Teach Your Children Well: They Might Be Listening!

Posted on November 15th, by Joan Axelrod in On My Mind. No Comments

My Birthday and Mother’s Day gifts did not come this year in beautiful boxes with lovely ribbons.  They did not come in the form of a bouquet or in breathtaking flats of flowers carefully chosen by my family to lovingly plant in my garden.  Nor in a carefully prepared meal of multiple fresh organic vegetables shipped in from out East, (am accused of being high- maintenance), prepared especially for me and served at my farm table fondly considered my home’s mission control.  My gifts this year came in the form of startling realizations, “ah ha” moments, repeated theme questions from multiple mentees, and a chance meeting at 7-11.  All compelling me to write this blog.

It started with a phone call home from my son, because sadly he did not come home for Mother’s Day this year. Do not shed a tear for me dear readers. That is because I completed my job. He left the nest.

Up until this moment I have shied away from writing a blog solely about my children, but alas the time has come.  Yes, I have sprinkled them in here and there through anecdotes and references but never as the main event. That is because this is mainly a business blog, but you will ultimately see the connections.  For those who know me personally this is by no means because my children took a back seat to my career, in fact it is just the opposite. They are my inspiration. The reason I have the strength to do all I do. The impetus behind all I have accomplished. You see ours has always been a story of survival of the fittest.  Eat or be eaten.  In retrospect my children are the wind in my sails. The energy that fuels my soul. My talisman enabling me to face another day, weather life’s storms, ebbs, flows and challenges.

They say it takes a village to raise a family, for us it took a small country.  So this blog will not only be for parents.  It is for anyone who dares to love, mentor, shape and mold a child, young adult or influence a life. This may ultimately be a story of happily ever after, but it was no fairy tale in the making.  Ours is a story of steps, rotating family members, friends and neighbors. We needed to throw convention out the window to cross the finish line.  It was by no means a graceful relay race; it was an obstacle course, a tough mudder at that, navigating all of the personalities. There was no baton to pass. It was more a struggle of wills carried out through passed backpacks and winter coats through car windows. Happy meals and sports equipment dropped over little league fences. Disputes, disagreements, negotiations, and resolutions conveyed via email and text.  Nevertheless, we made it through!

We had three rules, 1. Be a good Person (Pay it Forward, Equity, Inclusion) 2. Do Your Homework (Accountability) 3. Make something of your life, case closed! The rest was up for interpretation. Making it out the other end was the top line, bottom line, end game, daily goal, and a struggle at that.

 

The phone call:

If your life is anything like mine from the time you give birth you will never have another sip of any liquid or bite into any form of solid food (even if you are thousands of miles away from home) that is not interrupted or without one of your family members having a burning desire to tell you something.  This Friday night was no different. Feet up, finally relaxed, ready for that first sip of (very good) Cabernet, Boom! My son was ready to download his first week of work. Boy, I am lucky I answered the phone.  He was calling to tell me with a voice full of pride that he joined the Women’s Initiative at work.  I was speechless; something you might imagine does not come up often.  He went on to explain that by example I taught him the importance of diverse teams and inclusion. This he felt joining the group was the best way to meet the managers that supported these Initiatives.  Wow, I was blown away!

HE WAS LISTENING

I had a similar experience with my daughter weeks earlier; suddenly I was beginning to connect the dots.  While conducting a lunch and learn at Love and Quiches Gourmet on the subject of Time Management, I looked out into the audience and my daughter was sitting in the front row. It was both shocking and daunting. Truth be told, I did not think she would even show up because it was not mandatory, I assumed she would take a pass.  I had underestimated this young adult. Low and behold there she was, pen and paper in hand. The moment turned out to be magical. The lunch and learn progressed and every time I asked a question or for audience participation my daughter chimed in or raised her hand with the answer.  Finally I had to say ENOUGH!  Secretly, I was beaming.

 

“Ah Ha” Moment:

THEY WERE LISTENING

Over the years I have mentored countless scores of men and women. My mentees know I take calls at all hours.  My heart and line are always open. I am always a text, e-mail or phone call away. What I realized that day is the impact this made on my children.

The whole time, THEY WERE LISTENING!

For you see, my children were raised amongst a backdrop of mentoring advice.  For every one of you out there that I have talked off the ledge while making a pot of meatballs, whose resume I have reviewed while proofing a college essay, or mock interview I have conducted while making a paper mache volcano (with real lava I might add).

MY CHILDREN WERE LISTENING.

My son still to this day thinks I could not hear him in the back seat while I was driving carpool when he would say to his friends.  “Ask my mom, she knows stuff.”

So full circle, why is this story so important and how does it tie into raising children and ultimately business success? Doesn’t mentoring really start in childhood?  Isn’t mentoring crucial to personal development and building confidence which is vital to success? Look at the impact it has had on my children’s success. Think of the lives YOU can impact by becoming a mentor!

Who are your childhood mentors?   Who has helped shape your career?  Who have you helped influence and pushed up the corporate ladder?

 

The questions and the recurring theme:

If I were to do a retrospective; a greatest hits album of sorts, of mentoring conversations or most frequently asked questions and recurring themes, the two that instantly come to mind are,  drum roll please…

 

Will I be able to maintain balance while working and raising a family?

Will it be alright in the end?

 

After all, these are the same two questions I have been pondering myself since I gave birth 26 years ago. Patience please, I will circle back in the end, promise.

 

 

A Chance Meeting, The catalyst for writing this blog (A true story):

As you all know I am a collector of people. An attractor of odd happenstances.  A relisher of consideration if life is made up of coincidence or sheer will!  As I often say, I do not write my blogs, my blogs write me. They come to life through a series of circumstances, conversations, meetings and happenings compelling me to put pen to paper. This blog is no different.

From the time my children were toddlers, my calendar has been filled to the brim and my to do list wants to fight back and say “are you kidding me?” Instead of my hotel loyalty program sending me a congratulations letter each year they should have been apologizing, and sending my family a fruit basket! You can be rest assured I was always forgetting, running out of, or leaving something to the very, I mean very last minute. 7-Eleven became an oasis in the storm. It was where we went for the forgotten milk. The last ingredient for the cookies we were baking for class. Where I comforted an inconsolable child with Slurpies and other unsavory items I would not allow at home. Hate to admit, it was where dinner was served for back to back games and nights on the field!

As we all know the more things change the more they stay the same.  Two weeks ago when I finally cleared my schedule to visit my son’s his new apartment in Philly, (more excited than you could possibly imagine), the week leading to the visit was overflowing to the brim with meetings, clients, workshops, you know the drill.  I found myself at 10 PM the night before unpacked, on the way home from a sales dinner with nothing to bring as a house warming gift.  Then I saw a sign, or actually THE sign, 7-Eleven. Not sure what I thought I would find inside but again there are no coincidences!

As I opened the door there in the aisles was a beautiful woman in a business suit, milk carton in hand, with two adorable children in tow.  My life flashed before my eyes and suddenly I knew what I would give.  I taught my kids to give first for if you pay it forward you will always be successful.  That is true in life and in business.

I tapped this woman on the shoulder, handed her my card, told her of my children, life, balance (or lack thereof), and that I was going to tell my story in a blog for her and as a gift for my son.

Much to my delight I received this e-mail the very next morning.

 

Hi Joan,

Nice meeting you at 7-11 last night and reminding me there is no such thing as balance and I will survive motherhood ha ha.

Please do let me know when you write your blog would love to read it.

Thanks!

 

My son thought it was cool but was a little less juiced as you could imagine after 23 years of similar stories and happenstance. He was hoping for a flat screen.

So, what is the net long term effect of nights on the road, running out of milk and serving cornflakes with orange juice?  Will your children be permanently scarred from screamed lullabies due to frustration, cold pizza for breakfast or heaven forbid Pork Fried Rice? Can you truly make the right choice between a board meeting and a track meet? Did the world come to an end because I missed a business opportunity or two or let my kids turn in assignment late because being together for whatever reason that day was the better option?

There actually was no long term net effect.

This week I will make my pilgrimage to see my youngest child graduate, a miss-matched army in tow. My job is done, my heart is full, and I could not be more proud.

 

So, what is the answer to those two burning questions my inquisitive readers?

Will you be able to maintain balance while working and raising a family?

Probably not, I never did. You will make choices, some good, and some bad. Through those choices you will ALL grow and learn, after all, isn’t that the point of this blog.

Balance is like one of those jig saw puzzles we all have stored high up on a closet shelf. When you finally do take it down that boring rainy day and decide to put it together as a family activity, inevitably there is a piece or two missing. Nevertheless, you have spent so much time working on it you just squint your eyes and make it work. Mentally you refuse to see what is missing. That’s how you make it out the other end!  Each day you show up fully and do the best you can.That might not make you balanced but it makes you whole.

 

Dear 7-Eleven mom and countless others reading this blog.

Will it be alright in the end?

That depends on your definition.

I say ABSOLUTELY!

 

About the Author:  Joan Axelrod Siegelwax is the Executive Vice President of Love & Quiches Gourmet, and the Founder and President of Powerful Possibilities Coaching. In her role at Love and Quiches Gourmet she leads the Human Resources Department with the primary goal of increasing employee engagement, accountability, retention and improved corporate culture.  Through creation of Powerful Possibilities Coaching, she has made these skills available to a larger audience through Transformational Executive Coaching, specializing in personal growth, organizational development, career coaching, leadership development, managing transitions, executive presence, personal branding, personal empowerment, life balance, organization and productivity.


The Thing That’s Stopping You from Hiring Based on Merit

Posted on November 8th, by a Guest Contributor in Business and Workplace, Workplace Culture. No Comments

The person next in line to enter the room looked sharp, confident and ready to ace their first job interview. Dressed in a blue suit, shiny shoes and with their hair well combed, they were ready to take over the world and show that hard work pays off.

 If I were to tell you that the person described above is a man, would you be surprised? Probably not. You’ve probably seen a similar description for a man before. That’s because, as humans, we often repeat certain words and phrases. We do this because we like order. We like to recognize and categorize things. This in turn trains our minds to make assumptions about characteristics of people very quickly, with little information.

Here is where I introduce the term meritocracy, and explain why I find myself a tad skeptical whenever I hear “we’re a meritocratic organization.” Meritocracy is a term describing the ideal state in which equal merit results in equal rewards. Unfortunately, believing in meritocracy as a given is as naïve as believing that only men are biased against women, when even women themselves are biased against women. Not shocked enough yet? Keep reading this post and I will further explain the consequences of unconscious and conscious bias, more specifically, the bias that recruiters have when recruiting potential employees. Through scientific and peer-reviewed evidence, I want to show you why and how meritocracy is (often) a myth.

Bias is a term that goes hand in hand with meritocracy. It means “prejudice in favor of or against a thing, person or group, compared with another.” Bias can be seen as an obstacle to meritocracy; the one thing that is preventing merit from being the single most important factor when hiring. Bias can be found everywhere, even as you are reading this post you are being biased in the same way that I am being biased writing the post. Below is a study that was conducted to test people’s biases.

In one study, from 2012, the same resume and application materials for a science lab manager job were sent out to 127 biology, chemistry and physics professors at American universities. The researchers sent out the same application to all the professors, but changed the names on the application so that half had a male student’s name, and half had a female student’s name. 

The professors, who were both men and women, had to rate the applications on a scale of 1–7 in terms of competence, hireability, how much mentoring they’d give the candidate, and starting salary. The results were staggering: the applications with the woman’s name was on average rated lower in competence, hireability, and how much mentoring the professors would give. The “female” application package received, on average, a wage that was more than $3500 less than the “male” applicant per year. 

The bias appeared in both female and male professors who were reviewing the packages. That is, women and men are equally biased.

It might seem impossible to ever reach a true meritocracy, but don’t worry because every day more opportunities for a more inclusive workplace appear. For example, there’s a start-up helping companies with blind applications processes, called GapJumpers, where you can post jobs that don’t require applicants to submit characteristics such as gender or ethnicity.

Through blind hiring, true meritocratic recruiting can in fact also exist. Also, just becoming more aware of unconscious bias is a first step in reducing its effect. But the belief, assumption, and expectation that a company is just somehow, by default, a meritocracy without carefully planning out exactly how that outcome will be achieved, is a myth.

 

 

About the Author: Alice Marshall is a Gender Equality and Diversity Expert, and Founder of Equality Inc. She helps companies improve gender equality and diversity via her 90 Day Diversity Program and trainings on unconscious bias and inclusive leadership. She writes a blog with Google Sweden called Gender Equality in Tech.  


7 Steps To Overcome Historical Hurts On Trust

Posted on November 3rd, by a Guest Contributor in Business and Workplace, Workplace Culture. No Comments

Have you ever struggled to release the pain caused by broken trust?  Sure, you wanted to forget what happened. To move through the experience and move on. Yet, the pain lingered like a phantom limb.

Stealing your focus.

Draining your energy.

Holding you back.

I just took a call about this from a prospective client – the VP of HR for a consumer products company.  This woman’s team had a lot on its plate. A new CEO to position. A leadership team to develop. A transformative agenda to bring out. But, the biggest challenge?

For the past few years, the company had gone through lots of changes. Changes whose negative impacts had largely been worked around, instead of through.  This is what that head of HR said to me:

“Hits on trust that happened years ago are posing a serious threat to our current initiatives,” she told me. “Instead of trust being used as a vehicle to connect and move forward, people are using it as a weapon, using what happened in the past to judge and criticize. These historical hurts on trust have been identified as the number one barrier to our agenda’s successful implementation. We’re looking for a healing strategy.”

A healing strategy.  That got my attention.

Isn’t that what we all need, when trust has broken down? We all want to learn to trust again and get back in the game. We all want healing for the people we work with and support – healing that helps them be their best.  There’s only way. And that’s to step in and work through the historical hurts.  Here’s where I can help – with a roadmap proven to overcome historical hits on trust and help people and teams learn to trust again.

 

Observe and acknowledge what’s happened.

Give the gift of awareness. Notice and acknowledge what you and your people are experiencing. Healing begins when leaders recognize what has occurred, its effect on people and the system, and the resulting losses.

Sometimes ‘what happened’ to break trust down is straightforward. A single act. A glaring oversight. But far more often, trust has been worn down by less obvious behaviors. Little things people have ‘done’ to one another unintentionally.

Small behaviors that were perceived as insensitive.

Fleeting reactions that triggered doubt about intentions or motives.

Ways people felt railroaded, instead of supported, to move through change.

 Assess where trust stands, and why. Get a baseline understanding that will help you and your people stop beating around the bush and address core issues.

 

Encourage feelings to surface.

Trust is emotionally provocative. When it’s broken, strong feelings get stirred. Anxiety. Vulnerability. Regret. Betrayal. People may wonder if they have what it takes to move on and contribute – or if they even want to.  Give people permission to express those feelings constructively.  Create safe forums that allow people to express their fear, frustration, anger, and doubt. Interrupt the cycle of resentment going ‘underground.’ Help people give voice to the negativity they’re holding, so they can begin to release it.

 

Give yourself permission to get support.

Rebuilding trust is hard work. But something quite powerful occurs when the breach of trust is truthfully acknowledged. Not twisted, justified, or defended – but simply acknowledged.

There’s release.

People can begin to move from finger-pointing to understanding.  From judging to considering extenuating circumstances.  From abdicating to problem solving. From loss to possibility.  Trust work is game changing. Yet, it’s not always easy. You may need support to bring out the highest intentions of everyone in your organization.

You may need support to support the trust work.

Give yourself permission to go after the help you need. For 25 years, the biggest mistake I’ve seen HR leaders make is not asking for support earlier.

 

Reframe the experience.

Help people understand the bigger picture of ‘what happened.’ Encourage them to ask questions about what they’ve experienced.  Give them open answers. Help them discover opportunity.  Authentically engaging a process of inquiry gives people the chance to broaden their perspectives. To see beyond their own pain and take in the challenges the business is facing.  People want the organizations they work for to be successful. Help them see their role in forging that success. Paint a picture of where they fit in and how you’re in this process to rebuild trust together.

 

Expand ownership.

Support people to take responsibility. They may not have responsibility for what occurred and what they experienced. But they can take responsibility for how they choose to respond.  Yes, there is power in hearing and acknowledging what happened. But the key to turning sinking trust around is inviting others to take responsibility for aligning around the path forward.  This open invitation is an opportunity to empower people. To unleash the paradigm-shifting realization that trust begins with them. With their sound intentions.  Their constructive attitudes.  Their commitment to extend the benefit of the doubt, check out assumptions, and truly seek to understand – instead of blame – one another when trust breaks down.

People have far more power than they realize to dramatically improve the level and quality of trust in their workplaces. Spark that awareness. Feed it. Use it.

 

Offer release through forgiveness.

Forgiveness is freedom. It’s not forgetting what happened, but releasing the grip of what happened.  It’s about letting go, so you can move on.  Help your people move through lingering bitterness. Listen for what still needs to be heard and understood for them to feel ready to let go. Help them choose to remember the lessons and release the impact.  Support them rebuild trust and open up to co-creating the future.  Leading the way in extending forgiveness is not just for others, but for yourself. Carrying guilt about your possible role in trust’s breakdown won’t serve anyone.

 

Let go and move on.

Trust begins with you. Model moving on!  Contribute to your organization’s new Trust Story. You’ve got a fresh start, and you’ve earned it.  Yet – don’t underestimate trust’s fragility. Keep close tabs on the behaviors you model.

 

The moment any of us stop paying attention to trust is the moment we risk losing it.

 

About the Author:  Michele Reina is co-founder of Reina, A Trust Building Consultancy. She, along with business partner and husband Dennis Reina, have collectively devoted nearly 50 years to researching trust, developing rigorous instruments to measure trust and defining practical steps to rebuild trust that has been compromised.  Michele works with organizations like Walt Disney World, American Express and Harvard University, taking the guesswork out of trust building to achieve measurable improvements in collaboration and teamwork, employee engagement, leadership effectiveness, workplace culture and change management.

 


“Pretty Good For a Girl”

Posted on October 25th, by Jennifer Payne in Business and Workplace, On My Mind. 1 Comment

I recently had the opportunity to see a particular band with a pretty big cult following at a local music club.  Though I had heard a lot about this band from others who have seen them at one of their many semi-annual visits to the area, this was the first time I had seen them.  As I watched them set up on stage, I was immediately struck by the following detail: they had a female drummer.

I found myself fascinated by this and rather fixated on her throughout the show.  As the band began to play, it was immediately apparent that this girl was good.  I mean REALLY good.  She rocked on those drums like, well….like a rock star.  I jokingly thought to myself, “I want to be as cool as her when I grow up!” and found myself wanting to say, “Wow! She is REALLY good for a female drummer!” But then I stopped that thought in its tracks and corrected myself.  She wasn’t just good “for a girl,” she was really good.  Period.  She could hold her own next to any number of drummers I’ve seen.  Her gender truly had nothing to do with it.

This got me thinking about gender stereotypes as related to career choices.  The reason that this girl was so notable is because in reality, it’s not common to find female rock drummers.  But she powered right through that stereotype, hence evoking that thought that I wanted to be as cool as her.  Not only was she breaking a stereotype, she was doing it well and not looking back.

“Rock Drummer” is certainly not the only profession that tends to be male dominated.  I recently returned from the HR Technology Conference, which this year kicked off with a “Women in HR Technology” summit that focused on that very topic of pushing through stereotypes and promoting and developing more women into traditionally male dominated professions; in this case, roles in technology or leadership roles in technology companies.  The encouraging thing there was, other than discussions about how to get more young girls interested in tech roles at a much younger age, little of what was discussed was truly focused on women in a gender stereotype sort of way.  There was some talk about tendencies women have versus their male counterparts as a generalization (i.e. not applying for roles for which they are not 100% qualified), but much of the advice given was relevant to both sexes.  It just happened to be in the context of a traditionally male dominated field, and the majority of the attendees happened to be female.

But even after attending that summit, and working in HR where I know that there is a lack of women in key roles in certain professions, I still found myself out of habit wanting to say “pretty good for a girl” about this drummer.  And I still take note when I fly and have a “female pilot.” This observation is never in any sort of positive or negative way, it’s just an observation that it is still not as common to see female pilots as it is to see male pilots.  So while we are making strides, there’s still a ways to go.  And this goes for both sides of the equation.  How many people do you know who out of habit may still use the term “male nurse”?

Until it’s habitual to just say “drummer” or “pilot” or “nurse” we still have gender stereotypes to overcome.  But kudos to those that pay no attention to them and break right through….both women and men!

 

About the Author: Jennifer Payne, SPHR, SHRM-SCP has almost two decades of HR experience in employee relations, talent acquisition, learning & development, and employee communications, and currently works in talent management in the retail grocery industry.  She is one of the co-founders of Women of HR, and is currently the Editor of the site. You can connect with her on Twitter as @JennyJensHR and on LinkedIn.


The Human Touch – #HRTechConf 2016

Posted on October 18th, by Jennifer Payne in HR Conferences, HR Technology. No Comments

The 2016 HR Technology Conference has now come and gone; another year, another fantastic show.  This year’s iteration offered all that one has come to expect, and then some.  The addition of the Women in HR Technology pre-conference summit was certainly a highlight (but you can read all about that in my previous post).

The one thing I do love about this show is that it seems to continue to reinvent itself, and keeps pushing forward with new ideas and new concepts.  But at its core, it remains true to its purpose: showcasing how technology can improve the HR function, and how it will continue to shape and reshape the function into the future.  And each year, I see certain themes that seem to appear over and over again throughout the week.  Interestingly this year, at a show focused on technology, the themes I picked up on all seemed to center on humans.

 Read the full post on the HR Tech Insiders blog.

 

 

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“Be Fearless” – Women in HR Technology #HRTechConf

Posted on October 11th, by Jennifer Payne in Business and Workplace. No Comments

In preparing for this year’s HR Technology Conference, one of the sessions I was most looking forward to was the pre-conference “Women in HR Technology” event.  Anytime something new is offered on the agenda you just never know how it’s going to be received, but based on the descriptions, panelists, and pre-conference hype, it seemed to have promise to be a solid session.  And judging by the overwhelming attendance and standing room only/overflow situation, I’d say for a first time event it exceeded expectations.  An all-star panel of female leaders from companies such as ADP, Equifax, Ceridian, Paychex, SAP, Cornerstone, Ultimate, and Oracle (among others!) offered lively discussions and countless bits of great advice on developing and promoting more women into technology roles and leadership roles within technology companies.

 

Read the full post on the HR Tech Insiders blog

 

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Women In Technology at #HRTechConf 2016

Posted on September 22nd, by Jennifer Payne in HR Conferences, HR Technology. 1 Comment

We’re now past the halfway point of September, and summer officially comes to a close this week.  That can only mean that the HR Technology Conference is right around the corner!  This year’s event moves back to Chicago from its typical Las Vegas location, and will take place from October 4th – 7th at McCormick Place.

This show still holds strong as one of my favorite events in the world of HR conferences, which is why I continue to serve as an official blogger, and am even stepping up to speak this year (shameless plug!).  I believe it continues to be more important than ever with each passing year for great HR pros to have a good handle on what technology can do to make our lives easier and businesses more efficient and effective…

 

Read the full post on the HR Tech Insiders blog

 

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Truth In Advertising

Posted on August 30th, by Joan Axelrod in On My Mind, Personal & Professional Effectiveness. No Comments

In most instances people and situations present themselves at face value. We however ignore the signs. We see what we choose to see. Painting the scene with our biases, expectations, experiences, hopes, dreams and yes fears.  After all why not, we want what we want. Our wills are strong. Why let a little thing like reality cloud our persistence? Wouldn’t it be great if people and situations came with warning labels? Narcissistic however funny, introverted nonetheless brilliant, insecure practices sarcasm to cover?

This job will offer great growth opportunity: if you are able to leap small buildings in a single bound, navigate through layers of corporate culture, and be willing to relocate to Peru.

We read the warning labels, see the signs, squint through the fine print, yet we barrel through.  Our thought process; this time will be different. I will make it different.  I have the magic bullet.  Even more tragic, if I hang in there long enough things will change.

News Flash, they won’t. 

So what is one to do?  How do you learn to read the signs and see the red flashing light from the runway? Learn to be on the alert, not put on the blinders, or look the other way.  Here are my tips for reading between the lines to get to fine print:

 

Reality Check

Open your eyes. Let in the sunlight.  Smell the coffee.  Take a look around you.  Ask yourself what is really going on here?  Who are you surrounded by? How do you spend your days? Nights? Weekends?  Does your current career make you want to jump out of bed in the morning? Does it make you want to hit the snooze alarm? Are you truly happy?  Is this the life that G-D has intended for you?

Then ask yourself the following question:

What happens when you stop hitting your head against the wall?

Answer: It stops hurting

 

Red Flags/Warning Detonators

What gets your goat? Makes your hair stand up on end? Are like nails on a chalk board?  Are you aware of whom or what pushes your buttons? Do you have insight into whom or what installed them?  What kind of people and situations make you want to pitch your tent? Conversely, which makes you want to cut and run?

These insights can be so freeing! A roadmap to your psyche. The lyrics to your personal dance of intimacy.  This knowledge can be your liberator or your jailer. Either dooming you to repeat your fate, or educating you to freedom and positive choice.  Foot on the pedal or foot on the brake, inevitably the road will be long.  Right road or wrong? Straight road or curved?  I do predict some bumps, potholes, forks and ditches.  That’s when the roadmap and insights become so invaluable. Your ladder back to safer ground.

What is real and what is perceived? Your reality?  Their reality? The truth?

BOOM

 

Limiting Beliefs, Fears & Inner Critics

I’m too old to go back to school.  No one is ever going to love me.  I am never going to make it to the C- suite.  Fill in the Blank!

Today is the day to rise up and fight back. Set up an erase and destroy mission. Slash old tapes mascarading as fears.  Talk back to your Self Criticism. Knock out the Inner Critics that haunt us all. I have been introduced to a myriad of Inner Critics in my coaching practice. A menacing and meddling bunch at that. I have personally exorcised, befriended and ultimately locked my own in the closet just to publish this and subsequent blogs. I GET IT!

Truth is you are not terminally unique. We all need to fight past fears to become our authentic selves,  and dare to be vulnerable.

 

Authenticity/Imposter Syndrome

I love the song Come As You Are.  Wouldn’t it be cool if we could cut to the chase, rip off the mask, wrestle our Inner Critics, mow down the Nay Sayers, and show up as our Authentic Self right from the start?  Ultimately that’s who is going to stay for the long haul.  Nonetheless, we brush on the war paint, suit ourselves up, strap on the armor and hide our true identity away from the world.  We fear that if people truly get to know us that they might not feel the same way.

At work they call it the Imposter Syndrome.  We claim our hard earned position and rightful seat at the table only to be riddled with fear.  What if our colleagues find out that we are a fraud?

It helps to remember that even superheroes have their strengths and weaknesses.  That is what makes them so intriguing.

 

Don’t Just Listen, Hear

When I do a communication workshop I start with this quote:

“The biggest communication problem is that we do not listen to understand, we listen to reply”, Unknown

Pretty powerful stuff!  Further, I impart my favorite communication tip, “Listen More, Talk Less”.  If I ended my workshop here my audience would have all they need to size up any situation, not to mention ascertain the essence of any individual.  G-d gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason!  Truth is we get enough intel and gut feelings to size up a person and situation in the first meeting. What we do with that intuition is in question here.

 

Preferences, Deal Breakers & Would Be Nice

You can’t always get what you want, but if you try, sometimes you get what you need.

What if we took the time to identify what we did and did not want in advance? Could we get closer? Imagine if we each created a list of the things we ultimately could not live without. Our must haves. Our core values.  Our essence. What makes us tick? Bingo!  This can work for relationships, jobs, homes, quite frankly anything.

What are your deal breakers? They are different for us all. What compromises will be too deep? What will cause you to break not bend? What is beyond your capacity to look the other way? Keep this list close to your heart because compromise here will bite you in the back later.

My personal favorites are the would be nices! These are the bargaining chips.  The icing on the cake.  Here you have enough of your wants in place. You are not compromising your deal breakers away. Hoorah, you get to add a few would be nices to sweeten the pot!

Pretty cool system. One must however keep in mind that life is an evolution.  This is the ultimate balancing act. We are all a work in progress. As we grow our list and the lists around us will shift as well.

 

Setting Boundaries

So we are where we are, and we are with who we are with, now what? Set boundaries.  These are the rules of engagement. A game book of what you will and will not allow.   Only you know what is truly off base.  What will be the final straw? Remember, what sends one person packing is different from the next. What gets one person voted off the island would not even raise an eyebrow for the next.  How do you set boundaries, you ask?

This used to be nearly impossible for me, but with practice it can be achieved.  In the beginning it was like a scary game of tag, only the stakes were much higher.  I would run in, say my piece, close my eyes, hold my breath, hope the world would not crumble around me, and then run out!  I would say, “This is how it isThis is how it is going to be. This is how I am going to show upThis is what I am willing to accept. Either you are going to accept me and this, or not. No one is going to die. (I cannot take credit for the last line!)

In the beginning setting boundaries did feel like death; nevertheless, no one died.  Some people accepted my boundaries, some people did not.  Some people stayed some people went. EVERYONE respected me more.

 

Time Test

One of my favorite songs as a teenager was Should I Stay Or Should I Go.  It should have been, Time Is On Your Side.  Now, I no longer look at life in absolutes.  People and situations as good or bad.  Right or wrong. Perfect or flawed. (I look at life from Both Sides Now.)  I have given myself the gift of imperfection, and I allow others and situations the same courtesy.

My coach gave me the greatest gift, the concept of AndSometimes we are just not ready to pull the trigger.  We might not have all the facts. The bandwidth, strength and gumption. The means to make a truly educated decision.  If that is the case you just may need to live in a grey area for a bit longer.  All of the pieces will fall into place, eventually.

It is helpful to remember that choices do not always boil down to Either, Or, sometimes life offers you a third choice, the And.  A middle ground, a time out, an experimental period, a compromise.  It is important to consider what appears life shattering now, might not be all consuming six months down the line.

 

Compromise, not Cave

There is compromise and there is being taken advantage of. Some folks have a higher pain threshold than others. Many give more than they get. I know this first hand for I am one of them.

One of my core values is to be “of service”. I was taught by my father at a very early age to give of myself, be charitable and not really worry if it is reciprocated. You will get your gifts later.

He could not have been more correct.  I have lived my life by this rule.  Volunteering and mentoring.  Leading my organization emphasizing service and personal growth. Supporting, nurturing and caring for my family and inner circle beyond measure.  I now have my clients to add to the queue.

I love to give.  I know I am appreciated. Anyone taking advantage, well, that’s on them.  My gift is seeing people happy, growing and moving in a positive direction. That’s why I love what I do.

 

Conscience Connections:

My New Year’s resolution was to make Conscious Connections.

I am a connector at heart and the consummate Networker.  THIS IS GOOD THING! Yet here we are talking about connecting at a deeper level. Conscious Connections are the holy grail of connection. They are about trusting our gut instincts to find our Tribe.

Here we put on our mining hats and tunnel past the red flags. We dig deep, and dare to be vulnerable. We get naked, remove our armor, and peel back the layers of our soul. We will finally find the perfect home. Safely we can unpack our steamer trunks, yet they will dare to stay. I’ll show you mine if you show me yours. I will pick you up when you fall. You will do the same.  I will not care who you are, where you come from or what you do. Nor will you.  Time will stand still when we speak and are together. Laughter will come in waves and tears can flow freely.

When you find this rare breed dear reader, rejoice.  Nurture, fight for and handle with care. For as hard as they are to seek, is as easy as they are to squander.

 

Rocking Chair Test

My niece was taught in kindergarten, “You Get What You Get and You Don’t Get Upset”.  I think that is utter nonsense and that teacher should be fired!  We all have control of our destiny.

We have the free will to choose the people and situations that appear in our lives. Conversely, we have the power to leave the ones that no longer serve us.  So what is the litmus test for sorting fact from fiction? Will from reality? Opportunity from Illusion?  I use the Rocking Chair Test.

I imagine myself at the end of my days. None of the day to day nonsense created through work, relationships, and difficult choices will matter any longer.  As I sit in my Rocking Chair all I will have are days stretched out in front of me. Time will be like a warm blanket safely covering me, so I can slowly and carefully contemplate my life’s choices.   I will ask myself; do I want you next to me?  Will we have brought each other happiness? Have we become better people having knowing each other?   Will this situation have a positive impact on me? Did it add meaning to my life and the lives around me? How did it serve? Did it make the world a better place?

Your answers to these questions are The Truth in Advertising and The Fine Print all wrapped up in one.

Think hard my friend, consider carefully, and then carry on.

 

About the Author:  Joan Axelrod Siegelwax is the Executive Vice President of Love & Quiches Gourmet, and the Founder and President of Powerful Possibilities Coaching. In her role at Love and Quiches Gourmet she leads the Human Resources Department with the primary goal of increasing employee engagement, accountability, retention and improved corporate culture.  Through creation of Powerful Possibilities Coaching, she has made these skills available to a larger audience through Transformational Executive Coaching, specializing in personal growth, organizational development, career coaching, leadership development, managing transitions, executive presence, personal branding, personal empowerment, life balance, organization and productivity.


Disciplined Work, Lifelong Learning and Tikkun Olam {HR Leader Series}

Posted on August 24th, by Rowena Morais in Career Advice, Leadership, Personal & Professional Effectiveness. No Comments

Editor’s Note: Women of HR contributor Rowena Morais will be writing a series of posts over the coming months featuring successful HR leaders who talk about the habits made the biggest impact in their professional lives.  Today’s post is the first in that series.

 

Self-described kibitzer on all things enterprise HRM and HR technology, Naomi Bloom is well-known for having built the only vendor-neutral HRM domain model and application architecture “starter kits”. Her IP has been licensed across the industry from 1995 through 2013 and has been considered a primary contributor to many of today’s best practices in HRM enterprise software.  Her early start was as a Programmer at John Hancock Life Insurance in the 1960’s where she was trained in programming, software design and systems analysis.

I got in touch with Naomi to talk about the habits that led to her success because the research I had done indicated that she was renowned in the HR technology industry. With more than 17,000 Twitter followers, Naomi is a frequent speaker at HR conferences and the author of Human Resource Management and Information Technology : Achieving a Strategic Partnership.  Her industry contributions have been recognised with the IHRIM’s Summit Award and in 2011, and Naomi became a Fellow of  the Human Resource Policy Institute at Boston University.  Naomi’s BA is from the University of Pennsylvania, with a major in English Literature and a minor in natural science.  Her MBA is from Boston University.

In discussing the most powerful habits that Naomi has relied on, in running her solo practice over the last two decades, it was clear that the experience of her early years was impactful. She found the questions on habits particularly useful because it is important to see the distinction between habits and KSAOCs (Knowledge, Skills, Abilities and other Characteristics) – they are not the same thing.

 

Habit #1 – Disciplined work

The first habit Naomi drew reference to was her habit of disciplined work.

Her mother passed away when Naomi was young. However, she was surrounded by three generations of family and her grandmother proved to be a big influence on her.

“This early life taught me about the value of hard work, living up to commitments and about sticking to a schedule. I am smart but I’m not a genius. If you add good work habits to your normal habits though, this becomes a force magnifier,” she shared.

 

Habit #2 – Critical thinking  and lifelong learning

 This second habit is an interesting one for the fact that it’s a two part combo. It’s a challenge in itself to develop the mastery associated with thinking critically, let alone the dedication or quest for lifelong learning.

As Naomi puts it, “Lifelong learning is really about a commitment to always be vesting yourself in your skills and your knowledge.”

To never stop learning is a skill that may take a lifetime to develop and certainly, one that needs to be worked on with dedication, ambition and relentless energy.

Combined, this would mean being on the lookout to gain alternative points of view and  teaching yourself all kinds of new things. But where it all comes together is when you apply critical thinking to that whole process.

 

Habit #3 – Tikkun Olam

 Tikkum Olam is a Jewish concept which literally means “repair of the world” and is being interpreted by modern movements in Judaism as a commandment for people to behave and act constructively and beneficially.

Naomi explained it as representing a moral obligation, in every Jew, to leave the world a better place than they found it.

Overwhelming as it sounds, this may be achievable by ordinary folk because you are expected to do what you can.  You can do this by raising your child properly, by embarking on a recycling initiative or even doing volunteer work.  It would mean that if you had a dollar, you would give part of it away. If you could teach, you would devote some of your time to teaching someone else.

 

These were the three primary habits that Naomi referred to.

 

Were these habits consciously developed from when she was young?  She did not think so. Naomi was greatly influenced by the adults around her as she grew. Her father was an early riser – he worked hard and for long hours which meant Naomi did not get to see very much of him. She spent a lot of time with her grandmother, who being religious, imparted strong values  in her.

 It did not mean, however, that everything she was taught, was accepted so easily. There were things Naomi resisted.

For example, coming from a modest family, Naomi grew up at a time when there was a lot of anti-semitism in the air – you learned not to call too much attention to yourself.

Yet, Naomi couldn’t help crying out against the injustices she saw. As she put it, “I didn’t know it when I was a young kid but I realised in my late 20’s that I was a feminist from my earliest days. I rallied against the discrimination I saw; I just called it out”.

She almost got fired for asking too many questions, when early in her career, she discovered that men received more pay for the same work. She protested the Vietnam war, much to the chagrin of her family.  But the point Naomi made about all of this is that you are in charge of and responsible for your own life.

You get to a point in your life when you realise that you cannot blame your parents for where you are in life. You get to a point where you begin to accomplish things and – happily – you give yourself credit for that.

The habits you choose however – because it is a choice – are what will set you apart. And while Naomi considers herself fortunate for having picked up some really good habits along the way, you and I both know, these were choices she made for herself that have led her to where she is today.

What habits do you aspire to build that you believe will make the difference in your life?

 

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Connect with Naomi Bloom on LinkedIn or Twitter

Read Naomi’s blog, In Full Bloom in particular, Reflections on a Long Career – a four part series of posts.

 

About the Author: Rowena Morais is the Editor of VerticalDistinct.com, helping individuals develop their professional abilities and career to the fullest in either Human Resources or Technology. She is also Editor of the quarterly human resource magazine, Accelerate. She graduated from the University of Glamorgan, Wales with an LL.B (Hons) and is a regular blogger on personal growth.

 


Develop Our Future Workforce with Community Outreach?

Posted on August 9th, by Lois Melbourne in Business and Workplace, On My Mind. No Comments

The future of our workforce should be very important to you. It is critical to your employer and should be considered very strategic to individual businesses and your industry. I want you to look at the incredible investment you can make for you, your staff, your business, your industry and especially the young people in your community. This is a call to action.

 

While attending the U.S. News STEM Solution conference, it was a constant theme that we need to encourage kids to explore their interest, even as early as elementary school to enable them to make the critical education decisions they need to make by high school and beyond. Many of the specifics were around the encouragement of STEM (Science Technology Engineering & Math) but by no means were the needs exclusive to those disciplines.

 

So I ask you to engage in your community’s youth beyond the resume reviews or mock-interviews. I have some ideas that could help:

 

Internships – Internships can be paid (I hope), or attached to the school where the student gets course credit, or both. The key is to make these real learning experiences, with hands-on practice applicable to the business. These are not very valuable if they are stuffing envelopes and making copies all day. That would be a clerk job, not an internship.

 

Take Your Daughters and Sons to Work Day – Officially these are April in the US, October in Canada – but they can be ANY day. Make these events meaningful exploration for the kids. They are not about the little ones having movie day in the conference room. These days should be real exploration for the kids. Create panels that explain your world of work, the jobs in your office, the skills your employees use and why do your customers care that you exist.

 

Scholarships – Can your business or your industry create scholarships to college or trade schools to help students in need, pursue the training and education they need to be part of your future workforce? Looking for a way to make a mark with your local industry association chapter – spearhead this committee! With student loan debt surpassing credit card debit in this nation, this is a service to EVERYONE.

 

Volunteer Opportunities – Many organizations targeting career and skill development in our youth need volunteers. Some opportunities need a steady commitment, such as an adult leader coaching a team for FIRST Robotics where kids compete in the development of robots that must achieve specific tasks. This isn’t only an engineering need, these kids create marketing plans and presentations to present their solution. Other groups like Boys and Girls Club need volunteers in the afternoon to help with homework. Several organizations need one-time judges at their competitions. These competition include a wide variety of  trades. People are need to judge or assist with events ranging through culinary arts, to welding arts, to business plans. There literally is something for everyone.

 

Career Open House – Can you open your company for career tours for groups as small as a Boy Scout Troup or as large as a national gathering of Junior Achievement leaders? Create a tour that showcases your employees, your work environment, the skills used in your business, the impact your business has on the community or the world.

 

School Career Days – Volunteer at schools near your office or anywhere in the town, especially the underserved schools whose parents may find it more difficult to take time off work for career sharing. Help your employees create their age- appropriate presentations. Can they bring an exercise that showcases their job? Can they bring a poster board with the logos of your customers, if the kids will recognize the logos? Every age group has different needs, be mindful of these differences. If your employees come to you with a need for time to represent your business at career day – celebrate it. Don’t make them take PTO – incorporate it  into your corporate outreach programs.

 

Sales Training – Can your sales team develop training for the high school students that need to sell advertising space for their newspaper, yearbook, theatre program? Can they take the student on a sales call with them – or help them do phone calls to their target? Why not provide sales training to the students? Remember that the teacher is often learning the most, while they teach.

 

What are you doing to develop your employer brand while you open the young minds of your community to the possibilities they can pursue as they plan their education? This critical, strategic, giving and can be joyful. Consider me a resource to discuss any of these options. I challenge you…

 

About the Author:  Lois Melbourne, GPHR, is co-founder and former CEO of Aquire Solutions, mom to one terrific young son and wife of co-founder Ross Melbourne. After entering a bit of a sabbatical life phase, she is authoring a series of children’s books about career ambitions.  She maintains a strong personal commitment to career education and small business development and is a speaker, author of industry articles, and an occasional blogger and networker. Connect with her on Twitter as @loismelbourne.