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.

Takeaways

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.

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. 

WORDS TO LIVE BY

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.  

LET IT GO

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.

EMBRACE CHANGE & TAKE CARE …

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

CONVERSATIONS THAT MATTER

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. 

MEET PEOPLE WHERE THEY ARE 

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!)

WORD CHOICES MATTER

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.

BIAS IN JOB DESCRIPTIONS

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.  

CONTINUOUS LEARNING

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!

SET THE STAGE

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.  

TRUST

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! 

Melissa 

Careers, Communication, Networking, Work Strategies, Working Professionals

Informational Interviews in Action – August 2021

INFORMATIONAL INTERVIEWS & NETWORKS

Informational interviews are a wonderful opportunity to learn about companies and get to know the people that you might like to work with. Pre-job interview conversations can have a huge impact on your journey, and you’ll want to make a first impression that counts! These seemly in-formal chats are strategic too, and in the blog below I share an example of how effective informational interviews can be. 

OK! I know you’re asking what an “informational interview” is – so first, a little background, and then get ready to jump right in.

WHAT IS AN INFORMATIONAL INTERVIEW? 

This is not a job interview because you are not asking for a job. This is an opportunity to learn more about a person, the organization that they work in, and a field or industry of interest. Do your homework before you reach out, and be prepared to share your “Elevator Pitch” on what you bring to the table.

Note: An informational interview is a tool to build and nurture your network.


WHAT IS A NETWORK? 

A network is a circle of people you know, starting with your family and friends, expanding to colleagues/alumni. The (key) people you are referred to or locate through research, are included in your outer circle of network contacts. For more details, here’s an earlier blog on how to build networks.

Note: Track your network and manage it as a living document that continues to expand with each new connection you make.

WHY DO I NEED A NETWORK? 

It’s a great idea to nurture a professional network from the very beginning of your career. In this way, you will have guidance, insights, and opportunities that will organically come your way. Networks are meant to be built and sustained for a lifetime, it’s never too early to start identifying and nurturing those meaningful relationships.

Strong network connections enable a broader worldview. A diverse group(s) of connections can expose you to new ideas and trends across fields of study or industry. Take time to develop new contacts into meaningful relationships and create space for opportunities that align with your interests to come your way.

Even daily business tasks, like responding to a proposal for work or building a PPT presentation, add depth and breadth to your professional expertise and build your visibility/brand. Every interaction you have is a chance to show your value, build your reputation, and bolster your network.

Note: It’s never too late to start building a network and as with all good things, relationships take effort.

READY, SET, RESEARCH! 

Coaching clients over the years, I’ve noticed that some are very resistant to informational interviews. Some have expressed that they feel they are bothering people or not interviewing for real jobs. Don’t believe me? Well, my clients have shared their results, and based on their experiences (meeting people and finding a great professional opportunity) networking does work!

Building a professional network is a numbers game – and informational interviews are a great critical success factor. Through a consistent effort to engage new contacts, you get a lot of interview practice. The more practice you get, the better you get at pitching your value, and eventually, the odds are in your favor. It’s not luck so much as the dedicated effort that will reward you with an offer (or a few). Use the job tracking sheet here or create your own. Remember you are building something that you will come back to and add to regularly.

On average, it takes 3-6 months of networking to connect with the right people and be hired.

JUST THE FACTS

The real-world data points below are an example of how numbers work to get results on your job hunt. Depending on how you design your job search, the results will vary, but the ratios are accurate. 

• 90 renewed (or new contacts) through LinkedIn, email, and other social channels
• 40 informational interviews
• 8 formal job interviews
• 4 positions tailor-made
• 5 offers received
• Evaluation of roles, alignment with priorities, and negotiation of the compensation package

Remember: the more senior the role the longer a job search can take. And the more activities generated, the faster the process develops. How many people can you speak with per week? 1 or more? Set clear GOALS and take the actions to make them happen.

Job and network research should be balanced to suit your work style – and keep track of information so you can see results! Continue to nurture your network after you build it. Keep in touch with new connections and assist if you are asked to, and always be genuine to individuals that helped you along the way.

And there you have it …. Informational interviews in action!

Careers, Communication, Jobs, Uncategorized, Work Strategies, Working Professionals

Let’s Talk About Resilience —

Years ago, a client told me that if companies don’t evolve they will go extinct just like the dinosaurs. At the time I thought it was a much better way to explain restructuring within organizations or what is now called intrapreneurship when a company is responsive to the market . I understand that all species must adapt or, through evolution, will disappear.

Fast forward to a couple years ago when I was speaking on a panel at Georgetown Biomedical Graduate School with a panel of deans and administrators. The topic was geared to make educators think about their role in the economic ecosystem. We were asked to discuss how to better prepare students for the workplace. It brought the conversation around to what is often called career pathways, highlighting adaptation to changing economies as critical in the quest to stay relevant. Relevance, as it turns out, goes hand in hand with becoming resilient.

One of my favorite researchers and authors, Brené Brown shared in her book “Rising Leaders” that a key trait of people who are resilient is emotional intelligence (EQ). Yup! It’s worth repeating, emotional intelligence.  In her interview with Abby Wambach, US Women’s National Soccer Player star, she shared insights from her book, “Wolfpack” that stress the importance of change, “Old ways of thinking will never help us build a new world. Out with the Old. In with the New.”

“It’s all about a tolerance for discomfort”, Brené shares and sums it up:”Resilience is more available to people curious about their own line of thinking and behaving,”

Here I would like to delve into what makes people resilient; and focus-in on actions you can take to fortify resilience in your career journey, continuously and enjoyably.

The Definition of Resilience is: 

re·sil·ience /rəˈzilyəns/ (Oxford) noun

    1. The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness; “the often remarkable resilience of … institutions
    2. The ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity, “nylon is excellent in wearability and resilience.”

SET THE STAGE

There are arguments over nature versus nurture all the time. Is someone born with existing traits or skills, or does the environment shape and influence them? As we have learned from researchers, it’s never just one thing which delivers us to any particular point in our lives: but rather, a conglomeration of characteristics, experiences and our environment.

As a recruiter, career coach and parent/partner, I believe we have the ability to take inventory of who we are and where we are. We can recalibrate to make healthy decisions that have a holistic impact on the outcome of lives.

Let’s focus on traits we have – or tools we can learn – to empower a rewarding life journey.

The Pandemic has pushed the limit of almost every imaginable boundary – for everyone.  We realized that things we thought were important, might not be. Companies that thought remote work or telecommuting would destabilize them, have experienced a smooth transition with a remote workforce and improved productivity – and sometimes happier employees.  Technology tools for collaboration, CRM and workstream management already existed, and others are being created. Zoom is efficient and effective, but also exhausting. Personally, I found boundary setting to be an important tactic to avoid burnout as the days/weeks began to blur into each other. Even without a commute, the workday has grown longer for professionals and parents alike. In the midst of juggling work alongside personal lives, children and homeschooling, a new context for “resilience” has begun to emerge.

We know that emotional IQ allows us to be reflective and more self-aware, and that it is a first step to improve the dexterity we have in adapting to change. EQ is a great trait that helps us drive and become confident decision makers, instead of passengers affected by the course of time and life.

SELF REFLECTION- TAKING INVENTORY

A self-reflective audit of your career roadmap – skills, goals and strategy – is a technique available at any point on the journey. My kids, at different points in their lives, have approached me with this philosophical conversation starter: “what if you don’t know what you want to be or where you want to go?

In creating this feedback loop, you consider the things you are good at doing, what kinds of jobs are available in the world right now, and in the future; and then we make a decision about which skill areas to develop. Occasionally when you try out a new strategy, you learn that your skills don’t match up the way you thought they would for your goals. In that case you can go back to an EQ-based audit of your profession and adapt your toolkit to meet those needs.

Education and professional training are consistently in development – not just for the teachers or medical professionals who need to meet recertification requirements each year. We should all push ourselves (and encourage others) to be continuous learners. In coaching sessions with clients, we take inventory and create a mission statement or pitch to clarify what an individual is good at doing and where they would like to head. We discuss the skillset needed and how to apply a strengths-based strategy for success. Informational Interviews are a great way to test existing capabilities in the professional arena – and get feedback on options that could improve your professional profile.

In times of discomfort, we must lean into the suck, bounce back, regroup and adapt to build a resilient career.

ACCOUNTABILITY-GOAL SETTING

A main source of joy for me in the past year has been cooking.  Cooking goes with eating and this, combined with months of quarantine, has found its way to my hips, belly and bottom. I’m a firm believer in modifying my behavior and I prefer to know why I’m doing something – rather than doing it because I was told so. For this reason, I started the behavior modification program, NOOM,  on Feb 13th. There is science, there is a plan, there is action and accountability. The steps and the process are important to me and should be important to any person or organization wanting to achieve a major objective.

In NOOM, I’m asked to write my goals down and share them with my cohort. This semi-public broadcasting of my objectives is not always comfortable, but as an accountability tool it exponentially boosts my chances of achieving them. The format you use to share doesn’t matter – some members paste pictures into a collage for motivation, others create lists of New Year’s resolutions.  I prefer to journal, so I have something I can look back on, reminding me of where I was and where I wanted to go or what I wanted to change.

Goals that you can form habits around will increase the chance of getting sustainable results. People with a high EQ pause periodically for a mind-body scan of what’s working, what’s not, take accountability and pivot when necessary.

Goals are often malleable – firm but flexible – commitments that adapt to changes in the environment in which they are developed. Becoming resilient is a process of adapting strategies to meet goals informed by a personal and environmental EQ. Nothing like a global pandemic to demonstrate how EQ and adaptation are components of resilience.

HOW TO MAKE IT HAPPEN – ROADMAP FOR RESILIENCE

I want to be clear about the steps in building a roadmap for resilience – goal setting comes after a personal assessment, information gathering and before you set milestones and goals. I’m not saying that this plan is going to be engraved in stone, but an outline with high-level details is a rough-draft guideline that has led my clients to happy lives and sustainable careers.

I like to travel this way also. I pick a location, do my research and make the reservations for important stuff like where I sleep, hard-to-get tickets and hard to book restaurant reservations. These are the “need to haves”. The “nice to haves” depend on energy levels, impulses and the weather. This flexible-but-firm strategy has led to some great adventures over the years. I apply this outline to coaching too – but with value-added goal setting and accountability tools to provide momentum.

Resilience can save a trip or a career with the ability to lean into the disruption with an attitude of problem-solving in order to salvage it – or cut your losses.

ACHIEVEMENT- GETTING RESULTS

The lifespan of a human being is actually pretty short. We hope for long and healthy lives, but in the grand scheme of the universe, we are only here on earth for a little bit of time. The past year has seen the loss of loved ones for many and been a catalyst for deep reflection in almost everyone I know. I find myself thinking more about each moment with the people I love (and those I miss) and what is actually important in the context of a lifetime.

The way I like to plan and apply myself to personal and career goals paid off as I pivoted toward coaching in the past year. My passion for community and volunteerism came to life as I poured energy into non-profit work to help home-bound kids access sports, or make sure newly unemployed people could still get healthy and respectful food. I wanted to help and in the face of many traumatic changes, I needed to feel like I was doing something.

My business has grown organically this year as the result of being grounded, genuine, and demonstrating a tolerance for discomfort. Through inquiry and continuous improvement, I have built the career I want, I continue to visualize where I want to go and adapt based on what I want to accomplish. With a rough plan and an attitude of agility, I am able to influence my life and contribute more wholly to my community and the world.

Your career, just like your happiness, is an individual journey; and with a loose plan and a few well-refined skills (plus a good coach) we become resilient as we adapt to change. It’s all about the ability to bounce back!

 

 

Quotes from Brene Brown and Stacey Abrams
Communication, Uncategorized, Work Strategies, Working Professionals

Let’s Talk About A New Set of Rules

In light of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, it seemed time to really think about how we will live, work, or govern as we go forward.  The existing systems have been shown to lack equality for all and over the past four years have definitely not worked for the vast number of people.  What I’ve read in Abby Wambach’s “Wolfpack”, listened to on Brené Brown’s podcast Dare to Lead with Joe Biden, and watched Resmaa Menakem’s interview with Tara Brach, all reinforced the idea that we must create new rules that protect and support all people. 

wheel of power and privilege

Let’s start with the basics and better understand how the present system works.  Marginalized populations shift and morph depending on the situation.  If you examine the “Wheel of Privilege,” it demonstrates how we may be part of white privilege at one moment but for example, in an all-male environment, then white women become the marginalized population.  This hierarchy includes many complexities that include gender, race, orientation, religion, and more.  It’s important to know this is fluid depending on the situation and is a man-made creation that can be changed.

WOMEN CHANGE RULES

To change things, we must act collectively, support each other, and have champions from the privileged groups. The women’s soccer team has been fighting to receive equal pay in the workplace for several years now.  They play more, win more, and have revenues that exceed the men’s national team but still earn substantially less.  Abby Wambach, US Olympic champion, and her team have not given up.  

With a daughter of immigrants and a woman of color being elected to the most senior office in our country, we have an opportunity to create a new set of rules for all women.  Abby shared a look at the history of women’s roles and how stories demonstrate the inculcation of these norms into our society.  Her example of “Little Red Riding Hood,” a story read to many little kids, describes how if we leave the “acceptable path” we will get eaten by the wolf.  Abby says, “We must wander off the path and blaze a new one: together”.  This is what Kamala Harris has done, and in her acceptance speech on Sunday, she did what so many other Black women have been done by blazing a new way, like Jada Pinkett Smith during her Red Table Talks, or Michelle Obama when she wrote, “Becoming.  It’s what Abby calls women to do, create “New rules”, while reminding us to  “Champion each other” by recognizing that it took 100s of trailblazing Black and white women for Kamala to achieve this accomplishment. 

COALITION BUILDING

We can’t make change alone, and the rise of the #MeToo movement, #BlackLivesMatter, and the support of marriage equality laws, demonstrate how as a nation we can evolve.  What stood out, for me in Biden’s acceptance speech, was his acknowledgment of the marginalized populations that came together to win the election and the focus on building and healing.  He was very specific in recognizing the Black women that mobilized the vote and truly made a difference in the outcome, people like Stacey Abrams in Georgia, and LaTosha Brown who founded Black Votes Matter registered voters and brought the Black vote to support the Democratic ticket.  The popular vote shows that 71,492,918 people supported Trump and 76,402,525 supported Biden.  This means quite a number of Americans now feel disenfranchised and with the rhetoric from Trump continuing on conspiracy social networks, how do we bridge this gap? If you look at history and the successful results of these popular movements, it’s the coalition of all types of Americans that forces change. It’s the recognition that power-sharing, as described by Brené Brown is healthier, that it’s infinite and a more cohesive way to lead.

HEAL THE TRAUMA

Resmaa Menekem, an MSW, was interviewed by Krista Tipper (On Being) for NPR, by Tara Brach (yoga/meditation leader), and many others.  We are reading his book, “My Grandmother’s Hands,” for my anti-racism seminar with LGW.  After hearing the interview and reading the first four chapters with my study pod, I felt like this is it! Resmaa created a guide to healing trauma so we can heal as human beings and build communities of diversity and strength. These last 11 months of COVID have left much more space to be contemplative.  I’ve received more requests for career coaching than ever before.  We, as a human race, are thinking about what’s really important as the death toll in this country alone exceeds 250K.  

Resmaa interview with Tara Brach

I’ve listened/learned, I’ve protested, I’ve written letters to encourage voting, but how do we change the rules?  How do we make real change happen?  Menekem talks about trauma in white bodies, black bodies, and blue bodies.  He has worked extensively with all three groups and while our trauma may be different, the ways to heal are similar.  His book is revelational, in each chapter he asked you to pause, digest, do some exercises and really think.  I’ve found that often even after I’ve completed an exercise, I go back and add more details that I remember.  We all have trauma, some are personal, some is intergenerational, some we don’t even know exists.  If we don’t identify and heal it, we can’t truly come together and cause positive lasting change for all.  

RULES TO LIVE BY

Let’s make a new set of rules that are inclusive, that support respect, decency, and don’t cause harm.  There are several quotes from Brené that have resonated lately, I’ve pasted them on my wall. They inspire me. I intended to do my best to not just break the rules, but come together with others who don’t look like me.  Together, we can create a new set of expectations on how our workplaces, communities, and country can look.

Resources

Melissa Reitkopp blog image with soccer team in the background,
Careers, Communication, Uncategorized

Let’s Talk About Engagement

I’ve been immersed in a six-month anti-racism seminar through Leadership Greater Washington DC.  Because of the insights, information, and tough conversations it has motivated me to strive to be a better person and in the workplace to strive to be a better recruiter.  With my new awareness, I am more aware of my unconscious bias, seeing racism everywhere and gaining a better understanding of where and how to be an ally or “bias interrupter” as Professor Lisa Nishii describes it from Cornell’s ILR school.  I just finished my second of four courses toward my Cornell DEI certificate program.  Today I want to focus on engagement as a key ingredient to retaining talented staff and how this plays a role in diversifying our workplaces.  Both engagement and diversity strengthen organizations and yield higher performance for individuals and companies.  

Engagement – what it looks like

You can recognize an engaged person easily.  As a coach on the soccer field, I’d take an engaged, motivated person over a superstar any day of the week.  Engaged people care about what they are doing, they do more than is expected of them, and their genuine enthusiasm builds a stronger team spirit.  It’s motivational to the individual and to the group. Abby Wambach, Olympian, US Women’s Soccer leading goal soccer, writes in her book, “Wolfpack” about the necessity for women especially, to compete together rather than with each other for the good of the team.  This can be on the field, in the workplace, or on the board of an organization. 

Engagement – what we need to maintain it or get it

We can see when someone is engaged. Understanding why they’re engaged, how to maintain engagement, and how to get others engaged is crucial.  I often thought motivation came from inside a person and you can’t give it to people who don’t have it.  After learning more about the motivators, I think I will approach leading or coaching others to become engaged in a different way.  It’s so important for a manager to understand what motivates each person on their team to become engaged, remain engaged, and thus have great success for everyone.  

Psychological meaningfulness is what you get from the task at hand.  Does the job or responsibility have challenge?  Is it important if you complete the task or do it well?  Do you feel rewarded or get positive feedback from your actions?  Is there a match between interest, skills, and task?  When I take on the planning of our board/staff retreat, it’s because I want to help set the agenda.  I have strong feelings about what we need to work on and where we need to improve.  I also enjoy getting the details right, from making sure each person attending has some special swag and tasty food to make them feel loved to the content of the gathering.  I pay attention to what matters to each person to create a meaningful experience.  If leaders, managers, or coaches can align goals and needs that match a person’s skills/interests, we achieve psychological meaningfulness for all.

Psychological safety is when each person feels valued, trusted, and has equal respect.  A leader can set up an environment where there is transparency that enables each person to bring their genuine self to work.  When I’m feeling safe and not vulnerable I am able to act differently, share ideas more readily, and even fail.  I remember vividly a moment with my leadership cohort when I threw out a random idea for a class name.  It was really out there but came to me during an improv activity with the group.  I not only blurted out the idea but made a graphic and explained why it was a good idea.  The group definitely had mixed responses and there were some laughs about the silliness of the idea.  Yes, I was disappointed, but I didn’t retreat, and I didn’t withdraw or stop contributing.  This was a result of feeling safe and respected by my classmates and not made to feel like I had three heads and a tail.  When we create an environment where each member of the team, the organization, or the board feels truly safe, then we will retain their engagement and have better outcomes.  We can even learn from our failures.

Psychological availability describes physical and emotional resources to get a job done.  I didn’t think much about this before, but having more life experiences, I now understand.  During COVID with so many working parents juggling jobs and kids doing virtual school, there is a mental weariness.  If we don’t recognize the impact, even though we have found a “new normal,” we will lose engagement.   Consider scheduling a typical morning meeting.  Some employees will just not be available for those early morning meetings when they have to get their kids set up for school.  If we don’t think about our planning or demands from the job in a different way, we are not providing people with the physical resources they need to juggle work and a pandemic.  

Without the physical space, we traditionally have to go to an office or return home, we no longer have natural buffers or places to renew.  It’s super important to build different work schedules so that employees can find time to exercise or meditate during these trying times so we can be focused and productive when we are “at work.”  

The second part of psychological availability is investing in our teams with professional development, ongoing support, or feedback.  By giving someone tools to do their job well, it increases their ability to successfully complete any given task.  When I work with candidates for a job, I always help them prep for an interview.  This calms people, makes them realize they have a lot of valuable skills to share, and gives them more confidence when they are in the actual meeting. I enjoy setting someone up for success.

Engagement = Positive Performance

My daughter’s high school soccer coach played varsity baseball in college and won 5 straight state championships.  He was also a guidance counselor at a rival high school.  He didn’t win because of his knowledge of the game (and yes, he knew more than the basics).  He won because he recruited/attracted/retained elite travel players to his program.  He focused on team building, he built a system of seniors and juniors adopting the freshman and sophomores.  He had a “secret psych” program where the kids would make or buy small gifts for each other before each match.  Often my daughter would spend more time on decorating a t-shirt for a teammate than her homework.  He built a dynasty that every female soccer player wanted to be part of because there was meaningfulness, safety, and availability.  Each person played a vital role, on or off the field, their voices were heard, their mental and physical well being was cared for.  They weren’t always the most talented, but their engagement was light years beyond other teams and that made all the difference in the outcome.  Invest in engagement, it will bring huge success to any organization.

abstract art
Careers, Communication, Jobs, Uncategorized, Work Strategies

Let’s Talk About Power

Yesterday I decided I was going to bite the bullet and start listening to podcasts and TedTalks while I walk the dog or clean up the kitchen on my breaks. Normally, I leave these times for my mind to go blank and relax. There’s just not enough time in the day to sit and read all the materials I need to for my online classes, or for my own intellectual curiosity. The podcasts I’ve been gravitating to lately are Michelle Obama and Brené Brown. Both are favorites. I noticed Brené had recently interviewed Joe Biden on leadership so I downloaded that one.  

Brené opened the conversation with a discussion about her leadership research over the past 10 years and she spent about ten minutes giving us a foundation on what types of power leaders wield. It made me stop and pause while walking the dog when I heard the descriptions of power and totally became a conversation about leadership and power dynamics.

Here’s my take on leadership, the responsibility it carries, and how power is not a negative word when wielded responsibly.

Leadership and Power Go Hand in Hand

We learn about different forms of leadership and government when we are in school— authoritarian, dictatorships, socialism, democracies, etc.  Depending on where you grew up, you may have experienced different types of leadership in your home within a society governed by a president, a dictator, or a supreme leader.  Leaders are not just political but head companies, care for families, and coach athletic teams. They have many different styles, forms, and effectiveness. 

Different Types of Power

I actually listened to this part of the UnLocking Us podcast twice to make sure I got this right.  Brown used a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. to define how power is used during a speech he delivered in ’68 Memphis, TN. “Power is the ability to achieve purpose and affect change,” King said. In this definition, there is no judgment of whether power is good or bad or if using ‘power’ is positive or negative.  

Power Over

Is a form of power where the holder believes that power is finite, needs to be hoarded, and retained by any means. To do this, those in power instill fear, divide, isolate, marginalize, and dehumanize groups of people to destabilize and weaken any resistance. Decency or self-respect is absent or seen as being for “suckers” and definitely a sign of weakness. They value being right over truth and blame others for problems or challenges, the scapegoat mentality.

Power With or To or Within

Are forms of power where the holder understands that when shared it expands exponentially.  The holders of power recognize their role is to serve others.  This ability to empathize and connect allows the power holders to be transparent, accountable, and open to hearing different perspectives and voices.  Rights and freedoms go hand in hand with the willingness to value cultural differences and know they enrich outcomes as well as all-important consensus.  Those that share power are transformative leaders who are human-centric.

WOW.

Brené was not discussing our current political race.  Although I couldn’t fail to see the parallels.  Because I know we all have our political opinions, I don’t need to go there, you can go to the polls to make your opinion heard.  What I do want to discuss is how power in the workplace, the boardroom, or on the field can be used responsibly.

Down Side of Power Over Us

A dictator or authoritarian leader will say that their decisions are final and they like to rule with a firm grip.  That governing or leading this way is much cleaner, smoother, and gets things done.  It also breeds environments that in the long run can be detrimental to employees and the financial well-being of the organization.  

Recently I interviewed someone that was very well-loved by their current manager.  So much so that when they were promoted, they didn’t leave their old responsibilities behind because their manager couldn’t let go.  The inability of this manager to appreciate, be a sponsor, and push their talented subordinate forward is an example of “power over.”  There’s fear of losing talent, of letting go of power, and of keeping control through not letting go of authority.  This is detrimental to the professional, the organization, and the leader in the long run because the person will probably have to leave the company to continue to progress in their career.

Power over us can also be used to divide and build unhealthy competition in the workplace.  On the Zoom call or when we used to have team meetings in the conference room when an employee is talked over or their comment is ignored and then later repeated with a positive reception, this causes division and marginalizes members of any organization. The people in power or with privilege must recognize this and use their power to break the cycle of privilege or unconscious bias.  If not, this lack of awareness or the destructive use of power will continue to perpetuate unhealthy environments where employees will disengage and there will be turnover.  Both cost an organization on an institutional level and on a financial level. 

Upside of Power With/To/Within

When power is wielded with an inclusive lens it takes more effort to hear all voices.  By building an environment of trust, mutual respect, and a place that allows for shared power, there are also shared responsibilities. As individuals and as a group, we have a responsibility to make decisions and carve out road maps that are beneficial to the majority. Building consensus is not easy and when power is seen as a finite resource, it can become impossible.  

By dividing people we focus on ourselves only and this prevents us from thinking about what’s important and necessary for the benefits of all.  If we allow people to be heard, we can strengthen our workplaces/communities/groups with innovative ideas, see solutions from different perspectives, and learn from our mistakes. To move the spectrum of power from “Over” to “With” will require that those in the privileged groups recognize the benefits of strength we gain by sharing the power with the marginalized groups.  If we think about this with scarcity and fear, we will stay divided and weaken our workplaces and our communities. Too much of anything can be bad for us is something I’ve heard, even good things. Let’s remember that power is neutral only humans have the ability to make it good or bad. There’s no “I” in the word “Team.”

What are your thoughts on power in leadership? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

If you’re on LinkedIn, let’s connect!

Abstract art with words that read "Let's Talk About Bias"
Careers, Communication, relationships, Uncategorized, Working Professionals

Let’s Talk About Bias

We each are born with filters, some innate and others learned.  How we see and how we react are based on the schema that we use to evaluate each and every situation.  We look for patterns, commonalities, things we recognize, and filter it through that primitive pattern of triggers to tell us to run or stay.  Bias is in all of us.  It’s not bad until it is.  Shaming and blaming doesn’t get anyone anywhere.  I’ve been learning a lot about bias lately between the six-month series sponsored by Leadership Greater Washington and is co-led by Howard Ross and Dr. Karyn Trader-Leigh an executive coach.  I’m also a student with an eCornell Certificate program on DEI, it’s made me do a lot of deep thinking and led to hard conversations across diverse groups of people.  Howard recently re-released his book about “Every Day Bias” and shared his insights from over 30+ years as a diversity trainer and his firm is Udarta.  Here’s what I learned when I looked inward to my past experiences and examined them with a new lens for bias.  

EMPATHY CAN REDUCE BIAS

First, let me preface my experience by saying, I recognize that I have many privileges and I can only speak about my intermittent experiences of being part of subgroups based on gender or religion.  By sharing this example, I want you to understand that it was through this experience that I recognized, on a micro-level what I couldn’t possibly comprehend when you have to experience racism or bias each and every moment of your life.  When I was 8 my parents moved us around the world to Bangkok, Thailand.  I wore a school uniform, learned to play soccer, and stuck out like a sore thumb.  Worse things could happen.  Eventually, we returned to the USA.  I was the only girl playing soccer and so my mom put me on a boys team because Title IX said so.  I had to prove myself and gain acceptance from the boys.  Both things had to happen for us to be a team. This experience shaped how I viewed the sexes in the workplace and how I experienced life from the non-dominant group.  I still need and want to listen and learn more about what it’s like to be discriminated against so I can be a better ally. Here’s what I learned that helped me start to make sense of it.

Being an outsider some of the time (we are part of different subsets of the population), or not part of the privileged group actually has pluses.  Howard Ross explained in his presentation to Google, how those outside the mainstream group have more mirror neurons.  Mirror neurons allow an individual to be more empathic and thus better able to relate to others. This ability to be more empathic actually means life hurts a lot more, but it also allows me to relate to others better.  If we think about how empathy and bias interact we can see that by being able to relate to how others feel we are able to remove some innate bias that we may not have known existed. When we see others as humans just like us, that can break down barriers and bias at the same time.  As a person who often looked in from the outside, I gained empathy, could relate to different kinds of people more readily and this has led me to a career working with people and helping them find the best professional pathways.

DEFINING BIAS

Let’s look more closely at bias, and let’s remove the negative connotations to the word.  Bias is normal and where we come from and our life experiences shape how we see the world.  We can even inherit bias from trauma and multi-generational traditions. What is negative about bias is ignoring it or remaining unaware.  If we lean into the discomfort and look at the different biases in each of us, we can actually learn from them.  The ability to become conscious and aware of our blind spots enables us to do something about them.  In the workplace, this can mean examining our system for hiring, retaining staff, or promoting talent.  It’s important to dig deep and consider our childhood experiences and how they impact us as adults in our personal lives and in our professional lives.  

WHY CONSIDER BIAS

According to Howard’s book and presentation, diversity is a great goal, but unless we are inclusive, not much will change for the long run.  We can decide to diversify an all-male workplace or an all-white workplace, but if the team does not see the value or buy into it, we are not creating an inclusive environment.  During the eCornell course I recently took on DEI topics, we learned that companies with engaged diverse workplaces are more successful-meaning they are healthier with less turnover and increased profits.  If the majority of an organization doesn’t learn about bias and how it can be detrimental to the organization, no matter how many people are hired that look different from the existing workforce, their ability to be included directly impacts the success of the company.  We can educate our workforce and make people aware of unconscious bias and that’s how we can start to change the systems.  It’s only part of an on-going process.

One example I learned about that really struck me was fascinating and something that happens daily.  While at home or at work, we have to make millions of decisions, to shower or not, what to feed the kids or what to eat ourselves, what we wear, how we say hello to our co-workers, and the list goes on to bigger and more complex decisions.  For most of these decisions, we aren’t even aware of how or why we make them.  Instead of acting from our “Fast Brain” or on an instinctual level where Howard says we make determinations (quick decisions) and then rationalize the outcomes.  

Some of the decisions are fine, but others are not and they are all filled with our own bias. We can be making small or large mistakes that impact how we are perceived or interact with other people. Microaggressions fall into this category. Who we chose to ask for directions or get into the elevator with and where we stand also are “Fast Brain” decisions. Some are negative and some are positive, it’s the awareness that we are looking for or consciously thinking about our decisions that matter.

We want to build in more “Slow Brain thinking” where we build in a pause, see the bias, and make a choice that is based on rational thought.  Daniel Kahneman coined these terms and discusses them further in “Thinking, Fast and Slow”.  Next time you go to a business function (in person or virtually) pause before you decide who to approach and pick someone that doesn’t look like you or who you didn’t initially gravitate towards.  I was at a Career Summit for AAAS and was part of a panel discussion for STEM Fellows.  They had lunch beforehand and gave me the option to eat in the speaker’s room or join the 150+ professionals who were attending the meeting.  The room was full and there was a strong buzz of conversation. I took a deep breath and decided to meet some of the participants.  With a pause, I looked around me, and decided to join a partially filled table that was a mix of young and gray-haired, and a mix of white and people of color, and sat down to introduce myself.  That’s how you start to change things.

STRIVE TO BE BETTER

I’ve been recruiting for over 25 years now.  In the past two years, I have made new friendships across the D/M/V region during my time with LGW.  I’ve continued to take seminars and the Anti-Racism series with LGW continually opens my eyes to what I know and what I don’t know.  The course at Cornell, while basic, touches on topics that are evergreen and need attention.  Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.” Change doesn’t happen overnight.  To make systemic long-reaching change we must examine our basic bias, see it, and work to overcome it. An organization is handicapping itself if it cannot attract, retain, and grow a diverse workforce.  

The only way to do this is to create an inclusive mindset where we periodically refresh ourselves over the course of this journey.  We gravitate to what we know and we have filters built-in from our life experiences which we can’t control.  What we can control is not focusing on the shame of bias, but we must embrace it, be aware of it, and continue to fight to overcome it.  Read more about these ideas and for a guidebook to building diverse and inclusive workplaces check out Howard Ross’ book, “Everyday Bias, Identifying and Navigating Unconscious Judgement in our Daily Lives.”  Dolly Chugh’s book on “The Person You Mean to Be” is also a wonderful resource full of great examples and exercises to practice.  To build some empathy and understanding I’d recommend Ta Nehise Coates letter to his son in his book, “Between the World and Me,” he was able to allow me to walk in his shoes and gain a taste of what it’s like to be a Black man in the USA.

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