We Must Stop Apologizing for Our Light!

If you’ve worked hard to get where you are and are striving to be the best, you better tell people that!

Stretch!No healthy person sets a life goal to be dim. No one aims to be unnoticed and unimportant. Not one person desires to be forgotten or cast away.

So why do we do it?

Why do we shrink ourselves and diminish our contributions?

Why do we shy away from notice, accolades or appreciation?

The truth is this:

Confidence is not the equivalent of bragging.

If you’ve worked hard to get where you are and are striving to be the best, you better tell people that! Be the one bold enough to say it. Be the one proud enough to claim it.

And guess what?

They’ll either respect you for it and walk alongside you or they’ll be intimidated and get moved out of the way.

You aren’t sorta okay.

You’re not kind of …

You are GOOD.

You deserve the best for your life and the fruit of a bright future.

I never met a tree that refused to stretch its branches for fear or offending the sky.

 

 

 

 

 

 

No Woman Left Behind!

I often hear women talk about their struggles with other women in the workplace … It often smells and feels a lot like hate if not absolutely so.

… the principle we used to live by and have since abandoned

Every woman knows it – “We came together and we’re all leaving together.”

It was a safety agreement, a declaration of sisterhood, a reminder that she had your back and you had hers. We lived by it – on trips, at the club, out on the town or in just about any unfamiliar situation. Honoring the code meant that you would be safe. Anyone who disregarded the code was in for harsh backlash and possible shunning from future get-togethers.

It didn’t matter whether we were out as a pair or a group of ten. No one was wandering off alone without checking in with the group. A solo trip to the restroom that took a little too long, meant a girlfriend would be coming to check on you. You could give your number to a cute guy, but you weren’t leaving with him. If you had too much to drink, a designee would make sure you got home okay. She’d even help you take off your shoes and get you into your bed if needed.

We cared for each other.

What happened?

I often hear women talk about their struggles in the workplace, I find it interesting how much distrust, jealousy and undercutting abounds. Women tell me stories of co-workers, subordinates and supervisors who challenge them unfairly, speak ill of them behind their backs, go out of their way to prevent promotion and downright scowl at any sign of deserved favor. It often smells and feels a lot like hate if not absolutely so.

Why?

We’ve either forgotten the golden rule of sisterhood or we have convinced ourselves that it doesn’t deserve space in our occupational circles. We treat the other women in our workplaces as if we’re playing for opposing teams. All is well and good as long as she stays in her lane and we can stay in ours. Heaven forbid we have to work together on a project and share the spotlight … ever! We would rather remain an island than to conform to teamwork with our declared enemy. We would prefer to be acknowledged for our own brilliance alone than recognized for greatness, while sharing the credit with another.

So, what can be done?

Let’s go back to basics. Let’s dig out the old girl code and revisit the principles that were set upon the foundation of our friendships and encouraged us to think beyond self. We should begin to have the honest conversation with ourselves about the things that don’t feel right, keep us up at night, make us uneasy and cause us to questions. We need to pinpoint what we have done to feed the spirit of competition and separation. We should be transparent with ourselves.

If you’re working in the same organization you are after all, playing for the same team! We were hired to work together, so we should work to succeed together. Tag someone that you can link arms with. Give it some serious thought and commit to it. Let her know what you are trying to accomplish and make a pact to work together instead of against each other. Just do this with one person and see where the road carries you. No matter what, keep your eye on the ultimate goal to never leave her behind. You are to lift her up, but not carry her. Liking her should not be a requirement or expectation. If you see her backed into a corner, offer a solution. When she struggles, but is too proud to ask for help, offer it with no strings attached. This is the beginning of our growth and the stretching that molds us into effective leaders.

Don’t just think about it, go and put it to work TODAY. In this era of #metoo, we should expect more and be willing to do more to support one another on all levels.

Receiving the Gift of Growing Pains

The “stretch of life” is hard, uncomfortable, sometimes unbearable, but necessary. These seasons are the cornerstones of our testimonies.

anton-van-der-weijst-603824-unsplashBeing in an uncomfortable spot in life is like wearing a dress that is too snug. You’d almost rather stand up and be awkwardly stable than to risk sitting down and busting that sucker wide open! Life is like that sometimes. One day, your shoes fit and the next day, they don’t. You can become accustomed to the hustle and bustle until you’ve had enough and would rather make the trade for peace and quiet. We may love our jobs until the day we become aware of what we’ve sacrificed to maintain it.

Growing pains are necessary. Think of it as the “stretch of life.” It’s those periods of discomfort, uncertainty, fatigue and anxiety that drive us toward change. If it weren’t so, we would stay in our small boxes way longer than meant to be. The hermit crab eventually becomes dissatisfied with its cramped quarters and seeks out a new place to inhabit.

It hurts like heck though. Pretending it feels good to be thrusted out of your comfort zone is just plain silly. There will likely be tears, frustrations, possible fits of anger and wavering faith along the way. But the process is a gift and the outcome is its own reward. Allow the stretch. Bend with the wind so you don’t break and try not to swim against the current.

The beauty of self-awareness is being able to recognize whatever season you find yourself in. Wisdom comes with accepting that no season lasts forever. Be uncomfortable enough to become open to change, willing to try and bold enough to risk failure. Cultivate your strengths and make concessions for your weaknesses. Own the transition while moving forward at the same time.

Don’t get stuck. Don’t throw in the towel when things get tough.

Your ultimate breakthrough is right on the other side of difficult.

 

(Photo courtesy Anton Van Der Weijst on Unsplash)

Leadership 101: How She Becomes a Force Without Being Forecful

Learning who you are requires work, growing pains, as well as accomplishment and setbacks. Identifying who you are as a woman in the workplace can be one of the most challenging parts of the journey. Whether you are in a female-dominated vocation or the opposite, you’ve likely experienced how lonely the path to leadership can be. In fact, the higher you rise in your field, the less likely you are to feel that you can relate to those around you. The more successful you are, it’s likely that you’ll begin to see fewer and fewer female faces.

Popular culture dictates that to be a successful female worker, entrepreneur, business owner, boss, executive, etc., you need to be rigid. These narratives tell us that women who lead value their careers above family, romantic relationships or other pursuits; that to be taken seriously, she must be aggressive, mean, dismissive of other’s feelings and interested in her own accomplishments above all else. Ruling with an iron fist has been widely celebrated, but does it really have to be that way?

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Photo by Justyn Warner on Unsplash

Strength has nothing to do with gender! Receiving recognition, being respected and valued has more to do with character, consistency and drive than we often realize. There five simple things women can do to gain leadership momentum in whatever career phase they are in:

  • Say what you mean and mean what you say: The woman whose word means something, becomes a woman whose word is everything. What comes out of your mouth should be accepted as tried and true gold, firm and decisive. If you mess it up, admit it, apologize and move on. Never back track.
  • Master the face-to-face: Insecure people hide behind technology when it comes to addressing conflict. A confident woman ditches the email, hangs up the phone, walks across the hall and addresses things head on. Her attitude is, “Let’s take a few minutes to talk about this and come up with a plan.”
  • Stop trying to keep up with Sheila: The woman who is okay being uniquely herself, has an idea of her strengths and weaknesses and knows how she prefers to lead. She isn’t looking at what the next person is doing to make herself a carbon copy of them. Even if she doesn’t get it right every time, she knows that she’ll gain more respect by being authentic.
  • Step out of the shadows: Leadership is not anonymous. It can’t be developed from the back room or operate exclusively behind a closed office door. Leadership walks, talks, has feelings and opinions. Leadership says hello in the morning and participates openly. The woman who desires to be taken seriously as a leader is not afraid to advocate for positive change.
  • Be the master of your field: All leadership journeys are marathons, not sprints. She may take necessary breaks along the way, but a woman destined to lead, knows that she will forever be a student. She is researching, learning and training to be better at what she does with an aim to be the best. She is knowledgeable, but never closes herself off to the possibility that there is still more to learn. She is also willing to mentor and teach.

What.Would.a.Wakandan.Do?

Like you, I saw “Black Panther” and walked away with so many things to digest and dissect. The movie caused me to re-evaluate my take on relationships, culture, history and gender roles. Most poignant for me, were the outstanding examples of female strength, honor, loyalty, determination and wisdom.

If they could overcome, why can’t we?

Without being fully conscious of it, I began asking myself the question, “What would a Wakandan Do?”

When faced with obstacles, uncertainties, failed plans, difficult people, hopeless odds – WWaWD?

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Shirt Design By Stephanie Godwin-Chu

It’s a simple question with a big emphasis on self-confidence and self-worth. Its weight doesn’t hang on arrogance or the naivety that all things will work out just the way we want them to. It’s not that at all. It’s a reminder of the many fights we engage in every day; the fight to be heard, the fight to defend our reputation, the fight for our worth in the workplace and the fight to move forward and not give up.

WWaWD? is our reminder to keep putting one foot in front of the other in the right direction. This question has pulled me back time and time again from the ledge of giving up and has helped me to firmly plant my feet and try again. Asking the question, challenges the excuses we create and propels us forward.

How would a woman who knows her purpose and has a conviction of duty handle herself? What would she say to those who openly doubt her and question her knowledge? How would she assert herself? How would she prove naysayers wrong? How does she take charge of her own future?

What would a Wakandan do? What will you do the next time you are faced with difficulty? Will you give up, will you give in to fear, walk away, lower your expectations, downplay your dreams or walk into your purpose like the queen that you are?

#WWaWD?

 

 

 

“That’s Not a Real Job!”

Untitled design (7)Have you ever heard these words?

When you are ready to make your next move, people will come out of the woodwork with their opinions and suggestions on how you should best live YOUR life. I had family, friends and co-workers telling me that I couldn’t own my own business. Some cautioned me about leaving a “well-paying” job in favor of balance at home and the opportunity to raise my own children. Others wanted me to settle for nine-to-five security and put my purpose on hold…because of course, purpose can wait.

NOPE!

There is nothing wrong with working a traditional job, but it’s also not for everyone. We all must search for that thing that brings us joy when we get busy in it. It’s the work that causes your soul to leap with excitement, keeps you up at night in anticipation and drives you to tomorrow. It may be what you desire to do as your profession and it may be something you desire to do in addition to your full-time job. Part of effective leadership is getting to know yourself well enough to be rightly positioned for your purpose.

You may have notebooks full of ideas and plans for better that you feel will never come true. But they will, if you are willing to put one foot in front of the other. Whether you desire to be financially independent, your own boss, dedicate your time serving your children and family, walk fully into ministry or help those who don’t have a voice – that passion was given to you because you are more than capable. As you do the unpopular thing, you’ll have an audience, but you may not find the support you desire. Don’t worry. Don’t give up. Don’t deny your future.

This is a season of change. People are changing the world one idea, one open door, one cracked window at a time. Will you be one of them?

Am I a Woman? Yes. Am I Black? Yes! Am I Angry? No, Not Usually.

Nice plays nice with nice and fails to make progress. Nice never birthed change.

20170903_161803If it’s ever been said directly, whispered or inferred that you are a B**TCH in the workplace, please don’t waste energy being offended and don’t lose sleep over it. You’ve likely ruffled a few chicken feathers by standing your ground and upholding high standards. They WILL survive!

Let’s get down to the REAL meaning of the label, “Angry/Mad Black Woman”:

Are you being called a “mad black woman” because you’re angry, bitter, treat people unfairly, have unrealistic expectations and an axe to grind with anyone who crosses your path? Are you on a daily rampage to make others feel inferior in some way? Do you want them to fear you? NOPE!

Have you reached the end of your capacity to tolerate utter foolishness? Yes.

Are you at a place in life where you have a vision and expectations for excellence? Yes.

Do you get mad? Occasionally, but not any more than anyone else under pressure.

Are you tired of hearing excuses? Absolutely!

Annoyed by adults who behave like children? Amen!

See, you have stuff to do and likely you’ve studied, prepared, critiqued and worked harder than many of your counterparts to get where you are. You don’t have time for games. You aren’t opposed to making a few friends, but the goal isn’t to be well-liked and invited to the weekend barbeque either. You are about your business and often your skin color means that your drive and focus will be interpreted as anger. It unfortunately comes with the territory.

According to the Franklin Covey Habits of Highly Effective People, we are to seek first to understand and then be understood. So understand their judgement is rooted in ignorance of your history, your struggle and your vision. Understand that they are bringing biases to their experience of you that you can in no realistic way influence. Understand that the labels you are given fly away into the wind, unless you grab hold of them and claim them.

You will be understood by those with similar experiences as long as you consistently lead with respect and fairness. Others, will be determined to find fault in you just because they are intimidated by what you represent and the ease at which you command authority. You will be understood by those who genuinely care to get to know you and that is what matters.

You may not have the luxury of being “nice” in most cases and that is nothing worthy of an apology. Nice means letting your guard down, potentially becoming complacent and lowering the bar. Nice may mean going along with what you feel in your heart isn’t right. Nice plays nice with nice and fails to make progress. Nice never birthed change. Grit, pain, focus and sacrifice, motivation, planning, and skillful execution are what will bring you into a place of purpose.

People will label incorrectly that which they cannot comprehend and that is not your issue to tackle.

How to Deal With Chronic Complainers (3 min read)

When someone would come to me repeatedly to vent, I would let them talk at first and then I would ask one of three questions…

In your work environment, there is likely one person you hate to see coming. Why? … Because they love to complain about any and everything! They don’t like their boss or supervisor, they have issues with the new policies, procedures or organizational chart. They think Mary Sue in accounting is mean to them for no reason and so and so forth.

These complaining types make it hard to focus on the work and they can suck the joy out of the atmosphere. I’ve never been one of them, but I’ve had to work alongside and supervise several. I refused to spend my days listening to negative comment after negative comment. I found the exercise to be a waste of their time and mine. So I crafted a few responses I kept on hand, ready to use.

When someone would come to me repeatedly to vent, I would let them talk at first and then I would ask one of three questions:

  • “How can we fix it?” – (5 words)
  • “What do you recommend?” – (4 words)
  • “Got an idea?” – (3 words)

… And it worked.

Some would simply get tired of me asking the same questions, so they would stop including me in the conversations. These people were generally miserable and liked to have company. As long as someone was listening and agreeing with their grievance, they experienced a feeling of validation and continued to complain.

Others would continue to come with their complaints, but they would also be ready to discuss possible solutions. These people are what I called “the turnarounds.” Instead of wallowing in what was wrong, they began to focus on ways to make improvements. Those are the ones who would go on to become supervisors, managers or leaders in some capacity.

Asking these questions helps thin the heard. However, I also had one quick response for the ones who continued to complain no matter what questions I asked and didn’t seem to get it. This question was designed to shut them down indefinitely:

  • “So what?” – (2 words)

… Conversations would generally go something like this:

“I don’t think Mary Sue in accounting likes me. I haven’t done anything to her, but she never says Hi to me.”

My response, “So what?”

“Well….I, I just…”

“We’re not here to make friends. We have work to do.”

-Shut down complete-

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See how that works? I would make it clear that what they were complaining about wasn’t dire by making a statement and then turning their attention back to the work at hand. It may sound harsh, but understand that at this point I had already coached the individual on their negative attitude and lack of accountability, encouraged them several times to come with solutions and in some cases I even assisted them in outlining recommendations for change.

Working with difficult people doesn’t have to be stressful! If you are consistent and firm in your expectations and hold them accountable, people will either adjust and play along or they will get out of the way!