Category: Communication Styles

Petite Can Mean Powerful

Deborah Boswell, long-time President of Professional Speech Services of Alabama, spoke at last week’s Intentional Tuesdays event about the power of your voice. As a woman who measures over five feet tall on a good day, I was ready for this presentation with my trusty pen to take notes. Deborah mentioned some key takeaways that you probably haven’t heard before. Here’s the rundown:

  • Focus on your breath. You don’t have to scream to be loud! Try to talk from your diaphragm instead of your throat or chest to command the room.
  • When you’re nervous, you probably have shallow breath. Take some deep inhales and exhales before a presentation. Personally, I listen to a Lizzo song or some words of encouragement from Brene Brown. You can view some more mindfulness resources here.
  • First impressions count. Think about your posture and what you’re wearing. I have been moved mid-presentation because multiple people thought I was breaking out in hives. Turns out, I was just nervous, so now I wear a turtleneck.
  • Be concise. No one likes a long meeting that could have been summed up in a quick email. Executives don’t have a lot of time on their hands, and the average person’s attention span, according to research by Microsoft, is shorter than eight seconds. That’s less than a goldfish.
  • BLUF. Don’t bluff, but keep the Bottom Line Up Front. Capture their attention at the beginning so they stay with you for important information.
  • Conjunction junction, what’s your function? Diluting clarity, according to Deborah. Break up your sentences.
  • If you are the expert, behave like the expert! Stay confident; you’ve got this.

Wish you hadn’t missed Deborah’s presentation? Want to watch it again? Check out our new Youtube channel for her presentation and others!

Leveraging LinkedIn: Tips from Social U

CEO, Social U

We had an Intentional Tuesday session with Caryn Terradas this week on how to leverage LinkedIn to boost your professional brand. Caryn is a social media guru and owner of a digital marketing company, Social U.

Caryn shared so many highly practical tips, it was easy to leave with lots of action items. We’ve recorded the whole session and will be posting here, but if you just want a few of the highlights, here are our top five take-aways:


1. Update Your Profile

Use an updated, professional headshot. Edit your LinkedIn url so people can find you easily; if you have a common name, try adding your city or your position to your name (e.g. Christin Johnson_CPA_Birmingham.) Keep your Summary to a few short sentences, with your main “selling point” in the first line. Get more detailed in your work experience, listing out each position you held in a company to show progression. Don’t forget to list volunteer experience! Get about 10 good recommendations; the higher profile the recommender, the better.

2. Connect with Other Users

Start with people you really do know. Look at the suggestions LinkedIn proposes (connections of your connections) and add the ones you know or would like to meet. Get to 250 as quickly as possible. Connect with thought leaders in the Groups you join. Once you hit 500 connections, LinkedIn just displays “500+ connections.”

3. Join Groups

Speaking of groups, join a few. People are not using the Groups in LinkedIn as much as they used to, but if you can find a few active Groups in your field, it’s a good way to show your professional interests and to expand your network beyond the local scene.

4. Post Content

Ideally you want to generate content on LinkedIn about 20 times per month. It’s easier than it sounds. You can share content from others, post links you spot elsewhere on social media, comment on current events (diplomatically), post events, and share volunteer opportunities. Make your posts part of your daily routine, and post during business hours. A good habit is to post first thing, upon your return from lunch, or when you need an afternoon break.

5. Use Graphics

The more visually appealing you can make your posts, the better off you’ll be. Canva is the free, easy to use tool Caryn suggested for making professional looking graphics quickly. Canva has social media templates that are already correctly sized, and hundreds of royalty free photos. She also suggested Unsplash for even more royalty free photo choices.

Connect with Momentum! (Okay, so that’s #6)



Momentum has an active LinkedIn page, so please connect with us! We would also love for you to connect with our team:

April Benetollo, CEO

Andrea McCaskey, Director of Programs

Mindy Santo, Mentoring Coordinator

Katherine Thrower, Logistics Manager

Tina Upshaw, Director of Operations

Take Time to Assess

Every leadership journey begins with deepening your understanding of yourself and how you relate to an ever-changing environment. We have all gone through some big changes as a result of the Corona virus. Now that most of us are working from home (WFH), it’s a good time to reassess your personality and what WFH strategy will work best for you.

A fellow leader and friend of Momentum, Gayle Lantz, shared a complimentary assessment to determine your WFH style and how you can be most productive. It only takes 10-15 minutes to complete, and the assessment at the end had some good pointers for me.

Take the Work from Home Style Assessment

I hope you will find it helpful, too. Not everyone has the same work from home style, so we all need to approach it in the way that works best with our personalities.

Here are a few other free self-assessments that we’ve found to be helpful:

16 Personalities
Very similar to the Myers-Briggs personality test. The paid version is actually well worth the $30, IMO.

Fun and currently very popular among professionals. 

Who Am I
This is an interesting visual test where you choose your answers from a bank of pictures rather than words. I recommend skipping the non-essential consumer questions at the end. 


EQ: The Key to Leadership Success

Dr. Jean Ann Larson

Dr. Jean Ann Larson, BSIE, MBA, EdD, FACHE, LFHIMSS, FIISE, serves as the Leadership Development Officer for UAB School of Medicine and will be a session speaker at Momentum’s Vision 2020 biennial leadership conference in March.

People often ask me what is one thing they can do to become a better leader.  The advice I offer is fairly easy. However, it is not quite so easy to follow.

My suggestion is to improve your Emotional Intelligence (EQ).  It is said that 90% of the difference in effectiveness between star performers and average performers can be explained by emotional intelligence according to Daniel Goleman’s, (1995) book, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than Intelligence.  The good news is that if you really want to improve your emotional intelligence there are actions you can take.

First of all, why would you want to improve your emotional intelligence?  Improving EQ not only helps you become a better leader, it also helps you be better at navigating interpersonal differences, build stronger relationships and even deal with change more effectively.  Ultimately, strengthening our EQ connects us to more productive reactions to challenging situations.

There are five parts of the emotional intelligence model popularized by Goleman’s book which was built upon research by other researchers. Those five parts are:

Interpersonal aspects:

  1. Self-Awareness: The ability to recognize and understand your moods, emotions and drives, as well as their effect on others
  2. Self-Regulation: The ability to control or redirect disruptive impulses and moods and the propensity to suspend judgment and think before acting.
  3. Motivation: A passion to work for reasons that go beyond money or status, and a propensity to pursue goals with energy and persistence.

Intrapersonal aspects:

  1. Social-awareness or empathy: The ability to understand the emotional makeup of other people by sensing others’ feelings and perspectives and taking an active interest in their concerns.
  2. Social regulation or social skills: A proficiency in managing relationships and building networks while wielding effective tactics for persuasion and listening openly and sending convincing messages.

So where to start?  It can be very helpful to take an EQ assessment, but even without that, I recommend starting with either self-awareness or self-regulation.  The idea is to start with things within yourself before beginning work on external or intrapersonal parts of EQ.  I have seen that by focusing on a very few but vital behavioral changes in yourself, it can have a large impact upon how you show up as a leader.  Here are some examples of things you can do to improve in each area:

Improving self-awareness

  • Practice self-reflection by recognizing your current emotional state – do you experience discreet feelings and emotions? Can you name them?
  • Once you identify the emotion, describe it aloud or write it down on paper
  • Feel your emotions physically
  • To improve your ability to self-assess, ask a family member or trusted advisor to describe your strengths and weaknesses. Compare their perspective with your own self-assessment
  • Pay attention to your emotions and behaviors and see if you recognize patterns throughout the day
  • Reflect on the connection between your emotions and your behavior
  • Know who and what pushes your buttons
  • Write in a journal about your emotional responses to situations that were significant

Improving self-regulation

  • Practice self-restraint by listening first, pausing and then responding
  • When becoming frustrated, identify what brought on that emotion
  • Create effective responses to stressful situations by finding strategies for altering a negative mood
  • Discuss ways of dealing with change and stress with family members, friends or a trusted advisor
  • Focus on events that provide a sense of calm or positive emotions
  • Ask yourself, “What is the worst thing that can happen?” in order to consider the reality of the situation
  • Journal occurrences during which you were able to regulate your responses or emotions. How did the ability to self-regulate affect the outcomes and your relationship with others?
  • Begin regular exercise, yoga or meditation to increase your ability to manage your emotions and relax both body and mind. Exercise regulates your emotions by releasing endorphins, adrenaline, serotonin and dopamine
  • Get adequate sleep and rest.  Without it, even with the best intentions, it is too easy to react in a way that you’ll regret.

The lists may seem long and you have many ideas to select from.  I recommend you select the one or two items that you can actually incorporate into your daily routine and which you feel will have the most impact on your ability to be a more effective and productive leader.

And if none of the above suggestions work for you, here are general ways to improve your emotional intelligence:

  • Improve your non-verbal communication
  • Focus on the other person
  • Make eye contact
  • Pay attention to non-verbal cues
  • Smile
  • Use humor and play to deal with challenges
  • Take hardships in stride
  • Smooth over differences
  • Simultaneously relax and energize yourself
  • Be creative
  • Resolve conflict positively and in a trust building way
  • Stay focused in the present
  • Choose your arguments
  • Forgive
  • End conflicts that cannot be resolved

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.

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. 


Challenge Assumptions

Kayleigh is a college sophomore and marketing intern at Momentum.

The internet has thousands of articles offering advice for early career professionals. Most of the authors think back on their own career and write what they wish they had known at age 22 when they entered the workforce.

Universal advice includes, “find a mentor,” “become a life-long learner,” and “prove your value.” But if you include the word “women” in your search for early career advice, you get distinctly different results.

So logic would tell you that if the advice is very different, then the experience must also be different for young professional women than for their male counterparts.


I find the advice diverges along three basic assumptions:

  1. Women communicate differently from men (rapport vs report, if you will)

  2. Women shoulder a disproportionate amount of responsibility for housework and care-giving, particularly when it comes to family planning (the “motherhood penalty”)

  3. Women will earn less money than men for the same work, in nearly every profession (the gender pay gap)

Photo Credit: Ged Carroll, CC BY 2.0

Assumptions about early career women in the workplace push women to believe the stereotypes are true. As a young woman beginning to explore the workforce myself, my view of the business world is largely influenced by the advice people give me and the expectations they set for me, because I haven’t had a lot of professional experience yet.

Instead of getting advice on how to navigate through the struggles, I’d rather receive advice on how to eliminate them.
We need men and women working together to remove stereotypes, assumptions, and biases to maximize productivity among innovative, driven individuals- male or female. This begins with the expectations we set for up-and-coming leaders. Let’s not create boundaries that do not have to exist. Instead, let’s ask men and women alike how they need to adjust their schedule to accommodate a new baby. Let’s look at high-potential women and mentor them on how to take a high-earning path to provide for their family. Let’s not assume that one or the other is more willing to travel, do extra assignments, or lead the way for others. Let’s assume we are equal.


Three Benefits to Resource Groups

Kayleigh is a college sophomore and marketing intern at Momentum.

Women in the workplace face some unique challenges, such as implicit bias and carrying a disproportionate load in balancing work and family. As women move up the ranks, there are increasingly fewer other women to talk with about how to solve these challenges.

Some companies set up Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) to reduce the isolation among certain groups of employees. When ERGs are done well, they are an important avenue for employees to connect, share common experiences, discuss constructive ways to overcome challenges, and find support. Depending on the size of the company, ERGs may be very structured or somewhat organic and informal. When the intent is engagement and inclusion, ERGs can be very successful.

Here are three ways Employee Resource Groups are beneficial:

1. ERGs improve retention.

One key reason employees leave companies is because they feel disconnected. The desire for relationship is innate, so building genuine relationships with coworkers is important for retention. ERGs give employees a place to feel connected, heard, and understood by investing in one another. Building workplace friendships increases teamwork, morale, knowledge-sharing, and open communication.

2. ERGs engage employees.

Strengths of minority employees can go unnoticed when employees are disengaged due to isolation. ERGs cut across functional and departmental lines, providing opportunities to share experiences in a highly interactive way. When employees feel connected and their strengths are recognized, engagement goes up. When employees are engaged, they are more productive, more satisfied at work, and increase their confidence level.

3. ERGs nurture talent.

Women are less likely to receive executive sponsorship. ERGs provide professional development and guidance for members, an opportunity that could otherwise be unavailable for women. Structured ERGs provide training and resources to members who may not be getting that level of guidance from their direct supervisor. As an extra bonus, when senior level managers participate in ERGs it essentially scales their potential to act as an executive sponsor to a greater number of individuals. Outstanding participants in the ERG are likely to get noticed by senior managers, who may in turn take a special interest in helping them fast-track their career.

Reducing isolation among minority groups is key to engaging, retaining, and developing the top talent among them. ERGs, when done well, can be a great way to make sure talented employees stay connected and get the development training they deserve. When focused on engagement and inclusion, ERGs can really make a positive difference.


Millennial Strengths Add to Diversity

Kayleigh is a college sophomore and marketing intern at Momentum.

When you hear the term millennial, what do you think of? I searched it on google and adjectives like lazy and entitled were the first to pop up.  In my last blog post I wrote about the advantages of diversity in leadership in terms of race and gender. This week, Momentum welcomes Tamara Thorpe, an organizational development consultant and national expert on leveraging multi-generational talent. As a millennial myself, I was anxious to do a little digging into Tamara’s topic ahead of her visit.

In the next five years, the percentage of Millennials in the workforce is predicted to increase from 40% to 60%.  The Boomer and Gen X generations will get a lot more out of millennials if they are able to leverage the strengths of my generation, and we have quite a few!

Here are the top four millennial strengths from my point of view:

  1. Independent
    In the 1970s the median age for marriage was 23. Now it’s 30. Millennials want to marry (70%) and also want to have kids (74%). However, delaying those life changing decisions gives millennials more time to focus on career and life experiences before bearing the additional responsibilities that come with family life. That can only bode well for employers looking to leverage millennial’s independence and flexibility.
  2. Adaptable
    Previous generations were obsessed with owning things, such as a house, car, TVs, and garages full of “stuff.” Millennials tend to value experiences over assets, and those experiences make them highly adaptable to various environments. Millennials want to be ready to seize an opportunity should it arise. It’s why 60% of millennials opt to rent rather than buy their home.  Because experience is valued over consumption, millennials are highly adaptable to changing circumstances.
  3. Aware
    Millennials are the first generation of true “digital natives.” We were born with access to the Internet and a constant evolution of new communication channels. Older generations fear that all of this technology results in poor communication skills, but I would argue that the many social platforms millennials use increase awareness and compassion for the world around them. I am constantly impressed by my generation’s knowledge of social causes and their desire to come together to make a difference. Social business models are emerging rapidly, and millennials are highly aware of businesses that make a positive difference in the world.
  4. Ambitious
    I’ve read plenty of rants calling millennials entitled and lazy. But I will argue that most millennials are an ambitious lot. First of all, there are 75-90 million of us depending on how you count…that’s the largest generation in American history. That’s also a lot of competition. It’s harder for millennials to get into school, land their first job, and get their first promotion. Only the more ambitious ones will make it and we know it. Tamara Thorpe says, “[millennials] aren’t afraid to question authority and ask for what they want, which is to be included and involved.” Close ties to family have created a confident generation. We also know that our confidence has to be paired with hard work or it’s just entitlement. But we don’t want to do busy work to just “pay the dues” or “do your time”–we want to do meaningful work that makes a difference. And when we do, letting us know will fuel our ambition and drive.


Every generation has strengths and weaknesses, which is why we should embrace the diversity in order to leverage everyone’s talents.

We look forward to welcoming Tamara Thorpe this week to learn how to tap into the potential in every generation to become effective and authentic leaders, millennials and all.


Goldman Sachs. (2017) Millennials Infographic. Retrieved from Goldman Sachs:

Thorpe, Tamara. (2017) Let a Millennial Mentor You. Retrieved from Tamara Thorpe’s website: