Dr. Rita's Blog
Lately my new coaching clients all seem to be struggling with having too much to do and not having enough time for themselves and their families. We’ve been talking about strategies for focusing more on the important and less on the urgent.
When I sat down to write this newsletter, I thought it might be a good idea to review this topic.
A Breeding Ground
The fast-paced world we live in is a breeding ground for distractions and urgencies masquerading as important.
As leaders, it takes daily awareness to say no to what’s in front of us and carve out (and protect!) the time we need to think long term and strategically.
When we talk about this subject, my clients almost always ask, “Where do I find the time?”
My response? “You have to take the time. And then guard it ferociously. No one will give you the time and you won’t find it.”
That leads to a conversation that includes a few significant ideas.
1. Schedule on your calendar the time you want and need for strategic and important thinking.
2. Guard that time. Say no to anyone (unless it’s the CEO) who tries to schedule something during your strategic thinking time.
3. Figure out what you can delegate. And then actually delegate things to the capable people you have on your team. Remind yourself that you are giving them opportunities to learn, grow and develop in their careers.
4. Experiment with letting things fall off your to-do list. Yes. I said, “Let things fall off your to-do list.” If they are truly important, you’ll get feedback telling you so. And if they weren’t important enough to get feedback, they don’t belong on your to-do list in the first place. You may be surprised at how many things you think you need to do, but you really don’t.
Don’t Be Surprised
Don’t be surprised if you feel uneasy at first. One of the reasons the urgent is so seductive is that we get an adrenaline hit when we can accomplish something in a short period of time. Or we feel needed for a perceived “crisis.” That feeling of being needed is also seductive because it gives us a “feel-good” moment.
Wisdom is Waiting for You
As you practice scheduling and keeping strategic thinking time on your calendar, you’ll start to experience its power. You’ll notice that it’s the key to keeping you ahead of the game. You’ll feel less stressed and more centered. You’ll make better decisions. You’ll tap into a wisdom that can’t exist without the time to think deeply. We need more leaders who know how to bring wisdom to decision making. Answers will start to come to you from seemingly out-of-the-blue.
Taking this time isn’t easy. I give this assignment to the women in my Executive Women’s Change Leadership Roundtables all the time. They often report back that something “important” came up or there was something they just “had to do” instead of holding fast to the time they had on their calendar for strategic thinking.
Keep At It
If at first you feel like you are sluffing off and not doing enough with this time, that is a clue that you are on the right track. Stick with it. You, and your team, will function more effectively with less stress. And that’s good for everyone!
I’d love to hear how it goes for you.
I yelled for my 17-year-old daughter. She took one look at Willow and immediately called 911. She relayed what the 911 operator was telling me to do. Within five minutes the ambulance, a fire truck and two police cars were in front of our home.
So where does the beauty part come in?
Later that day, Willow’s maternal grandparents came to the hospital. So did her uncle and her mom’s best friend. We took turns entertaining Willow because she was hooked up to monitors that wouldn’t allow her to get out of her hospital crib.
We all spent the afternoon together in support of Willow. What we actually created was a beautiful circle of love. All of our relationships deepened.
We can’t be in control over what happens in life that is stressful for us.
What we can be in control over is what we choose to focus on and see in the stressful situations we find ourselves in. I chose to see the love in that hospital room on Super Bowl Sunday. And the beauty of the circle of people who adore my little granddaughter, Willow.
In every area of our lives, and in every situation in which we find ourselves, we have a choice as to what we choose to see and feel.
It’s up to you. Which choice will you make?
We need more women leaders. And to have that happen, we need to know more about what holds women back.
The 12 habits—take note
Read through the following list of 12 habits.
Go slowly. Take a few moments to reflect on each item as you move through the list.
Then make note of which 2-3 habits might be holding back you or one of your direct reports.
1. Reluctance to Claim Your Achievements.
2. Expecting Others to Spontaneously Notice and Reward Your Contributions.
3. Overvaluing Expertise.
4. Building Rather Than Leveraging Relationships.
5. Failing to Enlist Allies from Day One.
6. Putting Your Job Before Your Career.
7. The Perfection Trap.
8. The Disease to Please.
10. Too Much.
12. Letting Your Radar Distract You.
Women don’t realize
Many times, women have a feeling that something is holding them back, but they aren’t quite sure what. This list helps articulate what is likely getting in the way.
Once articulated and pointed out, women often respond with, “Wow, I didn’t realize that,” or, “Oh my, I do that, too.” Armed with this information, women can make a conscious effort to build new, more successful habits in earnest.
Address hurt feelings early
When determining which habits might be holding yourself or a particular woman back, be aware that when women first realize that they need to change, it’s almost automatic for them to start by feeling hurt, discouraged or undervalued. If not addressed early, this can be painful and result in wasted time spent being hard on themselves and feeling guilty.
Put energy into what you can control
Another important step for women getting ready to make change, is to put their energy into what they can control. To get feedback and realize what got them to their current level of success won’t get them to their next level.
It’s also valuable for women to understand that ambition is not a bad thing, even if they might be criticized for being “too ambitious.”
Stories about real women
What I like about “How Women Rise: Break the 12 Habits Holding You Back From Your Next Raise, Promotion or Job” is that it is filled with stories about real women who were committed to rising in their careers, but were blind to the behaviors and habits that were actively keeping them stuck.
These are patterns that I have seen within myself and other women leaders whom I have coached for the past 20+ years.
Now that you are armed with your holding-back patterns, you have a real opportunity to make change.
Here are three next steps available to you.
1. Get in touch with me at 612-598-6614 or Rita@WiseLeader.net to talk about how one one-on leadership coaching could support you in getting to your next level of leadership.
2. Get in touch with me to talk about joining an Executive Women’s Change Leadership Roundtable and how the year-long Roundtable experience could support you in replacing your hold-back patterns with new patterns that will get you where you want to go. https://www.wiseleader.net/executive-womens-change-leadership-roundtables.html
3. Go get the book How Women Rise: Break the 12 Habits Holding You Back from Your Next Raise, Promotion, or Job
Then rise to your next level of leadership in 2019!
We need more of what women leaders have to offer!
Fall is one of my favorite times of the year. Not only because the colors on the Minnesota trees are spectacular, but because fall is when I do my yearly retreat with my leadership cohort.
This year was our 21st retreat.
We saw the potential
We had a taste of how we could create a space that offered us true support and camaraderie that we couldn’t find anywhere else. And we wanted more. So we decided we would get together every year for our own leadership retreat.
Early on we recognized that there was something unique and valuable about what we were creating as a group. Somehow we knew that being a member of the Kokopellis held the potential for each of us to learn and grow in a way that would make our lives richer.
We are committed to living our lives by being present to the full range of emotions and being conscious about who we wanted to become. We’ve been through marriages and divorces, births and deaths, good health and health challenges. Our relationships with each other have weathered the ups and downs inherent in any relationship that is worth having.
It would be easy to say I got lucky, but that would not be true. I recognized the value of being part of a group that had the courage to be honest and loving. I invested my time, my energy and my vulnerabilities.
It’s been worth every second and so much more.
Who are the people you invest your time, your energy and your vulnerabilities with?
If you can answer that question easily, good for you. If you’re not sure who those people are, take some time to reflect. If you don’t have them, consider how you could find them and cultivate relationships that care and support you—both personally and professionally.
It’s an investment worth making.
Our smart phones present a world of possibilities. Which is a wonderful thing.
BUT a problem lurks below the surface. Our phones and the apps we have on them have been engineered to reward us for looking at them no matter where we are or what we are trying to do. This creates a powerful pull and messes with the dopamine in our brain.
In reading her book, I realized I knew very little about the power our phones have over us.
The author initially noticed that during the past few years, her attention span had gotten shorter, her memory seemed weaker and her focus flickered. This was puzzling to her … until she came to the realization that her phone was the cause.
Our Brain Power
In a study published in 2017, Dr. Adrian Ward and his colleagues asked 800 study participants to put their devices: 1. Close and in sight, 2. Nearby out of sight and 3. In another room. Then the researchers tested cognitive capacity.
Things to know about our phones
1. Our phones are designed to addict us. They are specifically engineered to get us to spend time on them. To do that, engineering designers manipulate our brain chemistry in ways that are known to trigger addictive behaviors.
2. Social media knows how to steal our attention. And there is a causal relationship between social media use and unhappiness—including physical health, mental health and life satisfaction according to a 2017 report in the American Journal of Epidemiology.
3. Our phones are changing our brains. Our phones envelop us in an intensely focused state of distraction due to swipes, clicks and scrolling. This is re-wiring our brains to be less able to concentrate and think deeply according to Nicholas Carr’s 2010 book The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains.
4. Our phones are like Pandora’s Box of Emotions. Every time we check them, we open ourselves up to be unpleasantly surprised by anxiety about the stock market, anger at a news report—or a post that makes us sad—just to name a few reactions. And this mix of emotions can be ignited within seconds. Then we’re left alone and stressed about things we can’t control.
3. Do a phone fast to see how addicted you really are. Take a weekend and completely disconnect from your devices. If you find yourself anxious, edgy and slightly depressed, know that you are not alone.
5. Delete all social media apps from your phone.
6. Get back in touch with what makes you happy in your offline life and do those things. You’ll have more time for them if you get off your device!
Then let me know how it goes.
I feel happy most of the time these days. It’s become a way of life for me.
It wasn’t always. Happiness used be more of a come-and-go thing for me. I assumed that was just the way happiness was. Not so.
There has been a lot of interest in happiness lately, given the increase in research studies and books about the topic being written. Come to find out, there are specific things we can do to make happiness a way of life.
Here are just a few to get you started:
Kindness is the ultimate happiness secret. When you are kind, you feel good about yourself and eliminate negative feelings like guilt and emotional distress. Make kindness a habit.
Who can you go out of your way to be kind to today? A stranger. A loved one. Your manager. A colleague. Your small act of kindness will brighten their day and you’ll feel happier, too. That’s a win-win for sure!
A special thank you to Leah Cook, Senior Director, Strategic Projects, Finance at Thomson Reuters for sharing her notes on the happiness research with me that I’ve used to spread the word on happiness.
Or, if you prefer TED talks, go to :
Sonja Lyubomirsky - The How of Happiness
Shawn Achor - The happy secret to better work
Share what works for you here. We all encounter stress every day. The more ideas we have for coping, the happier we all can be.
Send a note and let me know how you’re becoming happier.
Purpose helps us sort out what matters to us. Purpose helps us get clear as to why we are here and shows us the way for making the best use of our natural abilities and talents.
Tiffany Mattick, Sr. Director, Organization Effectiveness at Thomson Reuters was a guest presenter recently at the Executive Women’s Change Leadership Roundtable. She shared some of her discoveries and steps she took to connect with her purpose.
It started with discontent
At first, Tiffany tried to ignore the discontent she felt. She was doing well at work so things looked good on the surface. But she soon discovered that our bodies have a limit to the amount of discontent they will tolerate.
Then things happened
This is a common next step when we let our minds talk us out of the discontent we feel. Things that we don’t like, start to happen around us.
She got sick.
Then came the day she forgot to turn off the laundry room faucet when she got a call to pick up her kids. That ended with a flood in the newly remodeled basement. The brand new custom cabinetry and newly installed carpet were ruined.
Tiffany now helps others connect with their purpose by showing them that:
When people engage with this formula published by Leider, they bring out their own personal best. They are happier both at home and at work. And they make contributions that matter to them. That’s a win for themselves and for everyone around them!
Take the time
If you are in a leadership role, take the time to become clear on your purpose. It will make a big difference in your confidence level, your decision making and your ability to know where you stand, and why. We need more leaders who can do this.
Thank you, Tiffany for sharing your journey with us. We appreciate your candor and your courage.
If you’d like to discover or refine your purpose, you may find these resources helpful.
• The Power of Purpose by Richard Leider
• TED talk https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s6uMqoIRwSg
• Strengths Finder 2.0
• Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Dr. Carol S. Dweck
Let me know what you discover!
Perfection is something that I used to struggle with. Finally I realized there is no such thing as perfection. Therefore it’s silly to aspire to something that doesn’t exist.
Once I gave up my pursuit, life got a whole lot easier. I found myself enjoying almost everything I did. I was happier. My stress level went down. I discovered I was good enough. What a relief that was!
Is it ‘A’ work or ‘C’ work?
During a discussion at an Executive Women’s Change Leadership Roundtable, one of the women in the group shared a helpful communication tip that she and her boss use to help root out perfectionism. When she gets a new project they determine if it needs ‘A’ level work or if ‘C’ level work is good enough. I think that is brilliant. It saves a lot of time and energy.
I hope you find Father McDonell’s poem as reassuring as I do.
I have had it with perfection,
I have packed my bags,
I am out of here.
As certain as rain
will make you wet,
perfection will do you
It droppeth not as dew
upon the summer grass
to give liberty and green
Perfection straineth out
the quality of mercy,
withers rapture at its
Before the battle is half begun,
cold probity thinks
it can’t be won, concedes the
I’ve handed in my notice,
I’ve given back my keys,
signed my severance check, I
Hints I could have taken:
Even the perfect chiseled form of
Michelangelo’s radiant David
the Venus de Milo
has no arms,
the Liberty Bell is
Let me know your thoughts.
For many leaders, networking is far from the top of their to-do list. With the high demands of the day to day, it’s easy to put networking out of sight, out of mind.
Whether you end up unexpectedly in transition or are expanding your career options, having a network of relationships with people you can count on and reach out to makes a big difference.
Networking is a lot like the old saying “Dig your well before you need it.” Let’s take a look at a few tips you can use to dig your networking well.
Your Mindset Matters
Think of networking as simply having conversations with people you want to get to know and who can help you in some way. You’ll find ways to help them, too.
Link Networking to your Career Goals
Networking is a vital part of your career strategy. Think about your current situation at work. Who are people who have similar roles as you? Who could help you with new ideas or introduce you to people in similar roles as you in other industries? Who has experience and could help you expand your thinking or expand your visibility?
Think about what you are aspiring to in your career. Who currently has a role you’d eventually like to have? Seek them out and ask questions about how they got their position. And ask how you can help them. You may be surprised at what you learn.
What to Say
Before you attend an event set a goal to meet 1-3 new people. At the event you can join a group by simply saying “May I join you?” Then listen for a few minutes and introduce yourself. Or if you prefer one-on-one conversations, look for someone standing by themselves. Walk up to them and introduce yourself. Open with a question such as “Have you been to one of these events before?”
When you set up a one-on-one networking meeting, remember that the goal for any networking conversation is to deepen the relationship, share and gain information and provide value to the other person.
If you want to continue your conversation with someone you briefly met, send an email with possible times to meet. Or make a phone call to reach out. Find them on Linked-In and ask them to join your network.
For someone who took the time to meet with you, send a hand-written thank you note. It will make an impression and be appreciated.
It’s a skill
Networking is a skill to be developed. With practice, you will find your individual style and approach. And you’ll meet some amazing, helpful people along the way.
Let me know how it goes for you!
When life knocks us down, we have to get back up and keep going forward.
It’s not easy. The skill we use to get back up is resilience.
Resilience is a skill we work on our entire lives.
Resilience is getting a lot of attention lately. In his research, Dr. Dennis Charney has determined 10 psychological and social factors that make for stronger resilience. In no particular order, the factors are:
You may want to spend a minute or two reviewing this list to determine
which factors you’ve used when you had to get back up,
and maybe one or two you’d like to work on.
Adults in resiliency studies said that determination is an important component of resiliency: A determination to do whatever it takes.
When life knocks us down, most of us need a little time to process what happened. We need to take the time to go through our full range of emotions which may include: shock, terror, disbelief, sadness, and grief—to name a few.
The trick is not to stay in those emotions for too long. The goal is to move through the feelings, not build a condominium around them.
Being aware of self-talk is absolutely crucial for resiliency. It takes determination not to get sucked into the negativity storm that can rip like a tornado through our head in hard times.
Being resilient means to acknowledge the negative thoughts, but then quickly transition to positive thoughts that will lift you back up. Many times this feels easier said than done!
When I was first working on my self-talk awareness a few years ago, I would often feel a drop in my energy and mood before I could identify what the negative self-talk in my head was. I quickly learned to pay attention to my energy drops because it was my clue that negative self-talk had taken hold.
Stories of Resiliency
I was at a Women Leading in Technology (WLiT) event recently in Minneapolis. A panel of executive women shared their stories of resiliency.
One of the things the women talked about was the self-talk they use to
bounce back when their negative self-talk tries to kick in.
Here are a few of my favorites:
I hope you try some of these out. And then create your own.
Adversity will inevitably arrive. You will do well to have positive self-talk mantras prepared and practiced.
And remember this lovely quote from Terri St. Cloud, shared by one of the panel members:
“She could never go back and make some of the details pretty.
All she could do was move forward and make the whole beautiful.”
Let me know what you try out and how it goes.
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