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

Working Motherhood

Next weekend I will be interviewed for the Stitcher radio show “Working Motherhood” to talk about my journey as a working mom and career woman. I love this show’s format as it’s a quick thirty minute conversation where Dr. Portia Jackson talks to her guests about their challenges, “aha” moments and best tips for other working mothers. I’m joining an impressive group of women who have shared their story, from authors to business owners to the Editor of Working Women Magazine. Everyone’s story is different, but they all share the same issues that we do, figuring out parenting, navigating career paths and making mistakes that we learn from along the way.

I was referred to the host by Mitch Shepard, an inspiring woman I know who founded WIRL (Women in Real Life) an online leadership conference for women that focuses on how women can be their best in so many ways. (More on WIRL in another post, but here is the website http://www.wirlsummit.com ).

When I was asked to do the show, I immediately jumped on the opportunity. Shortly after, I started to think about it and question myself, why me? What do I have to share that will impact her audience? I am a normal working mom just like everyone else.

I gave myself almost a month to ponder and answer that question. Over the last few weeks, I have been preparing for the show in the very early morning with only my coffee and me to answer this question and figure out how to best tell my story and what I think listeners can learn from me.

What I have realized is that as a Human Resources leader and working mom, I see things from a unique view. Through the lens of an employer I understand how difficult it is for businesses to provide balance to employees, but I also feel things through the heart of a working mother, so my message and experience is truly unique and should be shared. Climbing the corporate ladder with small children is difficult in itself, but the bigger challenge is figuring out how to manage balance, give my kids and family the best of me along the way and to feel good about myself in the process. This, I am passionate about.

Next week, I will share my story. I will post when the show goes live on Working Motherhood. Until then, here is the link to the website: http://www.workingmotherhood.com.

Wish me luck!

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.

Back to School- Back to “Better” Balance

It’s back to school time again. Like every summer, as soon as you blink it’s over and here we are getting our kids in gear once again. Back to homework, making lunches, bedtime schedules and everything that goes along with structure that school requires. I can’t help but think about what I will do differently this fall. The truth is, I feel like I could do everything a little better. More time with homework, better planning my calendar, healthier meals and staying more engaged with the kids on everything that happened that day.

Over time, I have learned that striving for perfect is a losing battle and does nothing for my self esteem. So I subscribe to “better” and doing my best at “better” everyday. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but if I am working towards this goal, progress is made.

I have a little more time to do a reset and figure out what I can do “better” to balance working and parenting. Here are my top three that I’ll be focusing on:

Setting expectations for structure: My kids do better with structure, and so do I. It’s no fun to be a drill sergeant, spouting out orders in the morning and evenings to keep things on track in the household. Sending the message to my kids about the structure we need before it’s time to get down to business sets the expectation and they get into gear quicker when it’s time.

No Iphone Zone: I, like many, find it difficult to disconnect from my iphone, emails and texts, but taking a break at certain times of the day is good for my kids and I. It helps me to stay more engaged, to dedicate important time to them and to free my mind of the constant flurry of activity from work and friends. This takes discipline and finesse, but its well worth it and sets a good example for the kids.

The family calendar: I use Outlook all day with ease and success to keep my work life organized, but somehow this doesn’t always trickle down to my family calendar. Planning kids homework and activities using a calendar is the key to staying on top of it all. Simple answer right? Sure, but it’s the discipline using it when I am on the go with work constantly.

Working Mother Magazine featured the top 20 best new apps with a family organizer one topping the chart. Here is the link- it is #6 on their list: http://www.workingmother.com/digital-life/20-best-iphone-apps. In an effort to up my techie game this fall, I am giving it a whirl.

Like many Moms, I look forward to back to school time after the summer. I also love learning from other Moms who have already figured it out. Share your top ideas for better balance and I will feature them on my blog at http://chicagoworkingwomen.wordpress.com

Is it the Journey or the Destination?

On vacation this week, we went on a boat ride in the northern woods of Wisconsin. It was a beautiful night. The water was placid and the chain that we were passing through was without the normal traffic of speed boats and jet skis. About 30 minutes in, I took the place of my kids and asked my husband if we were almost there yet. He was clearly relaxing and gave me the look as if to say “What’s the rush? We’re on a boat ride?” I wasn’t cold or hungry and I didn’t have to go to the bathroom. I just like getting there.

Like many women, I tend to be very goal oriented. At home, I like to use lists of my “to dos” and cross my tasks off when they are done. At work, I have specific goals I want to accomplish each year and eventually in my career. With both, I focus with the end in mind. Finishing that project, reading that book, hitting that plan. For some reason, I think I’ll have this euphoric feeling when I get there or I’ll be able to finally relax when it’s all done.

Every once in awhile, I realize I need to slow down a bit. It’s not always necessary to operate with herculean speed, to get it done this week or even to accomplish that self-imposed goal. In fact, it’s the journey along the way that’s a lot more impactful and interesting. Figuring out how to tackle the challenge, taking a break along the way to stop and smell the roses and ditching the lists for a weekend or two isn’t such a bad thing. I’ll get to the destination eventually or maybe it will even be a different destination I didn’t expect that will be a lot more interesting.

On the way back from the boat ride, holding my sleeping daughter and looking at the beautiful scenery, for the first time, I was the one who spotted the eagle flying in the sky. A beautiful sight and a beautiful reminder. I vote for the journey.

Blogging for a Cause

I got the idea to blog from my brother Jay, who began his own blog about life as a businessman and determined goal seeker. We are alike in many ways as we have always aspired to big goals and dreams that were woven between entrepreneurship and personal success.

He is an amazing writer and his posts were tantalizing. So much so, that I decided to send his blog to Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos and author of “Delivering Happiness.” Jay is a huge fan of Tony and has read his book and a 100 others like it. I probably should have asked him, but I did it on a whim after reading a great post. A few days later, I got an email back from Tony’s assistant that told me Tony read it and wanted to feature Jay’s writing on their blog. It was so exciting and it validated what I already knew that Jay has a special gift.

His blog made me realize that I too have a love for writing and capturing the challenges and things that I have learned from my own experience as a working woman and mother. Last year, I began writing short articles that focus on these topics and provide a few take aways that the reader can relate to and use to face their own challenges. Finally, in March, I gained the courage to ask Cathy Cassani Adams , who is a contributing writer for Chicago Parent Magazine and radio show host of Zen Parenting Radio with her husband Todd if I could guest blog. She jumped on it and I realized, it’s not about being the perfect writer or acclaimed expert on these topics, it’s about going for it without fear.

So why blog when I’m busy enough with my career and family that already takes up my time and energy? Passion. A passion to explore the issues we face and utilize a creative outlet to balance my work and my personal interests. The more I explore these issues and open up about my challenges with women, the more I learn and the better I become for myself and my family.

Stay tuned, share and please give me feedback I love to hear from women like you!

Amy

“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.

Working the Work Life Balance

As posted on http://www.cathycassaniadams.com blog January 27, 2014

Work Life Balance.  I am not sure who came up with this term, but to most women, it’s something we dream about, but find it difficult to have.  As valuable as a winning lottery ticket, achieving work life balance means that we would actually have the time to meet the expectations of our career AND have enough quality time for ourselves, our families and our hobbies so that we feel “balanced”.

The demands of work in this electronic, 24-7 iphone world are intense. Many jobs are not just 8-5 anymore, but open for business whenever our phones are turned on.  Whether your career is managing a household or a role in Corporate America, achieving balance is more challenging than ever.  However, there are ways that we can work to have a more balanced life so that we feel satisfied.  Here are some tips to help:

  1.       Identify your Balance Activities

Identify the activities that you need to spend time doing to feel satisfied.  This could be quality time with your kids, working out, time for crafts or a visit to the book store.   Establish a targeted amount of time to spend on these activities that will make you feel good.  It could be 30 minutes of special reading time with the kids, two workouts a week or a one hour trip to the bookstore.  Be realistic with the amount of time that is feasible so that you can make it happen.

   2.       Plan a Schedule

Plan your week to include time for your balance activities.  We schedule meetings, kid’s activities, business trips and dinner reservations and don’t think twice because it is a necessity to ensure it gets done.  Scheduling time for balance activities will help to ensure that time is budgeted and available for you.  Be protective of this time just as you would with your work or parenting activities.

   3.       Choose Quality over Quantity

Start with small and realistic timeframes for your targeted balance activity and ensure that the time you have is well spent and focused.  You can feel immensely satisfied getting in one good workout or having special time with your kids where you are fully engaged.  Learn to value the quality of the time you have over the quantity.

   4.       Leave the guilt behind

It’s important to recognize that having activities that “balance” us is a necessity to our mental health. Feeling guilty for taking the time away from work or your family to do things you enjoy is normal.  Taking time out for your balance activities can greatly refresh you and ultimately make you better when you return to your work or family.  Learning to give yourself permission for balance activities will help to replace guilt and frustration with satisfaction.

   5.   Own It! 

I am a big believer that we play a large role in our own happiness, balance and success.  Once you have a plan, you have to own it to make it successful.  It takes discipline, conscious decision making and assertiveness to manage your plan.  Work to develop this highly valuable skill –you can do it!

Ultimately, it takes a lot of “work” to manage your balance, but every step you take will make for a happier you.