Teacher’s Powerful Exercise of ‘Leaving Emotional Baggage at the Door’ Has Totally Changed Her Classroom
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classroom teacher headshot and an image of a bag with paper scraps hanging on wall

This Oklahoma teacher is being praised for teaching her students a powerful emotional lesson that they will not soon forget.

Karen Loewe has been teaching seventh and eighth grade students for 22 years, but her most recent day in class was apparently the most impactful day of her educational career.

For her sixth day of classes at Collinsville Middle School, she decided to try a new exercise in empathy with her students called “The Baggage Activity”.

Upon establishing that her classroom was a safe space for expression and respect, she asked what emotional baggage meant to her students. She then asked them to write about some emotional baggage of their own—and since they were not required to put their names on the paper, they could describe their issues as freely as they wanted without being identified.

he youngsters were then asked to take turns reading what their classmates wrote, and all of them were given the opportunity to identify themselves as the person responsible for the writing.

“I’m here to tell you, I have never been so moved to tears as what these kids opened up and about and shared with the class,” Loewe wrote in a Facebook post. “Things like suicide, parents in prison, drugs in their family, being left by their parents, death, cancer, losing pets … and on and on.

“The kids who read the papers would cry because what they were reading was tough. The person who shared (if they chose to tell us it was them) would cry sometimes too. It was an emotionally draining day, but I firmly believe my kids will judge a little less, love a little more, and forgive a little faster.”

Continue on to the Good News Network to read the complete article.

Reinventing Yourself: Who Will You Be Post COVID-19?
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A woman holding her baby while working on a laptop

By Kimberlee Davis, host & founder of The Fiscal Feminist

There is no shortage of lessons to be learned from the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to the economic and health adjustments we are all scrambling to make, a deluge of new challenges that have yet to be considered still looms around the corner.

As we navigate our way through these rough waters of financial hardships, stress and anxiety, let’s make sure to maintain our sense of control and handle the problems that we are empowered to solve. The best way to do this is by re-evaluating our finances, focusing on our long-term goals, and reflecting inward on our own identity.

From a corporate securities lawyer and an investment banker to an entrepreneur and stay-at-home mom, I’ve reinvented myself many times over. Some changes were for the better, others not so much. I’ve found that the key to making solid transitions is to start them in a quiet place like the unique setting of the quarantine.

With mouths to feed, bills to pay and immune systems to protect, taking stock on the bigger picture might seem like a low priority at the moment, but it really shouldn’t be. Ultimately, who we choose to be – either in business, in wealth, in family or just plain spiritually – will determine our paths forward out of this crisis. Amid the chaos and loss of control, our own sense of self is one of the few things we can control. Plus, sheltering in place gives us a unique opportunity to do some personal observation, self-reflection, introspection, and evaluation because we’re not losing time in the dash to in-person meetings and child soccer practices.

The first question that a lot of us get stuck on is: Where do we start? Having gone through several personal and professional re-inventions, myself, I have found great value in beginning with a deep exploration into my hierarchy of values. This consists of the following important questions:

  • What’s important to my emotional development as a person?
  • What’s important to my economic goals?
  • What’s important to my interpersonal relations and social/ethical perspective?

All three are equally important and must be looked at holistically and practically. We can stand back and look at our lives as they were pre-coronavirus, and examine if we were happy and if our finances survived. In our society we seem to be perpetually busy and for many of us, this outbreak has been a hard stop, forcing us to spend time with our loved ones, get comfortable being alone and taking a moment to think about the things that really matter.

Using this time to think about how your financial situation held up, ask yourself what areas can be improved upon. Did you have enough in your savings to cover a couple months of bills if you were to get furloughed from your job? Did you notice how much less money you were spending on frivolous things like your morning coffee? Taking this time to reflect and thoroughly comb through your spending habits and fiscal well-being will help you plan for the future and give you the knowledge and tools you need to make better choices after this is all over.

Having more idle time also allows us to enjoy ordinary activities such as reading, yoga, exercise, painting, listening to music, cooking and reconnecting with our interests. Instead of succumbing to the pressure and uncertainty, embrace the stillness and relearn how to be thoughtful.

Just because the pandemic is tragic – and, of course, it certainly is – does not mean that it is not also a great chance to spend more time together, talk without rushing and determine how we can continue this in a post-coronavirus environment. There may be wonderful recalibrations to consider which never would have been possible during the rat race of the so-called “normal” life we used to know.

We should all examine the strengths of our relationships and family to gauge how we are surviving as a wife, mother, friend and/or businesswoman. In this state of quiet, what do we value and how do we prioritize it among all the other noise?

While contemplating that answer, it is important not to undervalue your career goals. Often, women will assume financial freedom and professional ambition are lower priorities because of societal pressures. However, though we are free to choose other values as higher priorities, that does not mean that we have to.

To adjust your career path, take this opportunity to learn new skills and pursue interests that have been on the back burner. The internet is full of how-to videos and video-networking/coaching platforms that are just a click or swipe away. Use it as a tool for reinvention – not just a vehicle for killing time as we wait for the economy to reopen. Set specific and achievable financial goals taking one step at a time so as not to get overwhelmed and give up on your strategy in frustration.

Personally, I am rethinking my daily schedule from pre-coronavirus times. I have been taking a four- to five-mile walk at least four times a week, and I am committed to continuing that after we resume our new-normal lives. I am going to make exercise a non-negotiable priority. It clears my mind and gives me a positive attitude.

It is so important that you have good nutrition, get regular sleep, have regular physical exercise, have some down time, nurture your spirit and have some fun with the positive people in your life. Intentional self-care will reap many benefits, and it will increase your energy and sharpen your financial focus.

We all should be looking at our lives as a whole and reflecting on what changes we can be making to provide for a better tomorrow. In all our busyness, it’s too easy to lose track of what is really important. The excuse, “I don’t have time,” is no longer an option. For me it’s health, free time to pursue my interests and family. What is important to you?

Kimberlee Davis is the Host of The Fiscal Feminist, a podcast and platform about women and their relationship with money and finances. Her mission is to help all women of all ages and wealth levels embrace their responsibility to themselves to achieve solid financial footing in both calm and turbulent times. Kimberlee Davis has more than 25 years of finance, legal and corporate experience, her career has included being a corporate securities lawyer, investment banker, and Chief Financial Officer. Currently, she is Managing Director and Partner at The Bahnsen Group, a private wealth management firm.

How One Woman is Reinventing the Wedding Industry
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Amy Grace decorating for an outdoor wedding while looking at the camera

Amy Grace Collins loved her work through Amy Grace Events. She was doing incredible corporate events and weddings for organizations and couples at the most amazing venues in California and Michigan, with the very best in everything—food, flowers, music, photography, videography and more.

But she saw a trend that concerned her with the dream weddings she was helping California brides make a reality: They wanted $60,000 events when they could barely afford $15,000, so they were headed out of Santa Barbara to less expensive destinations, like the dessert of Palm Springs.

“My background is in finance, so I’m acutely aware that the money goes where the trends are,” said Collins, a NAWBO-Central Coast California member, who currently resides with her family in Michigan but works in California as well. “I started looking for an option to keep Santa Barbarians in their local town.”

Part of an international mastermind group of wedding planners, Collins began sharing her thoughts on calls. She learned that a fellow planner in Australia was in the process of implementing pop-up weddings. The concept was that several couples would have their wedding at the same location, on the same day, enjoying the same vendor resources—just in their 3- to 5-hour window and with a small group of friends and family in attendance.

While the concept would take some time to tweak for the American market, Collins knew she was onto something big.

“I reached out last summer to all my vendor friends saying, ‘I have this crazy idea…’ We talked about it and I ran every financial number I could,” says Collins. “There are a lot of models out there that undercut the vendors, so they only do the events on off-days.

“But couples want a Saturday or Sunday wedding for less, so we created these and started working on marketing them in February.”

Then COVID-19 hit. “There were brides booked for March and April who were stuck in contracts and out $60,000,” said Collins, adding that the biggest engagement season is between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day and brides usually start reaching out to wedding planners in the spring…and it’s been silent.

Collins’ thoughts immediately turned to the women who are part of MasterBrides—her other business, which is a free, online community for brides to learn about weddings from an industry veteran. She knew these women didn’t have tens of thousands of dollars to lose. Also, would it even possible for them to plan their weddings in the age of Coronavirus with so many unknowns from state to state, especially in California and Michigan, that tend to be among the strictest? Amy began sharing her research and expertise in blogs like, How Do I Know If I Should Cancel or Postpone My Wedding? and The Phased Strategy to Open America: What Does This Actually Mean for My Wedding? By the response she received from brides, it was clear it was time to pivot and focus on pop-up weddings. Her own industry, on the other hand, wasn’t so thrilled about what she was putting out there, but Amy felt strongly it was the right thing to do.

Today, that honest, timely communication has paid off. Amy is now offering pop-up weddings where she leverages the cost of a $60,000 wedding and distributes it three ways between couples so they can have stunning weddings for a fraction of the price. These are all-inclusive, with 90 percent of the decisions already made. She just helps each couple finalize the personalization aspects to make it their own event.

There are other advantages to this model, too. For one, it’s recommended that the guest list is small with just 40-80 people. In this time of social distancing, that’s the perfect size. Also, it’s environmentally friendly. Whereas before, thousands of dollars on everything from flowers to food would go to waste after one big event, now several couples are taking advantage of the same resources.

“I think this will completely shift the mindset of brides,” Collins says. “To see the couples’ expectations from 2002 when I first started, to 2020 is mind-blowing—it’s the same amount of money with way different expectations. This is really resetting the industry so that couples are having a wedding within their means.”

Collins is equally excited about another outcome: A focus on the ceremony more so than the party. “I have always been frustrated by the lack of reverence given to the ceremony portion of the wedding,” she explains. “To have people now see the importance of the actual ceremony and license and how it affects so much in their life, from health care to taxes to immigration. It’s so much deeper and I think we, as an industry, will be appreciated in such a different way. I look forward to that.”

Advice for Business Resilience from Top Companies
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The Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO), in collaboration with American Express, recently released the 13th annual ranking of the 50 Fastest-Growing Women-Owned/Led Companies. The companies on this year’s 50 Fastest list span a range of industries, including healthcare, technology, and consulting. From January to December 2019, the 50 Fastest generated a combined $3.8 billion in revenue and collectively employed more than 17,000 people.

“The 50 Fastest Growing Women Owned/Led Companies are a trailblazing group of women who are leading some of the most successful businesses around the globe,” said Jessica Ling, Vice President and General Manager, Marketing Strategy, Content and Experiences at American Express. “I was thrilled to have the opportunity to speak with some of these business owners and learn more about the creative ways they’ve pivoted to not only keep their businesses running but also to support their employees, customers and communities through these trying times.”

At the annual WPO conference, held virtually on July 22 and 23rd, Jessica spoke with four of the 50 Fastest Awardees for a fireside chat on the topic of resilience and leading in uncertain times. Asma Ishaq, CEO of Modere, Patricia Bible, Founder and CEO of KaTom Restaurant Supply Inc., Jenelle Coy, Founder and Managing Partner of Spero and Sujata Stead, CEO of Cambridge Boxhill Language Assessment, shared their advice for navigating these unprecedented times.

When asked what advice they would give business owners that are looking to grow, especially in today’s climate, each provided key insights and personal anecdotes for growing and remaining resilient through the pandemic.

Asma Ishaq of Modere, ranked third on the list, said that it’s important to double down on existing customers.

Headshot of Asma Ishaq

“This is a time when you can develop a deeply impactful impression on customers. We have done everything we can to show our customers that we’re in this together, and they have gone to great lengths to reciprocate their loyalty,” says Asma.

“It is more efficient and less costly to retain customers than it is to acquire them. We felt a need to prove to our customers that we value their business and well-being.”

When asked the same question, Jenelle Coy of Spero, number seven of the list, said, “Passionate optimism and confidence are must-haves no matter what current circumstances you’re experiencing. Have a Deja vu mindset that you’re starting your business all over again and reevaluate your strategy, staffing and operations from the ground up to compete and thrive in the new normal.”

When asked the same question, Jenelle Coy of Spero, number seven of the list, said,

Headshot of Jenelle Coy of Spero

“Passionate optimism and confidence are must-haves no matter what current circumstances you’re experiencing. Have a Deja vu mindset that you’re starting your business all over again and reevaluate your strategy, staffing and operations from the ground up to compete and thrive in the new normal.”

Patricia Bible provided insights into what KaTom Restaurant Supply Inc., number 10 on the list, is doing to support both staff and customers in this challenging time. “KaTom has taken on the approach of looking internally first,” said Patricia.

Headshot of Patricia Bible

“We look at all our associates as customers first and if they are happy then our customers are happy. We’ve taken extreme measures including additional training for staff to help mitigate the fears that so many are struggling with and to also give them confidence when speaking with their customers. We have found that investing in employees pays tremendous dividends.”

Patricia went on to explain how impactful her staff has been. “With 53 percent of our operating force being millennials, we do a lot of listening as they bring invaluable direction.”

“Firstly, you need to have passion and believe in your business as well as what you stand for and the value you offer to your customers,” said Australia-based Sujata Stead, ranked number 15 on the list.

Headshot of Sujata Stead

Building an organization and turning it into a profitable and sustainable enterprise requires a phenomenal amount of hard work so you need to love what you do – whether it’s your product or service, customers or staff – this will make the journey worthwhile.

“Secondly, it is important to build organizational resilience and agility. We are living in a world that is increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. This means we need to be able to pivot at short notice and have the ability to evolve. As an organization, you have to have passion for what you do, the community you serve and the ecosystem you’re part of.”

The businesses on the 50 Fastest list have demonstrated the true meaning of resiliency during the current climate.

For more information on this year’s 50 Fastest, click here.

Attitude + Breathing = Balance
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By Michelle Miller, national correspondent for CBS News

There are many professions that take time away from family and friends. And many employees juggling tasks, pushing deadlines and pivoting from one place to another. For me, between the 24-hour news cycle, email and internet, there is no clocking off the job.

But the key is attitude! Attitude is everything! And for the last 30 years, having a good one has been my best ally. Being able to manage your attitude, your mood, your outlook and your pace is crucial. Even in the toughest of circumstances, I’ll find a way to work through the emotion of what I’m dealing with. And sometimes, it can be overwhelming.
But nothing is more of a game changer than taking a breath. Think about that for a minute.

When I was a breaking-news correspondent, I never knew what was coming at me, where I might be headed or what story I may be covering. A heavy chest, a chasm of emotion – there are moments in between the routine coverage that catch us journalists cold.

What saved me was a method from the “BEAD Diet.” It encompasses a Chinese method of breathing called Qigong breathing. Breathe in for 3–5 seconds, hold, and breathe out slowly over 30 seconds. You do that three times, it helps center and calm you into relaxation. Every trigger of emotion seems lifted.

A brain scientist by the name of Mike Nickonchuk has written a book called The Field Guide for the Barefoot Psychologist. In it, he describes how the body reacts to trauma and ways individuals can help relieve triggers through certain exercises like breathing. It’s an incredible irony or perhaps the brilliance of our own biology, that the very thing essential to our existence is also tied to our emotional well-being.

In this life, I have found balance. And it’s a balance I fight for every day.
Work is actually the easiest of all my tasks in life, or at least it seems that way. And perhaps that is because I love what I do! Part of the reason I became a journalist is because I did not want to do the same thing every day. Routine is a comfort to most of my family – to me, not so much.

There is, however, routine to the madness of my chaos. On an average day you can find me sitting down writing a story, charting expenses, and making calls. But another technique that keeps me sane is getting up from that desk once an hour, climbing a few stairs to make the rounds, to talk to people, and to take a few moments to see that everybody is ok.

This does wonders for my stress relief, too. Because whether we are at work or at home, like it or not, we are members of a village, and the well-being of the self also depends on the well-being of the whole.

Generally, I am a happy person because I like my job. I generally go home in a better state of mind. Yes, I am tired, but I want to see my kids and husband. Making sure you fit in time with the important people of your life, budgeting that time is so important. So that is what I do. I make appointments with my children and husband. Everything is budgeted in my calendar so it has space.

I want to share the news of the day. I want to unplug from my phone, from social media, and engage real people. Keeping a positive attitude at work carries home and helps build my healthy relationships with my husband and children. It is near impossible to for someone to have a bad attitude at work and flip it around when they get home. Staying positive is the key.

Attracting, Recruiting and Retaining a Diverse Energy Workforce
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The energy industry is one of the largest in country, and employs millions of people around the world. In addition, energy is also wide ranging and includes not just oil and gas, but also renewable sectors, like solar, hydrogen, wind and other emerging technologies. Yet, it is also one of the least diverse, according to the American Petroleum Institute (API), who reports that nearly 75 percent of employees are white.

This is especially true in the highest levels of management at the utilities and major oil companies. Alternative industry fairs slightly better with middle management and below, but has the same representation of women and underrepresented groups as traditional oil and gas, where nearly 90 percent of leadership is white.

But these numbers are not news, and the lack of diversity in the energy sector has long been reported. Still, not much progress has been made in terms of the hiring and promotion of women and people of color. Many mature industries find it difficult to adapt to changes in the workforce, often struggling to find the optimal balance between entry level and experienced workers. For the past several years, Energy has had a particularly challenging time attracting new talent. Years ago, companies like ExxonMobil had their pick of the top candidates from the best schools—now these graduates are more likely to work for Silicon Valley tech giants like Apple, Google, and Facebook, or create their own startup. Whenever the largest companies are having a hard time finding talent, you know there is a problem. Perhaps making things even worse, is the Great Crew Change, which refers to the large age gap in the workforce brought on by the upcoming waves of older workers reaching retirement age and the scarcity of workers under the age of 35. Many young people just don’t want to work in the same industries as their parents and grandparents. In addition, energy has seen more than its share of problems dealing with both racism and sexism, both contributing to why young people shy away from jobs in these fields.

So, what is the solution? First, the energy industry has to come to terms with the fact that their lack of available talent is their NUMBER ONE barrier to future growth. Innovation in the areas of emerging technology demands more workers than are currently available. To fill these jobs, we must hire or train to be hired, more women and people of color. Simply put, our current efforts are not sufficient for future needs. The next step is to invest in organizations that are successful in doing this right now. Millions have been spent talking about the lack of diversity, now it’s time to spend money on creating sustainable solutions to fix this problem. That means looking at the ENTIRE talent pipeline. While it’s critical to address the issues of attracting new workers to the field, if we don’t solve the problem of why underrepresented people don’t stay and are not promoted to senior levels, then we really haven’t accomplished much, especially since we don’t have the luxury of failing at this. How much untapped talent is being lost because of systemic discrimination keeping people from reaching their highest potential? What innovations could be discovered if this industry supported EVERYONE at the same level?

Because the fields are wide open, there are tremendous opportunities for women and people of color to advance in the clean energy and renewable sectors. Thanks to the effects of COVID and geopolitical instability around the world, oil and gas will undoubtedly never be the same. Many of the jobs lost are never coming back. A large number of workers will need to pivot to other types of jobs to stay employed. As the needs for the products they produce continues to decrease, others like biomass and hydrogen fuel cell, will rise as they continue to get cheaper and easier to produce. Partnerships between industry, academia and government can play a large role in educating new workers to these fields, but they can’t do it alone. Grass roots efforts via non-profit participation (and funding thereof) are key to helping to promote these opportunities to underrepresented communities. They can also work to ensure there are clear, distinct and attainable paths that exist to not just senior leadership in energy, but entrepreneurship as well. The future of energy is dependent on harnessing this untapped potential.

Risk Intelligence solutions are powered by BWise technology and support companies of all sizes through a wide range of deployment models, from on-premise implementations to out-of-the-box SaaS solutions streamlining single initiatives to complex integrated GRC projects. BWise is proud to be the GRC vendor of choice for many diverse energy and utility companies. This includes regional utilities and energy suppliers, pipeline and distribution business, oil and natural gas exploration, and large, multi-national gas and oil suppliers.

Kristin Malek: Redefining Supplier Diversity at CDW
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As the senior manager of Supplier Diversity at CDW, Kristin Malek drives CDW’s strategies to achieve supplier diversity objectives. She is responsible for CDW’s $2+ billion annual Supplier Diversity spend initiatives. Kristin is the architect of the CDW’s diverse supply chain, which today is defined as more than 1100+ suppliers that serve the needs and offers solutions to CDW and their customers.

She is a member of the National Minority Supplier Diversity Council (NMSDC), Board Member of the Chicago Minority Supplier Diversity Council, Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, National LGBT Chamber of Commerce, National Veteran-Owned Business Association (NaVOBA) and TIG (Technology Industry Group), sharing her voice and best practices on inclusive business strategies.

 Under Kristin’s leadership at CDW; the supplier diversity program at CDW has been named a finalist for Corporation of the Year with NMSDC in 2018 and 2019. In 2019, the supplier diversity program was named the Best of the Best Supplier Diversity Programs for veteran-owned businesses.

 Earlier this year, Kristin was named one of Top 25 Women in Power Impacting Diversity. Under Kristin’s leadership, CDW was inducted into the prestigious Billion Dollar Roundtable in October.

Professional WOMAN’s Magazine (PWM) spoke with Malek about her career.

PWM: Describe a moment you felt like a Wonder Woman and made a difference.

Malek: To describe a moment in which I felt like a Wonder Woman is hard to define, as every day I hold myself to high levels of accountability, being available to my family, teams, customers, and friends, and live with integrity. To find a day in which I perhaps elevated myself and pushed myself out of my comfort zone presented itself this spring when the world was sheltered in place. I found myself being tasked to support my third-grader with learning from home and getting her through fractions, having the responsibility to be a special education teacher for my fifth-grader who while in school received 1:1 paraprofessional support and lost that when distance learning presented itself while leading the Supplier Diversity program at CDW. Many days, I felt it was an overreach for me, but staying true to asking for help, staying honest with my capabilities and being able to set boundaries maybe made me Wonder Woman for the day – title or no title, it’s OK to ask for help.

PWM: What values do women bring to the workforce?

Malek: Competitiveness, leadership, empathy, solution thought leadership, and perspective, but I think men bring the same things; the more we separate skills by gender the farther we get away from inclusion.

PWM: What are your tips to keep growing professionally?

Malek: Take opportunity of changes; changes create needs, and needs create opportunities. Embrace Change. Second, compete with yourself only.

PWM: What are some things you think women can do to advocate change in the workplace?

Malek: Advocate from a place of respect, authentic gratitude and confidence in your abilities.

PWM: What lessons have you learned that you would like to share with our readers?

Malek: My lesson that has come to be reoccurring is that courage doesn’t always roar but can be the quiet voice that says I will try again tomorrow.

The one characteristic that will make you an all-star according to science
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Smiling young African American businesswoman leaning on a table in her office

By Amy Stanton

A few years ago, an interesting study came out of Harvard Business Review titled “The Business Case for Curiosity.”

In the study, HBR reported how an increase in employee curiosity led to a dramatic increase in company-wide creativity; how curiosity leads to empathy, which leads to reduced conflict among team members; and how “Google identifies naturally curious people through interview questions such as these: ‘Have you ever found yourself unable to stop learning something you’ve never encountered before? Why? What kept you persistent?’”

And then a few weeks ago, I came across a piece on Medium titled “The 2-Word Trick That Makes Small Talk Interesting.”

What are the two words?

“I’m curious…” before asking a question.

Whether we realize it or not, curiosity is one of the most appealing qualities . . . in a friend, an employee, a boss, or a leader. Curiosity leads to improved problem-solving—in just about every capacity (logistically, emotionally, financially, etc.).

As the HBR study goes on to explain, “To assess curiosity, employers can also ask candidates about their interests outside of work. Reading books unrelated to one’s own field and exploring questions just for the sake of knowing the answers are indications of curiosity.”

I didn’t realize it at the time, but when I was starting my company, originally focused exclusively on female athletes and women’s sports, a number of people told me, “There’s no money in women’s sports.” And the reason I pressed on regardless was that I was curious. “Is that true? If it is true, why? And shouldn’t we change that?” Those questions and my curiosity started the Stanton & Company journey (thank goodness!).

And then a few years ago, when I decided I wanted to write a book about femininity, I was curious about my behaviors, feelings, and ideas—was I experiencing something unique, or were my feelings and human responses part of a larger societal reality? (The answer turned out to be the latter.)

Continue on to Fast Company to read the complete article.

How to Stay Focused When Working at Home
LinkedIn
woman working from home with child and dog nearby

 By Jennifer Parris

Regardless of where you work, there can be distractions. In office environments, water cooler chats and nearby conversations can disrupt focus. On the flip side, working at home can present challenges with structure and discipline.

If working from home is temporary due to the pandemic or even if you’re a seasoned remote worker, there’s a chance you’re having some difficulty staying focused and productive during these uncertain times. Don’t fret. Here are some tips to stay laser-focused when working from home.

Know Thyself

Some of us are morning larks, and some of us prefer a late start to the day. Regardless of your preferences, take some time to figure when you’re at your best. Betsy Andrews, Career Coach at FlexJobs, advises everyone, no matter where they work, to “learn which time(s) of day you are most productive and schedule the tasks that take the most focus during those times. Prioritization of tasks can be key.”

So, if you know you do your best work between 9:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m., schedule your most “important” tasks during that time, and save the less taxing tasks for later in the day when you’re feeling less productive or focused.

Make a List

Lists may seem a little old school. But, keeping track of all your to-do’s will help you stay focused while working from home and also provide you with a starting point at the beginning of each day. That list will serve as a daily reminder of what has to get done.

FlexJobs Career Coach Toni Frana advises workers to “write your to-do list right before you end work for the day. This helps in two big ways: It provides closure to the current workday, allowing for an easy transition from your home office to life at home. And the next day, you can begin your day with a laser focus because you’ve already identified your tasks and goals for that day.”

Create a Home Office

In most cases, working remotely allows you to work from anywhere. And while this freedom is typically one of the benefits of a flexible job, setting up a home office is still highly recommended.

If your work-from-home arrangements are temporary and a full-on office isn’t realistic, try to create a dedicated workspace that allows you to focus while working from home.

Structure Your Day

Start with the time you know you’re the most productive and focused then establish your work hours around those times. That means setting and sticking to boundaries. This is critical to staying focused while working from home.

Let well-meaning family members and friends know that even though you’re home, you don’t have time for unlimited socializing. Instead, chat with them briefly during one of your breaks for a quick boost. And stay on schedule by truly working the hours you’ve dedicated to your job. For more advice, read up on how to talk to your friends and family about boundaries when you’re working at home.

While you’re working from home during the pandemic, you might have kids at home, too. Unfortunately, kids aren’t the best at respecting boundaries, even in the best of times. An age-appropriate conversation is a good place to start (‘I have to work’; ‘You have school or other activities to do’).

Limit Media Consumption

This is good advice for any time. It’s easy to get distracted by the constant influx of breaking news notifications, even on a slow news day. These days, though, it seems like something new is happening every few minutes.

Checking out what’s happened every time your phone beeps can divide your attention, making you a less productive worker. However, during the pandemic, these constant checks can also make you anxious, which, in turn, can make you lose focus on your work. To avoid these pitfalls (and maintain your mental well-being), try these tricks.

Set a Timer on Your Phone

While you are sitting at your desk, it can be tempting to pick up your phone—especially when it’s constantly pushing alerts at you.

To stop you from being distracted, set the timer on your phone for 90 minutes, turn off push notifications, and then put it out of sight.

Not only does the timer help structure your time, it is also a reminder that you’re not supposed to be looking at your phone.

Block Time-Wasting Sites

Now that you’ve blocked your phone don’t forget to block your browser, too. It’s tempting (and easy) to fritter the day away on your computer. So, use browser extensions to block yourself from social media, news sites, and anything else that will tempt you.

Just like on your phone, set a timer to unblock them during your breaks or after hours. Then, have them “re-block” those sites when it’s time to get to work.

Create a Calendar

If you don’t know what to focus on, how can you stay focused? Post a calendar in your home office so you can see what tasks you need to work on. The more organized this calendar is, the better.

Prioritize daily what work needs to get done for you to hit your deadlines and then write it down. You could use a whiteboard, a planner, or an online calendar.

The objective is to have a visual of what you need to focus on so that when your mind starts to wander, you see the list, and you get back to work.

Take Scheduled Breaks Often

Some people believe that every 90 minutes we need a break from our work. Staying focused while working from home can be tough because we don’t always the mental references that in-office workers have, like people leaving for lunch, grabbing coffee, etc. These breaks are just like you walking to the break room or stopping by someone’s office to chat.

Before your day starts, plan when you can take breaks based on your meeting calendar, workload, and priorities.

Stay Active

Physical activity is important, even if it’s just a quick walk. Lack of movement is not only bad for your body but also your mind, as it can cause your brain to become sluggish.

Frana says, “Don’t be afraid to schedule in a workout or some sort of movement in your day. This not only keeps us physically well but also allows for a mental refresh so we can maintain focus throughout our workday. This is hard to achieve when we don’t allow ourselves to take breaks to move during the day.”

So, take a brisk walk in the morning or walk the dog on your lunch break. Bad weather by you? Stream a workout for a quick 10-minute fitness boost, or even do some stretching. Your thoughts will become clearer, and it will help you to be more productive for the rest of the day.

Don’t Graze All Day

Just like you want to stay focused with your work productivity, you’ll also want to create boundaries with food intake. That said, you still have to eat. And, the advantage of working at home is that you can create your own fresh and healthy meals without relying solely on the microwave. Check out some of these simple and easy work-from-home meal ideas that even the most inexperienced home cooks can master.

Stay Focused, Stay Productive

You will get distracted from time to time, and that’s OK. Be easy on yourself. Staying focused while working from home can be a challenge, but with a little restructuring—and a little persistence—you can become more productive and effective. Incorporate these tips a little at a time, and you’ll see how much more you can get done during the day.

Source: flexjobs.com

Avoid These 11 Things When Giving Feedback to Employees
LinkedIn
woman on zoom meeting giving employee feedback to group

By Gina DeLapa

As a manager, you have the opportunity to inspire your team and bring out their best. One of the most powerful tools you have for this purpose may also be the one for which you received the least formal training: how to give constructive feedback—or how to give feedback, period.

Thankfully, it’s never too late to strengthen this skill. The more you practice, the better and more confident you will become. And you won’t have to wait years for your employees to notice and appreciate your efforts.

The first step is to make peace with the word “feedback.” Notice how often it has a negative tone. I have this theory that if feedback were always pleasant or helpful, we wouldn’t have to soften it with the word “constructive”—as in “Hey, can I give you some constructive feedback?”

Most people will head for the hills.

And while employee engagement also depends in part on positive feedback, it is not the realm where most managers and employees clash. So, let’s focus for now on how to turn the dreaded constructive feedback into an opportunity instead.

It starts with avoiding these 11 common pitfalls:

Pitfall #1: Escalating the conflict. Examples of how this happens: patronizing, digging up the past, or launching into a tirade. In the words of Groucho Marx, “If you speak when angry, you’ll make the best speech you’ll ever regret.”

Pitfall #2: Tearing down the person. If you want the best chance of being heard and respected, stay focused on the issue—that means no criticizing the employee or generalizing the issue to their entire worth or existence.

It’s the difference between “Why are you so unreliable?” and “Help me understand the no-show to yesterday’s meeting.” Notice how the latter approach invites dialogue and communicates “We’re on the same team” (even if you’re not happy with the no-show at the meeting).

Pitfall #3: Overfocusing on the problem. Instead, move the conversation as quickly as possible to the desired solution. What is the conduct or performance standard you need to see instead? To put it more simply, “Don’t correct, redirect.” You’ll save time and let your employee save face.

Pitfall #4: Making it public. Show respect by taking the feedback behind closed doors. In fact, the more serious or sensitive the feedback, the more it helps to give the other person a say. Example: “Monique, I need to speak with you today for about 15 minutes. Would you prefer to meet right before lunch or right after?” Now you’ve shown Monique some respect and dignity by allowing her to choose her preferred time. It also ensures she’ll be in the best frame of mind.

And if the meeting is held in your office, make sure to silence your phone and remove any other distractions. (I once sat in my pastor’s office and watched the blobby, undulating screensaver on the computer screen behind his head. I don’t have words for how awkward that was.)

Pitfall #5: Ignoring context. Compassionate leaders know that the company holiday party, the team golf outing, or the employee’s birthday are not the time to get into sticky subjects.

Pitfall #6: Implicating the whole group. Example: One person on the team has a performance issue. Rather than issuing a group statement, hoping someone will take the hint, an astute leader takes it up with the individual.

Pitfall #7: Procrastination. The sooner you address someone’s performance, the sooner they can correct it—and the less damage it will do to the rest of the team.

Pitfall #8: Disregarding their own role. Courageous leaders ask questions like “Did I set out clear expectations?” and “Have I done my part to set the employee up for success?”

Pitfall #9: Ambushing the person receiving it. For example, everyone knows a performance review is not the place to bring up a new issue. Yet it happens all too often. The best leaders make sure their feedback is timely. They don’t simply “save up” and share it once a year.

Pitfall #10: Vagueness. Before you sit someone down to address an issue, get clear on the behavior you need to see instead. Make sure the other person is clear on what’s expected. Wherever possible, collaborate on a mutually agreeable outcome.

Pitfall #11: Ignoring consequences. Look for ways to build in accountability. What results are expected and by when? How will you know if the results have been achieved? What happens if they aren’t? (Shout-out to my mother who always lovingly enforced consequences with her four offspring.)

Finally, when you’ve done your part, promise yourself you won’t internalize your employee’s response. If they react poorly at first, let them simply have their reaction. What counts is what they do with the feedback after they’ve had a chance to take it in.

This is yet another way to show your strength and compassion as a manager. When you deliver constructive feedback with respect, you will be regarded not only as a leader, but a strong leader who expects the best from her team and gets it.

Gina DeLapa is the owner of Thriving Cultures LLC, which helps companies transform their culture so employees engage. Sign up for her tips on leadership and company culture by visiting GinaDeLapa.com.

Andrea Garcia: Breaking the Gender Barrier to Accounting Success
LinkedIn
Andrea Garcia's headshot

By Mary Marshall

The sun-drenched skies, sculpted rock formations and Saguaro cactus of the high desert are part of the landscape that Andrea Garcia calls home. Garcia, a native of Phoenix, Arizona, is proud of her Hispanic heritage and feels fortunate to be able to crossover the language barrier from English to Spanish and collaborate in two languages as a bilingual accountant.

“So many people within the Hispanic community appreciate someone who can speak Spanish in everyday business interactions,” said Garcia. “Especially when it comes to tax accounting. It truly makes everyone feel comfortable and at home when you can convey the message in their own language.”

Garcia, an entrepreneur and founder of her own accounting firm AG Tax and Accounting as well as an accountant with Nahrwold Associates in Phoenix, received a wealth of opportunity that opened many doors for her as a Hispanic woman in a male-dominated profession like accounting.


“I landed a part-time administrative job with Nahrwold Associates, a small accounting firm, while still in college,” reminisced Garcia, 27. “The owner, Allen Nahrwold, noted my interest in business and finance. He became my mentor in the field of tax accounting. Many employees were part-time college students, such as me, who left the firm and moved on to other jobs. I ultimately stayed and learned the accounting business from the ground up. I have never found that being a woman or Hispanic has been an issue – if anything it has been an asset since I speak Spanish as well as English. That is an area where many young Hispanic women could find themselves in a career, and truly excel rapidly by being able to speak both languages.”

Now into several months of being a business owner, Garcia has discovered the freedom of creating her own business identity while remaining a Nahrwold employee.

“This is the best of both worlds,” said Garcia, “being able to work for myself and Nahrwold. I am building a great network based off referrals and additional business contacts provided by Nahrwold. It is amazing how the clients and referrals come when people discover you are starting a new business.”

When contemplating college following high school graduation, Garcia’s exemplary grades led to a wealth of scholarship opportunities including several that she received from the Accounting and Financial Women’s Alliance (AFWA), an educational and professional association for women in the field of finance and accounting, headquartered in Lexington, Kentucky. Garcia has since completed a master’s degree in accounting and plans to complete the two phases of the CPA exam by the end of the year.

“The AFWA scholarships were so beneficial to my college success,” said Garcia. “The whole organization has been a wonderful education and networking experience. I joined our local AFWA chapter (East Mesa and Phoenix Chapters) shortly after finishing college. Now I am the president of East Mesa and enjoying every minute of it. It is a great way to network, make friends in your profession, create revenue streams, and get involved in the community. I have also served for several years on the national AFWA Board of Directors, and that has been a wonderful experience.”

Garcia’s advice to young women interested in pursuing a profession as an accountant or in the field finance includes becoming an intern for valuable experience and finding a mentor to guide you down the career path of choice. She also believes that it is important to join a professional organization while still attending college, like the AFWA, that offers a student membership and scholarship opportunities.

“Working as an intern in a position is a wonderful chance to discover if accounting or finance is the career path you want to follow,” said Garcia. “It is even more beneficial to find a mentor to help you learn the ropes and give you advice along the way, help develop skills, and create your business acumen. It is also important to join a professional organization, like the AFWA, to develop soft skills, networking, and leadership skills. Women are underrepresented in the field of finance and accounting. There are so many opportunities available it just takes making yourself aware, willing to step out of your comfort zone and into a role where you can learn, lead, excel and grow in your business and interpersonal skills.”Toggle panel: Yoast SEO

Air Force Civilian Service

Air Force Civilian Service