Platform

 

I never thought I could do it. For years, I watched other women go to exercise class, get in great shape and enjoy the camaraderie of being with other women. Finding enough time for myself with two kids and a job that required regular travel made it an impossible feat. When a job transition occurred in December of 2015, I challenged myself to think differently to make this career phase include more of the things that were important to me.

Thanks to my sister-in-law Dawn, who is always onto the best ideas, I signed up for Pure Barre, a high intensity exercise class that uses a ballet bar, bands and isometric moves. I knew it was going to be a hard-like really hard. On the surface, this was not a good idea. The studio was twenty minutes away, I couldn’t touch my toes much less survive 55 minutes of torture, but it was now or never and I was determined.

The studio owner Brynn Hanson and instructors were positive and supportive, which made me feel like I was meant to be there. The classes were as hard as I expected, but in time, a funny thing happened. Torture turned to challenge and with each step that I made it became a little more bearable. I managed my time better to ensure I could go and my strength improved. I started to look forward to the stretch and deep breaths at the end, which gave such a great start to my day and made me feel better about myself.

When they introduced Platform classes, it was clear from the chatter at the classes that this was not something I could do. Pure Barre class meets cardio for an even higher intensity level and calorie burn. I avoided it like the plague for months on end until January came and I was in desperate need to shake off a few holiday pounds. I admitted to several women at the class that I was afraid to try it as it seemed too hard. They encouraged me and gave me the boost I needed to put myself out there. I gave myself permission to fail, as long as I tried. I could always leave, step in the bathroom for a fake restroom break or just leave early for an “appointment” mid class.

It turns out I loved it, even though it was hard. Pushing myself out of my comfort zone was exactly what I needed to shake up my game. The women alongside me in class were sweating and suffering just like I was, but we were all in it together and here to support each other.

As women, striving to be our best personally and professionally, the fear of the unknown can be crippling. Focusing on the limiting factors can take away from our ability to grow in ways we never knew we could. With the support of other women and admitting our vulnerabilities in a safe place, we can push and be pushed to try.

Platform became another platform for me to take my game to the next level. No, I haven’t shook those holiday pounds yet, but more importantly I am reminded of what I can do if I put myself out there and engage the support of others. A special thank you Dawn, Brynn, Kat, Pure Barre and many others in class. You’ve helped me more than you know.

Remembering Brenda Barnes

This week Brenda Barnes, legendary Fortune 500 CEO, mother and advocate for working women passed away at the age of 63. It was a sad day for many on multiple levels. She was known most recently for her role as CEO of Sara Lee and was named by Fortune Magazine as one of the 100 most powerful women in the world. She was also a pioneer for finding new ways to keep women in the workforce through flexible work schedules so that companies didn’t lose their critical pipeline of female talent.

Her path to CEO of Sara Lee was not traditional. She worked her way up the corporate ladder to be the CEO and President of Pepsi’s North American business, but she later stepped down to care for her children who were 10, 8 and 7 at the time. This move sparked an international debate on the issue if women could “have it all.” Many looked at her move as a setback for working women, but what came next would surprise many, as her story didn’t end there.

She spent the next several years sitting on several public company boards, before returning to a CEO role at Sara Lee. It gave her unique experience and perspective that she never would have gotten if she had not made the bold move. A creative way to navigate her career path and work life balance.

In her role as CEO at Sara Lee, she created the first Returnship Program, allowing women to come back to meaningful roles after taking time off to be with their families. Born out of the need to solve a business problem, she changed the dynamics in corporate America and created instant advocacy for working women. This triggered many other companies to follow suit and find better ways for women to find balance while maintaining a career.

Back in 2013, I had an opportunity to meet Brenda for lunch and talk about the challenges that we face as working women and how we manage our balance. She agreed to meet with me after I had written her a letter, which was delivered to her through a common acquaintance. I knew this was not something that she did often. Her advice, which I am sharing with you now, was simple but impactful.

Do what’s right for you. It sounds simple, but it’s not always easy to do. Brenda told me that her decision to step down was difficult, but at the time, she said that she wanted and needed more time with her kids. Her decision was for personal reasons, but it was part of a bigger plan to meet her balance needs and stay in the game in a different role. Know your needs, be courageous and plan your next moves with intention.

Create new paths to make change in the workplace. Be an advocate for change. Business problems get solved by voicing new ideas and charting new paths.   Do this in your work and your personal lives, because the two connect in many ways.

Confidence is critical to your success. As a working woman, confidence is something that your employer can’t give you, but you need. Building confidence is hard, even for the most successful women, but it’s like a muscle that builds as you exercise it. Don’t overlook the importance of this, especially in male dominated environments where asserting your needs can be challenging.

Navigate your career path in strategic ways. Know your areas of strength and position yourself in roles where you utilize these skills and solve complex problems for the business. Think out of the box on ways to make your next moves and know there are untraditional paths that can get you to the same place.

I took her advice to heart with several actions to further my own career. When I changed jobs, I took a remote role to manage my balance in a way that was better for me and my family. I hired a communication coach to build my presentation skills to feel more confident presenting at an executive level. I started the first working parent committee at our elementary school to advocate for working parents to participate in school events in new and more flexible ways. Most importantly, I realized that she’s one of us. Brenda and many other women of her stature have the same challenges that we do. Connecting with other women to get ideas on how to work through them is powerful.

I, on behalf of many women thank Brenda for all she did for us, both directly and indirectly. I’ll forever be thankful for her guidance.

The Power of Sleep

sleep

I am a huge believer in the power of sleep. As an advocate for work life balance, I talk and write about the importance of getting good sleep as part of my self-care model. In fact, I believe that getting good sleep goes beyond self-care, and is a key part of our success formula in our careers and our businesses.

The facts back this assertion. Study after study shows that good sleep leads to higher productivity, better decision-making and enables us to keep our emotions in control in the workplace. Arianna Huffington’s book “The Sleep Revolution” puts the sleep crisis on the front burner of businesses today, citing that worker productivity costs us an average of $2,280 annually per employee due to lost productivity from sleep deprivation. Companies are now taking sleep more seriously, educating employees on the importance of sleep and creating more flexible work hours for employees to manage their schedules in a healthier way.

As fate would have it, in 2016, I brought my commitment to sleep to a whole new level. I had the opportunity to take on the role of SVP of Human Resources at Elite Comfort Solutions, an innovative sleep products company that is changing the way we sleep, literally. Our company develops new technology in the design and comfort of mattresses and sleep products. We are growing wildly as a result of our innovative ideas to help make our customers’ beds and pillows feel comfortable and cool.

My role as a leader in our business is to create a culture where both our employees and our business thrive. Success is built on having productive employees who contribute every day and are engaged in growth. To be engaged, they must be well rested. I now create my messaging about sleep as a reminder to them of the importance of sleep, both to be more productive and to support their work life balance.

Here are three things that we can do as leaders to share the message of the power of sleep:

 

  1. Change the conversation about sleep in the work place. Stop talking about fewer hours of sleep as a badge of productivity and dedication to your job. Start bragging about getting a full 7 to 8 hours and how much better you feel as a result. Encourage your traveling coworkers to not take the earliest flight of the day at the expense of less sleep. We need strategic thinking and balanced emotions in every meeting. Getting good sleep helps to achieve this.
  2. Manage your technology to enable good rest. Technology and smart phones allow us to work 24-7 without barriers or work rules to enforce good practices. The blue light emitted from these devices can affect our melatonin levels that enable us to get good rest. Buy yourself an alarm clock to replace your phone on your nightstand. If that’s too radical, at least change your settings on your phone to avoid the phone from emitting blue light. Set technology limits to avoid checking email late at night when you should be focused on unwinding. Encourage coworkers to do the same.
  3. Learn to do a reset on sleep. We’re all human and changing habits is hard. I am challenged as well to practice the work life balance and sleep advice that I preach. Learn to reset when your sleep habits slip. Give yourself permission to take a 30 minute nap to recharge on the weekend. Track your sleep to monitor when you are getting a full night and when you are not. Make it a priority to get back on track when you miss multiple days of a full night sleep.

Join me to help lead the way to make a difference and support good sleep habits in the workplace.  We can make a difference.

Designing Your Time –A Work Life Balance Discussion with Cynthia Rowley

Last year, I had and incredibly exciting opportunity to meet fashion icon Cynthia Rowley and talk to her about one of my favorite topics, work life balance.

I  attended the William Blair Annual Woman’s Leadership Luncheon where Cynthia and designer Mario Pinto were on a panel to discuss how they found their success as designers and business women.  It was packed full of business women,  journalists and budding designers all trying to get a glimpse into world of fashion and pick up a few business tips along the way.

Cynthia emphasized the need to constantly be re-inventing, reimagining, rethinking and evolving to grow. This was not only with her brand, but with her business and how she operates as a leader.  Constantly challenging the status quo and thinking of new ways to work is not an easy task, but necessary to stay at the top.

While there were so many great points made about managing a business and how she expanded her brand, I was most intrigued by my one on one conversation with her after the session ended.

I waited patiently for a few moments to talk direct with Cynthia about another challenge I knew she faced, how she juggles it all with her family and business. It was without hesitation that she responded that she was surprised nobody asked about this in the Q&A, but it was a challenge for sure. She approached her work life balance like she approached her business, with progressive thinking to create an environment where both her business and family could thrive. In New York, she set up her offices close to her home so that she and her husband could manage the logistics of her demanding schedule. Beyond designing clothes and products, she works hard at designing her schedule to be there for the important things for her family, while meeting the business expectations as well. She was insightful, kind and genuine in her support to other women to inspire them to create their own success.

This conversation stuck with me as I faced my own challenges and decisions in how I design my balance and career decisions. This year, I faced a job change and I took her advice. I set up my new offices for my consulting business close to home and created a small workspace for my kids to come after school to do their homework on days that they don’t have activities. I changed how I flex my schedule so that I can finally enroll in that exercise class that I’ve been thinking about for years, but never thought I could fit in. I ditched the traditional office look and made the space inspiring and beautiful so that I looked forward to going to work and think creatively about my work. Most importantly, I realized that it’s easy to stay in the box of the traditional way of working, but when we open our mind to new ideas in how we can create our own success, the sky is the limit of what we can accomplish.

Check out Cynthia’s beautiful new line of dresses and accessories at www.CynthiaRowley.com.

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.