Career Coaching, Careers, Communication, Interviews, Mentoring, Networking, Uncategorized, Working Professionals

Acknowledge the Awkward (Embrace the Suck, pt. 2)

We’ve been spending much more time in Asheville; it’s our happy place. We invited our neighbors, a young couple, out for breakfast recently. The conversation was about how to acknowledge awkward moments, and I shared a story about a debacle that occurred during my first in-person networking event in over two years. After three years of Zoom calls where you can manage your expression on camera, have time to think about your responses, or even choose to “Live text” or chat instead of speaking out loud, we are all rusty. Some people have a better public veneer than others, and I am in the awkward group.

Rebuilding our social muscles will take time, and in the process, we are all getting a lesson in how to embrace the suck.  

My neighbor pointed out that some people need time to construct their responses in a conversation. Some people prefer texting to talking on the phone, which used to really annoy me. However, I’ve learned that my husband and son need time to process, organize, and express themselves in well-thought-out sentences. The talkers (of which I am one) just let thoughts spill out from their mouths as they come to mind. 

I’ve made my living by chatting on the phone for many years, learning about people’s careers and, inevitably, their lives. I used to believe that the distinction between personal and professional was pretty black and white. They were separate realms of life and should stay that way. 

Enter COVID, virtual offices, and video conferencing. The line between personal and professional is dissolved by family pets wandering by, kid/partner photo bombs, and whatever other randomness might be happening in the house that day. This awkwardness has been good for us. It’s a reminder that we are all human and share a lot in common – right down to doing the laundry (literally). 

We adjusted to the remote environment and conquered long-distance calls using Zoom. The definition of “office casual” attire changed too, and sweatshirts abounded. Lately, I see more of a mix of work styles, with some folks back in an office (and pants) and others still at home (pants optional). My style has been adjusted in response to my back injury, and wearing heels more than an inch high is guaranteed to cause me pain later. I much prefer my slippers. 

Is there a right way to do it? Most days, I go to PT, the gym, or a Pilates session before I sit at my desk. Do I need to change out of gym clothes to start my workday? 

The transition from being at home back to in-person events is trickier, and I still need to adjust for travel time between activities. Dealing with heavy traffic has taken my relaxed state down a notch or two. Is it just my imagination, or are people angrier and more aggressive on the road? Am I just having a moment, or is everyone?

As a panel speaker at my first in-person event in a long time, connecting with people felt good. The energy was high, and we shared career growth and management insights. I attended a leadership summit the following week, but that could have gone better. It felt like I was speaking Latin and everyone else was speaking Greek. The noise level in the room made it hard to hear and left me wondering if I was out of practice or just getting older. I didn’t feel as comfortable as I did with the first group. 

I thought about what I needed to adjust to make these current transitions less awkward. I needed to dust off some of the skills I hadn’t been using recently and update my wardrobe too. I always tell people when they are interviewing or doing something important, like making a presentation to put on a favorite tie or outfit. It makes you feel more confident, and your attitude can change the outcome.  

The Serenity Prayer reminds us to try and control the things we can and let the other stuff go. We can acknowledge the awkward moments and let them go. Turn on music that makes you dance, and buy clothes that make you feel good and look good. Get yourself psyched up again! Wrapping up breakfast, I put a question on the table: 

How can we each adapt to become more comfortable in awkward moments?

Being with people (after COVID and virtual) feels uncomfortable because it’s not as controllable as being remote. We have become accustomed to controlling and curating our on-screen personalities. But the awkward moments in real life (IRL) are an essential element of human connection that doesn’t get through a screen, text, or email. 

Acknowledge the Awkward Moments. Get back out and embrace the suck! 

I challenge you to exercise your social muscles until they are strong again. Let’s meet at an event or for coffee and get through the awkwardness together!  

Careers, Communication, Mentoring, Networking, relationships, Work Strategies, Working Professionals

Every Touch Point Has Value!

It’s the little things that matter. Critical moments are touch points where the slightest effort can add value. I’ve been giving this much thought and have had several conversations. A friend shared a sermon by Rabbi Angela Buchdahl that drove the point home. She talks about the racism she experienced as the first Asian American female rabbi in the US. Woven in with her well-thought-out points are some ideas I’ve gathered from other professionals on how to treat others, and it’s not just because it’s nice.

Here are a few thoughts. 

  • Choose kindness in every moment because each touch point has value. 
  • We need to recognize that the only thing that matters is time – we have one life to live and how we live it, personally and professionally, are the most critical choices we make. 
  • Visually, as a reminder, I had Maitri in the roots of a lotus tattooed on the back of my neck; it reminds me to practice kindness to myself and others.

I’m suggesting that we need to pause, be more intentional, and notice the small things. Acts of random kindness are not ordinary moments; it’s better to catch them being good than to focus on the negative. 

(Hang onto these thoughts for later, and let’s start with some other ideas and the tools to help you execute them!)

How do we want to be treated?

I had lunch with a leader I coached out of a toxic environment and is now in a much healthier one. It is lovely to see my client’s face relax and tension receding from around their shoulders; now, their actual abilities are seen and recognized. As a senior-level capture leader, this talented professional meets many people, potential partners, and external clients, and they are responsible for hiring staff internally. She experiences critical moments where the slightest effort can add value each day. We shared our beliefs about the rules for how to treat people in all situations. We agreed that taking a moment to do the little things often impacts the people we encounter. 

For example, consciously being compassionate and respecting a candidate through the interview process or sending a client in a direction that meets their needs better are little things that can have a significant ROI. I coach candidates to send a genuine Thank You note because the gesture adds value to the interview and insights into the person. I also like the idea of answering a rejection with a Thank You! It lets a company know that you are mature and plan to leave the door open for a conversation down the road.

Touch Point: Simple common courtesy can go a long way toward building long-lasting and sincere relationships.

These positive behaviors are “a deposit into a social capital account.” When we do kind things for others, it fills up our capital account, so when it’s low, we can reach out to others for support. For this reason, unlike my midwestern husband, I have no problem asking for help. I offer my service without prompting and follow the golden rule: nurture your networks to build strong, trusting relationships. You have to start somewhere.

Reflect: How can we regain value in our communities, lives, and careers?

Practice Random Kindness

There was a bumper sticker I used to have on an old car of mine, “Practice Random Acts of Kindness and Senseless Acts of Beauty.” Letting a vehicle go first in traffic, giving a neighbor a ride to the grocery, and upcycling old sweaters to share with strangers as wearable art, are small things in my life that can put a smile on someone’s face. Small acts make a big difference; sometimes, it is hard to know who benefits more, the giver or the recipient. Taking time at work to explain a task or collaborate is an example of random kindness.  

Fun Fact! The phrase “practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty” was written by Anne Herbert on a placemat in Sausalito, California, in 1982. It played on the phrase: “random acts of violence and senseless acts of  cruelty.”

“No Ordinary Moments”

I read the “Way of the Peaceful Warrior” by Dan Millman years ago, and he suggested we consider the idea that there are no ordinary moments in our lives. I often gathered these moments in the years I spent raising my children: a moment in the kitchen with them doing homework at the counter, music playing, and me cooking dinner. While not super unique, these moments become the memories we carry forward in our lives. They are joyful touch points that I can share with others. 

In the workplace, that looks like a well-run morning meeting ending early and recognition that the team accomplished a lot in less time. Or it could be when a business development/capture opportunity comes together into a well-written proposal, and you recognize the team effort matters more than the win, although both would be nice!

Catch Them Being Good

Capturing and recording critical moments is essential, while being present and responsive is also crucial. In the workplace, a critical word at the wrong moment can cause an explosion or destroy a rising leader’s desire to participate. Every working parent can share a story of when they hurt their kid with harsh words after they walked into the house exhausted. A smiling kid proudly presents a messy sandwich, and instead of thanking that kid with a big bite and compliments, the parent shouts, “OMG look at this mess!”

The book Catch them being good is co-authored by USA Women’s Soccer Coach Tony Dicicco, Colleen Hacker, and Charles Salzberg. He wrote that to be a better coach is to catch your team “being good.” This mantra is as relevant in the workplace or home kitchen as it is on the field! Praising someone’s work in a morning stand-up encourages others to seek positive feedback, as does guiding a staff member toward healthy outcomes. 

Positive reinforcement wins over reprimanding every time!

Critical Incident Journal – a tool for reflection and learning

There’s a great tool that I learned in college called a Critical Incident Journal. We used this technique in our internships to capture moments that are not ordinary. We learned more from each of them by reflecting on what made a moment unique. The practice of journaling helps us become better at recognizing critical incidents and their impact and reveals hints to how we can make positive changes in our daily lives and careers.

I have incorporated this collegiate tool into my career and personal life too! They are handy for capturing the moments in our lives when our perception changes. The insights shared over the years have been surprising and insightful. 

Start journaling! Learn more about critical incident journals!

Here’s a recent experience that made me pause and reflect on its critical value:

I mispronounced the name of a young woman I was interviewing, and she gently corrected my pronunciation. She shared that when at school, she pronounced it the “American way,” thinking it was easier for people to understand. But for our interview, she wanted to embrace her bi-cultural identity, so she helped me with the correct pronunciation.

I wasn’t embarrassed and appreciated her transparency and how she communicated with me. It opened the door for other topics and an informed conversation. That touch point had critical value; she felt comfortable sharing experiences and asking questions on other sensitive career topics.

Her gentle feedback also gave me pause to think about ways to be more sensitive to the small things that make a big difference in other situations.


If we all pause before speaking or acting, it might change our response. The basics of consideration that children learn in school are the same rules of etiquette for adults. For example: wait your turn, remember to share, say please and thank you politely, and don’t hit people when you don’t get your way. We learn to communicate and control our responses. Through play and interaction with others, we learn impulse management.

Two colleagues joined me at a leadership breakfast last week and said they feel compelled to make work fun. They enjoy the time more, their teams enjoy being together more, and they stay engaged for more extended periods. A leader has the responsibility to set the tone. Emphasizing joy in work helps engage team members and makes teamwork more effective, delivering better results. 

The results of the world’s largest study on kindness are in. Here’s what we learned

** University of Sussex’s study on the impact of kindness

Call to action 

Take time to notice touchpoints, critical value, and not-so-ordinary moments in your life. It’s easy to look for flaws when you can catch them being good. Small affirmations have a significant impact on those around you! And a little effort can result in strong bonds and more joy for everyone. I think that’s valuable, don’t you?   

And if you fear doing something nice will be taken the wrong way, be sensitive and do it anyway. You can tell if you have made the right choice by a person’s expression.

Avoid blind spots with either/or choices
Careers, Mentoring


How to avoid blind spots with either/or choices 

When I want to accomplish something, I get to work researching and consulting my gut instinct before I make a choice. Most of the time things work out, sometimes they really don’t. When bright ideas fail, it’s because I overlooked a blind spot in the planning.

Read on for thoughts on avoiding the blind spots in your career path by using either/or choices. 

“Either-Or” Logic

As kids, my siblings and I knew that if we wanted to go to a movie or get Thai food for dinner, we had an “either-or” choice. Either we could ask our father, whose knee-jerk reaction was typical “No”, or we could appeal to our mother who usually responded more positively. 

My father wasn’t always inflexible and stern, but he often wasn’t willing to listen either. My mom on the other hand usually had an ear for her kids, was used to fielding requests, and adapting to change.

Managing Expectations

In high school, I managed my social calendar using either-or logic too. Knowing that if my friends failed to make plans for a weekend outing, I would end up babysitting. So, either I took initiative to suggest using my car and fake IDs to sneak into bars in Georgetown, or I resolved to another Friday night sitting on the couch watching kids, and earning money.

As a teenager, I learned to deal w

ith my less-than-motivated friends by managing expectations. Still, it took a lot of eye-rolling for me to arrive at the question of why they couldn’t just make plans on their own.  

Status Quo or A New Menu

The case of either-or turns to Friday evenings with my husband.

We like to cook: a spicy chili, finger-linking-good fried buttermilk chicken, or grill some mean steaks at home. It can be exhausting catering to all of our kids’ likes and dislikes, so we have regular places to order take-out from. Moby Dick’s Kebabs, Pasa Thai’s Pad Thai, and Pad Won Sen…I like to try new things and if I waited for my husband to think of a place, we would end up at the same few places that have a good beer tap list. Sometimes playing Star Wars trivia or the Dogfish 90 minutes shakes up the evening too. 

Locating my husband in his office, I suggest that either we suffer through a repeat performance of overcooked noodles … or we throw standards out the window for a dinner of beer and Star Wars Trivia. Of course, he couldn’t resist an IPA-sponsored game night.

As much fun as it is to come up with plans and alternatives, I’m often the one taking initiative. Why isn’t anyone else motivated to find solutions that work for all?

It Won’t Work … Nothing Will Change

Most people don’t like to voice suggestions or take leadership because it involves risk. If the plan doesn’t work, if the solution fails, risking embarrassment (or worse) stops most people from ideation. 

It’s safer to wait until someone else speaks up, takes the lead, or hedges the bet. But the cost of playing safe is the chance of having a life-changing experience or even just better food. 

Yes, it takes effort to live the life you want! And yes, it’s risky. Bad things might happen.  Good things might happen too. Either you keep blinders on and accept what is in front of your face, or risk taking a different career path, dating a new type of person, or ordering from a restaurant that isn’t appealing (even though your spouse loves the food!)

The Blind Spot in Your Career 

How does this all relate to careers and jobs? 

The evolution of a great career is governed by your threshold for risk and the manner in that you engage (or don’t) in relationships and networks. Networking proactively and putting effort into relationships with people usually have a positive outcome. 

You can either learn new skills to stay competitive or you can move to a new industry entirely. Upskilling has less risk, but maybe adapting to a new sector will lead to a more exciting benefit.

People sometimes get stuck when faced with a choice like the one above. The possibility of failure in a new industry is too much, but the thought of staying in the same or similar job is not encouraging. They manage expectations by not deciding until they are forced to by a blind spot.

You Don’t Know, What You Don’t Know

No one is all-knowing or (except a mom) has eyes in the back of their head. So how can you learn to avoid blind spots in different areas of life? 

Is it most important to be proactive and to think strategically? Or is having the flexibility to roll with punches more aligned to your risk profile? What if you could be coached into changing your perception of situations and the choices they present? 

Avoid blind spots with either/or choices

Coachable people are open to new information – and to making changes as situations shift around them. Being coachable also requires trust; to be receptive and willing when blind spots are pointed out. 

The only guarantee in life is that it will change, and choices will follow, whether you can see them or not. I believe that making the effort to learn what they are and take a position is at least a better strategy than doing nothing. Transitions are intrinsic to every area of life. Our career journeys are shaped by how we choose to experience life as it shapeshifts around us. 

A successful career, and a great life, are often decided by “either-or” moments. Each time you encounter one, take a breath and call a coach, or someone else you trust to check your blind spots. 

Careers, Hiring

Talkin’ bout a revolution… In Hiring Today

Hiring today: the candidate market and the new normal …

The Beatles sang: “you say you want a revolution”, and the one we are living in is changing the way companies hire. In the new normal, some will adapt and others will not survive the change. 

Historically Speaking

In the bust that followed the .com bubble of the 1990s, people I knew were among those laid off in the fallout. Not wanting to accept a pay cut, they turned down great roles for over a year. As the market stabilized, out-of-whack salaries disappeared and people realized that such high pay was a thing of the past.

My recruiting activities in the financial sector came to a halt after 9/11, and for more than a year I didn’t pick up the phone to call New York. I was one of many professionals who reconsidered their career options following the decimation. As I shifted to recruiting for another sector, I learned to adapt to that industry’s needs. 

In 2007 the housing market crashed and propelled the country into a recession. Professionals were scared for their jobs as companies tightened their belts. The overall number of open roles decreased while demand for jobs grew. Salaries were adjusted for the supply of jobs as rising unemployment became critical.

The Last 2 Years

Hiring activities fell quiet in 2020, one of many impacts of COVID 19.  Unemployment rose as the Pandemic escalated and dragged into 2021. 

By the end of the first quarter, companies were eager to get back to “business as usual” and the hiring frenzy began. The Pandemic catalyzed some lasting changes and ushered in an era where candidates control the market. 

This year (and maybe the next) will be a test for companies, to change policies and processes and adapt to hiring in the candidate market. 

Head over to YouTube for my thoughts on the candidate’s market

Hiring Today

The disruption of the Pandemic took a toll on everyone, but it brought back a sense of balance and humanity to the workplace. We could see into our colleagues’ homes as they juggled kids, dogs, and caring for seniors – continuing to work despite the challenging environment. 

The meaning of work-life balance changed and made the case for remote working; professionals can argue for flexible locations and fair pay. Staggering inflation has changed the meaning of a dollar in post-pandemic norms. Candidates want companies to evaluate compensation packages and adopt policies to guarantee a real living wage. 

I keep hearing from companies that they are aware of these requests. But they continue to use outdated and ineffective practices. This new era is an opportunity for companies to look for intangible value and promise that goes beyond a resume. 

The Candidate Market has choices

Some Things to Consider … 

Business leaders are addressing some of the key areas important to a healthy, happy workplace. Feedback from employees has led to companies considering their responses to the questions below. Look them over and consider the responses that companies or candidates want to hear.  

Companies consider this …

  • What makes your company a good place to work?  
  • Why would someone want to join your team? 

Candidates ask this … 

  • Can you paint a picture of how new hires will contribute to, and grow within, the firm? 
  • What professional development opportunities do you provide for individuals to grow and contribute more within the organization? 
  • Culturally, how do you plan to build inclusive trusting environments, where success is measured by the quality of life as well as performance?  

While business leadership teams work on these questions, I want to shift the focus to a topic even more elementary: the mechanics of getting successful new hires. 

The Hiring Process …

Is long overdue for an update. The steps, and the communication in each step, need to be clarified and held accountable (the company). In my work as a recruiter, I see my clients lose candidates at a dizzying rate, to organizations that move faster and make fewer demands.

Innovative companies are streamlining their processes to include panel interviews and pitch presentations – resulting in a shorter timeline overall. These agile techniques happen faster, review more candidates in each step, and present a dynamic, 360 view of each possible hire. 

Hiring managers want to spend time getting to know people, so they can hire the best resource for their team. Understanding that the post-pandemic landscape includes hybrid and remote roles will lead hiring managers to leverage digital resources like social media and recommendations on LinkedIn. 

Conversations that matter – Get to know candidates through their references and informational interviews too! 

Countless hours are wasted on process minutia while candidates get frustrated and walk away. Keep great talent in your pipeline with faster processes, stronger compensation packages, and innovative formats for interviews. These characteristics show that an organization is open to non-traditional practices to retain great people.

The Comp Package …

Needs to meet market demands. So what if you’ve been paying your entire internal at the same level for 10 years. Change it! 

When my clients have roles that are open for more than 6 months, I advise them to revise job descriptions and compensation packages. Maintaining the traditional ways with rigidity is not impressing anyone in the labor market today. 

When hiring in the candidate market, you must adapt or die! 

Adapting to the New Normal

Moving Forward …

Assess how the pandemic disrupted the way we live and do business. Returning to outdated practices doesn’t make sense when the market demands equitable, innovative, and effective methods for interviewing. 

There are a lot of great people with intangible talents. Companies that want to create new normal business practices, should take note of what those talents are.

I’ll close with a quote from Jim Collins, named one of Forbes 100 living greatest business minds: 

“Look, I don’t really know where we should take this bus. But I know this much: If we get the right people on the bus, the right people in the right seats, and the wrong people off the bus, then we’ll figure out how to take it someplace great.” 

embrace change
Careers, Communication, Resilience

EMBRACE THE SUCK (part 1 of 2)

There are 3 phrases that I want to have tattooed on my body or my brain as armor in 2022: Let it go (or “Flow off your back like a duck” as my husband says) is the first one. “Lean into the Suck” or more nicely stated, Embrace Change (already on my calf). And the big one, Take Care of Each Other.

My husband typically spirits me away between Xmas and New Year, for a celebration that is part birthday weekend, and part reward for surviving another Christmas season. Truthfully, December birthdays can suck but I reclaimed mine by picking out fun jaunts every year. But I found it difficult to get motivated for our “Birthday Escape” weekend this year.

A new location for each new year. One year we headed to Asheville for several days of hiking, eating, and craft beer. Another year, I chose historic Ellicott City for the quaint shops and local gastronomy scene. Our last “escape” before COVID shut down the fun was to Nashville to hear John Prine play. This year we decided to reclaim the fun in our lives too and booked a trip to historic Cambridge, Maryland. 


All three of these came in handy when I woke up excited for the beginning of my birthday week. I busied myself preparing for our 2-hour road trip. Checking on our plans, my excitement dampened when I found that our theater plans (Rent!) were canceled because someone in the cast came down with COVID.  We are still in the middle of a pandemic and leery of other disappointments possible on my birthday escape, I held my breath.  

I checked websites and voicemails for the rest of our road trip to Cambridge, Maryland. As far as I could tell, everything was a go – including the massages I had booked at the Hilton. In celebration of turning 58, I skipped the low-sugar yogurt in favor of leftovers from Monday: tasty dumplings and dipping sauce. I semi-steamed them in the microwave and nibbled with my hubby as we packed and cleaned before our departure. My celebratory breakfast turned out to be a mistake and within 15 minutes I was on the porcelain throne! Three times in all, between walking the dog and a final reassurance that I could endure a car trip without soiling myself. I grabbed a medical-grade ice pack on the way out the door, just in case, my back didn’t recover from whatever sleeping position had seized it up.

At almost 60 years old, I pride myself on staying active. I do yoga 3 times a week and traded soccer cleats for the stationary bike and daily walks with the dog. After months of working with a chiropractor to rid me of the hip (left) and shoulder (right) pain, my back was now on the list of aches too. This is when I applied the second phrase that helps me through life: Embrace the suck. I tapped my tattooed leg to remind me always to expect bumps at regular intervals along this road of life.  


We made good time with minimal traffic and the ice pack was successful. Arriving in Cambridge where lots of cute streets gave me the perfect excuse to walk out aches growing in my back. Remember the admonishment let it go because shit always happens. A delightful walk about town and we decided on day drinking at RAR Brewing. They have a wonderful list of IPAs and a great sour that was thirst-quenching without sucking the moisture out of me. Some mini bar shuffleboard competition, sliding heavy metal discs down the sand-sprinkled board was followed by onion rings and a double burger dipped in the famous RAR sauce. It was a perfect moment, and I wanted to bottle the sauce. It would have been fun to stay but I had already sent an email confirming our massages. We paid the check and headed out to grab my Mini Cooper.

Driving through the commercial area of the town, we passed a local Olive Garden, Dollar store, and strip malls, arriving at the immensity of the Hilton Hotel. Parking was an adventure; the gate entrance was apparently broken and hubby decided to jump the curve into the parking lot. Interesting start. We proceeded to the spa entrance, noting the circular staircase that spiraled elegantly upward. My glasses fogged up behind my mask as we started to climb, and I was out of breath by the time we reached the staircase summit.


Three young women were seated behind a large reception desk with masks on. In the low lighting, they welcomed us and asked what name our reservation was under. Providing mine, I waited expectantly, preparing for an afternoon of rejuvenation. Then it happened, they couldn’t find our reservation! As panic started to rise in my chest, they managed to retrieve the booking … but it was for the next day!

My heart went south, my euphoric mood disappeared, my skin was getting hot and the mask didn’t help.  When you turn 58 your hearing starts slipping and asking her to repeat the information wasn’t much fun either.  Rather than burst into inexplicable tears, I told her we’d let them know if we couldn’t make it back tomorrow.  


Careers, Communication, Work Strategies


Talking about “the tough stuff” is something everyone avoids. I’m often asked why can’t I be “lighter”? Talk about less serious stuff? I’ve gotten better at small talk, but I find that, with the right approach and use of language, people are actually willing to have conversations about topics that aren’t always so light. Receiving opinions without judgment and listening are key; admittedly, these things are much easier to do in a professional setting. I find I still struggle in difficult conversations with my adult children. 

“Start with honest words.” This was the advice from last month’s guest on Bytes on Thursday, Maria Seddio. An expert in organizational coaching, Maria has used her background in clinical psychology to guide executives and companies to engage in conversations that start with the truth. As a coach and recruiter, I understand the influence that language has on communication. Speaking with Maria, a professional in guiding conversations, I realized that there are many components involved in building a conversation that matter. 


My work brings me into contact with people across the spectrum of identity, so my sensitivity to word choice is acute.  Sometimes it’s important to take a step back and think about how you are approaching the conversation. Different generations will expect different protocols.  My father will get angry if no one calls on his birthday. I prefer a card in the mail or a call can work too.  My adult kids are more the texters, but will still use Facebook or email on occasion. The teenagers of today are resistant to email but might learn to adapt as they enter university and the workforce (adulting, oh no!)


Conversations that matter require word choices that are intentional when responding to a discussion.  I’ve been inculcated by my children that it’s better to use genderless terms, e.g. “kids” or “children” in place of “girls and boys”.  Gender is an important topic for the youth of today, and non-gendered language signals empathy and respect for their communication style.  If you work in the U.S. South, a region known for its cordial informality, the phrase “you all” might be better received than saying “guys” or by using “team” to refer to a group. We must be sensitive to all the places where personal or geographic bias can enter and influence a conversation.


The terminology used in writing HR documents can have a long-lasting impact. Job descriptions, performance reviews, and the minutes from meetings where decisions are made all influence company culture and the context in which that company is perceived. Just as writers have editors, it’s not a bad idea to use the buddy system to prepare important communications. A strong leader, like an astute writer, will know that it’s difficult to edit oneself. Intergenerational mentoring at work can uplift colleagues, junior and senior alike.  I heard a very senior leader mention that they have a Millennial “mentee” who also shares terms, viewpoints, and changing “styles”.  My daughter took me shopping for some new jeans because she said my “mom jeans weren’t cutting it anymore.”  The communication de mode changes as generations evolve, and we can learn new skills from young new hires and their bosses.  


Try this activity: apply the principles of continuous learning to your conversation skills. From word choices, to format, and subject matter, observe your interactions and reflect on how they flowed (or didn’t) and what was the outcome(s). What can you learn that can strengthen your ability to have successful conversations? By continuously learning and improving upon our personal communication mode, maybe we can even encourage better civil conversations too.  

Continuous learning is a critical factor for a successful career and helps create resilience through transitions and growth. I created a resilience toolkit for professionals, with tips for continuous learning, adapting to change, and more.

Resilience toolkit & tips here!


One of my favorite tools for successful conversations is stage setting using context.

Before I make a statement, I often describe my thought process or perspective, and this helps me to be better understood overall. I also had an experience over the break with a very difficult conversation that I didn’t think was repairable. Ultimately, I hung in there and was able to move past the name-calling and recriminations to the hurt, anger, and fear. It brought us to a new level. We agreed to use conversations or voice mail, no texting, so there would be less misinterpretation. I realized the person needed to hear from me more and receive positive reinforcement more to feel valued and a greater connection with me. It was eye-opening and painful.

Some people may think it’s a waste of time to share stories or talk about where you come from. But if we don’t spend the time getting to know each other, how can we be more empathic when we listen and discuss topics that matter (to each other) with each other? Tolerating is not empathy.  Sympathizing is different from empathy too. If we can be patient and take time to really hear, and reflect on, what someone is saying, we may have better conversations. We may feel less defensive, we may have better solutions to the challenges we face.  


In our Bytes interview, Maria spoke about the importance of building relationships, trust, and a safe place. I’ve read ideas about this from relationship experts like the Gottmans, or Brené Brown, who talk about the strength of trust to help get us through tough times. A relationship bond, be it professional or personal, can be tested in different situations. Invest time into building trust-based relationships now; and reduce the risk that tough moments, later on, will derail them. 

The past couple of years uprooted what most people expected for their lives daily, and beyond. The transition to a “new normal” is ongoing and will continue to evolve as well also (hopefully) learn.

How can we nurture relationships and communicate on important issues in a way that helps more people thrive?

I resolve to dig deeper this year and to keep learning new ways to build conversations that matter. 

Onward & Upward! 


Career Coaching

Language & Listening in the Storytelling Arena

How often do stories become trite or less accurate each time they are retold? Human history began with oral traditions passed down through generations and the nuances of culture. Language and listening skills have always been important in the storytelling arena. The speaker, bard, or storyteller shared their slant on events of the time; and more often than not, that story’s accuracy declined with each telling.

Have you found yourself repeating some “old wives tale” as the truth when it was just a story passed along? Who tells the story, and how we listen to it, helps us to understand events in terms of the story’s language and lens. “History is written by winners” is the saying; and throughout human history, this cliche has been proven true. 

In the words of Lin Manuel, “History has its eyes on us” and we have a responsibility to remember it inclusive of everyone’s versions. I challenge you to pause this month and evaluate your communication style (verbal and non-verbal) in storytelling arenas. What language do you use as the narrator to create space? In the audience, do you listen openly to understand the speaker’s perspective, or with reservation? Do you use tools (even unconscious ones) to become a better listener?

Maybe we can shake things up one at a time, person to person, and rebuild the art of civil conversations. Wouldn’t we all benefit?!


When I lived in Guatemala, (before GPS) we would ask for directions when we traveled to the countryside to visit an in a small when we traveled to the countryside to visit an “Aldea” or small town. I found that if I asked three people then the correct way would be somewhere in the middle of all the suggested routes. It became apparent that the true “way” came through research, but also through my own evaluation and instincts.

In the digital era, there are so many news media resources all vying for your attention. Some may resonate more than others while you evaluate information to understand the whole picture. Exposure to different sides of every story presents an opportunity to collect all the information before you derive the truest “way” forward. 


Diversity and inclusion are at the forefront of conversations about workplaces and social environments. I am proud of my passion for culture and living an international lifestyle (at home or abroad!) The more people that I meet, the more I value our differences. While it’s true that all human beings have lots in common, we also have beautiful and meaningful differences. The language(s) a person grows up speaking shapes brain development and ability to reason. Different languages approach communication differently, in their structure and subtexts, and a team that can call on a range of approaches to problem-solving is valuable for an entire organization.* Not to mention, the mashup of problem-solving skills can lead to innovation! Cognitive psychologist, Lera Boroditsky, explains this concept in “How Language Shapes the Way We Think” (2018, TED)

Seek out the stories and voices that are different from our own; because we need to be stronger, smarter, and more resourceful every day. 


Diversity makes sense for the future of business. A spectrum of differences within a company culture can bolster workforce engagement and promote innovation. I discussed the “Future of Work” over lunch with a colleague recently. His firm asked him to participate in a committee determined to gain insights on the topic. We talked about Myers-Briggs and the value of 360 reviews. How leaders should rely on their teams for vital information on trends, and mentors can “pay it forward” by passing on wisdom to junior peers.  If we build respectful places where active listening, reflection, and teamwork grow, then organizations will be stronger, more collaborative, and drive towards better solutions. 

How can we go to work with the objective being to deliver high-quality results from effective listening? What stories do we choose to share and listen to?

Listen to receive, without judgment, stories told from diverse perspectives. Make the effort to truly listen, pause to understand, reflect instead of devising an immediate reply.


I took part in a course at Leadership Greater Washington where an improvisation trainer came to host a session on effective listening techniques. As participants, we broke into pairs and with our partners, began to tell a story. It was a storytelling volley with each person contributing the next line in the tale. The catch: each new sentence had to begin with the last word of the previous sentence (hard!!) Forced to listen to our partners all the way through in order to catch their last word, we learned to pause and mull over a response before adding the next line.

That simple but effective exercise proved how often we all can’t wait to jump in and command the story through our own lens. When I get excited I do this all the time! Do you? Lately, I engage people by asking them to expound on their opinions, rather than challenging them (or saying that they’re stupid). No one likes an arrogant conversationalist. 

Without creatives and thinkers, the world would be colorless, quiet, and lacking originality. Without engineers/farmers/scientists we might not eat, survive disease or have a place to live. We all want to do better than being cogs in the proverbial wheel. We want to thrive! The language we choose and how we listen to others will have an impact on how we end the story too.


My passion for diverse mindsets is part of why I like to read several books at the same time. Right now, I’m reading 3: Colson Whitehead’s new book, “Harlem Shuffle”(fiction) set in NYC; journalist,  Sandy Tolan’s book “The Lemon Tree”, a 1998 true account about a Jewish and Palestinian family; and just got the new book, from my favorite, Brené Brown, Atlas of the Heart!    Reading different authors, I learn to hear, enjoy and gain insight into the different ways that different people think. 

Join me in a challenge to your use of language and listening in the storytelling arena! Evolve your perspective by entering the storyteller’s arena with an open mind and willingness to pause, reflect on finding solutions in an entirely new “way.” 

Career Coaching

BELIEVE (the Ted Lasso effect)

We watched a lot more TV during COVID. Actually, I watched a lot more TV to be close to my family. My bookworm and cinephile habits aside, I don’t enjoy sitting on the couch at home staring at the “boob tube”, as my parents used to call it. So, I fold laundry while I watch TV and resolve the guilty feeling of laziness with chores.

We watched The Expanse, Lovecraft Country, Ozark, Donovan, sprinkled in with Bridgerton (surprised us both), The Great (historical fiction), and Gentleman Jack (based on a true story). Movies failed to hold my attention these last 18 months… I needed something lighter. Enter Ted Lasso, the too-hapI’m not saying that it was mindless fun, but there was something about Ted Lasso. We’d wait in anticipation for it to drop each Friday.  It made me smile, my heart warm and my soul comes back to life.  It’s interesting, most of the people who I asked about the show either lit up or had no clue. It made me wonder, why did Ted Lasso have such a strong appeal or total lack of interest from people.

I have played, coached, and refereed soccer for 43+ years. Most of my friends and all my family are familiar with my zeal for the sport. I played on the field until 2018, chasing a ball around the pitch, focused on my teammates, and keeping the ball out of my net.  You’ve heard me espouse Title IX (50th anniversary in 2022), the scene my mom made when there were no girls teams, so she said I get to play on a boys team. That led to helping my high school and college women’s teams get off the ground in the 1980s

Ted Lasso is not about soccer; nor is it about football, the sport he initially coached. This quirky comedy, which appears to be more brain candy, drives at some series points on leadership, empathy, and how imperfect human beings can recover from mistakes and losses without losing a positive outlook. I’m not trying to write a review of the show but want to dig deeper and figure out why Ted struck a chord with me.

I relate to Ted as a coach, his optimism and innocuous approach to the game are compelling. I love the subtext in this show, suggesting that a true leader can succeed in any discipline. Knowing how to build teams and inspire people, and how to collaborate with area experts to drive at goals and win the day. The most important lesson Ted teaches is that authentic leaders have the power to inspire people, by caring for and being genuine with their teams. I also love that he struggles with his own demons and that acknowledging them becomes an even better leader.  Maybe, I’d like to be admired the way he is, even when his enthusiasm drives you insane.

The women in Ted Lasso’s life add to refreshing messages of fair play and teamwork in the series. Even more so, it’s truly wonderful to see real female characters that aren’t backstabbing each other.  Rebecca is a middle-aged white woman who just inherited a soccer team from her philandering husband in the divorce. She’s out for revenge when Ted shows up. What could go wrong?!  Enter Keeley, the perky footballer girlfriend, and supermodel who finds her own power as she helps Rebecca to reclaim her own. Rebecca’s childhood friend Bex is exploring her sexuality and makes a few appearances in the series, intermittently connecting with Ted as he tries to get over his divorce. Lastly, Ted Lasso tackles the topic of mental health via Dr. Sharon Fields, the therapist who helps to heal the spirits of players and the team. Diversity abounds in the show, real life is reflected on the screen through these large-as-life characters.

I will close with the word from Ted that motivates me each day.  I made a copy of Ted’s drawing for my son’s high school football team to tape up in their locker room and see before games, BELIEVE! Things that inspire me consistently are hard to come by as normal continues to shift, but I can hold onto the concept of belief, because what else do you have? I believe we can be better, smarter, stronger, and more compassionate human beings, each day.

Careers, Work Strategies, Working Professionals

Spin your Story (Determine Your Own Destiny)

I just read the McKinsey article about huge turnover in the labor market, referred to as the “Great Attrition.” Companies are facing a conundrum across industries. The researchers at McKinsey layout a simple challenge to businesses: be part of the continued disenfranchisement of employees or become known as a “Great Attractor”, an organization that is successfully recruiting top talent over the next 12 months.  

The past 18 months of COVID Pandemic panic was tough on a lot of businesses (including mine) but thankfully since January 2021 businesses in several industries came booming back. This is great news for me as a recruiter and for the talented candidates that I place with client companies.  

The McKinsey challenge to organizations forces employers to confront the disconnect between their mindset (transactional) and the mindset of employees (relational). For HR professionals, career coaches, and recruiters, this is not exactly breaking news – but the impacts of worker discontentment are glaring post-pandemic. I’ve been watching a rise in burnout and a shift among employees to being more introspective about what really matters.   It prompted me to ask a follow-on question: 

What type of story will you tell to your employees and the talent you hire in 2021-22?


The first step in  “romancing a candidate” is a mindset.  I coach my clients to highlight the company’s strengths that matter to candidates (e.g. focus on the relational!) 

The current job market favors the candidates and for companies to attract talent, the costs are high. As a recruiter, for example, the talented people that I identify are sometimes not active job searchers.  This means they were not considering a change until presented with an opportunity. Attracting these candidates requires companies to think more about what makes their organizations wonderful places for people to work. 

The McKinsey authors suggest that companies will continue to lose workers and struggle to attract new talent in the “Great Attrition” until they shift toward a relational mindset; and get focused on understanding the motivations and needs of their people. As companies seek to stabilize following the pandemic, workers are reassessing their lives and thinking even more about the mission/ethics of a company, or about the location and the willingness of their employers to be flexible.

Businesses that want to become “great attractors” would be wise to understand what values are important for people who can make their companies succeed. 


Some companies measure success by shareholder earnings. Others measure it through innovation, low staff turnover, and career satisfaction. Lowering costs and boosting higher profits is a business priority agreed upon across industries by all.  Determining how to get there, however, differs by company, the attitudes of leaders, and the subsequent culture that emerges. 

Universities and college administrators have begun to realize that by not accounting for job market needs in curriculum planning, they fail to prepare students with employable skills. Businesses can take a similar approach and prepare workers for greater success with professional development opportunities that not only advance their careers internally/externally but provide a better-trained workforce for the organization. 

Educational and business leaders can take the same page from the proverbial book to train individuals and prepare them with in-demand skills that fit market needs.

Information is powerful and knowing what forces motivate workers is key to becoming a successful “attractor.”


Based on the article and other studies in work/labor research that pre-date the pandemic, these factors have been identified as the missing components from corporate cultures. Simply put…

“The top three factors employees cited as reasons for quitting were that they didn’t feel valued by their organizations (54 percent) or their managers (52 percent) or because they didn’t feel a sense of belonging at work (51 percent).” (McKinsey, 2021) 

The impact of the COVID pandemic was especially hard for working families with young children. The need for flexibility, already a growing priority, became critical for parents as they shifted to home offices and homeschooling, simultaneously. A gaggle of 20+ kids ran around my neighborhood for months, as parents were challenged trying to turn picnic tables into school desks. Now as they resume commutes into the office, many are considering the opportunity cost in a relational way. 

Employers must listen to hear what employees value and remain supportive as needs evolve.  Employees who feel valued stay longer.  Retention not only saves money over time by reducing HR costs but protects institutional knowledge.  As a long-time recruiter, these were facts I often shared with hiring managers when they were resistant to investing in the right hires and the importance of a culture shift to focus on the relational needs of employees. 

Company leadership has the power to create a culture that is responsive to employees and good for business.   


Consultants can provide an evaluation and give feedback to companies about specific strengths and weaknesses. Coaches for executive teams are also great resources for helping to kickstart a shift in an organization’s culture.  

A teacher I had used the phrase: “don’t assume … it makes an ass out of you and me.” Find out from the people on your teams how they feel and what matters. The McKinsey article has a great list of questions to ask!

Discuss with your HR team the best benefits that have an authentic value to employees – find out what’s changed and what hasn’t. My takeaway for you … it was never all about the money!

Here are some of the *relational benefits* that I suggest: 



I began thinking about resilience a few months ago when I noticed a shift in the lives of my clients and friends. The COVID-19 pandemic transformed our lives and the catch-phrase “paradigm shift” began to pop up in conversations. Many people began to rethink career paths, geographic locales, and the importance of relationships.

The dramatic changes across job and social landscapes brought up an important question: What makes a person resilient? Or, how do we become resilient in the future? So I invited colleagues that I admire to join me in unpacking the elements of resilience. What came out of these conversations is a guideline on preparing for career transitions and personal growth.

Developing a Growth Mindset is a big takeaway from my inquiries these past few months, so I developed a toolkit to help my clients build it. I discovered there are 3 major traits for resilience: (1) learn continuously, (2) innovate or have an entrepreneurial mindset,  and (3) the ability to adapt and bounce back from adversity.

Check out the bulleted lists below for detailed guidelines on how to build a resilient career and a thriving life.

Keep Learning!

  • Develop a growth mindset
  • Up-skill w/ online & in-person courses
  • Identify interests through research and inquiry
  • Join networks and schedule informational interviews

Get creative!

  • Innovate in your career through reflective awareness
  • Create new opportunities w/ an entrepreneurial mindset
  • Integrate passions into your work – even if what you’re passionate about isn’t the job itself.

Adapt & Bounce Back!

  • Choose mentors to help you grow holistically
  • Keep a lot of “irons in the fire” & celebrate your wins
  • Diversify your network