Encouraging an entrepreneurial culture in your company

An entrepreneurial culture emphasizes accountability and ownership. It values the end game, not the process. It encourages measured risk. It certainly embraces change. These are a few of the reasons President of Jones Group Canada Carrie Kirkman encourages leaders to instill entrepreneurial culture and values in their employees.

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How To: Move Past Personal Barriers to Success

How does the Dean from the Richard Ivey School of Business, Carol Stephenson, guide us to move past our own personal barriers to set ourselves up for success? Our Executive Director and Lead Coach for our Advancement Centre, Christine Laperriere, weighs in on three insights to turn into actionable advice.

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Menopause: Hot tips and a new technology can help keep hot flashes at bay

Dr. Brown is a noted family physician and international and national speaker on health prevention, wellness, continuing medical education and women’s health. She is a member of numerous advisory bodies for both the provincial and federal government, helping make decisions regarding healthcare of Canadians. She was awarded, Family Physician of the Year, 2012 by the Ontario College of Family Physicians.

Profile: www.linkedin.com/in/drvivienbrown

Any menopausal woman will tell you that hot flashes seem to come out of nowhere, usually when they are least expected, accompanied by an embarrassing outbreak of ‘the sweats’ which can leave you drenched in sweat, flushed, and feeling uncomfortable.

Hot flashes develop when your brain reacts to changing hormone levels in your body, which happens during menopause. The change in hormone levels causes your temperature regulation mechanism to be slightly impaired. Body temperature rises too easily. Your body then wants to disperse blood flow to cool you down and sends blood to the surface, to your neck, chest and face, causing you to sweat.

While you can’t stop the changes going on in your life, there are a few things you can do to help weather those hot flashes and keep them in check. Let’s look at lifestyle options for treatment of hot flashes.

The most common one is dressing in layers. Dressing in layers, with a tank top with and a shirt on top of the tank allows you to open the shirt or take it off when you start getting hot. There are also many new fabrics that will wick away the perspiration from your skin to help you cool down faster. Check travel stores and outdoors stores for products that can take the heat.

Turn your thermostat down, open the windows or use an air conditioner to help maintain a lower body temperature, especially at night.

Drinks lots of water and stay hydrated. Drinking lots of water helps keep your body’s cooling system from over heating. If you do have a hot flash, drink cool water right away to replace what you’ve lost. Stay away from hot foods and spicy foods.

One of the most interesting ways of cooling quickly I’ve come across recently is a new technology called a Menopod. It’s a simple electronic cooling device that looks similar to a computer mouse. With one press of the power button, the device drops to 5 degrees Celsius or 41 Degrees Fahrenheit and provides instant relief for hot flashes. It can be used discretely anywhere and anytime.

The Menopod, contains a cooling technology inside the device. There are no fans or moving parts. When you turn the power on, it instantly drops to a cool temperature) so that you can discreetly place it on the back of your neck to stop the hot flash.

By applying the Menopod to the base of your neck, you are telling your brain you are not hot and the flash decreases or goes away. This is a Canadian invention, and was recently introduced at the International Menopause Society World Congress, and doctors loved it. It’s worth checking out here.

In an upcoming blog, I will discuss other prescription options for those women that are having ongoing symptoms, not responding to lifestyle options.


Heart Disease in Women: Can Be Different Than in Men

Dr. Brown is a noted family physician and international and national speaker on health prevention, wellness, continuing medical education and women’s health. She is a member of numerous advisory bodies for both the provincial and federal government, helping make decisions regarding healthcare of Canadians. She was awarded, Family Physician of the Year, 2012 by the Ontario College of Family Physicians.

Profile: www.linkedin.com/in/drvivienbrown

Understand the Symptoms

Although heart disease is often thought of as a problem for men, more women than men die of heart disease each year. One challenge is that some heart disease symptoms in women may be different from those in men. Fortunately, women can take steps to understand their unique symptoms of heart disease and to begin to reduce their risk of heart disease.

Heart attack symptoms for women

The most common heart attack symptom in women is some type of pain, pressure or discomfort in the chest. But it’s not always severe or even the most prominent symptom, particularly in women. And, sometimes, women may have a heart attack without chest pains. Women are more likely than men to have heart attack symptoms unrelated to chest pain, such as:

  • Neck, jaw, shoulder, upper back or abdominal discomfort
  • Shortness of breath
  • Right arm pain
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Unusual fatigue

These symptoms can be subtler than the obvious crushing chest pain often associated with heart attacks. Women may describe chest pain as pressure or tightness. This may be because women tend to have blockages not only in their main arteries but also in the smaller arteries that supply blood to the heart — a condition called small vessel heart disease or microvascular disease.

  • Women’s symptoms may occur more often when women are resting, or even when they’re asleep. Mental stress also may trigger heart attack symptoms in women.
  • Women tend to show up in emergency rooms after heart damage has already occurred because their symptoms are not those typically associated with a heart attack, and because women may downplay their symptoms.
  • If you experience these symptoms or think you’re having a heart attack, call for emergency medical help immediately. Don’t drive yourself to the emergency room unless you have no other options.



The material contained in this blog is for informational and educational purposes. Great efforts have been made to maintain the quality of the content.  However, it is strongly recommended that the treatment/management of any medical conditions mentioned here, should not be used by an individual/visitor of this blog, on their own, without consulting competent persons such as your doctor, or health care provider.   As always we encourage your comments on this blog or any others and hope you will join discussions.


Dr. Vivien Brown, MDCM, CCFP, FCFP, NCMP
Vice-President, Medical Affairs, Medisys Health Group

How healthy are you?

Dr. Brown is a noted family physician and international and national speaker on health prevention, wellness, continuing medical education and women’s health. She is a member of numerous advisory bodies for both the provincial and federal government, helping make decisions regarding healthcare of Canadians. She was awarded, Family Physician of the Year, 2012 by the Ontario College of Family Physicians.

Profile: www.linkedin.com/in/drvivienbrown

The Benefits of having a Personal Health Risk Assessment

Don’t we all want to know how we’re doing from a health point of view and if we’re on the right track? That was a question posed centuries ago by the learned Hippocrates-the father of modern medicine who focused on diet and exercise to forecast the health of his patients.  Fast forward a few centuries later and we now have a more formal process, called the Personal Health Risk Assessment.

The process refined over the years is a four-part questionnaire used to evaluate the health risks and quality of life of patients.

The questions are based on lifestyle including what level and form of exercise is practiced, demographics such as age, sex, personal and family medical history, and physiological data such as your weight, height, blood pressure and cholesterol. Another important part of the process is your level of willingness to change your behaviour in order to improve your health.

A personal health risk assessment can have enormous benefits, whether the assessment is for an individual or used as part of an employee health and wellness program.

It provides a snapshot of your current health. Enables individuals to monitor their health status overtime. Having concrete information helps prepare you for a change in your lifestyle.  The information is there, before you, and makes it clear in black and white what needs to change.

If your company is engaged in a health prevention program –it can help determine on an aggregate basis how healthy and productive the company work population is AND what health related programs they might include such as lunch and learns, flu shot clinics, reviewing the company cafeteria menu to ensure healthy food choices are available, and introducing a health management program.

Hippocrates was imprisoned for 20 years for believing and arguing that disease was not a punishment inflicted by the gods, but rather the product of environmental factors, diet, and living habits.

The same holds true today.
You can make changes to your health—a Personal health risk assessment is one of those ways.

The more information you have—both the good and the challenges—the better able you are to make informed decisions about what you can do keep or improve your well-being.


Dr. Vivien Brown, MDCM, CCFP, FCFP, NCMP
Vice-President, Medical Affairs, Medisys Health Group

Genetic Testing & Drugs

Pharmacogenomics: Determining the most effective drug for your genetic makeup.

Each person is unique and so is his or her response to certain medications.  Since the mapping of the Human Genome Project was completed in 2003, a new area of study and research has opened up called, Pharmacogenomics, the technology that analyses how genetic makeup affects an individual’s response to drugs—will a drug be helpful for a specific treatment or will it be toxic? Will it help or hinder? Will you be at increased risk for certain side affects or will genetic testing help to avoid a serious adverse drug reaction.

Such approaches promise the advent of personalized medicine in which drugs and drug combinations are optimized for each individual’s unique genetic makeup.

There are two areas  pharmacogenomics is being applied.  One is in the area of cancer treatment and the other is using genetic testing to determine response to certain medications.

In the area of cancer treatment, oncologists may order certain tests that will look at the genetic features of a tumor to assess how the cancer will respond to certain types of treatment and what form of therapy would be best for a particular patient.  This is the only area today that may be covered by health insurance in Ontario.

The other use for genetic testing is in the area determining the effectiveness of certain drugs for treatments related to heart disease such Plavix or Warfarin.

We have learned that the uniqueness of our genetic makeup means that not all drugs work in the same way for all individuals or it may be hard to get the dose right.   It is not yet common practice in Canada or covered under OHIP, but genetic testing in this area can be carried out privately if your doctor determines it is warranted.  Ideally, Medisys genetic counselor, Katherine Hodson, suggests the test be carried out before a drug such as Warfarin or Plavix is prescribed to avoid adverse reactions and ensure the right dosage.

Genetic testing may also be used to determine whether certain pain relievers such as codeine will work well for a given patient.  An individual suffering from chronic pain may not respond to codeine as genetically, that person may metabolize the drug too quickly.  In this case, the patient would need a different medication and of course, given concerns about narcotics and drug seeking, how reassuring it is to have a clear medical answer about different or higher dosing requirements.

We are on the cusp of understanding more about genetics, medications, reactions, both good and bad, and that will make prescribing drugs much more personalized, with predictable and better outcomes.

Dr. Vivien Brown, MDCM, CCFP, FCFP, NCMP,
Vice-President, Medical Affairs, Medisys Health Group

Two Essentials that Brand Us as Caring and Effective Leaders

When you are blessed with the opportunity to work with talented influential women you learn a lot every day. As a workshop leader for Women of Influence I am ecstatic when my participants are thrilled with the experience they receive, that’s my goal but the bonus I receive is the learning and inspiration I regularly get from them.

Our focus shifts when we look for the positive contribution of others and we begin to see what was there all along. Acknowledging the contributions of my workshop participants has enabled me to amplify them and incorporate the best of them into future workshops.

Here are two leadership essentials I have become much more aware of since working with Women of Influence.

Pay attention to what you see. What we pay attention to, we amplify.

Our focus shifts when we look for the positive contribution of others and we begin to see what was there all along.

To get the most out of a team sometimes we need to put on rose coloured glasses and look at all the qualities and skills of those around us. We begin to see what was there all along, while our attention was elsewhere.

Have you ever had the experience of something (a word, a concept, a new food, an exercise or brand ) brought to your attention, and immediately you notice it everywhere? Did you wonder whether it was synchronicity?

Perhaps there is something wonderful and even unique about your company or organization, your products and systems, or your team you were unaware of, that when seen in a positive light can bring greater satisfaction to your customers and more profit to your company. In the process you may even have your team grow in the pride of seeing their contribution to the community they serve.

Leadership is not just about what you do but how your being motivates and inspires your team. If your being is positive by nature and you see your team as amazing, with the ability to do almost anything with a little; help or training, or by leveraging the strengths of each other more, or by being just a little less critical of each other you will not just motivate them but begin to better use them for their unique and powerful strengths.

There are Two Essential Ways of Being for leaders that motivate their followers, help bring out their best and help them see beyond what they think is possible:

1. Pay attention to your seeing. What you focus on, you amplify.

2. Be a person of high expectation. People live up (or down) to your expectations of them. Where is your focus of attention? Is it on problems, what’s wrong, what’s not working … do you easily find fault with others? If we focus on problems, what’s not working or someone’s annoying character traits–that is what we see and we often see it to the exclusion of other things. If we focus on problems in the false belief we are problem solving we can suck the energy and creativity out of the room and overwhelm ourselves. On the other hand if we focus on what we do well and look for ways to improve it we might just find the breakthrough that is unique to us and essential to our clients.

People live up (or down) to your expectations of them.

Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson two psychology researchers set out to prove that a person’s IQ can actually be improved just by the expectations people have of them. In a study conducted over a one year period those identified as high potential grew their IQ at a 50% greater rate than the control group. We don’t just get more work out of people by expecting more we also get better work. The phenomena became known as the Pygmalion Effect.

Leaders that view their team as high potential will give their team tougher challenges, expect deeper thinking, and listen more intently to their suggestions. Recent research with 1500 companies has revealed that teams better challenged where their immediate supervisor is seen as listening to and appreciating their input perform up to four times more effectively and contribute up to 20% more to the bottom line.

Dr. Lois P. Frankel a recognized expert in the field of leadership development for women suggests who has helped diverse clients such as Walt Disney, The World Bank, The Indonesia Women’s Leadership Summit, Miller Brewing Lockheed Martin, and McKinsey & Company, has a rule she calls the 7:1 rule give people seven pieces of positive feedback for every developmental criticism.

Most of us avoid giving developmental criticism rather than setting high expectations and expecting them to be met and when we finally do address the problem it is not in a positive light of high expectation and ends up coming out as sharp, blunt or abrupt. We are not leaders to judge others but rather to help them perform in an extraordinary manner.

Consider trying this Experiment

Look for the inherent gifts, the positive in someone who pushes your buttons, someone you don’t like, someone who you believe is a low performer. Then give authentic, positive feedback to that person. Notice how you feel and how that person responds. See what happens over time.

I hope you will join us on Feb7 when I will be leading a small group of exceptional women in a workshop on Mastering Me – Creating Your Best Self. I am looking forward to seeing everyone grow not just from the material and exercises I present but from the contributions of from the whole group and the learning I received from previous groups. For more information click here.

How do you find a mentor?

I was at an event recently for Young Women of Influence, and was really struck by something that happened.  We had just heard an engaging presentation on personal branding and how to get ahead in business.  The room was packed with acutely ambitious and well-heeled women poised in their career and ready for take-off.  The speaker had just opened up the floor for questions, when a young woman raised her hand and asked the ubiquitous question: “How do you find a mentor?”  I looked around, completely surprised, and thinking to myself, are we still having this conversation?

As the owner of a company dedicated to providing access to female role models, we have this conversation all the time, but so have many others, including mega-watt female role models like Sheryl Sandberg who wrote an entire chapter on the subject.  So, why are we still asking this question?

Just as I’m thinking this through, I heard another woman, this time right behind me, whisper to her friend “oh, that’s a good question!”

I guess that’s my answer!  We’re still talking about this and it’s important.  Maybe we need to get better at answering it.

On November 20th we celebrated the Top 25 Women of Influence, the annual ranking of the most influential women in Canada, so I took the opportunity to ask these women how they found their mentors, and how young women can reach out to them.  Here’s what they said.

The Top 9 ways to find a mentor, from the most influential women in Canada:

1. Be coachable and be passionate.
Claudia Hepburn, Executive Director, The Next 36

2. Establish trust early on.
Kimberley Mason, Regional President, Atlantic Provinces, RBC Royal Bank

3. Have many mentoring moments during critical periods in your career.
Jane Allen, Chief Diversity Officer, Partner, Global Renewable Energy Leader, Deloitte

4. Surround yourself with good people.
Chris Power, Christine Power, President and CEO, Capital District Health Authority

5. Make a list of who you want to be when you grow up.  And then find a way to make them part of your life.  Don’t limit yourself to one person.
Connie Clerici, President, Closing the Gap, Healthcare

6. Pay it forward.  Offer to help junior or senior people to create mentorship moments.  It can only be viewed as a good thing.  The best is to then make them recurring moments to learn and understand the context of the organization and how you could contribute to those issues.
Gay Mitchell, Deputy Chairman, RBC Wealth Management

7. Reach out to people you admire.  Finding a good mentor can be as important to your career as finding a soul mate is to the rest of your life. Don’t sit waiting until a mentor finds you.
Wendy Cukier, Vice President Research and Innovation, and Founder & Director, Diversity Institute, Ryerson University

8. Be open to serendipity. It was serendipitous that I met my mentor.  I was searching for employment and what came of it was one of the most influential people in my life.
Danielle Smith, graduate of The Next 36 and mentee of Claudia Hepburn

9. Use social media to demonstrate what you’re good at, your interests and strengths.
Lisa Heidman, Senior Client Partner, The Bedford Consulting Group

On the subject of asking for a mentor itself, I have heard a consistent response from peers and influential women everywhere; they don’t like to be asked.  In fact, the general rule of thumb for finding a mentor seems to be that if you have to ask, it’s probably not right.

Instead, opt for a less direct approach, but no less strategic.  Scouring LinkedIn and keeping up to date with news to find people who inspire you is the first step, and then find ways to get close to them.  What’s always worked well for me is a combination of joining a project, group, club, or team so that you have the opportunity to bond and get to know each other in a comfortable environment.  And then offer to do something for them.  Paying it forward has never let me down as a strategy.

To read in depth and personal profiles of the Top 25 Women of Influence, click here.

Carolyn Lawrence (@CLLAWRENCE) is the president and CEO of Women of Influence Inc, (www.womenofinfluence.ca) a North American company offering Gender Diversity consulting, Executive Leadership Development, Events and Media; all to shatter the glass ceiling and see women and business succeed together.


Women in the C-Suite Talk About Leadership

By Barbabara Annis

One of the advantages of leadership is that it puts you in front of leaders—something that is simply taken for granted in the C-suite. So when the CEO of a well-known financial company asked his colleague, the company’s CFO, to flesh out her ideas for a presentation to the board, she quite naturally understood this as emblematic of her own leadership role.

The presentation would be held in London, and the New York-based CFO dedicated a significant amount of time and effort to making it a clear and persuasive argument, bringing to bear her decades of experience and the depth and breadth of her training and skill. She worked on it in the office and in just about every spare moment, trying to ensure perfection in every detail, then flew to London the night before the presentation and, the following morning, met with the CEO to discuss just how the meeting with the board would proceed.

“The presentation is excellent,” he told her over breakfast. “You’ve done really fine work.” He paused. “So I’ll take it from here.”
For a moment, she was stunned. What did that mean—“take it from here”?

“The board prefers that I present our case,” the CEO went on, “but of course I’ll need you there to back me up with data and details.”
Ah, yes. That explained it.

Did she protest? Did she throw it back at him and insist that it should be the other way around—with him backing her up, if needed, from the sidelines while she assumed the cloak of leadership? She did not. She sat against the wall, not even at the table, listened to her CEO make one blunder after another, and stayed silent. She folded.

Is this what it’s like above the glass ceiling? Did women punch their way through only to find that they were still expected to serve the boss his coffee—i.e., “back him up with data and details”? Did they arrive at the top to learn that, when the issue was leadership, they must cave?

No. At least, not always and not necessarily.

The irony, of course, is that when this CFO was on the other side of the glass ceiling, before she had punched her way through it, she would have seen the pitfall up ahead and been ready to jump over it. So, what’s different once you’ve shattered the ceiling and are actually in the leadership ranks?

My firm, Barbara Annis & Associates, went to find out—at least in part—on the theory that women below the glass ceiling might benefit from knowing what women above the glass ceiling have learned. Over a period of 14 months, we interviewed nearly 2,000 C-suite women working for large global, for-profit companies. This is what we discovered.

What Changed

A generation ago, the mantra for women seeking a corporate career was clear: Study hard, earn the degree, find the company, secure the interview, get the job. Security resided in belonging to the corporate world, in being a participant in a company’s mission. That is also where loyalty resided: Once you were accepted onto a team, it was the team that warranted your steadfast devotion. No more.
Today, women at the highest levels of the corporate power structure find their security not in the team but in their own capabilities. They seek not so much to belong as to self-initiate, so the unwritten contract with their employer doesn’t ask for a particular promised future, but rather for the chance to expand their knowledge and skills.

To some extent, the changes in women’s attitudes have been forced on them by what a researcher into the subject has dubbed “less-than-wholehearted acceptance” of women in majority-male workplaces. If you can’t get into the internal networks or find acceptance in the locker-room culture, or overcome institutionalized norms that put you at a disadvantage, then you must build your own networks, forge your own culture, create new advantageous norms. Women have done so and one result, as the Harvard Business School’s Boris Groysberg has found, is that they have built portable skills they can apply wherever they go, adding financial value to whatever company hires them—something that does not happen with men stars who switch firms.

These findings seem confirmation, if more were needed, that women are right not to look to the company to take care of them, but rather to practice self-care, developing those portable skills that empower them to create their own future, irrespective of job, company, or industry. That remains the dilemma confronting today’s corporate women striving for the C-suite or above, and that is why it is important to set forth some of the pitfalls, as we do below—in the hope that awareness of them can help women resolve themselves out of the pattern.

Bold Requests

Women tend not to make them. Men always do.

For men, bold requests are a no-brainWer; they shoot for the moon, and they do their shooting from the hip. And while they are shooting, women are scrutinizing, examining, assessing their own abilities and readiness. It is said that men with 30 percent of a required skill set will claim expertise; women will hold back from such a claim if they lack even one of the skills on the list. It is why women score through the roof when they negotiate on behalf of others but do so badly negotiating for themselves—and it is why this pitfall can be so costly.

How can women overcome this hesitancy when it comes to making a request, applying for something, making a bid, stating a demand? Practice intentionally until you’re comfortable with it; there’s no other way.


Women fail here because they cling to an outmoded assumption that their achievements speak for themselves. They might, but only if those achievements—whether individual or as part of a team—are published widely and loudly.
My favorite example of enlightened self-promotion comes from a man I helped recruit for a CEO position. The individuals providing his references didn’t just sing his praises, they did so with concrete evidence of all he had accomplished in his varied career. When I called to congratulate him and related this to him, he was unsurprised. “I have worked the self-promotion task throughout my career,” he told me. “I keep a file on my personal laptop of all my accomplishments, and I sit down and attend to it ritually every Friday afternoon. I add accomplishments to the file, review the total list, and send emails on a few pertinent achievements to people in my contacts list to whom they might be relevant. That’s why you heard such good things about me.” He was right.

The lesson? Be explicit about what you have achieved. Your accomplishments only speak for you if you make sure people hear about them.

Hard work

Two things happen when you get noticed for how hard you work: (1) you become indispensable, and when you’re indispensable, no one will ever want to move you away into a new, bigger opportunity, so (2) you become invisible.
I call it the loyalty trap—the assumption that loyalty speaks to how much you’re able to produce. In fact, being known for the volume of work you deliver, or the amount of time you spend delivering it, may be nice, but it is a trap that can dead-end your upward advancement. Be known instead for the authenticity of your work and for an intuition that has proven its worth.

Grunt Work

The CFO in the narrative at the top of this article jumped in enthusiastically to do the background work and to dot every I and cross every T of the presentation to the board—and defeated her own purpose in doing so.

She failed to distinguish between a management project and a leadership project, and it ended with her managing the work and the CEO seizing the leadership role.
Women need to negotiate for their piece of the leadership pie in a win-win manner, not to take anything away from anyone, but to take their rightful place at the leader’s podium.

Strategic Networking

Women can network alright, but they too often forget the strategic part of it. While men network for transactional reasons, with women, it’s relational. That is, men network to obtainsomething; women network for relationships and connections. Here’s an example.

At an investment bank’s triennial event, a senior leader I’ll call Sally looked forward to re-connecting with colleagues from around the world; she was therefore stunned to see them looking past her or over her head during their conversations. They all had their eyes on the door, waiting for the new CEO to enter so they could race over to introduce themselves. Sally thought they were idiots for not wanting to reconnect and left the reception. Only later did she realize her own foolishness in not seizing the strategic opportunity, as they did, to put themselves in front of the new leader.

A generation ago, the mantra for women seeking a corporate career was clear: Study hard, earn the degree, find the company, secure the interview, get the job… no more.

Staying the Course

When the going gets tedious, we women tend to get tired or turned off. “Oh so what?” we argue to ourselves; “what’s the big deal?”

When a law firm’s client began to push back on the number of billed hours, a woman partner I know was ready to yield, but her male colleague reminded her that every minute spent even thinking about the client’s problem was in the client’s interest—and therefore billable. That is the way the business works, and it profits no one to cave to a client’s challenge. Yet far too readily, we women lose our passion for the challenge and decide it isn’t worth it. It is worth it; it’s how we get to do a great job. Whether the negotiation is for salary, for budget, for the conditions you need to do the job right, it’s essential to stay the course, no matter how long it may drag on.

Barbara Annis, Founder and CEO of Barbara Annis & Associates Inc., is a world-renowned expert on Gender Intelligence, Inclusive Leadership, and Cultural Intelligence, advocating the value and practice of Gender Intelligence and inclusiveness in over 75 Fortune 500 companies.

When is Enough Really Enough?: Work Life Balance

Q: I love my work even though I put in 10-hour days, monitor my blackberry for weekend and evening calls that usually require follow-up, and have never taken a vacation that involved being totally unavailable. I am—and have always been—fine with that. My doctor is not.

Recently I started having trouble sleeping and developed headaches almost daily. I go to work tired and pop a few Advil throughout the day. When I started getting winded after short walks, and experienced chest pains for no reason, that’s when I saw the doctor. There’s nothing wrong with me except my lifestyle.

I’ve taken control of what I can—cook more, take-out less; exercise early in the morning before work; and took the television out of my bedroom too. The symptoms aren’t going away. I’ve gone back to the doctor and the message is the same: the way I work isn’t conducive to a healthy lifestyle. If I keep this up, something will go seriously wrong, that’s what my body is apparently telling me.

Here’s the problem: My job requires this level of dedication; my boss puts in longer hours than I do; the people who report to me are under pressure too. How do I make the case that my workload and way of working aren’t tenable without losing my job? How do I achieve a work life balance?

A: There is no question that your health comes first. Of course, the simplest way to respond to this challenge is for people to say, “turn your phone off” or “just disconnect,” but the reality is we have professional responsibilities that require our attention, at times around-the-clock. I’ve been guilty of checking my Blackberry while at a family dinner or sneaking away to write a press release during a vacation. There is nothing wrong with this type of dedication as long as you love your work and it brings you great satisfaction. But when you have a physical decline, you can’t ignore the warning signs. Take it seriously and reframe your day-to-day schedule.

First, sit down with your manager. Explain that your current pace is not sustainable and a potential hindrance to your department’s ability to deliver results. Most people managers are reasonable and understand what that could mean to the bottom line. If you happen to work for someone who isn’t as sympathetic, speak to your HR contact. It is in the best interest of your employer to keep you healthy, happy, and motivated.

Second, propose a plan. This is your opportunity to pitch a mitigation strategy. For example, consider a “smartphone off” period. Let your boss and direct reports know that between 6:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. you will not check your phone. Hide it under your mattress and forget it. You may think, “what’s a few hours going to do when I have to go back to an inbox with hundreds of emails?” The emails will be waiting for you, but hitting the “off” button for three hours can do wonders for your perspective and ability to refresh.
Third, think outside the box. We are living in a time when we are truly connected—from our phones to our tablets to our TVs. You can work anywhere, any way you like. Restructure your team and think about a “work from home” Friday rotation. Not only will this be a relief to your employees who may need a pace change, it’s a good way to get some space and quiet for you to work.
Fourth, get comfortable with the idea that there is no perfect balance. We put a ton of pressure on ourselves to deliver 100% at work and at home. It isn’t realistic. Some days you’ll hit it out of the park at work, and some days you’ll be a superstar at home. The key is to keep overall balance. Don’t stress over the perfectly divided, colour-coded calendar that parcels time equally between work and personal. Use that energy to find pockets of time devoted to family, friends and yourself.

Screen Shot 2013-11-21 at 3.08.00 AM

A: I started my HR career in the financial services industry. While it gave me an amazing grounding in corporate policy, procedure and organizational structure, it didn’t quite fit my personality. Through trial, error, and some luck, I found that agency environments matched me perfectly.

Long story short: you should first figure out if your job and industry are a good fit. Reach out to people in similar roles to investigate if extended hours, weekend email and interrupted vacation time are par for the course.

If you find these things are unique to your company, perhaps it’s time to update your resume and high tail it outta there. If, however, these are challenges your entire industry faces, and you love your job, approach your manager with a request for change.

A clearly articulated business case always goes a lot farther than showing up and complaining that you’re tired and stressed out, so try this:
State your objective I’m a huge fan of the one-page business case. State why you are making the request, or the intended objective of the meeting, in a sentence or two.

Define your current state Go over the steps needed in current processes, systems and structures. Create a map or whiteboard this step before putting it on paper. That way you can clearly view the steps involved in the work being done. Stop right here if you aren’t intimately aware of the way things are being done, or if you haven’t investigated ways of doing them better. Working hard and working smart are different things.

Propose a future state Outline the changes that should be implemented and the efficiencies that will be created by them. Will new technology be needed? Additional headcount? Look a year down the road. Can your changes serve future needs as well?

Address benefits/risks What are the benefits to the company, culture and morale of your changes? Can they be quantified? Get your HR department to help with some statistics on your department turnover and absenteeism. Will your recommendations mean an improvement in department turnover and a reduction in absenteeism? Both are very costly to a company. Are there any risks involved with the recommended change? Be honest about them. Be prepared to show you have given them consideration.

Cost it out I have never been witness to a manager turning down anything that would improve efficiency if it was free. But I have witnessed the tossing of a proposal due to a lack of understanding of how much it was going to cost the company. Be honest and specific with your numbers.

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A: My initial reaction is that you’re in the wrong job, period.

Some expectations come from you and some come from the job, and until you manage your need to control, and for perfection, the anxiety and stress will never go away. This is as much about your own desires as it is about the expectation of your workplace.

At some point you have to accept that’s the reality of your work—late nights, no vacation, etc. I’m not saying it’s right or wrong, it just is. The job you’re in might actually require commitment and energy that you don’t have. My advice would be go find another job, not go talk to your boss.

However, if talking to your boss lowers your stress, then awesome—you should do that. But I don’t think it will because you’re putting the blame for your challenge on your job instead of on yourself, and you are responsible for your own choices.

As an employer, I have an expectation that people will work hard and do their job. But if someone said to me: “I can’t work as hard as you do, but I will give it my best,” then I’m ok with that. How can I expect anyone who works for me to work as hard as me? It’s my company. Most entrepreneurs understand that.

But here’s why I think your work’s not your problem: People often take a job because it’s going to be good for their career, not because it’s best for them. Sometimes we make a career move that’s not a great choice for our talents and abilities, and it becomes a trap: we get overwhelmed by the requirements, but we get the salary, the position, the authority. It’s all great except that we hate it, or it causes us stress. In this case, you love the work, but you have the stress.

If there’s a physical manifestation of stress—even though you went and changed stuff, like eating better, sleeping more, etc.—then this is not a lifestyle issue, it’s a career issue. So go find what makes you happy. That’s easy for me to say, right? Because quitting means giving up security…but this is your health and nothing is worth that, is it?

If there’s an expectation to work this way, then you need to make a decision. It’s all about choices and, ultimately, if it comes down to your health, screw it. Nothing’s worth that.

If you have a Good Question for Women of Influence experts, write to us at letters@womenofinfluence.ca

Empowering Women, Empowering the World…

Paula Pyne, The Huffington Post


“The future depends on what you do today.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi


It was more than a day of Building Personal Brands; it was an uplifting experience with an amazing group of women, connecting and collaborating in community to elevate and inspire each other.


“Paula Pyne, through her powerful teaching of self-compassion, directive to always come from a place of love rather than fear, and guidance in building a plan encompassing true personal values and attributes, led this group of women on the journey of a lifetime.” ~ Elizabeth Castellucio, workshop participant


Building Your Personal Brand
When the Women of Influence Advancement Centre asked me to teach the course, Building Your Personal Brand, it occurred to me that I had already been sharing my own learning with my clients for some time. I had the good fortune of being able to bring together these experiences, along with some of the latest research, and what started as an honour became a complete joy to deliver.

The best laid plans
As my train journey from Ottawa to Toronto began, the rail car I was in seemed especially bumpy. We were moving from side to side so much that at one point I thought we might fly right off the tracks. All of a sudden, I felt queasy, not myself, hot sweats and all. I couldn’t get off the train fast enough.

That night, I pulled out all my tools: breathing, meditation, and soft, healing music. It was a difficult night but I was good to go in the morning (at least as good as got on this day) and placed my entire attention and focus on caring for myself, doing the best with what I had in each moment — practising what I preach, so to speak.

By the time I entered the classroom that morning, I was in a good place. I remembered my dear friend, Pavi Mehta, delivering her talk at Wisdom in NYC where she shared some words she had received before going on stage. She said, “speak from your heart…all that you have to share is already there; it’s not in your notes or your slides.”

The biggest part of expressing your personal brand is the willingness to be vulnerable. When the final workshop participant arrived with an apology and a light-hearted explanation, everyone could relate to that vulnerability. Her vulnerability also allowed me to share how delicate I felt from the night before. In retrospect, I think it was this that set the stage for a day filled with compassion, laughter, and connection. It just goes to show that although we do not have control over our situations, we do have a choice.


“In the spaciousness of meditation, you can view your thoughts and emotions with a totally unbiased attitude. When your attitude changes, then the whole atmosphere of your mind changes, even the very nature of your thoughts and emotions.” ~ Sogyal Rinpoche


We began the day in true Uplift style — Connection and Community 
Mindfulness moments, connection with breath, and short meditations were interweaved throughout the day. These were strengthened by strong intentions on how we wanted to be with Uplift’s guiding principles of honesty, integrity, and openness.

When we quieted our minds and entered into a relaxed state, we showed up in our authentic selves and tapped into our own infinite wisdom and internal GPS — intuition. Often times in our work and especially in the corporate realm, we forget about our other intelligence centres: our heart and hara (belly). So we experimented with this throughout the day and talked much about self-compassion, about how it feels to ‘Be You’, how it feels to Be Your Brand.

Redefining Personal Brand — At the heart of branding is self-compassion
Thoughts of ‘getting this’ or ‘getting there’ to ‘be this’ can be really daunting. So why not just be — be who you are, accept, own and celebrate your uniqueness. You have to remember that when you are not using your ‘genius’ (your innate gifts and talents) and not sharing your stories and dreams, you are doing a disservice to yourself, your community, and the world.

It’s imperative that we all step away from the games of self-comparison and build our self-compassion. Standing in your power and truth, reclaiming your authentic brand and building it can be really quite effortless; it’s the groundwork involved that takes courage and patience.

Courage and patience, along with kindness, compassion, and gratitude are fuel to your personal brand. Staying true to your values and being honest, standing up for what you believe in: these are what inspire others and will help them do the same good work.

“Building a brand is about so much more than external numbers; it’s about personal commitment, connection to Self, and a deeper awareness of true value.” ~ Helen Tremethick, The Communications Distillery, workshop participant

There is no magic bullet. The hope is that we all have our lifetime to work on it and with each day, we get wiser. It’s what our planet and our human race needs. Once you find your place (I call this place ‘home’) the rest miraculously falls into place. When we live in our truth, use our innate gifts and talents, allow our Higher Self to lead the way, we catch a tail wind; the right opportunities, the right people, and the right places are there to support you, simply waiting for you to arrive.

When we are open, we shine a bright light into the world. So, continue to shine! The more authentic you become, the higher the energy and success of everything you do!

I am so grateful for all of the women who brilliantly came together on this day. May we all be supported to rise up on our path and may we all continue to have the courage that will allow our hearts to the lead the way.

This is an edited version of the original post.

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