By Caryn Sullivan | St. Paul Pioneer Press | Columnist, TeamWomen Member

This column was originally published on the St. Paul Pioneer Press on Sept. 29, 2019.

Is it possible to become an optimist if it isn’t within one’s nature to be so? I’d like to think it is, for though I don’t have both feet in the optimist camp, I wish I did.

How does one become more optimistic?

In my case, the first step was to accept an invitation.

Last spring, a friend invited me to a Roseville Area Optimist Club meeting. I went as a guest and soon became a member.

Optimist International started 100 years ago. Today, roughly 80,000 members participate in clubs throughout the world. It seems others are also searching for a place where those things that divide us are secondary to a philosophy that binds us.

With close to 150 members, the Roseville Area chapter is the largest Optimist Club in the Midwest, says Don Salverda, who launched it in January 2017. Membership offers an opportunity to meet new people, support service projects, and listen to inspirational speakers.

The Optimist Club has a creed, written more than 100 years ago, that members recite at each meeting. The creed sets a high bar, not easily reached.

Promise yourself to be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind.

To talk health, happiness and prosperity to every person you meet.

To make all your friends feel that there is something in them.

To look at the sunny side of everything and make your optimism come true.

To think only of the best, to work only for the best and to expect only the best.

To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own.

To forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future.

To wear a cheerful countenance at all times and give every living creature you meet a smile.

To give so much time to the improvement of yourself that you have no time to criticize others.

To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.

In addition to camaraderie, our meetings offer the opportunity to learn from a speaker of note. Our September speaker, Bob Veninga, spoke about resilience.

A University of Minnesota professor emeritus, Veninga studied human nature and discovered patterns and lessons about how we respond to occupational stress, crises and loss. His findings form the basis of hundreds of talks and lectures he’s delivered over the years. He’s also published several books, including one I’m reading now, “A Gift of Hope: How We Survive Our Tragedies.”

In a brief talk, Veninga offered an overview of how resilient people navigate the tough stuff in life.

Support is integral to resilience and it can take various forms, he said. Whether dealing with crises stemming from death, health, or work, studies demonstrated that those who had strong support systems fared better than those who lacked support.

Though there may be reasons to deal with adversity alone (marital discord, for example), a bigger support system is typically optimal.

While it’s helpful to have a group of supporters, many resilient people also have what Venenga termed “adult guard rails.” Adult guard rails are people who offer honest feedback and opinions when asked and help to keep us in our lanes or steer us away from potholes.

In studies of occupational stress, Venenga discovered that teachers who have a principal they consider a friend or supporter were less likely to experience burnout. Real estate agents were better able to manage the ups and downs of the business cycle if their supervisors offered guidance and encouragement.

Resilient people recognize that most problems are solvable. They also accept that patience is an ally. Navigating challenges is a process, and it often takes more time than we anticipate or would like. Contrary to conventional wisdom that it takes about a year to deal with a loss, researchers found that it often takes much longer.

Resilience requires us to let go of the past. There is no value in belaboring conversations or decisions or nursing old wounds instead of letting them heal. Again, the Optimist Creed reminds us to forget the mistakes of the past and press on to greater achievements.

Resilient people have more than a “to do” list. They also have a “joy list.” A joy list helps to engender a cheerful countenance, to remind us to give a stranger a smile.

As Venenga spoke, I thought about the relationship between optimism and resilience. Can we have one without the other? Can we develop optimism, just as we can build resilience?

Up until a few years ago, adversity was my constant companion. It’s been difficult to shed a deeply-ingrained fear that the next bout of bad news is loitering nearby. Consequently, while I’m adept at resilience, the Optimist Creed’s charge to “maintain a cheerful countenance and to look at the sunny side of everything” often stumps me.

I’m ready to embrace the spirit of the Optimist Club, “to be too large for worry, to noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.” I’ve placed a plaque bearing the Optimist Creed in a strategic location so I will see it at the beginning and end of each day. Though putting both feet squarely in the optimist camp may be a lofty goal, it’s worth the stretch.

~~~

If you enjoyed this piece and would like to read more of Caryn’s work, you can sign up to receive her columns by email. You can also purchase a signed copy of her award-winning memoir, “Bitter or Better: Grappling With Life on the Op-Ed Page,” here. If you’re looking for an inspirational speaker, reach out!

We are excited to share we have upgraded our member management system and launched NEON, a Customer Relationship Management System (CRM) that will allow us to seamlessly manage both TeamWomen and Empower Leadership Academy business operations and activity. As we enter our next phase of rapid growth, our goal remains consistent: to continuously build and enhance our infrastructure to best serve those we have the privilege of working with including our members, sponsors, partners, donors, board and committee members!

One of the best features of this new system is the added benefits we can provide our members! NEON’s Member Portal is designed to help us provide an enhanced online experience for you. To see the features available to you, simply log in to your account and look for the “What Would You Like To Do?” dropdown menu in the upper-right corner. You can update your member profile and directory listing, join a committee, become a mentor, register for events, join the TeamWomen Members Only Facebook Group, and much more.

Moving forward, new events will now be added to NEON. This means when you register for events, you’ll need to log in to the member portal to see and register for the member rate. NEON allows you to see all events you’ve attended too! Please keep in mind event registration will be a transition process for all of us as we already have events in Eventbrite (where you don’t need to log in) and will have events in NEON, where you will need to log in.

Below are instructions on how to access your member account in NEON. You’ll need to set up a new password to log in for the first time.

  1. Click this link to request a new password here.

  2. Enter your email address that is connected to your current TW membership.

  3. An email will be sent to you with a link to create a new password to the member portal. This will also include your username on the page.

  4. Once logged in, verify your information and business listing is correct.

If you have any difficulties logging in, please email Briana at briana@teamwomenmn.org. She’d be happy to help you out!

Thank you for being a part of our team!

TeamWomen Member Jennifer Mandery recently shed light on her experience in our Mentor Program and what women can gain by being mentors. Jennifer is the Sr. Director of Research for The NALP Foundation for Law Career Research and Education. She has over 20 years of experience working within the legal industry and is an expert in providing solution-driven research findings that are insightful, actionable, and influence business-decision making. She has co-authored multiple publications available for purchase through The NALP Foundation’s website, including reports on associate hiring and attrition, associate evaluations, mentoring, and law school alumni satisfaction and employment. Learn more about her in our Member Spotlight below!

What are the 5 things you’ve learned from being a mentor?

  • Paying it forward by giving back to the next generation of leadership is a very rewarding experience.
  • As a mentor, you will have an opportunity to reflect on your own history, growth, and achievements.
  • Being a mentor/mentee provides an excellent opportunity to expand your network and make new connections.
  • It is beneficial to hear a fresh perspective and gain additional insight from professionals in different career stages. You have more to offer than you might realize, and you will learn a lot as well.
  • Being present, listening carefully, and providing encouragement are skills we can all benefit from. If you have ever thought about being a mentor, I highly recommend it. You will not regret the experience.

Why did you join TeamWomen and what keeps you involved?

I joined TeamWomen in order to meet and be inspired by a network of women from a variety of industries. In addition to attending events such as the Annual Leadership Conference, I have enjoyed being a part of the Mentor Program and serving on the Membership Committee. I have met some truly amazing women!

Why did you decide to become a mentor?

Mentoring relationships can have a lasting positive impact on career satisfaction and success over time. TeamWomen’s Mentor Program provides me with the perfect opportunity to become more involved with the organization, meet new people, and to give back to others within my community.

Have you ever had a mentor?

I have developed, relied on and benefited from several informal professional mentoring relationships throughout the different stages of my career. I am fortunate to have had so many resources that I can depend on for excellent advice.

What do you do for fun?

I enjoy spending time with my husband and two daughters, traveling, playing tennis, running and biking.

We’re honored to highlight Rachel Polson as our Member Spotlight this month! Rachel is a partner with the commercial services group of Baker Tilly Virchow Krause, LLP and has been with the firm since 1997. In 2009 and 2014, Rachel was recognized as one of the “Top Women in Finance” by Finance and Commerce, and in 2011, Rachel was recognized as one of the “Women to Watch” for Women in Business by Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal. She also serves on the TeamWomen Board of Directors Executive Committee.

Have you ever had a mentor?

Yes, I have had mentors, professional coaches and other professionals as resources. As my career has progressed, the type of mentoring I have desired has also evolved. There are people who may have a certain skill for a specific situation. Leveraging their talents and experience was key for both of us to have a mutually beneficial connection and interactions.

What are the 4 things you’ve learned from being a mentor?

  • Consider your purpose as a mentor – continue to reflect on it and challenge your mentee to utilize you as the mentor in that role.
  • This is not a lifelong commitment. It’s sad when the formal connection of mentoring ends, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find new ways to support your mentee and you can stay connected in other ways.
  • I am fascinated with how motivated and brilliant people are at the beginning of their career.
  • Mentoring is not always formal. It can be the situation in the middle of the week when someone is looking for a friendly ear to listen – encourage and support them.

What is the best career advice you’ve received?

  • Ask for help! There is no reason to do it all yourself ― professionally or personally. Your family will survive if there are crumbs on the floor or if you buy takeout for dinner. Ask for carpool help from other parents.
  • Be willing to take on new projects with an understanding of the timeline and commitment. Some deadlines are flexible. Don’t be afraid to discuss the timing to ensure it is realistic and achievable.

Who or what inspires you?

I am inspired by hearing about women who have conquered a fear regarding a new position or project. I am motivated by seeing others succeed. I am also inspired by hearing from others’ hardships and how they have overcome them. These stories have put my own challenges or struggles in perspective, and have either encouraged me to push harder or realize my situation is not as tough or as unbearable as I perceive it to be.

What can women do to support other women around them, professionally and personally?

  • Be kind. Don’t judge. Don’t be catty.
  • That woman challenging you is not your enemy. Consider their perspective. Try to understand they are coming from a place of positive intent – supporting you!
  • Listen for what the women around you aren’t saying.
  • Stand up and vocally support each other when others are being negative or unrealistic. Offer up an alternative fact pattern.

Did you miss our weekly eblast? You’ll find the 8 books you should be reading to propel your career, a shout out to one of our sponsors, and a few event announcements! Read the eblast here.

Want to stay up-to-date on all things with TeamWomen? Subscribe to our weekly eblast.

 

Did you miss our August newsletter? Check out the 3 secrets from neuroscience to overcome mental fatigue, new postings on TeamWomen’s job board, a list of our new members in August, and more! Read the newsletter here.

Want to stay up-to-date on all things with TeamWomen? Subscribe to our weekly eblast for TeamWomen event announcements, business advice, and inspiring women.

 

Last Friday, TeamWomen hosted 630 professionals at our 8th Annual Leadership Conference. From leadership best practices to brand presence, the day was filled with inspiration, motivation, and powerhouse speakers that brought our audience to their feet! Want to learn more about them? Listen to a few of their stories on Roshini Rajkumar’s podcast, Real Leaders with Roshini.

Miki Huntington, former Army Blackhawk helicopter pilot and faculty member of Minneapolis Community and Technical College, recently sat down with Rajkumar to talk about her incredible journey — including her time working at the White House. Listen here.

Angelina Lawton, CEO of Sportsdigita, also shared her story with Rajkumar. Recently named by Forbes as one of the 30 Most Powerful Women in Sports, Lawton has made a name for herself. The tech company has about 350 professional teams and continues to grow. Listen here.

Thank you to everyone who joined us at our conference. We already have our 2020 conference in the works, so stay tuned!

 

 

By Caryn Sullivan | St. Paul Pioneer Press | TeamWomen Member and Guest Columnist

As seen in the St. Paul Pioneer Press on March 10, 2019.

It’s been a painful slide into the sunset for Patty Sagert and her family as the man who was a successful entrepreneur and family patriarch has slowly left them, another victim of Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, a group of symptoms that impair one’s capacity to remember and think and to exercise judgment or reason. As the disease progresses, the ability to express oneself or control one’s behavior declines, rendering the maintenance of relationships increasingly problematic.

Lucidity is fluid. Even the closest family members are intermittently recognized and forgotten.

It’s heartbreaking to witness. It requires patience and stamina for loved ones, for we can live a long time with the incurable disease.

The youngest of three children, Sagert, a resident of Roseville, reached a reluctant reconciliation with a disease to which she was no stranger. While two of her grandparents succumbed to it, observing it in her 20s was a wholly different experience than managing it as an adult child.

The worst day of her life, she says, was luring her father into his first memory-care facility under the auspices of a white lie. Ten years after his diagnosis, tears flow as she recalls that day.

But that was just the beginning. Her caregiving duties intensified when her father experienced a stroke and multiplied when her mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

We all deal with challenges differently. Some of us run toward them, others run away, yet others become paralyzed or immobilized. That’s certainly true for families dealing with Alzheimer’s.

For some family members, it’s just too painful to remain engaged.

Some assume there is no point in visiting the patient, for he doesn’t recognize them anyway.

Others commit themselves to doing whatever it takes to care for their loved one.

Sagert faced her father’s challenges and needs head-on, driven by her innate optimism, faith, and a determination to do everything she could to ensure he is afforded the care and respect he deserves.

Yet, their visits are unpredictable. “It’s never easy to put the code into the door, not knowing what you are going to walk into. You never know. But if you don’t go, what’s worse?”

She recognizes that adversity arrives with a choice to become embittered or to find a way to become better.

For her, living the better choice has involved being present wherever she is, whatever the circumstances. “Wherever my feet are I’m just going to do the best with what I have,” she says.

It’s surely not easy.

An app on her phone connects to security cameras she installed strategically in her father’s private room to ensure he would receive help if he fell, as he often does.

With the technology their ally, both she and her sister-in-law maintain a constant state of vigilance, though there is a fine line between ensuring a vulnerable adult’s safety and respecting his privacy and dignity.

Because individuals can live with Alzheimer’s for many years, it saps energy and causes prolonged sadness and grief for loved ones, as well as social isolation for both patients and caregivers.

There’s a term for what Sagert and many others are experiencing.

According to Minnesota author and Ph.D. Pauline Boss, “ambiguous loss” refers to a state in which one finds herself living with one who is gone but not gone, physically present but psychologically absent. While there is a distinct sense of loss, unlike a death there is no closure while the disease persists.

In “Loving Someone Who Has Dementia: How to Find Hope While Coping With Stress and Grief,” Boss explains that while we can’t control dementia we can control how we manage and perceive it.

Embracing, rather than combatting the ambiguity, allows one to live with it, she explains. Even that small measure of control can make an untenable situation tolerable.

Understanding that she is experiencing ambiguous loss has been helpful for Sagert and helped her to find purpose in the midst of grief.

Though the world as she knew it has contracted under the weight of caregiving duties, it’s also grown through connections she’s forged with kindred spirits online and through a grassroots organization called Elder Voice Family Advocates.

She’s testified twice before the Minnesota Legislature about safety and security issues for the elderly and the value of installing cameras in their residences.

She’s alarmed by the dearth of information available to consumers who are investigating memory-care options. She’s advocating for more transparency and accountability in an industry that is not subject to the same regulations as the nursing home industry.

Her goal is to make a difference. Though she may not help her dad, she wants to help the next generation of families like hers by pushing for information about staffing ratios and complaints lodged against and addressed by memory-care facilities.

When they are informed, she can help others to make residential and caregiving decisions based on facts, not emotions.

With the sun setting for Sagert’s father, the family has added an additional layer of care. Hospice will make his last months or days as comfortable as possible, be it through medication, therapies or an additional set of eyes.

Given the family history of Alzheimer’s, Sagert’s been ruminating over which would be worse: to not remember or not be remembered. Though I can’t predict whether Alzheimer’s will visit her, I predict the loving daughter, servant leader, and advocate who chose the better way will not be forgotten.

Caryn Sullivan inspires others to find the “better” way in and out of life’s experiences through her columns in the St. Paul Pioneer Press, her award-winning memoir, “Bitter or Better: Grappling With Life on the Op-Ed Page,” and her inspirational keynotes. To learn more of her work, visit carynmsullivan.com.

By Martha Grant | TeamWomen Member | Product Manager at The Action Network

TeamWomen members and guests have an opportunity on April 9th to hear from a fantastic local and global marketing leader. Remi Kent is the visionary marketer for (arguably) Minnesota’s most famous inventions, the Post-it® and Scotch™ brands.

As the Global Post-it® and Scotch™ Brand Business Director at 3M, Remi does much more than hype these classic products. She identifies new markets and develops new approaches — as well as new product lines — that fill unmet needs from R+D through launch.

One example? The rise of Post-it® Extreme Notes, which can survive anything you throw at them. She identified the unmet need for written communication in extreme workplaces — from kitchens to construction sites. And she developed a product and a launch that people loved. From trade shows to micro-influencers to online and offline advertising, word of Extreme Notes got out, and it’s become a staple in people’s workplaces and lives.

Forbes and Entrepreneur identified her work as a classic example of putting the customer and their needs first, while creating a win for 3M that fit with the brands’ vision, past and future.

We can’t wait to hear about her rise in becoming the creative and powerful global leader she is today as she fills us in on her leadership story on April 9th.

Join us — tickets are available here!

By Caryn Sullivan | St. Paul Pioneer Press | TeamWomen Member and Guest Columnist

This column originally appeared in the St. Paul Pioneer Press on February 24, 2019.

Bad news comes on many fronts – a cancer diagnosis, a death or loss of a job. While we often can’t control the circumstances, we can control our response. Which means life can deliver us to a crossroads with a challenge to make a difficult choice, one that may require us to pull up our big-kid pants and forge ahead.

I’ve adopted a framework that has helped me to sort through challenges large and small, trivial and life-altering. It’s simple, though not easy.

When bad news or bad luck visits, will I be bitter? Or will I be better?

Just over 16 months ago, Kim Insley found herself at the crossroads of bitter or better. Though some might have taken a different course, she chose better.

For more than 24 years, Insley called KARE 11 home. She woke up just before 2 AM through good weather and bad, assumed the Sunrise anchor chair and ushered Minnesotans into a new day. Then, in October 2017, she was told it was time to relinquish the chair.

There was no forewarning, but the news was not wholly unexpected. Insley worked in an industry that is undergoing dramatic change, where others eagerly waited in the wings to step in were she to step out.

She didn’t take it personally, for she understood the business side of her profession. Decisions are made on the basis of economics. She knew the industry was in flux, that the economic model had changed, that the owners were trying to adapt and that they owed a fiduciary duty to shareholders, not employees.

She didn’t ask for an explanation. What was the point? She always knew she didn’t own the anchor chair.

And she felt her time there had run its course. Her children were grown. It no longer served her family for her to work the brutally early shift.

She had planned to leave when her contract was up. The station’s decision to make a change simply advanced the timetable.

Rather than focusing on the “why,” Insley focused on the “what” and the “how.” What new opportunities awaited her? How would she move forward?

Her attitude served her well. Today, Insley is a Public Relations and Communications Manager for Meet Minneapolis. The position hits on many cylinders important to her – working for a nonprofit, engaging with both the community and local corporations, allowing her to use skills she mastered in front of the camera in new ways, and to continue to grow and acquire additional skills, for public relations and television news are different animals.

Insley says she has straddled two generations that bring different approaches to careers. Her parents’ generation tended to be loyal to a career. Members of her generation were more inclined to take a job and hope that things would work out for the best. The younger generation realizes that to be successful one must own her career, she says, and that approach is instructive to all.

It means taking responsibility for what you do and where you’re going.

It means examining what one can do to be the best possible person for herself, her employer and her career.

It means stepping out of our comfort zone and reaching out to strangers. Never stop networking, she says. Connecting people is fun. It’s not about helping yourself. It’s about helping others, though you never know how it might circle back.

Her advice applies to more than the broadcast media business. Many industries are undergoing dramatic and unsettling change, driven by a host of factors beyond the control of both employers and employees. Weathering change well requires one to understand the trends and the forces at play, as well as to prepare for and adapt to new expectations and practices by continually examining how to remain valuable in a dynamic workplace.

What advice does Insley have for others who may find themselves at the crossroads of bitter or better?

Always keep learning. With an innate curiosity, journalism was a great fit for Insley. But one not need be a professional storyteller to be a perpetual student. What are we here for if not to be lifelong learners, she asks? You’re really closing yourself off if you think you have all the answers.

Set money aside. Losing her job didn’t cause her financial hardship. She and her husband, a real estate professional, were good savers, for he also works in an unpredictable industry that is undergoing change.

Always be thinking about the next step. Be flexible and accept what you can and can’t control.

Recognize that change is inevitable and complex.

Regardless of how much we anticipate and plan for change, it’s still difficult. Insley spent many years developing relationships with her co-workers. Some were professional, others personal. Some of the best advice she received was to give herself time to grieve, for once you leave the job those relationships are never quite the same.

At the end of the day, Insley says, a job is just a job, regardless of the industry or profession in which one earns a living. Though it may feel like the end of the world when it ends, it is not. Embrace the next opportunity and power ahead.

Kim Insley will emcee on April 26 at TeamWomen’s 8th Annual Women’s Leadership Conference, a full-day event that features inspiring, hopeful stories from powerful female leaders around the Twin Cities. If you’d like to attend or get more information, click here.