Blog

Jump Aboard the Un-Train to Leaderville! (toot, toot!)

Posted by on Feb 2, 2016 in Blog | Comments Off on Jump Aboard the Un-Train to Leaderville! (toot, toot!)

Jump Aboard the Un-Train to Leaderville! (toot, toot!)

Learning to be a great leader takes training.  There are countless leadership training courses, classes, videos, books and even degrees available for people who truly want to be great leaders.  Much of the training available is excellent; especially when looking for training from some of the icons of leadership such as Darren Hardy, Dale Carnegie, Tony Robbins and more (I am sorry if I left out your favorite this time around). When you look at the majority of the great training out there, it was developed by men for men. Women can still use it, of course, but very little of it addresses the differences between male and female energy and how that changes leadership.

With all of the great training resources out there on leadership, why in the heck don’t we have more great leaders?  More specifically, why do we have to look so hard to identify and name great female leaders to learn from?

Women make great leaders.  This fact is becoming more irrefutable as the male-dominated business world comes to its senses and starts to realize that corporations, political parties, and all organizations benefit greatly by including women leaders in the top offices and board rooms.  Female leadership energy is different from male leadership energy and having a solid mix of both makes leadership inclusive and stronger.

Women have been banding together with some very exceptional men to level the playing field and open the doors of opportunity into leadership for everyone for a very long time.  Yet, progress has been slow.  The time has long passed that it made sense to have more women leaders, but here we are.  How do we speed this train up?  What in the world is truly in our way? 

Being a person without a victim mentality (oh, I am sure I had one once, but I have long forgotten where I left it), the question I like to ask even more than what is stopping me is “how am I stopping myself?”

So, since I am a woman, but am not ALL women, the question then becomes “How are we stopping us?”

One of the biggest blocks I have seen in my many years of working with women entrepreneurs and women executives (all of them leaders!), comes down to this:  We have been trained this way.

Since we were little girls, we have been getting messages that have created blocks to leadership not only for us, but for nearly all women.  How do the messages do this?  By pitting women against women.  How do you stop the most powerful force there is?  Get it to fight itself.  We have been trained to do this and we all are affected.   I think it is high-time to take a look at how we are getting where we are going and hop on the Un-train instead.

What is the Un-train?  This is the vehicle of undoing our “good girl” training and our “mean girl” training.  We have all had both. 

Good girls don’t talk back.  They don’t argue.  They don’t show anger.  They are complacent and they are grateful for every darn little crumb of nothing that is bestowed upon them.  They don’t show other people up by being too successful.  They have opinions, but they are too polite to voice them if they are not in alignment with the rest of the room.  They want to say “no”, but they are more concerned with hurting someone else’s feelings than they are about burning themselves out, so they over-commit and lay themselves out for the benefit of others until they are too exhausted to breathe.

Mean girls can wage war from stealth mode.  They can injure their opponent without ever being identified as the attacker. They can divide and conquer.  For the meanest of the mean girls, it becomes a game as they sabotage the success of other girls just for sport.  They gossip and exclude and pat others on the back with all claws out.  They are envious and mistrusting of other women.  They have been trained to believe that resources are scarce and that there is only room at the top for the chosen one or two.  Forget it, just one.  A country can’t have two queens, after all.

But wait, there’s more.  Some mean girls don’t even realize they are mean girls, just as some good girls don’t realize they are slowing down women’s progress by being overly accommodating.  Again, it is an awareness that we need to be brave enough to see.  Some of us are so well trained in the finer art of higher level strategic thinking that we may not even realize that the tactics we are using to get our way or “keep the peace” are causing unnecessary damage to all of us.

Nobody wants to be believe that they have the making of a doormat and a tyrant inside; but we all do.  From the time we were three years old, we started to learn the difference between boys and girls and what was expected of each.  We were taught to be pretty (but not too pretty), to be smart (but not too smart), and to be polite so that others would think well of us.  What other people thought of us was ingrained as more important than what we thought about ourselves.  That’s just bad training, isn’t it?  Let’s unlearn that one.

Once we got to school where there were other girls, we were quickly trained to protect ourselves from them.  Girls fight differently than boys.  Boys yell, they hit, they get bigger and in your face.  Girls fight with carefully placed words and social hierarchy of inclusion and exclusion.  Judgement is our sword, where boys are more apt to use fists. Girls smile and gather together and, if she is a mean girl, she will be your friend until that fateful moment when she is NOT and you run the risk of being ostracized from the entire group.  You learn quickly that the fastest way to stay “safe” is to play the game (joining in on the gossip and trying to stay in favor of the girl in charge) or you separate and identify yourself as someone who “doesn’t belong”. The message of “you are not good enough” is a strong one and we are trained to feed it to each other. We are taught that our worth is something determined by someone else.

The older we get, the better we get.  We either learn to embrace and support each other, or we hone our skills of manipulation, sabotage and exclusion to mastery levels.  While this might move one mean girl to an elevated status, it bogs down the progress of women’s leadership as a whole.  It keeps the stereotype of women leaders as “troublemakers” or “untrustworthy” alive in a male-dominated business world looking for a reason to keep us at bay.  We must un-train from this thinking through choosing different actions.  It is no big secret:  A band of powerful, well-connected and strong women moving together for the good of everyone is exactly what the world needs; and it is exactly what scares the misogynistic system into continuing the messages that divide us.

It begins with awareness.  We must be courageous enough to identify within ourselves where we are too much the Good Girl and where we slipping into the Mean Girl within our own thoughts, attitudes and behaviors. 

One of the keys to this is understanding your own power and how you use it.  All the leadership training on the planet isn’t going to create more women leaders if there are not people in power willing to use their power to get the door open.  This power also includes the masses of women who become unstoppable when working together; we need to use our power to support women who are leading the way and make sure to keep our internal mean girls in check while doing so. 

Another key is accurately assessing your own level of self-esteem. Your courage to Un-train will require you to find the part of you that need to be strengthened and then it will take more awareness and a firm choice to support women; starting with yourself.

Third, we must all get better at identifying the gaps around us and being brave enough to fill them with pro-active, confidence-building support and build each other up.  Stop the gossip, the cliques, the exclusionary tactics that divide us and find a way to reach across to other women and build them up. The change begins with us; every one of us.  We can change this in ourselves, assist our women friends in shifting too and leading the way for the next generation of women coming up.   

All aboard the Un-train!  Let’s go!

Laugh Lines of Graceful Distinction

Posted by on Apr 2, 2014 in Blog | Comments Off on Laugh Lines of Graceful Distinction

Laugh Lines of Graceful Distinction

I don’t mean to discount anyone who is wrestling with the aging process or anyone who is really truly vested in never looking like they have been on the planet as long as they truly have…but I had an experience yesterday that continues to play in my mind and now I will write it here so it can leave me alone.

I have crows feet on my face.  On each outside corner of my eyes are lines.  They are deep.  They don’t go away when my face is relaxed.  They get very deep when I am talking, or laughing.  I laugh a lot.  My lines are permanent.  I can’t see them unless I am in front of a mirror or looking at a photo, but I know they are there and they don’t bother me.  I have spent many years smiling and I hope to have many more.

Yesterday, while making my way through one of the most prominent (aka expensive) shopping centers in my metropolis, I was stopped by a man handing out a sample of something.  It looked like jewelry cleaner (it had a diamond on it).  It has been a while since I have cleaned my wedding band, so I stopped (rarely do I do this when I am firmly aware that I am about to be sold to).  Turns out it wasn’t jewelry cleaner, it was skin care.  I say “care” loosely here as it was really cosmetics designed to alter the appearance of your skin whether or not it is actually “good” for your skin to use them.

Not being a rude sort of person, and realizing it was ME that stopped and gave the green light, I patiently spent 30 seconds (no laughing!) to listen.  Before I knew it, there was a magnifying mirror up to my face and a cotton swab of goo being dabbed next my eye.

“How does that feel?” was the question being posed.  “sticky” was my answer.  Not what he was looking for, I’m sure.

The mirror returned.  “do you see how those lines are already going AWAY?”  Um…I guess so.  “just wait another few seconds and you will see.”

I felt a sudden fear of loss that didn’t seem quite reasonable and sort of surprised me. “Hey.  I am on my way to a meeting, am I going to look like Bell’s palsy victim with one eye drooping and one crazily open?” I asked.  Humor is my favorite defense mechanism.

He was UNAMUSED.

Then the slight fear turned into something closer to annoyance and I finally said it.  “Why do you think I need to lose my laugh lines?  I got those from years of being happy.  Why would I want to give them up?”

“Of course” he says.  “You EARNED those.  But don’t you want to age GRACEFULLY?”

That was it.  I’m done.  Apparently I do NOT want to age gracefully if that means putting up with being sticky and gooey (and broke – that stuff was expensive!) and having some young man without my life experience give me advice on growing or losing anything – even my laugh lines, crows feet, or whatever you want to call them.  I left that twisted, self-judging, version of graceful with him as I laughed and said “Nope!  I guess not!” while I turned and walked away.

Yes, I am sure he disagreed with my philosophy. I am also pretty sure that he chalked his encounter with me up to just one more crazy aging woman who doesn’t get how important looking oddly young for your age is.  I am sure there was someone else to take my place just moments later and who may have actually forked over the $400 to age “gracefully” with gooey, puff-less, line-less eyes.

Not me. I am old enough to know better and thankful to have so many smiles that they stayed.

 

 

Are You Scared Enough?

Posted by on Sep 12, 2013 in Blog, Media | Comments Off on Are You Scared Enough?

Are You Scared Enough?

There is something amazing about working with a highly skilled coach whose focus and purpose is to help you find clarity, purpose and momentum to truly achieve what you dream of.  Yes, I know, I am coach, but I am actually not talking about myself here.  I believe that every good leader and every great coach does even better when they have a highly skilled and trusted coach of their own.  If there is anything I have learned about leadership in these past several years, it is to not lead alone.

So, this brings me to the question at the top of this page.  It is a question that I was asked recently by a highly skilled coach and it resonated with me to point that I felt compelled to share it with you.  “Are you scared enough?”

What she was referring to was whether or not I was truly reaching outside of my own comfort zone and purposefully placing myself in the space where real growth happens.  Was I riding on my success of the past, or creating new success for the future in a bigger, bolder way?

This is an excellent question.  You see, I have lived outside of what most would describe as a “comfort zone” for so many years that much of it has become, well, comfortable.  I lead large professional women’s groups.  I love it.  I am inspired and energized by it.  I am also comfortable doing it.  I volunteer with non-profits that are working hard to make great improvements in the world and improve the plight of others and I love it.  I have been doing it a long time.  I am usually quite comfortable there too.  I work with clients in my mentoring and coaching practice and help them reach beyond what they used to think of as their limits and it makes my heart sing, my step springy and my gratitude soar.  You guessed it, I am often comfortable there too.  I love to solve problems and when those problems are within the realm of my highest expertise, I thrive on their resolution.  I love change.  I am one of those strange and rare people who LOVE change.

Here is the challenge.  I can feel myself slipping into auto-pilot more and more often because I am in my groove, in my comfort zone, in my realm of high expertise.  I love change and I love growth.  Growth is slow inside of the comfort zone…and so I talked to a coach.  My task for her was “help me figure out how to keep growing in ways that I can’t see today.”

Opportunities surround us every day, even if we don’t always recognize them for what they are.  I started looking for opportunities that I wasn’t seeing before and added some time into my morning meditation for remaining open to new challenges to help me grow.  I got one!

I was offered a new CEO position of a new start-up company in an industry that I haven’t been spending my full attention on for several years.  The tasks at hand were to help negotiate contracts between investors, get the financial strategy laid out, get the strategic operational plan in place, get the marketing in order, get the business connections intact, get the first employees on board, break through conservative sales projections and get to profitability as quickly as possible so that our investors are happy, the company is financially stable and we could then hire more employees and continue to grow.  Really…is that all you want me to do?  This is the culmination of all of my experiences from the last several years put together in one big & hairy time-sensitive creative responsibility-laden exciting thought-challenging relationship-building solution- seeking conglomeration of CHANGE.  Scary as hell, isn’t it?

I accepted.

I threw my hands in the air in celebration (I love leading and creating and solving problems and relationship building!)…and then I grabbed my nauseated stomach and called my coach.  I told her that I knew I was on the right path not because of the excitement – but because of the nausea.   It feels good to be out of my comfort zone once again in the land of growth and change and possibility.  Does it scare me enough?  Yes… enough to wake me up in the middle of the night…this is exciting!  I am growing again.

How about you?  Are you scared enough of what you are doing to know that you are growing beyond your original vision?

Women Change the World when they embrace their strength and their power within themselves and refuse to under-live their lives.

 

Mentoring Magic

Posted by on Jun 16, 2013 in Blog, Media | Comments Off on Mentoring Magic

Mentoring Magic

Behind every successful woman, you will find….. what?

That is a great question to ask as you look to improve your own life and level of success.  What do you need?   What will support you, motivate you and increase your opportunities?  My answer?  A mentor.

What is a mentor?

A mentor is someone else with more experience, connections and knowledge who can help guide you on your way.  It is someone who wants to see you rise above where you are at and be part of your greatness solution.  It is someone who is willing to spend time and energy to listen and understand…and then help you move past where you are at through providing connections, advice or through leading by example.

A mentor is not someone who solves your problems or tells you what to do or pays your bills or makes excuses for you.

So, where do you find a mentor?  That depends on what you want one for.

 

Some common areas of mentorship are personal and business help. (there are also spiritual mentors and education mentors too!).  Check out more info at www.findamentor.org

Personal:  If you are looking for a mentor to help you in your personal life, seek out someone who embodies the kind of person you most want to be.  There are some great mentoring programs being offered through organizations like AZ Foundation for Women’s Live & Learn program.  www.azfw.org

Business:  If you are looking for a business mentor and are a business owner, get yourself to your local National Association of Women Business Owners chapter and join.  If you are in the Phoenix area, you can apply for an award winning mentoring program that is free to members!  Check it out at www.nawbophx.org

If you are an employee and looking for a mentor to help you advance your career, take a look at the leaders in your organization and ask your human resources department to help you locate a successful higher level person who may be willing to help.

Find those people that can show you the way and start a conversation.  Be super respectful of their time and don’t take it personally if they aren’t able to help you right now.  Find ways to be of service to others and keep your connections positive.  Ask yourself what it is about the people you admire that makes them admirable to you.  Emulate those traits.

Can’t find the right mentor?  Find help for yourself.  Try this book: Be Your Own Mentor: Strategies from Top Women on the Secrets of Success  by Sheila Wellington and Betty Spence.

Whatever you do, don’t give up.  You are worth the effort and the world needs your best!

Want to be a mentor?  That is GREAT…and that is another blog post to come…

Leading through Service

Posted by on Jun 10, 2013 in Blog, Media | Comments Off on Leading through Service

Leading through Service
servant leadership students

Effective, strong leaders are not what they used to be.  That is in no way, shape or form meant as a complaint…it is a statement of the evolution of the leadership and the pathway to a better world.

Leadership, like pretty much everything else, has changed over time in many parts of the world.  Strong leaders used to lead firmly from the top.  There was a clear and enforced heirachy of who was in charge and whose orders were to be followed.  Leaders led by giving orders with or without divulging the details of why, and everyone “under” them followed, or were punished.  This works pretty well in the military and when the leaders are experienced and trained and the followers are inexperienced and wouldn’t know what to do without instructions.  This also is the framework in some family systems (cultures) and some forms of government where people don’t have a choice or a voice (yes, this picture was taken in China).  This autocratic, (dare I say communist?) style of leadership does not empower others to strive, create, or problem solve from their best, wisest, passionate self.  To have a new, better world, we need new better leadership that encourages creative solutions and truly meaningful devotion and commitment that is not derived merely from fear of punishment, shame, demotion, or abandonment.

Welcome to Servant Leadership!

Today’s leadership has evolved from leading to serving.  As a leader and, quite simply, as a human being, I love this change.  Today’s effective, strong leaders are courageous enough to be transparent, to be less than perfect, and to spend their time in service to their team.  This new servant leader is able to keep the long range vision and strategy in mind while trusting the team to make decisions within their responsible areas and move together with new ideas, problem solving and individual talents.  This new leader shares credit, creates an atmosphere of encouragement and leads by example in solving conflict and respecting the views and experiences of others. This is a higher functioning leader that grows more leaders.

Here are 10 important traits of a good servant leader.  I hope this helps you to find your best leader and serve your team to new levels of success:

  1. A Servant Leader cultivates a trust culture
  2. A Servant Leader values diverse opinions and skills
  3. A Servant Leader develops leadership in others
  4. A Servant Leader acknowledges and helps with life issues (not just work performance)
  5. A Servant Leader encourages others to see their own value
  6. A Servant Leader thinks of others first
  7. A Servant Leader sells ideas instead of “tells” others how to think
  8. A Servant Leader thinks long-term
  9. A Servant Leader gives credit to others (acts with humility)
  10. A Servant Leader always takes responsibility for missed goals without blame or shame pointed at others

When asked why I choose to be a leader, my answer is that “I don’t want to be in charge; I want to lead the charge.”  I want everyone to be successful together – and with quality servant leadership, the greatness of your team will get you all there!

Women Change the World by Leading By Example and Helping More Women Succeed!