Tag Archive for workplace success

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.

Don’t Underestimate The Power of One

We’ve been talking and posting on social media about #WomensHistoryMonth throughout March to celebrate the women who have blazed new trails throughout history and to increase awareness for the work that still needs to be done for each of us to reach our full potential.  This includes leveraging the experience of those who have gone before us through mentorship and support for other women.  When one of us wins, we all win!

Everyone is familiar with the “old boys network”.  If women are going to be successful, we need each other – we need to create the “new women’s network”.  While some women achieve success, and then want other women to have to “work as hard as they did”, it’s the true leaders that will encourage other women and help pull their chairs to the table.

We still have a lot of ground to make-up to reach C-Suite positions, upper level management and pay equity, so we must learn from each other along the way.  Take the time to seek advice from the one woman who has a seat at the boardroom table – she knows the players and the culture.  Men network and help each other, so women should do the same.

Most importantly, a woman boss or colleague who steps into that important mentor role for you could be the person that changes everything.  A good mentor can have many roles.  She (or he) can:

  • Advocate for you and open doors for you internally.
  • Introduce you to key people.
  • Provide inside information and help you learn the politics of your company or industry.
  • Help push you to the next level by shining a light on what you might not know about yourself.
  • Believe in you when you don’t believe in yourself.

When you’ve found that person, listen to her, appreciate her, because you might remember her for the rest of your life.  Personally, I met the mentor who would change the course of my life when there was a gap between my career in the mental health field and starting my own business.

During this period, I managed to land a position with the Flint River Girl Scout Council as a field director, and a woman named Gail Kirocofe was my direct supervisor.  I believed myself to be completely out of my element, with no experience hiring staff and managing the many details associated with being a camp director.

Every day, Gail reassured me that she knew I had the ability, strength and smarts to do the job.  She let me know that she wasn’t going to do it for me, but that she had the belief in me that I was fully capable of doing it myself.

In my effort to not disappoint her, I was able to dig deep and find what she saw in me.  I literally credit her with having a thumbprint on my success, which changed the course of my life.  Even though I was only with the Girl Scouts for two years, this story illustrates my conviction of the power of one mentor.  Gail believed in me, which gave me the confidence to raise my expectations for myself.  While I have had many mentors over the years, Gail was the one that touched my career at that pivotal moment.  When I left the Girl Scouts, I moved on to start my own business.

In 2015, the awareness of the impact Gail had on my life was particularly striking.  I was featured on an electronic billboard as a conference speaker in Pennsylvania.  Realizing how far I had come, I found Gail to let her know I would not have been on that billboard without her.  In her 80s, Gail became a children’s book author and was enjoying her next chapter of success.

When we talk about Women’s History Month and mentorship, don’t ever underestimate the power of one – that one mentor can have an astonishing impact on your life, your success and who you ultimately become.

If you are eager to make a greater impact in your career and be a game-changer, 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.

Read Kay’s Corner in the March newsletter to find practical tips for mentoring.

Top 5 Barriers to Delegation

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

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

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

Benefits of Delegating

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

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

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

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

Smart Steps

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


The Art of Negotiation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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