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Monthly Archives: May 2009

Is Striving to be Superwoman Getting Old?

I’ve spent a good number of years researching the crises of working women today, and how we can overcome them.  In the process I’ve learned so much about what it means to craft a rewarding, fulfilling professional and personal life on your own terms. 


One fascinating trend I’ve observed in working women is something I call “overfunctioning” (a helpful concept I learned in my training as a marriage and family therapist).  Overfunctioning is doing more than is necessary, more than is healthy, more than is appropriate – for everyone around you at work and at home.  (For more on this tendency in women, see pages 180-1 of my book Breakdown, Breakthrough)


Why do we overfunction, and how can we step out the cycle, to reclaim our energy and our lives?


Please check out this recent great blog post, “How to Be a Super Woman Without Being Superwoman” on WorkIt, Mom! for more on overcoming our Superwoman tendencies.  It ain’t easy, but it’s definitely worth the effort to shed the cape and give it a rest.


Here’s to functioning that’s just right!


What Employers Can (and Must) Do To Support Women at Work

 I recently penned a cover article called “Women in Today’s Workforce Have Unique Opportunities: A New Call to Action for Women – And Employers” for CA Employer, the monthly newsletter of Employers Group (


The article shares critical information about the 12 common crises working women face today, as well as 8 recommended approaches for employers to take that will help women not only survive the current challenges they face, but ultimately thrive in their professional roles.  These recommendations are based on six years of research with professional women, as well as coaching and seminar work with thousands.


I’d love your views about this article, and my recommendations.  Do your personal experiences as a working woman match the crises and challenges I describe?  And do you believe that the initiatives recommended would go the distance in helping you as a working woman overcome your challenges effectively?  If not, what would you suggest employers do – specifically and tactically – to support women in overcoming the obstacles they face.


Please share your experiences, insights and viewpoints.  Add your voice to the discussion, and your recommendations to the research.  Diversity of thinking is so vital today, and a real, authentic, and contemporary dialogue about what career women are facing is needed.


Thank you speaking up and being an active participant in this powerful breakthrough movement for women.


Been Harshly Criticized Lately? What To Do When Others Try to Make You Wrong

This week, several friends and clients have mentioned to me that they’ve been severely criticized for their views and standpoints.   Anyone who has stood up for something they believe in — and been attacked for it — knows it’s challenging at best, devastating at worst.


What should you do if you’ve been harshly demeaned or criticized for your thoughts and views?


Here are five tips that have helped me tremendously as an author, speaker, and women’s advocate, to weather the storm of criticism, and come out on the other side feeling whole and confident:


1)       Remember, what people say is more about them than you

I learned in my therapy training that what comes out of someone’s mouth is more about them than you.  Much more.  Their views and words represent (and project) their years of cultural training, experience, upbringing, traumas, lessons, and biases (as well as their insights and wisdom based on their unique filter and history).  So remember that each individual has a custom-tailored view of life that may or may not fit your own.  It doesn’t have to.


2)       People who attack you are coming from a deeply fearful place

When someone attacks you verbally, they are coming from a deeply insecure and frightened place.  They’ve been rocked by what you’ve said and done, and feel they need to put you down.  Take a look at what you’ve said (and how you’ve said it) that may have instigated a defensive stance from someone else.  But remember that you don’t have to own how they respond to you.


3)       When someone wants to make you wrong for your beliefs, they often feel threatened by your out-of-the box thinking

I’ve noticed that when I present thinking that is different from the status-quo, it can lead to a harsh challenge.  Presenting views that ask others to question how things have been done for years, or shed light on trends or behaviors that need to be critically examined and revised, can ruffle people’s feathers.  They feel threatened that you want to expose something they’d prefer to remain hidden.  So be it.  But don’t let that stop you.


4)       Narcissists in our world abound

Narcissism is rampant in our society (those of you who live and work with one know what I mean!).  A narcissistic individual can’t tolerate being challenged, and needs to make you wrong if you disagree with them.  They’ll go to tremendous lengths to “prove” they are right (and superior).  If you have a narcissist in your life or work, you feel you can’t express yourself without being punished.  Pay attention to those who harshly criticize you for your different views – if they have narcissistic tendencies, realize that you can’t win with them.  Don’t engage, as it will prove only a lose/lose endeavor.  Just protect (and extract) yourself best you can from their harmful way of thinking and behaving.


5)       Finally, use it as a growth opportunity 

Stand up for what you believe in.  When others don’t agree with you, don’t doubt yourself and make yourself wrong.  Get connected to what you truly believe in, strengthen your boundaries, learn to deal effectively with rebukes, and remain steady in who you are and what you believe. 


But at the same time, use this criticism for your own learning and growth.  If your words have been hurtful and diminishing to others, perhaps it’s time to look at what may be longing to be healed or addressed inside of you.  Reconnect to compassion, understanding, and inclusion in your thoughts and words (and in your relationship with yourself and others).  Our world needs much less judgment, criticism, and pain, and much more love, strength, compassion, inclusiveness, and respect.


If you’ve been criticized harshly, take some time to fully explore your part in it and what you can learn from it.  In the process, show compassion for yourself and others, grow from the lesson, accept that you (and everyone else) is doing the best they can…then move forward.




Women Bullying Women at Work: Can We Reverse the Trend?

I was very happy to see that in a recent NY Times article, the widespread phenomenon of women bullying other women at work was explored in depth.  It touched on the various factors that contribute to and exacerbate women bullying women, and I’d like to add my two cents.


In my 18-year corporate life, I experienced a great deal of bullying from women, most of which came from female bosses and a handful of “equals” in the political hierarchy.  These experiences were traumatic, and I had no clue how to effectively navigate through them, mostly because they were so surprising and painful, and also because these women wielded great power and authority in the organization.  It felt like these ladies were “out to get me” or simply relished being cruel, but I always questioned how or why this could be.


I was, for the most part, strong and authoritative at work, and often, that strength would beget jealousy and anger from my female coworkers (interestingly, not from my male colleagues or bosses, who seemed to enjoy and respect the strength and confidence).


Once, one of my female counterparts in marketing indicated to me – in a cruel way – that an email I had sent to senior management (about my belief that we needed to explore a new business model as the current one was at risk of obsolescence), had been the “nail in my coffin.”  I hadn’t known I was in a coffin!  I realize now that she was an active participant in building this “coffin” and driving the nail even further with her mighty hammer!


Please don’t get me wrong – I’m no saint.  I did my share of back-stabbing too.  But after years of work (therapy training helped!), I’ve gained critical awareness of when I’m at risk of putting other women down.  Also, I feel better about myself than I did in the past, which makes room for empathy and compassion rather than cruelty.  I have a new-found vigilance about not allowing that cruel, back-stabbing, insecure little girl in me get the better of me, when I feel afraid or threatened.  I slip up sometimes, but I’m working on it.


So why do women hurt other women at work?  I could write a whole book about this, but I believe there are some potent underlying reasons:


·     Women are experiencing enormous pressure and stress (more now than ever), and haven’t learned effective ways to deal with it, so they turn on others

·     Women target other women because they feel insecure, and also believe women won’t fight back as hard as men will

·     Women continually feel threatened and anxious in their positions in the workplace, and have a mentality of  “it’s you or me” with regard to women

·     Corporations, from the top, often encourage this type of competitive warfare and infighting

·     There are precious few forums for women at work to experience each other as supportive, empathetic, and encouraging

·     From an early age, girls/women have been culturally trained to deal with their anger and insecurity through insidious ways — back-stabbing and gossiping, etc. — rather than dealing with their problems and conflicts head-on, directly, and overtly.


I’d love to see in my lifetime a reversal of this damaging trend for women at work (and in the world at large).  Can women evolve, stretch, and grow to the point where their deepest wish is to help and support other women, rather than hurt and diminish them? Can they learn to deal with their own insecurities and anxieties in more positive ways?


What do you think is at the heart of women bullying women at work, and what can we do about it?  Please share – we need to fuel a powerful dialog on this issue, and continue to create positive movement.





Thinking About Starting Your Own Business? What You Should Know

After 18 years in the corporate world, I struck out on my own as an entrepreneur, informally in 2003, and officially in 2007 when I launched Ellia Communications.


I am infinitely happier, more fulfilled, balanced and healthier as a business owner —  rather than working in the corporate world for someone else, selling someone else’s products that I didn’t believe in.  I realize now that, from the beginning of my career at age 22, I was completely wrong for the corporate thing – I hated (and failed miserably) at office politics, couldn’t suffer fools lightly, dreaded be locked into my four walls and going to the same office each day, suffered through the tediousness of committee decision, longed to use my creative talents more authentically… the list goes on and on.  I know now it’s the right thing for me to be on my own, creating and marketing my own products and services, and leading my own organization.   It feels very right.


But despite my years of high-level corporate marketing experience and overseeing multimillion dollar budgets for national products and services, there were thousands of things I didn’t know about marketing and running my own business, such as how to effectively sell yourself as the product, and how to get over the discomfort of making money from helping people who are often in distress. 


I’m supremely proud of what I’ve created with Ellia Communications, and where it’s going.  But I’d like share a few vital questions that I wish I’d considered prior to embarking on the hero’s journey of having my own business. 


Seven questions to consider before launching your business:


1)  What is Your Professional Style?

Explore deeply all of your preferences as a professional.  Think about what you love to commit to, and what drains you, the type of structure you thrive in, and the conditions that make you miserable.  Answer these questions:


What are your ideal preferences in your worklife:

Structured or flexible organization

Hierarchical or egalitarian model

Type of people you work with

Type of products/services/programs you wish to contribute to or promote

Hours you wish to work

Ideal commute

Pace of Work Environment

Prefer leading or following

Prefer solo or team endeavors

Financial compensation you wish to receive

Vacation and other benefits you wish to have

Your primary goal in working


If your answers to these questions follow a more traditional path (such as wanting 4 weeks of vacation yearly, reliable and consistent salary and benefits, slower pace, working no more than 8 hours per day, etc.), being an entrepreneur may not be for you.


Overall, you need to know: is it a job or a “calling” you want?  If it’s a job, or if you’re looking for security, consistency, and stability, and very little risk, I’d say having your own business isn’t for you.


2)  Are You Running Away from Something?

Starting your own business shouldn’t be about running away from your previous professional problems.  If you’ve had bad bosses, faced discrimination, betrayal in the workplace, suffered in other ways in your corporate career, you need to address these experiences satisfactorily, and resolve your emotions around them, before launching a new business endeavor.  Otherwise, these problems will follow you in one form or another to your new venture.


3)  What Do You Truly Value in Work?

It’s vitally important to understand what you value in life and work.  A great question that will help you understand your core values is to ask yourself,


“When I’m 90 years old, looking back at my life, what do I want to have accomplished, stood for, given, and be known for?” 


Think about your deepest values, and if you’re honoring them today.  If not, why not?


I’ve observed that many folks who break out on their own — and make a true success of it — value the following:



Being Catalyst for Action/Change




Decision-Making/Power to Influence



Freedom; Independence; Autonomy

Helping Others

Influencing Others





Mental or Intellectual Challenge

Moral/Ethical Fulfillment





If you value a majority of the above qualities, you might be a great candidate for launching a successful small business.  (See my specialized Career Path Assessment for a full exploration of work values and preferences.)


4)  Can You Market Yourself?

When you’re in business for yourself, it’s a 24/7 job to market and promote yourself and your products/services.  You simply cannot do this sitting alone in your office, connecting with no one.  You need partners, affiliates, networks, vendors, suppliers, associates, clients and customers.  Most importantly, you need power, confidence, and clarity to market yourself effectively, and to stand out against the competition – to brazenly communicate how fantastic your services (products) are, and why folks should hire you.  You have to “name it and claim it” or you’ll get lost in the crowd.


So many consultants and entrepreneurs I know fall down in this area – they are simply too timid and lacking in confidence to get out there in the world and sell themselves.  Or they have no idea what separates them from their competitors (or why anyone should hire them).  If you’re shy and feel you can’t promote yourself effectively, there’s important work to be done to help you overcome this block.


(To help entrepreneurs on this front, I’m co-delivering a powerful new branding workshop with branding expert Robert Friedman, Founder of Fearless Branding.  See Ellia Communications Seminars/Workshops for more details.)


5) Do You Have the Energy For This?

Starting and maintaining a successful small business requires more energy and commitment that you thought possible.  What’s your energy level today – do you have the ability and energy to commit yourself to birthing this baby, and bringing it to fruition?  If your will is there but the energy is lacking, explore what you can do today to begin to restore and replenish yourself.  You’ll need vast amounts of positive energy if you want to make a go of it.


6) How Risk-Tolerant Are You?

Being an entrepreneur requires stepping into the abyss without a net – the risks you face are huge, and never-ending.  If you can’t tolerate risk, think again about starting a business. 


7)  What is Success to You?

Finally, think about what “success” really means to you.  Dimensionalize it, categorize it, claim it.  If it’s matching the corporate salary you used to make, that may take time (a great deal of it), and may not be a sufficient motivator to generate success as an entrepreneur.


If, however, success means any of the following to you, starting a business may be just your line of work:


Do you want:

  • Flexibility
  • Control over your choices, decisions and actions
  • Greater ability to choose how you balance work and family life
  • Leadership expertise
  • Freedom to follow your own creative visions
  • Ability to contribute to the world in a meaningful way that only you can do
  • Using your creative talents as you wish to
  • Your own unique voice to be heard
  • The thrill of birthing your own “child” in the form of a business
  • Passion, power, and purpose in your work
  • Feeling deeply aligned every day with your professional life

If the above resonate for you, now might be the perfect time to consider formulating a plan to launch your new business. 


I leave you with this: If you cannot not do it, then now’s the time to move forward.


See my website for a wealth of free resources, articles, and tips for helping you on your path, and check out SCORE for free help in developing a business plan.


Happy birthing!


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