Working women

Transition with Ease and Grace. 3 Powerful Coaching Questions to Ask Yourself

golden gate cloudyOne of my potential clients is going through a major transition and called me to inquire about executive coaching.

She is a new mother of 15 month twin girls and is having a tough time balancing her work and personal life.  After working in a senior role for 15 years in a major company, she felt compelled to put in her resignation.  She needed time to rethink her career, finances, and family life and hopefully find a family friendly employer.  She is now in the process of winding down and closing this chapter of her life.

Transition times are tough and can be very stressful.  There is a sense of loss, maybe some humiliation, and a lot of anxiety about the unknown future.  There is also a tinge of excitement and anticipation about creating something new.

You may find yourself in the midst of a major transition.  Here are some coaching questions that could help you during these times.

  1. As you go through this process, notice how you are feeling.  Label it and acknowledge your feelings of the moment.  Do not judge or make this feeling wrong.  Whatever you are feeling is yours and you are entitled to this. Notice the change in your feelings as the transition progresses.  Do not be alarmed if it gets tougher before it gets better.
  2. Notice your thoughts.  What would you like your team and colleagues to remember about you?  What would you like your transition theme to be?
  3. Who are you being throughout all this process?   I’ve been through several transitions throughout my career and continue to do so during my encore career.  We moved 17 times and lived in 3 continents, all transitions have been very stressful, some more than others.  I have a theme or mantra that helped me tremendously whenever I am in transition and that is — “Move with Ease and Grace”.  I meditate on these words every spare moment I have and it never fails to center me.  It keeps me calm and greatly influences how I behave.

Transitions are wonderful, they give us hope, enable us to change to have a better life.  When I think of my major transitions, I was fortunate to have a coach guide me through it.  My coach helped make a cloudy and foggy journey clearer and certainly made me aware when I have reached my destination.

Defining Your Non-negotiables, Part 4: Is it about child care or is it about my job?

work life balanceAnother non-negotiable for high achieving women is ensuring that they have the best child care available when they go back to work.  This was the case for Lynda Kitamura, Chief Financial Officer.

When Lynda’s first born was 3 ½ months, her baby started sleeping well. Lynda brought in a nanny and felt comfortable that this arrangement would be good for her child. In the meantime, her company was introducing a new platform that was both exciting and challenging to her and she wanted to be part of this change.

Lynda was able to go back to work feeling entirely comfortable with her choice. It was not a burden to get back to work, and she did not feel any pressure making the decision; it was simply a case where her daughter started sleeping well at night and she found a terrific nanny.

She harbored no guilt, because she felt like she had  a choice and was not doing something wrong. It’s not that she did not have fears—fears like the children would prefer to be with their nanny or their father rather than her. But she kept her relationships with her children strong, and that fear did not materialize. In fact, her children fondly recall how fun it was to go to work with her on some weekends with their crayons and snacks.  In spite of this, she prepared herself for this possibility and was willing to accept the consequences if this happened. The preparation and acceptance of the consequences of her choices empowered her to proactively manage a tough situation.

To keep herself going, she focused on the good and acknowledges what she feels really bad about or could feel bad about. This keen awareness of her feelings guided her priorities – what she scheduled, how she spent her time, and she tried to avoid anything that would make her feel bad. For example, she did not miss a birthday or an important school event—this was part of her priorities.

Achieving this priority entailed careful planning and communication with her managers ahead of time. She feels fortunate to have had understanding managers throughout her career. It is important to be clear in communicating what you want to your manager: “This is a very important date and I need to be there.”  When she respectfully makes these requests, she found out that her managers are equally respectful.

Some working women fear speaking up for family or personal needs because it might reflect negatively on them. Based on Lynda’s experience, it is probably not going to be as bad as they think it will be. This is where she thinks parents feel guilt or suffer quietly. For Lynda, avoiding feeling bad is the balance, the compromise of balancing work and personal life.

Ask yourself questions like: Why am I doing this? Is it important? Is it healthy? Do I care about my children? Absolutely! Is this a reasonable request? Are they safe and cared for? And how much of this is me and my ego, vs are they truly going to be ok?

Could it be that those who feel really bad about working and unable to achieve balance, really do not want to work? Or are not happy with their work and they prefer to be at home? There is nothing wrong with wanting to stay at home, but it is really important to recognize the distinction – Is this something I’m really worried about for my child or is this something about myself?

Asking these tough questions help you get to the bottom of what’s really bothering you about being a working mom. Some working moms choose to blame the company, the government, the system, their boss. Taking honest ownership of how one feels about their children’s care and how much they love their job are the more important questions. Finding the appropriate care support system for your family eventually pays off. You will have peace of mind and can focus better on your work.

Being clear of her priorities is key to Lynda’s work life success.  She loves her job and gets fulfilled in her career.  She loves her family and her children’s growth and development is very important to her.  With her priorities and non-negotiables clearly set, Lynda found a way to make multiple priorities work.  Lynda is a high achieving woman.

Do you know a high achieving woman?  Describe what she is doing.

 

Define Your Non-negotiables Part 3: Career Flexibility

work life balanceWe have been discussing the importance of setting priorities and non-negotiables for work life success.  Having a set of priorities helps us make choices.  Being clear with our non-negotiables, free us from stress and indecision.  We realign our priorities as our lives and needs change.

An important non-negotiable for high achieving women is career flexibility.  This is the ability to be fully present at home when needed while having a career that supports your personal needs.

Georgia Smith, corporate executive and one of the women I interviewed for my forthcoming book – You Can Be It All, Secrets of High Achieving Women (current working title), was able to achieve career flexibility, working full time while raising her son.

Georgia always knew that she was going to be a working mom even before she got married.  Georgia and her husband discussed what they would be willing to do for each other’s career and where they will live.  While her husband was raised in the East Coast,USA, his preference is to work and live in the West Coast. They knew that they may have to pass up advancement opportunities by making this decision.  Georgia did not regret this decision. She knew that she would forego  making a lot more money and would take longer to get to executive ranks, but it was more important to her that she felt good about the positive contribution that she was making at work, still made good money and lived comfortably close to her extended family.  The ego was probably the only thing impacted by these non-negotiables and this was not an issue with her.

When she had her son, she had the classic struggle of all working women: “How can I be a full-time mom and a full-time professional and give everything needed to both, without short changing either?”.  Her husband traveled most of the time, so balancing childcare and her own career demands rested primarily on her.  She was fortunate to be able to explore different roles within a company that recognized her skills and potential.  When she  wanted to have flexible hours, she decided to stay in the same company and changed  to field work.

Georgia’s non negotiable is career flexibility. While her son was young, she benefited from a flexible schedule on the road as a Sales Account Manager. She had the ability to be in the field and would take the time to watch her son’s sporting events.  As her son moved to high school, she decided to finish her college education.  They had dinner together every night to catch up on their day and studied together after dinner.  As her son moved on to college she shifted to a regional role and was able to do more travel.

She considers herself fortunate to be have a career that met her personal needs and did not give anybody less than they deserved.  Her son is now an accomplished lawyer with his own family and never felt short-changed having a full-time working mom.  He remembers that she was with him for all the important moments in his life.  

Georgia’s non-negotiable, career flexibility, enabled her to be the best mom that she can be while achieving career success.  Georgia is a high achieving woman.  Do you know a high achieving woman?  What is she doing?  What is your non-negotiable and how has it served your needs?

 

My Husband is a STUD. 7 Tips to Make Your Career Transition Smooth

 

husband movingI read that relocation is one of the top stressful changes one could experience, third to death of a loved one and loss of a job.  I’ve mentioned before that we moved 17 times, across 3 continents in our 30 plus years of marriage.  Every transition is a family decision.  We discussed and agreed on the merits of the move, and did not look back.

It was not easy, especially with children in school, but my husband made it easy. While I adjusted to the new job, Danny looked for an ideal home location, researched schools, oversaw the movers and transacted the sale or purchase of our homes.  He has very good instincts in choosing locations and never settles until he has found the perfect home that met most of our needs.  We handled all our transitions smoothly and I did not worry, until I accepted an expat assignment in Belgium.

In my new role, I was responsible for the regions outside the US and knew that I’d be traveling extensively.  Once our daughter was happily settled in international school and we were all moved in, I was concerned about how Danny would adjust to a new life in a strange country.  Although we tried really hard to learn French, it is not an easy language for us.  My concerns quietly nagged me until I read about the STUDS.

On a business trip, I came across an interesting airline magazine article about this group called the STUDS – Spouses Trailing Under Duress Successfully.   They are husbands of expat wives hanging out together supporting each other through their transition in Belgium.  I got so excited about the possibility of Danny meeting new friends. Typical guy, he did not seem that excited nor did he contact them.

Browsing through their website, I saw that they had a biking and golf group.  I sent a note to the email address pretending I was Danny and he very quickly invited me to play golf the very next day. Danny had a great time! He enjoyed their company so much; they met for golf every day from Monday to Friday.  Occasionally they would invite the wives and organized wine tasting events, trips or picnics and I always looked forward to these events.  I met equally busy and high achieving expat women who were just as excited to have some kind of a social life in a foreign country.  The STUDS are fun-loving, very helpful husbands from all over the world.  They exchanged recipes, compared dry cleaning prices and commiserated on common experiences about living in a foreign country.  They made our expat experience delightful.

You may find yourself in the midst of a career move with a trailing husband/partner and children.  They may not be as eager and excited about your move, or they may be actively complaining about each strange new experience.   As the initiator of the move, you feel responsible, guilty, sometimes helpless about their adjustment.  Here are 7 tips to get your family happily settled in a new location.

  1.  Honest Talk – Before accepting the new role, discuss the pros and cons of the move with your spouse/partner.  We had spreadsheets, lists, metrics to aid us in the decision.  As we got better at this, we also asked each other how we felt.  I learned to read Danny’s body language and used this as cue.  He may say yes to a move, but I sensed his body and facial expressions said otherwise.  Once you are aligned, and only when you are aligned, call a family meeting.
  2. Have a Family Meeting – discuss the advantage of the move for your family, career and each member of your family.  Hear the concerns from each member and together work on a plan to resolve their concerns.
  3. Take advantage of all that your company or new town offers: attend cross cultural training, language lessons, employee assistance programs and orientation.  Check local listings for neighborhood meet ups.
  4. Invite family and friends over for a visit. Most will say yes, but only a few will actually make it.  It’s ok to cast a wide invitation and schedule them based on your availability.  Likewise, book your vacation back home so you have something to look forward to.
  5. Explore and Discover.  It’s ok to prolong your tourist status indefinitely. Seek groups that have similar interests as yours.  Break up the empty calendar by booking your leisure time with discovery appointments. Book tickets to his favorite games, restaurants, art shows or parks.  Sign him up at the local basketball, running, cycling or golf group.  Join a dancing or painting class together.  Actively explore your new location together and learn something new.
  6. Encourage him to establish a daily routine. Danny kept himself busy by managing our finances, household, post office – yes, this is a big deal in Belgium, licenses – another big deal and all items required to settle down in our new home.  He had his own home office space equipped with a TV, PC, printer and all his files.
  7. Proactive Therapy. At the end of the day, realize that you cannot truly make someone else happy.  Your spouse/partner needs to sincerely want to make your new location work for your entire family.  I booked my family including myself to proactive therapy sessions before the move.  I prepared the kids for what therapy would look like and sent them in one by one to see the therapist.  After their meeting, I curiously asked how it went and all they said was – “its confidential Mom”.  If you sense resistance, passive or otherwise, some proactive therapy could help.

Career relocation can be tough.  It can also be one of the most rewarding and broadening learning experience for you and your family. Are you considering a career relocation or have experienced one?  Feel free to share what helped.

 

Define Your Non-negotiables, Align Your Priorities Part 1

woman working w familyWe create priorities all the time, shift and reorder them as needed.  Non-negotiables are those that are the top of your priorities, you fight for and keep them no matter what.

As you schedule your day and make decisions and choices, observe if your priorities are aligned with your non-negotiables.

My friend Lynda developed a very successful executive global career in Finance without the need to relocate out of the Toronto area.  It was important for her to be close to her family, keep her children in the same school while she took red-eye flights and worked all hours to accommodate multiple time zones.  Her non-negotiable is not relocating out of Toronto.

Georgia chose to live in Southern California and declined promotional roles that required relocation.  She instead chose to change careers.  She had a role in field sales with flexible time while her son was younger and moved to human resources with less travel when he got older.

As I look back at our family life & career, we have moved 17 times, across 3 continents over the course of our 30+ years marriage.  We relocated for promotional job opportunities, with a supportive husband, 3 children and my in-laws.  I love my career and chose to stay with it.  My marriage is my non-negotiable.

Aligning priorities with non-negotiables are important for work life success.  They are not easy to hold up and adhere to all the time, but they strengthen over time.

Are your non-negotiables clearly defined? Are your priorities aligned with what you say they are and how you choose to spend your time?

 

You are the Driver of your Career. 4 Ways to Improve Your Driving

driver red top down

I remember recurring dreams about driving whenever work stress got too much for me. I would dream that I was driving a car and would fall asleep at the wheel; or I’d be driving a car with my children at the back, fall asleep only to wake up in a sweat; or driving a car and get lost in the dark unable to find my way. Eventually I looked up the meaning of driving dreams and found one interpretation that made sense to me — driving dreams are about driving careers. I am driving my own career and feel the responsibilities of decisions that impact my family directly.  Work anxiety and fear of failure are strong emotions which I accepted as natural consequences of being an executive.

I had a great corporate career and am very grateful for it.  If I could coach my younger self about this very topic right now, I’d ask her what is the price that I am willing to pay to be an executive?  What is it about the work that is causing me stress?  How can I diffuse and handle this?  Am I fully aware of what I am doing and feeling? I was fortunate that during my formative years, my bosses provided me with a success coach. Some of my most successful and productive years were when I had a coach or mentoring relationship with a more senior and experienced supportive person. In addition to having great coaches, I could have improved driving my career more consciously.  I would coach my younger self to be more self-aware, more reflective and more purposeful in planning career and personal success.  I would pause more to regularly ask for directions and ask more feedback about my driving.

As the driver of our career and personal life, are we driving too fast or too slow? Are we distracted when driving? I usually started my drive to the office dialing into my voice messages — this was when cell phones were allowed on the road. I’m grateful that I did not hurt anyone, what was I thinking then? I thought that cleaning up my voicemail would improve my efficiency and productivity. I know now that calling my staff early in the morning added unnecessary stress to them. I guess I was obsessed to get voicemail checked.  I would coach my younger self to enjoy the drive, downtime and some silence.

As the driver of our careers, do we know where we are headed? Wouldn’t it be great if a GPS career apps with a soothing voice could be attached to our cars and order us to “recalculate” when we take the wrong turn in our careers or “make a right turn” at the exact time?  Are we driving above the speed limit of our career growth, making other drivers upset with our speed? Or are we too slow in the fast lane or too fast in the slow lane?

Here are 4 simple proven ways to be a better driver of your career:

1. Know your destination. What is your ultimate career goal? Where do you see yourself 10, 20 years from now? Is it to be a CEO, a VP, a Manager? It is important that you are clear about your end game. As you think through this question, keep in mind that while there are varied, diverse & untraditional careers, most are built with 4 similar structures: Early Career – usually an individual contributor, Mid Career – either professional or manager track, Executive Career – Director ,VP or C suite executive and Second Act – usually pursuing your unique passion or giving back.

2. Choose your lane. How fast do you want to drive your career? Do you want to be known as a Fast Tracker, high potential who gets promoted every couple of months? Or are you perfectly happy to be in the middle lane at certain times of your life?  What are you consciously giving up by staying in your chosen lane?  Are you accelerating or decelerating to get off ramp?

3. Keep your engine tuned up. As you move up the career ladder, ensure that your skills and knowledge are constantly enhanced. Keep an eye on your career dashboard, know when you are running out of gas, when you need to recharge your batteries or perhaps change your car?  This includes taking extreme care of yourself and what is important to you. There is no joy in reaching your destination only to find out that no one is there to share your success with you.

4. Lastly, don’t be a road rage, follow proper driving etiquette and don’t monopolize the road.  There are several roads to take you to your destination. Keep a positive attitude, build lasting relationships and help others along the way. The latter is the most gratifying career act that you can embrace. It is guaranteed to come back to you multiple fold in ways that you have not expected.

How are you driving your career?

8 Items that need to be on your plate. If you add more, you need to remove some.

buffet

 

One of the fantastic women I interviewed for my book on work life success, Kimberly Foss, told me that a professional woman’s life is similar to a buffet plate.  Everything looks good and as you go through the buffet table you keep on piling up food.  The problem is our plate size is limited, so some things need to be removed from our plate before we can add-on more.

How many of us are living our day-to-day life with overflowing plates?  It is not only unhealthy, it is also difficult to digest.  We have work commitments, care for our spouses & children, do countless household chores, travel, manage our finances & try to keep ourselves healthy.  For women, it’s mostly our downtime and eventually our health that suffers, while we desperately try to do all things and have it all.

Are you feeling overwhelmed by trying to have it all?  Instead of living life with an overflowing and unhealthy plate, perhaps it would be good to take some time out and visualize what’s on your plate.  It is never too late to take things off your plate.  This can be done once you are clear on your priorities.  Priorities change, so it is totally fine to coach yourself to reorder them periodically as needed.

I like to visualize my full life as a full plate with the following categories which I prioritize depending on my situation.

  1. Spiritual Life or centeredness
  2. Health & Fitness
  3. Financial Management
  4. Family & Relationships
  5. Child &/or Elder Care
  6. Career or Business
  7. Fun and recreational activities
  8. Housework or maintenance work

I like to regularly assess where I am on each of these areas and adjust accordingly.  During my corporate life, most of my time was committed to work, with very little time left for fun and recreational activities.  The awareness of how unbalanced my plate looked was enough for me to make some simple changes like walking regularly.  Eventually walking was not enough and I took on a more intense cardio and flexibility workout, I discovered and eventually got hooked to hot yoga.  It was not only a healthy workout; I enjoyed what it did to my health and overall wellbeing.

When I needed to add something to my plate, something needed to be given up.  It either goes off the list, gets outsourced or delegated.   Several years ago, as my career took off and travel increased, my husband picked up managing our day-to-day budget.  It was not easy for me to give this up, but I noticed my stress levels decreased as he ramped up managing our finances.  Years later, I am glad we made this shift; he became so good at managing our budget & investments that I was able to retire from my corporate life as soon as our youngest daughter graduated from college.  As my career took an even bigger portion of my plate, finances, gardening and cooking moved over to my husband’s plate.  He’s a much better cook anyway and loves to garden.

What’s on your plate?  What can you move out?

 

The Balance Myth by Teresa Taylor

Just finished reading this book, it is honest, real, vulnerable, love it!  This is how women in the workplace with families can succeed, allowing themselves to be who they really are so they can use their intellect and talents in all aspects of their lives.  Congratulations Teresa!  http://www.thebalancemythbook.com

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