No one ever got ahead by being a wallflower

 

By Rebecca Heaton

 

 


 

 

Being assertive in a professional setting isn’t always easy, and you’re not alone if you feel like you’re often not being heard. This is especially true for women who may find themselves to be silent observers in other words, wallflowers. To them, I would ask: Are you using muscular language (active words and authoritative statements) or are you downplaying your authority? Are you being a discussion leader? If not, it’s time to embrace your inner boss lady, whether the world is ready for her or not.

 

Come to the table, and have something to say when you do

As a young woman starting out in her career, I began where many of us begin: at an internship. I was lucky enough to land an internship at Women of Influence, where I could develop my skills and personal communication goals in an environment where I was committed to the cause and loved the people. It’s a place where I felt valued and confident. It was a place where I could be loud. While I am happy more women are going to university and coming to the table, I can’t help but notice that young women don’t feel very confident verbally asserting themselves. What’s the point of being at the table if you’re going to be a silent observer? There are many ways women can advance themselves. Why not start by speaking up? Even if you get shot down, at least people know you’re in the room.  

 

Don’t be afraid to take up space

Once you’re at the table, it can feel like you’re not supposed to be there. Myself and other women suffer from imposter syndrome, a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments, and has a persistent, internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud” despite external evidence of their competence. I often find myself trying to fake it ‘til I make it. However, by being a presence in the room and reaching out to other influential women, I have accessed mentorship and opportunity, and I now have people in my corner. It has been uncomfortable and scary, but I gained much more than I lost. I made mistakes along the way and might have embarrassed myself a few times, but I have my foot in the door and that’s what matters. 

 

Fill the gaps and be of use

It’s important to remember that being at the table is a privilege, one we should not take for granted. So, be of use when you occupy a seat. Prepare yourself before you walk in the door. If you’re going to speak, say something smart and remind your boss why they hired you. If you see a gap in the process, offer to address it. Taking initiative and being engaged are some of the ways competence is judged, and the bar is unfortunately much higher for women. We have to constantly prove ourselves to be taken seriously. We have to show up over and over again. We have to go the extra mile. We have to work harder and work smarter because of the double burden we face. And it will do wonders for career advancement, but maybe not always for likability. But you’re not in the business of people pleasing, are you?  

 

Take pride in your accomplishments

Success and likability are often in opposition for women. We worry about being disliked, appearing unattractive, outshining others, or grabbing too much attention. A study done at Cornell University found that men overestimate their abilities and performance, while women underestimate both. Obviously, men are not exempt from doubting themselves, but they do not let their doubts stop them as often as women do. Think of this when you’re applying for your next job. Maybe you don’t meet all the requirements, but please understand that no one knows everything. Most of us just pretend we do, and some of us are better at pretending than others. Some of us are better at sticking out our noses and asking, “why not me?” I have come to understand that you must know what you have to offer and only accept what you are deserving of. No one is going to advocate for you but you.

 

 

How to go from Good Writer to a Good Communicator

 

 

When sitting in an interview chair, we often rely on our resumes and glossy portfolios to demonstrate our writing, our expertise and capabilities. But once we land the role, can we be certain that our strong writing skills will translate into an ability to communicate and work effectively with our peers and our senior colleagues? What is it about the way we communicate that could be holding us back from being seen as a leader, or even preventing us from getting ahead?

 

By Amanda Sutton

 


 

There are countless opportunities in the workplace where we can take a step back and reevaluate our communications skill set, whether it be in the boardroom, the breakroom or your outbox. When it comes to writing, we’d be better off learning how to gain confidence and inspire action in others rather than delivering flowery prose.

 

The difference between ‘writing’ and ‘communicating’ at work.

There is a distinct difference between knowing how to form and craft a letter or article, and how to effectively communicate your goals, wants, and desires across other channels.

While some have the ability to write prose and long form thought, the need for short form thought is at a peak. Now more than ever, the ability to form persuasive thought into concise statements is a business requirement.

But first, it’s important to know the difference between writing and communicating.

Writing can be seen as composing or telling a story, and is most often subjective to the reader. It can often inspire, and is typically focused on sharing one viewpoint or approach, but leaving the reader to make up their own mind.

Communicating can be seen as sharing or exchanging pertinent news or information. The goal of communicating is usually to elicit action, and the purpose is often to interact, liaise, and coordinate towards a larger project or goal.

In the office environment, these two approaches can have very different results.

 

It’s more important to be smart than sound smart.

An easy exercise prior to sitting down at a board meeting or drafting an email is to organize your thoughts around the goals you want to achieve, considering your role within scope of the project.

Sounding smart can not be your end goal. You aren’t trying to wow anyone with eloquent words or descriptive analysis of the current situation, but more with your ability to provide insight and clarity.

Identify the purpose. Identify all parties involved/affected. Provide actionable items or options, and demonstrate that you are thinking two steps ahead. Be clear, direct, and concise. This approach shows knowledge, perspective and leadership in one fell swoop.

TIP: Bullet points or email subheads work well to organize content and streamline thoughts.

 

Get answers, not silence.

Two of the most frustrating parts of communicating in the workplace are unresponsiveness and delayed approvals. The cause of these can often be boiled down to communication cliffs; responses like “Sure, sounds good” and “Contact me later” are fine, but now you have to craft a whole other email outlining the HOW and WHEN. In business, there are times for casual conversations, and there are times when you just need a firm response because of a deadline.

This can be avoided by valuing your time upfront. Rather than squishing your request in among a long explanation about how and why it is important, be direct and highlight what you need and when you need it.

Giving people options — i.e. A) This item – delivered by this date B) This item – delivered by this date — is another great way to get closer to a definitive answer or confirmation, all while keeping the lines of communication open. Setting firm expectations requires the person you’re communicating with to take more decisive action to meet your request.

TIP: If a clear answer is what you need, avoid words like ‘following up’ and ‘checking in’ — these don’t elicit action and might get brushed aside in an overcrowded inbox.

 

Keep things moving.

As a communicator, my job usually involves keeping a project, interview, or deadline on task, so the art of project management comes naturally.

People’s time is valuable, especially yours. You don’t have time to go back and forth, send multiple emails on the same topic, or worse, risk losing time on a project with a pending deadline. Getting to the end goal is the key for any project or team, and most often can come down to a simple sign off.

Leave people with an understanding of your timing and your expectations on their delivery so they have a picture of how they will schedule you into their work week. i.e. I will be working on the Jones case until Tuesday afternoon, but will be free Wednesday morning to discuss Project X. Does 10am work for you?

TIP: Reminding people of your other responsibilities is never a bad idea to reiterate not only your value to the company, but that you value their time as a priority.

 
With these simple but monumental skill sets, not only will you deliver beyond senior-level expectations, but your newfound ability to take ownership and steer the ship will establish your position as a leader, potentially opening opportunities for advancement down the road.

 

 

 

Amanda Sutton is a seasoned communications pro and has offered strategic counsel to dozens of businesses on the subjects of communications, PR, branding, media and crisis management. She has run her own PR agency, Catalyst Communications Choreography, for the last decade. Her team sets themselves apart as PR choreographers with a big picture mindset, a talent for value-driven messaging and a journalistic approach to content writing, driven by a natural curiosity about why you do what you do. Building on a strong foundation in sales and business leadership, Amanda’s background includes working on both agency and corporate sides of PR and now includes working alongside startups and educational programs that are producing the next generation of communicators.

 

 

 

Five Tips for Managing Business Growth

 

It is exciting to see your business grow, but a surge in sales presents both opportunities and challenges. The big question for many entrepreneurs is how do you successfully manage growth? Here are five tips for handling your business growing pains.

 

By Lynda Sydney


It’s rewarding to see your business grow from a simple idea to a viable company that delivers value to your customers. When there is a surge in sales, it presents both opportunities and challenges.

Aggressive growth is good, but you also need to stay in control of your business. The key is to remain focused on the fundamental reasons your customers choose your products or services and your brand, maintain high quality, and always deliver an outstanding customer experience while you are expanding.

The big question for many entrepreneurs is how do you do this successfully while managing growth?

1. Maintaining a manageable pace of growth

The most important step in any growth strategy is to build a plan. Determine how much you want to grow, the timeline and the resources required to reach your goal, and then develop a business plan to support these objectives. The plan should include how day-to-day operations will be impacted, the people and roles that need to be put in place, any changes to your sales & marketing efforts needed and most importantly, how you will track progress in achieving the plan and reaching your goals.

In order to build an effective business plan it is also important to reach out to others for feedback and advice, such as peers, your network or advisors such as your accountant, banker or lawyer. If you can connect with another business owner that has faced similar growth challenges, or has been successful leveraging a business plan, they can be helpful to get ideas or validate that you’re on the right track.

You will also want to identify risks that may impede your expansion. For example, are there any departments having difficulties today? If an area of your business is struggling now, rapid growth will only make it worse, so resolve any issues before launching your growth strategy.

2. Hiring employees

If you’re like many other business owners, you probably agree that the most important attribute when hiring is attitude. If a person has a good attitude, is hard working and willing to help out, but may not have a specific skill set, you can always train them. When you trust the people you work with and give them the authority to make decisions, they become an important part of your company’s growth.

As your business is growing you may not initially have the resources to hire full-time employees. Consider different hiring options — contract, part-time or freelance. You may not need a full-time bookkeeper, but can hire someone to come in one day a week to do your invoicing and receivables.

3. Deciding to delegate

When starting a new business, most entrepreneurs do everything themselves — from developing or sourcing products, or delivering services, to marketing, sales, accounting and more. To help you grow successfully you should consider hiring people to delegate some of the workload. This is not always easy for an entrepreneur who has a vision of how to run his or her business.

To sustain growth, you have to relinquish control to the competent people you’ve hired. Recognize that you don’t have all the skill sets — nor the time — to continue to be the expert in everything. When you are ready to hire, look for individuals who are better than you in certain areas of your business operations. For example, if you are the face of the business, hire someone to work on the administrative tasks so you can continue to meet with clients and ensure they are happy. As a business owner, your job is to provide these talented individuals you’ve selected with everything they need to do their jobs. Know that not everyone is going to perform tasks exactly as you do, and that’s okay.

4. Managing changes in demand

Every business has a different sales cycle. Some products are seasonal, some are timeless. Others such as food and drink have a limited shelf life. Where you manufacture your product will also impact your business cycles — if you source products overseas, you will need a longer lead time to ensure inventory is available to meet demand. No business owner ever wants to miss a sale due to lack of inventory, so be prepared for an increase in demand and stock a little more product.

To manage regular sales cycles it is important to watch and analyze your data. Look at year over year numbers to spot growth trends and opportunities. Know your timing for manufacturing or product delivery. If you have a peak period, have a back-up plan with alternate suppliers and producers, and short-term labour you can bring in quickly to meet demand during your busy times.

5. Reinvesting in your business

You know that your business is in a constant state of evolution, and you may be thinking what’s next? Consider your goals. Do you want to expand your product offerings? Do you want to reach new markets?

When you’ve decided on your next steps, review your strategic business plan, make any updates to reflect these changes, and determine what it will take to accomplish it. For example, if you want to grow your market, it may be necessary to open a new storefront. You’ll need to research the best location, negotiate the lease, plan renovations and hire staff. All of this will require capital. Examine the numbers before making any reinvestment decisions.

As a small business owner, it is exciting to see your hard work pay off as your business continues to grow. A little planning will go a long way to ensuring sustainable, manageable growth and ultimately, business success.

 

Lynda Sydney is a Toronto-based freelance writer and content creator with over ten years of experience in financial, telecommunications and technology writing.

 

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Liked this? Read more articles on preparing for senior leadership.

 

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.

 

Advice from emerging leaders: Discover what you truly love

What does it take to move up in the ranks of a multinational corporation?

We’ve partnered with PepsiCo to bring you career advancement tips from some of their top emerging leaders. Anshika Jaipuriar, District Sales Leader at PepsiCo Canada, has learned to ask the question “What about my job gets me out of bed each morning?” and to follow that insight, no matter what.
 
 
 
 
 

Advice from emerging leaders: The power of a positive attitude

What does it take to move up in the ranks of a multinational corporation?

We’ve partnered with PepsiCo to bring you career advancement tips from some of their top emerging leaders. Rupika Sharma, Zone Sales Leader at PepsiCo, has discovered the influence a positive attitude can have on making or breaking your career journey.
 
 
 
 
 

Advice from emerging leaders: Leadership comes from the real you

What does it take to move up in the ranks of a multinational corporation?

We’ve partnered with PepsiCo to bring you career advancement tips from some of their top emerging leaders. Lisa Allie, Senior Marketing Manager at PepsiCo, learned that effective leadership can only come through trial and error, and discovering who you truly are.
 
 
 
 
 

Advice from Emerging Leaders: Putting in the Work

What does it take to move up in the ranks of a multinational corporation?

We’ve partnered with PepsiCo to bring you career advancement tips from some of their top emerging leaders. Kailee Jamieson, Associate Marketing Manager at PepsiCo, learned that it not only takes hard work, but team work, too, to make it to the top.
 
 
 
 
 

Advice from Emerging Leaders: Facing Challenges

What does it take to move up in the ranks of a multinational corporation?

We’ve partnered with PepsiCo to bring you career advancement tips from some of their top emerging leaders. Hear what Emily, Senior National Account Manager, has to say about facing challenges and chasing every learning opportunity. 
 
 
 
 
 

The secrets of longevity: How two female entrepreneurs achieved success over two decades

 

Deborah Assaly and Adriana De Luca have both been leading thriving entrepreneurial ventures since the late nineties. Brought together by the Cisco Women Entrepreneurs’ Circle initiative, we spoke to them about what has enabled their long-term success — from teamwork to technological investments — and their advice for other women looking to follow in their footsteps.

 

By Marie Moore


 

In the entrepreneurial world, longevity is one of the greatest testaments of success. And it’s an accomplishment that Deborah Assaly and Adriana De Luca can claim — they have both been leading and growing their respective businesses since the late nineties.

Deborah Assaly took over as president of Paramount Paper in 1996. Started by her father, the company had been providing packaging solutions to the Montreal market since 1958. Under her leadership, the family business expanded across Canada and into the U.S., offering an ever-broadening range of packaging, specializing in corrugated cartons and products, as well as poly bags, industrial papers, films, protective packaging, tape, shipping supplies, and sanitary and safety supplies.

Adriana De Luca started a natural soap-making business in her home in 1999, inspired by a family tradition and the birth of her first child. Today, Tiber River Naturals has multiple retail locations in Winnipeg, a thriving network of direct-sales consultants, and more than 300 bath, body, and pet care as well as home cleaning products — all handmade using naturally derived ingredients.

Interestingly, neither Adriana nor Deborah started their entrepreneurial journeys with any dreams or expectations of making it to where they are today.

Deborah describes taking over from her father as “quite a shock.” She was sharing office space with Paramount Paper for her own graphic design company, and started learning the business simply by being on premises. When her father passed away just a few years later, he left Deborah at the helm. “It was not my original goal, but when he passed on, I decided I would give it a shot,” she says.

For Adriana, the entire purpose of launching Tiber River was to make just enough money to be able to stay at home with her newborn daughter. “I knew I needed something that would be sustainable, but never in my wildest dreams did I imagine it would be what it is today. It wasn’t even a maybe.”

With entrepreneurial stories that now span across two decades, they each attribute their success to similar factors. For Deborah, it’s a broad combination — from her upbringing, to her work ethic, as well as the strong support of her husband and partner John, and her loyal support staff. Adriana also points to personality traits, like tenacity, that have made her well-suited to an entrepreneurial venture, but she largely credits Tiber River’s success to the people who have become a part of the business with her, such as her partner, Michelle.

“As an entrepreneur, there are so many times when you’re just feeling like it’s too much, and you can’t continue to give as much as you give, or do as much as you do, or find the right path,” explains Adriana. “And you really need a strong team around you to hold you up in those times, and you do the same for them. It’s a collective effort.”

Olivia Baker, the University of Waterloo intern paired with Adriana as part of the Cisco Women Entrepreneurs’ Circle program, has certainly valued her time as part of the Tiber River team. “It’s opened me up to the world of entrepreneurship and given me confidence that I belong in the tech field,” she says.

 

“As an entrepreneur, there are so many times when you’re just feeling like it’s too much, and you can’t continue to give as much as you give, or do as much as you do, or find the right path, and you really need a strong team around you to hold you up in those times, and you do the same for them. It’s a collective effort.”

 

Deanna Danelon, the intern who worked for Deborah, also enjoyed the exposure to what running a business is like, and the chance for personal growth. “Working for Deborah provided the opportunity to learn new skills, such as developing a website for her new consumer division, Husky North. And I improved my problem-solving skills by creating a more efficient work flow for the business.” Deanna also assisted with a network refresh and implementing cloud technology — a key goal of Deborah’s.

“We were having difficulty with our paperwork internally, collaborating with staff, moving information effectively between the sales people, the purchasing department and our customers,” explains Deborah. “I knew there were programs out there to get it done, but I didn’t know how to do it. I wasn’t versed in the cloud, and I didn’t know what the first step should be. Deanna and I had many discussions on how we could accomplish it, and I’m very excited to say that Deanna implemented a winning strategy.”

Paramount Paper plans to continue the technological integration in the future, with the goal of networking information between colleagues and sales agents offsite, and eventually creating a client portal. Deborah sees it as a route to greater expansion, and a differentiating factor for Paramount Paper. “It’s definitely a competitive advantage. As a whole our industry is not very technology advanced. I was very excited to have this opportunity and be one of the first to have improved productivity through modernizing our overall structure with the cloud for internal use. This is sure to have a positive ripple effect to our customers and increase sales.”

Adriana also sees technology as integral to Tiber River’s future success, specifically the information that it can provide. “What are our customers looking for? What are they buying? When we started I made products that I wanted, which worked when my customers were only people like me. Now we have to look at the opportunities for growth.”

As the company gets bigger, Adriana also hopes to tap into the benefits of technology for resource planning, financial management, communication, and connectivity. But that doesn’t mean growth is coming quickly. Adriana and her partner Michelle are extremely committed to their business vision, but as mothers of three, they have not been willing to expand Tiber River at the expense of their family balance. “We made a conscious choice. We were both fine with slower growth so we could go to our kids’ hockey games.”

In contrast, Deborah saw growth as a necessary to her success. “We have a lot of competition in Montreal, and we knew right at the beginning — being young, being a woman, being a small distributor — we had to spread our wings and be innovative and do it quickly.” Not long after taking over, they were implementing strategies for expansion across Canada and into the U.S.

While they may have different ideas on growth, both Deborah and Adriana have been able to achieve long term success on their own terms. Adriana’s advice to entrepreneurs that are also hoping to be in business over decades? Get started on the journey now. “Just do it. Just dive in there. Don’t overthink things. Just get started and see where your path may lead you.”

Deborah adds that they should just be themselves. “When you’re young, you may feel you have to put on a show or talk a good game. There’s a lot of pretending to get through in the beginning years,” she says. “There are also a lot of people who want to offer advice on how to act or talk. It’s best to just follow your heart, be strong and have your own identity. You will learn and fail and learn again along the way. Learning from the failures is what will give you strength to allow you to keep going.”

 

 

The Cisco Circle of Innovation program is one part of The Cisco Women Entrepreneurs Circle initiative, which addresses some of the obstacles female-led businesses face in building their tech capabilities. In partnership with organizations including the Business Development Bank of Canada, Cisco is connecting women to the expertise and knowledge needed for their entrepreneurial ventures to thrive. Are you a business owner? Fill in a short survey to register for the free virtual training from the Cisco Networking Academy, and kickstart your journey towards business success.

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.

How to Answer the Question, “So, What Do You Do?” when You Have a Multifaceted Career

 

Being equally good at and passionate about several different things is no longer a detriment to building a focused, strong, and sustaining career. Emilie Wapnick, speaker and author of How to be Everything: A Guide for Those Who (Still) Don’t Know What They Want to Be When They Grow Up has a few tips for how to explain your own “multipotentiality” to those who might not understand what it means to have a non-linear and multi-faceted career. 

 

by Emilie Wapnick

 


 

These days, many of us have multiple professional identities. We might hold a few different jobs, freelance in multiple capacities or occasionally transition between industries. It’s no secret that careers are far less linear than they once were. And, for some, that is a good thing.

I’m a career coach and writer who works with people who have many passions and creative pursuits. I refer to these people as “multipotentialites”. (Hint: I’m one of them, too!) Multipotentialites are curious about a number of unrelated subjects and require variety — along with financial stability — in their lives to be happy. They often diversify their income streams or intentionally choose to have, say, three very different part-time jobs instead of a single full-time job. Multipotentialites feel at home in interdisciplinary fields like filmmaking, A.I., or environmental policy; you almost always find them wearing multiple hats at work.

 

“Multipotentialites are curious about a number of unrelated subjects and require variety — along with financial stability — in their lives to be happy.”

 

When your career is multifaceted, it can feel nearly impossible to explain it to other people. Here are a few different ways to answer that popular cocktail party question, “So, what do you do?” when what you do is many things:

 

Option #1: “I do several different things.”

Lead with your plurality and be up-front about the different facets of your career and other endeavors. The key to getting a good reaction is conveying confidence. Instead of sounding apologetic, share your enthusiasm for your different roles and projects. This approach will lead to a conversation, so only use it if you’re in the mood to talk about yourself for awhile.

 

Option #2: Use an umbrella title

Is there a broader term or category that encompasses much of what you do? For instance, instead of responding with ”I’m an actor, painter, and musician,” you could say, “I’m an artist.” Or instead of saying “I’m a geography teacher, a docent at the zoo, and a health coach,” you could call yourself an educator.

 

Option #3: “I help _______do _______.”

Leave your medium and title out entirely! Instead, talk about the people you help and what you accomplish through your work. Saying, “I help youth feel empowered,” says a lot about who you are and what you’re doing on this planet without mentioning specifics. This could apply if you’re a dance teacher, a motivational speaker, or if you work at a nonprofit that provides health services to homeless youth. It would also (maybe especially) work if maybe you do all three. If the person you’re talking to is interested in learning more, they’ll ask. And then you can elaborate and get into the specifics.

 

Option #4: Drop an easy to understand answer that doesn’t encompass everything you do

It’s okay to choose not to share your entire work portfolio. Sometimes the person asking is only doing so to be polite, and getting into a lengthy conversation about your professional life would actually be inappropriate. Other times, you might simply not be in the mood to open up. It’s okay to answer with just one of your professional identities, or to simplify. People can learn about your other facets and the nuances of your career as they get to know you over time.

 

It isn’t always easy to be someone who doesn’t fit neatly into boxes. The world doesn’t always understand. But things are changing. Whether out of necessity or due to genuine passion and curiosity, more and more people are developing a multitude of skill sets. And yet, I think we can all agree that a better question to ask when you first meet someone might be something like, “So, what are you excited about these days?” Wouldn’t that be nice?

 

Emilie Wapnick is the founder, creative director, and resident multipotentialite at Puttylike. She believes that instead of picking one thing and denying all of our other interests, we can find ways to integrate our many passions into our lives. She created Puttylike in 2010 as a way to help people build dynamic, multifaceted lives, in practical and sustainable ways.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why I’m Finished with Leadership Buzzwords

 

Recognizing when our unconscious personal bias is influencing how we perceive our leaders is crucial. Leah Parkhill Reilly of the Women of Influence Advancement Centre urges us to base judgment on facts rather than feelings, and stay on high alert for meaningless buzzwords.

 

by Leah Parkhill Reilly

 


 

When I was in corporate HR, we would conduct talent roundtables to assess the readiness of the next levels of talent to move forward in the organization.

 

I would occasionally hear the comment that “so-and-so” lacked “gravitas” and was not ready for the promotion or a more challenging assignment. Often, the person lacking “gravitas” was female and the individual who was providing the opinion was a male executive with many years of experience.

 

This is not to say that the opinion was unfounded, but when I would question the individual on tangible evidence of what “gravitas” looked like, and examples of when the person being assessed was found lacking, often they had nothing to share. It was purely a gut opinion with nothing to validate it. Occasionally, it was a comment that the person had heard through the corporate grapevine. Opinion had become fact, and actual evidence was no longer relevant. This admittedly was an extreme example, and thankfully didn’t happen on a regular basis ― but it did happen, and still does.

 

“Opinion had become fact, and actual evidence was no longer relevant.”

 

We are all susceptible to unconscious bias, and part of the work that I did was to be very aware of this bias in these settings. In another example, I encountered a leader who wanted to hold back on an assignment for a female colleague because he thought she was considering having children. His implicit association was that if you’re female, then you’re going to be the primary caregiver and thus would not be interested in the next level of leadership. Thankfully, the discriminatory view of this dinosaur did not stand, and the female colleague did receive the assignment.

 

If you’re curious about the concept of unconscious bias and implicit association, one of the best sites I can recommend for further exploration is Project Implicit and the associated Implicit Association Tests. Project Implicit is an international collaboration between researchers run out of Harvard. The focus is on understanding our own social cognition: the thoughts and feelings outside of our conscious control.

 

You can complete any number of tests ― on age, gender, sexuality, and race, all in connection to career and the workplace ― to better understand the hidden biases that might affect your own decision-making process. If you’re really keen, I’d also suggest reading Blind Spot, which dives deeper into the causes of stereotyping and discrimination.

 

This is the time of year when performance assessments have been completed, but soon enough, mid-year talent roundtables will begin and it’s important to have your own radar on alert for the buzzwords that are flung around. As strong leaders, it behooves us to dig into the comments and understand what lies beneath the surface.

 

If someone “lacks presence,” tell us an example of when this failing was observed, give a comparative example of what it should look like in the firm, or provide options for how that person can develop their “leadership presence.” We can’t just readily accept opinion without actual supporting evidence. Leadership comes in many shapes and forms, and we need to be aware of our own biases of what leadership “looks like” ― instead focusing on the actual work, and impact within the organization and beyond.

 

Leah Parkhill Reilly is a Women of Influence Advancement Centre expert and the owner of Parkhill Reilly Consulting. As a results-oriented human resources consultant, she has a proven track record of driving change across large, complex organizations specifically with regard to learning, development and organizational effectiveness. Leah has worked in a variety of industries including telecommunications, insurance and financial services. Her career experiences run the gamut from project management for systems implementation to human capital strategic planning.

Overcoming the Imposter

 

You probably don’t have to think too far back to recall the last time you diminished yourself and your work, brushing off moments of success as simply “good luck”. It’s called the Imposter Syndrome, and it is real, and it is rampant — an estimated 70% of people will experience it at least once in their lives. So how do we move past it and own our triumphs? Leah Parkhill Reilly of the Women of Influence Advancement Centre has some tips. 

 

by Leah Parkhill Reilly


 

 

Have you ever had a day when it seems like the stars are perfectly aligned for you? When someone has reached out and hit the easy button on your behalf? I had one of those days this past Friday and it was brilliant, everything managed to fall into place and several people offered some much-needed support to make the day successful.

 

My initial reaction to the day falling into place was “what a stroke of luck, thank goodness things happened that way.” But when thinking about things again I realized that there really was no luck involved. Friends stepped up to help out because I had done the same for them many times before. I was offered a project for my business because I had established a track record and proven my worth. My initial reaction of “wow, what luck” diminished the work and my own capabilities that had led to a brilliant day.

 

How many of us do this on a regular basis? Diminish ourselves and our work and brush it off as luck? As it turns out, a whole bunch of us do. There have been numerous articles written about Imposter Phenomenon, and a study from 2011 asserts that “…it is estimated that 70% of people will experience at least one episode of this Impostor Phenomenon in their lives.”

 

The person dealing with Imposter Phenomenon can be summarized as an individual who attributes the success in their life to external factors and internalizes the failures within their life, and they experience some degree of fear at being discovered as an intellectual fraud. They may tend to discount their success if it’s not a match to the ideal standard that they’ve envisioned for themselves. They may discount the success that comes with hard work and perceive it as not being due to their innate ability, or they may just attribute their success to luck.

 

Some have asserted that there is a correlation between the Imposter Syndrome and success, as it drives a cycle of ambition. Anxiety over failure leads to hard work and preparation, leading to success, leading to positive feedback which is discounted, leading to the next task that will prove capability and debunk fraudulent feelings and so on. However, a cycle of ambition based on fraudulent feelings doesn’t feel like an ideal long-term approach to managing a career or life.

So how does one manage the fine balance of accepting one’s role in the successes in life without tripping too far over the other side of the line of having a whopping big ego? I’m not a therapist but in thinking through this for myself I’ve come up with my own list and think it might be helpful for you.

 

  1. Acknowledge Success: accept that you’ve had some part in your own success and that hard work counts just as much as innate skills.

  2. Reinforce and Reward: create a reminder for yourself of your positive accomplishments, such as a journal, tweet, text, or celebratory token – the point is recognizing it in yourself.

  3. Be Proud but Humble: for me, part of the unwillingness to acknowledge is not wanting to be seen as boastful, but there is a balance between openly showboating and feeling an internal sense of pride in accomplishments. Find that balance and try to stay on the side of humble.

  4. Learn from Failure: the point of this post is about owning both your successes and failures, so ensure that in your process of acknowledging, you identify what can be learned from the failures along the way.

 

 

Leah Parkhill Reilly is a Women of Influence Advancement Centre expert and the owner of Parkhill Reilly Consulting. As a results-oriented human resources consultant, she has a proven track record of driving change across large, complex organizations specifically with regard to learning, development and organizational effectiveness. Leah has worked in a variety of industries including telecommunications, insurance and financial services. Her career experiences run the gamut from project management for systems implementation to human capital strategic planning.

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.

Changing Quickly Takes Time

 

 

Any way you slice it, change can be hard, either as the leader trying to move a team through to the new beginning or as an individual who is managing their own transition. Leah Reilly, human resources consultant, explains a different way to look at change that can help make the process smoother.

 

by Leah Reilly

 


 

One of my favorite models of change is by William Bridges, written about extensively in his book, Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change. Bridges has a theory of change that basically asserts that “change” is the actual event. It’s the thing that happens that shocks the system and is a specific point in time and is situational. Transition, however, is psychological, and is a three-phase process of gradually accepting the details of the new situation and the changes that come with it.

In his model, change is fast and it’s the transition that’s slow. Change begins with an ending, something that once was and is no longer the case. The transition process moves through the neutral zone and ends with a new beginning. It’s a challenging concept, so I’ve included a diagram of the model:

 

If you are a leader who is staring down a major change this year, you might find that this model can be very powerful in coaching others to move through the stages of transition. Often labels like “good with change” or “change resistant” will get tossed around to discuss either the cheerleaders or the heel-draggers in a change initiative. But when you peel back the layers, you’ll begin to understand that it’s not immediate buy-in or sheer resistance that causes the person to behave the way that they do, it’s where they are in their own transition process. As a leader, you can start conversations to understand where people are in their own transition and perhaps help them come out the other side of the “neutral zone” that much faster.

On an individual level, I find this model very helpful and I can apply it somewhat clinically when I’m trying to understand why I’m reacting to events that occur in life. I’ve found that if I can mindfully understand where I’m at in reacting to a change event, I can perhaps work my way more quickly through to a new beginning. It helps me not to dwell in the past and seize opportunities more readily.

Any way you slice it, change can be hard, either as the leader trying to move a team through to the new beginning or as an individual who is managing their own transition. The point Bridges makes is that you can’t hit the fast-forward button on a change event and move straight from the end to the new beginning. During a transition people need time to process and sometimes dwell in the neutral zone before making it up the line toward enthusiasm. The model suggests while the process of transition can be difficult, allowing oneself or others to fully move through the stages can result in a creative and potentially positive outcome.

 

Leah Parkhill Reilly is a Women of Influence Advancement Centre expert and the owner of Parkhill Reilly Consulting. As a results-oriented human resources consultant, she has a proven track record of driving change across large, complex organizations specifically with regard to learning, development and organizational effectiveness. Leah has worked in a variety of industries including telecommunications, insurance and financial services. Her career experiences run the gamut from project management for systems implementation to human capital strategic planning.

 

The Dolce Vita of Debbie Travis

Debbie Travis

Ever since the launch of Debbie Travis’ Painted House in 1995, she’s been inspiring people in Canada (and beyond) to do a little more with their home decor. Now, Debbie’s inviting women to join her at the Tuscan villa she transformed from top to bottom – but that’s not nearly all she has on her plate.

 

By Hailey Eisen

 


 

“I’m currently living on a plane,” Debbie Travis says with a laugh while marvelling at the new phone system she’s just managed to set up to overcome the Wi-Fi challenges she’s been having in rural Tuscany. A brilliant multi-tasker, Debbie quite obviously thrives when she’s got a lot on the go.

 

Her personal brand is synonymous with home decor and DIY, and includes six television series – the latest being last year’s Oprah Winfrey Network documentary series La Dolce Debbie – nine books and a weekly syndicated newspaper column read by 6 million people. With the 2016 launch of the Debbie Travis Home Collection at Sears, an approachable fine-wine collection with Pillitteri Estates in Niagara and the recent transformation of a 100-acre medieval property in Tuscany into a stunning villa for women’s retreats (where she serves as the host), to say Debbie’s life is busy would be an understatement.

 

“What people often don’t know about me is that the most important hat I wear is that of TV producer,” she says. She and her husband, Hans Rosenstein, work together in the production and distribution business at their company Whalley Abbey Media (WAM), through which they produce all of Debbie’s shows plus other lifestyle series. They also produce a number of crime shows, including the hit American docudrama Real Detective. “I was trained in the U.K. in television production, and that’s what I love doing the most,” says Travis.

 

Born in England, Debbie met Hans at a television festival in Cannes. A few weeks later, they were married and living in his native Montreal. Because she didn’t speak French, she had trouble getting a job in TV in Quebec, so she started a painting business, bringing paint finishes that were hot in the U.K. to Canada and painting offices, restaurants and homes from Montreal to New York. From there her first television show, the award-winning Debbie Travis’ Painted House, was born in 1995 and helped pave the way for other decorating and home-improvement shows that followed.

 

“When it comes to starting any new venture,” Debbie says, “you need to have the confidence to just do it. And that’s not easy.” While she understands how a lack of confidence can hold a person back, Debbie says she finds the adventurousness of being an entrepreneur addictive, and that has fuelled all of her projects.

 

“Women are very good at talking and sharing – but there are always people who will bring you to your knees with a comment or negativity,” she says. “It takes a huge skill to get past that – to believe in yourself. You know I can’t even make a bed, and here I am running a hotel.”

 

“When it comes to starting any new venture, you need to have the confidence to just do it. And that’s not easy.”

 

When the idea of spending more time in Italy – one of her favourite vacation destinations – presented itself, Debbie didn’t stop at finding a holiday home she could share with her husband and two grown sons. “The more time we spent in Tuscany, the more incredible I felt,” she says. “I don’t know if it was the views or the people or the way of life, but I started to get this idea of, What if I shared it? If I feel like this when I’m here, then why not create a place where women could come, from all over the world, and be with other like-minded women?”

 

So in 2009, when she was giving a speech in Vancouver and the presenter asked, “What’s next?” she only half surprised herself with her response: “Well, I’m inviting women to a villa in Italy.”

 

“I’m still not sure where that came from,” she says, laughing. The retreat, which had been a spark of a great idea, didn’t yet have a physical location or a solid plan in place. But the next day, it was sold out.

 

In her true “just do it” fashion, Debbie found herself on a plane flying to London to get her best friend of 30 years on board. The two women, who maintain a great working partnership, rented a villa that summer and ran two successful retreats. They continued that way with one retreat per year until they found the perfect property, a 13th-century watchtower and farmhouse, and invested a huge amount of personal time and money into transforming it top to bottom.

 

While it’s still winter in Canada when Debbie Travis and I speak, there’s nothing cold or dismal about the place she’s working from. Nestled among organic olive groves, lavender fields, vineyards and orchards, Debbie’s luxurious Tuscan villa is not only her office away from the office, but a wildly popular retreat destination that’s now booking up years in advance.

 

Debbie isn’t just the creative force behind the operation, she’s actually involved in every single retreat, working alongside a life coach, yoga instructor, holistic medicine practitioner, chef and other experts that she’s hand-picked. “Some women arrive and are surprised that I’m here participating in the retreat,” she says. “Well, yeah, I’m here. I’m taking toilet paper rolls into every room. I love it.”

 

Her weeklong retreats that run from May to October provide women the opportunity to get away, by themselves or with friends, for a uniquely rewarding journey that involves a lot of talking, eating and drinking, self-care, hiking, biking, swimming, dancing and the forming of invaluable connections. Lifelong friendships and even business partnership have been forged among women who’ve arrived knowing nothing about one another. As Debbie explains it, “Whether they’re at a crossroads in their lives, are about to turn the page of a new chapter or are perfectly content right where they are – every woman leaves happier, revitalized and more empowered.”

 

Thanks to the huge success of the Girls’ Getaway retreats, they’ve opened up spots for a couples’ retreat as well as for private groups and corporations. Currently, Debbie is spending about eight months of the year in Tuscany – once you see the photos of her villa you’ll know why – but she’s back and forth a lot between Italy, the U.K. and Canada.

 

“What’s amazing about technology is that you can really work from anywhere,” she says. “I can sit outside with a glass of wine from my vineyard and this fabulous view and I can be working in my PJs.” It’s from this perch that Debbie will likely spend a good part of this year working on her next book, which is still under wraps, as well as adding to her Sears collection and expanding her wine offering. Of course, she’ll also make time to hand-pick olives from her grove in order to create her annual batch of organic olive oil and stuff bags with lavender (also freshly harvested on-site) to use within the villa.

 

“People ask me when they come here, ‘Why are you doing this?’” she says. “And it’s true, I could make more money selling mugs with my name on them in a department store. But this makes me a better person, and a happier person. And we all have to be able to find that – to be open to that.”

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.

#MOMBOSS: Meet Trina Boos, Whose Business Growth Plan Included Having Three Kids

Over the past few weeks, Hafsa Pathan has chatted with several working moms in various fields to get a feel for how they balance, well, everything. Their home life, their personal life, their social life and their work life. Oh, and the lives of their little ones (and sometimes significant other), seeing as the mother figure is responsible for so much in many families (ever wondered why they call it the motherboard?). One of her first meetings was with the ever-talented Trina Boos, president of Boost Agents, a now 6-year-old recruitment agency in Toronto that specializes in matching professionals with careers in digital, advertising, creative and marketing.

 

By Hafsa Pathan


 

Trina has accomplished a lot in her career: she has started two successful businesses; she worked in one of Canada’s largest and most successful advertising agencies; she helped to grow a startup digital agency that was then sold to Arlene Dickinson’s Venture Communications; and she also sold customer experience, insights and strategy to companies across Canada. In addition to this, she’s a mother of three kids aged 6, 2, and 7 months.  

 

How does she do it all?

 

Almost six years ago, Trina started Boost Agents in her living room while she was still breastfeeding her first child. She has memories of planning a business, sticky notes covering the living room wall, meeting with the bank, accountant, designer and web developer, and launching her business in the industry, all with a baby in tow. Two more babies later, she’s seen Boost Agents take shape in ways she never thought possible.

 

Her growth plan for the company and herself included having three children by 2016. This equated to having a child almost every two years, which meant that the business needed to either grow or remain stable while she left to nurse each one. 

 

Trina knew that she would never be able to take a full 12-month maternity leave as is typical for many mothers in Canada. She was able to take almost four months off after both her second and third children, but any more than that would have left her team back in the office in need. That said, she set up a temporary nursery in her office, breastfed during meetings with staff, and pumped between interviews to juggle things as the nurturer of a newborn baby, and the leader of a growing business.

 

While many entrepreneurs understood the challenges of balancing family and work, many others in the community did not. A fellow mother asked her, “Don’t you want to be with your baby?” Another looked her up and down on a Friday afternoon and asked, “Why are you so dressed up? What?! You’re going back to work ALREADY!?”

 

The outward criticism was a little surprising, but Trina had known that not everyone would relate to her experience. What she does by juggling her two major priorities works for her, but it’s not something she would wish for most people. “It’s not for the faint of heart,” she says. “Juggling is just part of the job. If I were to listen to what everyone thinks about how I handle my life, I would be crippled… I wouldn’t do a thing. It’s important to stay strong, and stay focused on your goals, what’s best for you, your kids, your business and your family as a whole.”

 

She was nursing her eldest when she signed legal papers during the launch of her business. She’s given speeches to groups of entrepreneurs with a newborn in her arms. And she’s brought each child in to meet the team of eleven employees currently employed at Boost Agents. She jokes that she’s got little recruiters in training.

 

“If I were to listen to what everyone thinks about how I handle my life, I would be crippled… I wouldn’t do a thing. It’s important to stay strong, and stay focused on your goals, what’s best for you, your kids, your business and your family as a whole.”

 

“It’s been incredible to see the business develop and reach these key milestones, and to see that with each milestone I’ve managed to have another baby while the business continues to grow.”

 

After baby number two, Trina realized that in order to focus on Boost’s management and growth initiatives, she needed to remove herself from the day-to-day tasks of her business and hire a team that could support the client management and business development aspects. Doing so has helped tremendously, and given her employees more confidence. She says that “it’s been exceptional to see how empowered they feel.”

 

She had hoped to take six months off after her third child, but three months in decided that the business needed her back part-time. She set benchmarks and guidelines for the team and for herself, so as to be more disciplined around when she would work and when she would be more hands-off. It’s changed the whole vibe of her maternity leave, providing some structure to her time away, and as a result she’s really been enjoying her time with her newborn, while also being available to the team.

 

One of the most important things Trina told me was that she designed her life with one key word in mind: simplicity. She’s only responsible for the things she wants to be responsible for and those are her kids, her husband, and her business. That’s it. When she and her husband aren’t working, they’re spending quality time with their kids, rather than dealing with household chores.  “I was forever exhausted when I came home from work, and I dreaded doing the laundry, cooking and cleaning, so it made perfect sense to bring in some extra help.”

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Trina hired her mother to clean, cook, and maintain the house. Her mom also plays a part in raising the kids (alongside Trina and her husband, of course). It’s popular strategy — I spoke with a handful of other moms who say that they, too, have hired a cleaning service or grocery delivery service to get these mundane tasks done.

 

Trina also believes that a working mom is invaluable to her children. She describes her 6-year-old daughter like this:

 

“She’s fierce, she’s independent, she’s a strong little woman. She has opinions about life that she’s willing to stand her ground on. She’s not a fighter — she’s a very cooperative person — but she has principles. She’s only ever known a life where her father is as equally as involved as her mom — in fact, he sometimes handles 70% of the household stuff. She has a progressive way of looking at her world; she hears a lot about business and its challenges, and I can attribute that to her having a working mom.”

 

Another key takeaway from my chat with Trina: a happy parent leads to happy kids. Kids want to see their parents happy, and this in turn makes them happy, whether they realize it or not. Trina also stresses that it’s so important for new moms to know that their children are adaptable.

 

People often talk about how children feed off the negative energy of their parents, and how running a business can feed into that. But by structuring the time she devotes to her family and her business, Trina brings her positive energy to both, and has been able to see both her family and her business thrive.

 

 

Hafsa Pathan is a PR Account Executive at Eighty-Eight, and also the founder of Honey Lemon Events, a party styling and planning business in Toronto. She spends her time trying to balance motherhood, her career and entrepreneurship. She even manages to take a shower daily. (Ok — every other day.)

Are you coasting or are you creating?

Human resources consultant, Leah Reilly, warns about getting trapped in sentimental feelings about your past roles and accomplishments. Instead, seek out new experiences and push yourself creatively and positively career-wise, and it can result in gains in other aspects of life.

 

by Leah Reilly


 

At one point, I accepted a role with a former manager because I felt trapped in my role at the time. This new offer was a lifeline out of a bad situation and it seemed perfect. I’d work for someone I knew, in a role I was quite comfortable filling and things would be great. What I hadn’t accounted for was the fact that I had changed. I had gained experience, opinions and maturity. I was a very different employee from the person I once was; I had led and managed people, delivered challenging projects and dealt with difficult personalities.

 

Arguably this made me a better leader and even better suited to revisit the former role, but I didn’t find the job nearly as satisfying as in the past. I no longer had the same creative spark, it was too easy and I could just coast and fill my time with busy-work rather than meaningful endeavours. It took a health wake-up call for me to realize that I was coasting and that the dissatisfaction with work was permeating other aspects of my life: personal relationships, fitness and overall wellness.

 

“It took a health wake-up call for me to realize that I was coasting and that the dissatisfaction with work was permeating other aspects of my life: personal relationships, fitness and overall wellness.”

 

Recently I was listening to an interview with Michael Stipe on the Q podcast. It’s the 25th anniversary of “Out of Time” and they’ve re-released their landmark album. I’ll wait for a second while you settle into that nugget and feel incredibly old. During the interview, Michael made a comment that was something along the lines of “I abhor sentimentality. I just want to move onto the next song, the next book, the next album.”

 

Pause for a second and settle into the idea of “letting go of sentiment.” At first it seems a bit callous, at least to me it did. It seemed like heartlessly tossing away something cherished and moving like a magpie onto the next shiny object. But that’s not what he meant, or at least I don’t think that’s what he meant. What I’ve taken this to mean is that you can’t let yourself get trapped in the memory of what was.

 

Stipe’s comment resonated truthfully for me and drew me right back to the experience of trying to go back to an old role. I’ve learned from this experience in my career that the clichés are indeed true, that time stands still for no (wo)man and that you can’t go back again. I’ve learned that pushing yourself creatively and positively career-wise results in positive gains in other aspects of life. It’s critical to let go of the sentimental ties that bind us to the past and that can cause us to stagnate.

 

You need to continually move forward, push yourself and create new experiences. Warm and fond memories of past roles and successes will remain but don’t spend too long patting yourself on the back for your past accomplishments. Remain curious, keep learning, be open to reinvention and don’t look back.

 

Leah Parkhill Reilly is a Women of Influence Advancement Centre expert and the owner of Parkhill Reilly Consulting. As a results-oriented human resources consultant, she has a proven track record of driving change across large, complex organizations specifically with regard to learning, development and organizational effectiveness. Leah has worked in a variety of industries including telecommunications, insurance and financial services. Her career experiences run the gamut from project management for systems implementation to human capital strategic planning.

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.

The first step towards success? Know yourself.

Kate Rowbotham

There’s something very unique about your personal career journey: YOU. So, whether your goal is to get ahead or to find more satisfaction, dedicate some time to learning more about yourself. Kate Rowbotham, Assistant Professor of Organizational Behaviour at Smith School of Business at Queen’s University, explains how.

 

By Hailey Eisen


 

How well do you really know yourself? When was the last time you stopped to check-in to see if your job and career trajectory were in alignment with your strengths, passions, and values?

According to Kate Rowbotham, Assistant Professor of Organizational Behaviour at Smith School of Business at Queen’s University, the more self-aware you are, the better prepared you’ll be to navigate your career forward.

“Those who over- or underestimate their own abilities tend to struggle more with a willingness to learn and accept feedback,” she explains. “Self-awareness, simply put, is about knowing your motivations, preferences, strengths, and weaknesses — and understanding how those impact your thoughts and actions.”

If developing a strong sense of self-awareness seems like a daunting task, it doesn’t have to be. Rowbotham provides some simple steps — all of which she recommends to her own students — to help you check-in and take stock of where you’re at, personally and professionally.

 

Ask yourself some important questions

When you want to get to know another person, the best way to start is by asking them questions. Well, the same is true when it comes to getting to know yourself better. Rowbotham recommends a blog post written by Gretchen Rubin, bestselling author of The Happiness Project, as an excellent resource to begin with. In this post, Rubin poses a number of questions for self-reflection including: Is there an area of your life where you feel out of control? Especially in control? Are you motivated by competition? These types of questions can help you better understand your behaviours, habits, choices and how they’re governed, maybe even unconsciously, by the type of person you are, Rowbotham explains.

“You’ll want to take some time on your own to reflect on these questions and your answers to them,” she advises. “The practice of journaling can be really helpful to get your thoughts flowing.”

 

Check in with those who know you best

Sometimes it helps to understand how others see you or to test your theories about yourself with those who know you best. “The next step in self-reflection is to turn to those closest to you — family, friends, colleagues — and ask for their input,” Rowbotham advises. Sometimes you’ll find you’re perceived differently depending what role you’re playing: daughter, mother, friend, manager, colleague. So, checking in across the various areas of your life might help provide a more holistic picture.

 

Celebrate successes and leave room for improvement  

“One exercise I do with my students after every presentation or project they complete, and with my own teenage daughter after ever competitive hockey game she plays, is to make time for reflection. The same probing questions work no matter the context. The first is to list two areas that went well and the second is to list two areas that you can improve upon.” The opportunity here, she explains, is to think about everything in terms of how you can continuously be growing and developing your skills and expertise. The same sort of check-in on your strengths (what’s going well) and areas for improvement can be scheduled into your calendar on a monthly basis.  

“The risk of not checking in, or forgetting how important self-awareness can be, is that you get five or 10 years down the road and you find yourself in a job that’s unfulfilling or you realize you have a general sense of dissatisfaction with your life,” Rowbotham explains.

 

Find creative ways to fill the voids.

Another question worth asking yourself is: What are some of the things you love to do, but rarely make time for? “While we can’t always find joy in the work we’re doing, it’s important to find a way to incorporate our passions — the things we love — into our lives in some way.” Whether it be making more time in your personal life to explore hobbies and interests, or working with your manager or boss to re-construct your job in a way that allows you to draw that extra value, the key is to know what you love and find a way to make it part of your life.

 

Be your own advocate  

Once you have a better sense of your strengths and weaknesses, your preferences, and your personality, you’ll be in a better position to ask for what you want within your current job, or to look for a job that better meets your needs and desires. Whether you’re thinking of going back to school, making a career change, looking for a new job, or finding a way to make your current job work better for you — self-awareness is key to satisfaction and success.

 

 

Read more about how getting in touch with yourself can help advance your career with Karen Jackson-Cox, Executive Director of the Business Career Centre at Smith School of Business.

 

Meet Susan McPherson, the Angel Investor Women Want on their Team

Susan McPherson

Susan McPherson is the kind of woman women want on their team — and we don’t blame them. She’s the founder and CEO of McPherson Strategies, a communications consultancy focusing on the intersection between brands and social good, and currently is focused on investing in and advising women-led technology start-ups. She serves on the boards of several organizations focused on women’s well being and advancement, and was recently selected as a Vital Voices global corporate ambassador, named one of 40 Women to Watch Over 40, Fortune’s 55 Most Influential Women on Twitter, Elle Magazine’s Top 25 Women on Twitter and Fast Company’s 25 Smartest Women of Twitter.

It’s safe to say that when we talk about women’s advancement, Susan is truly leading the charge.


 

My first job ever was… Waitressing, which provided incredible insight as to how people behave, make choices, and treat their fellow citizens.

 

My proudest accomplishment is… A tie between travelling to Afghanistan in 2005 to help train women entrepreneurs for peace and visiting refugee camps in Kenya and Uganda with UNHCR in 2014 to better understand the harrowing world they face on a daily basis.

 

My boldest move to date was… Launching my business, McPherson Strategies, with no prior training as an entrepreneur.

 

I surprise people when I tell them… That I don’t have children and that I’m single.

 

The biggest misconception about Corporate Social Responsibility is… That it’s only for the big guys  Fortune 500, multi-national corporations. CSR can be baked into start-ups at the get go. You don’t need to have massive revenues to build “good” into your business.

 

My best advice for anyone that wants to follow in my footsteps is… Build and constantly nurture your network, not because you are trying to get ahead, but rather, because you are truly interested in what inspires and connects people. Doing so for many years truly made launching our consultancy feasible and successful.

 

My best advice from a mentor was… From my late father, stating: “Nothing is a prison sentence.” Meaning, you can take a risk without fear and always turn around.

 

My biggest setback was… When I lost my mom to a hotel fire on New Year’s Eve at the age of 20.

 

I overcame it by… Wish I could say that I overcame it. Her tragic loss devastated me and now looking back on what will be 30 years ago December 31, 2016, I can honestly say that I have overcame it by doing my best to continue the life she was living, aka always connecting and supporting others, helping meaningful causes and never burning bridges. 

 

Work/life balance is… Absolutely loving the work I do. It actually often doesn’t feel like work.

 

If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… That I as a teenager had a date with a star of the film, Bad News Bears, and I ran 6 marathons (but before social media).


I stay inspired by… All the incredible friends I have in this world and the powerful work each are conducting, as well as my three brilliant nieces who are the voices for our future.

 

The future excites me because… There is always a new road to take and so many places left on this planet yet to visit.

 

 Meet Lesley Lawrence, another senior executive devoted to making entrepreneurial dreams come true.