Presence

Have you ever seen that woman at work who captures everyone’s attention?  She has that air of confidence when she talks and she commands a room when she’s in it. In meetings, she’s respected by both men and women, even if they don’t agree with her, because she has a way of delivering her message as business input, not opinions. She’s put together and she sits at the table in meetings.  She has presence.

There’s another woman that you see at the playground with her kids or the sports field at a game.  She’s engaged in their actions, she’s not on her phone checking her emails. She may not be on the swings or coaching, but she has a smile on her face watching her kids.  She has the same emails piling up and list of things that need to get done as the women next to her on her phone, but she knows that these windows of time are her chance to be there for her kids.  She has presence too.

There are very few words that can define something so critical to both your career and your work life balance, but presence is one of them. Presence is not something that we think a lot about, but we should. It’s a powerful skill and a key part of being an effective leader, but also can be used to make your work life balance successful and fulfilling.

For over twenty years as a Human Resources and business leader I have watched women with presence become successful.  Whether it’s in a job interview, delivering a sales pitch or participating in a meeting, they know that presence is part of their success and a skill that they must possess. I have been on the other side of conversations behind closed doors, where capable women have been overlooked because they don’t have it. Missed opportunities, dismissed for bigger jobs and not seen as capable as they truly are.  Lack of presence can stall your career.

Women who struggle to have balance in their personal lives lose precious time if they aren’t able to be present in the time that they do have for themselves and their family.  Being present can make one hour of time as meaningful as ten and can make you feel great about the time you do have in your personal life, not the time you don’t.

Presence is hard to create and takes constant work to keep, but interestingly, you have time to practice it every week in your job and personal life.  Here are three tips to develop your presence and make it a skill that you can put in your working women tool box:

  1. Tell a boss or trusted mentor that you are working on developing your presence.  What are some things that you can do to improve this skill?
  2. Look for women that demonstrate presence both inside and outside the workplace.  Ask them how they do it. Are there any mantras they use, rules they live by, classes they have taken or tips they can share?
  3. Practice presence.  With any skill, it gets better with repetition.  Work at it and you will see this skill develop.

Thank you to all of the women who show us what presence is all about.  You continue to pave the way and inspire working women like us to be the best we can be.

Balancing When There Is No Balance

It’s been weeks since I have written a blog entry.  Aside from the holidays, life quickly got out of balance with work demands that blew up any chance of free time, much less an opportunity to sit in front of my computer with a clear and creative mind to write.

It’s happened before. We all get times where balance feels impossible, because there is nothing to balance when you are working all the time and spending whatever time is left caring for your family. If you are anything like me, you find yourself fighting it, feeling defeated that there is no time for me or the things I cherish the most.  That’s where we get stuck and I got stuck in December, until I realized one thing.  Maybe when there is no balance, I need to look for balance more than ever.

I need to recalibrate what balance looks like in the crazy times and accept that for a temporary period of time, less will have to be more and I will have to appreciate the small amounts of time that I can make for myself.  I need to reach out to get help and support because I can’t do it alone.  I need to decide what I can do and have during this temporary time until things settle down.

So, I did just that.  I moved into acceptance and put together a plan. I mapped out the coming weeks on a calendar so my husband and mother in law (who cares for our kids) knew realistically what my schedule was going to look like.  I settled on one small plan a day with my kids over the holiday break, as that was all that I could swing, and I tried to make it good and be present. Despite my guilt, I needed workout time more than ever to manage my stress and detune, so I went to the gym.  I took my dear friend’s advice and scheduled a hair appointment instead of canceling any time for me.  I put some commitments and hobbies on hold until I could get back on my feet.  It wasn’t easy, but it was necessary.

As my friend Cathy Adams, parenting coach, author and therapist says, this is self care. It’s what we tend to give up first when things get busy, but it’s what we need the most to get through the busiest of times. We deserve to be cared for and we have to care for ourselves.  For working women, self care is a key part of “working the work life balance”.

I know that I am not alone in this journey.  Sometimes, managing balance in the busiest of times is part of the work gig for all of us, but there is a solution and a plan out there that only we can put together for ourselves to get us through.   Instead of blowing up balance, balance more and don’t forget about you.  After all, you are worth it.

The Working Woman’s Toolbox- The Power of “What If?”

I am a big believer that every woman needs their own toolbox.  I’m not talking about the metal kind that most men have in their garage.  I’m talking about a skill tool box that we keep at our side to help us do our jobs and tackle challenges that we face in our careers and life.  Women need different tools than men to be successful, but once we recognize what these tools are and put them in our toolbox, the sky is the limit of what we can accomplish.

As a Human Resources and business leader for over twenty years, I have had the unique experience to watch and help women navigate career decisions and personal challenges both in and out of the office.   Through this great experience and my own journey of trial and error, I have learned what tools women need in their toolbox and when to use them.

One of the most important tools we can have in our tool box, but sometimes forget to use is the power of “What if?” It’s understandable, as life is busy and balancing careers, motherhood and families is a tough job that takes all, or most of our energy every week.  But, what if we took a few minutes once in awhile to ask ourselves  “What If?” when we were navigating through career and personal decisions that have a direct impact on our success and happiness?

It’s a powerful question and powerful tool.  Here’s why.  When we ask ourselves “What if?” we are opening up the opportunity to explore possibilities that we may have thought couldn’t happen. “What if?” also leads to that next question  “What would it look like?” which helps us to envision a plan that could get us to something greater for ourselves.

I hate to admit this, but sometimes as women, we can forget to channel our confidence to believe that we can get what we want or need if we ask for it and develop a plan to get there. We can sabotage ourselves by not giving permission to have what we need to be happy. That’s where the power of “What If?” kicks in to help.

Here are some examples of “What if?” in action:

“What if I gave myself permission to take time for myself every week so I feel more balanced.  What would balance look like?  Maybe two hours a week for a DIY hobby or yoga class would make me so much happier for me and my family. “

“What if I could negotiate terms that make take that next job worth it to me?  What would that offer look like?   Perhaps getting that next job at a competitive salary and flexibility would give me the opportunity to thrive and make my career more rewarding.”

Using your “What if” tool can also be helpful to fix “No because.” While sometimes, we can come to the conclusion that it’s not possible to achieve career steps or balance for valid reasons, we have to be careful not to shutdown opportunity or real needs for the wrong reasons.  As women and mothers, we have a tendency to put all others first before us and shortchange ourselves.  However, if we allow ourselves to explore the possibility first, that’s half the battle.

If we put our minds to it, we can build our tool box and create amazing stories of success and satisfaction by launching the power of  “What if?” Share your “What if? story with me at http://www.chicagoworkingwomen@gmail.com and I will post it on the blog.

Bridges

Have you ever noticed when you go over a bridge that they can be a beautiful view or a little unsettling until you get to the other side? I know people who avoid bridges at all costs and those that can’t look over the edge when they are driving over them. There are a few people I know who love them without fear. I am somewhere in between, but I realize bridges are necessary in life for a few reasons.

Sometimes, we need the bridge we are traveling on to get to the other side. It’s a road we are on temporarily and although it’s not our favorite road, it serves its purpose. We have all been down these roads before in our career and personal lives. Sometimes it feels steady and sometimes it feels like one wrong move and we are off into the danger zone. Getting across those bridges without incident is important because getting to the other side is part of the journey to get to our destination.

Sometimes, we need to build a bridge and get over it. Making a mistake at work or not doing as well as we expect for ourselves is going to happen. We are not perfect, we are still learning in our careers and if you are anything like me, we see opportunities every week where we can do things better. However, the sooner we get over it, the sooner everyone else does too and it’s usually not as bad as we think it is.

Once in awhile, a bridge takes us to a beautiful place that we would have never seen if we had not gone over that bridge. Being uncomfortable, figuring it out and facing our challenges head on will bring us to places worth seeing and experiencing.

There are all sorts of bridges that I haven’t seen yet. While I may never be that person who thrives to see the view on the way across, I’ll get over it, one way or another. So the next time you encounter a bridge to your destination, don’t take the detour, hold on tight and see where it takes you.

Working Motherhood Interview is Live!

This past Saturday Dr. Portia Jackson of Working Motherhood interviewed me for her Stitcher radio show which aired today and can be listened to via podcast by using the links below. Thanks to those who encouraged, inspired and shared their advice with me! It was a great experience and opportunity to share with other working mothers what I have learned along the way on my journey.

Tune in to listen and please share with others!

Interview Link:
http://www.workingmotherhood.com/podcasts/amy-rodgers/

iTunes Link:

http://www.workingmotherhood.com/iTunes

Stitcher Link:

http://www.workingmotherhood.com/stitcher

Fear is Not an Option

dvf-wrap-dress

Diane Von Furstenberg is a style icon. Known for her famous wrap dress that skyrocketed her to fame in 1972, she built a successful fashion business empire that made her a respected business woman and multimillionaire. She took risks to reinvent and relaunch her brand multiple times throughout her career by identifying opportunities and channeling her confidence to take the next steps. Aside from her business success, I am most inspired by five words that she shared in an interview that I read a few years ago and have stuck with me since.
 

“Fear is not an option” 

As the story goes, she learned these words from her Mother, but she used this mantra to guide her career steps and life. She has real fears in life, just like we do, but she developed her own way to overcome them by following her mother’s words and pushing through fearful times with focus and determination.

There are a lot of fears that can stop us in our career tracks, slow down our progress or even derail our success. The fear to change jobs, take on that next role, give a speech, ask for the flexibility, just to name a few. Tackling these challenges is difficult for all of us. Even the boldest and the brightest struggle. However, fear can be tackled with confidence and a plan.

Here are three steps that I think are helpful to tackle your work fears:

Step 1: The Decision:

Make the powerful decision that you will not allow fear to control your career progress. Make it your mantra like DVF has and commit to working through fears for the betterment of you. Take a few moments to envision your potential to thrive without fear in the way. Write down your commitment and put it in a place where you can easily remind yourself of your decision.

Step 2: The Plan:

Understanding what is driving your fear is critical to developing your plan of attack. Are you afraid of rocking the boat at work? Worried that you will not deliver in a new role? Ask and answer that question. Then, flip the question around and ask yourself how you can minimize that risk with a plan.

Engage the right person to help you map out your plan. While family and friends can be great support, sometimes it takes people outside of that circle who have faced the same challenge to help. Trust a mentor, member or your network or industry contact and ask for their input on how they have faced similar challenges.

Then, develop the steps you will take to address your career challenge. It could be as simple as writing and practicing your script to your boss to request the flexibility you need, or updating your resume and summarizing key accomplishments that remind you that you have what it takes to be successful in that next job.

Step 3: The Actions:

The final step is to put your plan in action. A good plan and the right support behind you creates confidence, which can shut fear down. Every challenge is an opportunity to get better and move your career forward. It takes practice and work, but the results are worth it.

We are bigger than the fears we face. Move fear out of the way and open up the doors of opportunity.
Thanks Diane, both for your wrap dress and your five little words.

“SUPERWOMAN”

As posted on http://www.cathycassaniadams.com blog March 5, 2014

SUPERWOMAN. We’ve all seen her. She resides in many of our towns. Sometimes she is in magazines or even on TV. From afar, she looks perfect. She has this confidence about her, her outfits are put together and her hair and makeup always look good. At work, she is a rainmaker. She has a successful career and seems to have it all. Somehow she manages to keep it all together with the kids and make it look easy.

Many of us compare ourselves to SUPERWOMAN and wonder why we haven’t achieved “SUPERWOMAN” status yet. If we only worked harder, were more organized, had the confidence or the patience to be that ultimate Mom or career woman.
When you get to know her, you finally realize, she’s just like us, and she has challenges like we do, but she’s figured a few things out. She knows what she wants and she’s willing to work hard to have it. She surrounds herself with the best resources she can to be the woman she wants to be.

The SUPERWOMEN I know, have a few important things in common, even though they are each unique in their own way.

• They are confident, but humble enough to ask for help because they realize, they can’t do it all without the right support in place.

• They think creatively to find their strengths and build their success around them.

• They are resilient. They have experienced life’s ups and downs, problems and setbacks, but they find a way to pick up the pieces, get stronger as a result, and march on.

• They are resourceful. They tap into people who have tackled the same challenges or problems and come up with solutions. Then, they put those solutions into action.

• Most importantly, they don’t give up. They are passionate about being the best they can be for themselves and for their families.

The SUPERWOMEN we see out there really are SUPER WOMEN. Ones that we can learn from, network with, and maybe even help someday. So the next time you see her, invite her over for a cup of coffee or send her an email and ask her for her best tips. You never know what she will share.