Tag: women leaders

Making Sense of Meditation

When I think of meditation, I picture myself sitting cross-legged on the floor with the sound of wind-chimes and the smell of essential oils. However, meditation doesn’t always look like this. Regardless of your lifestyle, you can find a form of meditation that fits with your personality and schedule. I’ve just started to learn more about other types of meditation, but it can be challenging to navigate the best form of meditation for you.

Sommerville Johnston, Licensed Professional Counselor, Somatic Experiencing Practitioner, wilderness instructor and founder of Aspen Roots Collective, guided us during a Wellness Wednesdays session last week through a unique form of meditation called mindfulness. According to Headspace, a popular meditation app, “Mindfulness is the quality of being present and fully engaged with whatever we’re doing at the moment — free from distraction or judgment, and aware of our thoughts and feelings without getting caught up in them.” Some mindfulness exercises ask the participant to notice their surroundings and current feelings to engage with the present moment. My mind tends to wander during those exercises, so I was excited to hear that Sommerville had a different approach to mindfulness by using imagery. Visualization meditation asks the participant to imagine a calming image, like a tree or nature scene, and to associate your personal emotions and feelings with that image. The goal is to find peace and stillness as you picture feelings of stress, grief, etc. falling down like leaves from a tree.

If the idea of nature is calming to you, you might also enjoy walking meditation. From the outside, it looks the same as any other jaunt through the woods or neighborhood would. However, there is a specific technique you can use to interact with your emotions and surroundings. Simply shifting your gaze from the ground to the birds in the sky or wildflowers on your trail can also help shift your thoughts. Intentionally breathing, listening carefully to what’s around you, slowing your pace, and adjusting your posture can all create a more positive experience.

Once you find your technique, you can incorporate meditation and mindfulness into any activity, so you don’t have to necessarily schedule it as one more thing to accomplish on your never-ending to-do list. Movement meditation can be done through gardening, taking a quick stroll on your lunch break, doing laundry, or taking up socially-distanced yoga.

Still not convinced? The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health reviewed several studies and found that, “A 2013 review of three studies suggests that meditation may slow, stall, or even reverse changes that take place in the brain due to normal aging.” It can also be helpful in dealing with chronic pain, stress, high blood pressure, and headaches. This list only begins to describe the benefits and types of meditation, but it’s a good starting point on your journey of self-care.

Meet Mentor/Mentee Pair Joy Carter and Coleysia Chestnut

A mentor is a valuable resource to have in your professional and personal life. I got to sit down and chat with Joy Carter and Coleysia Chestnut on their mentor/mentee relationship that they have developed over the past two years. 

Joy Carter, APR, is Communications Manager for AMERICAN Cast Iron Pipe Company, a Birmingham-based manufacturer of iron and steel pipe, fire hydrants and valves. She is a PR/communications graduate of Auburn University and is Accredited in Public Relations (APR). She serves on the executive boards of Momentum and the Literacy Council of Central Alabama and is active in the Public Relations Society of America and the Public Relations Council of Alabama.

Coleysia Chestnut is on the Engineering Workforce Management team at BBVA. She has a Master’s degree in Strategic Communication from Troy University and BS in Urban Planning from Alabama A&M University. She is a published author of The Exhale Journal and advocates for equity and inclusion of minority groups within corporations. Above all else, her most proud accolade is being the mother of her sweetest 2 year son, Randall.

How did you meet and decide to become a pair?

Coleysia:

I had completed my masters degree in Strategic Communication in 2017 and had just started my communications role shortly after. I decided to attend Birmingham Business Journal’s Mentoring Monday event, which is essentially “speed mentoring.” Individuals have the opportunity to speak with as many mentors as they want within an hour span but only have about 7 minutes with each mentor. I saw that Joy was going to be one of the mentors and I came prepared with a list of questions. I was 8 months pregnant at the time. After meeting, we went to lunch. Joy was actually one of the few who made it to the hospital when my child was born; I thought it was amazing that she came. 

Joy:

I was so impressed with Coleysia at the event. They said, “go,” and I looked up and she was making a beeline for me. She sat down with her notebook and began asking her questions. I was just immediately so impressed with her. I really enjoyed the very short conversation we had. Afterward, she called to follow up to ask“Will you be my mentor?” She was very specific in asking for the relationship. She was the catalyst. Her tenacity and drive impress me. I often tell her it is a co-mentoring relationship; I learn from her, too, in her role as a communications professional. It’s been a wonderful co-mentoring relationship. 

What have you learned from each other throughout your relationship? 

Joy:

She always comes prepared to our meetings with a question or something she wants to talk about, but it often leads to questions that I have for her. As a young professional, she is so very smart and she is so good with technology. Each time we get together it is an opportunity for me to learn from her. At our most recent get together I was most interested to talk with her about a diversity and inclusion project she is a part of at BBVA, and she shared with me some really good resources for that. Every get together is an opportunity to learn from each other. 

Coleysia:

Joy teaches me a lot about navigating the corporate arena. I remember being frustrated because I wasn’t moving up in my role and felt like I should be in a different place in my career–she reminded me that it was okay, because I was still fairly new and if I used this time to soak up as much information as I could and focus on mastering my current role, opportunities for advancement would soon follow.  There are always things that I will run by her, like “something about this does not seem fair to me, what is your opinion on it or how would you handle it?” Given her HR experience, she offers a different professional perspective outside of my network which I really do appreciate. Overall, I rely heavily on Joy for giving me advice about navigating corporate America and how to accomplish professional goals. 

How have you appreciated being a pair that isn’t exactly alike?

Joy:

Thinking back to our last meeting, and talking about diversity and inclusion, it was knowing I could have that conversation with her, and we were both coming from a place of respect and wanting and needing to talk and share. I wanted to listen and ask for her perspective and insight. It’s extremely beneficial to have the relationship we do, where we can have an open conversation. 

Coleysia:

I think Joy is amazing for me because a lot of times when black people–and black women in particular–when we speak up, it can sometimes come across as whining. With Joy I felt safe to talk about some of my concerns with the racism we’ve been encountering. It may come off as a “vent,” but sometimes it’s important to have someone you can talk to about racism in the workplace. Who better to talk to about that than with someone who has agreed to be your mentor? It creates a safe environment for me to talk. Across the board, Joy is my safe space where I can talk about things that matter to me as it relates to work and even things outside of work. 

Why do you think it’s important to promote diversity within professional environments and relationships?

Coleysia:

It’s important to have different perspectives. When I approached Joy, I didn’t approach her as a white woman. She was the communications manager of a pretty big company and that was something I was interested in. At the beginning of our relationship there had been some discriminatory issues with my previous company. As she helped me navigate that experience, I’m sure she got a lot of insight on roadblocks and challenges experienced by a minority female. Exposure to these injustices are critical, so when someone has the opportunity to have a voice of an organization, they can consider the impact and tone of communications to ALL employees. As we share experiences together, we learn a little bit about some of both of our cultures that may impact the work environment. Just as she may learn from some of my stories, I learn from hers by being a woman navigating through her previous roles. Granted there are injustices for black people as a race, but women are also marginalized in my opinion in the work environment. Getting her insight and guidance through that was very valuable. I can’t thank Joy enough. 

Joy:

We all bring different strengths and talents to our jobs, communities, and families. For that reason, we need to do a much better job in corporate America and in our communities of working towards more inclusion. In what we have seen in the last few months, we have a long way to go, but these conversations, which are perhaps awkward or difficult to have, are so important in moving us forward. Having relationships, like the one Coleysia and I have, provide safe places to share and learn together. We need that in our workplaces and in our communities.

One of the efforts that Coleysia is working with at BBVA, Team Talks, allows people to have these conversations. It’s really sad that decades after the Civil Rights movement we are still struggling to make more progress, as Coleysia said, for our black communities, for women in the workplace, and other groups as well. Relationships, like ours, are the basis for the conversations that we have to have to accelerate progress. It’s not enough to say, “We’re making progress.” We’ve got to move faster towards diversity in our companies and diversity at upper levels of management. There needs to be change, and it needs to happen faster. 

Do you have any advice for someone looking to get into a mentor/mentee relationship?

Coleysia:

If I could, offer advice as a mentee, because I do feel as though it is primarily the role of the mentee to promote this relationship. You need to assess yourself so you know what skills you lack and will know what to look for in a mentor. If there is an opportunity, I would first acknowledge that you realize who they are and have done your research on that person. When you do approach them, you need to be direct and communicate what you want to get out of your relationship. Be open to the answer being no. When you have someone that is in the position that you would like to be in one day, you need to understand that they are probably very busy. When I approached Joy I wasn’t arrogant in asking her to drag me along on her career journey it was more, “If you have time, I would like for you to share some of your knowledge with me.” Be prepared and be very intentional. Set expectations for yourself and know what you want from that person before you approach them. 

Joy:

The word intentional is great. And, yes, it is the responsibility of the mentee to reach out. As I said, when Coleysia and I met she was very direct in asking me to be her mentor. She is always prepared with something specific she wants to talk about. Again, that always leads to me asking questions and learning from her as well. Identify what you need from the relationship and the professional, and then identify who could best help you achieve that. I was very flattered to be asked to be her mentor. Don’t be afraid to reach out to a professional and to make that ask, because they should be extremely flattered they are being asked to serve in that role. With that comes the responsibility of making and sharing time, and appreciating the co-mentoring relationship that is a win-win for both of you. 

Momentum offers mentor matching as a free service to our community. If you are interested in learning more about the program and being paired with a mentor, click here for more information.

Tips on Navigating your Professional Journey

When thinking about our careers, we never want to become so focused in our day-to-day that we forget to look forward to where we want to be.

No matter where we are on our professional journey, we always want to be aware of our career progression.  While also remembering that it takes time to move forward, the workplace isn’t like grade school where we are constantly being tested and reminded that we have either made the mark or we need to step it up. But all in all, each of us is on a path that is hopefully leading us toward a brighter professional future.

It’s easy to think that the first full-time job we had (or are going to have) defined everything, but in all honesty the first ten years are the most crucial. With each new job and position, we want to remember to look for a role that highlights our strengths while challenging us at the same time. Furthermore, we never want to become stagnant.

We recently had the opportunity to hear from Joy Carter and we wanted to share some of her wisdom. Consequently, we want you to keep these ideas in mind while you tackle your professional journey.

A few tips to help your progress:

1. Negotiate your salary. Whether it’s your first job or your last, you’re worth it.

Remember to ask those around you for feedback, insight, and encouragement. Figuring out what your future goals are can be difficult, always feel free to phone a friend.

2. Goals! Goals! Goals! If we consciously take disciplined steps, we will get where we want to be. Every 90 days, set 3-5 goals that you can accomplish. Know where you want to be, and then figure out how to get there.

3. Take advantage of the small moments. Whether that’s taking advantage of the right opportunity over lunch, coffee, or when riding the elevator.

4. Don’t fear feedback; ask for it. Your managers and your peers may have excellent insight for you about your strengths and about ways that you could improve. Are you aware of your RBF?

5. Mentorship is key for all. Observe the people around you in your company or community, and consider creating a mentor relationship with them. Relationship makes us stronger whether you’re the mentor or the mentee. Career decisions can be overwhelming; don’t go it alone.

6. Be aware of all the possible next steps you could take on your professional path in the upcoming five years. Do your best to avoid committing to one direction. Simply be aware of your options.

Career progression can be daunting and illusive. We hope our tips today are a reminder that you are not on this journey alone. Remember to stay disciplined and to always be aware of all the possibilities.

 

Contributing Writer Holly Moore

 

Mentorship: a workplace necessity or a necessity for success?

For the community of business professionals, the idea of mentorship is a hot topic, especially when discussing women in the workplace. We are all aware of the “leaky chasm” where more women are graduating from university than ever before and yet the number of executive leaders is slim. Mikki Taylor, a well-known writer and speaker, said that “many women live like it’s a dress rehearsal. Ladies, the curtain is up and you’re on.” In view of mentoring, it is important for women to take their steps with purpose. It is time we become bold and seek out mentors and mentees. Mentoring future women leaders is a necessity for the workplace as well as personal success.

According to Forbes,  only fifty-four percent of women have access to senior leaders who act as mentors or informal sponsors. The lack of mentors for women is believed to be one of the major reasons we don’t see more women in leadership. Increasingly data show that when more women sit at the decision-making tables, better decisions are made. In order to continue fostering growth, women must begin asking for help and sharing their insight. Mentorship is a wonderful path to begin paving better roads for the future of equality in leadership.

There are countless benefits for both parties involved in a mentoring relationship. According to a recent Forbes article, “it is a broader network of relationships and circumstances that shape individual success.” With many decisions that are made, there are discussions that come before them. When making a change in career choice, almost everyone will phone a trusted friend to hear his or her input and discuss options and concerns. Mentoring is important because there is an educated decision to trust someone who has more experience, a different perspective, and wise recommendations. While the responsibility for life decisions ultimately resides within each of us, we are wise to seek counsel from someone with experience in the issues we face.

The value of mentoring is a two way street, with mentors standing to benefit from the relationship as well. According to a Forbes article, the benefits of  mentoring include new insights into the workforce, valuable connections, new perspective, and the personal satisfaction of sharing experiences. In addition to the personal and professional benefits of a mentor relationship, those who mentor are twenty percent more like to receive a raise.

The guidance, honesty, and input of a mentor can help a mentee become their achieve their personal best. Many mentees desire this relationship to gain knowledge and a specific skill set, but this article points out that they also often receive a broadened perspective, gain connections, learn more about business politics, and gain the confidence to stand on their own. For young professionals who may feel inadequate, take the advice of Sara Blakely, the Founder of Spanx: “Don’t be intimidated by what you don’t know because it can also be your greatest strength and ensure that you do things differently from everyone else.”

A three-tiered mentoring program is an essential part of Momentum’s mission to advance women in leadership. Each year we pair class participants with senior mentors. Upon graduation, participants receive training on successful mentoring and are paired with a teen, college student, or young professional looking for a mentor. Momentum has fostered over 800 mentoring relationships to date.

If you have experiences, opinions or advice on mentoring, we’d love to see your comments here.

Taking Time to Lead

Working women are so incredibly busy with demanding careers, sometimes working harder than their male colleagues to prove their merit. At the same time they are often caring for children, parents, siblings, or neighbors…sometimes all of the above, and all at the same time. It can be incredibly difficult to set aside the necessary time for self-reflection and to build relationships with an objective network of equally smart, driven, successful women.

img_5013That’s why each MOMENTUM year-long leadership class begins with an off-site retreat to set the tone. Last week we loaded up a big bus and headed to the Marriott Shoals in beautiful Florence, Alabama to start the work on us.

Phones off. Completely disconnected. Time to focus, breathe, and get to know the women that will become part of a powerful network.

 

img_5067We asked Gerriann Fagan, one of three facilitators during the retreat, to share her take on our time together. Gerriann is President of Warren Averett Workplace with 20 years experience in career development and coaching. She is also an alumnae of MOMENTUM. Having been on both sides of the participant/facilitator in the program, Gerriann has a unique perspective to share.

“When I participated in MOMENTUM’s Class 10, I began a journey with new friends and colleagues. In the few years since we graduated, my classmates and I have been through many challenging as well as joyful times: advances in careers, new career choices, life changes and big moves. We’ve been there for each other. MOMENTUM widened my perspective and gave me invaluable insight into the importance of having space in your life.

img_5033This year (2016) was the 2nd year I co-facilitated the MOMENTUM Retreat. It is fascinating how unique and different the groups are and how quickly they gel. This class was completely at ease listening, sharing and advising one another.

If someone came into the program with a goal of advancement, she found someone who had blazed a similar trail. If she was ready to make a life change, there was someone who had done that too. Challenges, hopes and dreams were swirled around easily and quickly in opening exercises.

Thinking about my experience with MOMENTUimg_5009M through the eyes of a participant – I didn’t know what I was getting into or what I’d get out of it. I was really surprised at how the experience enriched my life and career, and how much continue to get out of it to this day. Through the eyes of a facilitator, I am amazed at how Birmingham continues to nominate such impressive women to MOMENTUM, class after class.

I found Class 14 to be especially open, collaborative, and driven. Beautiful things happen when we take the time to lead. It’s going to be fantastic to see where these women will take us.”

Gerriann Fagan
President
Warren Averett Workplace