Why is it so hard to find a female mentor?

In the last week, I have had three conversations with three different women who shared a common frustration. All three were desirous of a female mentor from within their company, and all three were unable to find one.

Why is this?

The stories all three women shared were eerily similar. The problem is not what some might immediately suspect. It was not a problem of finding a senior woman in their company. They each had tried to reach several different women.

The problem all three women reported was the inability to get onto the calendars of any of the senior women in their companies. Sometimes they could get an initial meeting, but even these were often rescheduled several times before taking place. Follow-up meetings were nearly impossible to come by.

Again I ask, why is this?

Collectively, we had a few guesses as to why this would be. We had all been in positions of leadership. As such, we had all confronted the conflict of a full calendar and a team that needed guidance and input. We are all busy – both men and women. Here are some theories on what might be going on.

Senior leadership is a tough job in and of itself

Senior leaders, regardless of their gender, are often consumed by meetings, conference calls, updates, presentations, and more meetings. It is possible that there just isn’t time for them to mentor younger leaders, given their jobs.

Successful women are busier than others

Women are good at getting things done. As the saying goes, if you want something done, ask a busy person. So, logically, successful women are going to be asked to do more things.

Add to this the fact that women have a hard time saying no. Oftentimes, the reason we have reached a certain level of leadership is because we never said no on the way up. Challenging assignments, lateral moves, whatever it was, women say yes.

You want that done tomorrow? No problem. You want that completely rewritten? Sure! Now? Of course! You want me to reorganize the entire department and increase revenues by 200% by next quarter? You got it!

In fact, I had a senior leader at my company that preached that the only way to get ahead was to always say yes. You can bet the women took that to heart.

Because of their skill and their willingness to take on more and more, successful women’s plates are filled fuller than most. If you think about it, it makes sense. The more you do right, the more the company is going to want you to handle. And if we never say no, there is very little space left for things not on the agenda, like employee development. Especially those requests for development from women in other areas of the company or other companies.

As is often said, there are only so many hours in the day and sometimes we run out of them.

There just aren’t enough of them

Despite the fact that there are women in senior leadership, it is possible that there just are not enough of them. How many junior associates can one senior leader feasibly mentor?

And if the first theory is true, that senior leaders in general do not have time to mentor, this becomes even more problematic.

It could also be a problem that the senior women work in a different division/section/ department of the company than the women seeking mentors. It can be a challenge to reach out across these lines to make a mentorship relationship work. That senior leader is likely going to spend any time she has for employee development on those employees working under her span of control.

There is no tangible incentive to mentor other women

I list this here because I have heard employees mention this as a potential reason they cannot seem to meet with a mentor. It is largely true that it is very difficult to quantify the value of investing in young women leaders. I have never seen an executive incentive plan that listed ‘mentorship’ as a goal (I’m sure they exist somewhere – I just think it is exceedingly rare).

That said, I believe most of us want to mentor other women. We want to impact their lives in positive ways, help them navigate the corporate world, help them to be successful and reach their dreams. But we work for corporations, and corporations set the priorities.

So what do you do if you are looking for that mentor and she just doesn’t seem to have time for you?

The best suggestion I have is to do what the guys do – find an informal way to connect. Swing by her office, talk to her briefly after a meeting, attend a company function. Don’t be a pest, but find ways to connect that don’t require her to block 30 precious minutes on her calendar.

And if you get that meeting, be prepared! Have specific questions to ask or situations to get her input on. Do not waste that precious time! Follow-up with a thank you and ask for the next meeting right away. Better yet, ask her if you can work with her assistant to put regular (quarterly, perhaps) meetings on her calendar.

I appreciate your thoughts! Have you tried to engage a female mentor? How hard was it to find one and to meet with one? What advice do you have for others looking to do the same?

Good luck! As always, stay positive!

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5 Reasons You Need a Coach

Do you need a coach?

The HUB Leadership Consulting Group

Have you been thinking about getting a coach? Perhaps someone has suggested the idea to you. Perhaps you’ve read something somewhere that mentioned coaching. Perhaps you just know you need a little help. This is all good news. It means that you are already looking to grow, to improve, to understand yourself better, and to build new and different skills.

If you aren’t quite sure what a coach might help with or whether a coach is even the right thing for you, let me give you some insight and concrete examples of what a coach can do for you.

Before we get there, note that there are many different “flavors” of coach out there – life coaches, career coaches, executive coaches. Every one of these folks, regardless of their specific label, is here to do one thing – help you to be the best version of yourself. How they go about it may differ considerably, but largely their mission is all the same.

I have worked with several coaches over the years. One executive coach helped me negotiate through some significant personal tragedies while maintaining my career trajectory. She also helped me to deeply consider my future professional path and make some initial changes in how I considered my role in my company.

A life coach I worked with helped me to realize how much I had separated my work-self from my true-self, and how important it was for me to reunite those two parts. She also helped to take some dramatic risks in my life that have helped me to grow significantly and reclaim some joy in my work life.

A business coach I hired helped me to understand what it will take to get my own business off the ground. She gave me support, encouragement and accountability when I needed it most. She also connected me with necessary resources, both human and otherwise that will be important as I continue to build my company.

An outplacement coach helped me considerably when I suddenly found myself without a job. He helped me plan, he held me accountable to the plan, and to this day he continues to connect me with resources and helps me to feel supported and encouraged.

Here are some reasons you should consider hiring a coach:

  1. You want to get ahead but just aren’t sure how
  2. You want to make a change but are uncertain of the steps you ought to take
  3. You are not getting the feedback/support/encouragement you desire from your boss
  4. You feel stuck
  5. You are not experiencing joy in some aspect of your life

You want to get ahead but just aren’t sure how

Have you heard the phrase “What got you here won’t get you there?” It is the absolute truth. Every step of a career journey requires a new strategy and a new set of skills. Sometimes, the requirements are obvious. Sometimes, not so much.

A coach can help you deal with the struggle of performing at the highest level in your current role while developing the necessary skill set for the job ahead. She can help you see what steps to take, and when to take them, to help you navigate the crazy world of corporate advancement.

You want to make a change but are uncertain of the steps you ought to take

Sometimes there is something pulling at your heart telling you it is time to make a change. Sometimes is it just a hint, other times it is a roar.

Maybe you are not even sure what change to make, you simply know something needs to be different.

But then what?

A coach can help. She can help you decipher what it is that needs to change. She can help you figure out the first step, the second step, or even the hundredth step. By helping you gain clarity of vision, she can help you along the path, make adjustments along the way, and can help hold you accountable to your goals. She can also help keep you from backsliding into old habits and routines.

A coach can help you find your new, brighter future.

You are not getting the feedback/support/encouragement you desire from your boss

It is rare that we receive the feedback we need from our bosses today. Managers in every field, at every level, are busy, distracted, and ill equipped to offer the feedback most of us are looking for.

I remember one time receiving my annual review and being upset by all of the high marks. It seemed my boss could find nowhere for me to improve. But I wasn’t running the company yet, so surely there was something I needed to work on!

A coach is a great person to help you with the “what got you here won’t get you there” kind of feedback. She will help you to spot your strengths and your weaknesses and help you to work on both.

A coach can give you honest, objective feedback that will help you to reach your goals. If something doesn’t seem to be working, she can help you figure out a better way to move forward. She might even be able to provide valuable insight into why others respond they way they respond.

If you are looking to understand better how you are doing and strategies for improvement, hire yourself a coach!

You feel stuck

Sometimes you aren’t feeling the pull to change, but you still feel stuck. It could be that you wake up feeling like work has become a struggle. It could be that you used to love what you do, but it just doesn’t inspire you in the same way anymore. It could be that the next step up isn’t the step you want to take, and you don’t know where else to look.

A coach can help you get clarity about why you feel stuck and what next steps are the most appropriate for you to take. She can help you work through things that might be holding you back from being your best self and help you get unstuck.

You are not experiencing joy in some aspect of your life

We all have one life to live, and we ought to enjoy as much of it as we can. If there is some part of your life where joy is hard to find, a coach can help you to find it. Or change it. Or rearrange it. Or uncover it.

Whatever needs to be done to find the joy in your life, a coach will be there to help you uncover what you need to do to find it.

There are many coaches out there. Do your due diligence to be sure you pick one that you trust and that you feel comfortable working with. You’ll be practicing quite a bit of vulnerability with this person, so be sure you are ready and willing to do the hard work and feel safe doing so.

And if you are looking for a coach, start here! Send me an email using the ‘Contact’ button and we will set up an initial call to see how I can help you. I would love to help you no matter what your goals are, and can’t wait to hear from you!

As always, stay positive!

Happy Anniversary

A Year in Review

Normally we think of anniversaries as a time of celebration. Weddings, birthdays, and work anniversaries give us a chance to celebrate another year of accomplishment and (presumably) happiness.

Sometimes we celebrate the anniversaries of terrible events. Whether it is the loss of a loved one or a catastrophic event, an anniversary can bring up difficult emotions and feelings.

Regardless of whether it is a happy or sad event, an anniversary gives us a chance to reflect on something important that has happened in our lives. It is an opportunity to revisit what happened, how it impacted us (whether positively or negatively), and to consider how the passage of time has changed us. It often is a time to thoughtfully consider how we continue to move forward.

One year ago today (this seems unbelievable), I was laid off from my company of 17 years along with 300+ of my colleagues. So to myself and to all of my friends I say

Happy Anniversary.

As I sit and reflect today, I find that I am still struggling to determine whether this was a happy event or a sad event in my life. It certainly has qualities of both.

I am sad because I miss my colleagues. I miss the company where I dedicated 17 years of my life, and I miss the certainty of having a job to go to every morning and a paycheck arriving in my bank account every month. I miss being surrounded by amazing people every single day. I am sad to be detached from an industry I came to love.

On the other side of things, I am so happy about the opportunities I have had since then. I have quite a list that I am going to share here, none of which involve a traditional job. My hope is this will offer some encouragement to others still struggling to land.

I started my own business: The HUB Leadership Consulting Group. As part of this, I have worked with some amazing clients as a career coach. I have done quite a bit of public speaking (coming up next: WiBN Leadership Conference), and I have written 20+ blog posts. I would never have done all of this had I still been working at my previous company.

Through the work with my company, I have come to realize how important diversity is to my mission in life. No matter where I land or who I work for, the desire to continue learning and helping others to learn about critical diversity issues will always be a part of what I do.

I have built my network in all directions. I have met some absolutely amazing women and men all the way from Dayton to Northern Kentucky and across the country. Many of them I now call friends. We meet for coffee, lunch, or attend events together, or connect by phone or through social media. Regardless of when and where we meet, we support, encourage, and inspire each other. I am eternally grateful for these connections!

I have been back on stage, now working on my third show this year. This is one of the most incredible things to me – it seems unbelievable that it took leaving my corporate position for me to feel comfortable getting back on the stage. I believe that no matter where I end up, I will now always keep some connection to this part of my life.

I spent some important quality time with my kids this summer. I will admit, I was pretty scared to spend the entire summer at home with these guys. Having never been a stay-at-home mom, throwing me in the deep end with two teenage boys and a preteen girl seemed downright crazy. Turns out I loved it. I absolutely loved spending time with these spectacular individuals, and the time flew by.

I opened an Etsy shop! I take any anxiety I am feeling over my job search and at the end of the day, channel it into my knitting needles and crochet hooks. And now I sell my creations! This also allows me to share my hobby with my Mom, who also creates items for our shop. We have fun, and I am fairly certain we never would have taken this step if I hadn’t had this freedom to dream.

I know most of my colleagues have landed somewhere new. Some of us, however, are still out here searching. I will admit that I am rather shocked to find myself in that second category. That said, I will continue on my journey, will keep my head up, will continue to stretch myself and grow and do things that scare me. I’ll continue to support those around me and will allow them to support me.

And as always, I will stay positive. You do the same! Happy Anniversary.

Leadership Lessons from the Theater

James and the Giant Peach – Bart’s Bards 2019

I have been having some fun while continuing my job search and slowly but surely putting my consulting business into place. Sometime late last year I made the decision to audition for the theater. It might have been the best decision I have made in the last many months.

We have a super high-quality community theater just down the road from our home and since I am always looking for ways to scare myself, to reach outside my comfort zone, this seemed like a perfect idea. My goal was simply to do the very best I could at the audition. Honestly. I had no true expectation of being cast. I had been out of the theater for at least 15 years. I simply wanted to strap on the tap shoes and go out there and give it my all.

Imagine my surprise when I was cast! I had an amazing time doing the show, met some incredible people, and reaffirmed my personal love for the stage. After that show I did another, and am now collaborating on a youth summer production. My heart is happy when it is in a theater.

Given that I am now spending so much time there, I have had the opportunity to reflect on what it takes to put on a full musical theater production. It is amazing! And truly, it takes leadership at all levels.

I now believe it would be an incredibly powerful exercise to have leaders go through the process of producing some type of live event. There are significant leadership lessons at every step for those in corporate America.

Here are some examples from both on stage and behind the scenes:

Actors: These folks are clearly necessary for a show to go on. Whether they play the leads or are part of the ensemble, there is no show without actors. Imagine the situations they are faced with:

  1. Personal responsibility. There is very little help on stage when lines, blocking (where they move, stand, etc), song lyrics, choreography is forgotten. It is all up to you.
  2. Crisis management. Sometimes your co-star will forget their lines and you have to help cover. Sometimes your costume rips right before you are to go on stage. Sometimes the microphone battery dies right in the middle of your song, or a prop is missing, or the lights don’t come up when you expect them. You have to deal with all of these potential situations.
  3. Communication. As an actor, it is your responsibility to deliver the story. Do it well and the audience comes away inspired and entertained. Fail, and the efforts put forth by everyone involved in the production are for naught.

Crew: The crew is made up of the folks handling the lights, the sound, the props, and moving the scenery during the show, among many, many other things. These folks bring the story to life. Some situations they deal with, many of which are similar to those of the actors:

  1. Personal Responsibility: These folks, and there are rarely enough of them, have to move fast and have to know exactly what they are doing. If someone has to move a piece of furniture, it is up to them to move it. Quickly. Exactly. No one is there to help (they are busy moving other things).
  2. Team Work: Often the crew has to work together to pull off intricate changes in scenery, props or lighting. There has to be a high level of trust on the team to get the whole job done.
  3. Crisis Management: When the batteries of a mic run out, or the spotlighter suddenly calls in sick, or the stage wall that is supposed to open suddenly gets stuck, it lands on the shoulders of the crew to handle it. There is no one to call, no one to hand the problem off to.

Costumer/Hair/Make-up/Props: These folks own their own fiefdoms under the direction of the director. They are all behind the scenes, but their work has a significant impact on the outcome of the show. They deal with:

  1. Limited Resources: These folks have to make the most out of everything they have. A good friend of mine spent money for some expensive fabric for one show exclaiming that she would find a way to use that fabric in every show to follow. And she has! The Props professionals (in community theater certainly) source all of their needs from donations, thrift shop finds, and creative reuses from past shows.
  2. Conflict Management: I can’t tell you how many times, as an actor, as a costumer, as a bystander, I have dealt with conflict over costumes, hair, and make-up. One child wouldn’t go on stage because her “makeup wasn’t as pretty as everyone elses.” In another case, an actor was furious about her wig. Or an actor refused to wear the hat.
  3. Crisis Management: In the last show I worked on, an actor walked right into a tube of red lipstick right before she was to go on stage. It took quick thinking to grab a stole from the back and whip it over her head to hide the stain as she rushed on. Pants rip, suspenders snap, shoes get lost….backstage can become a near war zone during some shows!

Producer/Director/Coreographer/Designers: These are the folks that make up the official leadership of the show. Their challenges are rather clear:

  1. Setting the vision: The director is charged with providing the vision, and the producer and others for supporting that vision and helping to communicate it to the cast and crew.
  2. Creating the culture: Each show has its own vibe. Some shows are packed with more drama behind the scenes than in front of them, and some are extremely uplifting. This can be largely attributed to the culture created by the show leadership. I have been very fortunate to have been involved in the latter in nearly every case, but have heard plenty of horror stories about the former.
  3. Decision making: This oh-so-important quality comes in spades for these folks. From casting the show to determining the look and feel of the stage to the rehearsal schedule and everything in between, these folks are making and communicating hundreds (if not thousands) of decisions before the show opens its curtains.

Pulling off a live production is a monumental feat. It calls for leaders at all levels to do their very best. It challenges each participant, whether on the stage, offstage, or behind the scenes, to exercise their leadership muscles.

It seems to me, every corporation might do well to produce a live show. It would certainly throw many people outside their comfort zone, would help to grow some very necessary leadership skills, and might even expose some leadership gaps that can then be corrected!

It also goes to show that leadership lessons can be found everywhere. As they say in the theater, The Show Must Go On!

As always, keep it positive, and share a smile if you’ve got one!

Leaders and Feedback – How to Get it and How to Give It


I was chatting with a colleague the other day, and the subject of feedback came up. She mentioned to me the difficulty she was having in getting meaningful feedback from her management. She felt that she was doing a good job at work, but like most of us, she wanted to improve. Feedback would certainly help!

In another conversation, an HR leader I spoke with mentioned the same problem but from a different perspective. She was bemoaning the fact that her managers were bringing her situations where employees needed to be terminated, and yet there was no evidence (or at least not enough evidence) of feedback being given from the manager to the employee leading up to the desire for termination.

It has also been noted in studies and in my own experience that when the Millennial generation joined the workforce, feedback was desired at a level not yet seen in the workplace. Where annual reviews had been accepted as the norm, this new generation demanded almost daily input into their work. I know I looked for it, and many of my employees demanded it.

So why is it still so difficult to give and to get feedback? Three issues that come up:

  • Growth in technology inhibits casual conversation
  • The business of our calendars
  • Feedback takes time and the value is realized over time

With the growth in technology we have seen an increase in the number of employees working from home or from alternate locations. This makes communication more difficult than in the past when you could simply stop by a manager’s or employee’s desk for a quick chat. Or catch up with someone in the hallway. Communication now must be intentional.

Also we are all so busy! How many times have you asked, “How are you?” and heard the answer, “Busy!” We just don’t have time to stop and have these conversations when there are 6 fires that need our immediate attention. I once had a manager tell me, “I don’t have time to sit down and talk to him because I am too busy cleaning up all of his messes.” (See this post on why it is important to take the time now to gain the time in the future).

In addition, it can be difficult for managers to see the value in having a conversation when it does not immediately impact their current situation. I’ve heard managers say, “If they are doing their job, I don’t need to interfere or distract,” or “I’ll let them know if they screw something up,” or even “I don’t want to be a micromanager. They should know if they are doing a good job or not.”

To be honest, I often told my leaders that I liked to manage by exception. I told them I would praise them if they did something amazing and would call them out if they did something terrible, but otherwise I would keep out of their way. I said that, and yet I still gave regular feedback. We met regularly, we planned for their futures. We discussed their strengths and their weaknesses. We strategized and we dreamed. We also vented when necessary. This was all a critical part of their development as leaders.

Those of you in a position to give feedback should remember that the best way for you to be successful is for those under you to be successful. Focusing on their growth and development is a great way to help them succeed and in turn to help you succeed.

So here are some tips, first for those of us seeking feedback from others:

  • Schedule regular meetings with your manager. These can be as short as 15 minutes a week if you have a busy manager. Setting a consistent schedule for feedback and putting it on the calendar creates the formal space for this kind of communication.
  • Ask for specific feedback. Don’t ask questions like, “How do you think I am doing?” This is difficult to answer, and it will be hard for your manager to give you anything you can work with. Instead, after a meeting ask “How do you think I handled that meeting?” or after submitting a report, “How did you feel I handled that ambiguous data?” Asking about your performance on a specific task is much more likely to get you actionable feedback.
  • Understand your manager and her particular style. Manage up. Pay attention to the signals she is giving. If you stop by her office daily to ask, “How do you think I did today?” and you notice her rolling her eyes, switch tactics. Find something that works for both of you.
  • Think critically when deciding who to ask for feedback. Be sure (or as sure as you can) that the feedback you will get will be constructive and not destructive. I learned early in my career that the definition of “constructive” can vary widely amongst managers.
  • When you get feedback, remember that it has as much to do with the person giving it as it does with your specific performance. Take the feedback, but keep in mind the agenda of the person giving the feedback. There is always something to learn from every bit of feedback you receive – it just might not be exactly what you were looking for.
  • Some advice for those giving feedback:

    • Schedule regular meetings with your staff for the specific purpose of providing feedback. These can be as short as 15 minutes each week. They can be by phone or Skype, but get them on the calendar. I normally met with my managers formally for an hour every two weeks, although we had regular daily interactions as well. Don’t cloud the meetings with fire-fighting. Instead be intentional about that 15 minutes and stick to feedback and employee growth topics.
    • Have the difficult conversations. Don’t wait. Make the time. A quick conversation now can alleviate a long, drawn-out processes later.
    • Praise your employees. As often as you can. Look for ways to do this regularly. This gives you more credibility when you have to have those tough conversations.
    • BE CONSTRUCTIVE. Focus your conversation on behaviors and results, and never on personal characteristics. I was once told that I was a “monster.” Tell me what I was supposed to do with that?
    • Seek outside validation if you need to give highly critical feedback. Be sure that you are seeing the whole picture.
    • Listen. Feedback is not just the manager speaking to the employee. It should be an exchange of ideas between two people attempting to reach the same goal.
    • Be open about your expectations and your personal style. Help your employees to interact with you as efficiently and effectively as possible.

    Feedback is an important part of the success of your company. Keep at it, and see what wonderful things come!

    What other tips do you have for providing/accepting feedback? I’d love to hear from you! Drop a comment here on the blog or shoot me an email!

    As always, keep it positive!

    Job Seekers Beware – Not All Advice is Good Advice

    Some advice may not be as good as it sounds

    I have now been in the hunt for my next big opportunity for over six months. In that time, I have had the chance to try many different methods of searching.

    I have applied to positions online. Contrary to popular opinion, I have found success with this method. I’ve had many interviews that resulted simply from submitting an application. And another little secret – I don’t often include a cover letter. My experience in the corporate world says that cover letters are used as a method of eliminating candidates more than anything else. See a typo? See a strangely phrased sentence, or a over-the-top assertion? Eliminate that candidate!

    I have “worked my network,” or put another way, I have been to every coffee shop within a 60 mile radius. I love this method of job searching. It gives you the chance to meet with people one-on-one, to practice describing what you are looking for, and a chance to learn about all kinds of new things. Plus, it is proof over and over again that good people do exist and that they genuinely want to help. This is the method most often recommended to job seekers. This morning I heard a statistic that says 70% of positions are found using this method.

    I have gone to networking meetings. Many of these have been geared toward job seekers and others are groups I belong to or have some close connection to. Most of the job-seeker networking meetings have an invited speaker, and this is the topic of this blog post.

    Let me start with this – everyone who helps those of us in need is doing so from the goodness of their hearts. I believe this from the bottom of my heart. Most of what they have to share is good advice for someone, but what is important to remember, is that it is not always good advice for everyone.

    It is essential that those of us listening to this advice keep a critical ear toward what we are being told. The results of not doing so, I firmly believe, could be significant damage to an individual’s search.

    Here are two examples of good advice that needs some additional scrutiny:

    1. Your focus should be on how you come across as a person.

    This advice was given in a workshop on how to get more interviews. On the face of it, I would say it is sound advice. Give it a little thought, however, and you might come to the conclusion that the whole reason you are not getting interviews is because of some fatal flaw in your personality.

    For some folks, I suppose, this might be true. But honestly, if you are changing yourself just for your interview, are you likely to be successful in the position? If you can’t be authentic in the interview, are you likely to feel comfortable being authentic at that workplace?

    Even more important, this would indicate that the entire reason you are not getting interviews is your fault! This is dangerous waters for a job searcher. The entire system of job searching is complicated and full of unwritten, inscrutable rules that we may never understand. If we begin to feel that we are the problem, we are likely to become downtrodden and depressed.

    It is critical that we keep an arms length from rejection during this process. Learn from it, and move on. Do not internalize it.

    2. Before applying for a job, do all the research you can think to do.

    This was at another job-search meeting. The speaker was suggesting that before submitting an application, we research LinkedIn, news stories, financials, anything we can get our hands on.

    Again, solid advice, maybe. Checking LinkedIn will give you an idea of whether or not you have a first degree or second degree connection in your network. It will help you identify who is in leadership at the target company. This helps you get a better idea of what the culture might be at the company. You can also reach out to those leaders and perhaps network ahead of submitting the application.

    Searching news stories helps you contextualize what the current status is of the company – what problems you might be able to help solve, or what situations you might want to avoid completely.

    The problem with this advice? If you have to do all of this research before submitting an application, how likely are you to ever apply? And as the saying might be rephrased, you’ll miss 100% of the jobs you never apply for.

    This advice is particularly dangerous for women who already put themselves at a disadvantage when applying for jobs or promotions. Research shows that women only apply when they feel they are 100% qualified for a position. Imagine how much information they might find in this type of research to dissuade them from applying.

    My thought – submit the application. Then start the research. And only do what is necessary up front. Find the connections and reach out. But don’t worry about the rest until you have an interview. Time is absolutely precious during this process – don’t waste it.

    There is so much advice out there. This is only two examples of how good advice can cause trouble in the job search. Be careful, be skeptical, stay positive, and take care of yourself! Know that you are worthy, and that everyone out there wants to see you succeed.

    Keep it positive!


    In Praise of (Temporary) Unemployment

    My son at the beach

    For many months now I have been grinding away at the job search. I have been working tirelessly at networking, applying, emailing, and attending meetings and events. When I am not doing that, rest assured I am thinking about it.

    In the first few months, I got dressed early in the morning and headed out – to coffee, a presentation, an interview. The days were full. So full, in fact, that I have done many, many interviews/phone meetings sitting in my car because there just wasn’t time to get home. I even did one driving between two meetings (I took unpopulated back roads).

    This level of activity has made me happy. I love being productive and on the go. I feel certain that I have been doing everything in my power to find my next opportunity. And I think I am probably right. But it has also been exhausting.

    Last year, when the holidays hit, I was forced to slow down. No one was hiring at the end of the year, and it seemed they were all on vacation anyway. I remember being told at the end of November that I was moving on to the next round of interviews, but that they wouldn’t be scheduled until the second week of January when everyone was back in the office. Frustrating. I wrote a post on how to survive.

    Even though my calendar wasn’t as busy, my brain still was working. Every waking moment (and many of the rest) were filled with thoughts of what I needed to do next. I was starting to have more bad days than good, to feel more frustration than optimism. I felt guilty if I took some extra time to walk the dogs or hang out with the kids. I spent the entire month of December sick, and got sick again in January and February. And March.

    And then a couple things happened. Nothing dramatic or even that exciting (sorry). The first was I hit the seemingly impossible 6-month mark of unemployment. The second was finally getting to the ocean, putting my feet in the water, soaking up the sun, breathing the salt air. I truly believe there is something absolutely magical about the ocean. Those two things in concert have changed my perspective.

    So, while I was dutifully recording my blessings from the very start, and I was trying to take time for myself, I now realize that I never really did. I’m going to change that now, or at least try. To start, I would like to share openly some of the amazing blessings of being unemployed (for a short time I hope).

    But first, some tips for you:

    1. DITCH THE GUILT – Don’t even bother with it. Sleep in and enjoy it. Don’t worry about what the world thinks. You do you.
    2. EMBRACE THE AMBIGUITY – This process of finding a job is not something you can control. Own that now and relieve yourself of hours of frustration.
    3. FIND WHAT MAKES YOU SUPER HAPPY AND GET IT ON YOUR CALENDAR NOW. LIKE RIGHT NOW. For me it was the ocean. I wish I had gone much, much sooner. 
    4. KEEP A GRATITUDE LIST AND KEEP ADDING TO IT. Review it when you feel low. Put some of it on sticky-notes around your mirror or on your desk or in your car. Share it with a friend. Share it here with me!

    And now for my list. Read it for enjoyment, or maybe even for inspiration.

    Here is my praise for unemployment:

    1. I am meeting new people. I have met at least 100 new people, and all of them have been amazing. All of them! Sometimes our interests align well, sometimes not as well, but in every instance I have come out better for having met. I hope they have too!

    2. I am catching up with old friends. The old saying about silver and gold holds true here. Old friends are pure gold. Anytime I am feeling down, I know that all I have to do is get a coffee, lunch, cocktails, or a phone call on the calendar and I’ll be right back up on my feet again.

    3. The flexible schedule. I am just now learning to be grateful for this and to embrace it without guilt. The other day I took my dogs out to the woods for a long hike. And it was awesome! Another day I took a nap. In the middle of the afternoon. It was incredible! 

    4. The chance to be around for my kids. At least a couple days each week, I am there when my kids get home from school. Sometimes this frustrates us all – they can’t get away with YouTube-ing away their afternoons and I lose a couple hours of “work” – but in general I think these three kids are just about the most amazing people on this Earth and I LOVE listening to their stories about the day. I even managed to bake cookies for them once!

    5. The chance to explore who I am and what I really want out of life. To be honest – this one I struggle with. I sometimes feel that the longer I have, the more confused I get on this subject. I keep discovering more sides of myself I want to explore. I performed in a musical! Maybe I want to go back into singing! I’m doing quite a bit of public speaking. I love it! I’m doing some coaching. Maybe I should fully focus on building my own business. Ack! But also YES!

    6. Back to the kids – I get to be the one to take them to appointments and practices and rehearsals. In the past, my husband did much of this. Now, I get the chance to support the family in this way. Plus any parent knows some of the very best conversations with your kids happen in the car.

    7. I am writing. I have the space to write. And it feels so so so good. Even more, I am learning how to get the validation and productivity I crave by creating something myself. That’s pretty powerful.

    8. Getting a clearer understanding of what my needs are vs. my wants. A few months ago, I would not have considered this a blessing. I was angry when a book came up and I had to fight the urge to Amazon that thing right onto my doorstep immediately. Now I have learned to enjoy the exercise of deciding – do I really need that book? Will I actually read it? What about the 24 other books I have in line ahead of this one. Is this one really more important? 

    9. Finally – and I still struggle with the guilt on this one – I often get to sleep in. At least a little. My beautiful husband handles all the morning chaos, and lets me sleep. This is usually good given that sleep is hard under this much stress – many nights I don’t fall asleep until well after 2am. I will love him forever for this small, daily gift.

    Unemployment is not something I would wish on anyone. I am not having a whole bunch of fun. I am not happy about my situation. It is a stressful rollercoaster that no one wants to be on. But we can get through it. By being positive. By believing that something wonderful is out there – we just need to keep working to find it. 

    And in the meantime, we can find ways to enjoy the beauty and gifts we have in our lives. I am so thankful.

    Stay positive, and count your blessings!

    The #1 Critical Leadership Skill

    There are many critical skills necessary for effective leadership. There are hundreds of books written on the subject, covering topics as varied as humility, positive attitudes, building on your strengths, communicating effectively, and so on. A quick Google search tells us that the top leadership skills include communication, delegation, motivating the team, and trustworthiness, among many others.

    Leadership is a difficult and complicated concept. There is no doubt that these skills are crucial to successful leadership. A wise, successful leader will surely look to develop all of these skills in order to be the best they can be.

    Underlying these skills, however, lies one critical skill that needs more discussion. It is the absolute essence of leadership, and without it, none of the other skills matter much. It may be that this skill is seen as so elementary that we skip right over it, assuming that someone who considers themselves a leader has already developed this skill.

    My experience says this is far from the truth. What skill is this?

    The ability to make a decision.

    After all, why do we have leaders? In order to make decisions! Hard ones, easy ones, decisions over which direction to go, who to hire, which product to sell, what processes to improve, and so on. Decisions are central to the operation of business. One might say that a decision to not make a decision is still a decision, but this is not the skill I am talking about today.

    Making decisions is hard. After all, if things go awry, it’s your responsibility, your head on the plate! This can be especially daunting if large teams or entire companies are relying on your decisions. That is, however, part and parcel of the whole leadership gig. If someone chooses to become a leader, she/he must understand that this critical skill is at the heart of her/his new responsibilities.

    Have you ever worked for someone who struggled with this skill? It can be the most frustrating experience of all time. Some of the greatest complaints and vexations I have heard over the years come as a result of a leader’s failure to make a decision.

    It can look like this:

    • Employee: We’ve done the research
    • Leader: Yes, but did you look at this? Go back and pull more data

    Or this:

    • Employee: Here is the recommendation we have developed
    • Leader: Let’s take this to the group and see what they think

    Or even this:

    • Employee: So, the decision I heard was to move forward on this.
    • Leader: Yes, well, let me get back to you on that

    These are just some of the ways ‘leaders’ avoid decision-making. Constantly looking for a definite answer that does not exist by continually searching for information is one of the most popular methods. In this situation, the leader feels no decision can be made until all possible data has been explored.

    Another popular method ‘leaders’ use to avoid making decisions is constant consensus building. In this case, the leader turns the decision over to a group. He works back and forth from one team member to the other until those members are in agreement on a decision. The leader may try to explain this as delegating or as listening to his team. Unfortunately, this is simply his/her way of avoiding the responsibility of making the call.

    Another method used to avoid decision making is to simply not decide. By putting off the decision, the leader hopes to kick the decision down the road until someone else makes it or the situation resolves itself.

    First, some advice to leaders: Double-check yourself to be sure you aren’t accidentally using some of these techniques to avoid decision making. Some decisions are hard to make, but that’s why you are in the position you are in. You have been hired to make these difficult decisions, so go do it. I wrote a previous post that may help you here.

    Now, for employees stuck in a position of having to deal with indecisive leaders, here is some advice for you:

    • Anticipate the need for data when presenting information to your boss. This is an important element of managing up, regardless of the type of boss you have, but particularly important when dealing with this type of boss. Know your stuff, have your numbers.
    • Seek buy-in from others involved in the decision-making. Sharing that other leaders are already on-board can be effective in helping your leader make the final call.
    • If your boss requires consensus, work with your co-workers ahead of time to be sure everyone is on the same page before the meeting. This is the same advice as above – simply a different group of people.
    • Don’t give up. If your boss is the type to put off decisions, just keep coming back. Try different ways of presenting the information. Sometimes a quick hallway conversation can be better than a formal meeting/presentation, or vice-versa. Often times leaders need to hear things several times before they actually hear it.
    • If all else fails, and it is absolutely terrible that it can come to this, get yourself a new boss. Life is short, and we all deserve happiness and fulfillment at work. Don’t hang around too long expecting something to change! Make your own tough decision and move on!

    Good luck to you all!

    As always, stay positive!!

    Job Searching Through the Holidays

    Job searching is one of the hardest things to do. Add in the holidays and it is recipe for headaches, heartaches, and a whole host of other ailments.

    Many people see the holidays as a time to take a break, a time to be with their family and friends and to put aside their work applying for jobs, attending networking events, setting up coffee dates and lunch dates.

    For others like me, it is not a time to let up. It is a time to reach out, to check back in with people I have already spoken with, to connect with old friends, to try new things or old things in new ways. It is not a time to give up, let up, or step back.

    There are several motivators at work here. First, my absolute need to keep moving, keep working, keep trying. I just don’t know how to stop. Mixed into this is some FOMO (fear of missing out). I am a bit nervous that if I take a day off, that is the day I would have been connected with exactly the right person/job/situation. This is not rational, but it is part of who I am.

    There is also my positive attitude driving me forward. This situation is a new adventure and is helping me to develop a new set of tools to put in my “Life Tool Belt”. I want to keep exploring. I am curious to see what all is out there. I enjoy imagining myself in different job situations, different cities, different companies. I love meeting new people and talking with them about important things. 

    Finally, and on the other side of the coin, is the fact that Christmas will not look the same for my family this year. We are a very fortunate family. We like to celebrate big. The space under the tree is normally stuffed full of presents. This year, with money and the future so uncertain, we will be scaling things back. Way back. I think my kids understand – I have certainly tried to prepare them. But I don’t want this to last, and so I will continue to look for a new opportunity.

    I have two recommendations for those of you looking for work/life balance while looking for work. Both suggestions came from mentors of mine who have both been in the same situation:

    SUGGESTION 1: Develop a point system. It can be as simple or as complex as you would like. Assign activities different point values, and set a daily goal for how many points you need to earn. For example, you might set a daily goal of 5 points. Setting up a lunch could be one point, connecting with someone on LinkedIn could be a point, and filling out an online application could be 2 or 3 points (those things take time!). Once you have reached your daily goal, you are free to spend the rest of the day as you choose, without guilt!

    SUGGESTION 2: Set a goal for work hours. This fits better for those used to working traditional hours. Get up in the morning, take a shower, and get dressed like you are going to work. Schedule time off as you normally would at work. If you need to do things during the day, schedule work hours in the evening. By treating this like a real job (as it is), you are more likely to ditch the guilt when you spend time on non-search related activities.

    All of that said, I have discovered that just about NO ONE shares my desire to engage in recruiting activities this week (the week before Christmas), and I am sure that this will continue next week. Emails are going unanswered, interviews are delayed, new job listings have dried up, and no one is available for lunch. 

    So this week and next, I am trying to embrace the “other side.” I am spending as much time as possible with my kids. I am playing with my delightfully mischievous puppies. I am finding fun, creative ways to enjoy the holidays. I am trying to relax and breathe and believe that there is something truly magical waiting for me in 2019.

    Don’t get me wrong – I still applied for 3 jobs last night, have sent several emails this morning, and have scheduled as many coffee/lunch dates as I can. But I am also stopping to take a breath and enjoy the season.

    I hope you do too! Happy holidays!!

    As always….stay positive!

     

     

    Four Non-Traditional Leadership Development Tools

    There are many traditional tools out there for growing your leadership skills. There are books, seminars, videos, workshops. They will teach you how to listen, to delegate, to strategize, and to make decisions, and many of them are worthwhile.

    There is another aspect that leaders need to develop and I would like to offer some non-traditional methods to develop it. I believe that an excellent leader constantly develops her deep knowledge of herself. This is critical in order to lead authentically. Knowing yourself helps you to truly understand and articulate your values, and to stand confidently and surely in front of your teams each and every day and lead.

    Over the past few years I have been introduced to many different techniques to help me understand myself better. Some of these techniques were familiar and easy to implement. Others were a little bit out there (what we lovingly refer to as ‘woo’), but still can be very useful once you accept the strangeness of the experience.

    Here are four non-traditional techniques for you to try:

    Journaling

    Why journaling? There is something about writing things out that helps us to process. It helps us to think things through and get to the bottom of our feelings. Formulating our thoughts into cohesive sentences can aid in the organization of our thoughts and plans. Sometimes, getting our thoughts out of our heads and onto paper helps us to see things differently and can help us to be more objective about ourselves and our decisions.

    This is an easy technique for anyone to pick up and try. Simply grab some paper or open a word document and start writing. The tricky part might be in figuring out what to write. For that I have a few suggestions:

    1. Write whatever is on your mind. What was the last thought you had? What is a current problem you are trying to solve? Write it out, and then write out whatever occurs to you next. Keep in mind journaling is just for you, so don’t worry about grammar or punctuation or organization or cohesion. Just write.
    2. Find some prompts online. There are several places to look for these. One online journal I happen to like is penzu.com. Sometimes just answering answering the question “How am I feeling today?” is enough to get you started.
    3. Buy a journal that comes with journal prompts. For some people, this could be constraining, but for others it can help you to get started.
    4. Ask yourself ‘why’. Then ask yourself ‘why’ again. And then again. And again until you feel you have really reached a meaningful answer.
    5. Make it fun. Go somewhere different to do your writing. Try a park or a museum or a coffee-shop. If you like colors, buy yourself some colored pens. Add some artwork. Ask yourself some crazy questions. I am happy to offer suggestions if you need them!
    6. Make it a daily habit. You’ll learn so much about yourself and your leadership challenges.

    Cost: $0 (or cost of a new journal/nice pen)

    Time: 10 minutes a day

    Meditation

    I will be the first to admit that meditation is hard. My mind is always going a thousand miles per hour, so asking it to stop completely is impossible. But I have found several ways to work with this, and when I do, some of my most brilliant thoughts appear.

    It is like those moments in the shower, or while driving, or while on the massage table (my personal favorite) when your mind is calm and clear and the answers seem to appear from out of nowhere. Meditation can give you that any time, any where.

    Meditation is also tied to mindfulness – being aware of what is happening in the present moment, both with ourselves and in our environment. This has been shown in many studies to be an important part of successful leadership. Leaders who practice mindfulness have lower levels of stress, are better able to adapt to changing environments, and create better environments for their teams.

    To get started, I highly recommend using guided meditations. These are free and easy to find. You can find a bunch of them on YouTube or simply by googling “guided meditations.” The best tool I have found out there is the popular website/app Headspace. You can access the website from your computer or download the app for free on your mobile device. I would often use these quick guided meditations right in my office during my lunch hour.
    If you prefer an in-person experience, there are also classes you can take. The easiest places to look are at local yoga studios (or again, Google). You can also check for classes at your local community centers or holistic healing centers.

    What is important is that you give this a shot, find what works for you, and then keep at it to build a daily practice.

    Cost: $0 (or cost of a class)

    Time: 10 minutes per day

    Oracle Cards

    Have you ever heard of oracle cards? Perhaps you’ve heard of their more well-known cousin, tarot cards? These are cards that can be used by anyone, anywhere, for whatever purpose you would like. In this case, I suggest you use them for personal growth through self-reflection.

    Plus you can get a deck on Amazon or eBay for less than $20. There are some pretty fun decks out there! (One suggestion: go for the Oracle decks, not the Tarot decks. Much easier to interpret and use for beginners).

    I realize this is a stretch for most people in the business world. It certainly was for me until I gave them a shot. But stick with me for a second, and I think I can show you how they might be helpful. I, myself, find them a fun, creative way to work on my development. An example might help.

    First, I shuffle my deck while pondering a particular question. I might be asking myself, “What do I need to concentrate on today?” Then I spread out my cards and pick one. Sometimes I linger over the cards, thinking hard about my question and sometimes I just pick one right away; it doesn’t really matter. But this step can help you practice mindfulness. Let’s say I pull the following card:

    +

    img_20181128_1748403090033284455571341.jpg

    Next, consider the card. What meaning can you pull from having selected that card? You could use this as a journal prompt. Explore how you can apply what is on the card to your question. If you feel the impulse to reject the card – something like, “this has nothing to do with me today!” – explore that feeling. Why do you feel like this isn’t important?

    In this case, when I pull the “Play” card, I might think about how I plan to incorporate some fun into my day. Or I might journal about whether or not I am making time in my life currently to have fun. Or I might consider whether or not I allow my team members to include fun in their work. I could take this any number of directions. Perhaps this came up for me today because I haven’t taken a day off in a long, long time, and I really need to do so.

    The important thing here is that you expand your mind, think in new directions, and consider possibilities that you hadn’t before. Plus it is always fun to see what comes up!

    Cost: $15-$30 for a deck (or borrow one from a friend, or find free sites on line)

    Time: 10 minutes

    Leadership Coaching

    So, let’s say you are a tennis player, and you are pretty good, but you are looking to get to the next level. You could continue to practice on your own, but chances are that in order to make a significant improvement, you’ll need to hire a coach.

    The same thing is true in leadership. If you want to move to the next level, you might do well to find yourself a leadership coach. This type of coach can help you navigate tricky situations in your career/workplace, can help you build on your strengths and can help smooth out your weaknesses. She can work with you to set ambitious goals and then define tactics to achieve them. In short, she can help you get to the next level.

    As with your tennis coach, you’ll need to exercise some judgement in hiring a leadership coach. Not all coaches are created equal. You will want to be sure you are hiring someone who can actually help you. And personalities matter. You’ll want to be sure you can work well together. Keep in mind, this will not be an inexpensive endeavor, but will be worth it in the end.

    I have worked with career coaches myself and found them to be inspiring, challenging, and well worth the time, effort and money. I am now working as a leadership coach myself (part-time), and enjoy this side of the relationship even more. I’m happy to share my experiences with anyone who has interest or questions.

    If you’d like to explore working with me as a coach, reach out! I’d love to have a conversation with you.

    Cost: Variable

    Time: Variable, generally 2 conversations/month

    In general, anything that takes you outside your comfort zone is going to help you grow in new and different directions. I encourage you to try something new. Experiment with something you’ve never tried before. Grow, dream, and accomplish amazing things!

    I’d love to hear if you have other alternative ways of developing your leadership skills. Be sure to share!

    And as always, keep it positive!