It’s OK to not be OK: How to work through tough times

tough times

I’ve never been a fan of the ‘How are you doing?’ conversation. Don’t get me wrong, I know that people mean well when they ask this question! But, it’s usually a pleasant way to start speaking to someone, when they are in a good place. This conversation doesn’t really set people up for dealing with ‘you know what… I’m not so great at the moment’. 

Most people have juggled the idea of saying ‘I’m fine’ to just get the conversation over and done with OR telling the truth and admitting that they aren’t in a great place. A lot of the time there’s an internal conflict because we struggle to ask for help, or want to keep up appearances. But ultimately, that’s not sustainable. We all need to rely on our friends and loved ones when things are tough, that’s what they’re there for after all. The one constant in life is that there will be highs and lows that we all have to go through. However, you do not have to do that alone.

So, if you’re fighting your own battles, here are some tips about dealing with tough times and, hopefully, they will help you to accept that it’s OK to not be OK. 

Don’t feel guilty about sharing

Guilt is a strong emotion and when you’re going through a tough time, you become more aware that others are also experiencing difficulties that you know nothing about. This can be one of many reasons that stops us from opening up and sharing with the people who truly care. You have no reason to feel guilty about sharing your thoughts and feelings. There are people in your life who care and want to know when you aren’t at your best so they can step in and be there for you. Remember, you deserve to be looked after too. 

Find someone you trust and start talking

When you’ve managed to get past the feeling of guilt, think about the people who you really trust and lighten the load by talking to them about what you’re going through. The closer you are to that person, and the more you feel you can trust them, the more comfortable you’re likely to feel. 

 Learn to say no

Having time to yourself is equally important as helping others. A bit of time out can do you a world of good, so again, don’t feel guilty about saying no. Taking time out to clear your mind and channel your energy into the things that you care about gives you the opportunity to focus on the things that make you happy. 

 Pay attention to your self talk

During periods of high stress, you need to be kind to yourself. That means positive self-talk and accepting that you need time to bounce back. Challenge any negative self-talk that you catch yourself saying and offer more supportive ones. 

There are many more things you can do to take care of yourself during tough times, but starting with these can put you in the right direction. Stay strong!

Celebrating Each Other’s Success

We have got to get out of the “win-lose” mindset and start celebrating each other’s success. Some of us are there, but I still see it as being so incredibly prevalent, particularly in the workplace. If someone you work with succeeds, that’s (not necessarily) a direct correlation to you losing (your job, a promotion, etc.). I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, but I’m saying the chances of it happening must be smaller if we work together instead of competing against each other all the time.

I know, “collaboration” has become such a (barf!) buzzword. What I’m really talking about is about making space for others to come up around you. We have got to stop stepping on each other and being afraid of others’ success. Getting even more specific, I’m talking about white women not being afraid of the success of anyone who doesn’t look like them – and speaking of women of color and minority backgrounds, in particular. Seriously. If you’re guilty of this, it needs to stop. As a white woman, I am telling you – other white women – that you will be amazing if you allow women who are not like you and don’t look like you to enter your spaces, take your place on panels, speak at conferences, and be part of your mastermind groups.

Next time someone is looking for a speaker, recommend a woman of color (and not only to speak on diversity topics!). Are you not sure where to start?

I’ve got some suggestions for you.

(Click through to find each woman on Twitter!)

Amber Lee – Lifestyle, Blogging, Millennial women, Health & wellness, Entrepreneurship

Angela Hemans – Twitter marketing, Marketing, Building your brand online

Antoinette Minor – Podcasting, Entrepreneurship

Contrecia Tharpe – Branding, Communications, Marketing, PR

Eulanda Shead Osagiede – Travel, Entrepreneurship, Living your best life

Faiza Yousuf – Building communities for women, Technology, Coding

Gennette Cordova – Philanthropy, Activism, Nonprofits, Empowerment

Jade Phillips – Entrepreneurship, Branding

Jasmine Powers – Digital Strategy, Marketing

Joy Donnell – Writing, Branding, Public Speaking

Kali Wilder, Sirita Wright, and Safon Floyd of EstroHaze – The cannabis industry, Entrepreneurship

Kavita Chintapalli – Social media strategy, Ending violence against women

Lisa Fitzpatrick, MD – Healthcare, Public health, Health literacy, Health tech

Melissa Kimble – Relationship building, The creative movement, Branding, Writing

Nora Rahimian – The music biz (production, best practices, etc.), Women’s rights, Activism, Art as a vehicle for social change

Sabrina Medora – The culinary world, Entrepreneurship, Branding, Marketing

Sherese Maynard – Healthcare, Healthcare IT, #WomenInHIT

This list barely scratches the surface of the incredible, talented, powerful women of color doing amazing work in the world. Let’s keep it growing! Tweet me at @AnOrchidInBloom and let me know who you’d like to add.

Personal Branding: 5 Steps to Success

Branding is more than just a concept that large organisations should be aware of. We live in a world where at the click of a button, you can find out what people do for a living, for who and (if they’ve thought about this enough) why they do what they do. Now the real question is, what do you want people to say and think of you? Or even better, what is already out there?

Anyone can now develop a finely tuned personal brand and become established in their field of work. This takes time, effort and thought. You have a voice of your own and have an opportunity to contribute as a leader in your field. Your brand is the recipe for your success as it can be the difference between people genuinely remembering who you are. And it is always worth investing the time in developing your brand so that you’re in control of the narrative. So with that in mind, here are a few tips for shaping your personal brand.

Find the right platform

First things first. If you’re going to start working on your personal brand, you need to understand where your ideal audience is to start working on your online presence. Whether that is through a personal website, Twitter, LinkedIn or events, you need to know where these people come together to speak about the things that matter to them. That way, you can be present and start to build relationships with the people who are sharing their opinions and could potentially hold some influence.

Be a valuable source of information

Every piece of content that you share or create serves a purpose. From the articles that you write to the quotes that you post, they should be adding value to the conversation that you are taking part in. Search engines and social media platforms are already full of a never-ending stream of content. The last thing you want to do is just add to the noise!

Practice what you preach

Consistency and authenticity are key with all brands, whether they be people or large organisations. But before you ask anyone else to follow a particular path or take an action, you should be doing so yourself. The purpose of a personal brand is to amplify the values that you stand for and that can only happen when you are matching the expectations that you have set.

Use your voice

Trying to be something that you’re not, or who you think other people want you to be, is a recipe for disaster. But, more often than not, people do this without realizing. You have to uncover what it is that you stand for and that means taking the time to really think it through and asking yourself thought provoking questions. Ask people around you what they hear when you speak – often they can see elements that you may miss.

Accept and embrace imperfections

Perfect doesn’t exist for a reason. It’s unattainable, unreal and most importantly unrelatable. People are influenced and inspired by the people that they can relate to; the people who they see a piece of themselves in. And that’s why it’s important to show the unpolished side of yourself. The side that makes mistakes, hits road blocks and occasionally feels demotivated. Because that way, you can show that you overcame all of those challenges to get to where you are right now. People like fighters, and your imperfections can prove that you are just that.

How Can You Make Time to Fill Yourself Up?

The thought of filling yourself up after a long day can be exhausting. That said, I’ve been spending more and more time focusing on the concept of filling myself up so that I can serve better and serve more. Let’s be honest, work can be incredibly draining. The 9:00-5:00 isn’t really only 9-5, and so many workplaces are building in the time for lunch, so you actually work a full 40 hours instead of 37.5 (let’s talk 8:00-5:00 or 9:00-6:00 instead if you get a full hour break midday). For those of us who commute, add an extra 30 minutes to an hour onto each end of that, and it’s no wonder that we’re depleted (sometimes even before the day begins simply at the monumental 11 hours in front of us, and that’s assuming we have no plans or evening meetings after work).

Yes, work can go quickly, particularly when I’m working on a project that is absolutely inspiring me. However, it’s still give give give. So many of us have been taught that we need to put others first, that making/taking time for ourselves is selfish or greedy. Truthfully, taking time for myself is what allows me to have more energy to do better and give more to others. This is where that thought comes in each day: What have I done today to fill my cup so that I am not drained later or tomorrow? Whatever you choose, remember it’s all, completely unapologetically, all about YOU.

I have three things that work for me that might work for you, too.

Do something small for yourself every day. Sure, you spend 24 hours a day with yourself, but did you do anything today to benefit you first? Small can be making tea in the morning or before bed, sitting quietly for 15 minutes as you enjoy it, and making yourself the top priority, or it can be treating yourself to breakfast on the way to work. Figure out what makes you smile and do that thing.

Work it out. I find exercise to be a great way to energize myself while also burning off any negativity I’m carrying. Go to yoga, take a walk at lunch with a coworker, or put on a workout video for 20 minutes at home. More into meditation? That’s great, too! We’re simply glad you’re taking time for you.

Make the whitespace. Say no. We talk a lot about boundary setting here at BizGalz, but I’m going to say it again. It’s. 👏 Okay. 👏 To. 👏 Say. 👏 No. 👏 For real. Boundaries are totally acceptable and it’s okay to have some nights in (if that’s your thing, although I know other people fill themselves up by being social butterflies). Be true to you. It’s 100% okay to say no and to keep some unscheduled time for yourself.

Whatever you do, whatever you choose, unapologetically make time for you. How will you fill yourself up today?

Why I Split My Website in Order to Streamline My Business

A box of office supplies

When confronted…Well…confronted is too strong a term…Let me begin again….

When some boss friends confided that the religious undertones in my website were a turn-off, it became a concern for me. They admitted that if they didn’t know me already, they would worry about being judged, preached to, or that I would try to convert them into nuns standing on street corners, in a sandwich board, screaming lines from Exodus. (Can you picture it?)

I am a United Methodist through and through BUT I don’t preach and don’t judge when talking to my clients (although, I have cussed out my computer and bad drivers from time to time). A while after I met my boss friends, they learned that I have a strong faith and want to help churches and faith-based organizations spread their word, their work, and their good. I also want the local bread shop, barber, tattoo artist, or any other small business to succeed. I don’t believe that a church has to work strictly with a faith-focused business and also that a secular business can’t work with a Christian business owner. We should all be able to work together to make the client’s goal a success no matter if we are Bible thumpers or Marilyn Manson concert goers (great concert by the way.  A bit too long between costume changes, but great show!). We should be able to see the business’s or organization’s vision and help it come to virtual reality.

Everybody get together try to love one another right now.

As a digital marketing specialist, I thought it would be smart to create a second website called Covered-Dish.com. Covered-Dish.Com focuses on digital marketing and web design for faith-based organizations. On my original website, PetreyDish.com, I removed all mentions of faith. Well, almost all. I kept some details in my bio.

Here’s why I split my business (web-wise) in two

Major reasons:

• Clarify target market
• Remove possible confusion
•Remove religious undertones
• Strengthen religious tones

Minor reasons:

• Better SEO
• Better targeting for faith based groups
•Prevent secular businesses from being biased (no preaching or quoting
scripture here!)

Katey at work
(Photo credit: Sarah Kane Photography)

Does it take twice as much time to market?

Surprisingly… No! Yes, I did create a separate Facebook Page and Instagram account. I’m not really focused on those at this time, but they are there and I post sporadically. When I do spend time on social media marketing, it takes about ten extra minutes. Hootsuite has been a great help with that. Hootsuite allows me to schedule out posts in advance so when the ideas are flying and get knock them out and get them scheduled. I also make sure to spread them out so it’s not ten posts one week and then nothing for the next two weeks. Some consistency is important.

I am focusing more on the websites for now. Using the same article, I can change “business” to “church” or “faith based organization” and change “clients” to “community” to create two different pieces. One for each site. I also reword the content a little so it’s not exact because Google is a smart bot and doesn’t like it when posts are too similar.

No, I didn’t get a second business license. I did not set up a second billing system. I do not have a separate location or a different pet to have in the office for my Covered-Dish.Com clients. For clarity and to appease the Biblically sensitive, I made a simple change in marketing strategy and use the same email on both websites. Have my main site and marketing more secular and have a second site be more Peace, Love, and Joy. Now go and be blessed.

Can’t we all just get along?
For crying out loud!
Come on!

Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.

The Difference Between Being Busy And Productive

There is a difference between having a lot of things to do and getting a lot done. But, we’re often told that being busy must mean that you’re productive.

Wrong.

Productive by definition means “achieving a significant amount or result,”while busy is “having a great deal to do or keeping oneself occupied”. The very difference between the two is that productivity produces results. Being busy just means using (or in some cases wasting) a lot of time and probably not getting the end result that you’re looking for. So how do you know if you’re really being productive? Here are 7 ways to determine whether you’re good at keeping yourself busy, or super productive.

1. Busy people find it hard to prioritize. Productive people have (only a few) priorities.

We’ve all heard someone say ‘there aren’t enough hours in the day’, I’m sure you’ve even caught yourself saying it a few times (I know I’m guilty🙋🏾‍♀️). How would you feel if I said there is no such thing as being too busy?

If a task, project or objective is important to you, you will find a way to incorporate it into your timeline. Having three or four priorities allows you to stay focused and work towards achieving the desired result. Having 20 priorities creates a headache and doesn’t give you time to complete anything. So when you find yourself running out of time, ask yourself if you have prioritised too much.

2. Busy people have “things to do”. Productive people have a mission to complete.

Busy people hide their lack of focus by creating a longer list of things that should be done. There isn’t a sense of direction in their actions, just a multitude of things that consume their time.

Productive people are on a mission. Their actions are driven by the conscious decision to achieve a particular result and everything that they do is geared towards it.

3. Busy people always say yes. Productive people know the power of saying  no.

Busy people often over promise and under deliver. In their attempt to fit more into their never-ending to-do list, they take on projects and make promises that simply can’t be kept. They often do this with the best of intentions(after all we can’t complain about the person who wants to help everyone). But you also have to know when it’s time to help yourself, and that comes with knowing when to say no.

Productive people understand that time is of the essence and that, to produce quality work, they need to have time and space. They say no, not to upset people, but because they’re aware of their limits. Because sometimes you have to be a bit selfish to get things done.

4. Busy people focus on “doing”. Productive people gain clarity before taking action.

Documenting your decisions can be one of the best things that you can do. It allows you to clearly understand how your actions are having an impact on your life and what you need to do in order to progress. Taking mindless action doesn’t produce a lot of results. We live in a world where people are more interested in updating Instagram than they are proactively monitoring their personal growth. Don’t fall into the trap. Make sure that everything you do is inspired by your personal mission.

5. Busy people have too many options. Productive people focus on a few.

Everyone goes through a stage of wanting to do it all: to travel, save money, move out of home, get a degree, learn a language or get promoted at work. However, you do get to a point where focus becomes a necessity. You may want to do all of those things, but it is impossible to do them all at once. If this year, I want to start saving for a deposit on a flat, it’s probably not the best time to book flights to travel the world. So make sure that you know what you have to trade off in order to get what you’re aiming for. Remember there has to be some short term sacrifice for long term gains.

6. Busy people talk about time flying past. Productive people talk about what they’ve achieved.

As they say: work hard in silence and let success make the noise. Busy people might have a lot to do and not too much to show for it. Not because they aren’t capable of doing better, but because they are channelling their energy into for too many things.

Productive people can tell you exactly what they have achieved in the past few days, weeks or months because progress is their aim.

7. Busy people multitask. Productive people find their focus.

Focus can do so much for you.

In theory, multitasking seems like a great idea. Why not kill two (or more) birds with one stone? It sounds like you’re getting double the amount of work done in a shorter amount of time. But, what it really means is that you don’t finish many tasks because your time has been divided. Productivity is completing a task to a high standard and doing that requires focus.

There are plenty of great ways to do this. If you haven’t heard of the Pomodoro technique – check it out! You set a timer to 20 minutes and the aim is to focus on one thing and should you get distracted (by checking your phone, running off to get water, surfing the net), you have to reset the clock. Brutal? Maybe. Effective? Most definitely.

Think about how much you could achieve when you’re being productive. Don’t allow your potential to go to waste by consuming your time with ‘busy’. Instead of focussing on how much you have to do, focus on how completing each task will bring you one step closer to achieving your goal.

Setting the Leadership Table

Meeting

I am consistently amused by those who try to take a definitive position on the appropriate placement of women in leadership roles. In fact, I am amused, if not sometimes concerned, when anyone takes hardline positions on most anything. There are simply too many variables to say “always” and “never.” Yet, you hear such pontificators every day.

I’ve studied a bit about leadership and the only conclusion I can draw is that each and every person comes to the leadership role with their own set of unique assets, experiences, and attributes. While, certainly, science has drawn some broad conclusions about “typical” people and “usual” outcomes, people are simply not that predictable. Most men act like “men” (whatever that means) and most women act like “women” (again, whatever that means), but these generalities are not very helpful in predicting leadership success or failure. As the saying goes – Yes, you are unique. Just like everyone else.

 

What do you bring to the leadership table?

Whatever your formal education, your work experiences, your innate skills, or your missing elements, you are as entitled to seek a leadership mantle as anyone else. Not everyone seeks major leadership roles, and that is fine. All organizations need leaders at all levels of the organization. With the wise move to integrated performance teams, shared leadership is common in most organizations today. Everyone is expected to lead to the best of their ability even if their leadership extends no further than their personal self-discipline. Which highlights a very critical point – you are already a leader. You might lead your family or a charity or a work project or any number of other things but as a bare minimum – you lead yourself. And like all leadership roles, you may do that well or very poorly.

So rather than lament that fact that you were born male or female or black or white or Asian or liking sushi or being lactose intolerant or anything else (yes ANYTHING else) about you, you have a leadership role that you can grow as large as you choose to grow it. And that is the key. Once you select a comfortable span of leadership, can you sustain it and, hopefully, grow it?  

Many people are placed in leadership roles. That does not make you a leader. As Goffee and Jones have noted:

If you are lucky enough to be put into such a role, do you ask yourself, “Why did they choose me? What if I can’t perform in this role?” Or do you ask, “What must I do to properly grow into this leadership role and become a sustained leader?” Clearly the first question you ask yourself will influence what happens next.

 

 How do I grow as a leader?

In my research, I have identified 229 different elements of leadership. No one is perfect in all of them and everyone has a unique set of elements where they have already shown different levels of success. To sustain that leadership, to grow into your new leadership role, there are several things you can do immediately. First, consider your natural and already developed traits. Know yourself.

Do you exhibit good character or do you have a collection of company office products at home?

Do you have the appropriate level of competence or do you need to learn more about the operations of your new team?

Do you have the appropriate level of compassion toward those you lead, or do you put people down in public?

How good is your communication? Are you comfortable expressing your vision, or does your public persona “er” and “um” every time all eyes in the room are on you?

What level of commitment do you have to the overall vision and mission? Does the vision you have developed for your team align with the overall organizational goals or is the team confused and befuddled by your vision and their role in fulfilling it?

These five elements – Character, Competence, Compassion, Communication, and Commitment – combine to form the backbone of leadership. All leaders should review these traits regularly, spending time to dig deeper into the lower level elements to assess their performance.

 

Staying on Track

There’s another assessment of your leadership skills, something I call the Essential Leadership Journey Checkpoints (ELJCs). These are:

Character (again)
Being a constant learner
Developing situational awareness
Being decisive
Being focused and disciplined
Developing other leaders
Having vision

As you review all 229 elements, you might select others where you believe you need more development as a leader. That’s fine. In fact, that decision reflects a level of self-awareness that is a positive leadership trait.

These seven ELJCs reflect seven areas where people in leadership positions most commonly fail. You may be able to retain your position for a season, but an inability to master these seven will ultimately cause your leadership to become unsustainable. Character includes the elements of honesty, integrity, and knowing yourself. A leader who does not engage in constant learning will soon atrophy and become a dinosaur with technology, among other things. Being a regular reader and exposing yourself to new opportunities are essential parts of this element. A sustained leader develops their observational abilities to be able to assess a variety of situations as quickly as possible. Whether it is negotiation posturing, the level of talent that is available, or a specific developing opportunity, the sustained leader will gather facts quickly and choose a course of action. Being decisive allows for progress on goals without undue delay. A focus and disciplined approach to the tasks at hand prevents wasted resources and ensures that the goal is achieved – the final product is delivered as promised. A leader’s vision inspires the team toward a positive goal, and through example and formal development, on the job and in more structured environments, the sustained leader ensures that there is a strong cadre of developing leaders to assume more responsible leadership roles. Each of these is critical to sustainable leadership.

 

Identifying Areas of Weakness

A particular trait of yours might be another area that could derail your leadership journey. Are you a narcissist? Often such people get “seen” and are put in leadership roles, but their hubris and ego cause their followers to abandon them. Do you procrastinate and allow yourself to be paralyzed through successive rounds of analysis? A bias for action is a favorable leadership ability. Or is your paralysis most on display when you attempt to speak to larger groups? Do you hold a sense of privilege over your position, or do you try to manage by rumor and gossip? All of these are examples of where leaders have failed, sometimes spectacularly!

Assess yourself.
Look for your areas where development will enhance your leadership.
Engage in constant learning and improve your leadership abilities.

 

Where Do I Go From Here?

Whatever your starting point, your set of strengths and weaknesses, or your personal background, you have the potential for leadership.

When you look around at the state of leadership across the world today there is something very puzzling. We have leadership institutes and think tanks. There are courses of study and college degrees. Leadership development is one of the major training expenses in many organizations and more than 1000 books on leadership topics are published every month. Why then does there seem to be such a lack of leadership in business, government, and charities? In Jeffrey Pfeffer’s recent work Leadership BS he notes that both the development and selection of leaders across society seems to be badly broken. I agree.

The determining factor for success is your personal choice. Do you want to develop yourself as a sustained leader or not?

The solution? Changing the world, one leader at a time.

It’s your turn.

 


Sustained Leadership WBS

Never before in the leadership literature has such a comprehensive review of the attributes, traits, characteristics, abilities, and practices been so well developed. Using a Work Breakdown Structure approach borrowed from project management disciplines, Sustained Leadership WBS takes that metaphor a step further in defining the scope of work in building a leader. It provides the necessary “Work Breakdown Structure Dictionary” that provides a proper lexicon for discussing leadership and giving everyone a proper roadmap for the personal development. Sustained Leadership WBS can be purchased wherever books are sold online or in-store.