Why we need time to disconnect — and how leaders can (and should) make it happen.

A woman relaxing with a book and tea.

By Christine Laperriere

Do you regularly shut off your devices and “leave work”? Do you have specific and agreed-upon hours in which you are no longer “on-call” for answers to work questions? Are you thankful you are not working 24/7 these days like others you know? If you couldn’t answer yes to at least one of these questions, you might need the right to disconnect.

It appears that before the pandemic, many of us were overwhelmed with the demands of work. I was so frustrated with this problem, I chose to write, in my spare time, a book entitled Too Busy to Be Happy. Thousands of people worldwide bought it, and many admitted that it was the book’s title that caught their attention. It was like I had identified a feeling that so many people had but couldn’t articulate. Ironically, some who have bought my book are — wait for it — too busy to read it.

Then came the pandemic — which forced hundreds of thousands of knowledge workers (a clever new name for office workers) into their homes, stuck behind their computers for hours on end. This had another massive impact on the way people worked.

When knowledge workers shifted to work-from-home, you could encapsulate the new phenomenon that developed in one catchphrase: “If I’m awake, I’m working.” Many employees were not accustomed to working from home and wanted to let their bosses know they were indeed working, so they fought to respond to email and text messages as quickly as possible (i.e. what I like to call digital facetime). With that, serious challenges started to arise:

  1. People did not get more productive. Although people felt they were “always on,” they didn’t have dedicated time to focus and accomplish more significant tasks because meetings filled their days. Any significant blocks of time were fractured. High-value tasks were constantly being stopped and started again, as people often urgently responded to non-urgent texts and emails.
  2. People extended their workday. I noticed that many people I work with started to do “high-focus work” in the evening or late at night because this became the critical time they were not meeting or responding to daily information, and they can finally focus without interruption.
  3. People felt more pressure to work around the clock. As more people started tackling mission-critical work in the evenings, those who were not online started to feel like maybe they should be. As some played late-night catch-up, other well-intended employees felt like maybe this was the expectation. I don’t blame those who posted late-hour work—they wanted people to know how hard they were working!
  4. People stopped fully disconnecting. Ironically, many well-intended team members would see things coming in after hours and they’d opt to send a quick answer or acknowledgement. Who wants to look like one of the “slackers” who are busy eating dinner with their families or hitting their home gym for the 410th time?
  5. People burnt out. This never-ending cycle of work mixed with a global pandemic was the recipe for depression and a deep level of anxiety.

When I challenge my coaching clients to designate specific times to disconnect, they often say that they find that challenging because of the lack of alignment with those committed to digital facetime — sending messages and emails at all hours of the day. Given that most people can’t complete their full workload these days and constantly run behind schedule, they at least want to give their organization the impression that they are doing their best.

Here are a few solutions I’ve been challenging companies to implement:

  • Designate company-wide blackout hours, where no one is expected or required to be online or working (i.e. 8 pm – 8 am).
  • Allow employees to clarify their blackout hours themselves (i.e. an employee who works from 7 a.m. – 4 p.m. could dedicate 4 p.m. – 8 p.m. as their “disconnect” hours.)
  • Designate meeting-free blocks of time during the work week dedicated to getting big assignments done. For example, Tuesday is meeting free or no meetings from 3 p.m. – 5 p.m.

Why is it important to make this a cultural concept versus letting everyone manage this independently?

  • We need to remember the power of culture — people subconsciously mirror one another. Therefore, when we work in an environment where people work around the clock, even if we implement healthy boundaries—by nature—we feel either guilty or disconnected from the team in our efforts to uphold those boundaries.
  • Unspoken permission is a thing. I have noticed that culture can be powerful in setting up what feels like unspoken permission to do or say specific things. Setting the precedent that encourages people to disconnect each day—even if they choose to take a different path—will eliminate the unnecessary guilt and resentment when they choose to take a much needed break.
  • Life is short. In the last twenty months, many of us have lost or lost time with loved ones. People have been acutely aware that our time on earth is finite. And with that, many have come to enjoy regular family dinners, skipping rush hour, growing a herb garden, and seeing that even weekdays deserve moments of enjoyment.

Whether or not you’re in Ontario — a province that has just passed the “right to disconnect”  I encourage you to take the lead. Spot those hours when you will disconnect from work and be present with your friends, family, or yourself. Block out times in your day to focus on what matters at work and unhook from the need to respond to pointless emails and text messages. Last but not least, give yourself permission to enjoy any newfound peace and freedom these practices create.

Christine Laperreriere

Christine Laperreriere

Christine Laperriere is president of Leader in Motion and focuses exclusively on developing great leaders. She hosts the Best Boss Ever podcast on Apple Music and Spotify where she interviews top professionals on who their best boss ever is and why. She offers advice through her blog "The Whipp" (Wisdom, Humour and Inspiration for Professional Peeps) and she is the author of Too Busy to Be Happy — a guide to using Emotional Real Estate to improve both your work and your life. A seasoned expert in helping women professionals advance their careers, she’s had the honour of guiding hundreds of women in various companies and roles to reach their full potential.

Good Question: How do I deal with a professional identity crisis?

Woman Thinking

Q:

“My whole life feels like it’s been upended this past year, but my career in particular has me feeling lost. I can’t imagine a bright future, or plan my next career move, or even wrap my head around how my work has changed right now. I’m questioning my career choices and my professional identity — but questions are all I’ve got. Where do I even start to get some answers?”

 

OUR EXPERT: 

Christine Laperriere
Executive Director, Women of Influence Advancement Centre

Christine Laperriere is the executive director of the Women of Influence Advancement Centre, president of Leader In Motion, a leadership development organization, and the author of Too Busy to Be Happy — a guide to using Emotional Real Estate to improve both your work and your life. A seasoned expert in helping women professionals advance their careers, she’s had the honour of guiding hundreds of women in various companies and roles to reach their full potential. Her background includes an undergraduate and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering, certifications in psychotherapy, Neuro-Linguistic Programming and executive coaching, along with years in design engineering and management consulting.

 

A:

Many of us are still stuck in lockdown limbo, and there’s no denying that this global pandemic has changed the professional world forever.

With home offices replacing cubicles and some job-related perks that may never return (RIP business travel), I’ve found that COVID-19 has forced many of my clients into a career identity crisis.

Part of it is certainly the unknown: What’s the world (and my day job) going to look like tomorrow? Next week? Next month? Next year? Some industries are worried that they won’t get back to pre-pandemic levels of business for years, if ever. And part of it is having an abundance of downtime (if you don’t have kids, of course) to reflect on your professional journey so far. Are you happy? Does your job make you feel professionally fulfilled? There’s nothing like saying, “You’re on mute,” five to 25 times a day to make you reassess all of your life choices.

So, if you’re feeling like you don’t know where to go from here, the most reassuring thing I can tell you is that you’re not alone. This is a common reaction to a crisis, and with some deep, inward reflection, you can find your next step — or should I say lily pad? (More on that below.)

The Lily Pad Effect: Stop trying to figure out what you want to be when you grow up.

Though it’s certainly one of the most popular questions, I truly believe asking ourselves what we want to be when we grow up is also one of the most tragic. It assumes that there’s only one destination. While that may have been true in decades past, the modern working world looks a lot different.

The vast majority of my clients have a much different, non-linear story.

It isn’t based on one single decision (like “I’m going to go to dentistry school and become a dentist”), but a series of decisions over time. Let’s call it a migration.

So, if you take that idea and relate it to the Lily Pad Effect, each lily pad is a decision, a step, a chance to grow. Each lily pad takes you further along on your journey, just as it would act as a point of support for a frog crossing a pond.

This is one of my favourite concepts that unfortunately, didn’t make it into my book, Too Busy to be Happy. (But there’s a lot of other important info in there, so I encourage you to take a read! You can download a sample here.) The Lily Pad Effect is a great way to look at your professional life, along with each choice you make in your career.

There’s nothing like saying, “You’re on mute,” five to 25 times a day to make you reassess all of your life choices.

The key to the Lily Pad Effect is to not be so focused on the final destination. Figure out your next jump — or your next lily pad. You may go there, hang out for a little while, and for a period of time, it feels great because the sun’s out and the lily pad is warm. But then the sun starts to set, and that lily pad falls into the shade. It gets cold, and so you move on.

And this is what I use to coach clients who are grappling with a career identity crisis. Look for your next lily pad. It doesn’t have to be forever (and it probably won’t be) but take a look at the lily pads (or opportunities) around you and make the best decision based on what you can see and the information you have. Each lily pad will bring you closer to a new set of lily pads, and the pattern will continue over the course of your career.

If I look at one of my clients who’s in marketing, a job in legal and compliance probably doesn’t seem like one of the available lily pads — it would likely take quite a lot of jumping to get there.

But if I assess the lily pads around that client, I’d find that moving into sales or customer service might be within jumping distance. Or maybe a different role at the same company, or the same role at a different company. Those jumps would be feasible based on that client’s experience and career trajectory, and they would likely feel more comfortable making the leap.

Look at your career dynamically.

Like being a parent or a partner, being a professional is an ever-evolving journey. The role looks different in your 20s than it does in your 40s, and it’s time that we all approach our careers with the same mindset. It’s easy to get overwhelmed trying to predict what the final destination should (or could) be, but if you think of your career milestones as stops on the journey, the moves become a lot more manageable.

Instead of trying to figure out what you “want to be when you grow up,” try figuring out what you want to do next. What would feel good for the next two or three years of your life? What interests you right now? Once you have an idea, you can start planning what you can do to get there.

Do your research.

Any move you make, whether it be within your company or to a totally new pond — er, field — should be considered research or information-gathering. This is a critical component in finding your passion and professional fulfilment. Every role you take on teaches you about your strengths and weaknesses, your likes and dislikes, and the type of company you might want to work for — if you want to work for a company at all. Maybe being an entrepreneur is more up your alley?

Whichever way you turn, there’s an opportunity for discovery.

Wherever you are in your career, remember the Lily Pad Effect. Consider each lily pad a small step along your journey, and use each stop to learn more about what drives you. Eventually, you might find a lily pad that you really enjoy and you’ll spend your workdays basking in the sun.

 

 

One bad habit you can stop today to greatly reduce stress

Christine Laperriere is the Executive Director of the Women of Influence Advancement Centre and author of the bestseller, Too Busy To Be Happy. She’s also experienced burnout first hand — and credits her personal journey for teaching her the importance of growing self-aware of what impacts stress levels, and the importance of finding some useful practices (beyond meditation) that can really help cut down pressure and reconnect to the present moment.

 

By Christine Laperriere

 


 

Many years ago, I suffered a debilitating burnout.

I also finally took a stand for my mental health — and went on an extended leave of absence from my 70-hour-a-week management role in consulting. Feeling inspired by Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love, I decided the best place for me to recover from burnout would be in Italy.

And to my delight, Italy truly was the perfect place to help me stop the “too busy” cycle. I loved observing Italian culture. I noticed how many people were productive, but for some reason, not rushed. They didn’t spend their days racing from task to task, and it was rare to see a person who looked visibility stressed. It seemed as if people just didn’t take life (or themselves) too seriously.

One night, early in my trip, two locals asked me and my friend if we wanted to meet them for dinner at their family restaurant. Their English was pretty good and their accents were lovely. We agreed to join them (how could we not?).

 

“I’d been using the word “stress” as a blanket statement to describe everything that was happening in my life, and everything that I had been feeling.”

 

It was perfect summer evening in downtown Rome. We were sitting on the patio of a beautiful little restaurant, watching people walk by on the cobblestone streets, wine flowing, with amazing food and entertaining discussion. As the night went on and the stars came out, one of the men asked me what brought me to Italy.

I told him, “I’ve been so stressed out. I have a very stressful job working extremely crazy hours. It turned into this health issue where I couldn’t breathe, and after numerous tests, my doctor says this health issue is due to stress.”

I could tell by the way he was looking at me that he was confused by my story. He leaned over to his buddy, and they chatted in Italian for a moment, and then he looked back at me. Finally, he said, “I’m sorry. I don’t understand this word… stress.”

His struggle to comprehend sparked an ah-ha moment for me: I’d been using the word “stress” as a blanket statement to describe everything that was happening in my life, and everything that I had been feeling. In a way, using the word like this prevented me from taking a closer look at my feelings, and taking ownership for what was going on.

I started to wonder: What if I took the word stress out of my vocabulary? What if I were no longer able to use stress as a verb or an adjective or a noun? I made a conscious decision that night to stop using the word stress to describe myself and my situation — from then on, I would articulate how I was feeling more specifically. Instead of “I’m stressed,” I would say “I’m struggling to make a decision” or “I’m afraid I’ll fail” or “I’m scared I’ll disappoint people.”

It sounds simple, but it can be a challenge to alter what has become a natural crutch in our language. Here are three steps to help you eliminate ‘stress’ from your own vocabulary:

1. Spot the phrase

Notice if there is a phrase you repeat often. It might be the phrase you use when a friend tries to make plans, or the phrase you use to explain why you missed another critical deadline. Look for phrases such as:

  • I’m so stressed
  • I’m too busy
  • I have no time
  • Work is so crazy these days
  • I can barely breathe, so much is going on
  • I’m too tired
  • I’m overwhelmed at work
  • I’m exhausted
  • There’s so much going on right now

2. Cut the habit

Make a pact to cut this word out of your vocabulary for the next month. Find an accountability buddy at home or work who might often hear this phrase from you. (For example, ask your spouse to call you out if you start each dinner conversation with “Work is so crazy!”).

3. Grow awareness

As you change your vocabulary, take note of how the practice forces you to rephrase how you are thinking or feeling. Notice how you have to be more mindful and really connect to what is causing the feeling you don’t like.

 

As I would later learn, there’s no real word for stress in the Italian language — they use the English word, stress, in their own discourse when they want to express it. In North America, we use stress as a convenient tag to describe so many things. We label it and move on. If you are like me, once you remove these phrases from your language, you’ll start to notice you are more focused on the real issues you need to solve — and feeling a little less stressed about it along the way.

 

 

Good Question: What is the most effective approach to resolving conflict between two employees on a team

Q:

“In my department, I have a manager and her direct report who are really at odds with each other on a project. People have dropped by my office to tell me that their frustration with each other is really causing challenges during larger project review meetings. What is the best way to approach and resolve this issue?


 

OUR EXPERT: 

Christine Laperriere
Executive Director, Women of Influence Advancement Centre

Christine Laperriere is the executive director of the Women of Influence Advancement Centre, president of Leader In Motion, a leadership development organization, and the author of Too Busy to Be Happy — a guide to using Emotional Real Estate to improve both your work and your life. A seasoned expert in helping women professionals advance their careers, she’s had the honour of guiding hundreds of women in various companies and roles to reach their full potential. Her background includes an undergraduate and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering, certifications in psychotherapy, Neuro-Linguistic Programming and executive coaching, along with years in design engineering and management consulting.

 

A:

There are many ways that leaders address this issue—unfortunately, they often don’t lead to the best result. Here are a few common approaches that leaders take, and their pitfalls:

Speak to the manager and delegate getting the issue resolved. The challenge with this approach is that it does not address what leadership issues the manager may have. Sometimes, the manager may lack the skills to effectively engage the employee. Delegating the issue to a manager without the ability to properly address the issue can lead to high turnover and the loss of some great talent before the gap in the manager’s skills surfaces as the cause.

Decide that the manager needs training. Many times, when a conflict arises, leaders quickly resort to communications or leadership training. Training creates many great benefits, but it often uses generalizations, which may not help that manager become more effective at resolving a very specific type of employee issue.

Speak with numerous team members to gather information about the current issues, and then create a plan to resolve them. This approach can require hours of a leader’s time, taking them away from numerous other important and more strategic activities. It also creates a culture in which a disagreement gets put under a microscopic lens and can be overanalyzed if not careful.

Defer the issue to human resources. Bringing in your counterparts in human resources can definitely help to resolve employee issues. The caveat: if leaders regularly delegate issue resolution to another department without feeling fully engaged or accountable to improve the situation, the efforts made may only result in a short-term improvement.

What’s an effective approach that generates a positive outcome?

Teaching leaders to facilitate a single yet powerful conversation between two individuals in conflict. It is a priceless skill, and when leaders are involved in the conversation they grow further insight into the people, management, and business issues that exist within their team. In addition, this approach saves hours of time in individual conversations and encourages a culture in which people address and resolve challenges head-on.

 

Follow these four simple steps to lead a conversation that resolves conflict between two individuals:

 

STEP 1: State the reason for the conversation.

It’s important to highlight that the end goal of the meeting is to create a more harmonious working relationship between the two individuals. Many times, individuals feel the purpose of the meeting is to find out who is at fault for the conflict. Finding fault is far less productive and brings out the more defensive feelings in each individual.

 

STEP 2: Ask each individual to take ten minutes and explain their thoughts around the conflict.

It’s very important that there are no interruptions, and that the other party listens with curiosity and not reaction. This step is critical!

 

STEP 3: Ask each party how they feel they could work together more harmoniously in the future.

Instead of having them focus on past conversations that were tense and unproductive, encourage both parties to talk through how future situations could be more effective. Encourage discussion around how things could be different than they are today as opposed to focusing on finding faults.

 

STEP 4: Create agreements.

Ask each party to agree to a future behaviour change. Many times, once two people have talked through a conflict, they assume that the other person will change in the future. This simply sets the stage for more conflict. If each party can highlight and take ownership of what they can contribute to improving the situation, many times both individuals will feel more collaborative in their future work together.

 

As leaders, how we resolve conflict between individuals is one of the most important things we do to influence the culture of our teams.

 

 

To learn more about how you or your organization can advance talented women professionals and leaders more effectively, contact Christine directly at claperriere@womenofinlfuence.ca.

 

How your Emotional Real Estate impacts your stress — and how to manage it

Christine Laperriere is the Executive Director of the Women of Influence Advancement Centre and author of the bestselling Too Busy To Be Happy: Using Emotional Real Estate to Grow Your Work-Life Wisdom. She’s also experienced burnout first hand — and learned from her own mistakes (and plenty of research and education) to develop an antidote to a cluttered mind and high-stress mentality. Here’s how Emotional Real Estate works, and how you can learn to manage it.

 

By Christine Laperriere

 


 

At the start of my career, if you had told me that learning to slow down and manage my ambitious energy would be one of the most important skills needed to advance my career — I would have told you that you were out to lunch.

I believed that the harder I worked, the longer the hours, and the higher the expectations I set for myself, the more that would lead to my personal success, and ultimately create a happy life. But after suffering through a very serious bout of burnout — that I was too embarrassed to share with anyone, as it felt like the ultimate sign of weakness — my mind, body and heart finally said enough is enough, forcing me to take a break from my career and do some serious soul searching.

That burnout inspired me to chase years of education to help me really understand human behavior, and one day it finally all became clear to me: your mental, emotional, and physical energy are all finite, and they are inclusive of each other and connected to how you feel in each moment. Hence the term I’ve created, Emotional Real Estate — the total amount of available energy you have in those three areas.

In the past, I had always believed that I had unlimited amounts of mental, physical, and emotional energy, so I created the perfect environment for burnout to occur. The moment I finally grasped the concept that I had a fixed amount of emotional real estate, everything changed. I began to rethink the way I allocate energy just as closely as I budget my time and money. When I think about devoting energy to something, I ask myself if it’s a good investment of that limited emotional real estate.

 

UNDERSTANDING HOW EMOTIONAL REAL ESTATE WORKS

Emotional real estate goes like this: picture your front yard. Your literal front yard, right outside the front door of your house. You can probably see a certain amount of space to plant trees and grass, to build a deck or a pathway, to have a sitting area or a garden. No matter how much you’d like to do in that yard, you’ve only got a finite amount of property available. You can use it any way you want to, as long as it fits in the space that belongs to you. That’s your available real estate. It doesn’t grow or shrink every day, but there’s a lot that you can do to optimize it to make it something you enjoy. You have choices about what you can do with that space and how you can respond to things outside of your control, like the weather and nature.

If emotional real estate is the front yard, just beyond it is what’s happening in the present moment. Whatever is filling up our emotional real estate stands between us and being present.

If you had nothing on your emotional real estate at all, you’d simply be fully present each moment of each day without any thought of the past or future moments.

Maybe you’ve had this experience for a few seconds when you tried out a new yoga class or when you were enjoying nature on a beautiful day. But we are looking at it from a broader perspective — not just moment by moment, but day by day, and week by week.

And if we’re going to start cleaning up our front yard, we have to start paying attention to whether we’ve littered our lawn with trash on purpose — because sometimes keeping lots of thoughts and worries and drama on our lawn is a bit addictive.

 

MANAGING YOUR EMOTIONAL REAL ESTATE

Managing our Emotional Real Estate can help to declutter our minds, reduce our stress, and lead a happy and successful life — and the first step is growing awareness. Here’s how it’s done:

  • Manage Your Real Estate Daily

The moment you start to ask yourself what you are using up emotional real estate on, you can more effectively become conscious of making decisions and building practices to help you manage and ultimately reduce your daily stress levels. It’s a practice, not a destination — but regularly checking in each day can help you catch your breath when life feels overwhelming. I suggest a building a seven-minute routine for yourself (you can also check out the one highlighted in my book, Too Busy To Be Happy).

  • Time Stamp Your Thoughts

Sometimes it’s important to capture the piles of thoughts using up emotional real estate and time stamp them. Every thought that you are encountering in any moment is either related to a past situation, the present moment, or a future moment in time. To grow present moment awareness — which will lead to reduced stress — we need to grow awareness of those present moment thoughts, and allow them to expand.

  • Know Where You Can Influence

One of the quickest ways to help declutter a busy mind is to acknowledge which thoughts can inspire useful action and which thoughts don’t. Sometimes, a thought that is using up a lot of emotional real estate needs to be marked for “removal” in order to increase enjoyment in the present moment.

 

Christine Laperriere is the Executive Director of the Women of Influence Advancement Centre, president of Leader In Motion, a leadership development organization, and the author of Too Busy to Be Happy — a guide to using Emotional Real Estate to improve both your work and your life. A seasoned expert in helping women professionals advance their careers, she’s had the honour of guiding hundreds of women in various companies and roles to reach their full potential. Her background includes an undergraduate and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering, certifications in psychotherapy, Neuro-Linguistic Programming and executive coaching, along with years in design engineering and management consulting. 

 

 

Good Question: How can I create a strong relationship with a potential sponsor?

Christine Laperriere

Christine Laperriere is a seasoned expert on helping leaders and teams reduce internal conflict, improve employee engagement, and more effectively engage with customers and prospects. Working with the Women of Influence Advancement Centre and through her own consultancy, Leader in Motion, she has spent the past ten years teaching hundreds of leaders how to be more effective through her “Leadership through Conflict & Change” course, and helped many with specific challenges through private executive coaching. Her background includes an undergraduate and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering, certifications in psychotherapy and executive coaching, along with years in management consulting focused on implementation, change management and culture change initiatives.

 


 

Q: I have been invited into a “coffee talk” with my boss’ boss. I know it’s a great opportunity for future sponsorship, but I’m not sure how to take advantage of it. This isn’t part of any sort of formal program, just a casual invite without a specific agenda. How can I create a positive impact in this conversation and start a strong relationship with a potential sponsor?

 

Even though it’s just a chat over coffee, this is definitely a meeting you should be preparing for. Many highly talented professionals get invited into these casual skip-level meetings, but they often don’t think through a strategy to leverage this opportunity to build a stronger relationship — and potentially create a sponsor. Follow these tips to get yourself prepared and make a positive impression.

 

1. Be intentional.

Set a clear intention for this conversation and how you’d like this person to feel after the conversation. An example might be: “I want Jane to feel that I admire her work within the organization, and I want her to know my strengths so she considers me for new opportunities in the future.”

 

2. Show your admiration.

Everyone appreciates being valued and recognized, even top executives in your organization. If there is an aspect of this executive’s work that you admire, it never hurts to share this as you get to know them better. Show them that you don’t just respect them for their title but more for the great work and leadership they bring to the organization.

 

3. Question their views.

Take the opportunity to ask them to share their perspective about how they see various business issues, projects or opportunities. Given their role in the organization, they often have a different perspective and vantage point. By being curious about their perspective, you can learn a lot about a leader. The more you know about how they view things, the more value you can bring to your relationship with them.

 

4. Share your personal brand.

Be sure to think through a quick sound bite that highlights a few recent accomplishments you are proud of or a few unique strengths you bring to the team. Remember that your work alone can’t actually speak for itself, so you’ll need to help highlight these accomplishments and your strengths in an authentic way.

 

5. Invite them to walk in your shoes.

Once you’ve shared your personal brand, it’s a powerful question to ask your potential sponsor what opportunities they would be thinking about if they were in your shoes. There is specific magic in this question as it encourages that executive to really comprehend the strengths and highlights you’ve shared, and connect those to future opportunities they see in the organization. The best part is, if you position this as a question, it encourages them to do the thinking — making them more likely to remember your conversation moving forward.

 

6. Think “mutually beneficial.”

The best relationships in business and in life are beneficial for both parties involved. Many times, professionals assume that executives have everything they need or they only focus on what’s in the relationship that could benefit them personally. Asking this potential sponsor what you could do to help them demonstrates that you aren’t looking to build a one-sided relationship for your own benefit alone, but that you are also looking out for their interests as well. This simple step will help you build the respect and trust that will act as the foundation for a long-term strong working relationship.

 

7. Send a mindful follow up.

After your coffee, follow up with an email that specifically points out why you appreciated the conversation, including the insights and suggestions you found valuable. Watch for future opportunities to connect, and if you’re unsure when or how to approach them — each sponsor and each situation is different — this could be a good conversation to have with a mentor or trusted colleague.

 

 

What’s the difference between a mentor and a sponsor?

It is often said that a mentor talks with you, and a sponsor talks about you. What does that mean? While a mentoring relationship focuses on discussion, advice, and guidance, a sponsor actively connects you to career opportunities. You may not even know that an individual is your sponsor — but that doesn’t stop them from suggesting your name when a stretch assignment or promotion comes up. That’s why it’s so important to take advantage of “casual coffees” that enable you to cultivate these valuable relationships. It can have a major impact on how quickly you are able to move up in your career.

 

 

To learn more about how you or your organization can advance talented female professionals and leaders more effectively, contact Christine directly at claperriere@womenofinlfuence.ca.

 

Good Question: Is it worth it to pursue a lateral career move?

 

 

Q: I’ve been offered a new role that I think is more of a lateral move than a promotion, and my current position is a good one. Since it’s not a big step up, I’m having trouble evaluating whether or not to pursue the opportunity. It’s within the organization I work for now, so that’s not a factor. Any tips on how to decide if I should change positions, or stay in my existing role?

 

Christine Laperriere, Executive Director of the Women of Influence Advancement Centre, gives her advice:

 

Many accomplished professionals have dealt with this same conundrum at some point during their career, whether it’s an offer of a new role within their current organization, or an outside opportunity to shift gears. And although there are numerous things to consider, it’s useful to consider four common areas that make up a great position:

 

1. Your boss.

As we all know, people often quit their boss, not their job. Having a great boss is the central theme over and over again in why people stay in a role versus leave a role. As you are evaluating whether or not to stay or go, ask yourself how much you enjoy working for your existing boss and think about who your future boss might be if you change roles. And to go a step further, many people today are choosing to start small businesses and forgo a boss all together. This can be a great option if you prefer this style of work — but for some professionals, having your end customers as your “team of bosses” can pose a different set of challenges.

 

2. Your skills.

Another area to consider in a role is what type of skill this role requires to be excellent at the position. As human beings, we love to do work we feel we are competent in and that we have room to excel in. As you evaluate this position, does it leverage your best skills? Is there room for you to grow new skills that will be valuable in the future? If you don’t know, this is a great time to create a list of some of the skills you bring to the table.

 

3. Your Instincts.

Thinking about your natural working instincts can really lead to a few ah-ha moments about why you love or don’t love a specific role. Many years feeling very frustrated in my role as an engineer, I took a Kolbe assessment that helped me see that my personality type was improvising and creative while engineers were typically very data driven. Finally, I understood why even when working for a great boss, I often found I didn’t enjoy my engineering work enough to stay in that role for the long run.

 

4. Your Engagement.

Sometimes people can have the “perfect job,” but for some reason it doesn’t feel rewarding. Work you love comes from being interested in what’s going to happen in that role, with that company, and/or within that industry and customer base. A great job strokes our curiosity in a way in which we feel engaged in what we are doing for long stretches of time — like turning pages in a suspenseful novel, we want to know what happens next. Sometimes, when we’ve been in a job too long, we just lose that “spark.” If this sounds like you, give yourself permission to explore new opportunities; that’s a sign that you might be ready to learn something new.

 

 

So, if you are considering a change in position, I heavily encourage you to compare your existing position in each of these areas to what you know about the prospective position.  That can act as a great starting point to thinking through your decision. Furthermore, consider using this list of categories to help you research new roles and create questions to ask as you are investigating new positions. If you find a role that ranks high in each area for you, it might be worth taking a risk and trying something new.

 

 

To learn more about how you or your company can engage the Women of Influence Advancement Centre, you can reach out to Christine directly at advance@womenofinfluence.com.

Christine Laperriere is a seasoned expert on helping leaders and teams reduce internal conflict, improve employee engagement, and more effectively engage with customers and prospects. Working with the Women of Influence Advancement Centre and through her own consultancy, Leader in Motion, she has spent the past ten years teaching hundreds of leaders how to be more effective through her “Leadership through Conflict & Change” course, and helped many with specific challenges through private executive coaching. Her background includes an undergraduate and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering, certifications in psychotherapy and executive coaching, along with years in management consulting focused on implementation, change management and culture change initiatives.

 

Was That Coaching or Criticism?

 

We all rely on healthy constructive criticism in order to learn and grow as professionals. But what happens when coaching becomes straight up criticism? Christine Laperriere of the Women of Influence Advancement Centre is here to remind us all how heavy-handed coaching can backfire ― and how we can prevent our confidence from crumbling under the pressure.

 

by Christine Laperriere

 


 

As Lead Coach with the Women of Influence Advancement Centre, I often am tasked with coaching some of the brightest women in an organization. Recently, one of my clients called and asked if I could support her on a complex issue.

On our call she explained that her manager had decided in his effort to help her advance, he was going to give her “extra coaching.” To many of us, we’d be thrilled to have additional coaching to support our efforts to grow. But this manager had started to repeatedly point out this woman’s flaws in her leadership style ― she accused him of coaching “too much.”

One day he commented she came off as aggressive, the next day he noted that she interrupted someone. After a few months of working for him, she had completely lost her confidence. She said every meeting she went into she was thinking, “don’t be too aggressive” or “don’t be too dominating” or “be sure not to interrupt.” The storyline in her head was so busy telling her what she should not do, she had no focus on what she should be doing in the moment. Ultimately, as a result of coaching, she felt her performance declining and she was worried her career had taken a turn for the worse.

 

“As a result of coaching, she felt her performance declining and she was worried her career had taken a turn for the worse.”

 

This client’s story reminded me of one important component of fantastic coaching: the observation of “current state” behaviours with heavy emphasis and direction around what “future state” looks like. As I listened to a number of observations her manager had given her, I started to ask her what behaviours she should focus on doing more of.  Pretty soon she concluded that she wanted to be a better listener who focused on hearing another person’s full thought. She also noticed that she wanted to stay calm in discussions with other parts of the organization so she could better work with them. By the end of the conversation, she realized that if she could simply bring her attention to staying calm, curious, and listening more, she could perform so much better than focusing on what she might do wrong.

She called a few weeks later to say that she had found a few simple mantras that she’d often play in her head during tough meetings; “stay calm, curious, and listen” was her favourite. She said that making this simple shift in thinking not only helped her create a noticeable shift in her presence in meetings, it was actually making work much more fun and less stressful for her. I know that more fun ultimately means more success, so I simply encouraged her to stay on this path in the future.

 

 

Christine Laperriere is a seasoned expert on helping leaders and teams reduce internal conflict, improve employee engagement, and more effectively engage with customers and prospects. Working with the Women of Influence Advancement Centre and through her own consultancy, Leader in Motion, she has spent the past ten years teaching hundreds of leaders how to be more effective through her “Leadership through Conflict & Change” course, and helped many with specific challenges through private executive coaching. Her background includes an undergraduate and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering, certifications in psychotherapy and executive coaching, along with years in management consulting focused on implementation, change management and culture change initiatives.

Your responsibility in navigating a bad boss

The quality of your relationship to your superiors is critical to your professional success ― yet, it’s not always easy to overlook your boss’s shortcomings. Christine Laperriere, executive director of our Advancement Centre is here to help.

 

by Christine Laperriere


 

In my work as Executive Director of the Women of Influence Advancement Centre, I get invited into conversations with top performers who are navigating serious challenges in the workplace, and the topic of working for a “bad boss” comes up often.

I find it interesting how many of us, when working with people we start to experience conflict with, anchor feelings of frustration, resentment, or hopelessness to each interaction we have with that person. After a while, just the sight of that person in a meeting will draw out a feeling of frustration, and that person hasn’t even begun to speak yet!

As I was working with one women, she admitted that each time she walked into the same room as a particular senior leader, she immediately started to think about how frustrating it was to work with him and how she just knew he was going to shoot down her ideas. At one point, I invited her to think about what part of this dynamic she was responsible for. She didn’t see herself as responsible for any part of it.

As our conversation unfolded, I asked her what it would be like to lead a team if they walked into a room already thinking about their resentment for her and anticipating what she would do next to frustrate them. She explained that it would be hard, because they would assume whatever action she took was creating what they already believed about her. She pointed out how important it is that her team show up prepared to be open-minded, leaving past judgments and baggage behind.  

 

“She pointed out how important it is that her team show up prepared to be open-minded, leaving past judgments and baggage behind.”

 

Within a few seconds, she went quiet and I could tell she realized the irony in what she’d just shared.

We’ve all worked with challenging people, and sadly there is no “magic bullet” that transforms these tough working dynamics overnight ― but I know that your individual mindset predetermines the potential outcome in any dynamic. If you start the discussion in your lowest state of mind, don’t be surprised that the outcomes of the discussions look unsuccessful and similar, time and time again.

Your job when navigating a bad boss is to reach for your internal resources to stay creative, curious, and collaborating ― bringing your best tools and thinking forward in every working environment.

 

Christine Laperriere is a seasoned expert on helping leaders and teams reduce internal conflict, improve employee engagement, and more effectively engage with customers and prospects. Working with the Women of Influence Advancement Centre and through her own consultancy, Leader in Motion, she has spent the past ten years teaching hundreds of leaders how to be more effective through her “Leadership through Conflict & Change” course, and helped many with specific challenges through private executive coaching. Her background includes an undergraduate and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering, certifications in psychotherapy and executive coaching, along with years in management consulting focused on implementation, change management and culture change initiatives.

Questions to build the relationships you need for an amazing year

Are you looking to add some goals to your plate? Christine Laperriere, executive director of our Advancement Centre, suggests you start with a baggage removal plan: clean house of your toxic relationships, and you’ll have more energy to focus on success.

 

by Christine Laperriere


 

As many of us look to add goals to our plate, we often forget one critical element: what are we going to remove from our lives to create space for something new?

 

It’s time to design a baggage removal plan. Let’s clean house in a common area that so many of us feel challenged by: relationships. Knowing where our support network lies and what relationships are toxic can help us build an action plan to free up emotional energy to use elsewhere.

 

In order to do this relationship assessment, you need to ask yourself some tough questions:

 

1. Which relationships drain me?

 

2. And of those relationships, which can I choose to change and which can I choose to eliminate?

 

3. If I choose to change the relationship, what steps do I need to take?  What difficult conversations do I need to have the courage to start?

 

4. Which relationships energize me?

 

5. Who are my “board of advisers” or ultimate support network? Who can I rely on in my life for a bit of support even if it’s just a laugh and a smile on a rough day?

 

6. Who do I provide support to? Do I feel good when supporting them or do I feel taken advantage of? How can I shift this dynamic?

 

Often, we are so busy with the day-to-day challenges of our work and personal life, we don’t notice how many relationships drain us, or take full advantage of the wonderful people who support us. But by spending some time to reflect on each critical area of our life, we can find simple ways to improve ourselves and our relationships — with just a little bit of courage and effort.

 

Christine Laperriere is a seasoned expert on helping leaders and teams reduce internal conflict, improve employee engagement, and more effectively engage with customers and prospects. Working with the Women of Influence Advancement Centre and through her own consultancy, Leader in Motion, she has spent the past ten years teaching hundreds of leaders how to be more effective through her “Leadership through Conflict & Change” course, and helped many with specific challenges through private executive coaching. Her background includes an undergraduate and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering, certifications in psychotherapy and executive coaching, along with years in management consulting focused on implementation, change management and culture change initiatives.

The Missing Step in Tackling Lofty Goals

If you’re having trouble sticking to your plans for positive change, you might need to rethink your approach. Christine Laperriere, executive director of the Women of Influence Advancement Centre, explains how small steps can lead to big wins.

 

by Christine Laperriere


 

Quick check: how is everyone doing with their New Year’s Resolutions? If you hear your inner skeptic starting to moan or admitting defeat, I know how you feel.

 

As a former “goal-aholic,” I regularly set lofty goals at the beginning of each year. Within a few months of trying to juggle my new targets with my existing commitments, I would usually cave under pressure and postpone those big changes for another day. How can we finally stop this painful tradition, while still accomplishing changes that will improve our personal and professional lives?

 

I started my career as an engineer and have been trained in many methodologies around continuous improvement. One set of principles goes by the name Kaizen — the Japanese word for improvement. When used in the business sense and applied to the workplace, Kaizen refers to activities that continuously improve all functions and involve all employees, from the CEO to the assembly line workers. Toyota is famous for the successful use and application of Kaizen.

 

Kaizen principles are unique in that they focus on systematically making very minute goals to ultimately create big and lasting change. With this approach we would begin by holding ourselves accountable to a single goal that is so small, it would seem it requires very little effort to attain. As you become accustomed to that small shift in behaviour, you layer on another tiny goal to shift behaviour yet again.

 

“Kaizen principles are unique in that they focus on systematically making very minute goals to ultimately create big and lasting change.”

 

For example: if your goal is to become incredibly fit and it has been months since you’ve been to the gym, your ultimate goal may be to go to the gym four times a week. Using Kaizen, we would start with a much smaller goal. Perhaps something even as small as putting on your walking shoes each day. These tiny goals may seem almost too easy to attain.

 

Practicing this minute task over and over each week would create subconscious patterns and habits while helping you feel you reached your goal easily. After holding that change constant continuously, we would look to gently raise the bar again. “I’d like to exercise 2 times a week.” What the Kaizen approach factors in is how much more motivated humans are by feeling confident something is easy, how slow humans really are to making change, and how wonderful we are at repeating behaviours that are already ingrained in our subconscious mind as habits.

 

Christine Laperriere is a seasoned expert on helping leaders and teams reduce internal conflict, improve employee engagement, and more effectively engage with customers and prospects. Working with the Women of Influence Advancement Centre and through her own consultancy, Leader in Motion, she has spent the past ten years teaching hundreds of leaders how to be more effective through her “Leadership through Conflict & Change” course, and helped many with specific challenges through private executive coaching. Her background includes an undergraduate and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering, certifications in psychotherapy and executive coaching, along with years in management consulting focused on implementation, change management and culture change initiatives.

Good Question: After taking time off to raise my family, I’m looking for my next position. Where do I begin?

Christine Laperriere

Christine Laperriere is the Executive Director of the Women of Influence Advancement Centre. She is also an executive coach and seasoned expert focused on helping female leaders and teams reduce internal conflict, improve employee engagement, and more effectively engage with customers and prospects. Over the past eight years, she has taught hundreds of leaders through her Mastering Me and Leadership Through Conflict and Change courses. Her background includes undergraduate and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering, certifications in psychotherapy and executive coaching, along with years in management consulting with a focus on implementation of large change management and restructuring initiatives.

Here, she answers a common question so many mothers grapple with as they shift their focus from being a primary caregiver to their children back to cultivating an exciting and fulfilling career. 


 

Q: After taking time away from my career to raise my family, I’m now looking for my next position—and a new challenge. I feel so intimidated and overwhelmed as I look to re-enter the workplace. What I used to want out of my career has changed dramatically, given that I’m at a different stage of life. Where do I begin?

 

This is a great question that many female professionals decide to get coaching on. Many women take a break from their career to raise their family, and when they decide it’s time to come back to work, everything has changed. Here are the steps I recommend to get yourself started on your new career journey:  

 

1. Get Clear on Your Ideal Job Criteria

During a recent coaching call, I was working with a client who was interviewing for a position that would require an hour commute to and from the office. She is the mother of two small children and if she got this position, it would require her to add after-school supervision and nanny services to her budget just to ensure she had proper care for her children during her extended workday.

I noticed through the conversation that the idea of her getting this position was causing her a lot of stress. We needed to step back and get clear on her “Ideal Job Criteria.” We decided that for her to feel excited about a position while honoring her commitments at home she would need local work or a position that allowed her to work remotely. We also decided that it would be critical for her to have flexibility to stay home when her children were sick. Finally, her ideal job would allow her to work a 30 hour week as opposed to the standard 40 hour week so she could avoid having to pay for additional child care services.  Once we got very clear on her needs, she was able to proactively discuss these criteria with potential employers rather than interview for positions that were not a good fit for her given her responsibilities.

 

2. List Your Transferable Skills

This client also felt very stuck given that her former job title was very specific to a niche industry. The more she looked for positions of the same title and industry, the more hopeless she felt. In another coaching conversation, we spent time diving into her transferrable skill set. It was interesting to see that in her former position, she had extensive business development experience, success in building relationships with key accounts, and she had demonstrated very strong project management skills.  

When she realized how many employers are hunting for these skills, she could quickly see how she could confidently apply for more positions outside of her current industry and know she would be a great fit for them.

 

3. Know What You Love Doing

We spent some time talking about what she loves doing. This part is important and often overlooked. Because she was unemployed and looking for a new position, she felt at the mercy of employers. When we focused on what she loves doing, it helped us select a handful of positions for her to pursue that she was not only qualified for, but that she would also thoroughly enjoy doing.

 

4. Create Your “Best and Worst” List

Finally, I invited her to do a fun exercise. She created a list of every position she’d ever had (yes, including the babysitting job at age 12 and her days as a dairy maid). In columns, she captured the aspects of each position that she really enjoyed as well as the aspects that she really didn’t enjoy. When she reviewed these observations, she found that she had new items to add to her “What I love doing” and “Transferable Skills” lists, and she had new “Ideal Job Criteria,” based on all that she didn’t enjoy about her previous jobs.

I’m happy to report that this client has found a position that meets her criteria and truly leverages her skills. She’s very excited about this position and I am sure she’s aligned for success. Follow these four steps yourself and watch how quickly you start to see new opportunities opening up before your eyes!

 

To learn more about how you or your company can engage Christine as a coach or to help educate you within your organization, you can reach out to her directly at advance@womenofinlfuence.com.