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More Women on Boards: An International Perspective

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More Women on Boards: An International Perspective

ILA-Women-on-Boards.jpg

This blog is provided by Lynne E. Devnew and Marlene Janzen Le Ber as a companion to their interview for Voice America conducted live at the International Leadership Association Conference. Their interview focuses on:  More Women on Boards, An International Perspective on Taking Action; it aired March 19, 2019.

Let’s begin with an assumption that in an ideal world gender equity, racial equity, religious equity, and cultural diversity would not be issues meriting attention.  The best candidates for positions in governments, leadership in workplaces, starring roles in film, etc. would always be chosen and these best candidates would be perfectly representative of the population.  As we all know, however, we don’t live in an ideal world.  We recently edited a book titled More Women on Boards: An International Perspective. In it, 42 authors, women and men from all over our globe, shared their research and experience related to an area where the world is far from the ideal – gender equity on Boards of Directors.  In 2017, women held only 15 percent of board seats globally.[i] There are many, many reasons for this lack of equity.  In our book, and in the work of other researchers, the challenges of reaching gender equity on boards have been explored and many suggestions for how to come closer to achieving the ideal have been offered.

One major conclusion we’ve reached, and which we believe is evident in all the work that’s been done, is that there are many ways to make some progress, or to move the needle, towards gender equity on boards of directors, but the influence of any one solution will be far from enough to reach the ideal and a “one size fits all” strategy will fail. In this article, we’ve summarized the challenges to achieving gender equity on boards and suggestions to address each of the challenges into four broad categories:  boards themselves, women themselves, culture, and laws. One more challenge relates to the argument whether this idea of gender equity on Boards of Directors is even worth pursuing.

Challenges – Boards Themselves

Boards and their current members provide challenges for increasing gender equity on boards.   First, in countries and companies without term limits for their Directors, the turnover is very limited and there may be very few board openings.  Demonstrating how important this challenge is, women were named to take 137 of the 358 vacant seats on Fortune 500 companies’ independent boards in 2017.  Thus, over 38 percent of the vacant seats went to women, a huge increase over the 28 percent in 2016.  But there were 4,747 seats on the boards of those companies.[ii]  So, even if all new board members were women, progress would remain very slow and totally excluding men as potential new board members would be unacceptable to most everyone.

Another barrier is the oft-stated requirement for board members to demonstrate an understanding of the “big picture”.  This competence is often viewed as best gained by serving as a company CEO.  However, as there are very few women who are hired as CEOs (e.g. 4.8% of CEOs of S&P 500 companies are women[iii]), few women have a resume indicating they have the CEO experience considered a prerequisite for board membership

Yet another challenge is that, in general, individuals are most comfortable working with others who share their values and their interests, people whom they both like and trust.  Thus boards have most often looked for new members among the people they know.  Sometimes they even seek people who look and act as they do.  They believe they are doing this in the interests of smooth board functioning.

Means for addressing these challenges include: board term limits; increasing the size of boards; recognizing that in today’s fast-changing, high technology, global economy CEOs aren’t the best source for the gaps in skillsets on boards; and adding women who are known and admired rather than merely “a woman” to meet a quota.  Executive recruiting firms are often used to help identify women not already known to board members and who would be a good board “fit”.

In addition to boards posing challenges to adding women members, boards can also limit women board members’ effective participation.  Some boards are run by chairs who listen only to a few most trusted members.  Adding women to a board if they are not going to have a voice on the board is meaningless, and board chairs are key to ensuring the voices of all board members are heard.  In addition, research has demonstrated that adding a “token” woman to a board means little except for an improved statistic.  Women’s voices seem to become an influence when there are at least three women on a single board.

Challenges – Women Themselves

Some evidence indicates that women themselves contribute to the equity issue because there are not enough women who aspire to board membership or who are prepared to serve on boards. As noted above, few women have served as CEOs and given that this is considered essential background experience, woman do not stand up to be included as independent directors.  “Golden skirts” in countries such as Norway highlight another problem.  Although women hold more than 40% of the board seats in Norway, many of the seats are held by a few women, the “golden skirts,” who are professional board members and participate on a large number of boards. The large percentage of undergraduate and professional degrees being earned by women, and the growing number of women in C-suite positions (even if not CEO) would suggest a larger number of qualified women for directorships.  Arguments are also made for the value of feminine relational leadership, which is more likely to be seen in women’s skill sets and backgrounds, as contributing knowledge, values, and decision-making approaches that would enrich boards; perhaps in ways that are more valuable than prior CEO experience. Today, many leading universities and professional women’s group offer programs to help women develop big picture and networking skills among others; efforts to help women who do not have CEO backgrounds prepare for board membership.

Some suggest that women don’t want to serve on boards; the cost-benefit analysis doesn’t come out favorably for women.  This appears to conflict with evidence that women are more prepared for board meetings than the men serving on the same boards.  However, women often have major responsibilities outside of work, and home and family roles can conflict with career ambitions.

Challenges – Cultures and Laws

This challenge is closely linked to cultural values, stronger in some countries and within some religious communities than in others, that women’s primary role is as a caregiver at home.  While our shrinking globe and global media have reduced this challenge to an extent, such beliefs still have a major influence.  Many would question the assumption of the ideal world we posed at the beginning of this statement. Even in Western countries where gender equity is espoused, most of the childcare, eldercare, and home care is done by women whether they work outside of the home or not. In some countries, gender equity is increasingly codified in the law; in other countries, the laws restrict women’s participation outside the home. Countries with strong cultural support for increasing the number of women on boards have used the legal system to require reporting of women’s representation on corporate boards or to enact quota systems.  In countries where the culture is consistent with quotas and where penalties for noncompliance are included in the laws, quotas have been quite effective.  Recently France joined Norway in the elite group of countries where the percentage of women on boards exceeds 40 percent.[iv]

Challenges – The Business Case

As a final discussion point, it is worth noting that once one gets beyond the arguments that it is unfair to discriminate against women and that it is foolish to dismiss the talent of half the world’s population, the arguments for adding more women to boards become controversial also.  Women board members have been found to add new perspectives that improve decision making, encourage innovation, serve as role models for women employees, change the atmosphere at board meetings, and encourage corporate responsibility.  Yet, when researching human behavior it is almost impossible to reasonably assume that the number of women on a boards is the only variable and that “all other factors are equal”.  Perhaps that is why the results of studies measuring the benefits of adding women to boards often seem inconsistent.  Company size, board make-up, chair behavior, industry, the style and behavior of the individual women involved, and all the other topics discussed earlier might also be “not equal” leading to conflicting evidence among studies.

We believe adding women to boards is valuable and that there are many, many things boards, women, and society can do to increase the number of women on boards.  We want to make sure we’re all remembering though, that complex issues seldom have simple solutions – and board equity is a complex issue.

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills and system to create a regenerative, inclusive and thriving organization that will have a positive impact in the world.

About the Authors

Lynne E. Devnew is on the associate faculty for the doctoral program, is a distinguished research fellow, and chairs the Women and Leadership Research Group at the University of Phoenix in the United States. A former senior middle manager at IBM, she has a DBA in strategy from the Questrom School, Boston University, and is a graduate of Columbia University’s Master Degree Program for Executives in New York City and Simmons University in Boston, Massachusetts, all in the United States. Dr. Devnew’s research work and publications are focused on women’s leadership aspirations and leader identity development. She serves on the boards of several not-for-profit organizations.

Marlene Janzen Le Ber is Associate Professor and Chair, School of Leadership & Social Change at Canada’s only women’s university, Brescia University College and Adjunct Research Professor at the Ian O. Ihnatowycz Institute for Leadership at Ivey School of Business, Western University. Her teaching is all leadership-related. A multiple research-grant holder in the complex processes of leadership, her current research is in leader character, leader identity development in women, and impact of art-based and narrative research on policy and social change. Prior to her doctoral studies, Marlene was a health care executive within academic health sciences centers, known as a strategic leader who spearheaded numerous health system innovations. Marlene has a PhD in Strategy from Ivey Business School, MScN (Admin) and BScN from Western University.

[i] This statistic is from Deloitte’s “Women in the boardroom: A global perspective – 5th edition” published in 2017 and based on data gathered from over 60 countries.  The relevant statistic in the 4thedition, published in 2015, was 12 percent and gathered from more than 40 countries.  The report is available at https://www2.deloitte.com/global/en/pages/risk/articles/women-in-the-boardroom5th-edition.html.

[ii] The number of women filling vacant and new board seats for Fortune 500 companies is from Heidrick & Struggles 2018 “CEO & Board Practice”.  This report is available at https://www.heidrick.com/Knowledge-Center/Publication/Board_Monitor_2018.

[iii] This information is from Catalyst Research’s “Pyramid: Women in S&P 500 Companies” on March 25, 2019.  The pyramid can be found at https://www.catalyst.org/research/women-in-sp-500-companies/.

[iv] The leading role of Norway is discussed many times in our book, More Women on Boards: An International Perspective.  After it was completed, France passed the 40 percent mark, as reported in Catalysts’ “Quick Take: Women on Corporate Boards” dated December 21, 2018.  This report can be found at: https://www.catalyst.org/research/women-on-corporate-boards/.

Authentic Leadership For Progress, Peace And Prosperity

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Authentic Leadership For Progress, Peace And Prosperity

This post is a report from the December 5, 2018 Forbes.com article Authentic Leadership for Peace and Prosperity. It is the companion to the Voice America Interview to air on January 29, 2019 with Dr. Gama Perruci, Dr. Sadhana Warty Hall, and Dr. Karen Ford, Evidence Based Practices for Leadership Development. This interview is particularly important because companies are investing large amounts of money and time to build strong leaders and some programs provide much better returns than others. Programs that teach leaders to be better leaders rather than those that teach leader about leadership provide different results. Programs that offer 1. strong frameworks (including the knowledge of how context and culture play a role in leading and following), 2. teach leaders to become more self-aware, and 3. perform better using the new frameworks and self-awareness provide the highest returns. The interview is part of our partnership with the International Leadership Association to bring you the latest and most relevant leadership information.

The following section is from Forbes. I am keenly interested in understanding how leaders progress their business agendas as well as the global agenda in times of significant geopolitical shifts. I attended the International Leadership Association’s conference, Authentic Leadership for Progress, Peace & Prosperity, in West Palm Beach, Florida, where keynote speakers, academics, award recipients and leaders across industries and the globe discussed their perspectives on the subject. This article summarizes my key takeaways.

With 39 countries represented at the conference, the focus on the volume, complexity and rate of change in the current climate continued to inform the conversations. So too did the political landscape, particularly the disillusionment with democracy and the move toward populism. The conversation was also impacted by several events happening in the background, such as a bomber delivering 14 bombs to democratic leadersand supporters, who was actually apprehended near West Palm Beach, where the conference was being held. There was also a synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh in the morning of the final day at the conference.

These events called to question what more we, as members of an international association, can do to focus on the intersection of leadership, scholarship and practice at a conference that focuses on progress, peace and prosperity.

The following themes are based on my discussions with thought leaders around the world and sessions I attended.

1. Leadership certification needs to be a strong consideration.

Many professions require certification before performing a job, like realtors, massage therapists, electricians, attorneys and certified public accountants. This is in strong contrast to the number of leaders holding key roles with no education and, in some cases, little experience.

While hiring is always complicated, certification can reduce the risk of costly hiring mistakes. Certification is important for leaders who want to stand out by demonstrating their competence. And organizations will have a greater degree of assurance that the person they are hiring is competent based on an objective standard and a rigorous certification process.

2. Leadership is the interplay between the organization’s internal environment and external ecosystem.

We train leaders in leadership concepts but don’t address the importance of helping leaders understand how they need to flex their leadership approach based on their context and their followers. The most effective leaders “sense” the needs of their followers and adapt their leadership accordingly. They help followers understand their leadership style and set clear expectations as well take into account their followers styles, so everyone can focus their energy on accomplishing goals.

3. Leaders need new tools to solve highly complex problems.

Many of the problems organizations face are emergent, and they may not have faced them before. Therefore, leaders must have the tools to address them. The most effective leaders balance inner knowing with strong analytics and collaboration. 

4. Leadership ethics are key. 

There are questions about leaders learning ethics versus gaining ethics as part of the process of maturing. Are ethics the guidelines people comply with? Is there a call for leaders to develop a strong inner compass that ensures they follow the spirit of ethics as the rules change? I believe it’s important for leaders to have a strong inner sense of both the impact you want to make on the world as well as the “guardrails” you use to accomplish that impact.

5. Leaders operate in an interconnected system and need to consider the broader impact they make.

Conference participants were clear about the importance of profit as the fuel for the business and that businesses are among the most powerful institutions across the planet. They are positioned to enact important changes that involve issues such as climate change, for example.

During the conference last year, there were many discussions on identifying leadership values. This year, speakers reminded us of the mandate for leaders to live their values and pay attention to how their actions impact their organizations, and by extension, the world.

6. Resilience remains a key concern.

It was acknowledged that everyone is now or will soon be impacted by some level of change to their organization, their climate, their community and their government. These changes require that we deliberately tend to the resilience (ability to absorb change and remain highly functional) of our people, our organizations, our communities and our governments. It is important to ensure these have the capacity to metabolize change without going into crisis mode.

7. Learning to harness the power of women and a diverse workforce is critical to addressing the upcoming talent gap.

Even with artificial intelligence and other forms of workforce augmentation, participants projected a huge talent shortage now through 2030 and beyond. The size of this change is expected to grow from 2020 to 2030.

Companies need to leverage the best talent to thrive. It will be important for companies to find ways to identify the right people and create a work environment that fosters attraction and retention and expands the old norms that caused talented people who wanted to work but not within restricted bounds to leave. 

As leaders in this era of turbulence, if we want to create a more prosperous and peaceful world, we need to look at new ways of leading and of identifying and developing leaders of the future. This is a call to action to revisit what you are doing now and how you can evolve your own approaches that enhance your ability to lead from a stance of authenticity.

Are you learning from thought leaders, academics and practitioners? Each holds a piece of the complex solution we all need to thrive in the short and long term.

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills and system to create a regenerative, inclusive and thriving organization that will have a positive impact in the world.

About the Author: Maureen Metcalf, CEO of the Innovative Leadership Institute, a renowned executive advisor, author, speaker, coach and consultant.

The New Battleground for Business: The Customer Experience

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The New Battleground for Business: The Customer Experience

This post is written by guest blogger, Nick Glimsdahl and is the companion to an interview on the Voice America show, Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations focusing on Conscious Capitalism with Mark Kovacevich focusing on Conscious Capitalism as a business accelerator.

The great entrepreneur, Vanilla Ice, once said, “Stop, collaborate, and listen”. In today’s business environment, that sage advice can elaborate to: stop and evaluate your current state, collaborate with experts, and listen to your customers.

Business leaders who champion customer-centric business models have stopped, collaborated and listened. And, in today’s digital age, being customer-centric requires a business model to effectively take advantage of current technologies to meet customer expectations.

Warren Buffett said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” Hence, a company’s business model should first and foremost orbit around the customer, specifically their customer experience (CX), addressing:

  • The customer needs and wants
  • The current state of the customer experience
  • How the customer’s journey can improve

What is Customer Experience and why does it matter?

The customer experience is the new battleground for brand loyalty and a true differentiating factor for companies. It can be defined as the customer’s perception of an organization – often gained through contact center interactions – and how seamless or frustrating that interaction is. Shep Hyken, a customer service expert, author, and speaker said it this way, “A brand is defined by the customer’s experience. The experience is delivered by the employees.”

Beyond perception, CX is about delivering an expected outcome, and while the customer experience looks different for each company, common themes are:

  • Response time
  • Overall customer satisfaction
  • Ability to obtain sought out information effortlessly

A customer experience-centric model considers more than just key customer-company touchpoints; instead, the model considers the entire Omni-channel journey from the customer’s perspective.

There are three ways to measure and improve your customer’s experience:

  • Net Promoter Score (NPS)
    • NPS® measures customer experience and predicts business growth. (i.e. 0-10 scale on how likely customers would recommend a business to a friend).
  • Customer Satisfaction (CSAT)
    • CSAT measures how products and services meet or surpass customer expectations. A CSAT score is the sum of respondents answering between “Satisfied” and “Very Satisfied”.
  • Customer Effort Score (CES)
    • CES, measures customer service satisfaction with one single questions. (i.e. The company made it easy to handle an issue).

Mature CX organizations monitor and understand the voice of the customer through these metrics.

Why should business leaders get behind the CX movement?

Forrester research found 71% of business and technology decision makers say that improving Customer Experience is a high priority in the next 12 months. But why? Henry Ford, Founder of Ford Motors, explained it well: “It is not the employer who pays the wages. Employers only handle the money. It is the customer who pays the wages.”

Brand loyalty is not what it was 20-30 years ago. A customer’s experience positively correlates to brand loyalty, and it is much more important because of the ease of switching service providers or ordering a product from Amazon. According to the Temkin Group, 86% of those who received excellent Customer Experience were likely to repurchase from that company, compared to only 13% of those who had a very poor Customer Experience.

The trend of the increasing purchasing ease will continue as will customer-first business models delivering effortless experiences. The remaining question is what businesses will stop and evaluate their current states, collaborate with experts, and listen to their customers?

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills and system to create a regenerative, inclusive and thriving organization that will have a positive impact in the world.

About the Author

Nick Glimsdahl is the Client Enablement Director for VDS. VDS creates effortless interactions. It helps improve the way enterprising businesses deliver customer experiences. With a 30-year history of delivering results, its success in creating effortless interactions is unmatched. As a client enablement lead, Nick brings his clients the right communications solution: contact centers through (Genesys / Five9), business collaboration (Microsoft Skype) for Business, or enterprise telephony solutions so you can deliver the best customer experience.

Tips for Starting a New Business

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Tips for Starting a New Business

If you’re accustomed to a corporate lifestyle, you probably aren’t used to worrying about a steady income. But if you’ve made the decision to launch your own business venture, you understand what it is to feel uncertain and vulnerable. Suddenly, you’re not in control of circumstances. There may not be a biweekly paycheck to rely on anymore.

While you’re striving to realize your dream and trying to make clients buy into it as well, you may need to find alternative ways to keep the cash flowing. That can be a humbling prospect because it may be necessary to bag groceries or sell magazine subscriptions for a while until things settle out and your bold venture finally becomes a going concern.

Do you want this?

If you have income to fill in while you’re getting a business off the ground, you’ll find out just how badly you want to make your vision work. There are many prospective entrepreneurs who have lost the faith as they waited for orders and revenue to come pouring in, sure that their business plan was a can’t-miss proposition. But it’s to be expected that a real go-getter may have to suck it up and make some dollars the hard way in the meantime while you’re in build-it mode.  There’s absolutely no shame in doing what you have to do to support your family and your new business through the rough spots. After all, you still have bills to pay and mouths to feed. Then there’s the investment you’ve made, which has to be fed to keep it all going. This is where a lot of business owners go wrong, lose patience or give up, believing they were wrong-headed or foolishly overenthusiastic to begin with. This is where your determination and willingness to show some grit will pay off.

Long-term profitability

As a new business owner, you came to it with big ideas and big hopes for success. But having a big vision isn’t enough. You have to find your niche market, find the best ways to reach that market, and keep your customers engaged in a new business environment in which the traditional brick-and-mortar business model is fading away.

To find your niche market, carefully consider business ideas that are growing in popularity and that offer long-term profitability. Don’t fret, you won’t necessarily have to do your own in-depth analysis from scratch. Start where work has been done for you: Oberlo offers 30 different business ideas, each complete with a profitability analysis. Carefully consider each to determine whether one (or more) resonates with you, or generates other fruitful options.

Establishing a business identity is hard work and it takes dedication and some help. You need the help of a marketing consultant or advertising expert who can help brand your venture. New business owners sometimes overlook the details that go into it all. You need a logo, a color scheme, a name and a mission statement that will resonate with employees as well as your customers. Your long-term profitability will be rooted in all of this hard work, the meat and potatoes of setting up a business.

Get your team invested

If you’ve brought employees into your new venture, part of your challenge is to keep them believing and invested in what you’re trying to accomplish. Take the time and effort to explain your vision to them. Be honest and open with them and answer their questions patiently. Make sure they know that they will share in the rewards of their faith and patience. Mission statements are fine and high-minded expressions of your intentions, but only if your employees see that you’re living it. If it’s clear you don’t believe it yourself, the people you need to rely on probably aren’t going to buy into it. Maintain your enthusiasm around your employees. Talk to them the same way you would an investor or a potential client so that your enthusiasm is evident every time.

Starting a new business is likely to be the biggest challenge you’ve ever faced. Bear in mind also that it’s important to stay true to your original vision. Being successful will take hard work and the willingness to roll up your sleeves and do what it takes to make ends meet while you’re laying the groundwork for a profitable future.

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G.I.V.E. to Get

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G.I.V.E. to Get

Emotional skills are more important than ever for 21st century business. Good leadership can be quickly undermined by lack of emotional regulation. Without the skill to manage your own emotion, leaders can act impulsively. Harsh works can burn long built bridges of connection in seconds, leaving damaged working relationships in ashes. And what is ultimately damaged is trust.

So, what can you do?

First, leaders need to be self-aware of the things that cause them to be dysregulated. The body is the first clue. By scanning for sensations that signal distress, you can start to reverse the process. Sensations like a tight throat, a pounding heart, judgmental thoughts, sweaty palms, and a knot in the stomach are signals that shouldn’t be ignored. Our body gives us clues to our state of mind constantly. Understanding how your body speaks to you is worth investigating with curiosity.

Once you know what is happening, giving yourself permission to step away, take a breath, and sooth yourself. Use your five senses: focus on something beautiful, listen to music, smell something calming, put an ice cube in your mouth. By focusing on these sensations, the brain has to shift. As we calm down, you can gain perspective and choice how to respond to a situation, rather than reacting impulsively that could negatively impact important relationships.

For your teams to feel respected and valued, they need to feel heard. Listening to those around you is an important skill many leaders struggle with; however, it is critical for everyone’s success. When teams feel heard, they will not only give you their best, they will give you their loyalty.

An easy way to remember this skill is G.I.V.E. (adapted from the work of Marsha Linehan, PhD)
• (be) GENTLE: approach the conversation in a non-threatening, open, receptive and available way.
• (be) INTERESTED: John Gottman says it is more important to be interested than interesting! This
means you are attentive, curious, and focused on listening, not to just respond, but to
understand what is being said. You are allowing the time to really pay attention while
setting aside your own preconceived ideas of what might be happening.
• VALIDATE: Validation is about understanding. It is not about fixing a situation, or finding a
teaching moment. It is saying “I get it” without looking for rebuttals. The primary goal is
to have the speaker feel heard. This step MUST ALWAYS precede problem solving.
• EASY MANNER: Being approachable and creating a safe space where people can come to you with
concerns is an important skill. It allows you to be professional without being intimidating.
Safety increases trust and communication.

Remember, learning new skills is a practice, but one that is well worth it! It is not enough to work from the top down. To be truly successful, we must work from the inside out!

If you would like to listen to the show Skills of Connection follow this link to hear the replay!

https://www.voiceamerica.com/episode/104077/skills-for-connection

Dealing with Stress Like Your Life Depends On It

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Dealing with Stress Like Your Life Depends On It

It seems that we all spend an enormous amount time trying to avoid what we feel. Every other commercial on TV or the Internet is designed to take us away from what is happening to us. Have a headache? Take this. Overwhelmed? Talk to your doctor about this new medication. Stressed? Get away to our great vacation destination. But everyone of these strategies are about avoiding what is happening to us. Although some avoidance can be a positive exercise, we can’t get away from everything that stresses us out. So, what are we supposed to do?

When we allow ourselves to pay attention to what is happening, both internally and externally, it gives us the ability to look at things in a new way. If we get curious about the sensations in our body, our thoughts and judgments going through our head, the emotions we feel, and the environment these all exit in, we can assess what is happening vs. just reacting to it. That pause, to key into ourselves, allows us to make decisions about what is needed in the moment.

One of the problems I often see is that we know what we need (to eat, to rest, to play, to be creative) but we deny ourselves these things because there are always more pressing things to do. We focus on the “to do” list and we become so enslaved to it that we put taking care of ourselves last on that list every time. We begin to glean our self-worth from how much me do and how productive we are. We wear our exhaustion like a badge of honor becoming “Human Doings” instead of “Human Beings.”

I still remember a time when we went to work from 9-5. When we arrived home, we did not engage in our work again until the next day. There was time for recreation, time for family, time of hobbies, time to just play with the kids and time to rest. But, our 21st century lives don’t work that way. We are expected to be available to our jobs nights, weekends, and holidays. There is no break because the workday never ends. And the things that are designed to keep us resilient get pushed aside.

As we continue to operate this way, is it any wonder that stress related illness is out of control? Our bodies can only take so much before they will let us know they are at the breaking point. Ignoring the signs can make us literally sick, or worse.

I believe that getting clear about what is happening to us is not just something helpful to do, but vital to our health, well-being, and ultimately our survival. It is not optional any more. We must cultivate things in our lives that gives us resiliency to combat the stress we encounter every day. Those things can include rest, creativity, music, meditation, yoga, sport, recreation, nature, pets, volunteerism, and activism. When we make time in our lives for the things that matter, that things that are difficult get better. It is a practice, like any other Mindfulness practice. But without it, the stress of our lives can overtake us and rob us of any joy in our lives, leaving us resentful and bitter.

It is so important. Make the time. It is not optional. Engage in it like your life depends on it, because it does!

The “What if” Trap

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The “What if” Trap

Are your thoughts keeping you up at night? Is your brain trying to run every possible, worst case scenario for you to be prepared for anything that might happen? If the answer is yes, you have fallen into the What If Trap!

We all want to be prepared for what may happen in our business lives. Strategic planning is an important part of any good business plan. However, if you are trying to perceive every roadblock or setback before it happens, not only is that exhausting, but could actually sabotage your ability to deal with things when they happen in real time.

Our brain has the ability to forward think. It can project thoughts into the future and play with options that might happen. The problem is that although are brain can travel to the future, our body can only be in the here and now.  And when the brain and the body are disconnected, the emotion that is cultivated is anxiety. Every single time.

Instead of staying balanced and connected, we shift into an emotional type of thinking that sounds reasonable, but isn’t. Anxiety also shuts down the part of the brain we need to make good decisions, the frontal lobe, and without it, we are operating on all reaction and emotion. That is never a good place to operate from when you are trying to make decisions.

So, what can you do?

First, we must recognize what is happening. Our body gives us clues that we often ignore.  They are like an early warning system that lets us know we are no longer in the present moment, but heading into the What If Trap. We hold our breath, our heart rate increases, our chest and throat get tight. We may feel our hands and feet get cold while our face gets hot.  These are all signs that we are in one of the three anxiety states: flight, fight, or freeze.  Once this happens, our emotional brain starts freaking out, making interpretations that we are not ok, and everything will be bad!

Being aware increase the chances that you can reverse the process.  Take a slow deep breath.  One option is to breathe in deeply for the count of 4, hold your breath for a count of 2, and blow out slowly for a count of 6.  The longer out breath helps to reset the central nervous system.

You can also shift your thoughts.  The brain cannot think inside and outside at the same time. When you refocus your attention away from your catastrophizing thoughts and put your full attention on something tangible in front of you, the brain must shift.

Put your full focus on something in your hands.  Get curious about it.  Describe it in as much detail as possible.  Involve as many senses, sight, sound, touch, taste, smell, as you can.  The more involved you are, the less you will be able to keep the What If thoughts going.  Once you do, the body makes the shift as well and you will calm down.

This is a practice. The more you do it the better you will get at it.  I know if sounds simple and it is!  But it also works!  So, give it a try.  See if you can make the shift.  Once you do, you will understand that this is where the control of a situation lies, not in thinking about everything that can go wrong!

If you would like to bring Innovative Mindful Solutions into your business, contact Terry at terry@terrygaller.com for more information!

 

Women in Fintech = Good for Business

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Women in Fintech = Good for Business

“The Importance of Gender Parity on Fintech Teams” was a vibrant discussion by Breaking Bank’s Brett King,  Fintech5‘s Jason Henrichs with guests Anouska Streets, Head of Engineering at FINkit  and Colleen Wilson, Founder and CEO of Collaborate Chicago

Women mean business.

It is estimated that women in the United States control between 52—60% of wealth. http://shurwest.com/2017/03/14/financial-facts-womens-history-month/.    The global business landscape is evolving as more and more women are entering the economic mainstream. It is estimated that within the next decade there will be three billion additions to the ecosystem as employees, employers, producers and entrepreneurs.  This group is often referred to as #3rdBillion 

There is disparity.

In terms of funding, King shared that 6000 male founders funded while 359 female founders got funding. CrunchBase research showed no growth in the past five years and only 17% of all startups have a female founder https://techcrunch.com/2017/04/19/in-2017-only-17-of-startups-have-a-female-founder/.

Women hold 25% of senior management roles in the Financial Services Industry.   Currently women hold 25% of jobs in computing and it has been declining since its peak in 1991 when it was at 36%

http://observer.com/2017/06/women-in-tech-statistics/.

The current market is sometimes referred to as the code economy because so much of business process is reliant on APIs and algorithms.

We need more women in finance. We need more women who code

Both Streets and Wilson believe that closing this gap starts as early as childhood when children are playing with toys and the cultural stereotypes. It isn’t simply boy/girl toys as children are more dynamic and need a matrix of options vs. binary choice.

Wilson shared an interesting point: that boys decide a career in IT in high school while women are more likely to choose a career in IT in their first job. The career path is not modeled as a viable option between fundamental ages 12-16.

Early Engagement & Modeling the Way :

  • Parents can ensure that their children are exposed to diverse toys and work to avoid stereotypes. Given the rise of the Maker movement there are so many project and building oriented games.
  • Modeling goes a long way to evoke in youth alternative careers paths. Increasing mentoring and shadowing opportunities will ignite possibility in others.
  • Keep vigilant about inclusion. Panels and events should have diversity representing expertise. Here is a list of women in finance curated by Innotribe https://innotribe.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/The-PowerWomen-in-FinTech-Index-Bridging-the-Gender-Gap.pdf.

Imagery is both subtle and powerful. I am part of an innovation community called ROCgrowth https://www.rocgrowth.com/about2. Given our awareness of this gender we recently redesigned our logo. It is amazing how a simple silhouette changed the entire conversation.

Please let us know individuals making a positive difference in accelerating diversity and inclusion so that we can track and amplify progress.

 

Observations on Mindfulness

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Business
Observations on Mindfulness

Observations on Mindfulness
I know the idea of Mindfulness sounds elusive. People often envision sitting crossed-legged on the floor, repeating “OMMMM” over and over, waiting for their mind to settle down. If you are like me, that process never worked! My brain is often too busy running down rabbit holes of thoughts that lead in a million directions at ninety miles an hour. Sound familiar?
For me, Mindfulness was like a miracle. It was less about stillness, and more about observation. I would often overreact to my thoughts, believing they were telling me the truth of a situation. Learning the concepts of Mindfulness, I came to understand that my thoughts are not always facts, but are filled with judgments and assumptions that are often wrong. Yet responding in that state could drive my emotions right off a cliff, leaving me in a state of stress all the time. It was exhausting!
Observing my own thoughts gave me space. It gave me perspective. And most importantly, it gave me time to assess whether this was a thought I needed to react to or not. It gave me choice. And in that choice, whether to react or not, gave me a freedom I did not know was possible.
I always loved the analogy of the subway car. I could imagine spray painting my thoughts on a shiny silver car. And when the doors of the car opened, I could decide to get on that thought train and ride, or step back on the platform and let those thoughts speed down the track into the dark. Since learning Mindfulness almost two decades ago, I ride that train a lot less, and have created more peace in my life. Even when times are overwhelming or stress.
The great thing is this doesn’t require a lot of time. Just stop. Take a breath. Notice how you feel. Observe your thoughts. And then, decide what you want to do. I promise you, this simple exercise can create miracles for you too!

When things don’t go as planned

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Business
When things don’t go as planned

John Lennon once said, “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.”

My plan was to start my brand-new radio show on VoiceAmerica on Monday, November 6th. This was something way out of my comfort zone. I worked hard with my producer, Winston Price, to learn how to assemble a meaningful show, talk to guests and create interesting content. I spent the last 8 weeks focused on getting the show ready. I was nervous and excited at the same time.

Sitting in the studio, headsets on, my guest and business partner, Annie Campbell, sitting across from me, we were ready to go. And then nothing happened. Crickets.

For some reason, despite the best efforts of two hard working engineers, they could not fix the problem. The show was not going to happen. At least tonight.

My show, Innovative Mindful Solutions, is focused on how to mindfully approach our thoughts and emotions that may sabotage our businesses and our lives. I believe that when we rigidly attach ourselves to a specific outcome, not only do we create more suffering for ourselves, but that attachment may keep us from seeing other viable options and possibilities. Mindfulness allows us to step back, observe the situation and ourselves as it is in THIS moment, not as we would wish it to be. The universe was presenting me a true test of my convictions. Would I practice what I preach or succumb to my disappointment? I realized I had a choice to make.

So, taking a deep breath, I smiled at two very concerned engineers. And Annie did as well. I thanked them for their hard work and diligence in trying to fix the problem and get us on the air. I could see the relief on their faces when I told them that I was grateful for their efforts. I knew they were expecting us to be upset or angry. We decided to regroup and try again next week. I knew it would be OK.

And I realized John Lennon was right!

So, the do over of Innovative Mindful Solutions will be next Monday, November 13th at 4pm PST/ 7pm EST on the VoiceAmerica Business Channel. Click the link below and join us to learn new ways to manage your business and your life when things don’t go as planned!

https://www.voiceamerica.com/show/2708/innovative-mindful-solutions-with-terry-galler

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