What happened to my blog?!

You guys!! Yikes, I haven’t written anything in months! There has been A LOT going on. I started writing this blog post a couple of months ago, and it started off highlighting how crazy last year was and all the things that derailed me from taking care of my blog and sharing things with my readers. But, as if that wasn’t just life keeping me busy, life really threw me a curveball…I was laid off from my job a little more than a month ago. So, I think in retrospect I can say that the last 13 months have been a whirlwind.

So, I figure this blog post can be a reflection on the year, and some of the things I’m looking forward to this year…especially given the most recent changes for me professionally.

  1. I started a new job – and got laid off – I left a place I called home for eight years, and a place where I would say 95% of my best friends are from. It was hard, but is turning out to be one of the better decisions I’ve ever made. So, I left this last sentence here because it’s important for me to think about the fact that, at one point that move was a good one. It hasn’t been feeling like that as of late, but it’s a journey and I’m on it, so I have to try to make the best of it. I just have to remember that I made some amazing contacts and friends during the year I spent at that company, and that my friends cannot be replaced.
  2. I started working primarily from home – This was directly related to the new job, but it was quite an adjustment. It’s interesting because so many people tell me they could never be productive at home, but I actually found that I got more done. When you’re in an office there’s a lot of relationship building going on, which is natural, but also takes up a lot of time that you could be spending at your desk being productive. On the flip side, I no longer had that interaction and sometimes missed it. So, flip side now is that I may get that interaction back once I land a new gig, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t kind of looking forward to that.
  3. I traveled a ton domestically – this was also directly related to work, but undoubtedly an amazing experience. I tried to think about just how many places I traveled to and had to list them to ensure I didn’t miss anything (but I still feel like I missed one or two):
    1. Austin, Texas
    2. Orlando, Florida
    3. San Diego, California
    4. Portland, Oregon
    5. Chicago, Illinois
    6. Washington, D.C.
    7. New Orleans, Louisiana
    8. Atlanta, Georgia
    9. Tampa, Florida
  4. I adopted a cat (begrudgingly) – there was a little black and white kitty that was wild (somewhat) and my mom had gotten her fixed so she wouldn’t surprise all of us with kittens in the garage. One day we realized she had been attacked on her neck. It didn’t look good and being the empath that I am, I decided that she would be taken to the vet hospital, and that if I paid to get her all fixed up, she would have to stay inside with me. I now have a black and white cat named Lilly – she also goes by Lulu, mow-mow, and Lil (insert eye roll here). If you know me, you know that I have Ruby who I love very much, but also that I had a cat named Allie for 17 years who was special to me, so taking on another cat wasn’t exactly on my list. It took some months, but this cat who was scared of everything now sits on my lap every night while I watch TV. She has turned out to be a sweet cat (despite the number of rugs she destroyed and the vet bills I endured).
  5. I bought a new car! So, I wrote a blog post about my first year driving an all electric vehicle. Well, a year in it was still a really cool thing and I liked it a lot…three years in I was over it. Range anxiety is a real thing my friends! Maybe I should write a blog post on what it’s really like to have only one vehicle and have that vehicle be 100% electric? It made life a little more stressful, and who needs that? So, in true Nikki fashion I went in the complete opposite direction and now have a fully gasoline 4×4 SUV.
  6. I put my health and fitness first. Since October I have REALLY concentrated on getting healthier, eating better and just moving more in general. I have started working out 5-6 days a week, I began incorporating Pure Barre and the stairmaster (P.S. – I HATE the stair master), and signed up for a round of Faster Way to Fitness. I plan to write more about all of those things in future posts, but a little more than 15 pounds down and I’m just feeling so much better both physically and mentally. I know people always says that working out does so much more than make you lose weight. It really changes your vibe in general.

I’m keeping it a little short but sweet as a reintroduction. But, I have so much more to write about and share. I’m also planning to increase my presence on Instagram. There is so much more I can be sharing there as opposed to always just here on the blog. I am realizing we have to be grateful for what we have and when we have it. I lost my job but I have also gained a lot the last month – and for every door that closes a window opens – boy is that cliche of a saying so true!

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Part Two: Something we don’t talk about – Women CEOs

Hi all,

This is the second installment of my review and insights about the Korn Ferry Institute’s report on women CEOs. If you didn’t read the first one, please do! I will ground us quickly by highlighting what I discussed previously. The last post examined what characteristics are most prominent in women CEOs according to the Korn Ferry Institute, and next up I will share with you how the traits previously outlined are the ingredients needed to become a CEO. The main question Korn Ferry poses though is, what values and interests or motivators, referred to as drivers, guided the women’s career decisions?

According to Korn Ferry the drive for these women CEOs was described in one word, challenge. Thriving on challenge, and having been less interested in competition was a huge factor for women CEOS. Korn Ferry found that routine job promotion is generally not enough to stake the thirst for challenge, and found that their interviewers stepped knowingly into less-than-desirable, ill-defined roles because they saw potential in these opportunities, like diamonds in the rough. Tell me, have you ever done that? I know that I have. I didn’t do it with the end potential that I wanted to be a CEO someday, but more for the potential that the opportunity would give me a skill I may have been missing, or teach me something I needed to learn. There have been times where I’ve been in a job that I wasn’t maybe crazy about, and kept telling myself that there would be a lesson or something I would gain from that experience no matter what. And, often times it doesn’t feel like that will be the case in the moment, but it always turns out that there is a lesson to learn in everything…whether big or small.

Now, to tackle the notion that women thrive on challenge and are less interested in competition. Korn Ferry also heard from their CEOs that sometimes they were so intensely focused on whatever challenges were before them that they neglected longer-term career planning and mastering the “political” aspects of the organization. A typical refrain they found was: “I was head-down, delivering results in my current role.” It is hard to not get caught up in that, especially if the thought of competition or playing office politics is not interesting. Korn Ferry found that they are largely disinterested in inside-the-company competition. They preferred to let their results speak for themselves. I have always been this way, but have also found that unless you have someone in your corner helping exhibit your good work, it can sometimes go unseen and not “speak for itself.” According to Korn Ferry, this challenge-centric mindset explains a striking observation from their interviews: 63% of the CEOs either didn’t mention organizational barriers or explicitly said they were not hindered by being a woman. In some cases, organizations were seamlessly facilitating their growth and grooming them for leadership. I guess I’m a little cynical, and find this surprising, but also somewhat comforting. Maybe a tide is turning a bit for women in the workforce?

Independence balanced with collaboration

Korn Ferry’s assessment also revealed higher-than-expected scores for a driver called independence. These scores also indicated another dynamic – these women were happy to get things done on their own, and overall Korn Ferry sees female CEOs exhibiting benchmark levels of collaboration, so this hasn’t impeded their desire to foster and lead teams, to build consensus or to share responsibility. Korn Ferry does explain however, that there is a cautionary flag here. Those who become overly autonomous in how they work can later find themselves without the support, networks, or advocacy that they need around them to become CEO and stay there. There’s that key again, support, networks and advocacy. Many of the women Korn Ferry interviewed had strong late-career sponsors who pushed their careers forward, but then discovered they didn’t have the broad support they needed for their agenda as CEO. Others found themselves blindsided by competitive executives, or without enough allies when they discovered others were waiting – or rooting – for them to fail. So, a little bit of politics and keeping your head up may be a better route to go in the long run?

So, then Korn Ferry posed the question, “why doesn’t such drive produce more female CEOs?” According to them, the fact that women must exhibit such a huge appetite for challenge to reach CEO speaks volumes about the systemic barriers many women still face. Their adaptations to that working environment, further, can harm their chances of success. So, there’s a fine line to toe here. According to Korn Ferry, we will never know, for instance, how many women didn’t become CEO because they were more independent than well-networked, or because their humility undermined how they were perceived, or because organizations didn’t recognize their drive. Those are very situational reasons and of course are hard to measure, but definitely something to make you think about. Finally, Korn Ferry discovered that multiple studies have documented that women are more likely than men to leave positions in which they are unsatisfied. That doesn’t mean work is difficult or unpleasant. The CEOs who were interviewed quit or turned down jobs when:

  • The company didn’t meet their standards for integrity
  • The role lacked a sense of larger purpose or
  • It was a place where people were treated very poorly

I think this is important to note. If it doesn’t feel right, morally or supporting a larger purpose, we will find something else to do or somewhere else to go. I have always believed, if you’re REALLY not happy…LEAVE! It does nothing for you to stick around when you are unhappy, and that goes for any situation!

So what type of things motivate women in the workforce? According to Korn Ferry, more are motivated by work-life balance. The participants in their interviews never shied away from hard work, and they took no shortcuts. But they did, on average, express more desire or work-life balance than Korn Ferry’s CEO benchmark. All of them were currently or had been married, and said they had supportive spouses, though some didn’t find that until a second marriage. According to Korn Ferry, being a CEO is not a one-person job, and this was acknowledged by the participants. A CEO’s partner has to “lean in” too. The partners of the women CEOs often took primary responsibility on the home front, managing the logistics and outsourcing of childcare, while choosing to stay home or take jobs with more flexibility. Some even said that their career affected what kind of mother they were. One said, for example, her children were resentful of her career commitments when they were young, but came to admire her accomplishments when they were older. I mean, I guess it’s nice that her children came to admire her eventually, but yikes – that kind of resentment is a bit scary if you ask me. According to Korn Ferry, many pointed out that being a mother added to their abilities as executive leaders and it gave them a particular grounding and sense of perspective, as well as gave them practice on patience and compassion, along with setting appropriate boundaries, creating clear expectations, and making unpopular decisions.

Korn Ferry also found that women are motivated by purpose  and creating a positive culture. Purpose and mission were central to their messages as leaders and working to create a more positive culture was a primary way those women carried out purpose and mission in their companies.

So as Korn Ferry does for every section, they outline key takeaways for women and for organizations. I want to continue to highlight them for you because I think if you take nothing else away from these installments, you takeaway from this section something that could be useful for you in the future.

Takeaways for organizations

  • Organizations need to re-calibrate how they recognize ambition.
  • The drive in high-achieving women may not manifest as corporate-ladder climbing or jockeying for promotion.
  • Men who might be motivated more by advancement could be more willing to take any promotion as long as it progresses their careers.
  • If women hesitate or turn it down, this can be misconstrued by the organization as a disinterest.
  • Organizations also have a big problem if women aren’t interested in the top jobs that are offered.
  • Sr. leadership and c-suite roles need to be described in a way that captures the challenge and opportunity they present, as well as what outcomes are possible and needed. This is what speaks to women’s sense of purpose and desire to contribute value and shape culture.

Takeaways for women

  • To navigate into leadership roles, women have to resist inclinations to be overly self-reliant, which can be part of that “head down” focus.
  • They need to create a strategic network, because without those relationships they don’t have influence on the things that matter to them.
  • Results don’t speak for themselves; some positioning and packaging is needed for people to notice.
  • Women should seek out not just difficult challenges, but also “high visibility” ones.
  • Negotiating with a partner or spouse as to who takes a big job and who manages the personal side of life is crucial. This can have implications very early on, even in the kind of person who chooses one chooses as a partner.

I hope you enjoyed this installment! Next up I will examine some of the major turning points in women CEO’s lives that impacted their road to CEO per Korn Ferry’s research.

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Wishbonedreams Turns Two!

WordPress kindly reminded me that my blog turned two last month. Last year I was so excited and so aware when my blog turned one, that I did a whole reflective post and stats on my first year which you can read here.

This year, I was thinking it would be fun to reflect on my very first blog post, which you can find here Four Girls, a Road Trip & Camping. Two years ago myself and three girlfriends (the same three I was in Italy with), decided to road trip up to Oregon and go camping. And not some like comfy camping – I mean don’t get me wrong we had bathrooms and showers – but we also did good old tent camping. It was a lot of fun, but in reflecting on the post I realize how much my blog has changed. I’m still trying to figure out what the niche is – is this blog a travel blog? Not really. I travel, and occasionally share it on the blog, but that’s not it’s main focus. Is my blog about beauty products and outfits? At times I focus on those things, but not all the time. Is my blog about women empowerment and inspiration? Sometimes! The point here is that I still haven’t determined what this blog is supposed to be like, but people seem to enjoy it so I just write about whatever it is I’m feeling.

When I think back on the time I wrote my first blog, I had just changed jobs and was no longer doing executive communications. I was worried that my need to write wouldn’t be satisfied after removing that part of my daily work, so the blog was something to fill that void. It has definitely done it’s job! So much has changed since then! I am no longer working in that position, or at that company for that matter. I have traveled so much more since then – Italy, Mexico, all over the U.S. – and my relationships during that time have evolved, or gone away all together – both good things if you ask me 🙂 But what I’ve realized the most and appreciate the most is everyone who reads this little blog, and though I don’t always know how people are feeling about it, occasionally I’ll see someone I haven’t seen in a while and they’ll tell me how much they love reading my blog, and that is the reason I keep doing it! I enjoy it, it’s a way for me to express my feelings or share my experiences, but ultimately I love hearing that people enjoy it. For me, that’s the point.

I’m keeping this one short and sweet because really this is to say THANKS to the people who take the time read my little blog when it posts. Life gets hard sometimes and doing this makes me happy, and so I hope that reading it makes you all happy and relieves a little bit of the madness that life provides.

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Working from home: 10 ways to stay productive AND focused

A little over three months ago I started a new job which also includes working from home. I do have a local office about thirty minutes away from me, so if I do need to be present for something it’s not an inconvenience. I have to preface all of this by saying that I came from a previous work environment where it was often frowned upon to work from home. I will say that it was getting better (allowed one day per week to work remote – to enhance that work-life-balance stuff that everyone talks about, but no one really has), so I had a taste of what it can be like to work from home.

So, when the opportunity was given to me to expand my career, make more money, and work from home I was all too willing to explore it. I mentioned in a previous blog post that I did not make that decision lightly, and I stand by that, but the things that ultimately factored into making the decision I listed above. One of those big factors was a huge adjustment for me: working from home.

When I tell people I work from home their eyes light up and I usually get, “that’s so awesome,” “you’re so lucky!” but I also get the occasional, “isn’t it hard working from home?” “how do you stay focused?” Bottom line is this…it was an adjustment, and my boss at the time was worried that I would get lonely. She had previously worked at the same place I had been working and knew what the culture was like there, but I strangely found myself really happy – at first. I can be very social, but I can also be very, very introverted. It comes and goes. I have found though that working from home can contribute in both a negative and positive way when it comes to my state of mind and how I’m feeling.

The first couple of weeks on the new job I had to go into the office – I wasn’t quite set up for working in the system (IT stuff), so it was good to get to know some people so that when I am in the office I have someone to say hi to and chat with. But after that I was 100% working from home. Now that I’ve been doing it for a little over three months I thought I would put together some tips on how to stay productive while working from home, these are also tips on how I keep a positive state of mind while working from home:

  1. Act like you’re still getting up to go to work – I still set my alarm for 6:30 am. Also, it helps to get a jump start on the day because most of the folks I work with are on the east coast, and in some cases in Germany. Do I get fully showered and dressed at 6:30 am? No, but I do get my cup of coffee, launch the computer and start looking at what my day is going to be.
  2. Separate your work space from your living space – I learned this the hard way. My mom was painting my desk for me (she’s super crafty like that) so there was a delay in getting that space totally set up, which was fine because I was really just trying to get myself acclimated to the new world I had just embarked upon. However, I realized that working from the couch is a terrible idea. Imagine sitting on the couch and working for eight plus hours, then continuing to sit on the couch to watch TV in the evening? It was fine at first, but I realized quickly that having a separate working space from your living space is essential.
  3. Create a schedule/routine for YOU that works for YOU – Do you normally go to the gym like I do? I realized I now had the flexibility to squeeze the gym into the middle of my day. Not only does that break up my day, but it also gets something I dread leaving till the end of the day out of the way. It also gets me up and out of my desk chair. Which leads me to number 4…
  4. Take breaks – this may seem like a no-brainer, but here’s the thing…when you’re working at home you just crank things out. I’ve had days where I didn’t leave my chair for hours, which is not good! So, breaks for me consist of walking the dog, going to the gym, making my lunch and eating it not at my desk, folding my laundry and putting it away, even cleaning the bathroom! Seems ridiculous I know, but it gets you away from your desk to take a break, and in some cases mark a chore off of your list!
  5. Don’t stay in your pajamas all day – While some days this sounds like the BEST, believe me it’s not. Always get yourself out of your pajamas. I mentioned above that I start my morning in my PJ’s, but I don’t stay like that all day. I will often take my morning calls and then get ready for the day – even if that means putting on gym clothes for later – the bottom line is that you get yourself out of your pajamas! Sometimes I will get fully ready – makeup and hair without the intention of going anywhere, just to feel like I’m put together and not a total bum.
  6. Try to work no more than an eight hour day – I know I wrote “try,” and I did this because it’s not always that easy. For example, I took a couple of days off a week or two ago, I paid for it when I returned as I had two ten hour days that week. But it happens…and if it isn’t necessary then DON’T DO IT. Don’t put in the extra two hours every day just because. Would you do the same if you were commuting to an office every day? Probably not. Would you do it if you had deadlines etc.? Probably. Don’t change how much you would or wouldn’t work simply because you’re working from home and it is always accessible and right there at your finger tips.
  7. Keep your desk and general work area clean and organized – I try to clean up a bit every day when I’ve wrapped things up. It can be difficult at times, but if I don’t get to it, but the weekend I will definitely clean things up and get things organized for a good start to the following week.
  8. Make time for people – I have found myself cancelling plans because I get into this weird anti-social funk, which I believe is a result of working from home. Make yourself go and be social. Some weeks I’m dying to visit with friends, and others I’m introverting big time. Either way, try to make time for those people, it will give you a boost of energy and feeling of purpose outside of the house and your work space.
  9. Set daily goals – I did this even when I wasn’t working from home. I have this huge planner that I write my lists in (YES, I write my lists – I don’t keep them typed somewhere). I take great satisfaction in marking something off of my list. But, in all seriousness, if you kept lists or sticky notes everywhere in your work cubicle, do the same at home, it will help you feel comfortable and organized.
  10. Be grateful you get to work from home – don’t forget that working from home is a privilege – it really is! I commuted via train for ten years before getting the opportunity to work from home, and sat in a cubicle for the same amount of time. Don’t forget to be grateful for it, even if it feels like a challenge at times.

There you have it! These are just my tips with a mere three months in, but I think they are helpful. I’m sure they will change and I’m sure in another three to six months I’ll have more to add to this list, but these ten things I have found helpful in the early stages of working from home. Does anyone else work from home and have tips and or tricks to add that I didn’t list here? I would love to hear them!

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