Tag: strength

Recipe for Resilience

Posted on January 11th, by Joan Axelrod in On My Mind, Personal & Professional Effectiveness. No Comments

There are times when it appears the tide has washed ashore.  Your boat has sprung a leak. The sun has set in your backyard.  During these temporary dark periods it appears that no matter how quickly you bail out water, paddle up stream, reach for safer ground, you still get nowhere.

You may widely open the window; nevertheless, it is you who refuses to let in the sunlight.  No one else is refusing to count the multiple blessings, nor adopt an attitude of gratitude.

Snap out of it I say. Pronto! Press the reset button. Take action immediately.

Stop watching the same old movie. No more complaining!  Sing a different song. The pity party ends right here, right now!  Instead, laugh yourself silly. Put the spring back in your walk. Get your groove back. Put the smile back on your face. You have the power. It’s sticky.  It will catch up with the rest of you, promise.

Start over immediately. There isn’t a second to lose. Why not start the day with a fresh new attitude?


I was reminded of this and the power of resilience by my children. I taught them that no problem is insurmountable. All issues large or small, simple or complex, common knowledge or private, could be handled collectively. They were raised to believe not much could not be cured at the dinner table, or through my home baked chocolate chip cookies, a pot of meatballs, and a large dose of laughter.

Years have progressed, problems have multiplied and grown in complexity; nevertheless, the rules of engagement, secrecy and comfort via the dinner table still apply. Last week my son relayed a story of such intense magnitude my hair practically stood up on end. My daughter’s reaction: “That is horrible”, visibly shaken. “So sad”, (Compassion)! Next, “We really dodged a bullet.”(No codependency there). Finally, “Pass the kale”. (Movin’ On)

I taught them well.  Be compassionate. Know what is yours. Move on.

Foodie that I am, here is my RECIPE for Resilience. Thanks for the inspiration, kids.


R is for Response, Reaction & Relationships:

Your response and reaction to any given situation makes a world of difference in how things will turn out. Some people love a good challenge. Other people’s reaction: why me?

My rule of thumb:

Adversity = Opportunity

I say seize the opportunity. What is the nugget you can grab to learn, grow or prosper?  Can you turn adversity into a stepping stone for personal growth and greatness?  Connections are the heart of my world. My relationships run deep.

In relationships I used to only show up as my personal best. Now I understand that is utter nonsense. It’s exhausting! It is only by allowing ourselves to expose our imperfections, flaws and weakness, that one can fully explore, gain insight and restore emotional equilibrium.  Love me or leave me I say. That’s how I sort out the excess.

Choose your confidants wisely.

Rule of thumb:

To have a friend you need to be a friend.

You can learn a lot hanging around the playground.



I truly have a zest for life.  It has been said that my mood and attitude on my worst days resemble that of the average person on their best.  I dance like no one is watching. I sing at the top of my lungs, anywhere, always.  I have no business singing anywhere, ever. Every song is my favorite, ask my kids.  I dress everyday as if I am going to a party. I always wear matching undergarments, in case of accidents. I will try any, I mean any, exercise craze, check out my basement.  I begin each project with total commitment.  I enter all relationships with my whole heart and total abandon.

This is how I roll. This is how I am wired. This is my genetic default button.

How does this help build resilience?

I fake it till I make it.  I never let them see me sweat.  I set the mood and hope the rest of me catches up. Eventually it does.

There are times in life when you will be presented with obstacles. You can view these as challenges or fight to the finish line. Or sing, dance, and look great doing it. Your choice! 



This too shall pass. What goes around comes around. What seems life altering today will not raise your blood pressure six months down the line.

This is hard to fathom when you are swimming upstream in the muck. It is true.  I have heard it said if you round up your friends, colleagues, and even a random stranger or two; put your problems in a hat, you would most likely take back your own.  It is also likely true that the dream job, home, boss and romances unrequited were really nightmares and bullets dodged.  We just didn’t realize it at the time.

Change is inevitable. I never like to get too comfortable in life because as soon as I do, boom, disaster.   Nine out of ten times the change is good. I just didn’t realize it at the time.

Chin up. Keep the faith. Retain your attitude of gratitude.

For this I keep a Gratitude List:  Every night before I got to sleep I write down at LEAST three things I have to be grateful for.  Even in our darkest periods, we still can count our blessings. Try it and see how quickly the cycles turn in your favor.



You were brought onto this planet alone and you will leave it alone.  The truth is, no one is going to save you but YOU.

I spent the first half of my life waiting for my ship to come in; unfortunately I was at the airport.  There was no knight in shining armor for me.  No quick fix. No magic bullets. No happily ever after. Thank goodness!  That is what built grit. The perfect playing field for transformation. When the hard work was necessary the magic could begin!

You can lean on your family and friends. You can read, download, mainline and listen to self-help audiobooks till you become the foremost authority on inner strength or your eyes and ears bleed. Attend all the latest and greatest “kick life in the butt” seminars and workshops. Do yoga, meditate, and stand on you head till you are centered yet blue on the face. In the end it is YOU who will need to take control of your destiny.

Vow to wake up tomorrow knowing that YOU have all the ingredients YOU need to have a fabulous life. YOU have the power to be and do anything YOU want. YOU will be, and do anything YOU want, provided YOU are willing to do the work.



You can never be too prepared in life; nor should you be without a carefully drafted backup plan. I fondly refer to this as a Plan B.  Doesn’t hurt to have a Plan C and D just in case.  Don’t wait till the floor drops out beneath you, you are gasping for air, have your finger in the dam, while balancing on the ledge by your pinky toe.  The time to spring into action is now!

It will not help if you wait till you are down-sized to update your resume, Bio, and LinkedIn Profile. Update them today! Keep your coach and recruiters closely on hand too.  Don’t continue to linger in negative relationships.  Take control and ask for what you want. Do the soul searching required. Have the confidence necessary to get what you need, or move on.  Don’t wait to go on a diet. Go back to school. Sign up for the webinar. Update your computer skills, or get a new haircut. DO IT NOW!  Whatever you want to be, do, and have, is in your grasp.   If you are willing to put in the work.

I always have my back up plan at the ready. I pack my parachute with a plan B and C.  I keep a plan D and E tucked up my sleeve and shoved in my back pocket, just in case. Life has dealt me an interesting hand. I revel in it. Think of me as a Resiliency Eagle Scout.

Having a backup plan takes commitment and energy.  I work at it hard. I set challenges and hurdles beyond my grasp. I envision the outcomes. I imagine I have already achieved the goal and initiative. My credo, “Failure isn’t an Option”.  In my case it really wasn’t.  It was a matter of life or death. Eat or be eaten. Feeding your kids or not feeding you kids.

I recommend getting an Accountability Partner.  Someone to share your goals and aspirations with.  Someone to send your weekly goals to, who will hold you accountable. They will listen to you when you lose faith. Steer you back on track when you turn left instead or right. Become your confidant, guidepost and most trusted advisor. Most importantly they celebrate your wins!

Second tip, do three things a day toward your goals each day.  It does not matter how big or small.

What happens when you fail to take action?

Answer: Nothing


E is for ENERGY

Energy is the life force of the universe. Since this is a business blog I will spare you my spiritual mambo jumbo  and hide my Zen a bit.  I will not pontificate on the point.  Simple stated, what you put out into the universe will return. The earth is a cosmic boomerang. Like attracts like. Positive attracts positive.   Kind acts will beget more kind acts.  Compassion and empathy the same.

Careful here folks. In Reverse, evil will attract evil. Negative thoughts will bring on more negative thoughts. Disastrous thinking can bring on catastrophe.

What’s a girl to do? Change you attitude, obviously. Tall order. Difficult at best. Not impossible.

Here’s my trick.  Think of yourself as a bucket of energy.  Grab a piece of paper and make a line down the middle. On one side jot down all of the things that zap your energy; on the other side write down all the things that restore your energy reserves.  The goal is to always keep the bucket balanced. This will restore you to sanity.

SWAT and Guerilla Restoration Tactics

Some weeks are harder than others.  It feels the elements have conspired against you. G-d has thrown down the gauntlet.  For these times you must strap on the heavy artillery. Dig deep into your bag of tricks. Create a recovery Pu-Pu Platter of sorts, if you are to find your way back home.

These are the Sundays I play my Fight Song, dance with abandon, and sing along at the top of my lungs.  Your Fight Song is the song you keep on your iPod that revives your energy stores. Makes you want to pump your fists. You know the one that makes you know you can fight another day.  If you do not have one, get one immediately.  I have a whole playlist!

Take your Fight Song on the road. Walk, run, jump, cycle, spin in circles for all I care, MOVE.  I do yoga till my muscles shake at these times. I breathe, release, I MOVE ON!

Once depleted, I dance barefoot in my kitchen while donning a facemask, in between cleaning out closets. Multitasking is as essential as self-care during times of stress.  I will do this while stirring a pot of meatballs, and baking a fresh batch of cookies.  As the sauce simmers and the sweet smell of baked goods wafts through the house, it further settles any residue stress.  I then calmly prepare for the week ahead. I am ready.

As I gather my family back at the dinner table to share a meal and solve the world’s problems; I am now ready willing and able.  Resilience restored, they can hit me with their best shot.


We have gone full circle my dear readers.

As my son gathers his things to drive off into the sunset, I know all is well in my world.

I hope you too digested this recipe and are full of hope and new possibilities.


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.

Women Can’t Do Anything Right! #BULLSHIT

Posted on November 20th, by Donna Rogers, SPHR in On My Mind. 2 comments

Women Can't Do Anything Right!

This sentiment is a belief I grew up with and entered the workplace with fully controlling my life. Of course, as a brand new college graduate entering the workforce I had no idea of its power and influence over me. I could not pinpoint nor did I know to look for such a belief that truly was debilitating at times and, if allowed, could have limiting affects on ones career success. All of that did not even show up on my radar until I was well into my career and actually quite successful. Little did I know it actually acted as a driver because I wanted nothing more to prove it was wrong.

As the first to graduate high school and college in my immediate family, I was an independent, semi-confident, hard working young lady that saw no boundaries. I looked at life as a challenge and had no doubts that anything or anyone would ever get in my way. So how can such a person have such a belief deeply embedded in her personality? Sometimes your deepest fear is your biggest motivator, but there are people who could have lived a very different life. Those are the people who let such beliefs eat away at them and affect their job performance as well as their personal and professional relationships. I was a lucky one. Well not really, because I have constantly had to work against that belief with positive self-talk. My professional career success has helped me have balance in my life when the rest of my life was falling apart.

I did not realize  this belief even existed until I was around 30 years old and I attended a multi-week self-help seminar (supposedly a management development program) with my boss and my boss's boss.  Odd combination of classmates when your deepest-darkest fears are allowed to come out and play. And play is what that belief has done for the remaining years of my life. Although, now that I am aware I have more control and can limit its affect on my life. Admittedly, I have definitely lost control on multiple occasions but the time frames are shorter and the relationships I have are deeper. So luckily forgiveness has been my savior. Not just my own about myself but also those I have hurt or reacted negatively toward because of my internal defense mechanisms. You know the whining voice in your head that says " I am WOMAN and I can do this right, I dare you to think or say anything that deny's that truth." When it affects my relationships I can more quickly put a halt to it and apologize versus blame the other person like I use to do more often. If my friends are reading this you may bring to mind certain interactions and say to yourself "Oh, that's why she went crazy that time". LOL!?

You see, my belief stemmed from childhood as I continuously overheard comments related to my biological mother, step-mother, and my fathers now widow.  The comments were not positive (almost never) and the words in this title were used quite often. Women drivers, co-workers in the office, and other family members of the same gender were also often ridiculed as well as both of the grandmother's I knew as a child.

The ridicule was not always in person. Often it was behind their back but certainly close enough and loud enough for young ears to hear and internalize. As you can imagine, more directly, "I" could never do anything right. I could not pick up the yard, make dinner, clean the house, care for my brothers, etc. "right"! (i.e. correctly). Not that I was a child or anything and should have been focused on school work and having friends (said sarcastically). You see, I started taking care of such things above that had previously been known as "woman's work" when I was just 12 years old. It continued through my 20th year when I moved out on a whim because I was so fed up with the lack of positive recognition for all that I was actually doing right. If I heard one more negative comment about me or any women, well who knows what I might have said or done.

Things like earning good grades, being a positive influence on my younger siblings, working outside the home to earn my own way through college, keeping the house, cooking dinner every night, answering the phone, etc. Growing up with so much negativity is bound to put a damper on ones personality and interactions at work as well as at home. We all know one heavily influences the other.

Long story short...my priority all during my teens was my family. If my predecessors could not do any of those chores right, I likely was set up for failure from the very start.   How many of us, as managers, hire people into a position without the skills to successfully do the job? How many co-workers, managers, friends, family do you know that are bright, successful and most of the time fun to be around, who have a defense as long as a football field? Have you ever wondered why? Have you ever shown empathy to that person? Have you tried not to judge them?  Will you forgive them?

Why do I share all this? Because, one should

-never judge a book by its cover
-always give a person the benefit of the doubt
-be understanding, be real, be authentic, be present, and above all be yourself
-realize perception is not always reality, and communication received is not always the intent
-get to know people as humans
-believe no one is ever perfect, not even yourself

In my humble opinion, the workplace needs to create an environment where employees can be real as long as they are respectful. They should develop managers who have potential even if they have flaws. Give an employee a chance to redeem themselves . Help them figure out what those flaws are and give them the tools to put them to work in a positive way that can help then make a difference for those around them.

No one is perfect, so as long as they are not in denial they can work it out. If you too are a victim of this horrible sentiment, please realize it can only be true if you let it. AND if it's coming out of someone else's mouth who is attempting to make you believe it, SHOUT OUT: #BULLSHIT -- walk away and never look back!


Photo Credit

About the Author: Donna Rogers, SPHR aka @HRWarrior. 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.

Women Talking a Great Game – Business Isn’t Just His Domain

Posted on March 4th, by a Guest Contributor in Business and Workplace. No Comments

“Don’t just stand for the success of other women – insist on it.” Gail Blanke, President and CEO, Lifedesigns


Maybe being a man writing this undermines all credibility. My career has been all about embracing the importance and value of a diverse workplace. Having a silent or marginalized voice isn’t easy. Being an ignored or disrespected voice is soul crushingly depressing. I’ve long been having this conversation with my female colleagues about the importance breaking the silence and finding my voice.


Let’s not kid ourselves though, there’s still knuckledraggers wandering the workplace halls. The staff room at times is more like a locker room. You need hipwaders every time you pass the watercooler, because there’s so much BS and testosterone fueled bravado surrounding it.


There are talkers in your midst. They’re also getting ahead by only talking a good game. It’s time to rise above the bad smell, of less pay, less recognition, and lesser titles. You’re educated, you’re smart, you have skills, and you work harder than most. You’ve got game. Communicating a great game will raise the bar in your workplace.


Improving your verbal and non-verbal communication skills will get you noticed, will help get you ahead, and make for a better workplace. Here are some things to keep in mind.


  • Being overly apologetic is undermining. It’s not your fault the network is down, or the caterer messed up the the lunch order. Working late to meet a deadline, don’t apologize for asking your team to join you.
  • Your behavior shapes the universe. Your competence and confidence always need to be on display. Showing courage and conviction will inspire and mobilize others to take action. Turning your words into action will get you noticed. Remember the fine line between arrogance and confidence. Speak directly with authoritative tone. Being loud, condescending, or defensive won’t carry the day.
  • Do not talk down your achievements or undervalue them when working in a successful group and alongside men. Teamwork matters. Undervaluing yourself in group situations, in front of co-workers or employers, will hold you back. Take the credit and recognition you’re due. Kudos aren’t just a man’s domain.
  • Of course there’s merit in wanting to be helpful, and having the get things done attitude to achieve your teams goals. Remember the delicate balance between taking on meaningful tasks versus the busy grunt work nobody else wants to do. You want to be a meaningful and effective contributor. Communicate with the boss about projects that excite you. Let them know what you’d like to work on.
  • Ideas are essentially gender neutral. Work at generating good ideas, communicating the value of those ideas, as well as helping others articulate their ideas.
  • If direct and open feedback is constructive, don’t personalize or internalize it. Be direct and open in receiving it. Take action on it.
  • Be authentic. Know and respect what you are about, and true to your beliefs. You’re more than just what’s on your resume.
  • Focus on your own growth and contribute to the growth of the people supporting you.


A truly diverse workplace embraces different voices, with different perspectives. By making your voice is heard and your presence known, you’ll be making a difference.


“Don’t waste your energy trying to educate or change opinions; go over, under, through, and opinions will change organically when you’re the boss. Or they won’t. Who cares? Do your thing, and don’t care if they like it.” ― Tina Fey, Bossypant


Photo Credit

About the Author:  As VP of Marketing, Bimal Parmar manages the global marketing strategy and execution at Celayix. With over 20 years industry experience, Bimal is responsible for making sure the world learns about the benefits of Celayix’s solutions that include: advanced employee scheduling, time and attendance, employee communication as well as integration modules for payroll and billing.  Before joining Celayix, Bimal was Vice President of Marketing at Faronics, a leading provider of IT solutions for the Education vertical where he helped grow revenue over 50% and launched exciting new solutions. Prior to that Bimal held senior marketing and product roles at technology companies such as Business Objects and McAfee Security where he gained significant international experience working with global companies such as Microsoft, Dell, Sony, HP, Orange, Telefonica and Ricoh.

Supermoms: Say No To Guilt

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.

{Random Encounters} A Lifetime Companion

Posted on March 7th, by Joan Ginsberg in Women of HR Series: Random Encounters. Comments Off on {Random Encounters} A Lifetime Companion

I used to be a lot of things: politically conservative, impatient, intolerant, and demanding. I also used to be a shopaholic. To me, going to the mall or a shopping center was as necessary and important as breathing or eating. My husband hated doing errands with me because I would enter a man-centric store with him – like a hardware store – and never leave.

So going to a mall on a Saturday afternoon was not random at all. But on one particular Saturday in the fall of 1999, a trip to the mall changed my life.

I stopped in the pet store, which was near my usual entrance, just to look. I had a dog at home who had been adopted from the humane society and I certainly wasn’t in the market for another. But I loved to look. Did I say I was just looking?

Inside of one of those cages was a Border Collie puppy.

Maybe it was because my daughters and I had really enjoyed the recent movie Babe (which features BCs, as they are called), but the sight of that puppy excited me like no other dog ever had.

I called my youngest daughter and said, “Guess what? There’s a Border Collie puppy at the pet store!”

She asked if I was going to buy it, and I said, “Of course not.” And then I left the store and went about my shopping.

But for one entire week I thought about that dog. Constantly.

By the following Saturday I couldn’t stand it any longer, and returned to the pet store with my two teenage daughters. I bought the dog (my husband was out of town, thank goodness) and took him home.

And he changed my life.

You have to understand a little about the BC to understand why. BCs are considered the smartest dogs in the world. Consequently, they need special attention. Th

ey need to be trained, encouraged, and engaged if they are going to be successful pets. (Yes, just like employees.) So I set out finding a job for my highly intelligent, driven boy.

What I found is flyball. And within flyball, I found a totally new world. It’s a dog-centric world, where the care and compassion for animals is overwhelming. It is a world where people cooperate and encourage each other – at least most of the time – in order to give their pets, and themselves, something special and rewarding.

Author Jon Katz writes about the “lifetime dog.” By his definition, a lifetime dog is a dog that touches your heart in a way no other animal can or does, often at a critical time or juncture.

Ike, as he was named, became a lifetime dog to me. I got him as my children were becoming adults and entering their own world. I was also at a professional crossroads, having left the practice of law and wondering what else I was suited for. Ike then took me into the world of flyball, where I learned so much about dogs and animals – their need for care, compassion, tolerance, and their love of play, affection, and attention.

And that laundry list of me that started this post? Ike, and his ultimate love of flyball, changed all of those things for the better. The professional crossroads? That’s when I went into HR.

Thanks to a random encounter of the most wonderful kind.

About the author: Joan Ginsberg, JD, SPHR, is an HR and Social Media consultant. Her general blog is Just Joan and her blog for the over 50 crowd resides over here.


Women in Leadership: Making Room at the Top

Posted on January 10th, by a Guest Contributor in Leadership. Comments Off on Women in Leadership: Making Room at the Top

Businesspeople and leaders from all walks of life face a steep climb to the top, but for women the road is often filled with obstacles (both real and imagined) that simply do not exist for men.

The media narrative continues to spout that true equality has already been realised in our workplaces, yet the facts don’t quite align with their spiel. American women for example still only make seventy-seven cents for every dollar a man earns in the same job, and the statistic is even worse for women of colour. Hispanic women for example earn just 56 cents for every dollar a white male makes. Women make up a disproportionately small amount of our political and business leaders, and while the numbers show growth the underlying differences remain.

This has led many women who seek leadership roles to wonder what they can do differently to make room for themselves at the top when the odds seem stacked against them. Here is some practical advice about how to deal with some of the issues women face in leadership, and how you can help turn the statistics around.

Recognise your abilities

Women do not struggle in leadership roles because they lack the necessary skills, but because society has inculcated into us a sense of unease at exercising our abilities. Don’t buy into the system. Recognise your own abilities as a leader and don’t be afraid to direct.

Engage with the male environment

Many women (especially in business) work in male-dominated environments that perpetuate an office culture that sometimes feels alienating. Even if it might not be your scene, don’t ignore group social and work events just because you may be one of the few women attending. Even if your presence is awkward at first, demonstrating to the men of your office that you are part of the team just like everyone else helps intra-office relations and helps breakdown some of the initial hesitations in male-female office dynamics.

Break your own glass ceiling

Women business leaders are actually more likely than men to be the head of their own business, as opposed to working their way up an employment chain. Women entrep

reneurs who run their own businesses do not face the same challenges as women in other business sectors because they are already at the top: instead, their problem is breaking the glass ceiling they set for themselves.

One example is women leaders’ attitudes to expansion. Women business leaders are statistically less likely to expand their businesses and hire staff even if they are well placed to do so. Although the reasons behind this are unknown, examine your own choices and see if there are any reasons why you might not be expanding when you could.

Use your authority

It is a recognised double standard that a strong-willed man is a leader but a strong-willed woman is at best a ‘ball-buster’ and at worse … well, something way worse. The negative connotations (or sometimes downright profanities) used in association with women in authority often leads women to hesitate for fear of being labelled. However one must rise against the stereotype and simply do what needs to be done – whether you’ll be called names or not. If an employee needs disciplining, don’t hold back just because you fear for your reputation. When leading a project, take charge firmly but in a way that doesn’t alienate others. If you don’t have a problem with your leadership skills, usually others won’t either. Expect the respect you deserve.

Above all, do your best. It is such a simple maxim, but nobody can criticise your work if you constantly work hard and to the best of your ability. Show yourself to be a great worker and leader not ‘just for a woman’ but as a person. Rising to the top may have certain inbuilt difficulties as a woman, but as long as you work hard and refuse to let the system play you, then there is no reason why leadership roles should be out of your reach.

About the author: Kate Simmons is a freelance journalist and full-time consultant currently working for a company offering leadership development courses. She is mainly interested in topics related to education and business.

Photo credit: Unknown


{Women of HR Unwrapped} Let’s Stop Playing it So Safe

Posted on January 3rd, by Krista Francis in Business and Workplace. 1 Comment

We are unwrapping some posts from the Women of HR archives for you this holiday season. Relax, enjoy and let us know if there is a favorite of yours you’d like to see unwrapped and run again.

We all have pet peeves. One of my pet peeves is when we HR pros hide behind our mothers’ skirts.

We hide behind the skirts of our attorney–who (what do you know?) tends to give conservative advice. Or the skirts of compliance.

The skirts of the safe decision instead of the best choice. Or of doing what is required and nothing more. Of risk aversion, rather than risk management. Policy & Procedure.

Saying “No,” because it is so much easier and less complicated than saying, “Yes.”

Staying quiet rather than speaking up. Doing things the way we always have.

Coloring inside someone else’s lines instead of creating our own drawing.

Hiding behind the skirts means we’re seen as administrators, guardians, hall monitors, pencil pushers, police. It means we may come across as judgmental and haughty, inflicting our “HR tone” on anyone we decide steps out of line. Maybe our colleagues would take us much more seriously–and, heck,  like us more–if we would grow some cojones and act boldly based on our skill, knowledge, values and principles, rather than falling back on policies, procedures and regulations as our default.

Today I received an administrative position resume with two typos in the top third of the page. The safe, traditional HR response would be to roll one’s eyes in judgment and send a quick rejection letter. Instead (having recently updated my own resume and knowing how easy it is to make a stupid error after editing ad nauseum) I responded to her email, engaged her in conversation, and once she responded,  asked if she was open to feedback about her resume. When she responded affirmatively, I told her about the typos. She thanked me profusely. From her enthusiastic response, I  believe my small but out-on-a-limb gesture earned more goodwill than almost anything else I could have done. And yes, I know the conversation could just as likely have gone the other way, her reply could have been ungrateful and angry, because I’ve gotten those responses before.

This is just a tiny, almost inconsequential story of not hiding behind HR’s skirts. Sure, it wasn’t my job to bring the errors to her attention. I didn’t have to do it. It would have been much easier and faster to say nothing. But telling her seemed like the right thing and I took a risk. Please understand the purpose of this post is not to suggest proofreading resumes for all our applicants. We don’t have time for that. In this particular case, something called out to me about her and I knew that few others would be honest with her. I had the opportunity to be honest. Human. Kind. Rather than retreating to my safe place to rationalize doing nothing. This is just one small example to make a point.

When I encourage our profession to stop playing it so safe, I am also not advocating throwing caution to the wind to make foolish decisions that jeopardize your organization. I just think we all sometimes need reminders to stop and question our usual reactions and responses, and, where it makes sense, take risks to act in a new, different and more creative manner. And at the same time, we can work to avoid that HR haughtiness people hate–with a side benefit of possibly being taken more seriously.

About the author: Krista Francis, SPHR, is nonprofit HR Director and sometimes Acting Executive Director. She lives outside of Washington DC with her soccer-crazy hubby, two active teenagers, a neurotic cat and the best dog in the world, Rocky, aka Party like a Rockstar. In her loads of free time, she tries to keep her scooter running, tests margaritas for quality control purposes and blogs at aliveHR. You can connect with her on Twitter as @kristafrancis.

photo by RG Photo

Resolve to Quit Sabotaging Your Success

Posted on January 1st, by Hanadi El Sayyed in Networks, Mentors and Career. 1 Comment

I was chatting with a colleague over coffee discussing how stressful 2012 was. We chatted about the targets we missed, the challenges we faced, and we went on and on with an amazing crystal clear memory of everything we knew we could have done better. We suddenly stopped and gazed astonishingly at each other. Just the day before, both of us were awarded by the CEO for our achievements in 2012. And here we were, less than 24 hours later, sounding like total quitters instead of behaving as winners.

When did we learn to become so harsh on ourselves and why do we do that to ourselves?

I went home thinking whether this has got to do with us women so passionately engulfed with proving ourselves and our capabilities in the workplace. In the midst of it all, have we become blind to our success stories that we fail to promote them, celebrate them and more alarmingly, reward ourselves for them?

The answer is an unfortunate, “yes” and this is a fact regardless of which part of the world we come from, our culture or our background. Women are raised to constantly watch what they say, cautioned against strong personalities, taught to remain low key, to name a few.

There is a plethora of business literature and research describing the challenges women put up with in the corporate world due to stereotypes and perceptions, male dominance, limited opportunities, lower wages compared to male colleagues and the reasons behind it all. As undoubtedly and genuinely that these challenges exist, it is not my intention here to go over these. My real aim is to initiate our thinking process by asking ourselves the following question,

“What has each one of us done to bring a change to our situation?”

Let’s face it, for a lot of us, we fear being judged so we react in manners that may further contribute to our withdrawal into our own caves rather than pushing us out into the front rows. Here are some of the behaviors we should consider reshaping, changing and even stopping those which are nothing but self-sabotage:

  • You quietly and eagerly wait to be assigned to a project. You know you can do it, so you hope that your boss recognizes that. Wrong. Go after the opportunity when you see it, do not wait for it to knock on your door. This will do miracles if you are a team leader. It reaffirms you as leader of the pack.
  • You dread to fail even before starting. You become risk averse and dare not to think out of the box

    . Think again. It’s perfectly ok if you fail. Failure is all about lessons learned and can only make you stronger. Your resilience level is an indication of your leadership skills. So even when you fail use it to your advantage.

  • You do not celebrate your success. You achieve a difficult target, and if you are lucky enough your boss recognizes that, otherwise, your achievements go unnoticed. Whilst it’s not realistic to ask for that pat on the back every time you lift a pen, please stop being modest and reserved when it comes to major accomplishments. Celebrate your success with your team, family, and even friends. Be self-appreciative before you ask others to appreciate you.
  • You are quiet in meetings. Do you offer your opinion only when asked to?  Or do you not know when – or how – to interject in a conversation? Time for a change here, too. Don’t be afraid to speak up. Yes it can feel very intimidating at first but by practicing the use of some idioms in the right context such as “I’m thinking out loud” or “I’m playing the devil’s advocate here”, or “it might be a silly question…” will help you overcome this fear and seamlessly insert you in the discussion. You owe it to yourself and your team to let your opinion be heard.

Don’t be afraid to disagree on a business related matter as long as you do it in a professional manner. If you want to point out a wrong thing being said, do that without being offensive or defensive. Discussions can sometimes be aggressive, so avoid emotional pitfalls. And whatever you do, hold those tears please. Be assertive and remain in self-control mode.

With many of us in the process of shaping our resolutions, let’s agree on making the new year our year of small but effective changes. True, it’s a long and winding road ahead of women in the business world however by being able to adapt some of our behaviors to become enablers can only be of help to us in our journey.

About the author: Hanadi El Sayyed is a Senior Human Resources Business Partner working for Majid Al Futtaim Properties, the market leader in development and management of shopping malls in the Middle East. Based in Dubai she  specialises in strategic workforce planning and development with an emphasis on corporate sustainability and sustainable development. You can reach her on Linkedin or on Twitter as@Hana_ElSayyed.


{Women of HR Unwrapped} I am Woman. See Me Work

Posted on December 18th, by Robin Schooling in Business and Workplace. Comments Off on {Women of HR Unwrapped} I am Woman. See Me Work

We are unwrapping some posts from the Women of HR archives for you this holiday season. Relax, enjoy and let us know if there is a favorite of yours you'd like to see unwrapped and run again.

Several weeks ago I sat next to a very nice older couple on a plane.  I estimated their ages at as close to 80 which means they were probably born at some time in the 1930s and came of age in the 1950s.

In between watching Law and Order: SVU episodes on the airplane TV service, I was scribbling some notes on a legal pad as I reviewed some work materials I had brought along with me. This prompted the Mrs. to open up a fresh line of chit chat with me, as she, with a wide-eyed look on her face inquired,

“Do you work outside the home?”

I have to admit…I don’t think I’ve ever been asked that question in my life.  Nor, quite frankly, did it ever occur to me that anyone would think it even was a question to be phrased that way.  I’ve heard “what do you do?” or “where do you work?” but I don’t think I’ve ever been asked if I worked.  And needless to say, explaining to this lovely woman precisely what Human Resources professionals do presented somewhat of a challenge.

But the conversation got me thinking about the varying perspectives we have of women in the workforce; viewpoints that are often glimpsed through a cultural or historical lens.  It’s quite probable that a young woman coming of age in the post WWII era was content (perhaps) with her life and resigned to the fact that her role was to work ‘at home.’  A woman reaching the voting age in the 1950’s was but one generation removed from even having the right to vote.  Thanks to the feminist movement, the Mrs. was able to head to the polling place and pull a lever to show that she did, indeed, “Like Ike.”

But it’s possible she doesn’t want to acknowledge or express any gratitude to feminists; that’s somewhat common. Whether first wave (primarily focused on suffrage and reproductive issues), second wave (primarily focused on equality) or third-wave (challenging and redefining ‘feminism’), feminists have often made men and women uncomfortable even while pushing for societal change that forever changed the lives of women:

  • In 1848, the first women's rights convention was held in Seneca Falls, New York. At the end of the convention, some radical resolutions were adopted – shockingly calling for equal treatment of women and men under the law and voting rights for women.
  • In 1870, for the first time, the US Census counted “females engaged in each occupation.”  At that time, women comprised 15% of the workforce.
  • In 1920, the US Department of Labor formed “The Women's Bureau” which was tasked with collecting information about women in the workforce and ensuring safe working conditions.  Later that year, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was signed into law, granting women the right to vote.
  • Between the 1930s and 1950s, a number of business and school districts enacted “marriage bars” which allowed them to fire single women when they married and also allowed them to refuse to hire married women.
  • In 1961, President Kennedy established the President's Commission on the Status of Women and in 1963 the Commission issued a report documenting substantial discrimination against women in the workplace.  Specific recommendations were issued by the Commission including instituting fair hiring practices, offering paid
    maternity leave, and ensuring access to affordable child care.
  • In 1968, the US Supreme Court ruled that sex-segregated help wanted ads in newspapers were illegal.

I’ve thought of this conversation quite a bit lately.  It’s entirely possible that this couple have no children or grandchildren. For surely if they do have grandchildren they've found that many (dare I say most?) young women fully intend to continue their post high-school education and work outside the home.  While there are some people who yearn for a return to a society with strictly-defined gender rules based on religious reasons, I find it hard to believe that the majority of westerners don’t appreciate how the role of women has changed.

I, for one, tip my hat and raise my glass high to salute Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Simone de Beauvoir, Betty Friedan and all the other brave women who paved the way.

Now let me get back to work.

About the author: Robin Schooling likes gadgets, coffee, wine and football and insists upon surrounding herself with people who are curious and have a desire to try new things.  After 20 plus years in HR, she is fully aware that HR is fun, frustrating, rewarding, maddening and important … and she loves most-every minute of it.  You can keep up with Robin at her blog HRSchoolhouse.com and on the Twitter at @RobinSchooling.

Photo credit iStockphoto


4 Tips for Building a Network That Works

Posted on June 28th, by a Guest Contributor in Networks, Mentors and Career. 1 Comment

Almost 80% of jobs are never advertised.  As a recruiter, business mentor and career coach, I’ve spent over 16 years encouraging people to invest time and effort into building their networks.

‘Networking’ was traditionally viewed as a business related activity.  Commonly the remit of senior executives in an organisation and, more often than not, male ones at that, networking wasn’t viewed as an integral part of life-working, or, rather of making life work.

Social networking sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn have opened the doors and changed the networking landscape forever.  It appears that individuals feel more confident connecting virtually than they do walking into a room full of strangers.  As a busy working mum with a 4 year old to consider, I also value the fact that I don’t have to be somewhere fully groomed and alert at 7 a.m.!  I can do my networking at my leisure, on an evening, with my son tucked up in bed.

So, why bother networking in the first place?  

I’ve heard it said many times that your net worth is directly related to your network.  Having an established network is the foundation for your success – be it career, business or life in general. Having an established network gives tremendous power to those who understand its value and then ‘work’ it.

How to build your network

Below are my four top tips for building a solid network – that works:

  1. Start with who is on your network already. This may sound pretty obvious.  However, I find that many people get put off when faced with a blank sheet of paper.  Once they start to list the people that they already know, other people often spring to mind – and the confidence to start approaching new people starts to grow.
  2. Start with the end in mind. Why do you want to network?  Are you seeking a new job, looking to grow your business, or recruit?  Do you want a support network?  Define your objectives for networking.  What kind of people do you need to network with to achieve your objectives?  Knowing your goals and objectives is critical to your su

    ccess.   Also remember that you can have more than one network and may want to separate business and personal networks.

  3.  Combine online and offline (traditional) networking. There are many social (online) networking sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc., as well as blogging sites.  Where you decide to network will be driven by what you want to achieve.  There has been a tendency over the last few years to rely purely on online networking. This trend is beginning to turn.  Online networking is only part of your networking strategy.  Relationships formed in person and over a period of time will always be the strongest and deepest.  So start thinking about how you can get out there and connect in person again.
  4.  Remember the two ‘C’s. For both forms of networking, contribution and consistency are vital to success.  In our busy, often reactive, lives and work, networking can get pushed to a back burner (particularly traditional networking if it makes you uncomfortable).  However, in order to build great relationships you need to engage with your networks regularly.  This means having a plan to ensure you attend networking groups regularly and are active online at social networking websites.

A final thought…..

Women are natural relationship-builders. We often overlook this strength as it comes so naturally to us. Networking is merely another label for what we do naturally.  So, get out there and do what you do naturally and brilliantly – and network.

Photo credit iStock Photo

About the author: Clare Fenwick  began her life in recruitment and career development as a legal recruiter at the tender age of 21. Further to playing an integral part in the launch and development of an executive search firm in London, she moved to the Channel Islands in 2000 and furthered her career as an executive search consultant to the offshore financial services industry.