Honesty is best but there are times when you can and should choose to refrain. There’s always levels of complexity involved and there is the risk of appearing hypocritical. Also, you have to choose what to be honest about. I don’t think that your goal of maintaining honesty should mean a complete and thorough application of the principle regardless… although I realize that the more exceptions there are to the rule, the more the rule gets a bit hazy.
But here’s what I do know.
I have, to the best of my ability, tried to live an honest life, in that I tried to be true to my goals, desires and emotion. I worked hard at ensuring a meeting of minds between my mental and emotional state and the actions resulting thereof.
I had to. I could not live any other way.
As far as I could, I wanted to be authentic in my communications and relationships. It was necessary for me to be truthful, to the point of pain, about what I saw, what I felt, what I believed, even if it was at odds or brought conflict to bear in a given situation.
Honesty, in this case, was therefore merely an alignment between my thoughts and my actions. Living a lie, where what I thought was distinct from my actions, would prove too difficult to endure or to sustain.
I have, in recent times, been privy to two sets of close relationships where I see that honesty is critical to the nature of the relationship. I have seen how inaction or uncertainty about how to respond in a given situation can be taken as acquiescence of the current status quo. I have seen how silence can be taken as tolerance or worse still, willingness.
These situations and relationships, and how people make sense of it all, take years to develop. Like an onion, it is built layer upon layer and the demarcation is blurred.
You owe it to yourself to be honest. So that you can move on, so that you can achieve the life and relationships you deserve to have. Yes, it is scary to realize the potential negative reactions that we could be called on to face, and sometimes, we will need to face this, all alone.
But in our quest for a life that is true and authentic, for relationships that are based on something meaningful and deep, for decisions that are anchored in something sturdy and substantial, we need to aim for honesty.
If only so that we can reconcile our desires and needs with our actions.
If only for us to live a life with minimal regret.
If only to make real impact on those around us.
Rowena Morais is the Editor of HR Matters Magazine, a quarterly print publication aimed at Human Resource professionals. She is also the co-founder and Programme Director at Flipside, a business services company with offices in Malaysia and Singapore, providing professional certification training. Here, she provides strategic direction as well as oversight on client training and corporate functional areas. Rowena blogs about developing habits, execution, growth and personal development. She lives in Kuala Lumpur with her husband, two young kids and now, a newborn. Connect with Rowena at email@example.com.
Much has been written about integrity. In fact, in the hundreds of team meetings and board retreats I have facilitated, integrity is, seldom, NOT a team value. However, I intend not to focus on what we perceive integrity to be; yet, what integrity is not.
Let’s start with a common definition: Webster defines integrity as a firm adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty. Here are a few examples, from real life, which I believe shine a bright light on what integrity is not.
Do any of these sound familiar?
- A person hears a fabulous key note or presentation; and they believe it to be so fabulous, they take portions of it – change a few words – ‘just to be honest’ – and begin to tout this as their own brilliant idea.
- A person asks someone for a treasured family recipe. They don’t really want to give it; yet rather than to say no, they give it to that person – less an ingredient. (Yes, that has happened to me, and yes, it does happen….often in the South)
- A person/s are exposed to an idea, a word, a term or philosophy which rings true to them, on which someone else has built their methodology and often their company. They think that term is so unique and powerful; they take that term, a few key phrases, and build their approach around that same approach.
- A person has the opportunity to speak the whole truth about an issue – personally, socially or professionally – and they opt to tell the truth. However, they don’t tell ‘everything.’ They just tell portions of the story – they omit key points; most often swaying the point, certainly to their favor. (You know the drill….think about a sales person’s sales participation and their quest for sales credit/quota commission, think about sales/consulting methodology aspects – the consulting world is full of intellectual property wars – even social and political issues…..just turn on the TV or log onto YouTube.)
- A person says one thing to you, another version of what they have said to you to someone else, and yet, another version to another person of the same story. I wish I had a nickel for every time that has happened to me in my life!
- A person is newly hired onto a team from outside the company and that person begins a quick study on how to usurp the person that hired them in a quest for fame, fortune, and power. Discrediting, sabotaging, back-stabbing, hording of ideas….the list is long.
I have had every single one of these happen to me in my career … some in the past few months.
Many in big business will say: this is why we have trademarks, copyrights, and intellectual property infringement law; and this is learning to ‘play the game;’ survival of the fittest. If someone doesn’t ‘have it’ – then they are ‘fair game’. Sure, I ‘get it’ – remember, I lived in that world for over 25 years. It goes without saying that we must protect ourselves, our company, and our work product.
However, the issue I am raising is much more systemic in our culture. For I am quite certain there are many in business today who don’t share everything with their internal counterparts for fear of being ‘poached’ of the good ideas. I am also quite certain there are those in business who perhaps don’t lie by commission; yet lie by omission – just not sharing everything, just sharing ‘enough.’
Where do we think this behavior is taking us? To a constant shade of grey? To a moral stance that is our interpretation instead of one that is based on honesty and integrity?
So what, you may say? “That is life.” Well, I firmly believe that is wrong.
We have an obligation to own up to our responsibilities – and that means stopping this insanity of stealing and poaching and, not respecting one another as creators, individuals, contributors, and builders of our companies, our communities, our nation, and our world.
Two things to consider:
First: Be Impeccable with your Word. A fabulous book: The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom, A Toltec Wisdom Book became a ‘book of the month’ for many of my teams over my career. If you not have read it yet – read it. One of the agreements is to “be impeccable with your word.” This basically means telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Often in today’s world, the operative word is ‘whole.’ Many just simply omit key facts or nuances. This is an interesting observation – just listen to national news, politicians, Fortune executives, Oprah, even personal acquaintances. It is amazing to watch the ‘spin factor’ and the power of just ‘omitting a few key facts.’ What is the whole truth?!
I will offer one personal test case of integrating this philosophy into life. With one of our most successful teams in a publicly traded software company, we used this book as a gauge for how we could grow and learn together as a team; and this book and particularly this agreement of ‘being impeccable with our word’ became our mantra. We were in the fast paced world of dot com frenzy, software sales and mergers, and greed was rampant. This agreement saved our team and company in more ways than we will ever probably realize. We were not always the most popular at the time; yet I know from the CEO through the ranks, we were the most respected and valued at the end of the day.
Second: Stop stealing. A person’s original ideas will always be more authentic, rich, and potent than anything they ‘borrow’ or steal. Period. A person can rationalize due to complacency, laziness, or their perceived belief that they can ‘take this idea and really make it come to life’ (yes, I have heard that one of late, as well).
What I would suggest is simply this: If a person loves the idea, thinks it had merit, power, brilliance, cache, etc., then simply get permission, give credit or notice to that company, and source the source. It is truly that simple.
Again, this conjures up ‘legal jargon’ and it certainly gives many an attorney a steady annuity stream; and yes, there will always be a need for the law. Yet, it does not have to be that complicated. Just give notice to those that deserve it! Also, folks, please realize that YOUR ideas will be so much more powerful if they are truly YOURS. That is the beauty of pure authenticity and the power of telling your story… not plagiarizing someone else’s.
This philosophy and principle of integrity starts with each one of us. One person at a time. A germ of an idea at a time. It does not have to be on a soap box, on the national stage, or even in a national court of law. It is in the small acts, small companies, and small businesses which have often set the stage for many of our greatest achievements.
- We are responsible for protecting it.
- We foster all ideas – ours and others.
- We blow on all the embers of ideas of our fellow workers, our colleagues, our friends, our clients, our coaches, our partners….we don’t steal them.
- We give credit. We give public and private recognition.
- We make referrals expecting nothing in return.
- We are frightfully honest – in all arenas.
- We ask the questions of which we are afraid of the answers.
- We own the answers.
We are impeccable with our word – written, spoken, acted – regardless of the consequences. That is what integrity looks like.
About the Author: Kristin Kaufman is founder of Alignment, Inc.™, formed in 2007 to help individuals, corporations, boards of directors and non-profits find alignment within themselves and their organizations. A prolific writer, Kristin’s first book, Is This Seat Taken?, centers on her global experiences seeding her journey toward alignment. The book is scheduled for release in November 2011. Kristin is on Twitter as @KristinKaufman.
Frankly, as rich as so many of these books are, we often have a tendency to read them, even have the best of intentions to integrate the principles into our personal and professional lives; yet particularly when we are under pressure, these values are put to the test and we may fall short. We all know full well that it is better to tell the truth than to tell a fib and to be loyal rather than to cave under pressure. Most of us also fully embrace The Golden Rule: ‘of doing unto others as we would have done unto us.’ We are certainly not ignorant of the virtues of the spiritual truths, Biblical principles, and even the many current writings on these values.
Yet, how many of us are really honest with ourselves with how and when we practice our beliefs and values pertaining to ethical behavior? How many of us hold ourselves and our team mates accountable for modeling ethical behavior? What can we do to help each other hold fast to these principles? So, in addition to our own spiritual practices and support groups, what are a few additional steps we can take to truly exercise our ethical muscles?
I read a wonderful article in Talent Management a few years ago which really stuck with me. I am integrating a few points I read in this article by Robert J. Thomas – as I believe he had an interesting and pragmatic perspective. One key point he made, which I thought was particularly ‘spot on,’ was that none of these observations or exercises will work unless we are ruthlessly honest with ourselves. So, keep that in mind – only read further if you are willing to look in the mirror of authentic self reflection and be ruthless about what we find.
Step 1: Honestly evaluate our commitments to others.
At the end of each day, (or if you are really strapped for time, do this on a Saturday morning), think about all the commitments, approvals, obligations, and promises you have made. There will be many – as so many of us say ‘yes’ or ‘I will get that to you’ or ‘I will read that and give you feedback’ without even really thinking about it. We are trying to be supportive, polite, or simply not thinking about it being a real commitment. What happens if we don’t come through? What is the cost to ourselves and to the others to whom we made these promises? Some may say that this has nothing to do with ethics. I disagree. Again, when we say we are going to do something – regardless of how small it may seem to us – it is our word to another. Sure, sometimes we forget, get busy, and it falls off the radar; that can happen. The difference is when it does – do we follow-up, admit our mistakes, make it right, and make a commitment to ourselves to do better the next time? This is how we learn and grow. We observe ourselves, put a practice in place to be aware of our behavior, and from here we can improve.
Step 2: Create a personal “Board of Directors” and career support system
Most of us have support systems of some sort: spouses, families, friends, Bible study groups, civic groups, etc. However, how many of us have a pseudo ‘board of directors’ for our professional growth? Just like a corporate board, our own personal board needs to be chosen for their experience, knowledge, skill set, and unrelenting commitment to the company’s success (in this case the company is YOU). These people will care enough to shoot straight with you – even when their observations may not be what you want to hear.
My suggestion is that these conversations need to be deliberate, not episodic or social in nature. They need to focus on you, your adherence to your values, your foibles, areas for improvement and honest observations. So, what’s in it for them we may ask? Well, in addition to the fulfilling nature of ‘paying it forward’ which they will undoubtedly experience when helping another; we can also offer to serve in that same capacity for someone they may want us to help. This is the cycle of leadership – and this is just one step we can each take as a matter of practice going forward.
Step 3: Establish values which will stand the tests of crisis, challenge, and temptation
Most organizations spend days (and often weeks) establishing their value system. Often, these values end up on the bulletin board or a plaque in clear view for everyone to see and read. I wonder if we would really know what the values were within these organizations without the plaque. Would the behaviors the individuals (and teams) exhibit in the organization represent those values? That is the truth serum, isn’t it? The same is true for us.
We may espouse a certain set of values – yet do we live them? What values would our co-workers say we live? Are they consistent with what our families and friends would say? Are our values the same in moments of stress, crisis and potential conflict?
Imagine all the whistle blowers in the news…..do we have the backbone to truly live our values when we are really tested? Think Sherron Watkins (Enron whistle blower). Then think about Eileen Foster – the Countrywide whistle blower who was ignored and then fired for calling suspicious actions into question. Finally, consider Katsuaki Watanabe, the CEO of Toyota, and all the other companies who had to face the realities of product recalls in recent years. What values and strength of conviction were represented in each scenario? What will we do when our ‘Tylenol moment’ happens? Will our values and ethics remain intact when we have to face the music? Establish values, declare them, and hold ourselves accountable to them.
From my perspective, in life and leadership, exercising ethics is a non-negotiable. As Albert Schweitzer (Civilization and Ethics, 1949) offers: “Ethics are nothing but reverence for life. This is what gives us the fundamental principle of morality, namely, that good consists in maintaining, promoting, and enhancing life.”
What I also believe is that without putting ethics into action any success we may achieve will be fleeting, unstable, and unsustainable – like a house built of sand. And we all know what happens to sand castles when the tides come.
About the Author: Kristin Kaufman is founder of Alignment, Inc.™, formed in 2007 to help individuals, corporations, boards of directors and non-profits find alignment within themselves and their organizations. A prolific writer, Kristin’s first book, Is This Seat Taken?, centers on her global experiences seeding her journey toward alignment. The book is scheduled for release in November 2011. Kristin is on Twitter as @KristinKaufman.
The Wikipedia describes a Trailing Spouse as “a person who follows his or her life partner to another city because of a work assignment.”
It goes further to explain that the life of The Trailing Spouse is fraught with many challenges that may impact on their personal and professional lives. Challenges such as:
Barriers to mobility
Loss of identity
These are all very real and pertinent issues that Trailing Spouses face as their new reality and I can identify to some degree with some of them. However, I have often wondered at the adjective “Trailing”. I feel a certain degree of discomfort referring to an individual or a spouse as “Trailing.”
Synonyms for trailing include: rambling, lagging, tailing, dragging….all less than savory adjectives for the word spouse. In my mind’s eye, “trailing” paints a picture of forced followership, reluctant relocation.
It reminds me of little people on a leash, compelled to follow their care givers whether they would like to or not.
It signifies to me a lack of choice or say in the matter and I do not think it adequately describes or does justice to the spouses who have boldly taken up the challenge to leave the comfort and security of the familiar and move to a new location, experience new cultures, and thrive in their new environment, all the while supporting their spouses and oftentimes children in order to make for a smooth transition to their new way of life. That to me looks a lot more like Trail Blazing and not just “Trailing”.
Moving to a new location with no security of a ready source of income can be a stressful time, and a time of uncertainty… but it can also be an exciting time, an opportunity to use this block of time and do that which you might otherwise not have done. The possibilities are endless.
This is a call for spouses who have chosen to accompany their partners to pursue their careers abroad to have greater expectations for their expatriate experience. As you plan your upcoming move, there are 4 tips that might help make the transition a little bit easier. Please feel free to add more in the comments below.
Plan: It’s advisable to have a plan before you leave your home country of what personal goals that you would like to achieve during your time in your new location. You are not on exile so you are allowed to have fun with the whole expatriation process. It could be to learn a new language, look for a job within your field of expertise (or even in another field of expertise), further your education, write a book or start a blog, or even take a leave of absence to spend more time with your family. As I mentioned earlier,The possibilities are endless.
Position yourself: If you would like to work in your new location, start your job search as early as you can. Look for opportunities within your network, take a class, learn the local language, do some research, and get informed. Do whatever is necessary to get you one step closer to your goal.
Persist: maintain a positive outlook, don’t give up easily…even when things seem to be happening not as fast as you envisaged. Also stay open to change and be flexible to opportunities that at first glance may not seem to align with your core competencies.
Pay it forward: Help someone else succeed. Offer the support you wish you got. Share your experiences and your new knowledge with others who need your expertise.
The key is to exploit the situation that you find yourself in and use it to enrich your life’s story. Moving to a new country with all the excitement is a great time to reinvent yourself because no one has any preconceived notions about you. This means you have a chance to start afresh and try to be that which you always wished.
Who knows what you would have achieved at the end of your expatriation in terms of self development, new knowledge of different cultures, and new relationships built that you would otherwise not have been exposed to.
Besides, why be a trailing spouse when you could be a Blazing Spouse or better yet a Trail Blazer?
About the Author: Tamkara currently lives in The Hague and is currently taking time off from her day job in Procurement and Sourcing to pursue an MBA. She will be spending the next few months studying, blogging and learning Dutch. You can connect with her on twitter @tamkara or find out what she’s up to at www.naijaexpatinholland.com.
Recently, my son transitioned to a different middle school than the one he had been attending since kindergarten and originally intended to graduate. This transition got me thinking when it came time for me to write for Women in HR. One can truly correlate the selection of a school to attend to accepting and starting a new job. Overall, it’s a personal choice and the final decision not only has to be the student or jobseeker, but it has to fit with their overall plan in life.
Now you may think “isn’t middle school a bit too young to be thinking about how a school decision fits into your overall plan?” Not really, I personally think kids are “groomed”, hopefully by their own choice and not their parents living their own goals through them, very early in life for things like sports, music, dance and more. Where I live, it seems like the high school all-stars start their journey before they can even tie their shoes. I’ve seen young baseball, soccer and football camps for kids who barely enter elementary school. They wear the gear but they are so tiny it looks like they are going to fall over. So if the focus on team sports can start so early then why can’t kids start making choices from an academic standpoint that affect their career? I have always heard that you can trace your career choice back to what you did on the playground. Me? I used to sing on the porch in front of my audience from the neighborhood. While my dreams of a singing career did not come true, I do have an audience now and again as a teacher, trainer, and speaker in the HR community. So I guess at least from my experience what I hear is true, to an extent, of course.
Now let’s get back to the school choice and its relationship to jobs. Once my son decided to change schools, which he had been contemplating for almost a year, we decided to set up a “shadow” day at two of the schools he had in mind. In addition to hanging out with a fellow student all day to observe, he had to meet with the principal of each school, for which I joined him to listen and ask my own questions. As a parent, I was very impressed at my son’s questions and his maturity while in these meetings. He asked questions I had not even thought of, like: 1) what type of math and English program the school uses to teach the students; and 2) what specific extra-curricular activities did they have related to his personal interests.
One of the things his former school had that neither of the new choices had was Robotics, which was very important to him since he plans at this point to have a career in engineering, technology, or both. However, he justified his decision to continue to pursue his move because the school he did finally decide on had an advanced math course and was willing to start a Robotics club as soon as possible. While starting the club would not allow him to immediately join a Robotics team, allowing him to compete like he did the previous year, it was not a game changer. He told me that since he would now be able to take high school math in 8th grade that would give him a jump start on his high school math credits. That decision will allow him to take college level math while still in high school. Did I mention he is 12 years old and he is telling me all of this? The reason it is so important to him is because he has plans to go to a specific college one day (MIT) that will help him get into the career of his dreams.
Employees (typically disgruntled or disengaged employees) are constantly looking for a new job or opportunity, especially when the job they are in doesn’t satisfy their needs or holds them back from moving closer to the dream job they would like to have. Recently, on Drive Thru HR I heard Jennifer Miller refer to people finding a job that deserves them. How fitting of a philosophy that jobs don’t find people, people find jobs. I remember getting out of the financial services field to move into manufacturing so I could round out my resume to experience the old white collar and blue collar workforce. Someone had told me that my HR advice probably didn’t work in the blue collar world because I had only worked with people in offices. I was not about to have that perception limit my future opportunities so I took care of it by getting the job I needed to work in the blue collar workplace.
Planning at any age, in school or in the world of work, can definitely help to shape your career.
Donna Rogers, SPHR aka @DonnaRogersHR. Donna is a full time Instructor at University of Illinois at Springfield, owner of Rogers HR Consulting and the immediate past Director of the Illinois State Council of SHRM. She has over 20 years in the HR field and currently teaches Human Resources Management, Organizational Behavior, Organizational Development, and Strategic HR Management. She practices what she teaches for almost 100 clients in the central Illinois area.
Today’s dads are working hard to be “better” fathers than previous generations. No one is saying that that those generations of dads were not good fathers, times are simply changing and dads today are making it clear that they want to raise their children differently.
While dads are making family time a bigger priority than their fathers and grandfathers did, their dedication to a thriving professional career has not changed. Corporate culture, especially in larger companies, doesn’t always mesh with a dad’s desire for more family time. Because of this, many working dads are finding themselves struggling to juggle a work-life balance, as women have been doing for decades.
However, some companies are evolving with the times and improving their paternity leave programs as well as utilizing technology to allow for more work flexibility. This includes giving dads the ability to work from home, even if it’s only for a couple of hours a day so they can cut out of the office early to pick the kids up from school.
Of course another factor is that our wives are not the women their mothers were. With more women in the workforce, in fact 40% are now the family breadwinner, the home environment has changed and so must the delegation of household responsibilities. There is increased pressure on men to be more than just a paycheck and to play an equal parenting role.
But it’s also that our generation has wanted to change and be more present in our children’s lives. To really know them and to be closely involved with shaping who our children become.
According to a Pew study, fathers in 1965 spent only 2.5 hours a week on child care, where today that number has jumped to about 7 hours. While that may not seem like much, evolution is a process and I believe that the generations of boys we are raising will do even more.
I had a great childhood and have enormous admiration, love and respect for my dad but have still strived to be a more involved father in the raising of my three children. And I hope that my sons will do even more than I’ve done for their kids.
Men are evolving. Each generation is told more and more that it’s okay to cry, to be vulnerable and to love. So when we hold our babies in our arms for the very first time – we do. All of those thoughts we had as kids “I wish my dad were here,” “I’ll do that when I’m a dad,” come flooding back and we make a conscious effort to be different. Some of those promises we keep and some falter under the pressures of careers and mortgages. But the point is that we get a little closer to being the dad that we wanted to be and hopefully, as we reflect on the dad we said we would be – and the dad we actually are – we continue to evolve.
Chris Duchesne is the VP of Care.com’s Global Employer Program, Workplace Solutions. He brings more than 15 years of experience in HR technology to Care.com, the largest online care destination in the world with 8 million members spanning 16 countries. A key member of the leadership team, he oversees the Global Workplace Solutions program that provides customized, cost-effective programs that make Care.com’s suite of services available to institutional and corporate clients, their employees and families. A father of three small children, Chris knows first-hand the challenges working parents face and brings that experience to his role.
I love to watch my little girls sleep. They are calm, full of possibility, and not asking me to change them for the 4th time that hour into another fairy, princess, or pirate costume. As I watch, I imagine what dramas, adventures, heartbreak, and careers (I am a career coach after all!) lie ahead for both of them and it’s hard to discern what my hopes are for them and what my actual expectations are.
My free-spirited head-strong 4. 5 year old has always had a mind of her own and her attitude taught me early on that she was her own girl, with a unique personality; wonderful, and not at all a clone of her mom. This helped me pull away the layers of hopes I had dreamt up when she was 20 weeks in utero and I found out a little girl was in our future. As she took on the world through her independence, I worked hard to stop putting my aspirations or assumptions of who she would become onto her tiny little shoulders. By the time my younger daughter was born I felt that I was doing a pretty decent job of embracing the individual personalities each girl would have. That being said, I still do catch myself making offhand comments about “when Josie is CEO of a company” or “when she opens her own restaurant.” After years of watching their personalities form, I come up with careers that I think they will definitely master. Of course, these career predictions change as fast as the whims of precocious preschoolers change. So what exactly do I hope for when it comes to the lives my girls create and why do I bother to write about it?
I hope they have choices. I hope they never have to stay in situations that aren’t working for them, that aren’t helping them grow, and thrive, and laugh, and play. I hope they work (I do, I can’t help it) but I also hope they have the choice to create the work schedule and environment that brings out their best and matches the priorities they hold at any given moment. So what does this mean for me, and how I mother them? How do I help them achieve a life full of choice? I’m not quite sure but I think it involves helping them develop a love of learning so they have the education to back up their goals. I am also pretty sure it involves showing them what love is and how it never means giving up who you are, what you like, or who your friends are. I want them to choose wisely if and when they do decide to marry.
I have read countless books geared towards us working mom set, and most of them are written from the perspective of a fairly privileged, educated woman who does have the choice to either work or not, be married or not, have more children or not, schedule housecleaners, nannies, gardeners, date night etc. or not. One of the themes that seems to come through is a hint of complaint about the fact that there just are too many choices. As if moms are paralyzed by choice and opportunity, a burden the generation before us didn’t have.
Can I be candid? To me this is nonsense. Instead of lamenting the various choices we have and the way it makes us feel afraid to move, how about buck up and spend some time figuring what you want and who you are, and have the courage to be that person and pursue that goal? Take choice by the horns and run with it. You want to work part-time to have more time with your family? Figure out a way to make it work. Talk to your employer, talk to other moms who do it, create a situation that makes it possible. You want to start your own business? There is no easier time then now. Truly it will only get harder. Trust me, I work with MBA students and I have heard every counter to this argument including “ I have a newborn” to which my response is, “Do you think it will be easier when you have a full schedule of t-ball and ballet classes to take your kids too?” You want a meaningful career that involves decision making? Pursue another degree, ask for management opportunities, apply for a new job, seek out a mentor that has that role. Take proactive steps so you are creating a life that includes endless choices and a plethora of paths to venture down.
I hope this for my daughters, I seek this for myself, and I encourage it of you.
About the author: Maggie Tomas works at the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota as Associate Director and Career Coach in the Graduate Business Career Services office. Her background includes teaching and career counseling at the college level, namely at the University of St. Thomas, University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB), and Brooks Institute, a well-known film, photography, and design school where she served as Director of Career and Student Services. She is a contributing writer to several blogs and publications including Opus Magnum, Women of HR, and Job Dig.
Photo credit iStockphoto
What do you want to be known for? What is important to you?
If you think you are too young to read about retirement or you roll your eyes at the thought of it because it seems impossible, then YOU need to keep your butt in your seat and read this one. If you still want to jump elsewhere – replace the word retirement with sabbatical, or career change, and most of all of this discussion is very applicable there too.
I know my circumstances for retirement are somewhat unique, but the ah-ha moments and realizations I want to share are life lessons and they also happen to be really more powerful when finding yourself free of the high demands of one’s current high speed career.
The word retirement is not a bad word and stop making people that use it feel lazy or shameful. My husband and I have renamed our current status to sabbatical, because of the negative responses we get for using the word retirement this young. Oh well, I expect no sympathy – just a point to make.
When one retires and finds more time on their hands, a lot of self-reflection begins. I believe this is one reason so many people that thought they would love retirement or worked really hard to get there, find themselves miserable. They don’t like what is reflected back to them, when they look deep. The time to evaluate one’s self is when you are slaving away at your job so that you find some releases and rewards along the way.
- Are you an interesting person that can carry on conversations beyond your work and your kids?
- Do you have hobbies that you love to spend time on? Can you find a way to cultivate them now (you will like your life better if you do)
- Do you really know how to relax? Really unplug? It’s been three months and I still check my phone far more then I need to.
Do you have real friendships that would exist without the work or work-style connections? This is a tough one for a lot of people and a lot or relationships. Do your conversations go beyond the topics of work, your industry, or the escape from such work? These may be the friends that have been there through good and bad and always were available, or they could be the friends that you share your hobbies and other interest with. If you find this category of your life lacking, I encourage you to evaluate and cultivate your relationships. It might still be some of the same people in your life, but taking the friendships into a different direction can be rewarding and important.
Can you spend extensive time with your spouse and truly enjoy it? I am blessed that I have worked side-by-side my husband for the last 20 years, so this part is easy for me. I see other couples really struggle when they are more in each other’s calendars. It doesn’t mean things are broken, but you might want to find more common activities and also plan for separate time with no guilt from either party.
This is where most articles focus on retirement, starting your own business, or the risk of career changing. There is a reason for that – it is important. Entrepreneurs are conditioned to “know your number”. The biggest portion of that term is knowing the number it would take to sell your business, but the critical day-to-day practicality of that expression applies to everybody. What are the numbers it takes to live the life you expect?
I could reach those numbers quickly due to a couple of really key points in our lives.
- I categorize all of our expenditures into buckets in Quicken. Even if you need to look at it really often or you want to deny how much you spend on something, that just doesn’t do you any favors. If you are trying to hide an expenditure, then you definitely need to categorize it (electronics, jewelry, travel, entertainment, groceries, dining, etc)
- Have a real advisor that can help you evaluate your expenses, your income and your assets. I am not talking about the job title Financial Advisor; those guys are sales guys trying to sell you insurance, investment vehicles like annuities, and help you watch your stock market investments. I am talking about someone that is really designed to evaluate the way you live. Often tax accountants are better prepared for this then many financial advisors. I use an amazing company call SmithFrank; they are the real deal when it comes to all financial considerations.
Here’s the deal. If you know your financial requirements, you shape yourself and your relationships, and you dream about what you would do with your life and time if you were in the cubicle or on the plane again, you may find retirement, life-style entrepreneurship or a sabbatical is more easily within your reach then you thought. These things will certainly make your life at any stage better.
I have had a goal on my life list for well over a decade and I am now getting a chance to pursue it. I have wanted to create children’s books about doing what you love to do, for a career. So maybe sabbatical is a better for term for me, but really what I am doing is just living within a new framework. I am glad I planned for it.
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.
Photo credit iStockphoto
I was putting my 7 year old to bed when she turned around and said “you’re the best mum a daughter can ever have, I am so proud of you and want to grow up to become like you.” I hugged her and kissed her, told her how much I love her and how much I am proud of her too. That night I couldn’t sleep and kept thinking to myself that between being a career driven woman, and a mother (and a good one too, at least that’s what I think) whatever I am doing, it must be right.
Just how difficult is it to be a mom and have a full time job at the same time? Ask any working mom and she will say it isn’t easy. Balancing the two roles takes great talent, not to mention effort, to be able to switch between hats. Women are famous for their ability to multi task, and multiply this several times for women applying this skill to both a job and motherhood. We tend to go through guilt pangs every now and then, guilt that maybe we are not dedicating enough time to our children, that perhaps we will be seen as neglecting our jobs if we take those couple of hours to attend that sport event at school, etc…. We often do not stop for a moment, to take a deep breath and admire our resilience, stamina and our genuine efforts to keep both worlds seamlessly on track.
In an article published online in Time Health and Family in 2011, titled “Working Women Who Try to Be ‘Supermom’ May Be More Depressed”, the author makes reference to research that shows working mothers who think they are able to juggle between a career and motherhood effortlessly are in fact more depressed when compared to other women who really don’t overdo it.
Let’s stop here shall we?
Does trying to balance between our careers and our duties as moms mean we are overdoing it? I personally don’t think so. And by the way, which type of mom classifies as a ‘supermom’ anyway? The Merriam Webster dictionary defines the word ‘supermom’ as ‘a woman who performs the traditional duties of housekeeping and child-rearing while also having a full-time job’. According to this definition all working moms classify as one by default. The research goes on that apparently by embracing the fact that it is ok to ‘let things slide,’ working moms can happily combine both roles. On the face of it this makes sense, but there is a caveat, or at least that’s what I think: where do we working moms draw the line when ‘compromising’ on stuff at work before they are perceived as becoming slackers and their career growth suffers? And alternatively can working moms really let things slide when it comes to their children in any aspect related to their well-being, not just physically but equally important, emotionally?
Well I finished reading the article with one conclusion. The ‘supermom’ journey is filled with challenges, no doubt. I’ve been one for 7 years now, and I experience them first-hand every day. It is not easy to juggle between a demanding job, meetings, overseas assignments, projects, play days, doctor appointments, violin rehearsals, school concerts, sport days etc…. yet I still do it. How do I manage? I really don’t know. I’m not perfect, but who said that being a perfectionist is the road to happiness? Has it been a rewarding journey so far? It’s a straight ‘yes’. The personal gratification that comes from watching our children grow to be healthy happy individuals without compromising on career aspirations or vice versa is worth every moment of it. Maybe we are overcomplicating this ‘supermom’ case. Maybe all we have to do is realize we are doing our best and self-appreciate that. Apparently our children do.
Being a supermom is a matter of personal choice. Those of us who walk into it knowing we must spend a great portion of our lives balancing the heavy weight we carry on our shoulders become mentally prepared to face the challenges. There are plenty of days when we feel proud of what we are accomplishing, times when we feel the load is too much, and many more moments when guilt that maybe we are not giving it our best shot overtakes us, but you know what? The truth is that we are super and we have deservedly earned the title.
In February, the New York Times published a feature on why gender equality stalled, drawing attention once again to the fact that despite this being the 21st century, men and women still aren’t equal in the workplace.
We know that in the US, women are paid 77 cents for every man’s dollar and that only 4.2 per cent of Fortune 500 CEO positions are held by women – and this situation is replicated across the globe. So what’s stopping women getting a fair deal? And why don’t we speak out about it more?
Here’s a thought. I read yesterday about pop star Katy Perry who, upon receiving her Billboard award in December 2012, announced, “I am not a feminist, but I do believe in the power of women.” Perhaps this is part of the problem. Many people today still regard the term ‘feminist’ as something derogatory. And Katy shows that women are in many ways the worst culprits for perpetuating this myth.
When did feminism mean anything other than getting a fair deal for women? It reminded me of this excerpt from journalist Caitlin Moran’s book, How to be a Woman:
When statistics come in saying that only 29 per cent of American women would describe themselves as feminist – and only 42 per cent of British women – I used to think, What do you think feminism IS, ladies? What part of ‘liberation for women’ is not for you? Is it freedom to vote? The right not to be owned by the man you marry? The campaign for equal pay? Did all that good sh*t GET ON YOUR NERVES? Or were you just DRUNK AT THE TIME OF SURVEY?
It’s as if we’ve taken a step backwards. The word ‘feminist’ that once was short-hand for liberation, doing the right thing and creating a more equal society is now more generally associated with men-hating, making excuses and whining.
Another alarming fact is the increasing ‘lack of ambition’ in our young women. Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, quotes some surprising statistics in her book, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead. For example, in a survey of 4,000 employees at big companies, 36% of men said they want to be CEO but only 18% of women said the same. Just think of the creativity, emotional intelligence and ultimate productivity that the global economy is missing out on if this continues.
At this point, I feel it’s appropriate to take some advice from an incredibly self-aware 16 year-old called Tavi Gevinson who says in her inspiring TED talk:
One thing that can be very alienating about a misconception of feminism is that girls then think that to be feminists they have to live up to being perfectly consistent in their beliefs, never being insecure, never having doubts, having all the answers…and this is not true and actually recognizing all the contradictions I was feeling became easier once I realized that feminism was not a rulebook but a discussion, a conversation, a process.
So my final thought is that we should reclaim the word ‘feminist’ not in an aggressive way, but in a conscious way. As women, aspiring to be the CEO doesn’t mean we have to be perfect or ruthless. It’s as simple as believing we can get there and working really hard. So let’s reclaim the essence of feminism at work, start shouting a bit louder about inequality and change some of the appalling statistics about unequal pay and promotion we keep reading about.
About the author: Sue Stoneman is CEO and founding partner of learning and development agency, NKD Learning. She is a change management, employee engagement and learning and development expert. Prior to setting up NKD Learning in 2005, Stoneman spent over 20 years in a variety of PLC and private equity businesses, including British Airways, Hyundai, Barclays and Terrafirma. She has a breadth of experience as a board director, having held senior positions in Marketing and Sales, Customer Operations and HR.