Brainstorm, Collab, & Bullies

“Tenderness and kindness are not signs of weakness and despair; but manifestations of strength and resolution.” —  Khalil Gibran

During a recent therapy session, I talked about my frustrations working with people, currently, that I have yet to encounter as much in the past. Two significant areas were challenging: collaboration, which has always been easy for me, but now seemed difficult to navigate smoothly, and second, my ability to bring prominent personalities and busy people together onto the same page. It could be the complication of virtual collabs (oration), the mentality of people after 3 yrs of COVID, or maybe humanity is more fragile these days . . . Let me elaborate.

When we are passionate about something, we put out more energy. We share ideas and thoughts; sincere effort delivers results. When faced with questions about our ideas/thoughts/actions, we can take them personally. It feels like being picked apart as a person, not just the ideas. We also need to be valued and trusted. I’m guilty of feeling all of the above.

In reality, people participating in any ideation process likely feel the same. The key is to figure out how to recognize this, be kinder in critiquing ideas, and acknowledge that we can build on the myriad of ideas to come up with an agreed-upon solution. To collaborate successfully, keep people engaged, and deliver results, we must acknowledge how people are experiencing the process and put ground rules in place.


I’m listening to Michelle Obama’s new book, “The Light We Carry,” and the second chapter is Decoding fear. She describes Lin Manuel coming to the White House to perform a rap piece that he had been working on but isn’t sure how the President and First Lady will receive it. Granted, this was before his show Hamilton (Lin Manuel sang the first song he’d written about Alexander Hamilton for this event), but he had already had success on Broadway with “In the Heights.”

The first lady shared a story that showed how even a talented, successful person feels anxiety and fear. Michelle suggests fear can prevent us from experiencing anything, or we can “get on top of our fear.” Can you imagine entering a room to sing before the President and the First Lady?! Finding a less intimidating person to lock eyes with would be hard.

When he met Michelle’s mom’s eyes, she helped him ground himself. Lin Manuel could focus on her and held the audience rapt for 3 minutes. He shared with Michelle afterward that he felt the song had two possible outcomes and, depending on its reception, whether he would continue to develop it or not. We know it’s never all or nothing. It takes courage to work through the fear and devise realistic solutions.

Order of operations is critical. Before we jump in, we must create a plan of action.

We have a choice when asked to lead an initiative and deliver results. We can use the sense of responsibility to level up or allow fear to overpower our capabilities.

When there is a significant project, we must overcome fear and deliver. Any part of the process can throw us off track. The fear that we might not be able to produce this time, the stress of getting and staying on a timeline, the pressure of assembling a team that can work together toward a goal, and then getting on the same page about the vision. I describe this more in my blog, Check Your Attitude. Go read it!

<img src=“infographic.jpg” alt=“order of operations” title=“graphic in text”>

Clear roles and lines of responsibility must be agreed-upon and established. Methods of communication and best practices must be shared and continually improved.

I’ve let enthusiasm blind me before and jumped headfirst into a situation that almost destroyed me. I felt uncomfortable, like having my intelligence challenged, and the team didn’t believe in me. I walked around for days feeling like I was under sludge, and it wasn’t until I leaned into several difficult conversations that we got to a good working place. I could have quit at any time, overcome with fear of failure. My husband, being protective, wanted me to. But I’m made of sturdier stuff.


Because of technological improvements, we can schedule “facetime” quickly, even across distance and geography. A video call is often more efficient than driving to a meeting, saving more time for actions! But competing schedules and different locations also tend to drag out projects through side calls for updates and conversations that can get convoluted because all the stakeholders need to be together to work and discuss.

We used to pick up the phone or walk down the hall when we had questions. An email or text can help in some scenarios and hurt other situations when the tone or meaning is misconstrued.

Fewer meetings, concise agendas, and action items are my recommendation. And cut down on side chats! Yes, we can remind ourselves not to take things personally but to reduce the chances of these misunderstandings, meet with all the stakeholders, take notes, and be accountable. It will save time and energy, plus we will be more productive.


Remember, don’t let bullies into your head (brainstorming is supposed to be throwing out ideas without judgment), or be a bully to others as they are courageous in sharing their thoughts.

Continue encouraging brainstorming together as the global workplace becomes more diverse. Get people to throw out ideas and consider them together as a team. Differing backgrounds and experiences offer up a more significant variety of perspectives and possible solutions — and improve the capability of everyone involved. Share ground rules in advance, allowing the collaborators to respond from the beginning.

<img src=“ideas.jpg” alt=“to internalize” title=“list”>

1. I recommend fewer meetings, concise agendas, and action items. And cut down on side chats! Yes, we can remind ourselves not to take things personally but to reduce the chances of these misunderstandings, meet with all the stakeholders, take notes, and be accountable. It will save time and energy, plus we will be more productive.

2. Identify parameters (cost, effort, timing) and value each collaborator’s idea as a possible element of or a complete solution.

3. Kindness counts and can take us much further. In the words of Khalil Gibran: “Tenderness and kindness are not signs of weakness and despair; but manifestations of strength and resolution.”

review the lessons and refresh commitments

My Style Metamorphosis

My brother and I often don’t agree, but that doesn’t mean we are arguing; we have intense discussions with very opinionated answers. My husband gives me great feedback and support in my familial interactions, but regardless, he finds my description of our “discussions” rather funny. I’ve also learned to manage my expectations of what someone should or shouldn’t do with my advice. No need to frustrate oneself, just let go and move on. As 2022 comes to a close, I want to discuss the importance of using the last calendar days of the year to review (the lessons), renew, and refresh commitments to myself and others. The new year 2023 will be here any moment! 

 Getting back to the story about my brother, maybe you’re wondering what we were so heatedly discussing. Well, I had planned a photo shoot and invited him to participate, and he was calling me to ask why I was even doing a photo shoot. It was to upgrade my photos and refresh my website and social media. Not my favorite thing to do, I told him, but needed. I hated taking pictures alone. Typically I don’t mind a family photo, but I’ve even given up trying to take a good one for the holiday card because we are so scattered. He still didn’t get it. 

Our discussion got heated as I tried to explain the importance of branding, outreach, and social media visibility. He needed help understanding the value and why he should make an effort to participate. His wife and our parents have encouraged him to think about doing his business differently, but he couldn’t see the ROI.  


 My social media maven, Kerry Sinclair, taught me that networking differs from brand building. A positive professional reputation only guarantees visibility when you promote it. We spent the last year focusing on my brand development, and I’m beginning to see an ROI for my efforts.  

I’m adding value to my network, sharing insights, and love the opportunity to contribute to others’ growth as I nurture mine. 

So where am I going with this?! It’s about how we review lessons and refresh our commitment to learning and growing. These are the things on my mind as I review 2022.  After a rough year, I had to think about what I am willing to share with the world, the version of me that is authentic without oversharing. No one wants to feel obsolete, as I like to say, adapt or go the way of the dinosaurs! Like it or not, the presentation does have an impact on how people perceive you.  

What’s the right way to do it?

My closet has always been a little funky or offbeat. I prefer a good vintage piece to a more traditional look. Now as I recover from a back injury, any heel over an inch is guaranteed to cause me aches and pains later on. To really change things up, I needed to reach out to the networks I’ve nurtured and ask for help. 

Kevin Kennedy has photographed special moments for my family since 2016; my son’s Bar Mitzvah, dad’s 80th birthday, and our beautiful home wedding that missed the start of COVID panic by a few weeks and some good luck. I trust Kevin. He can capture gorgeous portraits and professional headshots; most importantly, he can convey feeling through pictures. While I trust him, I also want to feel like myself. In some way, most people struggle to balance their genuine selves with the decorum or expectations of office culture and the larger professional landscape. 


The past year was full of moments when I was out of sorts. I thought about what I needed to adjust (not just my attitude). 

Back to the closest, how could I change things up? I went through my shoes and gave away the ones I hadn’t worn in a long time. I like to pass on clothes to friends who will give them a second life. When I was last in Asheville, I tried on some “grown-up” shoes, things I could wear with a skirt or to look more professional, and bought them!

I tell people to wear a favorite tie or outfit when interviewing, making a presentation, or doing something public-facing. It will make you feel more confident and impact your attitude, which can improve the whole outcome.  

Finally, the day of the shoot arrives and I’m anxious.  We are in Kevin’s studio for Part A of the photos and heading to a brewery to meet the friends and family who agreed to help for Part B. Being the sole focus of the photo shoot was uncomfortable. It did not feel natural to me at first. It was very different from the family portrait sessions I had planned over the years. I needed to take the feelings of discomfort and push them out of my brain.   My professional presentation was more important.

So, what else can you do to prep to get through an activity you don’t like to do but is essential?

Change what you can and let the other stuff go. Get a friend to help you create some looks. My daughter was visiting and agreed to rummage through my closet with me. Kerry and my husband suggested I splurge on a stylist, and maybe one day I’ll do that. This time I used my Rent the Runway subscription to have several outfits as options.

Did you know that what you are wearing or how you feel can shape the experience you have in the world? 

What you wear or how you present to the world impacts your mood, which will attract or discourage people from approaching you. It can make you feel uncomfortable in your skin. I needed to master this for the photo shoot and the in-person meetings trickling back. 2023 is right around the corner!

(read my thoughts on getting comfortable with people post-COVID!) 


Mood also matters. My mood at the shoot was not great, I did splurge for a professional blow dry and make-up, but my face felt as stiff as my hair, frozen by the foundation. All I could think about was that I’d much rather watch World Cup than take pictures. I needed to pull up my granny panties and do something. 

I couldn’t get connected with Kevin’s pop culture references, interjected to make me relax and smile. My kids tell me I have a pop culture void and love pointing out examples. So I asked if I could change the music, and I pulled up US3, Hand on the Torch, on his iPad. An oldie but goodie from 1993, it’s my go-to music for an incredible feeling of nostalgia and positive energy. 

What you wear and look like also helps you present yourself to the world. Identifying your style, being aware of trends, and developing the version of yourself you want to show the world, can make all the difference to your career and confidence!  

If you embrace what and who you are, that’s the most important thing. I must remind myself to follow my advice: stop focusing on my flaws and be a positive force in the world. Connect with people and causes, learn something new, contribute at work and in your community, and remember that the first improvement you make should be to upgrade yourself. 

Stay tuned for my new mug shots! They turned out pretty good.  


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!  


Equity is Better Business


I was deep in research mode, looking for evidence of how equity can benefit bottom lines and boost performance. I came across a LinkedIn article by Wendy Veloz, What good Does focusing on equity do me anyway?  and a line grabbed my attention. “As professionals, we have to commit to doing everything we can to make sure things are equitable and accessible.”

This got me thinking about my role in DEI as a white woman and a professional. I consider myself an ally of BIPOC and LGBTQ communities and actively participate in change-making. Yet here I was searching for reasons to prove why equity in the workplace reverberates elsewhere. It occurred to me that a lack of cohesiveness could also be the reason it is misunderstood.

“For us to create sustainable social change, we can’t forget that equity has to take place on all levels, especially at the top. Having diverse leadership is only one step, but creating a pipeline of talent is important too.” — Wendy Veloz

The vocabulary of inclusion is becoming commonplace these days. DEI practices, unconscious bias, and embedded systemic racism are discussed at dinner tables across the country. But words alone don’t move the dial toward systemic change. Privilege allows people to believe that social equity is right because it’s fair, and still not grasp why it’s essential.

The burden of change is on organizations and leaders to cultivate buy-in for DEI initiatives within their organizations.

How Can Equity Benefit the Bottom Line? Think About It!  

Have you ever not been hired because you are female? Or interrupted and spoken over in meetings because you are from another country?

Are you Latinx and suspect that your ethnicity might be why you were turned down for a small business loan? Did your background prohibit you from networking your way to acceptance at a competitive university?

Can you relate to the frustration of not qualifying for a mortgage because your credit isn’t quite good enough? Or losing your license because you didn’t have the cash to pay a traffic fine? 

Understanding “Anyway”

There are a lot of firms with personnel dedicated to the work of DEI specifically. HR departments receive training and change hiring practices. But the seriousness with which DEI is embraced is less measurable. Sometimes it gets lip service, and even those who support diversity, equity, and inclusion don’t necessarily understand it. Or why it matters to people who have historically faced discrimination, experienced barriers to access to education and employment, or lacked the resources needed to succeed in their career goals

Measurable improvements and evidence-based practices are important to proving the value of DEI in mainstream society. Arguments should be made for the positive impact of DEI across all levels of an organization, including those who are the primary target audience, and its influence on business ecosystems.

Groupthink happens pretty easily within homogonous teams and organizations. Companies that lack diverse people and perspectives also lack some capability to provide innovative solutions, disruptive business strategies, and essential elements of communication that leads to healthy growth.

Our individual experiences might shape how we think, but the mashup of perspectives can lead to awesome new ideas. In a room where most of the people don’t share some commonality (language, culture) or there an overwhelming gender imbalance (men or women) exists, communication might prove harder and slower at first. As individuals begin to find shared experiences or beliefs, they get excited and foster a dynamic environment that can spark innovative ideas and unheard-of solutions.

An Example of How Bias Works

Why does a pharmaceutical company spend its R&D budget on developing drugs for men? Because most leaders are men who hire men to develop questionnaires for the health consumer market. The surveys end up being biased toward the needs of men, even though the total consumer market is pretty evenly split. Are you surprised?

This bias creates a problem with the availability of health products for women. But the pharmaceutical company is leaving money on the table because they survey half of the consumer market. How can they change that? 

Cosmetic companies figure out that targeting people with white or light complexions neglected a lot of available markets. The global market is made up of hundreds (maybe thousands) of skin tones. Ignoring those consumers is simply bad business! Understanding the needs of the underserved consumers could lead to a lot of new revenue. A more diverse team can create relevant products and prove how equity can benefit the bottom line.  

Your Company

Discrimination stagnates people who want to create wealth and have more purchasing power. The right to a living wage and fair pay is about more than between 29 and 18 cents on the dollar*.

* (If you want to know more about the state of the wage gap in 2022 you can check out this downloadable resource: https://www.payscale.com/research-and-insights/gender-pay-gap)

Better base pay leads to better loan rates on mortgages. With more money and PTO, employees have disposable income and days to spend on outings. They come back to work well rested and happy with ideas to share. 

As purchasing power increases so does the value of consumer markets. This seems like strong evidence for equity as a guiding principle in policies. The company that creates the policy, hires the outsider, promotes the unacknowledged, will stand to see how equity can benefit the bottom line. 

Assessing Why and How

Understanding how equity can benefit the bottom line begins with an assessment. Where are we now and what do we believe.

In ReInventing Diversity by Howard Ross, you can find guidelines to assess current-state mission, policymaking, and cultural values. Ross stresses the importance of DEI being written into organizational DNA, rather than a laser focus on hiring practices.

I believe that education is how organizations can drive engagement and comprehension. Understanding why is more than fairness. It is essential to connect the dots to how and produce innovative solutions that benefit all people.

Build a business case for DEI in order to break down and remove discrimination in our workplaces and world.

Different but the Same

An accurate assessment of how equity can benefit bottom lines begins with asking the right questions. The first question might be what is the difference between equity and equality. 

Instride defines their differences and suggests actions that organizations can take toward forming a plan of how equity can benefit the bottom line. Click here for new ideas from Instride!

“Equality seeks to provide all employees with access to the same resources, regardless of the pre-existing barriers they may face. This can refer to an equal distribution of money, resources, or opportunity between workers at a similar level. 

  • Equality is in many ways a beneficial concept that can push company culture in the right direction. However, it often fails to address problems of underrepresentation or an unfair status quo.

Equity is distinct from equality in that it doesnt provide the same resources and opportunities to everyone. With equity, an organization will recognize that each employee has varying access to resources and privileges. And those with less access may need more support in order to take fair advantage of opportunities within a given company.”

More Examples!

One of my favorite articles by Globoforce talks about the multi-tier impact from new hires to leadership. Click to read! 

This case study from the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry is an example of evidence-based practice… get the details 

Of course, Forbes magazine weighed in on the topic. Convening a panel of human resources experts to compile a list of benefits from DEI. Find out what they came up with!


Let’s Talk About Timing…tools for negotiation

When someone tells a good joke, I have a hard time repeating it and getting the punch line right.  If someone walking past me has blue hair, I’ll blurt out loud “blue” instead of thinking it to myself. 

Timing is really everything: knowing when to listen and when to speak is an important career tool. When you tell a story, the depth of detail you share can determine whether you keep an audience’s attention or not. I once took a writing class that emphasized the importance of pace, tension, climax, and the finale in a story. It’s the difference between an ‘okay’ book and a really stellar one. In negotiations, the story we tell can impact the result of a business agreement or salary review. 


The first conversation typically does not include compensation so be patient.  Once everyone is convinced they want to work together,  be prepared to receive an offer and recognize that it is open to negotiation. Compensation is not just your base pay, it includes many types of benefits some are more traditional like healthcare or retirement.  Other benefits have grown in importance like flexible location or hours, how leave can be used, or childcare/eldercare benefits.

This isn’t a first interview topic when the romance of the interview process has just begun and both sides are looking for chemistry. If there is alignment the company will raise the topic naturally.  

Once the discussion moves to compensation you may be asked to provide an answer about your expected salary. If so, redirect with a query about a range for the role. Once you know the range, explain that you are willing to accept a salary within it but do not state a specific number. Remember! Compensation talks are negotiations. The first offer is the company’s first move, and your opening to respond with a counter request. At this point the hiring process is serious and you should only proceed if you are confident about your role, the organization, and you are sincerely interested. 


Most organizations have an annual review protocol.  Some are self-evaluations and others include 360-degree input. Whatever format the review is in it’s good to understand what is expected, which goals are important, and key milestones for you as a professional. Roles and responsibilities can change, if that happens it’s time to ask for guidance: additional input, a review out of cycle, or a re-evaluation of your last review. A special request can be made for lots of reasons: additional training or a license earned, a request for overtime or resources for one person who’s doing the job of 2 people. 

Request feedback, support, and documentation, so you can measure progress and continue to grow as a professional.  


As we emerge from a global pandemic the economic impact and realities are different than in any previous crisis. When asking for a raise, consider the market and business landscape before you make your move. Do the research and build a business case to support your “Ask”. You should be able to demonstrate, based on the value you contribute to the company, why you have earned a raise. If you have learned new skills or a professional degree, or recently had a positive review, use this as leverage.  This supporting evidence can demonstrate additional impact on the bottom line of your organization and how you deliver higher value to clients.

A concise story that highlights the impact of your initiative on a company will deliver good results! 


Are you constantly taking on more responsibility? Would you like to move up to the next level in your organization? Sit down with your manager to discuss expectations and make a plan before you are burned out. If you need additional skills or training to achieve these results, then create a timeline to prepare you for a promotion. Track your progress on mutually agreed-upon goals and build a strong pitch that provides details on how you are ready for the next step. If it’s a long-term career goal then do research to understand what actions will set you up for future growth. 


You have been dedicated, loyal and love your job and co-workers.  Unfortunately, you feel stuck or stale. Communicate your frustration in a professional way to managers. If your feedback isn’t taken seriously following a review, your raise request is denied without merit, or you get passed over for that promotion (again) despite meeting your milestones consistently — or your heart is just no longer in the job — it’s time to warm up your network and begin to ramp up the process of informational interviews. 

This is a healthy approach to identify other opportunities and your next role so that you are able to make your career transition in a thoughtful way!


Timing is everything.  If you are intentional, do your homework, and find win-win situations that benefit you and others the results will be strong.  A business is better suited for growth with the right people in the “right seats on the bus”.  Intonation, punch lines, and your delivery truly matter.  

Take a pause, think about your goals, imagine what organizations and others value, and position yourself for success. Remember, if your “Ask” doesn’t work the first time, it might not have been the right time. Recognize what you learn from the failure to do it differently the next go-around!


Interview Tracking Template – RR Career Tools

Not sure where to start with Informational Interviews? Organization matters!

Firstly, an Informational Interview is a tool to build and nurture your network. It is a conversation where you can learn more about a person, an organization, and a field or industry.

Second, an informational interview tracking template is used to keep track of connections you make, identify potential career options, and opportunities.

This tool will  you manage your workload to look like the professional you are. 😉

The spreadsheet has three rings or tabs: the first one is for close inner circle family and friends. The second ring is for colleagues, alumni networks, and close friends. The third ring is for new contacts, expansions of connections, referrals, and new networks.

Finally, track your network as a living document. A tracking sheet allows you to see your progress, not lose things, and be able to analyze outcomes and industry sectors. Use it in conjunction with scheduling follow-up on your calendar.  A well-designed search will help you manage new connections; applications, interviews, and importantly, job offers.

Use this FREE informational interview tracking template to design a job search that delivers success!

Job and Network Tracking Sheet 2021


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.”


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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. 


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.


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.  


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.


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.


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!