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.

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Doing Hard Things…5 Tips to Get Them Done

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As leaders, we are often called on to do difficult things. We have to have hard conversations with our employees. We have to choose one person over another for a promotion. We have to communicate budget cuts, project changes, and communicate decisions that sometimes even we do not understand.

It’s part of the job.

This became real to me recently when I had to do a hard thing. In fact, it might have been one of the hardest professional/personal things I have done in my life – and I’ve done some pretty difficult things. I thought I would share what I did to make it through, and even make somewhat of a success out of it.

For those following my story, you may know that three months ago I was, along with 300 of my dear friends and colleagues, laid off from a company where I had spent the last 17 years. I loved the company, and it was a difficult separation.

Last month, I received an invitation to the retirement party of my dearest mentor and friend, a senior executive of that company. He was gracious (as the best mentors are) and called ahead to be sure I wasn’t surprised when I received the invitation. I knew that the senior managers, the very managers who had just laid me off, were going to be there. I also knew that, despite this, I would be there to celebrate this individual who had been so instrumental in my development as a person and a leader.

I knew I would go, and yet I did not RSVP until three days before the event. It was that hard to commit. But I went, and I had a lovely (if extremely awkward) time, and I was so very proud to celebrate the amazing achievements of my mentor.

In reflecting on this event and other hard things I have coached others through, or done myself, I find that there are several critical steps to getting through:

  1. Know that it is the right thing to do
  2. Know your limits
  3. Act professionally, with compassion and authenticity
  4. Find your allies
  5. Allow space for decompression afterwards

The critical piece in doing hard things is knowing it is the right thing to do. In some way, for some reason, the hard thing is the best thing. In my opening scenario, it was absolutely the right thing to do to show up for my mentor who had always shown up for me.

This is just as important in everyday leadership situations. Take a difficult conversation with an employee, for example. One of the hardest conversations I ever had was an embarrassing discussion with an associate about body odor. It was creating significant drama in the area and disrupting the business day. Addressing this was awkward for both me and the associate, but it was clearly the right thing to do. It turned out that it was a matter of medication, and the associate had no idea that anyone else could smell it. The doctor quickly made a change and the problem was solved.

It is likely that at some point in your career you will have to communicate a decision you don’t understand or even fully agree with. In this case, it is absolutely imperative that you do additional research, talk to your boss, do whatever you need to do to understand where the decision is coming from. In this way, you will learn why others feels this is the right thing to do, and from there you can build your own case.

It is also important to know your own limits. Sometimes, doing hard things puts you in a position that is not in line with your values or ethics. It is vital that you know where that line is before you come up against it. I encourage every new leader to spend some significant time on this. In my opening scenario, I knew there were certain conversations I was not yet ready to have, and so I did not have them.

In another instance, early in my career, I was asked to “fudge” some numbers. What I was asked to do was not illegal, it probably wasn’t even technically wrong, but to me it crossed a line. I stood my ground and said ‘no.’ I can’t say I was well liked for that decision, but at least I felt good about myself.

When doing hard things, it is important to maintain your executive presence, but do so in a compassionate and authentic manner. This is a tough one. When doing hard things, we have to stay professional. We have to stay strong. This is easier if you have your “why” and you know it is the right thing to do. It can be easy, though, to let emotions and sympathy get in the way of doing this the right way.

At my mentor’s retirement party, I worked hard to stay professional but to share open and honestly with those who asked. I did not engage in gossip, I did not discuss individuals who were not present, and I kept my conversation light and positive. This was a celebration of an amazing leader and I did not want to be a distraction.

The other half of that equation is to be compassionate and authentic while being professional. I tried to recognize that it was difficult for those with ‘survivor syndrome’ and to honor that. I also did my best to empathize with those leaders who had to make the tough decisions on who lost their jobs and who stayed behind. It is okay to share that what you are doing is hard for you, and that you understand the immediate negative impact on the individual, but that in the end, it will be better for both sides.

One of the most important things I did to make the retirement party a success was to have my husband with me. He is my fiercest ally and I am always stronger when he is by my side. I also immediately found those individuals who I knew were my allies, who always had my best interest at heart. In this way, I found safety in what would otherwise have felt like a rather threatening situation.

Finally, the after the hard thing is over, it is important to give yourself space to feel your feelings, to give yourself space to decompress. On the ride home from the retirement party, my husband drove, and I cried the entire way. By the time we reached the driveway, I felt better and was able to fully enjoy the rest of the evening with my kids.

We all need to be sure we have the space to process the emotions that come up after we do hard things. We need to be able to release the pressure in a way that is safe and productive, and do so as soon as possible after the hard thing. I have several suggestions on how to do this – I’d love to hear if you have some as well.

Always remember – as leaders WE CAN DO HARD THINGS.

And as always, keep it positive!

Dealing with issues head on

girls fighting

Last night my 10-year old daughter learned a lesson. It was hard, and it was important.

Last night she learned that dealing with problems head on is the best way to handle of them. She learned that no matter how bad she feels, or how much she just wants to crawl under the covers and pretend that nothing had happened, she will be much, much happier if she owns her problems and addresses them as quickly as possible.

We could all learn from this. In the workplace, just as it is outside, problems come up from time to time. Most of the time, these issues have something to do with imperfect communication, and many times, can be addressed with a quick correction. But add in emotions and you have a Problem. If the Problem is not addressed quickly and directly it tends to take on a life of its own.

Here’s what happened with my daughter. Its a common problem for 10-year old girls. She and her best friend got in a fight over what game they were going to play. This time it escalated to yelling and in the heat of the moment, my daughter yelled something she could see hurt her friend. The fact that she had caused this pain threw her into a cycle of shame, embarrassment, and regret.

Her first instinct was to run home, sneak upstairs, hide under her blanket in her bed, and sob. She quickly realized this wasn’t really working and came downstairs for comfort from her parents. It took quite some time and not a little courage to share what she had done.

Together we talked through a plan. What she said she wanted to do was to simply forget that anything had happened and deal with it all tomorrow. She was certain that her friend would never talk to her again, and even if she did, her mother would never allow her over to the house again. She was so upset about the whole ordeal that we had to help her to stop hyperventilating.

What we decided to do instead, a plan she agreed to with much trepidation, was for me to text her friend’s mom and ask if we could come over to talk. She would simply apologize for her part in the disagreement and would expect nothing in return.

Her friend’s mom was quick to say yes, and we headed across the street. My daughter was incredibly courageous and apologized to her friend, and also apologized to her friend’s mom. It was awkward for a minute or two, and then, suddenly, everything was back to normal.

What could have been a long drawn-out night of tears, fears, anxiety and hyperventilation became a night of just plain normal. What could have spiraled into a major drama that ruined their last week of summer was quickly resolved and put back to right.

So, the lesson here is that the same thing works in the work world. When there is a problem:

  1. Talk to someone who can help you – just as important, don’t talk to people who can’t help you. This just adds fuel to the fire.
  2. Face the issue head on – don’t bury yourself under the blanket.
  3. Be brave.
  4. Have a plan.
  5. If called for, apologize for your part in a misunderstanding.
  6. And while there are always two sides to a misunderstanding, do not expect anything in return – but be grateful when it comes.
  7. Move on. Let go, and let things return to normal.

Sound familiar? Do you have other thoughts on addressing problems in life or at work? I’d love to hear them!

As always, keep it positive and smile!

 

Tips for making that tough decision

decision making

The other day I had a wonderful conversation with a colleague of mine. She had come to me for help in sorting out a particularly difficult decision she needed to make.

Together, we brainstormed some creative ways she could go about making this decision, and I thought I would share these ideas with you.

Some basic assumptions first, though:

  • This was a (personal) career decision. While these ideas may very well work for other types of decisions, I am not specifically suggesting them for anything other than a personal decision.

Examples of these types of decisions: Should I take the promotion if it means I have to relocate to Texas/Iowa/Alabama? Is it time for me to switch careers? Should I take this other assignment when I think I might be getting a promotion if I just stay where I am?

  • All of these ideas were likely suggested to me by the many and various wise teachers I have met during my life. Apologies for any oversight in attribution.
  • Some of these things may seem a little “wacky” for the average business person. I simply ask you to give them a shot. At the very least, don’t dismiss them immediately.

Some things it is important to keep in mind when these types of decisions come up:

  1. It is always important that you actually make a decision. If you don’t, you give the power over to someone else (see previous post on personal accountability);
  2. Be sure you right-size the problem. By that I mean do not give your problem more importance than they deserve. In most cases, if the choice you make doesn’t work out, you then have the option to make another choice;
  3. Most of the time, we know in our gut what we should do – any of these techniques I list below will likely only function to confirm your gut instinct.

So now, the ideas! I’ll use a hypothetical situation and question to work through each suggestion:

Hypothetical Situation: I have been offered a new position within the company. It is a lateral move into an area I find interesting. I am not fully challenged in my current position, but I am concerned that there does not appear to be any upward mobility in the new area.

Question: Should I take the new position?

1. The tried-and-true method of pluses and minuses.

How this might look:
Plus

  • New area offers more of a challenge
  • I would be learning something new
  • I am genuinely interested in the new job

Minus

  • No upward mobility
  • Might lose out on a promotion opportunity in current job
  • Risky – I might not like the new job

2. List your values, what is most important to you in life, determine which choice best aligns with this.

How this might look:

Current (hypothetical) values:

I need to be challenged. When I am bored at work, I am miserable, and then my family is miserable. While salary and advancement are important, I believe that if I am doing something I love, the money will follow.

3. Journal. Spend some time with a notebook, journal, or computer, and simply pour all of your thoughts onto the page. Keep going. Don’t think about what you are writing, just write. Many times I find that I write myself right into the decision. If not, go back and read over what you have written, and see if you find any clues there.

Some tips on how to do this:

  1. Ask yourself a question, then set a timer for three minutes. Write for the full three minutes without stopping. This is important – do not stop! Do not judge what you are writing (no one else is going to read this unless you let them).
  2. Ask yourself the opposite question. If you started with “Why should I take this other position?” now ask yourself “Why should I not take this other position?”
  3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 as many times as necessary.
  4. Go back and underline, circle, or simply take note of what seems to rise to the surface for you.

4. The “Why” game. This works best with a journal/notebook as well. Ask yourself what decision you want to consider first and write down your answer. Follow this with the question “why”. Write that answer down, and repeat this as many times as it takes to get to the real, underlying truth.

What this looks like:

I want to stay in the position I am currently holding. Why? Because it isn’t that bad. Why? Because there is stability here. Why do I care about that? Because I have ambition and student loans to pay off.

5. Talk it out. It often helps to include movement with this – going on a walk while you talk is a great idea!

There are some very important rules for this one, and these rules are incredibly important:

  1. This person has to be someone you trust, someone you know will have your best interests at heart;
  2. This person needs to be someone who does not have a vested interest in your choice. For example, do not talk this out with your boss who might be invested in you staying put, or a colleague who might benefit if you were leave;
  3. This person should only ask questions to help you dig deeper, and/or repeat back what they hear you say. They should use phrases like, “What I hear you saying is….” and “It sounds like you are really feeling….” and “So why is that particular thing important?”
  4. This person should be patient, empathetic, open, and understanding.business meditation

6. Meditate or pray. I highly recommend guided meditations. If you do a Google search for “guided meditations for decision making,” you can find all kinds of free examples. You may need to go through a few to find one that works for you, but keep trying. Praying can also be effective, no matter what your religion. Simply focusing on your problem and then releasing it to God, the Universe, your choice of higher power, can be extremely effective.

One thing I particularly like is the Rotarian Four-Way Test. This is an ethical guide to be used in personal and professional relationships, and would be an excellent start to a mindful meditation exercise.

Of the things we think, say, or do:

  1. Is it the TRUTH?
  2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?
  3. Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?
  4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

7. Finally, try changing your perspective.

You could do this many different ways.

  1. Consider the situation as if an employee was asking you for advice. What would you tell him or her?
  2. Take a drive. Put on some tunes. Go somewhere you have never been, or haven’t been in a long time.
  3. Get out into nature. Breathe deep. Ask the trees and the birds for advice. (You’ll have to answer for them, but then that’s the trick!)
  4. Call a friend who knew you way-back when. See what they think.
  5. Do a headstand. Sit on the other side of your desk. Drive home a different way. Anything to shake up that brain of yours.
  6. Jump on a treadmill. Try a walking meditation (Google can help here again). Or try out a new playlist.

I know there are many other things people do to help them make a big decision. What is your go-to method? I’d love to hear from you!

As always, keep it positive and smile!

A frustrating day at work…what to do

frustrated at work

Ever have those days at work when you just want to scream?

I know I do.

Sometimes its something that happened before work – alarm didn’t work (or the snooze button worked too well), kids weren’t cooperating (“Mom, I can’t find my shoes!” “What do you mean I have to hurry?” “But I’m tiiiiired!”), or something at home goes awry (dishwasher, hairdryer, husband). While we all try to leave this stuff at the door, the emotional fallout from these encounters can follow us around all day.

Sometimes it is something that actually happens at work – a project isn’t going the way we would like, someone won’t make a decision we need to move our work forward, communication between departments has failed once again. We have all learned to control our reactions in these types of situations, but they can add significant stress to the day.

Then there are the times when the frustration is intense. We miss out on an assignment, we have to meet with that one person again (you know who I mean) and they still don’t get it, a decision is made and you know it isn’t right, or worst of all, you miss out on a promotion. Been there, done that.

Most of the time, its the small stuff that gets you. The other day, I was running late because my puppy dog decided to take some extra time with her morning routine. Then, traffic was terrible on the way in because, of all things, the city government had decided to do some tree trimming during the morning commute. I missed breakfast, probably spilled my coffee, and couldn’t find my ID badge to get into the garage at work. This, on top of the fact that my daughter had trouble sleeping the night before which of course means I had trouble sleeping.

By the time I got to work, I was a mess. That’s the day that, for some reason, I couldn’t log onto my computer. Something about profiles and VPNs and overnight updates and such – the very kind and knowledgeable people on our help desk got me back up and running, but not until I was late for a meeting (not their fault – I blame the tree trimmers). The meeting itself was awful. I don’t remember the topic, I don’t even remember who was there. All I know is I came out of the meeting feeling like my head was on fire. I was full of frustration and anger.

So, what to do?

If I continued on this way, the whole day would be ruined and I would only have myself to blame. I’d probably take that anger and frustration home with me and subject my husband, kids and dogs to a mean, ugly wife/mother/food-giver. This, in turn, would likely put them into a bad mood. Which would make me even angrier. Nobody likes angry people. And I don’t ever want to spread ugliness around.

It was at that moment I knew I needed to make a shift.

Here is what I did:

1. Deep breaths. I know this sounds obvious, but it feels so good! So often when we are tense we forget to take full, deep breaths. Sometimes we just need to stop and take a long, slow, deep breath in and then let it out, and the frustration goes out right with it. It’s magical!

2. Stretch. Again, probably obvious. Stretching puts the focus back on ourselves and helps us to relax and let go. If you can, try something outside your comfort zone. Close the door (or find a room and close the door) and stretch out on the floor. Use your desk or chair or bookshelf to do some crazy yoga poses. The point is to really let go. Maybe even laugh at yourself.

3. Vent. One of the most therapeutic techniques for me is venting. As Shrek says in his movie, “Better out than in!” That said, venting can definitely backfire if not used appropriately. Here are some basic rules for proper venting (this could almost be a post of its own!):

(a) don’t vent for very long; make it short and sweet, get it out and move on;

(b) vent to someone at your level in the organization and be sure it is someone you trust. I highly recommend you do not vent to someone above you – they should be used for coaching, not venting. Also, bosses are people of action and may respond to your venting in a way you were not expecting. Absolutely do not vent to someone below you (they will likely take your opinion as that of other leaders of the organization);

(c) be sure you make it very clear that you are just venting; failure to do so can result in some pretty dramatic unintended consequences (for example, a whole new job);

(c) be absolutely certain that you aren’t disclosing confidential information.

4. Change gears. If you are able, take a few minutes to do something you enjoy. It could even be other work stuff! (There are some reports I love to analyze. If I focus on them, my curiosity is triggered and my frustration disappears.) Or kinda work stuff. (Read a page or two from that self-improvement book you’ve been reading. I happen to be reading Callings: The Purpose and Passion of Work by Dave Isay right now). Or not work at all. (Find that recipe for tonight’s dinner.) The point is to redirect yourself in a positive direction.

5. Take a walk. In the middle of the workday, this might mean just doing a lap around the floor. This last time, I did tiny laps in my office. But if you can, head outside for a minute. The fresh air can work miracles. The exercise, too, will help you rid yourself of some of the anger. I add in some jumping jacks if I can – for some reason, these in particular always help me to dispel extra energy.

6. Practice Gratitude. You may have heard about this. I believe in it 100%. You just can’t be angry when you are thinking about everything you have to be grateful for in your life.

I recently listened to a podcast where a woman shared her practice of writing a short list every morning and each night. She talked about the significant change this had brought about in her life and in her health. I know that I start off on a happier, lighter foot when I remember to write my list in the morning.

Beyond this, there are other longer-term things we all know we can all do to cut down on our frustration levels. Exercise is at the top of the list. Getting enough sleep and eating right are also right up there. Keeping a journal is a wonderful practice if you can handle the writing/typing. I personally have a couple of them – both guided journals and plain paper journals. Listen to uplifting podcasts – right now my favorites for lifting my spirits include Wild Ideas Worth Living, Oprah’s Super Soul Conversations, and Good Life Project. I love that they get me thinking about new and different things. Try some meditation – I highly recommend the Headspace app if you are new to the practice. Meditation is exceptionally hard for me, but I still try to do a little bit when I can. Talk it out if the frustration involves others at work. Be brave and have those difficult conversations.

Finally, if things are tougher than all of that, I am hereby giving you permission to take the day off. Some of us need to be given that permission. I am a firm believer in “mental health days,” days where you stay home and get yourself back in the right frame of mind to be productive at work. Slogging through a huge pile of negative energy will likely only make you (and possibly those around you) suffer longer.

I did, finally, get my day back on track, and got quite a bit accomplished. So I know this stuff works! I hope this gives you a few ideas to try the next time work is getting you down.

As always, keep it positive and smile! I’d love to hear what tips you use to deal with frustration at work – please share!

Women in Life Insurance, a History: Part 3 (1890-1913)

1910-Fashion

The turn of the century was an exciting time for women in the United States. As mentioned in an earlier post, women were gaining more rights and independence all the time. They were entering the workforce in greater numbers than ever before, further fueled by start of World War I. Women could be found in offices across the country, entering fields as diverse as one can imagine.

All of this independence and freedom meant that women were now controlling their own money, or at the very least, taking a significant interest in their financial futures. Life insurance companies were not unaware of this change, and stepped in to take advantage of this new market.

There are many newspaper articles from this time that speak directly to the idea of women and life insurance. Not surprisingly, there were significant barriers to this market, but companies and life insurance agents did their best to address these and to adjust for new information. For example, in an article published in the periodical The Independent in 1894, there is a discussion of the fact that the rates for women were higher than for men (based on rate tables that were 25 years old), meaning that the insurance companies expected women to die sooner than men. This was likely due to the hazards in that day of child birth. This idea, however, was changing. From that same article:

“All authorities seem agreed that a female, if thoroughly examined, is fully as good, if not a better risk than a male.” (The Independent, 1894)

Women also were believed to hold a “lingering prejudice against the insurance of their own husband’s life in their individual favor” (The Independent, 1908). Some writers at the time held that women believed that insuring their husband’s lives and listing themselves (or their children) as beneficiary was akin to wishing their husbands dead.

On the flip side, most articles encouraged women to take advantage of life insurance:

“Women nowadays enter into business pursuits, contract bills and write notes just as men do….there is scarcely a better way for the wage-earning woman to provide for her future than by means of life insurance” (Massachusetts Ploughman, 1900).

“If [life insurance] is a good thing for men and if it is approved and patronized by the wisest and best business men all over the country there is no possible reason why women should not enjoy its benefits if they so elect” (The Independent, 1908).

Even wealthy women are adopting life insurance as the most desirable investment for their money, and one hears more and more of women of means who take out policies simply as investments” (Ladies Home Journal, 1900).

The business or professional woman, in sheer self-defense, ought not to neglect the matter of life insurance. The money it signifies will be equally welcome whether she is married or single when the endowment matures” (The Independent, 1910).

WOMEN AS LIFE INSURANCE AGENTS

It is around this time that we start to see more articles on women as life insurance agents. As more women moved into the workforce, it seemed to be a natural fit for them. The hours were flexible, the start-up capital minimal, and the nature of the sale was congruent with women’s desire to care and protect their friends and families.

Even back in 1894 there was a prediction of women’s entrance into this field:”…women are soon to bear an important part in life insurance as policy holders, solicitors and medical examiners.” An article from 1903 leads off in the opening paragraph with the statement “Life Insurance offers a most attractive field to a man or woman who is fitted for the business,” (The Independent, 1903, emphasis added), and later states:

“Many women entering into this field have found it exceedingly profitable, but women agents find that diplomacy is quite as essential, in so far as they are concerned, as it is with their brothers.”

And in my favorite article from this time period, a Mrs. M.T. Rodgers of Dallas, Texas, was interviewed regarding her career as a life insurance agent, which she happened into by chance. Her husband had passed away, leaving her with four children to raise on her own. After working in an office for a small weekly wage for seven years, and realizing her pay would never be great, she enlisted in business school. In the interview, she was asked if she felt it was harder for women to succeed in life insurance sales than men, and she states:

“No, I don’t think it is. A woman is as well adapted to solicit life insurance as a man, and the beauty of it is that in life insurance she gets the same pay as a man. This is not true of any other business in which women work. I always wonder why more women don’t go into it. I think it is one of the noblest professions, and that life insurance goes right along with a woman’s religion. She comes in contact with the best people; in fact, she can select those with whom she wants to deal. I have never met with insult or rebuff in the thirteen years I have been selling life insurance. I have always been treated courteously. That can’t be said of many businesses in which women engage for far less than they would receive in life insurance” (The Independent, 1913).

It is difficult to track down any numbers regarding how many women were selling life insurance around this time. The closest hint I found indicated that there were “thousands of women” selling at least some life insurance in 1913. What is clear, though, was that the women’s market was already an attractive target for the life insurance industry as far back as the 1890s.

As always, keep it positive and happy Thursday!

Sources:

“Insurance for Women” (1894). The Independent, 46, 238. July 19. Accessed 6/13/18.

“Should Women Insure Their Lives?” (1900). The Ladies’ Home Journal, 17(3), 16. Accessed 6/13/18.

“Women and Life Insurance” (1900). Massachusetts Ploughman, 59(28), 4. Accessed 6/13/18. 

“Diplomacy as an Equipment for the Life Insurance Agent” (1903). The Independent, 55, 2845. June 11. Accessed 6/13/18.

“Insurance for Women” (1908). The Independent, 64, 310. Accessed 6/13/18.

“How Women May Save” (1910). The Independent, 69, 3235. December 1. Accessed 6/13/18.

 

 

 

 

Women’s groups – why we need them

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I’ve had a couple conversations in recent days regarding the existence of women’s groups. They are everywhere these days – I even belong to several of them. I am on the steering committee for WINGs, Women Investing in the Next Generation, a circle of women giving to the United Way at recognized levels. I am on the board of directors of the Zonta Club of Cincinnati, a branch of Zonta International, a global women’s philanthropy organization. I am a member of the women’s affinity group here at my work. Clearly, I have bought into the idea.

Let me first discuss two objections to these groups. I’ve been presented with many of them, and I want to give them some space and some thought. All of these were presented to me by rational, kind-hearted individuals, so I believe they deserve some exploration.

First, the claim is that these groups are exclusive, and not inclusive. If what we really want is an inclusive society or workplace, why would we support an exclusive organization? On the absolute top surface of it, I understand why the people putting forth this objection have this issue. We are working for an inclusive society/workplace, and these are exclusive organizations. There are important reasons why we have to do this, and we’ll get to these reasons later.

Second, I’ve heard more than once, as I head out to one of my meetings, “You headed to one of your man-hater clubs?” Most of the time this is said in jest, but as we all know, there is always a kernel of truth in every joke. For some reason, there is an expectation that if we have an all-women’s group the focus must on our hatred of men. How surprised would they be to hear that the subject never, ever comes up.

So to answer these objections, why do we need these groups?

One of the first thoughts that comes to mind is a story that I am sure has been replayed in just about every home with children in America. It happened in my childhood home – and I was the culprit. Frustrated with my Mom for making me get dressed and go out on a picnic that did not cater to my 9-year-old desire to stay inside and read (yes, I was one of those kinds of kids), just to celebrate Father’s Day, I screamed, “Why do we have to celebrate Father’s Day? We don’t ever celebrate Kid’s day!” My Mom looked at me and said, quite sternly, “Every single day is Kids day! We have to pick one special day just to remember how much we love our Dads.”

In the simplest terms, this is exactly why we need women’s groups. In our society today, and in many of our workplaces, every committee is a men’s committee, every group is a men’s group. Just as “kids days” don’t exclude adults, so too do most “men’s” groups not specifically exclude women. However, because the default is men, we must do something special, something separate to recognize women.

It goes beyond recognition, however. Women need a place to feel safe, to explore the unique experience of being female in the corporate world. There are many academic studies out there that show that there is a dearth of women in leadership roles. This is not because women do not wish to hold leadership positions, but rather it is due to a complex web of organizational factors that hold women back.

Let me give a rather simple example. A young woman is at a company function. A man, senior to her in the company, says “You look fantastic!” as he stares directly into her cleavage. Now, she has a choice. Does she report this or not? I discussed this precise predicament in a previous post. But now lets say that she is part of a women’s employee resource group. She now has access to resources. She has an outlet to explore her options, and get feedback on possible actions. She understands that she isn’t alone, that it wasn’t her fault, and that she has other women backing her up, and helping her through.

I truly believe that most men and women understand the need for women’s groups, but I also know there are some men out there, and possibly women, who need some additional help understanding why these organizations continue to exist and thrive. I, for one, am grateful for the opportunities these organizations have given me to invest in my community, my workplace, and myself. I will continue to participate and support these organizations and the incredible women that are involved in them.

Do you have any experiences you would share about being involved in a women’s group? How have they helped you?

As always, keep it positive and smile! Happy Monday!

Job as a proxy for purpose – a hazardous path

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This is an internal debate I have been struggling with in recent times: What is my purpose? Why do I look to my “job” for my purpose in life? Why do I ask so much of my job? Why do I only look there to find purpose?

I think the best way to explore this is to share my personal experience on this topic.

On the one hand, I spend the majority of my waking hours at my job. I work hard at my job, and always want to do well at my job. This means I expend most of my energy at my job. I feel good about my day when I accomplish big things at work, and feel terrible when I have failed at work. I spend countless hours, when not at work, thinking and dreaming of ways to improve things at work.

Of most import is that when someone asks me what I do, my answer always is, “My job.” My identity is unfailingly connected to my job. I don’t think I am alone in this. In fact, I am quite certain this is true for so many of us.

For the most part, I am okay with this. I am proud of the work I do, I love the company I work for, and my coworkers are exceptional. I believe that there are times I have made a difference for my employees and for my company. I take pride in that. I genuinely believe that what my company does makes a positive difference in my community and my world.

Now, though, consider the other hand. I am a “creative.” I am much, much more than my job. What excites me the most is inspiring others to see new and different possibilities for our future. I want to create change in our world. I want to sing and laugh and dance and help others to envision and realize brighter destinies for us all.

Can I do this at work? Sometimes. Except maybe the dancing. But herein lies the danger…

If I look to my workplace to constantly provide me the opportunities to be the inspiring, creative person I dream of being, I am absolutely going to be disappointed. And frustrated. And angry. I will likely become disengaged, distracted and if it goes on long enough, toxic to my workplace. The business I work for has a purpose, and that purpose is not to fulfill my individual dreams and goals. It might support me in my efforts to improve and grow, but working for a large company, the alignment will not always be 100%.

So rather than be disappointed and disheartened that I cannot realize my full purpose at work, I must look elsewhere. I must supplement my need for purpose with activities outside the workplace. And this is what I recommend for everyone who is struggling to find purpose at work. Look elsewhere. Be your best self at work. Strive to achieve all you can at work. But don’t put the burden on work to fulfill your true purpose in life.

Here are some suggestions on where I look:

  1. Community involvement – so many programs in our communities need help. Volunteer, take on a leadership role, or start your own organization!
  2. School – there is so much to learn! Get a new degree, study a new subject, take an online course, or even consider teaching a class
  3. Art classes – stretch yourself by trying something new! You never know what you might discover about yourself in a painting, pottery, glass, or dance class
  4. Church – quite a bit of purpose to be found here. The opportunities are endless.
  5. Side-hustle – start your own business!

What other ideas do you have for finding your purpose in life? Please share!

As always, keep it positive and smile! Hope you had a happy Monday!

 

Labels: One way to think about them

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Last week I participated in the Truth Rebellion (#thetruthrebellion), an Instagram campaign led by @ashley.beaudin, the leader of The Imperfect Boss (www.theimperfectboss.com). The idea was to examine labels we, as women, carry around with us, given to us by others, that do not accurately represent our truths. By visibly striking that word and replacing it with a word that does define us, we step into our power and take back our control.

This ‘assigning’ of labels can happen in the workplace as often as it happens in our private lives. We often let our workplaces, our bosses, our coworkers place labels and expectations on us that are not our own. I spoke of this in a previous post. I want to be careful to differentiate between expectations about job performance, and expectations around who we are as individuals. These are two different things. My boss is absolutely allowed to expect certain things of me for the price of my paycheck. What he/she cannot do is define who I am or who I want to be.

Some of my favorite word pairs I saw in the several hundred posts include unworthy which became worthy, limited became limitless, failure became risk-taker, naïve became ready to bloom, and loud became voice of truth. Stubborn became strong, busy became productive,  too quiet became good listener, bossy became leader, and reckless became fearless. These are such empowering ways to reframe words that were given to us in an attempt to name our limits, and turn them into words we give ourselves, naming our potential.

My word was emotional. Here at work, well meaning individuals, along with those who perhaps did not have my best interest at heart, have told me I am too expressive, too dramatic, that I wear everything on my sleeve. I have had many conversations with bosses over the years, bosses I have loved and respected, along with those who, to put it mildly, I did not love and respect, where they patiently explain to me that I need to ‘calm down’ and ‘hold back.’

In the next breath, these same individuals will praise my drive and ability to push for what is important. While they ‘do not want to stifle that’ (like they could!), they’d like to see me – what? Perfect my poker face? I suppose that is what it is. Perhaps they are right. Professional presence is important, and personal branding is a big deal. But here is the problem – up until now, I have let them define me. I have let them pick the word. I have given away the power to use what I am to my advantage.

So here is the truth – I am PASSIONATE. I will fight for what I believe is right, and I am not afraid to speak up. When I am delighted, I love to celebrate, and to share that delight with everyone around me. When I am inspired, I want to bring others along with me. When I am shocked or disappointed, I believe others should know that, and you will see that in me. I am professional in the way I express all of this, and I am appropriate and controlled in my responses. But there is never any mistake on which side of an issue I fall.

Today I reject the idea that I am emotional, and embrace the idea that I am passionate.

What words do you reject? What do you claim in their place? Please share!

As always, keep it positive and smile!

Happy Monday!