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Saturday, April 8, 2017

Creating Her (A Guide to An Empowered, Purpose-Driven Life)

Please join us for Creating Her: A Guide to an Empowered, Purpose-Driven Life. This is part one of a three part series! Four experts have come together to offer this exciting and oh-so-important program for all women. Come as you are, and open your mind to the possibilities, as the team of mentors engages you with experience, knowledge, support, and empowerment for your journey, whatever that journey may be. Workshop #1 has four main segments, with two guided meditations throughout the program. The topics consist of the following: an introduction to Reiki; elevating your health using essential oils; balancing your life and clearing blocks; and finding focus, clarity, and joy from discovering your purpose.
Purchase tickets for all three workshops today and save $153.00! 
Purchase Here: Creating Her
Workshop #2 and Workshop #3 topis will include: MBTI personality type identification, Chakra Balancing, Mindfullness, Business and Personal Leadership Skills. Assertive Communication, Financial Freedom, and Life Success Principles.
Please join us!!
Below is the agenda for Workshop #1




Women's Health Summit


Join us Saturday, April 29 from 9:30 am to 3:30 pm for our Multicultural Women’s Health Summit, a day-long health and wellness event for women held at UMass Medical School in Worcester. This program is designed to be informative, inspirational and motivational. Take advantage of our free health screenings and health and wellness presentations on topics important to women’s health. A continental breakfast and healthy lunch will be provided, along with free shuttle services from select locations and free parking. Register at www.umassmed.edu/women or by calling 508-856-4001.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

6 Tips For Better Work-Life Balance

This article is part of a series on work-life balance. Check out the companion pieces here: The 20 Best Work-Life Balance Jobs and 5 Signs You Might Be a Workaholic.

These days, work-life balance can seem like an impossible feat. Technology makes workers accessible around the clock. Fears of job loss incentivize longer hours. In fact, a whopping 94% of working professionals reported working more than 50 hours per week and nearly half said they worked more than 65 hours per week in a Harvard Business School survey. Experts agree: the compounding stress from the never-ending workday is damaging. It can hurt relationships, health and overall happiness.
Work-life balance means something different to every individual, but here health and career experts share tips to help you find the balance that’s right for you.

1. Let go of perfectionism
A lot of overachievers develop perfectionist tendencies at a young age when demands on their time are limited to school, hobbies and maybe an after-school job. It’s easier to maintain that perfectionist habit as a kid, but as you grow up, life gets more complicated. As you climb the ladder at work and as your family grows, your responsibilities mushroom. Perfectionism becomes out of reach, and if that habit is left unchecked, it can become destructive, says executive coach Marilyn Puder-York, PhD, who wrote The Office Survival Guide.
The key to avoid burning out is to let go of perfectionism, says Puder-York. “As life gets more expanded it’s very hard, both neurologically and psychologically, to keep that habit of perfection going,” she says, adding that the healthier option is to strive not for perfection, but for excellence.

2. Unplug
From telecommuting to programs that make work easier, technology has helped our lives in many ways. But it has also created expectations of constant accessibility. The work day never seems to end. “There are times when you should just shut your phone off and enjoy the moment,” says Robert Brooks, a professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School and co-author of The Power of Resilience: Achieving Balance, Confidence and Personal Strength in Your Life. Brooks says that phone notifications interrupt your off time and inject an undercurrent of stress in your system. So don’t text at your kid’s soccer game and don’t send work emails while you’re hanging out with family, Brooks advises. Make quality time true quality time. By not reacting to the updates from work, you will developing a stronger habit of resilience. “Resilient people feel a greater sense of control over their lives,” says Brooks, while reactive people have less control and are more prone to stress.
English: An artist's depiction of the rat race...
English: An artist's depiction of the rat race in reference to the work and life balance. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rat_race Made with following images: http://www.openclipart.org/detail/75385 http://www.openclipart.org/detail/74137 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

3. Exercise and meditate
Even when we’re busy, we make time for the crucial things in life. We eat. We go to the bathroom. We sleep. And yet one of our most crucial needs - exercise - is often the first thing to go when our calendars fill up. Exercise is an effective stress reducer. It pumps feel-good endorphins through your body. It helps lift your mood and can even serve a one-two punch by also putting you in a meditative state, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Puder-York recommends dedicating a few chunks of time each week to self-care, whether it’s exercise, yoga or meditation. And if you’re really pressed for time, start small with deep breathing exercises during your commute, a quick five minute meditation session morning and night, or replacing drinking alcohol with a healthier form of stress reduction.
“When I talk about balance, not everything has to be the completion and achievement of a task, it also has to include self-care so that your body, mind and soul are being refreshed,” says Puder-York.
These exercises require minor effort but offer major payoffs. Psychotherapist Bryan Robinson, who is also professor emeritus at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and author of the book Chained to the Desk, explains that our autonomic nervous system includes two branches: the sympathetic nervous system (our body’s stress response) and the parasympathetic nervous system (our body’s rest and digest response). “The key is to find something that you can build into your life that will activate your parasympathetic nervous system,” says Robinson. Short, meditative exercises like deep breathing or grounding your senses in your present surroundings, are great places to start. The more you do these, the more you activate your parasympathetic nervous system, which “calms everything down, (and) not just in the moment,” says Robinson. “Over time you start to notice that in your life, your parasympathetic nervous system will start to trump your sympathetic nervous system.”

4. Limit time-wasting activities and people
First, identify what’s most important in your life. This list will differ for everyone, so make sure it truly reflects your priorities, not someone else’s. Next, draw firm boundaries so you can devote quality time to these high-priority people and activities.
From there, it will be easier to determine what needs to be trimmed from the schedule. If email or internet surfing sends you into a time-wasting spiral, establish rules to keep you on task. That may mean turning off email notifications and replying in batches during limited times each day. If you’re mindlessly surfing Facebook or cat blogs when you should be getting work done, try using productivity software like Freedom, LeechBlock or RescueTime. And if you find your time being gobbled up by less constructive people, find ways to diplomatically limit these interactions. Cornered every morning by the office chatterbox? Politely excuse yourself. Drinks with the work gang the night before a busy, important day? Bow out and get a good night sleep. Focus on the people and activities that reward you the most.
To some, this may seem selfish. “But it isn’t selfish,” says Robinson. “It’s that whole airplane metaphor. If you have a child, you put the oxygen mask on yourself first, not on the child.” When it comes to being a good friend, spouse, parent or worker, “the better you are yourself, the better you are going to be in all those areas as well.”

5. Change the structure of your life
Sometimes we fall into a rut and assume our habits are set in stone. Take a birds-eye view of your life and ask yourself: What changes could make life easier? 
Puder-York remembers meeting with a senior executive woman who, for 20 years of her marriage, arranged dinner for her husband every night. But as the higher earner with the more demanding job, the trips to the grocery store and daily meal preparations were adding too much stress to her life. “My response to her was, "Maybe it's time to change the habit,'” recalls Puder-York. The executive worried her husband might be upset, but Puder-York insisted that, if she wanted to reduce stress, this structural change could accomplish just that.
So instead of trying to do it all, focus on activities you specialize in and value most. Delegate or outsource everything else. Delegating can be a win-win situation, says Stewart Freidman, a management professor at the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School and author of Leading the Life You Want: Skills for Integrating Work and Life. Freidman recommends talking to the “key stakeholders” in different areas of your life, which could include employees or colleagues at work, a spouse or a partner in a community project. “Find out what you can do to let go in ways that benefit other people by giving them opportunities to grow,” he says. This will give them a chance to learn something new and free you up so you may devote attention to your higher priorities.

6. Start small. Build from there.
We’ve all been there: crash diets that fizzle out, New Year’s resolutions we forget by February. It’s the same with work-life balance when we take on too much too quickly, says Brooks. Many of his workaholic clients commit to drastic changes: cutting their hours from 80 hours a week to 40, bumping up their daily run from zero miles a day to five miles a day. It’s a recipe for failure, says Brooks. When one client, who was always absent from his family dinners, vowed to begin attending the meals nightly, Brooks urged him to start smaller. So he began with one evening a week. Eventually, he worked his way up to two to three dinners per week.
“If you’re trying to change a certain script in your life, start small and experience some success. Build from there,” says Brooks.

Deborah Jian Lee is a journalist, radio producer and author of a forthcoming book about progressive evangelicals (Beacon Press). Follow her @deborahjianlee. Visit her website www.deborahjianlee.com.

6 Changes Your Company Must Make to Develop More Female Leaders


The most recent allegations of sexual harassment by management and subsequent apathy by HR at hot tech startup Uber have once again brought to the fore the lack of progress we’ve made in gender equality. What Susan Fowler’s story highlights is that not only do women face direct discrimination from managers and peers, when they speak out they often feel the backlash in their opportunities for advancement.
The lack of female leaders in general, and especially in the tech world, is one of the most highly discussed challenges. All the industry giants have been criticized for continuing to have such low numbers of women on the board, in management positions or even in the workforce in general. This has caused many, such as Facebook, Google and Apple to publicly release reports on their diversity statistics and commit to developing more female leaders. The numbers of women of color in leadership positions is even lower. A study by the AAUW found that out of Standard and Poor’s 500 only 4 percent of executive officials and managers were women of color.
Not only is this an issue about equality, it also greatly impacts a company’s bottom line. Studies show that companies which are more gender diverse are 15 percent more likely to outperform and those which are more ethnically diverse are 35 percent more likely to outperform. Companies with more female leaders are also proven to be more profitable. In fact, studies have shown that women are typically rated as being more effective leaders overall than men by their reports, peers and managers. So why are there so few female leaders?

Unconscious bias

While we may not realize it, everyone is subject to unconscious bias. The reason why it’s so taboo is because people fear being labelled as sexist, racist or prejudiced for acknowledging it. In fact, studies show that it’s not just male managers who unconsciously stereotype women -- female managers are also susceptible to unconscious bias against their female reports. Failing to acknowledge the potential for unconscious bias is your company’s number one mistake when it comes to developing female and minority leaders.
Even if your company has a clear policy against inequality in promotions and pay, why does it still happen? To find out you have to look at the root causes.

Similarity bias

Similarity bias is the tendency for people to want to help and mentor people who remind them of themselves when they were coming up in the company. As the majority of managers are still men, it’s not uncommon for them to see themselves in a male report who may have the same personality and interests as them when they began working. Even if unconscious, this can lead managers to favor certain reports with extra mentoring and, thereby, opportunities for development.

In feedback

Feedback and performance reviews are essential to helping employees develop professionally and for companies to identify top performers for new positions. When unconscious bias finds its way into these important tools for advancement, it can cause women to be held back under the radar.
A joint 2016 study by McKinsey&Company and Lean In found that, while both genders ask for feedback equally, women are 20 percent less likely to receive difficult feedback. The most common answer given is that managers don’t want to seem “mean or hurtful”.
Most managers already find it difficult to give constructive feedback, even when their employees ask for it. If male managers hold on to an unconscious fear that women will be more likely to react emotionally to feedback, their female reports will not receive the same coaching opportunities as their male peers.
Adding another layer, a study by the Center for Talent Innovation found that 2/3 of men in senior positions pulled back from 1-on-1 contact with junior female employees for fear that they might be suspected of having an affair.
In performance reviews
What’s more, when women do receive feedback, studies show it is often vague and not tied to business outcomes. This means that, whether it’s positive or constructive, women are less likely to be told what specific actions contributed to the team/company objectives or how they can improve. Meanwhile, their male colleagues are more likely to receive a clear picture of how they’re doing and what they can do to improve.
People also have a tendency to see certain behaviors as primarily male or female. For example, assertiveness, independence and authority are often stereotyped as “male”, while supportive, collaborative and helpful are perceived as typically “female”. Therefore, studies show that when women demonstrate qualities typically associated with men, it is often criticized. For example, two studies in particular have shown that while men are often described as confident and assertive, for the same behavior, women are described as abrasive and off putting.

There is no evidence men more effective leaders.

However, a study by Zenger and Folkman sought to evaluate the effectiveness of male versus female leaders in 16 leadership qualities. Overall women were perceived as more effective and surpassed men in 12 categories, even those typically perceived as “male” such as taking initiative and driving for results.
Perhaps most convincing of all, a meta-analysis of 99 data sets from 95 studies conducted between 1962-2011 published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, similarly found that female leaders were rated by their reports, peers and managers as being just as or even more effective than male leaders.
The interesting question is why women continue to be overlooked for leadership positions? These studies may reveal some answers. For one, the meta-analysis showed that, while they’re rated highly by others, many have a tendency to underrate themselves in their self-assessments. Another, as mentioned previously, is the tendency to perceive the desired leadership skills as those regularly stereotyped as “male”.
In today’s flattening, collaborative, autonomous work atmosphere companies are beginning to realize they want coaches, not managers. Some of the top qualities needed are instead: emotional intelligence, coaching/mentoring, ability to motivate and engage through purpose, empowering through autonomy and ownership. In effect, not only are our perceptions of female vs male leaders incorrect, our perceptions of what makes a great leader are also based on outdated stereotypes.
Here are six ways you can help your company develop more female leaders:

1. Recognize the potential for unconscious bias.

Rather than making it a witch hunt, it’s important to explain that the potential for bias is common but there are ways that companies are helping their workforces to identify and combat it. Companies like Paradigm and Textio, for example, are helping major tech companies overcome this challenge by offering trainings and workshops on implicit bias and opening up their hiring practices to more diverse candidates. Meanwhile Google has come up with its own internal program to help its people recognize unconscious bias. It has also publicly shared the slides and training materials it presents to its employees.

2. If you think your feedback may be hurtful, you’re giving it wrong.

If you’re unconsciously worried about giving constructive feedback to a female report because you don’t know how they’ll take it, you should consider how you’re saying it. Anyone - whether a man or a woman - who receives strong criticism which isn’t actionable will find it difficult to process. Remember, these key practices: never judge, always refer to specific examples of what was said or done and provide suggestions for how the person could improve.

3. Define top leadership qualities.

Without a common and agreed upon set of top leadership qualities, it is more likely that people will hold onto the dominating stereotype of the typical “boss”. Instead, take a page from Google’s Project Oxygen. During this project the company utilized employee surveys, analyzed manager performance reviews and interviewed the top managers within the company. As a result, they came up with 8 key behaviors that the best managers possess.
Not surprisingly, not a single one conformed to the traditional authoritarian stereotype many still unconsciously think of. Instead, some of these included: being a great coach, empowering the team and not micromanaging, and expressing interest/concern for team member’s success and well being.
Find out what qualities are most important for being a great leader in your company. Make sure this process is inclusive with feedback from employees, peers and managers alike. The better you define what leadership looks like, the less likely future managers will be chosen based on outdated stereotypes.

4. Integrate these qualities into your performance review process.

It’s not enough to simply come up with a list of behaviors. The next step is then to integrate them into your performance review process as core leadership competencies. Rather than asking if said person has leadership potential, ask people to review others based on their ability to coach, communicate effectively or empower others. This will help both men and women develop the leadership skills needed to effectively manage your teams.

5. Mentoring reports

Rather than making coaching an informal part of a manager’s job, every manager should set up standing bi-monthly 1-on-1s  and/or weekly strategic check-ins with each report. By making these 1-on-1 meetings standard for everyone, managers can ensure they’re not unconsciously giving preference to certain employees over others.

6. Tackle impostor syndrome.

Though often associated with women, studies show that imposter syndrome affects both sexes. It could very well be the reason why talented individuals aren’t getting promoted within your organization. To address this common phenomenon, help train your employees to set challenging but attainable goals and teach them how they can use these achievements to benchmark their progress, for themselves and their manager.

Friday, February 17, 2017