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.

What’s on Your Calendar May Be Hindering Your Focus

If we aren’t careful, we’ll look up and realize we’ve missed it.

What’s on my calendar for next Tuesday at 1p.m.? In the next 14 days, have you left any gaps for the unplanned? If you know the answer to the first, but not the second, you may have a problem.

Living every minute of every hour and every hour of every day guided by the blocks on the calendar and the clock on the wall can be stifling. However, it can also be strangely comforting – everything in its place and a place for everything. Going from one appointment to the next and back again, taking this one to ballet, this one to robotics and this one to soccer practice, meetings, followed by debriefs about the previous meetings and planning meetings for the next one. You may squeeze in Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Hulu or Netflix in between and then crash before dragging yourself up to start all over again.

 

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Where’s the focus? Where is the slow down? When does the actual living take place? What’s the purpose of it all?

The truth is that life doesn’t happen between keyboards and HD displays. Life happens through, around and over what we tend to focus on. If we aren’t careful, we’ll look up and realize we’ve missed it.

Planning is necessary and technology can be helpful, but meaningful connections, relationship building, dream chasing and vision cannot be placed on a timer. They suffocate in those spaces where they are forced to comply with the limitations that keep them from being organic and authentic.

Allow a free space – schedule it if you have to! Take that time to unwind and unfocus and it will actually help you find a great deal of focus! Block it off and protect it as if your life depends on it.

Then… go and dance, cook with someone you love, listen to music that makes your whole body move, sing, walk in the park, color with your kid or lay in the grass. Take an unplanned day trip to nowhere in particular, paint, write poetry, play the guitar or call your grandmother and listen to her tell you that story you’ve heard about twenty times. You don’t need to hear it again, but she needs to tell it and one day you’ll long for the sound of her voice.

Let life happen and don’t choke the beauty out of it by giving it a time allowance or by rushing off to the next thing. Don’t allow BUSY to become the nemesis of your FOCUS.

 

 

 

Three Reasons Why You’re Not Done Growing

Let me tell you the honest truth about people who have nothing but negative things to say about your dreams and aspirations…

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It doesn’t matter if you are 25 or 65, who says you’re done with life? If someone has already opened their big mouth to form the words and allowed them to pass their lips, they lied to you!

Let me tell you the honest truth about people who have nothing but negative things to say about your dreams and aspirations – THEY ARE SCARED!!

You are about to do something that would keep them up at night and give them the sweats. You have a dream and vision outside of their small corner of the world and they feel as if you are leaving them for the wilderness and will soon be eaten by wolves. They are so consumed by their perception of the worst-case-scenario for you that they can’t even pretend to be happy for you. They don’t know how.

But that isn’t your problem. The first rule of airline safety is that you need to apply your own oxygen mask before you help anyone else. Live and breathe your purpose because it’s in you and needs to be fulfilled. You can bring all of the naysayers and “see it to believe it” types up to speed later, if you choose.

You’re not done growing:

  • You’ve Got Fertile Soil: Because you have a dream that’s bigger than where you are now. For some of you it may literally be a dream that reoccurs when you sleep and reminds you that there is more for you to do.
  • Just Add Water: You have muscles that need to be worked! There are gifts and talents inside of you that you haven’t begun to fully explore. You know they’re there, but you need to spend time on them and nurture them to bring them to the forefront. Drink plenty (get some good books to read, take a class, attend a conference, local fellowship or workshop).
  • Open The Window and Let the Sunlight In: Surround yourself with healthy relationships that will stretch you. Connect with people who model your vision of balance and success. Glean from them and give them the space to tell you the truth in love, which will allow you to flourish.

 

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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!

 

Ladies, We Can Have It All! … Right? (4 min read)

Can you be a stellar wife, mom AND career woman? Of course! But…

Sitting in a conference room with a group of women had never made me so uncomfortable.

The meeting was due to start, but everyone was casually talking while waiting on a key person to arrive. It started as most conversations do: a little chatter about the weather, what everyone had on their agenda for the rest of the week and what was going to be happening in the coming week at the organization. I shared also … at first. Everyone was in the same boat – tired and a bit over-extended due to the demands of our prospective jobs.

Then, it took what I felt was a negative turn, but I seemed to be the only one who bowed out at that point. One of the ladies made a joke about how many days had passed since she’d seen her elementary-aged son due to her hectic work schedule. Quickly, someone else quipped that she’d be stopping by a local meal prep service on the way home to grab food for her family because she didn’t “have time to cook anymore.” More stories were traded back and forth with a startling theme. They all had in some way forsaken their spouses, homes, children and personal lives to meet the needs of their ever-demanding career.

Watching it all unfold in what felt like slow motion, had an effect on me. Motivational speaker, John O’Leary calls this “an inflection point.”

“Inflection points” can appear as insignificant or monumental; as positive or negative; they are the events, encounters and decisions that, once they’ve occurred: life afterwards is completely altered.*

I had a decision to make.

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Two paths were being put before me, but only one of them was being normalized. I had been on a personal crusade for months at that point (unbeknownst to the other women). My husband and I were determined to develop a healthier work/life balance. We were spending more time together, dating more, protecting our personal time and we had promised not to bring work home every day. Compromise for the sake of our jobs had taken priority for years and our marriage started to suffer.

I am a firm believer in Matthew 6:24, which says that no one can serve two masters. Can you be a stellar wife, mom AND career woman? Of course! But along the way, compromise will be required and a time will come where you’ll have to rank what’s important to you.

What you spend time on, devote energy to and feed will ultimately grow. What you neglect shrivels up and eventually dies. That’s just the way it is. Men and women both fight these battles silently every day, but it’s usually us women who experience the brunt of the guilt.

Can we have it all? Truthfully, I don’t believe that anymore. I don’t believe we can be everything to everyone and serve in a demanding corporate culture and put our children and families first at the same time. I don’t believe we have enough in our being to be excellent in all and everywhere we need to be and still have sanity at the end of the day!

I’ve never met a balanced high-level executive, company president or business owner who hasn’t made some type of compromise or change in responsibilities to achieve a family focus. It’s simply something that a stable life and nurtured relationships require.

You will either conform to the culture that opposes your priorities and values or you will need to separate yourself from it in order to stay true to yourself.

 

*John O’Leary is the author of “On Fire: 7 Choices to Ignite a Radically Inspired Life”