refine processes will self-promote you as a leader within your group, no matter its size.

Look for opportunities to lead outside of work.  This minimizes risk as you are developing your leadership muscle.  Search for volunteer or mentoring opportunities that relate to your career path.  Investing time and talent in this way will both hone your professional skills, and build your experience base with credible examples that will translate into your work life.  For example, serving on a marketing committee for a non-profit organization, and helping to build their mission statement and guide the development of marketing execution tactics would be an impressive story to share during an interview for a promotion level position.  Likewise, mentoring a young college student or recent grad in your area of expertise would position you as a developer of others.

Reframe leadership.  Are you currently in a leadership role with subordinates (employees?) who are intimidated by or reluctant to receive authority?   If so, shift try shifting focus from telling and directing to being a solution finder.  Problems and challenges, which need fixing and resolution surface constantly in an organization – that’s why it’s called work!  Instead of calling out the problems as belonging to someone, or as an evil that needs to be dispelled, start with a discussion about the solution instead.  Or, again, if you’re not in a leadership role, you can still be a leader in this area.  The blame game rarely has a winner. In your current work drive, or that of your teams, look at the overall project and find areas or people that need assistance and offer solutions instead of pointing the finger.  Everyone wins with this approach, and it will shine a leadership spotlight on you in the process.

Determine what your leadership stance will be on important issues.  That way you can be ready to troubleshoot potential problems as they arise.  Some key business areas where it’s important to have a developed leadership stance include: finance and budget; human resources; infrastructure and hardware; organization changes; communication protocols; and project development and timelines.  Depending on your line of work, your company may have additional important areas which merit a leadership stance.

The first approach to developing a leadership stance in these areas is to understand and align to your company or organization vision and mission, which will often provide a sound framework to build upon.  In the absence of a specific vision or mission, your company may have stated principles, guidelines or a history that can shape your stance.

Once you’ve studied and fully understand your organization’s outlook and drive in the aforementioned areas, use them to develop your leadership stance in the important business areas surrounding your work.  To demonstrate, if your company values diversity and inclusion as a principle, it is a necessary part of any hiring process.  For example, a human resource leadership stance would favor interviewing all possible candidates regardless of ethnicity or sexual orientation, and would exclude favoritism such as nepotism or the ‘good ole boy’ system.

Lead with both a commanding and collaborative style.  This requires a fine balance between speaking with authority and confidence, yet at the same time being inclusive and making a concerted effort to engage all people in your work process or project.

Leading with a commanding presence and style includes speaking with confidence, and without apologizing, or asking for permission to speak.  Speaking with confidence also means waiting for the right moment, and to speak with an authority that doesn’t intimidate.  Aim for a communication style that inspires and provides a cohesiveness that encourages active participation and a feeling of ‘we are all in this together’.

Inspiring communication invites collaboration.  Likewise being inclusive by asking others their opinion or to help brainstorm a solution builds collaboration within a group.  Further, you can encourage people to collaborate by sharing a past example of success and asking for input from the responsible individual.  For example, if building out a project timeline, highlighting Jane’s successful management and delivery of a global marketing program, and then asking her to share her strategies with the group both encourages Jane and prompts collaboration with the group.

Without a doubt, leadership has its challenges and rewards.  If you would like more guidance in these or other areas of leadership in your organization, please give me a call today to start an exploratory conversation of how we can work together to your success.

©Copyright 2015.  Kay Fittes.  All Rights Reserved.