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

This piece originally appeared in the St. Paul Pioneer Press on November 11, 2018.

Teresa graduated from high school with no direction. When she joined the Navy, she had never been anywhere, done anything, or worked in any way. She quickly discovered the military is more than a job – it’s a way of life.

Boot camp was intense on a variety of levels.

Interacting with people who grew up in different communities from around the country, who often spoke different languages and saw life differently, Teresa learned to adapt.

The lessons flowed.

Outcomes matter, not just effort.

Whereas in high school efforts were often met with “Oh, you tried your best, that’s good enough,” that didn’t fly in the military.

Quitting is not an option.

Taking responsibility for your actions and those of your teammates is imperative.

Taking ownership of the results you’re responsible for is, too.

Teresa was one of several highly-decorated women who spoke at a TeamWomen luncheon recently. Whether officer or enlisted, Army, Navy, or Air Force, the women inspired attendees with their commitment, anecdotes, accolades, and wisdom.

They offered insight into life in a military uniform and perspective on how others can assist with the transition from active duty to civilian life.

Gender was irrelevant. The only thing that mattered, they all agreed, was whether you were meeting or exceeding expectations.

Terri joined the Air Force when she was 30 years old. With habits well engrained, adapting to the military culture was difficult. But after 17 years, it’s part of who she is.

A command pilot, Terri never knows when her unit will be called up for a mission.

It is impossible to be certain of a plan, be it to attend the birth of her niece or the marriage of a friend. Yet, forfeiting control over her schedule to protect our freedom and way of life is a sacrifice she’s willing to make.

Lynne served as an active duty human resources officer in the Army. That experience led to her career as a civilian leadership coach and consultant.

During a 15-month deployment to Iraq, Lynne’s world consisted of roughly a half-mile radius of land enclosed by a fence. She slept on a bed in a metal cargo container and became accustomed to daily arms fire.

Yet her greatest challenge was working under a leader who, while technically competent, lacked the communication and interpersonal skills to help others reach their potential.

It says something when the stresses of dealing with a toxic individual are greater than being in a combat zone, Lynne said.

But that experience inspired her to consider what it looks like to be a leader with a following. Why are there some leaders who people will follow only because of their rank and others who people follow regardless of their status?

Lynne concluded that leaders with a following are “for” those they are leading, will fight for them, and genuinely care about them. That realization informed the coaching and leadership work she does today.

Educational opportunities are abundant in the military. But because distractions can compete with opportunities, not everyone who enters the military planning to get an education ends up doing so.

Teresa did, though. When her enlistment ended, she used her military benefits to earn both bachelor’s and master’s degrees at prestigious institutions. She applies lessons learned in the military every day in her position at a Fortune 500 company.

Regardless of their branch or length of service, the panelists learned to adapt to the demands of the job and the environments in which they were required to perform.

They developed exceptionally close bonds with those with whom they lived and worked.

When two of them transitioned to civilian life they learned that, while deployment is stressful, re-entry presents its own challenges.

After living in a monochrome world, you’re suddenly surrounded by a cacophony of colors.

You’re not only free to make decisions that are second nature to civilians, you’re required to do so.

Which door do I enter and exit from?

What is the dress code? Do I wear a suit? A sweater and slacks?

But re-entry has its benefits. At last, you’re able to get a decent haircut!

After she left the Army, Lynne didn’t speak much about her experience, assuming others weren’t interested or didn’t know what to ask. Now she says one way to support individuals in their re-entry is to ask if they are struggling or to offer assistance.

Which is why Robert Half, the world’s largest staffing organization, sponsored and moderated the luncheon. Robert Half has programs designed to help ease the transition back to civilian life, not only for those who serve, but also for their spouses.

Deciding on a career path is one of the greatest transition challenges for veterans, moderator Angela Lurie noted, as she ended the luncheon with a call to action.

“It’s no secret there is an extreme shortage of skilled talent available for hire in the United States today. I implore everyone to keep in mind that we have available to us veterans who are re-entering civilian life and the workforce who have highly transferrable skill sets, extreme amount of discipline, a work ethic, perseverance, and great communication skills that can transition into positions we need to fill today.”

“It’s on us,” Lurie said, “to figure out a way to help these veterans as they transition back into civilian life.”

Caryn is one of The Global Resilience Project‘s 50 thrivers for a reason. As an inspirational speaker, award-winning columnist, author of the award-winning memoir, Bitter or Better, and attorney, Caryn offers a roadmap to a life well-lived. For more lessons, visit her blog.

By Angela Lurie | Senior Regional Vice President, Robert Half

When I first heard about TeamWomen’s WaveMaker Awards, I thought, “Oh, this sounds like a program that recognizes women who rock the boat and make things happen!” Without knowing anything about the program, I figured that the honorees could be women worth knowing.

I was right.

What is it about these women that makes them special, and what can we all learn from them? As pioneers in their fields, WaveMakers are models of the entrepreneurial spirit. They possess a certain set of skills that empower them to maneuver through the rocky landscape of the professional world. Among those skills:

Networking – The best, most successful entrepreneurs didn’t necessarily go to the best schools or come from wealthy families; they simply surrounded themselves with the right people whom they knew would help them on their way to success.

Learning on the Go – WaveMakers see opportunities where others see obstacles. They’re always observant of the world around them. They understand that knowledge is power and are eager to pick up a variety of skills, even those that aren’t necessarily relevant to their work. This also means exposing themselves to new experiences and staying open to lessons beyond the classroom.

Self-Discipline – “Discipline is choosing between what you want now and what you want most.” Attributed to Abraham Lincoln, these words ring truer today than they did, perhaps, in Lincoln’s time. With 21st century distractions and opportunities for instant gratification screaming for our attention, not to mention the profound pressure they bring to the workplace, self-discipline is an essential practice for anyone who wants to succeed.

True Leadership – Contrary to what many believe, becoming a leader means that you are put in place to serve others. Leaders are mindful about showing empathy, listening, promoting teamwork and acknowledging the accomplishments of others.

Time Management – Entrepreneurs are driven by the need to get things done because every minute wasted is a lost opportunity. They are often trying to juggle the workload of five people. But with good time management, they can get everything done, and more.

Adaptability – Sometimes when the going gets tough, all an entrepreneur can do is simply wing it. Whatever your profession, you’re undoubtedly going to be thrown a few curve balls that require you to come up with solutions on the fly. Embrace that!

Grit – Pioneering psychologist Angela Duckworth, author of the best seller, Grit, says that the secret to outstanding achievement isn’t talent but a special blend of passion and persistence for a singularly important goal. In other words, grit. We all know what it’s like to fail or be told we cannot do something, but WaveMakers cultivate the ability to persevere.

Giving Back – “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” This timeless advice from Gandhi teaches us to find compassion within ourselves and adhere to values that benefit the common good. Not only does giving provide others with building blocks for a better future, it will help you grow as a person.

There are, of course, a multitude of other commendable characteristics personified by this year’s TeamWomen WaveMaker Awards finalists. The best way to characterize these outstanding women is to paraphrase Chief Political Correspondent and Anchor of State of the Union with Candy Crowley: Whatever they do, they are so good you can’t ignore them.

 Bravo to you all.

Angela Lurie is a Minneapolis-based senior regional vice president at Robert Half, the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm. For more information, visit http://www.roberthalf.com.

By Angela Lurie | Senior Regional Vice President, Robert Half

Finding a balance between professional responsibilities, personal responsibilities and self-care is an ongoing challenge for most women. This can be especially true during the summer, when kids are home from school, the weather is nice and vacation opportunities are aplenty.

A family vacation should be the perfect opportunity to recharge and refocus your priorities, but how often does that happen? Research from Robert Half has found that the majority of workers (56 percent) check in with the office while they’re supposed to be on vacation. While professionals in Minneapolis are among those most likely to fully disconnect, we aren’t immune to the pressure to keep up with our career even when we’re out of the office.

Perhaps more unsettling is that the trend is working against us. This summer, employees plan to take an average of nine days off, down from 10 in 2017, and younger employees typically feel a stronger urge to stay connected when they are away. Seven in 10 respondents ages 18-34 plan to check in with the office somehow while they’re on vacation. That’s a stark contrast to the 39 percent of respondents ages 55 and older.

Similar surveys uncover the same trend toward staying in touch when you’re supposed to be taking a break. In 2016, 59 percent of employees said they never check in while on vacation, but that number dropped to 47 percent in 2017 and 44 percent in 2018.

We all need time away from the office to recharge and boost productivity and creativity. Easier said than done? Try some of these tips to fully relax when you’re out of the office:

  • Plan ahead. As soon as you have your vacation on the calendar, make a list of what you need to take care of before you go and what potential issues could arise while you’re out. Having a plan in place will allow you to feel more confident things are under control in your absence. Plan meetings for the week you return (not back-to-back; you don’t want to undo the benefits of your vacation right away!) to catch up on what you missed.
  • Ask for help. Delegate tasks that can’t wait for your return, making sure to spread out the workload so as not to burn out one person. Take the time to share project updates, deadlines and access to important files before you leave.
  • Communicate. Let your boss, team and clients know when you will be away and that you will be unplugging. Asking if there’s anything you can do before you go can promote goodwill and possibly prevent problems from arising while you’re away.
  • Clarify exceptions. If you will be available for emergencies only, define what constitutes an emergency. If you can’t completely unplug, specify when you will be online, and stick to that schedule.
  • Let yourself unplug. Finally, give yourself permission to focus on your family, friends and/or self when your vacation begins. Remember that taking a break from work is important to doing your best work when you return. It’s just as important as responding to emails and meeting deadlines!

Taking vacation time is an important step to maintaining a strong work-life balance, but actually allowing yourself to enjoy your vacation is important too. Take advantage of opportunities to unwind, and allow yourself to do so without the guilt.

Angela Lurie is a Minneapolis-based senior regional vice president at Robert Half, the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm. For more information, visit http://www.roberthalf.com.

Judy Zimmer, president of Coachology.us and Debbie Kraemer, a project manager, were connected in the TEAMWomen Mentoring Program in 2017.  Both women have found value in the mentoring relationship and in this interview, both talk about the power of mentoring.

Debbie, what made you decide to seek out a mentor?

I didn’t choose the Team Women Mentoring program, I believe it chose me!  I was discussing my career journey with my sister-in-law, Beth Kraemer, and she told me about this group and all the benefits she has enjoyed from it.  Beth suggested that I sign up for the Mentoring program to help with my adventure of finding something new in my career.

Judy, this is your second time participating as a mentor.  What made you decide to work with a mentee?

I love working with engaging and successful mentees.  Debbie is a very successful business professional and strives to be even better.  She is an avid reader and has expanded my list of business books.  I have learned from her and she has learned from me.

Debbie, what has been the biggest surprise and most rewarding part of the mentoring relationship?

The most surprising experience I have enjoyed since joining the mentoring program is the positive, forward thinking shift in my mindset in only 3 ½ months, it has been simply amazing.

The most rewarding experience is meeting Judy and spending time with her.  She is a positive force who has made me realize I am capable of anything, the world is mine and I have everything I need inside myself to be successful and happy.

Debbie, what advice would you give to someone who doesn’t have a mentor?

I would tell another business professional who is hesitant about joining a mentoring program that we truly limit ourselves when we live inside our own head and believe all the negative stuff that we make up.  We can spend countless hours reading self-help books, listening to positive self-help podcasts and YouTube videos but we must ACT and do something to really be happy and fulfilled.  One of the best ways to do that is through a mentor who will help us to see how we are limiting ourselves and how to ‘break out of ourselves’.

Debbie, what would you say about the TeamWomen organization?

My experience with the Team Women Mentoring Program has been amazing, it has changed my mindset, helped me let go of negative thinking, raised my confidence level and I now have connections with hundreds of other strong women.

Judy, what would you say to TeamWomen members who have not participated in the program?

TeamWomen has an amazing process for matching mentors and mentees.  There is training, engaging meetings along the way and monthly mentoring topics.  Being a mentor is a wonderful way to serve the community and being a mentee is a great way to increase your professional profile, confidence and connections.  There are no downsides to the process.

 

By Angela Lurie | Senior Regional Vice President, Robert Half

Mentorships engage employees in ways no other professional development initiative can. A mentor helping a new employee navigate her career in a one-on-one setting gives the mentor the chance to share her own experiences and lessons learned, all while teaching the mentee to make wise decisions and take ownership of her work. Likewise, a younger employee mentoring a more experienced coworker (referred to as reverse mentorships) in areas such as new technology can bring diverse generations together in the workplace. Recent research from Robert Half indicates that the greatest benefits of serving as a mentor are the opportunity to improve leadership skills and the internal satisfaction of helping others.

Other tactical benefits to mentorships include:

Benefits to the Mentor:

  • Improved interpersonal skills
  • Expanded professional network
  • Facilitated upkeep with industry trends

Benefits to the Mentee:

  • Improved interpersonal skills
  • Development of leadership skills
  • Achievement of goals and objectives
  • Personal resource in maneuvering new professional experiences

Benefits to the Company:

  • Increased knowledge transfer between employees
  • Furthered succession planning efforts
  • Employees motivated to pursue more professional development
  • Increased teamwork, including across departments
  • Improved employee retention

So how can you bring these benefits to your team? First, it’s important to choose your mentee carefully. It is not as simple as finding a junior member of your team and offering advice. While most traditional mentorship relationships involve a senior employee mentoring someone less experienced, it may make more sense to seek out a reverse or peer mentorship. The key is to consider who will benefit from your insights and guidance, based on their professional interests and long-term goals. Keep in mind that the right mentee may not even work in your department. Ask your colleagues for recommendations.

Another important consideration is the commitment required to make the experience positive and productive. The best way to accomplish this is to plan ahead. Schedule regular mentorship time, whether it’s a monthly lunch or standing coffee date. This commitment goes both ways, so work with your mentee to hold each other accountable. This accountability should extend beyond maintaining a meeting schedule to include following up on advice and goals.

Finally, to keep an eye on the progress of goals, it’s important to set them up front. What does your mentee hope to learn from you? What knowledge, skills and advice can you offer her? How will you measure success over time?

Mentorships are an excellent way to empower mentor and mentee alike. Learn more at the April 25 TeamWomenMN networking event, “Mentoring: What You Learn By Empowering Someone.”

To learn more about Angela’s own mentorship experiences, check out the April 25 TeamWomenMN networking event, “Mentoring: What You Learn By Empowering Someone.” Angela and three additional panelists will share their own insights and offer recommendations for embarking on your own mentorship relationship.

 

 

When you picture a mentor, what do you see? A silver-haired executive with more than his or her fair share of “war stories”? The successful, fast talking company star?

In my volunteer experiences with organizations like TeamWomenMNMentoring Monday and Baker Tilly’s GROW (Growth and Retention of Women) initiative, I’ve often seen people not pursue mentoring because they don’t believe they have the right amount of experience, time or skills to effectively guide someone in their career. The truth is, mentoring isn’t dependent upon those things.

What mentoring is (and what it isn’t)

  • Mentoring is about listening. As a mentor, it’s not your job to solve your mentee’s problems. Your role is to actively listen and help her uncover possible solutions. Brainstorm, listen, talk through different outcomes, ask questions and provide advice sparingly.
  • Being a mentor is not a full-time (or even part-time) gig. While consistent check-ins with your mentee are advisable, constant communication is not necessary – nor is it healthy! It is okay to set boundaries and not be perpetually accessible. If she wants more time or involvement than you can provide, communicate that. Have a conversation about expectations right away so you both know what to expect and neither feel overwhelmed or ignored.
  • Mentoring is not forever. Agreeing to be a mentor is not a life-long commitment. At the beginning of the relationship, it’s a good idea to discuss the length of time your mentee would like to be mentored. Twelve months is a good timeframe to start with. After a year, evaluate together if continuing the relationship for another six or twelve months would be beneficial.
  • Being a mentor doesn’t have to wait until you’re in the c-suite. Don’t have your own career completely figured out? Still climbing the corporate ladder? Made more than your share of career missteps? You might just have what it takes to be a mentor. To be an effective mentor, you don’t have to be (or act) perfect or have achieved all of your career goals. The more genuine and real you can be with your mentee by sharing the lessons you’ve learned throughout your career – both successes and failures – the deeper the connection and benefit for both of you.

Mentors play an important role in the professional lives and development of young women and, as a mentor, it can be incredibly rewarding to observe the impact you’ve had on your mentee’s career goals and aspirations.

Are you up for the challenge? I think you are.

The beginning of every new year brings a clean slate and an excitement for success yet unknown. The new year also brings along plenty of opportunities for companies to proclaim that you can find success by reading their book, joining their gym, downloading their app – the list goes on. If you are like me, the last thing I need is to add another task to my to-do list that I may or may not (most likely will not) complete. A confirmation of this are the five books sitting next to my bed that I have dog-eared in hopes to find time to one day get back to reading them.

That is why I was all in when I can across Elle Kaplan’s article, You Need to Give Up These Toxic Habits If You Want to Be Exceptionally Successful. Give up something and become successful? Yes, please. In seven simple, realistic steps, Kaplan breaks down the common bad habits that are standing in the way of your success. In reading this article and following these steps, I might be bold enough to state that you could potentially become a better person and even someone that others prefer to surround themselves with.

If you are ready to remove a few bad habits from your life in order to achieve success in the year ahead, take five minutes out of your day and reflect on these seven simple steps to a successful – and lighter – you.

“Your net worth to the world is usually determined by what remains after your bad habits are subtracted from your good ones.”

–        Benjamin Franklin

Positivity is a trait everyone strives for, right? But when it really comes down to it, is it a trait that’s actually highly regarded in the business world? Or is it the mental toughness of seeing possible downfalls that make someone a more critical thinker? Naturally, both are important. If we only saw negative possibilities, no one ever would start new companies. Then again if we only acknowledged the silver lining and didn’t take into account the real, potentially negative possibilities, we wouldn’t have wise business practices. All in all, it’s a delicate balance.

I am a “half glass full” kind of person by default, but I also naturally analyze possible negative outcomes – so I can determine better methods to achieve goals. A beloved soul who encouraged positivity and self/external reflection was Zig Ziglar. No longer with us, Zig had many inspiring anecdotes. Take a minute to scroll through insights that can benefit you today — these might bring the breakthrough you’ve been needing in your mindset!

“If you wait until all the lights are “green” before you leave home, you’ll never get started on your trip to the top.”

https://www.positivityblog.com/zig-ziglar/