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Combining prosperous work lives and balanced personal lives
February 2004

My goal is to bring you news, insights, and information about leading a balanced and prosperous life.

    In this issue, you'll find:
  1. Award Winning Reflections
  2. BossWoman coaching
  3. Up and coming workshops
1. Award Winning Reflections

We have all heard someone refer to "having my life pass in front of my eyes" while encountering danger. I recently learned that the same feeling can happen in response to a good event.

Last week, I was one of several roundtable speakers at a dinner meeting of the Executive Women's Network in Baltimore. Sharon Keys Seal, last year's winner of the Mandy Goetze Award (named after the organization's founder, it amounts to a "woman of the year" award for leadership and service) began her presentation of the award to this year's recipient. She said some nice things about the person who was to receive the award, mentioning that the woman served the organization behind the scenes only occasionally stepping forward when needed. Suddenly my life was passing in front of my ears and eyes and those of everyone else in the room as I realized Sharon was talking about me. What a shock! I wanted to protest that I didn't feel the least bit qualified for the award but then I would have insulted a wonderful group of women leaders who have honored me with this award. Sharon's eloquence made my accomplishments sound so much better than they are.

After the meeting I expressed my concern with the duties of the award. I knew that the winner presents next year's award but I asked Sharon what else you have to do - like appearing at county fairs wearing a tiara. She said my only duty was "to bask." So while I am basking, I will share some reflections on leadership that have taken me a long time to learn. I hope that the pain of my education will be your gain.

Develop your leadership.
A good leader is a person who influences others to take action towards the common good. This is the definition of leadership I use in my graduate leadership course in the non-profit master's degree program at the College of Notre Dame. Let's look at each of the elements:

Person. You are a person who is a leader. Then you lead. Many people wait around to feel like a leader or to get elected before taking responsibility for their own development.

Influence. You can't make someone do something. You can't motivate others. What you can do is model, make requests, and empower people to act out of their own motivations.

Others. Many textbook definitions emphasize that leaders lead groups. This is a mistaken notion. Leaders always lead individuals whether they are alone or in groups. Once you see how this part of the definition works, you will recognize that you are already influencing others. You may be leader in a two person business. You are a leader in your family. You are a leader when you serve on a committee even if you are not the chair. You are a leader in all the circles of influence that you have. Each person you meet today will be influenced by you for good or not for good. If the six people closest to you each influence six people, and they influence their six, by the time you get six degrees your influence may extend to 46,656 people. Several of those people know Kevin Bacon personally. Several others know the U.S. President. Just imagine; you already have the power you have to touch all those lives.

Action. A leader is not an inspirational speaker that gets an audience pumped up and excited only to go home to the "same ole, same ole". A leader shows the way to making real change. An effective leader understands the technology of change - how hard it is and how it really happens. This means going beyond New Year's resolutions to take persistent small actions that accumulate over time towards a larger vision.

Common good. A leader takes the long view - not raising the bottom line for this quarter but asking what will serve employees and customers next year. I ask my leadership students to find something in that world that needs changing and think of someway to work towards that change. If you had only $100 dollars to spend toward that vision what would you do with the money in the next 90 days?

You can have it all - but not instantly.
If you heard the brief version of my life story read at that meeting, you might think, "Wow, what a busy workaholic!" What you should think is: "Wow, is she old!" The formula is simple: Live a long time and methodically work on the areas of importance until your life story sounds like you did a lot. You will have. Just don't try to do it all by age 30 or you will drive yourself nuts. This is a case of "less is more." Ironically, my roundtable topic at the award meeting was, "So you're busy, but are you happy?" Author Julliett Shores reported that Americans now work a month more than we did ten years ago and have accumulated more wealth individually and collectively. But happiness researchers have not found us to be any happier. Why? Because we are rushing towards the destination instead of enjoying the journey. Studies on happiness by University of Pennsylvania psychologist, Martin Seligman, and his colleagues show that less than one third of our happiness is accounted for by experiences of pleasure. A deeply satisfying life is more related to experiencing full engagement and meaning in what we do than taking great vacations and accumulating stuff.

Some goals are time urgent. If your career depends on youth - ice skating for example - you may chose to delay child-bearing even knowing you may face fertility risks later. If your career is not time limited, enjoy your children when they are young and dedicate your life to your work later, guilt free. No one ever said on their deathbed, "I wish I had worked harder." My younger clients are driving themselves crazy working harder than they need to so they can provide a big house they never see because they are working too hard. They are providing material wealth to their children who, if you believe the national surveys, are desperate for more time with their parents. And what kid will look forward to an adulthood that doesn't seem like any fun?

Work from strength.
My great aunt, Bertha, used to say, "Be different!" She meant, "Be your own unique self." She encouraged me to discover my unique constellation of talents and to have the courage to find ways to use them. The newer methods of career counseling are helping people do just that. While common self-improvement folklore has taught that we should improve our worst stuff, research by the Gallup organization is now showing that you will gain more from your training dollar and hour by strengthening what you already love to do and do well. Of course, pay attention to your worst stuff when it holds you back from your goals. You will get further by concentrating on doing more of what you already do well. You might be a person who publishes the most research in your department or doubles the size of your company in the shortest time on record. If that is who you really are, bravo for you! But don't waste your time trying to win those awards if they don't fit who you really are. The best award is the one you give yourself - for the life you design that fits who you are and makes use of your gifts.

Work from the heart in everything you do.
This weekend will be the annual celebration of the Academy Awards. There are many wonderful hopefuls. Listen to the interviews you will see on the news and the talk shows. No matter who actually gets the awards, the people who will still be around for the lifetime achievement awards are the ones that put their heart and souls in the roles and productions they create. While they do the work, they measure the results by its artistic integrity. The award nominations are the frosting on the cake of good work. Those who work for what others will think of them achieve short term success at best and are never heard of again.

Whom you know is important.
I am not speaking of political connections but of knowing people who can support you and your goals. One of the things I enjoy about the organization that gave me the award is making rich connections with a wide variety of people. People in a networking organization don't have to be your best friends. Work at finding the connections between them and you and offer mutual help. Those connections won't happen very much at the monthly meetings, though. They happen in the committee work. They happen when you work on a fund raiser together. They happen when you come together for action towards a common good. Like good leaders do. It takes about three years in an organization before you will know enough people to make a difference in your life because you have made a difference in theirs. You probably belong to a number of groups. What if for the next year you served just one in a concentrated fashion? What would you experience at the end of the year? What would the organization have gained from you?

Dream big.
Having told you not to work for the awards, I will appear to contradict my own advice. A few years ago I was in a coaching class about creating a vision and we were asked to do an exercise imagining ourselves receiving an award. In the exercise, you imagine standing off stage listening to your accomplishments- really listening. You savor all that you are and have done to deserve the award.

I had a terrible time with the exercise. I have a good imagination but I struggled trying to imagine what kind of award I would receive. My business wasn't big enough; my revenues not enough. I didn't feel called to found a world-wide organization like Mother Theresa. I hadn't discovered any earth changing psychological research. Even if I did, there is no psychology category in the Nobel prizes although later that year psychologist Daniel Kanneman did win a Nobel prize in economics for his research on the psychology of risk taking. The best I could do is to imagine an award for someone who leads from behind, quietly and persistently influencing others to become their best. I still never imagined until last week that such an award would come my way. If you could imagine winning some kind of "woman of the year" award, what would they say about you?

I will be the last recipient to receive a plaque with Executive Women's Network on it. The organization has changed their name and direction from a networking group to a leadership group entitled Women's Leadership Alliance. I will contradict Groucho Marx who said he didn't want to belong to any organization that included him as a member. I am proud to be a part of an organization which supports the development of women's leadership. Until next year when I present the award, I won't be appearing at any county fairs wearing a tiara but I will be basking.

You are already a leader. Use your power to influence others to act towards the common good.

Susan Robison

2. BossWoman Coaching

About the publisher: Susan Robison, Ph.D. is a professional coach, speaker, author and seminar leader. She loves to coach women who want improvement in:

  • work-life balance,
  • career transitions,
  • building your business or practice,
  • time management,
  • increasing productivity.
If you are feeling stuck on the way to your ideal life, give Susan a call for a complementary half-hour coaching session.

She provides keynotes and seminars to business and organizations on the topics of:

  • leadership strategies for women,
  • relationships,
  • work-life balance,
  • change.
She offers her audiences a follow-up coaching session because she knows that workshops don't work.

Contact Susan for your coaching, speaking, or seminar needs at Susan@BossWoman.org or at 410-465-5892.

3. Up and coming workshops

Dr. Susan Robison will speak on "Meaning, Mission, and Money: Discerning God's Will in Your Life"
Sponsor: St. Bernadette Church (Lenten soup and speaker series)
Date: March 24, 2004; 6 - dinner; 7 - presentation
Place: Severna Park, MD
For more information and fee call: Ann McDonald 410-969-2785.

3725 Font Hill Drive
Ellicott City, MD 21042
Office: (410) 465-5892
Fax: (410) 465-5967

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