Let's Make 2019 a Better Year for Women in the Workplace

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Each time December rolls around, I encourage you to think about what you want to leave behind from the current year and take forward into the next.

This year, I'd like to see us all take more knowledge into 2019 to proactively address the underrepresentation of women in the workplace, especially in top leadership. And that starts with arming yourself with important facts.

The Women in the Workplace 2018 study, conducted by McKinsey & Company in partnership with LeanIn.org, makes the challenges that lie ahead for women clear. Here are some of the key findings:

  • Women are less likely to either be hired into manager-level jobs or to be promoted into them, which throttles the pipeline of talented women leaders.

  • Almost two-thirds of women say they've experienced microaggressions at work. If you're unfamiliar with the term microaggression, it means "a comment or action that subtly and often unconsciously or unintentionally expresses a prejudiced attitude toward a member of a marginalized group."

  • Some of the most common microaggressions that women experience include having to provide more evidence of their competence than men do, having their judgment questioned in their area of expertise and being mistaken for someone in a more junior position.

  • Thirty-five percent of women said they've experienced sexual harassment in corporate America.

  • Less than a third of women think their companies quickly address disrespectful behavior toward women.

  • About 20 percent of women said they are often the only, or one of the only, women in the room. Being an "Only" is even more common among women in senior leadership.

  • "Onlys" have a worse experience at work and are 1.5 times more likely to consider leaving their job.

  • About one-fifth of women said their company's commitment to gender diversity "feels like lip service."

So, what are some small steps you can take that will make a big difference? Read and share the report with others, notice and help others notice what’s happening in your own workplace, and seek to understand by asking more questions. You can make a difference by how you show up and engage with others. In 2019, I'll be sharing some practical strategies for addressing some of the points in this study. In the meantime, leverage Newberry Executive Solutions' corporate programs, executive coaching and publications to support your own success and the success of other women leaders at your company.

Why Giving Back Makes You a Better Leader

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The holidays don't just mean gifts and celebrations. For many of us, this season also gets us thinking about how we can help others. If you're feeling inspired to give back, I want to cheer you on. The world needs your unique gifts and skills. But here's something else I've discovered as a longtime volunteer: As you serve others, you also grow as a leader.

The very roots of my business go back to volunteering. My first client was United Way in conjunction with Shell, which stemmed from a relationship I had with someone I worked with on another nonprofit board.

Board involvement has also helped me get to know other leaders in the community and them to get to know me — how I think and work, my strengths, the value I can bring.

Giving back has also exposed me to other parts of the world. As an advisory board member for Akola Project — which trains and employs underprivileged women in Dallas and Uganda — I visited Uganda to understand firsthand the obstacles these women face. Through serving as faculty for the George W. Bush Presidential Center's Women's Initiative Fellowship Program, I have helped women in Tunisia and Egypt to strengthen their leadership skills.

Volunteer roles can even provide a way to expand your skill sets. Chairing the advocacy committee of the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas introduced me to public policy, which was foreign to me at the time. I enjoyed stretching out of my comfort zone and learning more about the legislative and political process, and our committee experienced success in advancing state-wide legislation.

No matter how you choose to volunteer, there's one key thing to remember. You'll do more good for others, and for your own career, when you choose service roles that authentically reflect who you are and what you're passionate about. Don't volunteer for something just because you think it will build your network. It won’t have the same impact.

This holiday season, I encourage you to shop for gifts at Akola or to donate to support their work, to volunteer for or donate to United Way, or to give to the Bush Presidential Center.

You can also consider helping some of the other worthy causes I've been involved with over the years:

Above all, though, take some time to think about the causes that fire you up and that need your unique expertise. Then commit to even one small way that you can use your talent and skills to support those causes. This will help others, add meaning to your holiday season, develop your leadership and possibly lead to purposeful, ongoing work.

Lessons From My Year of Decluttering

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Earlier this year I told you I had begun a process of clearing both physical and mental clutter in my life. This has been quite a big undertaking, but I am on the other side of it. Life feels much easier and lighter. I want to share what I've learned about clutter (no matter what kind) and how you can begin to address yours.

What Is Clutter?

Most of us think of clutter in the physical sense — for example, a pile of papers on your desk or a closet full of outdated clothes that don’t fit anymore. But let’s take a look at a much broader definition.

  • Clutter can be anything that drains your energy, whether that's a messy physical environment or a relationship that depletes you.

  • Clutter encompasses what you keep tolerating and allowing to frustrate you. This could range from a repair job that you keep putting off to bad habits that you know you need to change to perpetual underperformance from team members or ongoing issues in your other work or personal relationships.

  • Clutter can include remnants of the past or parts of your life, personal or professional, that just don't fit anymore.

  • No matter what form clutter takes, it can distract you, deplete your energy and affect how you “show up” with others every day.

Managing Relationship Clutter

As I examined the clutter in my own life, tackling my physical environment was easy. I cleared stuff out of my house, replaced the old, drafty front and back doors, installed new porch lights and got a new yard service. Essentially, I got rid of all the visual reminders of what didn’t work, which released some of my mental capacity for other things.

The next step was to look at my relationships, which was much thornier work. When you have to continue interacting with people you find draining, things get a bit more complicated. It’s not as easy as tossing out old magazines!

You can, however, take steps to minimize the impact of these relationships:

  • Think about both how a particular relationship serves you and how it's holding you back. Get clear about the one or two reasons you want to stay engaged in this relationship. This will allow you to be more intentional about the choice you are making to continue the relationship and why.

  • Next, identify one thing you could do differently with this challenging person that would allow you to maintain your relationship and your energy. Experiment with setting boundaries for yourself. For example, you could shift your interaction to more phone calls vs. in-person meetings, shorten the time you interact or change the cadence of how often you interact.

  • Identify at least one way to restore yourself after you have to spend time with a frustrating or energy-draining person. For example, if you know a colleague that sets you off will be at a meeting, plan to do something energizing right before or after. It can be something as simple as taking a quick walk. Focus on what works for you.

  • Start taking steps to address underperformance that feels exhausting to deal with. Check out my previous blog post on how to stop tolerating ongoing performance issues in your team.

Declutter Your Behavior

You might discover, though, that the most damaging clutter in your life isn't in your physical environment or your relationships, but rather in your mindset or behavior. If this resonates for you, review these resources to leave your limitations behind:

  • Notice your "thinking traps." These affect your stress level and confidence.

  • Identify one or two behaviors that undermine your executive presence. This could include acting as you did in a past position instead of adopting new practices to help you succeed in your current role. For example, I see leaders involved in far too many details and failing to delegate and more fully leverage their teams. Or they fail to recognize that how you get results is just as important as the results themselves.

  • Take a look at my products and services, which will give you many more resources to draw on when you're looking to make lasting change.

No matter what area of your life you want to declutter, remember to enlist support from people who understand your goals and give you energy.

I want to challenge you to identify one thing you will do this week to start decluttering.  And remember that small steps can lead to big results.

The 4 Most Powerful Ways to Be More Successful

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More than 75 percent of our clients at Newberry Executive Solutions get promotions, and today I want to let you in on some of the strategies that consistently help them succeed.

Choose one of these areas to focus on right now. Then, as you master each strategy, pick a new area for growth and development.

1. Focus on the Right Work

You face constant demands for your time and attention every day. This means you have to be intentional about making sure the “right work” gets done. To get to the heart of this, identify your "Big 3", the three areas where you should focus to have the biggest impact on the business. It probably comes as no surprise that there's often a gap between what leaders should be doing and what they actually do. To determine if that's true for you, track your schedule for a week or two to see if the way you're spending your time aligns with your Big 3 priorities, and be sure to validate your Big 3 with your manager.

2. Understand Your Value

The most successful leaders do more than get results. They also know how they get those results. This is something that a lot of leaders overlook, but it makes a huge difference. By taking some time to understand how you accomplish what you do, you can more effectively leverage your strengths and repeat your successes. You'll also do a better job of giving others "strategic snapshots" of your performance, which helps them appreciate your value and opens up new opportunities.

3. Thrive Without Feedback

At one time or another, you will have a boss who fails to give you meaningful feedback. But you can't let that stand in the way of your growth, development and career advancement. Do what you can to open up communication with your boss, clarify expectations and share your results (always tying everything back to your desire to advance business goals). Sometimes simply sharing a self-assessment with your boss can make it easier for him or her to comment on your performance. If your boss still doesn’t say much, reach out to others you trust to give you candid feedback and seek insights and advice from peers or mentors.

4. Make Time to Network

When it comes to networking, even high performers frequently miss the mark. They know (in theory, at least) that a strong network helps them achieve results and supports their success, but then they keep their heads down working hard and neglect to invest time to build relationships. Networking isn't something to squeeze in if you have time (i.e., “nice to have”). It's a vital part of your job. In just 15 minutes per week to take consistent action, you can make solid headway. In that time, you can send a quick email about an event or article of interest, make an introduction, ask for advice or input, or informally drop by someone’s office. Every little bit helps keep your relationships strong.

Tired of Wasting Time? 3 Ways to Be More Efficient

Do you ever feel like you're crazy busy but not getting that much done?  

Your days can be full of tasks that devour your time but that don't contribute to your most important work: using your talents and skills to advance the most critical business results.

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I've got a few quick strategies for you that will immediately put some time back in your day so that you can be more productive.

1. Get a Handle on Your Meetings

I challenge you to find anyone out there who doesn't think they spend too much time in meetings. For executives, meetings eat up almost 23 hours per week.

As much as you may want to, it's impossible to get rid of meetings entirely. But a few simple shifts can reduce your meeting load and make the meetings you do have to attend more productive.

Are the regular meetings that you have some control over — such as your team meetings or one-on-ones with your reports — happening with the right frequency? For example, if your weekly team meetings tend to be mostly updates, you can probably meet less often. And be sure to have agendas with start and end times, and the desired outcome for each topic (for example, input, decision-making or updates). That will help you ensure that the agenda is manageable for the amount of time you have and focused on what you want to get out of it.

Another one of my top strategies is to ask for the primary objective for the meeting before you fully commit to attending. This will help you and the other party clarify the purpose, define the right duration for the meeting, and make the most of your time.

2. Manage Interruptions

You might pride yourself on your ability to juggle a lot of tasks at once, but multitasking profoundly damages your productivity. Each time you get distracted, it takes an average of 15 minutes to immerse yourself again in your work. And you're up to 40 percent less efficient.

To keep colleagues from dropping by your desk constantly, set up a consistent time slot a few days a week ("office hours") to handle urgent issues that can't wait until the next meeting. Technology can also be a huge distraction. When you really need to get something done, consider changing the status of your instant messaging software to show you are not available and closing your email. You can let people know that if something is really urgent, they can always call you.

Remember, your most thoughtful, high-impact work — the very work you were hired to do — requires focus. And you'll never have those periods of focused work if you're at the mercy of interruptions.

3. Create Time to Reflect

Setting aside time to review, process and look ahead might sound like the last thing you have time for with your packed schedule. Sometimes high performers focus more on taking action. Planning and reflecting can make them uncomfortable because it doesn't feel like doing something. According to researchers Francesca Gino and Bradley Staats:

People feel more productive when they are executing tasks rather than when they are planning them. Especially when under time pressure, they perceived planning as a waste of time — even if it actually leads to better performance than jumping into the task head-first.

But trust me: Investing even a few minutes each week to reflect may become the single most productive thing that you do and allow you to get better results in less time. To get started, block as little as 15 minutes on your calendar once or twice a week. When my executive coaching clients start doing this, they always see rapid results and pretty soon are carving out an hour or two to do this each week.

Which one of these strategies would make the biggest difference for you? Start implementing it this week. And to continue building your leadership skills even when you're pressed for time, check out WOW! Highlight Audio℠. With a sampling of strategies from the full WOW! Women On the Way to Peak Performance Program℠, the format of this self-paced program will help you make shifts on the job quickly.

10 Years of Purpose, Presence and Power

This summer marks the 10th anniversary of Newberry Executive Solutions. In that time, we've helped countless leaders get raises, get promotions and amplify their impact through our products and services. To say thank you for your ongoing support, I'm sharing a special series of blog posts with some of the most powerful insights I've gained through 10 years of coaching (and 16 years in business before that). This week is Part 5 — stay tuned for more! You can also catch up on past posts from the series below:

Part 1: Build a confident executive presence

Part 2: What your boss won't tell you (but you need to know)

Part 3: How to communicate like a strategic leader

Part 4: Go from frazzled to in control

Many High Performers Make This Mistake — Do You?

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You're dedicated, capable and hard-working. But you might be falling victim to a stumbling block that keeps others from seeing your full potential as a leader.  

What is this stumbling block? You're working so hard and you're so focused on getting things done that you don’t pay attention to the way you come across to others.

As an executive coach, I've seen this happen to too many high performers. They're driving for results and making things happen. In fact, part of what may be at play is them overusing the actual strengths that help them get results. As a result, they get passed over for opportunities for which they are otherwise qualified.

Are you wondering if this might be an issue for you? This week, notice whether you engage in any of the behaviors on this list that might make people wonder if you’re really on top of things:

  • Failing to stick to the start and end times for your meetings (i.e., chronically running late).

  • Constantly reacting; rarely planning or anticipating.

  • Pulling out your laptop or device during meetings to do unrelated work.

  • Interrupting others because you already “know” what they are going to say.

  • Walking fast.

  • Talking fast.

  • Having a default answer like this when others ask how you are: "I'm soooo busy!"

  • Sighing into your words.

  • Showing frustration, sometimes by using a harsh or loud tone.

  • Fidgeting (i.e., looking like you’re ready to leave the room)

What Messages Are You Sending?

So why is any of this important? As a leader, your success doesn’t just depend on what you can do. It also hinges on how you do it, your executive presence. You can think of executive presence as all the messages that you're constantly sending, both deliberate and unintentional, to your colleagues about who you are as a leader.

Think about some of the messages the above behaviors might be sending:

  • Walking and talking fast makes you look overwhelmed, like you have to do everything quickly or you can’t fit it all in.

  • Fidgeting could make others at a meeting think that you're bored by what they're saying.

  • Using a harsh tone conveys a lack of respect and reactivity that might cause others to avoid you or keep bad news from you.

  • Working on unrelated tasks during a meeting shows colleagues that you don't manage your time well or respect their time.

"That's not who I am!" you might be protesting to yourself. But these are the stories that others may tell after observing you.

How to Go From Overwhelmed to Confident

Becoming aware of these behaviors — and their effect on others — is the first step in making changes that will strengthen your leadership. The next step is addressing the stress that's driving these behaviors. Here are a few past blog articles that can help:

I also recommend the The WOW! Lite Program℠, which contains two key modules from the complete WOW! Women On the Way to Peak Performance Program℠.

10 Years of Purpose, Presence and Power

This summer marks the 10th anniversary of Newberry Executive Solutions. In that time, we've helped countless leaders get raises, get promotions and amplify their impact through our products and services. To say thank you for your ongoing support, I'm sharing a special series of blog posts with some of the most powerful insights I've gained through 10 years of executive coaching (and 16 years in business before that). This week is Part 4 — stay tuned for more! You can also catch up on past posts from the series below:

Part 1: Build a confident executive presence

Part 2: What your boss won't tell you (but you need to know)

Part 3: How to communicate like a strategic leader

How to Communicate Like a Strategic Leader

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What is one of the biggest ways to demonstrate that you are ready for a promotion or bigger opportunities? Show that you can think strategically. How often do you take advantage of everyday opportunities do so? Although you may not realize it, you have a chance to communicate your strategic perspective every time you speak at a meeting or deliver a presentation. Use these tips to take your communication up a notch.  

Reinforce the Big Picture

First, make sure others "connect the dots" to the bigger picture. In other words, help them understand the "why" behind everything you say and do. As you prepare for a meeting or presentation, think about how the topic you will discuss relates to broader business strategies, goals or priorities. Even if the connection seems obvious to you, remember that people may not be stopping to reflect about it. So take a moment to frame your ideas and thoughts in a way that makes the linkage for others.

Headlines First

Many leaders think that they have to demonstrate in great detail that they have done their homework or socialized ideas with the right people before they share their conclusions or recommendations. They think that if they convey all the steps they took, others will recognize that their ideas are solid. In concept, this is true, but the way people often do this can have the opposite effect. For example, in a meeting, the leader may come across as lost in the weeds or failing to understand the audience or the strategic issues at hand.

To keep this from happening, I coach leaders to start with the "headlines" (the two or three key messages they want others to leave with) and then share any supporting information as needed. The audience can always ask for more details. But if they are inundated with details right out of the gate, they will probably tune out before the leader gets to the most critical messages.

Keep it Short and Sweet

Whatever your message, keep it concise. Using too many words can confuse or bore your audience. Bryan A. Garner puts it this way in "HBR Guide to Better Business Writing": "Wordiness can exist on many levels, from rambling statements to unnecessary repetition to verbose expressions that could be replaced by shorter, sharper alternatives." When you curb wordiness in your presentations, you make it easier for others to understand and apply your ideas, Garner says. Take time to boil your messages down to the most important takeaways.

Focus on Continuous Improvement

Finally, take time to understand how you’re coming across, and use that information to continue to hone your communication skills. If you want to go one step further, pick up a copy of "Communicating with Impact” which is part of my Leadership EDGE SeriesSM.

Related
Part 1: Build a confident executive presence

Part 2: What your boss won't tell you (but you need to know)

8 Things Your Boss Won't Tell You (But You Need to Know)

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Are you damaging your career without realizing it? As an executive coach, I see even high performers get tripped up by some common stumbling blocks when no one gives them feedback about the effects of their behaviors. Here are a few things that your boss might be thinking but not voicing.

  1. 'Your Hard Work Doesn't Speak for Itself'If you're heads down assuming the right people will recognize your hard work when the time comes, consider this a wake-up call. Your boss is busy and her attention is divided. There's just no way she's going to notice everything you're accomplishing unless you let her know. And she wants you to let her know. She needs to understand your capabilities to fully leverage them. Need some pointers on strategic self-promotion? Check out these videos from one of my most-requested presentations: "Tastefully Tooting Your Own Horn."

  1. 'Indispensable Equals Stuck'If your boss can't afford to lose you in your current role, you might have trouble moving up to a new one. Start by identifying candidates who could fill your shoes someday, and develop a succession plan.

  1. 'Office Politics Are a Fact of Life'Sure, you'd like to remain above it all, but the truth is that what's going on politically in your office — and how you navigate it — affects your ability to get results. Your boss wants you to know how to cultivate relationships with people who can help you get access to the influence, information and resources to make things happen. Don’t opt out. Get in the game with authenticity and integrity.

  1. 'It's Not All About You'Unfortunately, a lot of otherwise effective leaders seem too focused on their own agenda or team because they forget to frame things in terms of the bigger picture. Remember to connect what you say and do to the larger goals and needs of the business as a whole.

  1. 'Working 24x7 Doesn't Impress Me' You may think that sending emails in the evening and on weekends conveys your commitment, but it can leave others with the impression that you are overwhelmed and possibly on a path to burnout. Even worse? Doing other work during meetings. Regardless of your rationale, it can communicate disrespect to other attendees by implying that their work is less important than yours, or that you are so overwhelmed that you have to use their meeting time to catch up. Notice the messages that you’re sending with your work patterns.

  1. 'I Pay Attention to How You Treat Others'One of the fastest ways to damage your standing is by delivering harsh feedback to peers or direct reports in group settings. Most people guilty of this behavior aren't trying to be bullies. Instead, they are focused on their own reactions in the moment or on pushing hard for results. Remember the career-limiting implications of behavior like this: a step down in your leadership credibility and a step up in resistance from peers who wouldn’t want you as a future boss.

  1. 'Being Chronically Late Diminishes Your Personal Brand'That's true even when you have "good" excuses. What would you infer about someone who's always late? Remember, everything you do sends messages to others about your leadership capability.

  1. 'Sometimes I Just Need You to Show Up'A meeting doesn't seem that important, and you have a legitimate scheduling conflict. So it's no big deal if you don't show up, right? Actually, it could be a really big deal for your boss. For him, perhaps it’s less about the topics to be discussed and more about you showing your support by making time to be there.

Which of these behaviors hit home for you, whether your own or someone else’s? Take the first step by asking others for feedback. If you don’t exhibit these behaviors, kindly raise the self-awareness of someone who does. My book "Show Up. Step Up. Step Out" can help you navigate these leadership challenges and many others. You can read the first five chapters for free now.

10 Years of Purpose, Presence and Power

This summer marks the 10th anniversary of Newberry Executive Solutions. In that time, we've helped countless leaders get raises or promotions and amplify their impact through our products and services. To say thank you for your ongoing support, I'm sharing a special series of blog posts with some of the most powerful insights I've gained through 10 years of executive coaching (and 16 years in business before that). This week is Part 2 — stay tuned for more! Missed Part 1 of the series? Catch up and get my tips to build a confident executive presence.

What is Silencing? (And Why Your Company Must Care About It)

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Although the labor force is more evenly split between men and women, men and women are not equally using their voices. As a female leader, you may have experienced a phenomenon called “silencing.” Dr. Carrie Arnold says feeling silenced as a female leader is a “unique and widespread leadership issue impacting millions of women in the workforce.”  

Arnold, who has done extensive research on the topic, says that silencing leaves women feeling "muted, suppressed or muffled" and unable to express themselves. As a leader, this can introduce substantial barriers to upward mobility.

How Are Women Being Silenced?

As a female leader, how many of these silence-inducing situations have you experienced?

  • Deliberately exclusion from meetings

  • Lack of responsiveness to your requests or emails

  • Public and private criticism or controlling behavior

  • Dismissive comments that question your expertise because of your gender or role

  • A system that reinforces a predominantly male view of leadership

Arnold says that women can be silenced by both peers and supervisors, and equally by men and women. She also cites "systems of privilege" that silence women — for example, systems that favor one style of leadership over another or that favor certain groups or affiliations. A woman may even silence herself when "she has a perceived locus of power that is outside herself."

What Are the Consequences of Silencing?

Silencing reduces a woman’s effectiveness as a leader and can alter her career trajectory.

  • Silenced female leaders become disengaged, viewing their situations as no-win.

  • Only about 25 percent recover their voice without making a job change or opting out of a leadership role.

  • Even when they opt out of leadership or change jobs, only about half of the women fully recover from their silencing experience.

  • When women silence themselves, they often opt out of leadership.

  • Silencing takes a cognitive, emotional, spiritual and (for many) physical toll with digestive or respiratory issues and full-body stress.

How Can We Address Silencing?

The first step is for companies to better understand the phenomenon of silencing. This is critical given that companies with women in the C-suite are more profitable and a higher percentage of U.S. companies had no women in senior leadership compared with five years earlier.

Recovery from silencing requires community and self-care.

Arnold says that female leaders who have been silenced need relationships with other women who understand what they're going through and who have experienced similar things. She adds that a woman may need to look outside of her company to find this community.

Silenced women can also heal by helping give a voice to others. "As she becomes aware of those who are also silenced in her organization or community, she seeks to not further silence," Arnold writes. "She finds voice by becoming a role model and a sponsor for women."

Whether you are woman who has experienced silencing or a leader who wants to stop silencing at your organization, please read Arnold's white paper on the issue. I also invite you to explore my products and services that cultivate the potential of high-performing women. Organizational leaders may be especially interested in the facilitated version of my award-winning WOW! Women On the Way to Peak Performance Program℠, which helps women build community as they learn.

Does This Hold You Back as a Leader?

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How you “show up” in different situations tells others a lot about who you are as a leader. That’s why I focus on this so much with every person I coach.

And your mindset dramatically affects the way you “show up.” To get a better sense of your own mindset, let’s explore how much you see the world in terms of scarcity vs. opportunity. How often do you engage in the following behaviors? (Even if you don’t do this, this article might help you give feedback to someone who does.)

  • Withholding information that could be useful to others, to give you an edge.

  • Refraining from making an introduction to someone in your network because you don't want to share that person as a resource.

  • Defining success or prioritizing based only on your piece (or your team's piece) of a project or situation instead of the bigger picture.

  • Being exclusive vs. inclusive — for example, inviting only certain people to take part in meetings or a project instead of thinking broadly about who should participate.

  • Focusing more on what you stand to lose vs. what everyone might gain.

In politically dynamic environments, many of these behaviors emerge far more frequently. There may even be positive intent behind some of these behaviors. For example, you might be thinking, “I have to make sure I can deliver, so I’m going to prioritize and focus on what I really need. I don’t want anything or anyone else to get in the way.”

But if a lot of these statements resonated with you, your worry and concern about limited resources (i.e., a scarcity mindset) could be making you less effective as a leader. Let’s take a look at some of the significant consequences that come with each of the behaviors above:

  • Working around you to get information or resources

  • Less information or resource-sharing with you because others don’t trust you

  • Engaging people with influence or power to make you comply or share information

  • Limitations on your career advancement because you are considered a roadblock, difficult to work with, or more concerned about your own interests instead of what’s best for the company

Ultimately, all of this affects how much people are willing to trust and invest in you.

It's Time to Shift Your Focus

The good news is that you can shift out of the scarcity mindset and make a bigger impact as a leader.

Viewing situations from a place of scarcity comes from seeing situations at the micro level instead of the macro one. It's focusing on the short term vs. the long term and the few (you and your team) vs. the many (the overall organization). The truth is that there are more opportunities, rewards and recognition to go around than you realize. You can create win/win situations.

The next time you find yourself saying “no” or resisting, stop to think about why. How much of your reaction ties to your assumptions about scarce resources, whether that’s time, budget, or valuable connections? How narrowly are you framing the other person’s need or request in your head? Prompting yourself to take a bigger picture perspective, whether that’s one that considers your long-term career or your company’s goals, will open you up to more possibilities about how to best navigate a situation.

To further elevate your presence as a leader, check out my Leadership EDGE SeriesSM. It covers a variety of topics and will help you show up powerfully in every situation.

Your Mother’s Day Gift to Working Moms

With Mother's Day coming up, it's a good time to look at life for working moms. Although we've made tremendous strides as a culture, the fact is that mothers — even those at the highest levels of their companies — still do a disproportionate amount of the work at home. And that affects what they can contribute at the office.

These findings from Pew Research Center make it a bit more real:

  • Working mothers spend twice as many hours on childcare and housework than working fathers do.

  • Women in senior management are seven times more likely to do over 50% of the housework than men at the same level.

  • Most male CEOs have spouses who are the lead childcare givers.

There’s a lot at stake here for women and the organizations they work in, as research consistently shows a correlation between women in executive positions and better company performance. Gender-diverse companies outperform others financially by 15%. To reap the benefits of more women leaders in the workplace, as a leader, you can take action to help them thrive.

First, think about how the design of jobs on your team impact men versus women. Of course, any employee would likely be thrilled with more flexibility, but research shows that it matters far more to working mothers because women usually bear primary responsibility for childcare and household duties. As a starting point, take a look at what time regular meetings are scheduled and how often they overlaps with school or after-school drop-off or pick-up hours. Then, evaluate how much face time is really required to perform a particular job well.

Second, if your organization already offers flexible scheduling, how often do women or men take advantage of it? If there is a stigma about using it, how can you set a different tone?  And remember that for women, flexible scheduling and career aspirations can go hand-in-hand, per Harvard Business Review.

Third, take a moment to reflect about your perceptions (and possibly misperceptions) about women and ambition. Whether you're a woman or a man, be honest with yourself.  If a position requires relocating or working more hours, what assumptions do you make about a woman’s potential level of interest? If she has children, how does that affect your viewpoint? How often have you or others around you taken a woman out of consideration for an opportunity without even discussing it with her?

Finally, examine what you can do to support high-potential women on your team. When was the last time you talked with her about her career aspirations and priorities, personal and professional? How often do you coach her on ways to be more effective or help her network with key leaders?

This week, identify one action you’d like to take to make a real difference for the working moms on your team. And in your own Mother's Day celebrations, remember to be grateful for these dedicated, multitasking moms and the value they bring.

For a powerful investment in your organization's women, consider offering my WOW! Women On the Way to Peak Performance Program℠. It gives you access to strategies used by successful executives without investing in training that costs thousands of dollars and time away.

A Little Bit of Inspiration

The work I do is all about helping people see their value, step out and own it in a way they haven’t before. Along that journey, we all hit bumps in the road – and I’m certainly not spared from those bumps. Over the years, I have filed away some quotes that give me inspiration – some from songs, poets or writers, and some of my own. Take a look and see what resonates with you, or jot down a quote of your own – something you want to keep at the forefront.

“May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.” – Nelson Mandela

“When you get the chance to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance.” – Leanne Womack

“In life, you will realize there is a role for everyone you meet. Some will test you, some will use you, some will love you, and some will teach you. But the ones who are truly important are the ones who bring out the best in you. They are the rare and amazing people who remind you why it’s worth it.”  – Unknown

“No matter how others show up, you get to decide how you want to show up.” – Neena Newberry

“Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.” – Unknown

“Vulnerability is the willingness to show up and be seen by others in the face of uncertain outcomes. There’s not a single act of courage that doesn’t involve vulnerability.” – Brene Brown

“Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.” – Unknown

“Don’t shush your inner voice. It’s who you really are.” – Unknown

“Still. I rise.” – Maya Angelou

“I’ll see it when I believe it.” – Deepak Chopra

Celebrate to Amplify

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Most of the go-getters I work with rarely celebrate success – and I’ve been just as guilty over the years. Two years ago, I was honored by the Dallas Business Journal with a Women in Business Award. I barely told anyone, let alone invite them to celebrate with me at the awards luncheon. Other than people who see my bio, most people would have no idea that this year’s award was the 12th for me and my company’s products and services.

As someone who belongs to a family of overachievers, I have gotten so used to expecting a lot of myself. And my career choices have kept that bar high. In my 14 years at Deloitte, I was surrounded by smart, competitive, capable people. So it was easy to say, “What’s the big deal?” when I accomplished something significant. Like many of my clients, my definition of “average” performance became skewed. I would “check the box and move on” when I accomplished something.

Earlier in my career, I didn’t realize what was really at stake with this approach. Over the years, as I worked with companies to develop top talent, I realized the significance of helping others recognize what they do well — and how they do it. For example, in my executive coaching, I frequently help my clients reverse-engineer what they do to get consistent results because they don’t even notice. It’s second nature for them. Once they realize what they’re actually doing and how, they can more easily teach others to do the same. And that’s when they can really start to have an impact on a larger scale.

Where does celebrating success fit in? It is an important first step to creating that bigger ripple effect. In other words, when you acknowledge and celebrate your accomplishments, you have to acknowledge the value that you bring. And if you’re motivated by making a difference, you’ll start to more intentionally use your strengths to do so. That could be through your own work or by teaching others what you know.

I am trying to practice what I preach. This year, when I was honored with the Dallas Business Journal Minority Business Leader Award, I stretched myself to buy a table and invite clients, friends and family. Although I felt awkward, I’m glad I did it. It helped me see how much amazing support I have in my life, and it reminded me that I’m here to make a bigger difference with my work and community involvement.

Before you move on with your day, identify one thing you will celebrate. Don’t put any judgment around what it is or compare yourself with others. Simply choose something, no matter how big or small, and celebrate it in a way that has meaning for you. And remember that small steps lead to big results.

Clean Up Your Physical and Mental Clutter

In a recent article, I told you that I'd kicked off the year with a big physical and mental decluttering project. Since we're in spring-cleaning season, I want to share more about the value of freeing up space in your life, especially since research shows that it can affect your happiness.

Clear Your Space

In our busy lives, sometimes we become blind to our physical workspaces and the effect they have on us. Bring a fresh eye to your surroundings. What does your office or workspace look like? How does that affect your mindset? How much do you enjoy versus feel distracted working there? What can you remove from your workspace? For me, it was reams of back issues of magazines that I had to admit I was never going to read. Getting them out of my space was a huge weight off my shoulders. And with them gone, I'm now making much better use of my office bookshelves.

Also think about what else you need in your workspace, from an organization tool to an inspirational or meaningful photo or memento.

Clear Your Mind

Just like my office, my mind felt cluttered. I kept thinking about the same things over and over again, which disrupted my sleep.

One thing that helped me break the pattern was keeping a journal by my bed. I use it to get everything out of my head before bedtime – or when I would toss and turn for too long. I started by writing out the question "What am I worried about?" and then let the words flow unedited. Once I filled up almost two full pages! By dumping it out of my head and seeing it on paper, I noticed some themes and could more easily pick one or two things to start addressing. When I let it keep rolling around in my head, it took so much effort just to keep up with it. If you try this exercise, handwrite everything because doing so engages your brain differently.

If you want to take this practice a step further and get a little adventurous with some fire, you can try a burning bowl ceremony. On a small piece of paper, write down something you want to let go of — perhaps it's something you no longer want to tolerate or something that's holding you back. Light it on fire with a candle and place it in a nonflammable bowl to disappear before your eyes. The symbolic power in this action can really shift your mindset to eliminating this constraint from your life.

If playing with fire and journaling aren’t appealing, meditation can be another powerful tool. I don't practice traditional, sitting meditation, but the rhythmic cadence of running along with being out in nature, really centers me in the present moment. I usually listen to a guided meditation as I run. If running isn’t something you enjoy, simply go for a walk outside and purposefully notice the beautiful things around you can ground you. And, of course, traditional meditation is always an option. The point is to be fully present and deliberately create more mental space.

Where Is Your Clutter?

Now, think about any clutter in your own life. Is physical or mental clutter making you feel irritable and anxious? Perhaps it’s a bit of both. Pick one action to take this week it. If decluttering is something you mastered a long time ago, jot down what you do that works and refer to it periodically to make sure you stay on track. Whatever you choose to do, know that you are making space for something better to enter your life.

3 Questions to Keep Your Year on Track

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Have you had a hard time finding your groove as 2018 kicked off? Well, you’re not alone. I am surprised at how many people I’ve talked to spent the first few weeks of the year trying to recover from or continue to work through issues from last year. With spring break season starting (it's this week for many of us here in Texas), take time to catch your breath, reflect on the year so far, and make any necessary tweaks. Use these three simple questions to guide you:  

1. How has the first quarter of the year unfolded for you?

For me, 2017 ended with a bang with some life-changing decisions and lots of unexpected new business. I thought this year would kick off with a crazy pace but it has been even keel, allowing me to take time to clear some physical and mental clutter out of my life. It’s amazing how much lighter I feel after taking time to organize my office, purge old paperwork, and finish important tasks that I kept putting off.

2. What's working — and what's not?

Some of you might remember that at the end of last year, I decided to stop tolerating what isn’t working for me. I’ve continued to focus on that and it has worked well, freeing up space in my life to cultivate stronger relationships and focus on the right work. And a short but miserable bout with the flu reminded me how important it is to keep self-care at the forefront. I realized that I had let that slip a little.

3. Based on your answers to the first two questions, what's one shift you want to make?

As you consider fine-tuning your approach for the rest of the year, what tweaks would you make?  Remember that you can make shifts either to amplify a strategy that's working well or to make a course correction. For example, my cathartic mental and physical decluttering in January reminded me that I need to continue to make more room in my life for people who energize me and limit my exposure to those who drain me.

I also realized that I have to adjust my workout routine because I’m struggling to keep my cadence. So, I’ve changed it up with some more basketball and weight lifting with my son. That makes it much more fun (especially when we take silly pictures of our “bulging” biceps). And I’m heading out to surround myself with beautiful landscapes and physically challenge myself with some hiking in Arizona later this week.

There's tremendous power in pausing—even if it’s just for a few minutes each week. So, I challenge you to answer the three questions above today and identify one action to take based on what you learn. For other strategies to stretch yourself, pick up a copy of my book Show Up. Step Up. Step Out: Leadership Through a New Lens. You can read the first five chapters for free now.

How to Neutralize a Setback and Empower Yourself

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If you’re like most people, you will probably encounter a few disappointments and bumps in the road. The most important thing is how you respond to them.

When you feel disappointed, it can be hard to see a way around it or past it. So, today I want to share a framework that will help you approach setbacks more productively. To get the most out of it, identify an obstacle or disappointment that you are dealing with right now or one you recently experienced. It can be personal or professional. This framework will give you three new lenses to help you start viewing the same situation differently.

Reverse lens — Look back at what might have led up to the disappointing situation and do some role reversal. For example, let's say you were turned down for an assignment you really wanted. Think about why the decision-maker thought it made sense. What would you have thought or done if you were in their shoes, based on the information at hand? This should give you insight that could come in handy the next time you seek an opportunity. For example, what or whom did you overlook as you sought the assignment? Maybe you'll realize that key people weren't aware of your value and that you need to more consistently and tastefully self-promote.

Wide lens — How does this setback fit into the bigger picture of your career? Maybe you had your heart set on this assignment because it would have given you exposure to some senior leaders and the chance to demonstrate your readiness for a promotion. It's unlikely, though, that this assignment is the only way to do that. Brainstorm your "Plan B" so that you have additional options for accomplishing the same goals.

Long lens — At first, setbacks can feel insurmountable. You might think, "That's it. I lost this opportunity, so my career plans are stalled." But as you examine this from a longer-term perspective, you'll probably realize that this setback won’t hold you back as much as you originally feared. When you begin to look at it this way, you'll start to find ways to keep things on track.

Sometimes your emotions may be so strong that you need to acknowledge what you’re really disappointed about before you move forward. Use this framework to start seeing things from different vantage points, to help you renew your sense of possibility and start mapping out next steps. For more proven strategies, pick up a copy of my book Show Up. Step Up. Step Out: Leadership Through a New Lens. You can read the first five chapters for free now.

Five Traps of High Performers

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I thoroughly enjoy my work with high performers. They motivate me, challenge me and help me bring my best. But they can also be their own worst enemies. Take a look at the five common traps of high performers to see how you might be getting in your own way.  

1. When you make a mistake, you beat yourself up for longer than those impacted by the mistake. (In fact, some may not even think of what you did as a mistake.)

High performers expect so much of themselves. That helps them achieve tremendous results but can also result in harsh self-judgment. Keep in mind that you were doing the best that you could in the moment, based on what was going on.

2. You keep expecting the frustrating people in your life to change.

To keep from going out of your mind, expect people to show up exactly as they always do. Your frustration may change into amusement as you realize how consistent people are with their behavior—and how valuable that information can be for you, as you develop new strategies to engage them.

3. You don’t celebrate successes. You simply move on to the next thing you need to get done.

By simply noticing and enjoying the impact of your results, you can amplify the power of your strengths. You don’t have to plan a huge celebration, but start taking some steps in this direction and see how it feels.

4. You pay more attention to information that validates your hypotheses.

We all have our moments when we know our opinions or conclusions must be true. When you have that strong sense of conviction, that’s when you should ask yourself, “What else could be going on?” That will help you eliminate those blind spots.

5. You're not fully present. You may be sitting in front of someone, but you're not really “here.”

Divided attention steals so much from our daily lives. Once you decide to be in the moment, you may be surprised at how much you notice about what’s happening around you. As a leader, this will arm you with invaluable information.

This week, notice if you fall into any of these traps. How can you choose a different course of action next time? As you continue to build the skills and habits that support sustainable success, I think you'll also enjoy exploring my WOW! Women On the Way to Peak Performance Program℠.

The Invaluable Lessons of 2017

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With so much family in town over the holidays, it’s taken me a while to decompress and truly process what happened in 2017. As I said a few weeks ago, it had extreme highs and lows.

I began the year with my first Super Bowl and a trip with my son to the slopes in Utah for his first snowboarding experience. As work stress crept in by April, I got my “fix” with my first trip to Asheville, N.C., to hike on 30 miles of beautiful trails through waterfalls. Beyond these “firsts” was a life-changing experience to Africa. I have visited many developing nations, but this experience was like no other. It was my first trip to Uganda and second to Kenya. Witnessing the harshness of extreme poverty, and what day-to-day survival looks like for both humans and wild animals, affected me in ways I hadn’t expected. The incredible tenacity, hope and resilience I saw filled my heart with gratitude for the gifts in my life and compelled me to make an even bigger difference in others’ lives.

I left that trip mentally exhausted, knowing that I needed to reflect about my own life. It was time to take a closer look at what I said I wanted in my life relative to what I was actually doing. As I attempted to process all of this over the next two months, I injured both ankles twice (another “first”). After some excruciating therapy, I finally stopped and asked, “What is my body trying to tell me about my life?”

I knew in my gut that it was saying that it was time to just stop. I had been tolerating too much for too long. It was well beyond the time to make some tough decisions. So, I made some big changes —including unwinding from a business partnership that I knew wouldn’t work in the long run, revamping my inner circle of support, shifting some of the personal relationships in my life and realigning my volunteer work with my passion.

I walked away from 2017 with so many more lessons than I had bargained for. (There really should be a limit on these for a single year.) I’m sharing them with you today because they may spark some important self-reflection or simply help you notice that you’re not on your journey alone.

  • Clarify what you really want in your life. It’s amazing who and what will show up when you do this.

  • One person can make a difference – and that one person is you.

  • A high pain threshold, while a formidable strength, can make you tolerate things far longer than you should. Stop tolerating less than you deserve.

  • Trust your gut. Most of the time, you already know what to do. Sometimes you simply need to just give yourself permission to do it.

  • Let go of the need to proactively shape every outcome, especially if you’re used to taking the bull by the horns. Sometimes you just need to allow things to unfold. Balance “doing” with “being.”

  • Sunk costs will hold you hostage if you let them. Take the lessons from your painful “investment” and use them to make different choices with your newly developed wisdom.

  • When your body is screaming at you, stop and listen. What is it saying that you need to change in your life?

The year turned out so differently than I expected. My big decisions late in the year dramatically shifted things, personally and professionally. Miraculously, it turned out to be a record-breaking year for my business. And one of the last emails I received in December was from the Dallas Business Journal informing me that I would be honored with the Minority Business Leader Award in 2018. My son also had an amazing year. I’m so unbelievably proud of who he is as a person and what he’s accomplished academically and in sports. It has been the easiest transition to middle school. I’m not sure I could have predicted any of this.

So, now it’s time to shift the focus to you. What one lesson do you want to put into practice for yourself, whether it’s from my list above or one of your own? Take five minutes right now to think about it and identify one step you will take this week. And, as always, remember that small steps can lead to big results.

How to Deliver Tough Messages

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All leaders have to deliver bad news or have difficult conversations. Sometimes it's in a one-on-one situation, such as telling a team member he was turned down for a promotion or will not be involved in a project he wanted to be part of. And sometimes you have to be the bearer of bad news — like restructuring, budget cuts, or layoffs — to a group.

Either way, these are stressful situations that will put your executive presence to the test. You can use the strategies below to avoid some common stumbling blocks that leaders face when delivering bad news.

Get Your Own Feelings Out of the Way

Before you share bad news, take a little time to check in with yourself. What are your feelings about the news itself? What impacts do you expect it to have? And how do you feel about delivering the news to others?

It's natural if you're feeling anxious. But you'll need to process this anxiety in order to communicate effectively.

If you're feeling frustrated or down yourself, you risk being overly negative when you share the news. Think about how you can reframe the situation. You don't have to pretend that bad news is good news. (That isn't helpful, either – which we'll talk more about below.) But you can present things in a more neutral, factual way that explains the business rationale behind the decision. That's ultimately more beneficial to your listeners.

It might help to consider things in the context of the long term or big picture to balance out any short-term discomfort. For example, if the raise you requested for one of your direct reports gets turned down, remember that while both of you are disappointed now, there will be future opportunities you can help her be ready for. (By the way, avoid distancing yourself from the bad news and take ownership of the leadership decision.)

Acknowledge the Impact

On the other hand, some people deal with the anxiety about bad news by minimizing its impact or quickly trying to look on the bright side. But sometimes scrambling to try to make others feel better has the opposite effect. As you present bad news, give the other person time to process it. Be mindful not to rush others straight to optimism. It's OK to say "I know this is disappointing to hear" or "This may have an impact on our team that you may have concerns about." Help the person feel heard, but pay attention to whether emotions are running too high to continue the conversation in that moment. You both might be better served by continuing at a later time.

Get Your Tone and Body Language in Sync

Even if your words convey the exact message you want to get across, your overall presence might convey something else entirely. For example, a hesitant voice could communicate your lack of confidence in what you're saying. A scowl you can't hide may look like you don't agree with what's happening, even though you claim to.

That's why it's important to work on your delivery in advance, especially if body language and tone have been tricky for you in situations like this in the past. Practice saying your message in front of a mirror so that you can see what else you might be inadvertently communicating with your body language, and adjust accordingly. Saying your message out loud three times beforehand will keep you from fully relying on notes when you're communicating it.

Hopefully, you won't need these strategies too soon, but keep them handy for the next time you have something difficult to discuss. To continue honing your communications skills, take a look at my book Show Up. Step Up. Step Out. You can read the first five chapters for free now.

Start your year with the right focus

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Before you hit the ground running in 2018, let’s review three key strategies that will help you stay grounded, productive and engaged all year long. Refer back to this list once a quarter to make sure you leverage these essentials of strong leadership.

Remember Your 'Big 3'

If you make just one shift year, this is one of the most critical. Identify the top three areas where you can have the biggest impact on the business, given your strengths and your role. Then redirect your time and energy around these “Big 3” to get results faster. Remember that this may mean letting go of some less value-added work that you’ve historically spent time on.

Take Time to Reflect

One of the biggest ways to step up your game as a leader is by investing time to reflect.  Start with as little as 15 minutes per week and gradually add more. As you do, you'll see that you can contribute more strategically because you are thinking about important issues and what you can do to help the organization address them.

Tastefully Self-Promote

This is something most people underestimate the importance of. To get results as a leader, and to keep your career thriving, the right people need to be aware of your contributions and impact. Remember that most people are too busy or preoccupied to notice all the ways you add value – even if they want to. So it’s up to you to help them understand how you’re making a difference and how to best tap into your strengths and experience.

Take a moment to identify which of these three strategies you will start with in 2018. To further invest in your success, take a look at our products and services