Author: April Benetollo

Highlights from the 2018-19 Program Year

Momentum’s fiscal year closed June 30th, which means this first week of July gives us time for pause, to breathe, and to reflect upon our collective work this past year.

With the help of our dedicated Board of Directors, Honor Roll supporters, graduates, and corporate sponsors, we were able to dramatically expand Momentum programs and services. Here are a few of the highlights from the year.

Tripled the Number of Women in Our Leadership Development Programs

In January we launched the inaugural Upward early-career program. Providing leadership training, professional development, coaching, and an extensive network to these women earlier in their lives, which can change the trajectory of their career and shape them into our future leaders.

We have two classes of 30 women each, following a nine-month curriculum that parallels the skills and relationships of the executive leadership program. At the time of this post we are little over halfway through the program, and by all measures Upward has exceeded our expectations. Our session surveys average 4-5 out of 5, and we consistently receive great feedback from the participants:

“I am loving Upward and feel so fortunate to have been accepted. I know it’s going to be a game changer for me. It’s encouraging me to do the hard work of really taking stock of where I’ve been, who I am, and where I’m trying to go.” Lee T., Upward participant

“Upward has given me amazing tools to understand how to work more effectively and efficiently. It’s also been inspiring to see so many women growing professionally and encouraging each other to dig deep and grow.” Heather F., Upward participant

“Through the Upward program, I’ve gained a coalition of individuals dedicated to supporting my professional and personal growth, challenging my perspectives, and inspiring me.”  Yolanda J. Upward participant

The current class will graduate in October. We are currently taking applications through August 31, 2019 for the 2020 program year.

Graduated Our 16th Executive Leadership Class

Each year Momentum receives more qualified applications than we can place in one class, and this year was no exception. Our selection committee strives for a broad range of organizations from different industries, as well as individuals with varied roles, backgrounds, ethnicity, and experiences. Class 16 was an all-star group of women who will be true leaders to watch and great additions to our Momentum Alumnae network. The executive class session survey ratings averaged 4.5 out of 5 for the program year.

Quarterly Leadership Series, Open to the Community

This year, Momentum offered four new workshops and events as part of a quarterly Leadership Series, open for registration to anyone in the community. At the completion of the series, nearly 1,000 additional participants will have received valuable professional development on negotiating, confidence, building inclusive teams, and jump-starting an early career. We are working on the details of the 2019-20 leadership series, offering more programs in October, January, March and June.

Men with Momentum Quarterly Work-Group Sessions

Momentum has also expanded work through Men with Momentum. The CEO Advisory Board for this program is a powerful list of men: Jim Archibald, Bradley; Rich Bielen, Protective Life; Shane Clanton, BBVA; Jim Gorrie, Brasfield & Gorrie; Mark Tarr, Encompass Health; Art Tipton, SRI (retired); John Turner, Regions; Selwyn Vickers, UAB; Tim Vines, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama.

Momentum has hosted four new sessions with the Board and their delegates. These sessions are designed to expose the challenges to advancement for women and people of color, and to identify successful strategies for building leadership teams that are representative of the markets and communities they serve. The goal is for economic development:  to influence corporate culture and policies to make Birmingham more competitive for attracting and retaining diverse top talent.

Increased Community Engagement

This past year we introduced new ways for organizations to engage the outstanding leadership development available through Momentum, including corporate workshops, training classes, forums, and women’s resource groups. This year Momentum has provided content for these events, serving an additional 450 women at companies such as Altec, BBVA, and UAB.

More Mentors for Momentum

Momentum’s mentoring program has expanded. Anyone can request a mentor through Momentum, and there is no charge for the matches made nor training received. The number of women in Momentum’s mentoring program is approaching 1,000!

Momentum Mission Partners

Momentum has developed partnerships with other Birmingham nonprofits with synergistic missions. This year Momentum provided exposure, board recommendations, and volunteers to the following Mission Partners: Athena Collective, Birmingham Southern, Childcare Resources, Girls Inc., Girl Scouts, Girlspring, Habitat for Humanity, Healthcare Educators of Alabama, Birmingham Education Foundation, YWCA of Central Alabama, First Light, Jessie’s Place, Pathways, Oasis, Safe House, Samford University, The Women’s Fund, and UAB.

What’s Ahead…

In addition to our executive Class 17, Upward early-career, and all of the programs outlined above, we have a few more impressive projects ahead!

Biennial Conference, March 11-12, 2020

We have big plans to expand and improve the conference in several ways:

  • More breakout rooms to accommodate up to 1500 participants (a 66% increase.)
  • Partner with women’s groups in other metro areas to publicize the conference statewide
  • Conference experience expanded to a day and a half
  • Exhibit hall to showcase companies and services of value to attendees

Of course we’ll have an outstanding roster of keynote speakers, session facilitators, and lots of opportunities to network.

Data Research, Vision 2020

Pending funding approval, Momentum will contract with a third party to conduct a data research to accomplish two things:

  1. Measure the effectiveness of our initiatives to advance women in leadership

  2. Gain an understanding of the workplace policies that affect women in Alabama and the economic impact of improving those policies

This data will be extremely useful in helping us build awareness and support in our community for what it takes to advance women in leadership.

Momentum Scholarship Initiative

Pending funding, Momentum will expand our scholarship budget to include a limited number of scholarships for low to moderate income women and women in the nonprofit/public sector to attend our conference and community leadership training.

Momentum Speakers Bureau

Part of advancing women in leadership is making sure our alumnae are seen and heard in the community. We are in the process of identifying the women in our alumnae network who enjoy public speaking and would like to be part of the Momentum Speakers’ Bureau. The speakers’ bureau elevates our alumnae, builds awareness for Momentum, and gives audiences more exposure to the many women leaders in our community.

Extending the Momentum Statewide

Momentum will partner with women’s groups in other metro areas throughout the state to promote our programs and events to their constituents, garner nominations for awards and class participation, and potentially co-present programming in cities such as Huntsville, Montgomery, Mobile, Tuscaloosa and Auburn.

We invite you to be part of this momentum!  We welcome support from women and men, in all kinds of ways:

  • Consider a gift to the Honor Roll. Your financial support is critical to advancing and expanding our mission! 
  • Encourage Alabama companies to support Momentum with a corporate sponsorship
  • Help us promote our conferences, events, programs, and enrollment periods. 
  • Volunteer to join our mentor network, work on a service project, or help with an event.
  • Join our speaker’s bureau and let others hear from you! 

To learn more about any of the initiatives outlined here, or to make a suggestion, call my direct line at 205.202.6208 any time! 

Onward and upward, 


 

 

April Benetollo
CEO, Momentum

Updating Business Etiquette

The workplace is always evolving, and so does business etiquette. No matter where you are in your career, make sure you understand the unwritten rules of etiquette where you work today. Here are a few things that have changed in most organizations.

  1. When is it acceptable to do social things with coworkers? While socializing with coworkers used to be discouraged, it is now quite the norm. Our advice is to remember to keep it fair and equitable. Going out to lunch or getting a group together after work is fine when it’s inclusive. Socializing with coworkers gets to be an issue when business is discussed without necessary stakeholders present or when the conversation devolves into office gossip.

  2. When the workplace is casual dress, where do I draw the line? Business casual used to mean that men could lose the tie and women could wear pants instead of the skirted suit, but otherwise it was still formal by today’s standards. Now a wide range of clothing is acceptable in the workplace. Always err on the side of professional over too casual. Even with casual dress, watch the neckline, hemline, and choice of fabric. It’s never okay to show cleavage. Skirts should be at least as long as your fingertips when your arms are resting at your sides. Fabric should be thick enough and loose enough not to show undergarments or fleshy contours.

  3. When being introduced to someone, should I stand or remain seated? The rule used to be that men would stand when introduced, but women were to remain seated. Now everyone should stand when being introduced to someone new.

Most organizations have a published employee handbook with some rules and expectations. All organizations have a set of unspoken rules that go along with the company culture. It’s very important to understand both. Here are five tips for general business etiquette that are likely to apply anywhere you work.

  1. Be punctual. In business, time really is money. Come to meetings prepared, and arrive a few minutes early to settle in and observe others before the meeting gets underway.

  2. Understand the appropriate channels of communication. Ask your boss on the organization’s preferences regarding when to use email, text, phone, direct messaging apps, or call an in-person meeting. Find out what the organization values in those communications…generally clear, concise, factual communication is best when written. Observe written tone used by leaders and follow their example. Any communication where reading emotions is important, negotiations will take place, or brainstorming would be valued should be saved for in-person interactions.

  3. Put the phone away. Don’t mistake your smart phone for a productivity tool when in meetings. Checking texts and emails during a meeting is distracting and counter-productive to effective collaboration. Instead, keep meetings brief, on topic, and suggest taking a quick break to check messages if necessary.

  4. Opt for listening over talking, asking questions over voicing opinions. It’s more important to prove yourself with results than assertions. Avoid interrupting, and encourage others to do the same (e.g. “I’m interested in hearing the rest of Adrian’s idea.”)

  5. Brush up on formal table manners. When attending conferences, awards dinners, and important meetings over meals, table manners are on full display. Remember BMW: Bread on the left, Meal in the middle, and Water/wine/whatever you drink on the right. Eat slowly and quietly, cut your food properly, only cut the bite you are about to eat, and never make gestures with utensils.

 

 

Recommended Resource:

Modern Manners: Tools to Take You to the Top, Dorothea Johnson, Liv Tyler

Power Up! Summer Intern Event Was High Energy

Summer is a time for students, and this year Momentum teamed up with Alabama Power to host a half-day of professional development, designed especially for college student interns.

The day got started with a four-person panel featuring senior-level women from Alabama Power, Protective Life, and Regions Bank. Following the panel, Momentum alumnae and managers from Southern Company hosted round-table discussions on ten different topics, such as negotiation, work-life management, and career progression.

The event was the brainchild of Giuli Biondi Williams, campus recruiter for Southern Company. She approached Momentum about partnering for the event. Momentum decided to incorporate the idea into the quarterly Momentum Leadership Series.

With the combined resources of Alabama Power and the Momentum alumnae network on the event logistics, such as the event space, speakers, content, marketing and registration came together in just a under a month. All 120 seats filled in just two weeks. Our future leaders are clearly ready to jump-start their careers! Participants came from companies large and small, such as Protective Life,  Encompass Health, Regions Bank, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama, UAB, Brasfield & Gorrie, Oakworth Capital,  Pack Health, and Peritus PR, just to name a few.

 

Thanks to the generous support of Alabama Power and all of Momentum’s program sponsors, there was no cost to attend the event.

Event organizers have already received great feedback from participants:

“Friday’s professional development event was amazing. Thank you for working with Guili to make it possible. I love the mission of Momentum and the intentional investment in women. My favorite part was getting to hear from the panel of women and then hearing interns ask in depth questions. I am always excited for new opportunities to network and I look forward to future events with Momentum.”

“This event was a great professional development opportunity as well as a great networking opportunity. I’m so thankful I got to meet so many women who have the same aspirations as I do!”

“I loved the panel and the panelists! From a college-aged, about-to-graduate-and-start-her-career, female intern, I thought it was very interesting and noteworthy to listen to other female leaders that have been working for a long time who had advice and stories to give. Listening to real workplace advice from real leaders is inspiring!”

While we can’t recreate the entire event in blog format, we can dedicate the next few posts to covering the most popular topics at the event. All of the topics are relevant at all career levels, so feel free to share and comment.

Here’s to a fun and productive summer.

Women’s Resource Groups

There used to be lots of debate about the effectiveness of employee resource groups (ERGs.) These days, most HR experts and business analysts agree that ERGs, when managed correctly, have a positive net effect on the enterprise.

What exactly is an ERG? It’s a group of employees who meet in the workplace based on shared life experiences. The goal is to build their network, share experiences, exchange resources, and support each other. Oftentimes the ERG is comprised of employees who represent a minority within the enterprise: women, people of color, Latino/a, and LBGTQ. An impressive 90% of Fortune 500 companies have ERGs.

photo credit Erin Tunnell

No doubt that employees who are part of a well-managed ERG find value in the meetings. The overall organization benefits, too. As employees in under-represented groups find a sense of inclusion, belonging, and value, they are more likely to stay with the company and some will pursue leadership roles within the organization. According to the 2018 McKinsey study “Delivering through Diversity,” companies with diverse leadership are better able to:

  • Attract top talent
  • Improve customer orientation
  • Increase employee satisfaction
  • Make better decisions

ERGs are not just for the Fortune 500, either. In fact, in small to mid-size companies, an ERG can be launched very quickly. All it may require is a conversation with the CEO, HR, and an outline of why/when/where/how/who. In larger organizations it can take a little more time. Generally speaking, the larger the company, the more likely you are to need a clear charter, schedule, budget, executive sponsorship, and answers for legal counsel regarding risk management.

One sticky question is whether or not the meetings should be open to those who are not part of the group. Operating from a standpoint of inclusiveness, our opinion is a resounding YES. It’s important for all employees to feel they can participate in the discussions, benefit from training, and lend their own opinions. In groups where the meetings are closed, suspicion generally runs high.

If you are thinking of starting an ERG, one of the best things you can do is consult with others who have started down that path.

Momentum hosts quarterly meetings called the Women’s Resource Group Exchange. During these meetings, representatives from a diverse group of companies gather to share their experiences and resources. If interested in attending,  email us for more information. ERGs require some effort to do well, but the pay-off for both employees and the enterprise can be big.

 

ALUMNA SPOTLIGHT: TAKERIA STEPHENS

Interviewed by Alexis D’Amato, Intern

Takeria Stephens joined Regions in 2011 as the Fair Lending Credit Policy Manager. In her current role as the Fair & Responsible Lending Compliance Manager, she supervises three Fair and Responsible Lending Analyst with responsibility for risk assessment, issue identification and resolution within the lines of business.

Prior to joining Regions, Stephens held a number of positions with Wells Fargo beginning in September 2001.  Stephens earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Marketing with a Minor in English from The University of Alabama.  She is married to Clegburn Stephens and has two beautiful children. 

What did you gain from your Momentum experience?

I came away with an extremely strong sisterhood of wonderful women who I refer to as my “Wolfpack.”  These women have uplifted me through all areas of my life and have helped to develop me into a stronger professional.

What is one piece of leadership advice you have been given that has helped you in your career?

Always have confidence and the courage to believe in yourself.

If you knew then what you know now, what would you tell your 18 year old self?

Enjoy life more, take chances, and you are more than good enough.

What challenges do you think the next generation of women leaders face?

Diversity and inclusion at executive levels remain a challenge for women.  Progress has been made in those areas, but there is a lot of room for improvement and growth.

What do you think organizations need to do differently for more women to rise into executive roles?

Companies need to create resource groups aimed at fostering a network of talented women in the organization.  The resource groups can help to engage women within the company and provide opportunities for both male and female leaders to mentor, sponsor, and develop women for executive roles.

What three words do you think should characterize every leader?

Integrity, Confidence, and Empathy.

How do you manage your career, home, and community life?
I think in order to obtain balance in life you must prioritize all aspects of your life both personally and professionally. Preparation is key to being able to balance all of the many demands we face each day.  I am still learning to lean and depend on family and friends in order to help me obtain all of my many goals.  I also try to be disciplined with my time both at work and at home.

What advice do you have for aspiring leaders?

Network with like-minded women both in and outside of their industries. Through Momentum, I have gained an allegiance of strong and smart women from all backgrounds who I can call on for support when I am making a big business decision, or when I am facing personal situations at home.

 

Women Build Habitat for Humanity

This spring Momentum partnered with Protective Life and Habitat for Humanity to build a home for a deserving single mother. What makes this project extra special is that the entire house is built by women-led teams.

“Joining forces with Momentum on this project was a natural fit,” said Eva Robertson, Executive Director of the Protective Life Foundation.  “A service project of this scale requires commitment from start to finish, and we are excited about the opportunity to fulfill a need, working alongside our devoted employees, friends at Momentum and volunteers from throughout the Birmingham community.”

Momentum saw this project as a great way to show what women can do when they join forces. The Habitat Women Build project gives Momentum’s partner companies an opportunity for the women in their organization to spend some key team-building time, bringing together employees at various levels and from different departments in the company. That’s the type of networking that happens for men all the time, but from which women are often excluded, either explicitly or by the nature of the activity. The Habitat Women Build project also gives our nearly 400 Momentum alumnae an opportunity to get together and

Many Momentum business partners have organized women-led teams to work on the project. Momentum alumna Ann-Marie Stanford, Director-Supply Chain Special Projects & Supplier Diversity at Spire, shared her team’s Habitat for Humanity experience:

“I am so proud to work for Spire, a company with a mission to advance every community and enrich every life through the strength of our energy.  Thanks to Momentum’s partnership with Habitat for humanity on the women build campaign, Spire employees were able to spend a heartfelt day, painting Ms. Dunning’s new home.  It was truly great camaraderie for our team and we also had a pleasant surprise because Lewis Communications one of our vendors was also volunteering with us!  The day was filled with laughter, smiles, paint in our hair, hands and faces.  Shout out to Lora Terry, from Habitat for coming to join us!”

Once the Spire team had completed the painting of interior walls, Encompass Health was on the scene the next day to complete the siding. “Encompass Health’s core value of “stronger together” was certainly present when we served alongside each other, Momentum, and Habitat for Humanity for this women-led Habitat build,” said Crissy Carlisle, Chief Investor Relations Officer at Encompass Health. “We’re proud to have been a part of this building this home.”

The house is nearing completion and will be presented to the new homeowner on May 10th, just in time for Mother’s Day !

 

Alumna Spotlight: Crissy Carlisle

Interviewed by Alexis D’Amato – Intern

Crissy Carlisle, Chief Investor Relations Officer Encompass Health Corporation

Crissy Carlisle was appointed Chief Investor Relations Officer of Encompass Health in September 2015. She joined Encompass Health in February 2005 as the Director of SEC Reporting and was quickly promoted to Vice President of Financial Reporting in August 2005.  Crissy completed the Momentum executive leadership program in 2015. Her full bio follows this interview. 

What did you gain from your Momentum experience?

I learned I’m not alone. Professional women can often feel very isolated whether we want to admit it or not. It is hard to wear the hat of mother, wife and executive all in a day. It is reassuring and helpful to be taught, in Momentum’s words, to stop and breathe, and to remember that we don’t have to be a superhero.

What is one piece of leadership advice you have been given that has helped you in your career?

To learn to give up trying to control everything. This isn’t something you can be taught, but this skill can define the type of leader you are. It can also drive you crazy. But we must be mindful to control what we can and accept what we cannot control.

If you knew then what you know now, what would you tell your 18 year old self?

“I would tell myself to relax and be patient,” Crissy laughed. Maya Angelo said, “All great achievements require time.” I see a lot of up-and-coming women who want to do everything fast. They expect for their careers to move quickly and to receive promotions after just one year. Relaxing and cultivating patience are the key to ensuring longevity in your career.

What challenges do you think the next generation of women leaders face?

The challenge to keep the momentum going for women who are moving forward in these leadership roles. My career has been with two main organizations. One of which held women as a priority. However, the women who were executives didn’t have children, and when asked how they got to their position, they admitted to acting like a man and talking like a man. Women want to be executives but also want to be mothers and wives as well. The organization adapted its program to help women wear multiple hats and to allow women who were also mothers and wives to reach their goal of serving in an executive role within the company. Encompass Health really values diversity and trying to create that. I can’t think of a time where being a woman held me back, it actually helped me. It is not that way for all sectors, but if you are in a company which really values diversity and elevating women, you can take that to your advantage.

What do you think organizations need to do differently for more women to rise into executive roles?

It (the issue) gets back to the differences between men and women. Their leadership characteristics are actually different. The male leadership characteristic norms have become accepted as what executives should be: aggressive, bold, and forceful. These male dominated characteristics are not words used to describe a woman. There needs to be a dualistic view which encompasses all leadership characteristics. Boards and employers need to look for people who are cooperative and collaborative overall and to learn the difference in male versus female leadership styles. In other words, companies must not only choose to fill upper-level leadership roles with people who only embody the archetype of what a male executive should be like.

What three words do you think should characterize every leader?

Integrity, focus, and respect. Crissy chose these characteristics because they are not gender specific. Integrity is the foundation for any leader; there are tough times where your personal values will be challenged. If you don’t have that integrity you risk going down a path that is not ideal. You need to focus and prioritize things. I choose my priorities each morning, every day. I choose to do these things that require focus and priority. Respect is an important characteristic of any leader because you have to respect yourself and others. You may not get along with everybody, but you need to respect everyone’s views, talents, and why they were put into the position in your company and organization.

How do you manage your career, home, and community life?

Prioritize – I had a friend who was a leadership professor at the University of Nebraska who is a sorority sister. She said to me, “Take out the phrase ‘I don’t have time for that,’ everyone has 24 hours in a day, it’s how you choose to spend them that matters.” When you change your mindset, you find yourself doing more in a day than you ever could imagine. Say “what’s more important” in your day. When Crissy comes home and sees household duties that need to be done, she evaluates her priorities and asks herself “what is more important? The stack of dirty dishes in the sink, or the opportunity to sit down and talk to my son about his day?” If Crissy can just stop and take a breath while she reevaluates her priorities, it brings things back into perspective.

What advice do you have for aspiring leaders?

This really brings us back to managing a career, a home, and community life. You have to get comfortable saying no. You have to figure out what your priorities are. Devote yourself to something you feel good about instead of trying to do everything all at once. Everyone wants you to do something. You will have to make some tough decisions. Even with deadlines and things at work; it is better to tell someone that you cannot make a deadline and propose a new deadline than to completely miss the deadline and come up empty-handed. Scheduling yourself properly and prioritizing allows you to be knowledgeable of your own capabilities.

Build a network. Building a network can be draining, awkward, and tiring. If someone is hosting a cocktail reception after work and you would rather go home and sit down or go to the gym, you have the option to not go network. But building your network is so important. Networks help you gain clarity with job aspirations, and career building, but the facet of networking that often gets ignored is how that network can help you. Had I not had a strong professional network, I don’t know that I would’ve gotten through personal struggles in my life. It was the network I built that allowed my husband and me to get help for our adopted son from Columbia who needed medical attention. You need to think of how networking benefits your personal development and your professional development.

 

Carlisle received a bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of Alabama and her master’s in business administration from Duke University. Prior to joining Encompass Health, Carlisle served as a director within the corporate recovery division of PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, and additionally as a manager within their audit practice.

Carlisle has been recognized as the Best Investor Relations Professional in MidCap Healthcare Facilities and Managed Care by Institutional Investors for the past two years. She serves on the Board of Managers for the Facilities Management Company of Gamma Phi Beta Sorority and is on the Accounting Advisory Boards of Samford University and UAB. Carlisle serves on the Momentum Board of Directors, and is an active volunteer for United Way of Central Alabama and a mentor for female business students at the University of Alabama and UAB. She’s also actively involved with the athletic boosters programs at Spain Park High School and serves as a faith trainer for the children’s program at The Church at Brook Hills.

Why Confidence Matters

When you work really hard to gain expertise in your field, you want to believe that your competence will earn you extra stripes and higher level positions. Turns out it’s confidence, more than competence, that makes the bigger difference. More than mere bravado, authentic confidence comes from believing in your competence, trusting your abilities, having faith in your instincts, and conquering the fear of failure.

Many women lack the same level of confidence and self-esteem that men have. While some level of explanation may be rooted in physiological differences, most of it is social. In a 2015 study on Age and Gender Difference in Self Esteem, Wiebke Bleidorn and her research team studied nearly one million subjects from 48 nations. They found that worldwide, men systematically have higher levels of self-esteem than women, and that self-esteem increases with age from adolescence to adulthood. What is surprising about their study is this: the confidence gap between men and women is actually higher in industrialized, western, more egalitarian countries than in developing countries. How can we explain that?

It seems to me that in countries where women’s equality is guaranteed by law and where women  expect to be treated as equals, the blow to self-esteem is much greater when women experience inequality, unconscious bias, and harassment.

So how can women overcome these deeply seated sociocultural norms to regain their confidence and self-esteem? Dr. Sharon Melnick is a leading authority on business psychology, stress resilience, and women’s leadership. According to Melnick, there are three main patterns that affect confidence levels:

  1. Seeking Approval

  2. Preventing Disapproval

  3. Looping Self/Other Criticism

To rise above these patterns, we have to understand why we do them and be willing to move from what Melnick calls a “confidence seeker” to a “confidence contributor.” Once we can make the shift from looking to others for our confidence, we can begin to gain confidence from the true value of our contributions.

Dr. Melnick is a preferred facilitator for Momentum’s executive leadership class. This year Momentum is hosting a leadership series open to the community, and this week Dr. Melnick will conduct her “Confidence When it Counts” workshop January 16, 2019 at Samford University. 

 

Number-One Way to Keep Resolutions

How many of us have made a list of New Year’s resolutions that we are already worried about keeping?

What if I told you there is one activity you can do that will keep your resolutions on track? This one thing is scientifically proven to improve your productivity, chances for success, physical health, mental health, emotional health and spiritual health. What if I told you that you could achieve life-changing results in just 10-20 minutes sessions, several times per week? Finally, would you believe me if I told you that it’s completely free? I am normally deeply suspicious of any such “silver bullet” claim, but in this case it is 100% true.

The number-one thing you can do to stay on track with your goals is to keep a regular journal.

Here’s why:

  1. Journaling clarifies thinking. The act of writing engages the left side of the brain, the analytical and rational side, while the contemplation of the feelings you are having engages the right side of the brain, the creative and intuitive side. Getting the two sides of the brain focused on a goal, challenge, issue, or trauma focuses all of our brain power for greater clarity of thought and keeps us from getting in our own way of achieving goals.
  2. Journaling helps prioritize. Nobody has time to write about everything that happens and the feelings that result. So when we do sit down to write, we naturally write about the most important things. This helps us to keep our priorities top of mind and reminds us not to let busy-work hijack our days. Journaling about your resolutions, and progress towards them, will keep your priorities straight.
  3. Journaling heals emotional pain. We all experience disappointment, and even emotional trauma, at some point in our lives. Journaling focuses the mind on the specific event and how we feel about it. As we write, we are working through the healing process at our own pace. Generally speaking, people can only write about their emotional pain so many times before feeling moved to take action. When we are free from pain we have much more energy to focus on goals.
  4. Journaling promotes gratitude. In addition to writing about what plagues us, we also write about what brings us joy, about our blessings, about what we have to be thankful for. Putting our gratitude in writing is tremendously affirming, and gives new weight and meaning to life.
  5. Journaling reveals our higher purpose. As we work through the events causing us emotional stress and become cognizant of all that we have to be thankful for, we attain a level of psychological health that allows us to contemplate what it’s all for! Journaling often leads you on a spiritual journey where you discover what feeds your soul, drives your passion, forms your values, and guides your choices.

So why don’t more adults keep a regular journal? As with many things that are good for us, we simply don’t make the time. The good news is this: you don’t need a lot of time to benefit from journaling! In fact, many experts recommend shorter, more frequent journaling of 15-20 minutes several times per week. If you think you don’t have enough time to journal, think again. The clarity that emerges from regular journaling actually creates more time by keeping us focused on what’s important and shortening our decision-making processes.

Positive Psychology offers these tips and prompts to get you started.

Happy journaling! Nothing will do more to be sure you have a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.

Surviving Holiday Stress

At year-end, life is getting pretty hectic for the working woman right about now. Many companies are closing out a fiscal year, budgeting for next year, conducting annual reviews, analyzing inventories, and making year-end purchasing decisions. While this type of work is equally dispersed between women and men, that’s not always the case.

On the home front, the majority of  holiday preparation is done by women. From shopping, to meal prep, to sending greeting cards, to decorating the home and wrapping gifts, women are far more likely to take on additional tasks at home. At work, many women are “asked” to “volunteer” for tasks that have nothing to do with their job description, such as helping with holiday party planning, decorating the office, or sending client gifts.

Why do we do this to ourselves?

Many women feel both pressure and desire to make the holidays special for their families. In families where only the man worked, it makes more sense for the majority of the home care to fall to the woman. But with couples who both work, open communication is key to defining what you want from the holidays and who will do which tasks. How important is the holiday card? Do all of the decorations your mom gave you have to be put out? Can the family opt to draw names for gifts, or make contributions to a charity in lieu of gifts this year? Can you agree on lights around the front door rather than the whole house? Perhaps you limit the number of social invitations you will accept. Ask the question: if I don’t enjoy it, why am I doing it? Find ways to include your partner, kids, and outsourcing services to help in holiday preparations.

 

 

In the workplace, women can suggest a team approach to “office housework.” When asked to plan the office party, recommend a more representative approach with men and women to take on the tasks. Office cards, decorations and client gifts can usually be outsourced. Clean-up after holiday festivities should likewise be everybody’s job. Depending on the size and environment at your office, it may make sense too rally a few allies (especially executives) to support taking a new approach to holiday planning.

 

On January 16th, we will host the second workshop in our Momentum Leadership Series. Our speaker is Dr. Sharon Melnick, the author of “Success Under Stress: Powerful Tools for Staying Calm, Confident and Productive with the Pressure is On.” During the month of December we will feature some of Dr. Melnick’s advice on this blog to help out with managing the holiday crunch!