Tag Archive for Success

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.

Fall Focus with New School Year Excitement

No matter what the season or the stage of your career, balancing work and life successfully can always be challenging.  With the start of the new school year and fall just around the corner, this can be the season to renew and refresh your career goals.  At the start of the summer, we focused on the need to find your high-heeled equilibrium during the summer months when attitudes relax.

As July and August come to a close, work, school, volunteer and really everything seems to rev up to get back to business.  This new attitude allows for a fresh start; however, you now have opportunity to hang onto the summer balance tools that may have worked especially well for you.

For example, if being in nature was something you discovered as restorative this summer, make it a priority to continue to enjoy the outdoors.  Maybe you found that being less tethered to your electronics was a new discovery that allowed you to switch gears, enjoy the moment and even sleep better.  If you found that worked for you, keep it up!  Summer often forces us to find ways to simplify.  If you managed to feel positive effects from simplification, keep doing whatever worked for you.

In short, let’s approach your career guide for fall, like you would approach the excitement of starting the school year.  Remember what it was like to go back to school in the fall – everything was fresh and new.  You might have been excited about your new school shoes or excited about making new friends, either way, remember what excited you about this time of year.

If you were like me, you would wonder what new information you might learn in the coming year.  Just writing this column, I’m reminded of that feeling.  I’m challenging myself and challenging you to think about what new, exciting opportunities and challenges might be facing you in your career and in your life.  Is there a new technology you want to learn?  Do you need to be more assertive in the workplace?

If new friends are something you looked forward to in the new school year, think about your workplace relationships, both internal and external.  Take this opportunity to focus on new goals with your relationships.  Maybe you’ll decide to take lunch with a work friend or set your sights on developing a new mentor.  Whatever the goal, fall can be the time to refresh your plans.

When I was a kid going back to school in the fall, my parents took me to St. Louis to go shopping for new school clothes.  The brief family trip was full of tradition.  We went to the zoo and a baseball game.  The ritual provided the reset I needed.

As an adult, you can decide that a fall refresh involves reinventing your image and/or your wardrobe, deciding you need to update your style or sharpen your focus.  As a professional woman, monitoring your body language and the signals you send could be the reset you need.  (Watch for a more extensive conversation about body language and what it transmits in a future issue.)

As the regular school/academic year calendar pace picks back up, whether you have children at home or not, take advantage of this opportunity to renew and refresh with the same excitement you had as the new school year started in the fall.  Whether you’re wearing your high-heels or your fuzzy slippers, take time to keep what worked for you in the summer and sharpen your career focus to best suit your own personal needs.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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:








Unreasonable Expectations


Well check-ups


Every meal nutritious

Pay bills

Car maintenance

Girls’ night out

Perfectly completed work projects

Grocery shopping

Home upkeep


Consistently early bedtime


Continuing Ed


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.


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.

Boost Your Professional Edge with Exercise

So often, when we think of professional improvement, things like earning a new degree, learning a new skill, taking a class, or attending networking events or workshops come to mind.  While these are all excellent choices, it’s easy to overlook our personal health and well-being as a way to gain a competitive edge in the workplace.  A healthy lifestyle routine of exercise can greatly improve energy, focus and mental sharpness on a daily basis.


The Brain Benefits

We all know that exercise helps with maintaining body weight, and improves muscle and heart strength.  But, did you also know that exercise actually improves your thinking skills?  There is direct scientific evidence.  In people who exercise regularly, studies have shown that the parts of the brain that control thinking and memory are greater in size than in people who don’t exercise.1  Exercise also contributes to the growth of new blood vessels in the brain, as well as new brain cells.

In fact, according to Dr. Scott McGinnis, neurology instructor at Harvard Medical School, “We know that exercise behaves like medicine to improve thinking skills.”  An improvement in thinking skills.  Imagine that!  The payout for exercise is a more efficient brain, thus upping your game and gaining a competitive edge.  This easily equates to higher productivity at work, as well as more room to think strategically or creatively.

Research at Harvard Medical School also has proven that a reduction of insulin resistance and inflammation directly correlate with exercise.1  Reducing insulin resistance staves off diabetes, while a reduction in inflammation takes care of muscle and joint aches and pains, as well as headaches and many other maladies.  Additional benefits of exercise include a (sometimes instant) reduction of stress and anxiety.  How wonderful is that?  Further, exercise contributes to improvements in mood and the ability to sleep.  One additional bonus is that exercise builds up calcium in your bones, which is a great advantage for women in the 50 plus age bracket.


Fitting it In

It’s easy to talk about and understand the benefits of exercise.  But, maybe it’s been a while since you put on your running shoes, hit the gym, or attended a fitness class.  Getting going can be the toughest part.  This is especially true with busy schedules that start early, end late and can often include kids’ activities in between.

The truth is however, we will make time for what is most important to us.  Think of all the ways you spend your time throughout the day.  Could you find time in your morning routine to take a walk, exercise at home with a fitness DVD, or take a 5:30AM yoga class?  If mornings are too hectic, how about a walk after eating lunch?  If your workplace has a fitness facility, think creatively about how you could take advantage of it before, during or after work.

After a long day, does surfing the internet, being on social media, or sitting down to watch Netflix round out your day?  There is room in there for an evening walk, or a quick workout, if it’s a priority.  Even starting with a 10 minute walk or exercise routine is better than sitting.  You can work your way up to 30 minutes or more over time as your stamina increases.  Creative ways to fit it in exist if you make it a top five on your to do list.  Over the years, I have built up an in-home gym where I get in a cardio workout on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, alternating with strength training on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.  Not every week is perfect, especially when unexpected things come my way, but this is the schedule I’ve committed to for years.


Make the Change

Just getting started is the key, and often the biggest challenge you will face.  It’s so easy to stay rooted in our comfortable, familiar routines.  Change can be challenging.  It may feel like you can never get to a point where exercise is a regular part of your life.  However, I challenge you to think of your accomplishments to date.  Our best achievements happen over time, with planning, hard work and dedication.  Those are the same elements needed to begin a meaningful fitness routine.

Need some motivation?  Try a leading task that will draw you into physical activity.  Is running or walking your way to ease back into fitness?  Take a visit to a shoe store that specializes in fitness shoes.  The specialized attention and fit you’ll receive is heads above department stores.  A comfortable and fashionable new shoe investment will be a great companion as you hit the pavement again.  Or, perhaps yoga is your thing.  A new yoga mat or DVD can help get you going on your journey.  If strength training is your preferred fitness choice, some new workout clothes and a pair of weight gloves might be just the ticket to help get you going.

What will you commit to do?  Walk 10 minutes, exercise for 15, or go to a beginner fitness class?  Even once a week is a great place to start.  If going it alone seems insurmountable, find an exercise partner.  Accountability can help enormously in this area.  Getting to bed earlier and waking earlier is also a great strategy.  I have a client who went to bed a little earlier each night over a period of weeks, with the goal of waking early to attend a 5:00AM boot camp.  The commitment has empowered her not only in her time management, but in the benefits she receives from regular exercise.  Her days at work after exercise are by far her most productive and enjoyable.

Remember, little steps made each day lead us on the path to the goal we are trying to reach.  Take that first step today toward a healthier lifestyle that contributes to a competitive edge at work.  You’ll not only feel and look better, you’ll work smarter too!

1Harvard Health Letter, May, 2014

Relationships with Women in the Workplace

What was your relationship like with your mother when you were growing up?  I bet a flood of memories just came to you.  Whether good, bad, somewhere in between, or perhaps absent, many women forge relationships with other women based on the dominant female relationship in their formative years.  The struggle to develop a full sense of self and separateness from “mother” stays with us for a long time, extending into other relationships.1  Friendships, romantic relationships and professional relationships are all affected by this phenomenon, without even realizing it.  The top three struggles between women in the workplace revolve around blame, battles and boundaries.  These struggles happen either between peers, or in the subordinate/manager relationship, and are as complex as they are varied.  Let’s explore.

Women who struggle in relationships with their female colleagues tend to view other women through one of two lenses:  as a competitor, or as someone to be questioned and counseled.  The competitor lens is common between women who work at the same managerial level, or have similar responsibilities.  They either connect with the other woman and become allies, or view the woman as a threat or competitor.  If the colleague is seen as a competitor, a woman will often feel threatened about the security of her own position, or her performance.  The variety of perceived threats are many, but the most common fears women express are:  being undermined, criticized, or feeling inadequate or ineffective.  These fears are borne out of the competition associated with the lack of high-level positions.  Many women vying for the same open spot often creates rivalries between competitors.  These struggles can result in the blame game.


More commonly referred to as criticism, the blame game can be the equivalent of grade school bullying.  When women gang up on a co-worker and either gossip about them, or outright criticize them, the results can be devastating.  Even to the point of having a solid employee quit.  Often the catalyst for criticism is jealousy or fear toward the woman receiving it, because she is actually doing a superior job.  Conversely, it can be that she is doing a poor job and getting away with it.  Some workplaces even have an office sniper.  This is a person who makes snide remarks and leaves just before the recipient has a chance to respond or engage.  Many consider this ‘hit and run’ behavior, and it has the same effects.  It damages without recourse – but it doesn’t have to be that way.

The most productive response I have seen to a culture of criticism over the years is to create an environment of credit and praise.  Beginning with yourself, whether you are in a co-worker environment, or manage a team, be the change you’d like to see.  Here are just a few ideas that have produced dramatic results:

For Managers:

  • Develop a “Wall of Fame” where people are given credit and praise for a job well done.
  • Conduct strength development training, either in group settings or one-on-one.

For Co-Workers:

  • Initiate peer crediting.  Openly praise another person’s work in a meeting, or in front of a sniper or office bully.
  • Manage self-talk.  Be good to yourself!  If you are the object of criticism, (sometimes self-criticism is a huge issue), don’t join in on the conversation.  Remind yourself of your strengths and embrace them.
  • Likewise if someone is putting themselves down, share your positive observations about their work.

Battles and Conflict

Conflicts, and less frequently battles, will exist in any working relationship at some point.  It’s inevitable, and can even be a good thing because the resolution can bring about stronger relationships, and excellent problem solving opportunities.  Conflict happens between peers, and with managers and their direct reports.  Common catalysts to conflict include:  gossip, burnout, triangular communication, and viewing the manager as “Mom”.  Key symptoms or reactions to conflict can include eruptions, physical symptoms, burnout and in some cases tears.  If a coworker or direct report is exhibiting these behaviors, do not make the mistake of assuming the cause.  It is common to write off such behaviors as maturity issues or personal problems.  Instead, take a step back and assess.  Take some time with the employee to understand her situation.  If you learn that a conflict indeed exists, taking swift steps to resolve it is essential.  The first step in resolving the situation is to acknowledge the issue or conflict, and to focus on the issue, and not the personality of the individual.  Then, resolve the conflict:

Set the ground rules for the resolution – Select a neutral, third party mediator, and have that person explain the rules of engagement.  Typical examples include stating the desired outcome at the meeting onset, not interrupting, not judging or over reacting, and acknowledging the other person’s feelings and concerns.

Create a forum for conflict management – Once the ground rules have been established, select a proper spot for the discussion, and provide details of how the process will work.

Creative solutions – Often a discussion session or series of sessions, perhaps with HR involved, can resolve a conflict.  Sometimes it takes a little creativity. Consider the following options some of my clients have implemented: changing seating arrangements or offices; role reversals (where two people swap jobs or responsibilities); scattered work schedules where the two parties work at different times or from home; or force an agreement.

Some conflicts cannot be completely resolved, but can be mitigated through a forced agreement.  If the two parties cannot come to a resolution, you can suggest that they agree to disagree.  This approach should accompany the suggestion that focusing on the work at hand rather than the other person is the priority.  If one party is the clear offender, the resolution may be eventual termination after proper cause is established with the necessary documentation.


Boundary issues typically occur between a manager and someone on their team.  A common dilemma is when a subordinate that questions authority, manager decisions and actions, or worse, is a chronic advice giver.  This often occurs when a subordinate is older than their manager, but not always.  Boundary issues can even go so far as the direct report trying to usurp managerial power, and attempt to create a role reversal.  Actions surrounding boundary issues are a product of the desire to keep the playing field flat by women who want to create a “we’re all in this together” atmosphere.  Establishing clear boundaries from the beginning of taking on a managerial role, or after a boundary ‘dispute’ is essential.  Calling together your team, or creating a survey to identify staff wants and needs is a great first step.

In doing so, you establish several things:

  • An atmosphere of trust
  • A willingness to understand
  • The opportunity to establish standards

When your team feels you are interested in and care about their input, it builds trust.  Further, enabling your team to express their wants and needs helps them feel ‘understood’.  Done correctly, this exercise can boost morale considerably.  While some of the wants and needs may be unrealistic, collectively they will paint a picture of the underlying reasons boundaries are being tested.

Once you assess their responses as a whole, you can then establish standards for boundaries.  You may find there is a common theme in the responses.  Some responses may give you pause, and the opportunity to self-examine if the issue hits home.  If the main response pertains to the team rather than your management style or a policy you’ve implemented (for example), the approach to establishing a standard can take a couple of different forms.  It may be quite simple, with a clear fix that is easily identifiable.  In this case, you can implement a standard to eliminate the boundary issue.

Say, for example, a co-worker is reluctant about providing a due date or details of an assignment that is part of a bigger project.  In her nebulous response, she projects superiority to the group members and comes off as being in charge.  This response is a boundary issue because she is trying to be above the group, when in fact she is a member of the team.  One solution could be to implement a timeline with clear expectations of weekly updates and solid due dates.  The timeline would be team created and approved, and be the new standard.  Whatever the case, the solution lies in digging in to find the issue, resolving it together as much as possible, and making the new standard, which resolves the conflict, known to all.

On the other hand, the boundary issue may be more personal.  You may have a subordinate that tends to challenge you in different ways, offers unsolicited advice, or even goes around you to circumvent your authority.  Recently, a client shared that a team member had submitted a project update to a senior leader in her company without routing it to her first for review.  The incident caused dissension between upper management and my client, and the need to establish a clear boundary with her subordinate.  Yet, she was reluctant to address it.  Worse yet, this was not the first time this behavior happened.  However, my client realized she now had to address it in order to protect her own reputation and possibly her position.  The issue was that this particular team member had a volatile personality and my client was has a calm management style.  I armed her with the following techniques to tactfully and successfully correct the situation.

1)    Acknowledge the conflict. Calmly tell the person with whom you’re in conflict that you’d like to set up a meeting to discuss the incident.  State that you realized you both have a different view or opinion, and you’d like to reach some common ground.

2)    Focus on the issue, not the personality.  My client had to accept that her employee might indeed become angry or flippant, but was ready to bring the conversation back to the issue at hand.  She was ready to say, “I understand you’re upset, but we need to discuss the process,” instead of; “you’re over reacting, calm down and let’s talk.”  After your subordinate has expressed her rationales, concerns or frustrations, be sure you understand them.  Repeat back her concerns to convey you have heard her.  Perhaps you can assuage them, and perhaps not (if company policy or procedure prohibits it), but the act of hearing her out will go a long way toward correcting the issue.

3)    Set the ground rules.  Once you have addressed and answered her concerns, establish the ground rules going forward.  Be very clear in the details of the process and your expectations that she will follow them to the letter.  The key here is your delivery, which needs to be calm, and matter of fact.

One of the most common boundary issues occur when a woman from a peer group becomes manager of that same group.  I counsel clients in this situation to take some serious time, maybe a weekend away, to consider how they will approach their new role.  A successful step-up transition includes having a plan to implement the following.  Understand that you will need to:

  • Break the rules of the ‘flat plane’.  You are no longer part of the group.
  • Lead by collaboration and directives.  Get group input if necessary, but in the end, you call the shots.
  • Change your relationships with former peers.  This tends to be the most difficult for women.  You need to strive for an atmosphere of friendliness versus friendship.
  • Know that some will find the new situation “unfair”, and plan a response to it.
  • Endeavor to take issues less personally, and develop a shield.  This will involve some level of detachment from the situation.  In other words dealing with the situation at hand, and leaving the emotions behind.

If you are currently challenged in the areas of blame, battles or boundaries and need some additional counsel, please give me a call to set up an appointment.  I would love to help you become your best self in the workplace.


1 Women and Self-Esteem. Sanford and Donovan, 2004