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Catching Flies

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The poplar expression "You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar" is an accurate description of how our British-born Woman to Watch has found success and sanity in the U.S.

To know Carline Paxman is to know that success does not negate kindness. With a charming British accent and dainty feminine exterior, you might wrongly presume that the dog-eat-dog business world would eat her alive. It has not. As a Senior Vice President for PreVisor (, Caroline is one of two top female executive in her organization. She achieves success by combining intelligence, hard work, business savvy, and most importantly, a commitment to being the kind of person that clients want to work with.

Caroline’s sanity comes from her ability to compartmentalize work and family. When I see Carline at a school function (which I often do because our children attend the same school), I see Caroline the mom. She is totally focused on her children and talks with genuine enthusiasm about what’s going on in their lives. She does not talk about work or pressing client deadlines. She does not try to watch her children and her Blackberry at the same time. She’s committed to giving 110% to whatever she is doing at the moment.

If being fully engaged and focused on what you are doing in the moment requires discipline, then Caroline is the Queen of Discipline. She’s a wonderful role model for any of us who have a hard time disconnecting from work long enough to give our complete attention to the important people in our lives. Thanks for the reminder that being a successful professional woman is not about being engaged with work 24/7.

Your Boss is a Baby Boomer

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There are a few notable milestones that suggest a woman is not quite as young, cool, or hip as she used to be. Reading Ladies’ Home Journal is among the most legendary of these milestones.

It’s perhaps by no coincidence then that I picked up the May issue of Ladies’ Home Journal while I was waiting at the dentist office last week. With my 45th birthday just days away, it seems completely fitting that I’d be reading what I always considered to be my mother’s magazine.

One particular article jumped out at me because I’d recently presented to a group of young, talented graduate students who were embarking on their first professional careers. Their youthful perspective about the workplace was still fresh on my mind.

According to the article, there are now 4 distinct generations making up the workforce. They include:

  • Baby Boomers (born 1946 to 1964), range in age from 45 to 63 years old. They comprise 40% of today’s workforce.
  • Generation X (born 1965 to 1980), range in age from 29 to 44 years old. They comprise 36% of today’s workforce.
  • Millenials - aka Generation Y (born 1981 to 2000), range in age from 9 to 28 years old. They comprise 16% of the workforce, and the number is growing steadily.
  • Matures - aka The Silent Generation (born from 1922 to 1945) are 64 and older. They comprise 8% of the workforce, and the number is steadily declining.

As the article suggests, multi-generational workplaces introduce both challenges and opportunities. I’m personally excited to see what impact the Generation X and Millenials will have on the way Baby Boomers conceptualize and execute work in the future. I’m also curious to see how the definitions of success and sanity will evolve as these younger generations take over the top positions of power and influence in corporate America.

As it stands today, the top leadership positions are still monopolized by the Baby Boomers. They set the policies, procedures and expectations in the office. The Baby Boomers’ philosophy presides over the corporate culture.

A quick Google search informed me that the average age of executive women is 47 years old and the average age of executive men is 52. This means that most executives are Baby Boomers. As such, there’s a very good chance that your boss is a baby boomer too.

In my experience, Baby Boomer bosses expect the following:

  1. Employees will have respect and deference for the people above them on the organizational chart.
  2. Employees will be in the office Monday through Friday (at a minimum).
  3. Employees will willingly work long hours to impress their bosses, do their jobs well, and set themselves apart from the pack.
  4. Employees will demonstrate ambition by embracing whatever new opportunities and new responsibilities are made available to them.
  5. Employees will dress professionally at work.
  6. Employees will act with honesty and integrity in all they do.

I fully recognize that not all Baby Boomers subscribe to this list of expectations, but many of them do. I suggest you talk with your own boss about how his or her expectations support or contradict the expectations outlined above.

I also realize that the Baby Boomers’ expectations may seem ridiculously outdated to the Gen X’ers and Millenials who feel very comfortable working remotely from coffee shops on their Blackberries. The younger generations see nothing wrong with wearing well-worn blue jeans that transition seamlessly from the office to a nightclub and back to the office again. They can’t imagine why anyone cares about where they work or what they wear to work. But the Baby Boomers do care.

I’m not here to justify or defend the Baby Boomer generation. My goal is to inform the up-and-coming women leaders about these expectations. Information is power. By gaining information about what a Baby Boomer boss expects, women can make more educated choices about how they wish to conduct themselves in a multi-generational workplace.

For more information on this topic and others, visit Ladies’ Home Journal at Search "Working Women" and you'll be pleasantly surprised. It’s not just your mother’s magazine any more.

Move Over John and Kate

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Move Over John and Kate, Carol’s Got Her Own 8!

If you’re Carol Palmer you don’t need to watch the popular reality TV show “John and Kate Plus 8” to imagine what life would be like with eight children – you just look around your very own family to find out. That’s right; our April Woman to Watch is a mother of eight (from a blended family) with six children still living at home. She’s also a wife, cyclist, runner, and a Regional Sourcing Manager for Cargill. Are you feeling exhausted or inadequate yet? I certainly am.

When I first met Carol at a Cargill Women’s Council dinner earlier this year, I was immediately impressed with her energy. She radiates genuine happiness. I would never have guessed that she was the mother of eight. I would not guess that about anyone, let alone a successful career woman. I knew right away that I wanted to feature Carol as a Woman to Watch.

Carol’s story is living proof of the message that I repeat throughout my coaching: “The life you imagine for yourself is possible." She would be the first to tell you that her life is not perfect, yet she would also be the first to tell you that she would not change a thing.

The next time I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed by juggling my career while raising two kids, I’m going to think about Carol. If she can make it work, then so can I. If you have not read Carol’s blog yet, read it now. You’ll be amazed by her daily routine!

All working women can benefit from these three valuable lessons that I learned from Carol’s blog:

1) Make time for yourself. Everyone needs “me” time and one of the very best ways to spend your “me” time is to exercise. Exercise re-energizes your mind and your body. Successful business leaders at every level in an organization need both mental and physical energy to do their job well. Unfortunately, many working women abandon exercise when time gets scarce.

2) Communicate clearly. Carol lets her children know exactly what is expected of them in order to make a large family run smoothly. This type of clear and direct communication is a great quality in a mom, and in a corporate leader.

3) Choose a positive attitude. Attitude is often more important than aptitude in a business setting. Companies reward people who have a “can do” attitude. Carol’s positive attitude comes across loud and clear. She chooses to enjoy what she calls “the organized chaos” in her life rather than finding fault in it.

Carol’s life is a wonderful example of a key principle from my book: Success and sanity are in the eye of the beholder. There is not, nor should there be, one pathway that all women agree upon. Kudos to Carol for creating a unique pathway that works for her!

Don't Stop the Madness!

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It’s March and you know what that means in corporate America? Yes, it’s time for the annual NCAA tournament office pool. Whether you actually care about men’s college basketball or not, now is the time to bond with your co-workers over the frenzy known as March Madness.

For about a $5 entry fee, you can and should participate in your office’s NCAA pool. There’s little skill required. The beauty of the NCAA tournament is that it’s always full of unexpected upsets, so the novice has almost as much chance of picking the winners in each bracket as the guy in Accounting who’s been tracking the team statistics all season long.

For many working women, March Madness stirs up bitter feelings about how sports dominate the work environment. The office pool is just one more reminder of how men use sports as a way of excluding women from the old boy’s network. It’s true, some men do use sports that way. However, not all men are looking to exclude women. Many men are actually looking to include women in their professional network, but don’t know how to begin. Sports offer a comfortable way for men to begin making connections with their female colleagues.

If you’ve missed out on the March Madness hype so far, it’s not too late to join in. I guarantee you the topic will remain hot through April 7th (the day after the championship game). For those of you who are unfamiliar with the topic, here’s a crash course in all you need to know:

• The tournament started with 64 teams and they’re down to the final four teams known not so creatively as “The Final Four.”
• Both of the semi-final games will be played on April 4th in Detroit, Michigan.
• Michigan State plays Connecticut and Villanova plays North Carolina.
• The two winning teams will then play one final game for the championship on Monday night, April 6th.

Of course I recognize that many working women enjoy sports just as much or more than their male colleagues. But for those of you who do not, I’m recommending that you embrace March Madnesss as a golden opportunity to network with your colleagues. I’m not suggesting that you become a phony sports enthusiast, but try to get into the spirit of the tournament as a way of building your professional network. We all know how valuable social networks can be to your professional success. So, don’t stop the madness. Welcome it for all that it can offer.

Down the Rabbit Hole

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In Alice in Wonderland, Alice falls down the rabbit hole and begins her whimsical adventure. The expression "falling down the rabbit hole" is often used metaphorically for people who are beginning a creative journey.

The expression is used in a far less positive way in the business world. I remember our CEO saying that people had "fallen down the rabbit hole" when they had lost a healthy perspective about work. They were stressed out, burned out, and overwhelmed. In short, employees who fell down the rabbit hole were often too far gone to be saved. There's not much room for success or sanity when you're deep inside the rabbit's hole.

Many times during my career I've seen successful people fall down the rabbit hole. Usually it's during time of tremendous workloads when sleep deprivation sets in and the ability to enjoy time away from work is all but gone. Co-workers can do their best to pull someone out of the rabbit hole, but most of the time it's the employee herself who must find her way out.

The idea of falling down the rabbit hole took on a whole new meaning for me this week when I witnessed my sweet 12 pound lap puppy literally pull a rabbit right out of its rabbit hole. I stood at my back door in complete horror as I watched my dog chase an unsuspecting bunny about her same size around our backyard. The mad dash was on until the bunny slipped safely into her rabbit hole. Or so I thought.

A second later I watched my dog pull the bunny right out of its rabbit hole by its tail. I'll spare you the gory details, but I can safely say that falling down the rabbit hole may have been magical and whimsical for Alice in Wonderland, but it was not so magical or whimsical for the poor bunny in my yard nor for the co-workers that I've seen it happen to.

The best way to keep from falling down the rabbit hole at work is to stay actively engaged in your life away from work. Remember to eat right, exercise, and get plenty of rest especially during times of high stress and heavy workload. You're 100% more likely to fall down the rabbit hole if you are mentally and physically exhausted.

Have you seen a friend or colleague fall down the rabbit hole? Were they able to get out? What about you - have you ever fallen down the rabbit hole? If so, what contributed to your fall and how did you find your way out?

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