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Monthly Archives: December 2011

A Holiday Wish and Musical Gift

As Christmas, Hanukkah and the New Year are happily upon us, I would like to wish you and yours a beautiful holiday season, and a New Year full of joy, peace, and prosperity.

I deeply appreciate being in community with you, and receiving each day the amazing gifts of wisdom, humor, insight, and support from all my colleagues, friends and peers.

A Gift of Music

Each year, my husband jazz percussionist Arthur Lipner (on the vibraphone) and I (on the vocals) love to share a little musical gift we’ve recorded.  Hope you like it (we’ve had a ball recording these tunes)!!
This year’s tune is (click the link to hear):
And here are previous years’ musical gifts, once again!
Click here:
You’ve helped make this year a wonderful one, full of joy, growth and learning.  May the New Year bring to you all that you hold dear.
Happy Holidays, and joy and peace in 2012 and always.
Much love,
Kathy Caprino
P.S. Check out Arthur’s documentary film in production – Talking Sticks!
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How to Make – and Fulfill – New Year’s Resolutions That Change Your Life

New Year’s Resolutions are promises we make to ourselves about a future vision we wish to achieve, but we often (dare I say “almost always”) lack the strategy, commitment, focus, and accountability to make them a reality. 

Here are five simple yet powerful tips to getting your groove on in terms of keeping these important commitments to your own success and happiness, and achieving true life change.

 1) Make your resolutions S.M.A.R.T.

Don’t just say – “I’m going to lose 15 pounds.” The vagueness of the “how” behind a big goal sets you up for failure.  Make each resolution a S.M.A.R.T. goal – that is, specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely.  So instead of “lose 15 pounds,” dimensionalize the goal and break it down into bite-sized pieces. 

 Develop a fully fleshed-out plan and articulate it in writing.  State something like: “Beginning January 7, I will follow my new plan to lose 1 lb per week. I’ll do it through my new nutritional menus, 3 days of 30-minute cycling per week, and a short hike each weekend.” Then monitor your progress each week and revise your course if necessary all along the way to your goal.  Remember: if you don’t DO anything different from what you’ve always done, nothing will change.

 2) Dream Big, But Add a Dose of Realism

It’s wonderful to dream big, but you also need to be realistic about the time, energy and commitment it will take to make your resolution a reality.

 If you want a lofty goal as a resolution such as “I will finally write my book,” first understand what you’re committing to in terms of time, money, focus, and actions that will make this goal a reality.  As an initial step, “try on” the goal (before making the resolution) by researching it online and offline, and interviewing five people you know who’ve published a book about what it truly takes to write one.  If after researching it, you feel you can and want to do it, make your resolution clear and manageable – “I will complete my manuscript by the end of 2011, finding the helpers I need along the way.”

3) Don’t Based Your Goal on the Negative – Juice it up with Positivity

If you hate your job and want out, don’t make your goal “I’ll leave my job by June.”  Reframe your goal to a more positive, expansive direction that encompasses what you truly want, not what you want to leave behind.  Shift your resolution to, “I will begin January 7th on a path of finding an exciting new job that aligns with my passions, talents, and skills.”

Then follow it up with the actions and endeavors required today to land a great new job.  First, figure out what you really want in the next chapter of life and work (take my free Career Path Assessment to gain deeper clarity on where you want to go.).  Then, take key steps to build your personal brand and a powerful network to support you.  Revamp your resume, reach out to recruiters, colleagues and friends, get more connected on social media and LinkedIn, and request endorsements on LinkedIn, for a solid start.

4) Connect With Your Capabilities and Past Successes

Before you make a resolution, think about times in the past you’ve achieved a great goal. How did you do it?  What motivated you, and how do you persevere through the challenging times?  Bring forward those traits and capabilities you already possess, and make sure those steps and abilities you’ve drawn on before are reflected in your new resolutions. 

For instance, a client of mine wanted to raise her fees in her consulting practice this year, but was nervous to do it in these recessionary times.  I asked her to recall a time when she asked for more money, and it worked out well.  She remembered asking for a raise in her corporate job several years ago, and getting it.  She brought to mind all the steps she took to accomplish that success (outlining her key achievements, doing research about what others at her level are earning, assessing the obstacles to her getting more money, becoming clearer about the value she brought to the table, etc.).  This past process that she successfully followed gave her the courage to ask for what she deserved in her new situation, and it worked. 

Bring all the learning from your past successes forward into your 2012 resolution success planning to show yourself you can do it.

5) Get Help To Be Accountable

We don’t achieve big goals alone, or in a vacuum.  That’s simply not how the best and most powerful work and accomplishments get done.  You need a collection of different helpers to fill in your “gaps” – including a mentor, a coach (if you can afford one), and a role model who is ten steps ahead of where you are today, and who embodies what you want and how you want it.  Realize what you don’t know, and get outside help to support you. 

As Einstein pointed out, we can’t solve a problem on the level it was created.  Ask your mentor or coach to hold you accountable.  Meet with them regularly to assess your progress, share your challenges, and ask for their insights into what you could be doing differently and how you can learn, grow, and change your mindset, habits and behaviors to achieve what you want.

 *  *  *  *  *

In the end, resolutions can be empty, unfulfilled promises filled with regret, or enlivening, motivating goals that help you be all you want to be in life and work.  It’s up to you.  I’d go for the latter! 

What’s your top New Year’s resolution for 2012 and how will you achieve it?

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Busting the Myth That Women Are Less Ambitious Than Men

Image by Jennifer Kumar via Flickr

I’ve heard over and over in the past several years frequent reference to the idea that professional women aren’t as ambitious as men.   Disappointingly, I even heard Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook (whom I deeply admire) mention this reported “lack of ambition” in women on The Charlie Rose show recently. To Mr. Rose she declared, “Until women are ambitious as men, they’re not going to achieve as much as men.”  There have been scores of articles written on the topic, including a 2004 Harvard Business Review piece, “Do Women Lack Ambition?” 

As a very ambitious professional woman who supports the advancement of other ambitious women, I’m truly sick of this myth.  I can tell you, from working with and speaking to thousands of professional women in the past eight years, it’s simply not accurate.  Ambition is not the issue, and lack of ambition is NOT what holds women back.  It’s the COST of ambition – and the struggle women face in pursuing their ambitions — that is at the heart of why we have so few women leaders today, and why women are achieving less and not reaching as high as men in corporate America.

The more we support this incorrect conclusion, the more disservice we do to the advancement of women.  Again, ambition is not the problem; it’s the enormous personal sacrifice women today must make (that men do not have to) in order to reach the top that halts women in their tracks.  And it’s the reality that even when women stay on a traditional career path and do “all the right things” they are unlikely to advance as far or earn as much as their male counterparts (see Catalyst’s recent study The Myth of the Ideal Worker).

Only when we address the root problem that keeps women from their professional ambitions, will we pave the way to greater progress.

 The Cultural Problem with Ambition

As an executive and leadership coach of hundreds of women each year, I know this:  Women do indeed start out their careers with similar levels as men of wanting to be the best and the brightest in their fields.  However, research studies that claim to examine women’s “ambition” as a term and a concept won’t reflect that, because of the complicated nuances and connotations of the word “ambition.” 

A recent study from the Center for Work-Life Policy showed that at the start of their careers, 47% of young women claim to be “very ambitious” vs. 62% of young men.  So we see a difference in self-reported “ambition levels” here even at the beginning of their careers.  I hear from professional women each day that the term “ambitious” has negative connotations for them.  Women shy away from using this term or claiming (or appearing) to be ambitious.  They want to reach the top, but are reluctant to describe themselves as ambitious because they fear it will make them appear arrogant, power-hungry, self-absorbed, with a “win at all costs” mentality.  Unfortunately, their fears are well-founded.  Success and likability are positively correlated in men, and negatively correlated in women (see Sheryl Sandberg’s TEDTALK on why we have so few women leaders and the Heidi vs. Howard Roizen study at Columbia University).  Women must worry about how ambition “looks” because appearing ambitious negatively impacts their success.  Men do not face this challenge.  On the contrary, it is culturally expected and honored for men pursue their highest goals and do what they can to reach their highest success.

But if we were to conduct solid, well-constructed research around the behaviors that make up “ambition” – mastery of a skill and desiring outward recognition for that mastery – we would see that an equal number of professional men and women start out their careers wanting to reach their highest potential and wanting recognition for their achievements.

What Gets in the Way of “Ambition” for Women

As women age, a bigger problem around “ambition” emerges.  In corporate America today, pursuing ambitious goals and outcomes presents deeply challenging choices and personal sacrifices for women that it does not yet generate for men.  Many more women have to sacrifice marriage and children in order to become top leaders, while men do not.

Per a 2010 study of the Center for Work-Life Policy, only 32% of women vs. 47% of men over 40 self-report to be “very ambitious.”  Why? Because the personal and family sacrifices are too great for women to remain on their most ambitious track.  The CWLP study showed that a full 41% of women who actually make it to the executive suite arrive without an intimate partner, and 40% arrive without children.  

In a recent New York Times article A C.E.O.’s Support a ka Husband, the author cites a new study “The New C.E.Os,” that looks at women and minorities who are chief executives.  The study reveals that of the 28 women C.E.O’s of Fortune 500 companies, only eighteen had children. That’s a far lower rate than the 87 percent of married women in the population at large who have children of their own, according to Census data.

The NYT article states:

“Statistics suggest that aspirants to America’s top corporate jobs had better have a spouse, partner or someone else willing to be devoted to the aspirant’s career. “How do you compete without a spouse? Basically, you can’t,” Richard Zweigenhaft said. Mr. Zweigenhaft is professor of psychology at Guilford College in North Carolina and the co-author (with G. William Domhoff) of “The New C.E.Os.”

My research bears this out as well.  Unless women have a solid support network at home, rising to the top is riddled with insurmountable challenges.

What needs to change for women’s ambitions to be achievable?

Women have made far more headway in the workplace than at home.  Women are still judged harshly and even “hated” when viewed as aggressive or highly successful in the workplace.  And the pressure is still enormous on men to succeed at all costs.  Only when our rigid gender roles shift allowing both women and men to honor their authentic choices and longings will we see a change in our current professional and leadership dynamic. 

Women will surpass their current rate of 16% in senior corporate leadership in the U.S. only when:

–  Our society stops putting men down for supporting their wives’ professional ascension (and staying home to care for their children if they choose)

–  Women stop shying away from raising their hands for the most advancement-oriented and ambitious projects, goals and endeavors that will advance their careers

–  Women grow more comfortable displaying behavioral and emotional characteristics of ambition

–  Society grows more comfortable with highly successful women

–  Both men and women shake off the rigid gender role limitations in place today

–  Women stop having to pay a price of success in terms of being less accepted, liked, and supported, and having to sacrifice their family and personal lives

–  Employers start listening to the facts about the current obstacles impeding women’s success, and take powerful, positive action to revise their work cultures

–  And finally, both men and women gain more courage to do what it takes to live and work as they want to. 

In the end, how can professional women reach the highest levels of corporate leadership? 

Stay in the workforce.  Stay true to both your personal and professional goals, and find a way to balance what you need and want most.  Don’t buy into the myth that you’re not as ambitious as your male colleagues.  You are.  If you want to be the best in your field, commit to finding a way to honor what you care about most in your personal and professional life.  If it’s not possible in your current work situation, find another that will support your advancement.

Make it happen.  And ask your employer for effective leadership and executive support and training that will change your existing work culture, and modify how you and others think about women, men and ambition.  It’s up to you.

What’s your biggest obstacle standing in the way of your ambition, and what are you doing about it?

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