Supermom: Complete with Cape, Super Powers … and Guilt

Mothers are so often unsung heroes. They are on call 24/7 while working full-time jobs and trying to make solid citizens out of the little people entrusted to their care. They make thousands of decisions each week, and they hope that most are the right ones … you know, the ones that won’t be discussed at the therapist’s office down the road in their child’s life. (Really? I never knew NOT having a childhood puppy was going to send you down a road of chronic in-school suspension!)

The Working Mother

I’ve never met a working mother who didn’t struggle with guilt on some level. Maybe guilt from having to call the school or the doctor’s office during working hours, or guilt for having to take unfinished work home. Moms often wonder if they are failing their families by not putting them first, but also might wonder if they are failing their job by not putting it first. And on top of all that, moms feel guilty when, on occasion, dare to indulge in something for themselves, regardless of the time they commit to others. The feeling of guilt can come from many things. In a way, it’s like a never-ending game of tug-of-war with several different ropes.

Most of the time, my clients who are mothers focus their coaching time on the shame and guilt they feel about being imperfect. The tragedy of it all is that these women are wonderful human beings, mothers, employees, spouses, volunteers, friends and any other role they can wedge into their tightly packed schedules. What they can’t accept is that they can still be wonderful and while being imperfect. They continue to feel “less than” because they are running toward a nonexistent finish line.

There was a study done on working mothers in Scandinavia (Elvin-Nowack, 1999), and it found that “Guilt comes from a general feeling of responsibility, as well as certain elements of shame, and aggression,” and “This was most prominent when women lacked real control over the demands made from different spheres of life.” This also happened when they put the responsibility for themselves and their own needs first.

Fueling the Fire

Not only is there societal pressure on mothers to be perfect on all fronts, but also some mothers are pretty tough on each other for their choices. Dubbed the “Mommy Wars” by the media, there are some harsh words flying around out there for those who have made their choices, or perhaps have even had their choices made for them by circumstances beyond their control. There are people on all sides of various camps:

  • Breast-feeding vs. formula
  • Disposable diapers vs. cloth diapers
  • Co-sleeping vs. kids in their own rooms
  • Public school vs. Private school vs. Home school
  • Let them watch TV vs. No TV
  • Stay-At-Home Moms vs. Career Moms

Many women have had casual conversations with fellow moms that have turned into lectures on how “if they really loved their child” they would chose ____ (fill in your choice). Moms already have a lot on their plate without being challenged and judged by their own.

Guilt Takes Over the Home

Women are twice as likely to feel guilt at home. Researchers at the University of Toronto did a study actually quantifying the emotions experienced by men and women when work and family boundaries are crossed. According to the findings, frequent contact by bosses, co-workers, or clients led to increased feelings of guilt, but only among women. Women were almost twice as likely to report feeling guilty as the phone calls, emails, and texts increased.

The women were determined to be just as competent in meeting the work and home obligations as men, but felt completely differently about it. More psychological distress can occur when the guilt continues to increase for women. So whether it’s biological make-up, or our culture, women are feeling the guilt in large proportions. The technology meant to give us more flexibility and time at home is really just blurring the lines between work and home.

So what can moms do?

  • Rein in the negative self-talk. Take a deep breath. Some guilt feelings are just going to be there, but you can still be proud that you’re putting your best foot forward in while wearing those stylish black pumps.
  • Have your own goals and interests in addition to your work and family. What? Who has the time to make time for themselves? I know, but your schedule and doing something for yourself is critical for your happiness and effectiveness in other parts of your life.
  • Get the family involved. Back in the ’60s and ’70s, convenience foods hit the shelves for a reason. Women were entering the workforce and needed shortcuts for dinner. But times have changed and the responsibility of dinner preparation can be a family function. Make dinner with your spouse or take turns doing it, and also get the children in the kitchen.
  • Set boundaries. If the calls and emails from work are getting too invasive, think about talking to your business leader about what constitutes a true need outside of business hours. We train people how to treat us.
  • Seek support and connect with other women online. For example, join Campaign for Judgment Free Motherhood at www.ctworkingmoms.com or Moms Rising atwww.momsrising.org, which has chapters all around the country and a hearty website full of content to move our country forward on critical issues facing women, mothers, and families.

The answers will be different for everyone. The message I’m conveying is to work toward effectiveness, not perfection, because it’s OK for a mother to have flaws. Try to remove yourself from the stress of guilt. Committing to your choices and claiming something for yourself along the way can create empowerment that will serve you well. Plus, I bet you’re already pretty amazing.

4 Qualities that Can Help You Win that Job

Whether you are a new college graduate, a mother returning to the workforce after a stay at home stint, or someone who lost a job during the recession, getting out there and getting hired can be a challenge in today’s environment.

According to the BLS’s Job Opening and Labor Turnover Survey, in June of this year there were an estimated six people for every one job opening available in the United States.

So what will make you stand out among the rest of those applying for the same position?

Certainly education and experience come to play, but these are not always the most important elements in finding a job,says Garrett Miller, a workplace productivity coach, trainer and author of Hire on a WHIM: The Four Qualities that Make for Great Employees.

The following four traits are what employers look for, he adds. Take these into a job interview to stand out among the rest.

  1. Work ethic, or values based on hard work and diligence. Show this by joining extracurricular work activities that will increase your skill range, such as classes, workshops, seminars, and clubs. Show the employer you work hard at self-improvement.
  2. Humility, or the ability to be taught. Show this, Miller says, by highlighting team and group working scenarios and showing that you can collaborate with others. “Don’t be shy about discussing an embarrassing moment or an incorrect choice,” he adds, “and emphasize what you learned from it.”
  3. Integrity, or the innate ability to do what is right even when influenced by others to do otherwise. Own your successes and failures. Discuss one thing you did wrong and what you learned by it. Show that you can take responsibility for these choices as well.
  4. Maturity, or giving seriousness and consciousness to your actions and thoughts. Talk about experiences that shaped who you were, and discuss in realistic expectations where you hope to be in five, 10, or 20 years.

5 Steps to a Successful Work-Life Balance at Any Age

Running a business is exhausting. Raising a family is exhausting. Spending time with your friends, while fun, is exhausting. There may have been a time years ago when I could’ve put in my eight hours, gone out for drinks after, and woken up the next morning as fresh as a daisy, but that time is gone. As a CEO, a mother of two sons, and a volunteer, I know firsthand how tough it is to give my work, family, and social lives the attention they each deserve. And maintaining what balance I do have is a daily challenge. There is always some unexpected surprise to get in the way of my carefully laid out plans. But, rather than stress out about my balancing act, I have learned to take a deep breath, focus on what matters, and maintain my peace of mind along the way by using these five steps.

1) Learn to love the list.

I adore lists. Before I leave my house in the morning, I have a bulleted list of what needs to be done either in hand or sitting on my desk at work. As everyone who has run a business knows, it is absolutely impossible to recall every single meeting, appointment, and assignment that needs to get done right off the top of your head. A list gives you a visual representation of everything you need to do at work, and really helps you to manage your time effectively so that you don’t spend all day on a handful of tasks.

2) Exercise.

Many people tend to de-prioritize exercise. You promise yourself you’ll stop by the gym after work, but then you get stuck in your office two hours after closing and after that you just want to veg in front of Netflix in your sweatpants. Since I’m usually pretty tired by the end of the day, I start the morning by exercising – it is really easy to get in thirty minutes of spinning while watching the morning news and checking my work email.Regular exercise even helps alleviate stress, keep you focused, and boost your energy levels, all of which are important to maintaining a healthy work-life balance!

3) Stay focused.

With texts from family, constant meetings, and Outlook’s incessant email pinging, it is all too easy to get distracted and stay there. It is important that you learn how to focus, and set aside a time to finish the work you have planned. Calls and emails can wait until the most pressing projects of the day are wrapped up. Even a ten second distraction can lead to a huge time sink. So before you start work, promise yourself you’ll tackle the larger jobs before starting on the smaller ones.

4) Delegate your work.

Sharing responsibilities with family or friends is extremely freeing. I often use the buddy system for my kids – I pick up a friend’s children from school one afternoon, and they let my kids carpool with them on another day. At work I step back and trust my employees to take care of whatever I don’t have time to. Remember that being open, honest, and communicative is a major part of sharing responsibility. Know what you can do in a day, and trust your family, friends, and co-workers to help you out when you need it. Delegation is a big part of time management, and by not trying to do everything by yourself, you’ll free up a lot of your time and you won’t be as stressed when the inevitable surprise pops up.

5) Relax whenever you need to.

We all need time to be alone, relax, and unwind. Occasionally taking some time off is nothing to be ashamed of, and is actually an important part of keeping yourself mentally and emotionally healthy. Even something as simple as reading a book, or going out for coffee with a friend can do wonders for your emotional well-being. Plus it’ll help you feel like you aren’t spending all of your time at work. Just remember to turn off that iPhone, avoid all distractions, and really enjoy your ‘me’ time.

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6 Reasons Moms Are Naturals When It Comes to Entrepreneurship

From 1997 to 2013, the number of woman-owned businesses increased by 59 percent. That’s a pace one-and-a-half times faster than the national average. Many of these businesses are run by a new breed of “mompreneurs” who are juggling the needs of the business with the needs of their family.

While much is written about the challenges of simultaneously raising a family and building a business, moms also enjoy some unique advantages when it comes to being CEO. Of course, keep in mind that the following is a generalization: not every mom will have all of these qualities and many women without children and men who are primary child raisers may share a few:

1. Moms Are Expert Multitaskers

A mom can dress a screaming baby while planning out the grocery list and fielding questions from her oldest child. She can simultaneously manage schedules for the babysitter, carpool, and after-school activities, all while remembering the school permission slip and doctor’s appointment.

You’d be surprised at how similar this is to running a company: moms are built to handle the countless daily tasks required of an entrepreneur. They can balance the multiple roles and multiple priorities with relative ease.

2. Moms Emphasize Relationships

In the office, women value the strength of their relationships more than men. Connections between male colleagues tend to be based on transactions: one thing is traded for another. Yet women typically report being happier at work when they have strong connections with co-workers and build long-term relationships.

While this applies to co-workers, it can also apply to vendors, customers, contractors, and employees — the essential building blocks for a successful company. In the eyes of many female business owners, employees are crucial members of the team; they aren’t just people who work for them in exchange for a salary. In this way, women can build trusting working relationships that translate into lower employee turnover rates and higher employee satisfaction levels.

3. Moms Can Stop and Ask for Directions

It may be an over-generalization, but most women know that when you’re lost, you’ll probably get to your destination a lot faster if you stop and ask someone for directions. Over the ages, new moms have gotten support and advice from prior generations and experienced moms in the community.

As entrepreneurs, women won’t shy away from asking for help. They’ll ask the “stupid questions” needed to get up to speed quickly on their industry, their customers, and all the nuances of running a business.

4. Moms Understand the Importance of Life Outside Business

While mompreneurs love the businesses they’ve created, their biggest priorities will always be outside of the office. While this traditionally may have been viewed as a liability in business, it can actually be a huge asset for the entrepreneur.

Why? For starters, many moms will strike a work-life balance that’s necessary for warding off entrepreneurial burnout. In addition, having priorities outside of work can give moms a healthy perspective on running a business; it removes some of the pressure that leads to analysis paralysis. You won’t see many moms fussing over every last detail on the website or press release; sometimes, you just need to get a task done and move on to what’s next.

5. Moms Can Network Like Nobody Else

An entrepreneur’s networking ability can make or break any business, and moms have a natural urge to share their experiences with other moms. They bond over achievements and challenges, letting other moms know what products or techniques work and which don’t. In short, moms share.

Just take a look at the rapid rise of mommy bloggers (more than 3.9 million in 2010) to understand the sheer volume of discussions taking place on social media mommy groups and forums across the Web — not to mention those offline conversations at the playground, grocery store, and pediatrician’s waiting room.

6. Moms Adapt

Life for a mom is full of change and unpredictability. You can read as many books and take as many classes as you’d like, but nothing can fully prepare you for life with a teeny-tiny newborn. Then once you’ve gotten used to the infant stage, you now have to deal with the terrible twos, tweens, and teen years. As a mom, you need to stay on your toes and never get too set in your ways — because what worked so well yesterday may not work at all tomorrow.

If any of this sounds familiar, it’s because entrepreneurs need to be just as nimble to succeed. Success in business often boils down to your ability to adapt to change: your markets, technology, customers, and competition are never constant. A good entrepreneur, just like a good mother, won’t be afraid of change. She’ll embrace the mess and the chaos and know the key is to just keep moving forward.

You Want an Edge in This Job Market? Create That LinkedIn Profile NOW!

Why? It’s simply a no brainer. The funny thing is, no matter how many times I read an article or a blog post touting the validity and importance of LinkedIn, I end up befuddled by the resistance of this networking and job search tool. Boomers hide their head in the sand. College students look the other way. And, forget about the people who are trying to transition in this job market. They just fast forward their way to the resume process and don’t want to hear one more word about LinkedIn. Say what?

To tell you the truth, I have never seen such stubbornness in getting on board and accessing one of the world’s largest professional networks. Right now, some readers are actually thinking, “Oh no, not again. Another article about LinkedIn?” I ask you to embrace the concept and consider the necessity – and benefit – of having a compelling LinkedIn profile. If you truly want an edge in this job market and also want to be viewed as a professional who’s up on the latest technologies and networking capabilities, you undoubtedly need a LinkedIn profile.

Lindsey Pollak, a global Ambassador for LinkedIn, referred to the professional networking site as “an online resume on steroids.” Could you get any more play than that?  Think about how recruiters and career professionals research you and your brand. The first thing they do is Google your name looking for anything digital including the digital dirt. The next step is a LinkedIn search, and that’s where the rubber meets the road. If you have taken the time, energy, and money to invest in a professional resume and cover letter, but haven’t created a LinkedIn profile, or worse yet, the content is not congruent with your resume and cover letter, you are sorely underestimating the power of your brand and missing out on one of the most powerful forms of professional networking.

Last month, a sales and marketing executive from San Francisco was in the final rounds of an extensive, and seemingly certain, interview and hiring process. He had prepared as if he was an attorney going to court. Confident that he had closed this deal, the company STILL brought him in for one last meeting with the board of directors. But, as you know, “it isn’t over till the fat lady sings.”

Here’s the clincher — while he was being interviewed, a board member brought up his LinkedIn profile on his laptop and viewed it while my client was in the room. Within minutes, the board member halted the interview and gave his unanimous support for hiring this executive. My client quietly exhaled and, for obvious reasons, counted his blessings that he invested in having his LinkedIn profile completely overhauled.

If you are a serious, career-minded professional, hiring managers assume you are on LinkedIn. By not having a LinkedIn presence, you are automatically sending a message that you lack professional savvy in a technological world that demands it.

Yes, you can navigate these waters on your own and I highly recommend and suggest that you simply research this tool, so you can get your edge on. So, let’s get to it and move your career onward and upward using one of the most powerful online tools available. For a user-friendly tool for your college students, click here.  For everyone else who wants to learn how to use LinkedIn in the business world or in a job search,  click here.

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Earn Reward Points and Badges for using the website.

As a Business Women of Missouri Member, you can now earn points just for logging into your account and using the website. You will earn points for logging in (one point per day), reading articles, using your referral link, checking out other pages and much more. Once you have reached a set amount from a specific category, you will earn a badge that will be displayed in your profile.

To view your points and badges, log into your account and go to “My Rewards Points”.
Here, you will be able to see your 10 most recent points earned, top ten Member Leaderboard, your referral link and a brief overview of badges that are currently available.

How Women Entrepreneurs Can Avoid Being Bulldozed Over in Business

Women, according to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, are the key to economic expansion. And all signs are pointing to that expansion hurtling on well into 2014 and beyond. In 2013, statistics from the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) reported that in the United States alone, 8.6 million firms were owned by women with about 7.8 million people employed and $1.3 trillion generated in sales. Of the 8.6 million women-owned firms, 2.7 percent are majority-owned by women of color and 4.2 percent of all women-owned firms have revenues of $1 million or more.

The outlook for 2014 is just as positive for women in business. In an infographic survey study conducted by NAWBO and Web.com, 89 percent of the women business owners profiled remained optimistic about overall business performance in the year to come.

But for all this optimism, the study also reveals the challenges and worries women have about business. For 9 out of 10 surveyed, getting new customers ranked as the highest concern. Only half of the women profiled felt confident in their ability to create a social media presence for their companies, while the economy, access to capital, and business taxes also weigh heavily on the minds of these female entrepreneurs.

Once self-confidence goes out the window, it’s a slippery slope for women entrepreneurs to feel like their business — and sense of self — are still in control. If you’re worried that you’re sweating the small stuff too much and others are noticing, keep a few of my tips in mind to keep cool and stay strong.

Do What You Think Is Appropriate

“When women do better, companies do better.” This sage piece of wisdom courtesy of Christine Lagarde, managing editor to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), is truly a universal truth. Doing better means that one should be holding her own, listening, and being responsive to others. But ultimately, the decision you make needs to be appropriate to your circumstance. Many people (other women included) will try to tell you what you should do and how you should do it. Often this advice is unsolicited, but you should never outright dismiss any opinions expressed. Take it in, say you’ll think about it, and then do what is right for you.

Remember, Everyone Has an Opinion

Everyone has an opinion when it comes to your small business. And I used to take everyone’s opinion and truly value it — but that was exhausting, especially since some opinions are not made selflessly. Take it all in with a grain of salt. I take in feedback and then decide if it’s worth it for me to think any further about it (or to simply disregard it as unsolicited advice). While people can and do often offer great advice, it’s important to be able to quickly distill what you want to take action on and what you want to ignore, otherwise you’ll be mired in nonsense 24/7.

Know Your Strengths and Stick to Them

Rather than spend your days comparing and contrasting your business to that of a competitor’s, whether it’s run by a man or woman, focus on the unique aspects to your business that only you can bring to the table and play up those strengths. Time and time again, I see articles that offer advice like “Have the confidence of a man.”

I’m not even going to tell you to have the confidence of a woman. I’m going to tell you to have the confidence of you. Find what makes you feel powerful and use it. Do what works for you and keep doing it, and watch how it defines your business and yourself in the long run.

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5 Tips for Women to Tame the Negotiation Tiger

In business, women shy away from negotiation opportunities about twice as many times as men. This means that they give away various opportunities to improve their own situation. When confronted with a negotiation situation, it can feel very intimidating when the outcome in unclear. It feels like living in a jungle with tigers lurking at every turn. Here are five tips to consider when negotiating a change in job status, project opportunity, or other tiger-taming need:

1. Do your research. Clarify your own objectives and make sure you understand the true goal of the negotiation. Eliminate ambiguity. Don’t allow tigers to pounce on your chances for success by not having well researched answers to questions the other side may raise. Look for patterns regarding how the person with whom you are negotiating handles negotiation situations. Know why you are negotiating and how such negotiation attempts have fared in the past.

2. Decide what is negotiable. Before you start to negotiate, draw up a list of factors that are most important to you. Tigers will eat you for lunch if you don’t have a clear line of delineation about what are must haves and what are possible compromises. Key factors might include salary, work schedule, project assignments, or customer deliverables. The key is to establish your preferred outcome, but remain realistic, because if you’re not prepared to compromise, the negotiation process will fail, and will not provide outcomes with which you will feel satisfied. Realize that women often shortchange themselves.

3. Plan your strategy in writing and decide what approach you will adopt before beginning negotiations. Be clear about the type of deal you want, set clear goals and work out where you will draw the line and walk away from the deal. Write down your negotiating strengths and how to get the concessions you require. Consider ways of defending the weaker parts of your argument and be prepared for any objections brought up by the other side. Talk your approach over with trusted colleagues. Negotiating tigers produce stress so practice your strategy and review your written notes before entering the tiger’s den.

4. Negotiate like a woman. Women do not need to accept their gender role limitations; on the contrary they can take advantage of several skills that are more commonly found in women and are very useful in generating successful negotiated outcomes. For example, women are actually very good at asking questions and building relationships. What they usually fear is the risk of instigating conflicts or confrontation. So, women can be very successful when they focus on diagnostic questions and creating a working dialogue so they can craft creative solutions to the negotiation situations.

5. Draw up a contract. Once all the points have been negotiated and a deal has been agreed, it’s best to get a written contract drawn up and signed by both parties. While verbal contracts are legally binding – they are difficult to prove in court. Tame the tiger, once and for all, by getting things down in writing.

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We’re happy to announce that our site is now mobile friendly

If you visited the website from your phone on launch day (September 1st, 2014), you probably noticed that it was hard to read anything, navigate, etc. As of September 2nd, 2014, the mobile version of our site was launched.

NOTE: For security reasons, you will not be able to access your account, purchase membership or make a donation from your phone. This is to maximize security. 

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