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!  

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.