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    Balancing Tips for Women in Leadership

    Work, carpool, laundry, grocery shopping, menu planning, PTA meeting, dinner with the in-laws, school festival, clean the house… the list of things that need time and attention seems endless.

    Do you ever lie awake at night because your mind won’t shut down from thinking about all you have to do?

    Have you ever felt like trying to keep everything in your life together is like trying to hold a beach ball under water, and if you let go things are going to explode?

    If you answered “yes” to these questions, you are in the boat with many other women. Unfortunately, this isn’t a healthy place to be.

    “I am seeing more and more women in my office who are experiencing stress at work and at home, relationship issues, peer pressure and a battle in their own mind about what it means to be healthy,” says psychologist Jan Sherbak.

    “Unfortunately, many of them are not handling the stress well. They find themselves depressed, feeling anxious, unable to quiet their mind and in general, miserable. In order to cope or dull the pain they use substances, food, obsessive focus on their body or simply withdraw from life, all of which interferes with the quality of their life.”

    When one area of life is out of balance, it impacts other areas such as physical and spiritual health.

    “In spite of feeling like things are out of our control, the truth is there really is a lot women can do to feel more in control of their lives,” says counselor Jessica Jollie, owner of Yoga Landing. “Studies show that when we exercise and have quiet time, whether it’s meditation or prayer, it impacts how we feel physically and how we respond mentally to all that we encounter throughout the day.”

    If your life feels like it is reeling out of control, here are three tips you might find helpful:

    • Take five minutes to just breathe. Taking slow, deep breaths can be very calming.
    • Instead of leaving your “to do” list whirling around in your mind, write it down. Some women have a pad of paper on their nightstand so they can write down something that comes to them in the middle of the night instead of fretting about forgetting it by morning.
    • Take a technology break and go for a short, brisk walk. Just getting out in the fresh air can make a huge difference in your attitude and your ability to tackle a problem.

    “This is a huge issue for women to tackle,” says Meg Brasel, a nurse midwife. “I see so much of this in my practice – women not thriving because they are overwhelmed. This doesn’t just impact the woman, it impacts everybody around her. Our goal is to give women tools to help them thrive at home and in the workplace.”

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    Work, Margin and Relationships

    Are there days when you feel like you never left the office or you just don’t have the energy to deal with the many demands of home life? Without even knowing it, many people are living life on the edge these days. They have this feeling that something isn’t exactly right, but they can’t quite put their finger on what would make it right. 

    Commitments, deadlines, long work hours, endless carpooling, sports teams, being “driven,” corporate goals looming with emphasis on the bottom line, trying to be actively involved in the community and raising a family are all things people expect at work and at home. 

    At a time when there is a lot of push for being more efficient and using less people-power to get the job done, people seem to be on the verge of becoming just another “machine” for meeting the bottom line. According to experts like Dr. Richard Swenson, author of “Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives,” this way of thinking is putting a strain on us and on our society.

    So many employees live for the weekend, but actually never get a break because they are tethered to technology. Not responding to emails over the weekend can make us feel guilty, and then Sunday rolls around and it feels like we never disconnected.

     One executive’s workday begins at 7:30 a.m. and ends somewhere between 6:30 and 7:00 p.m. In order to deal with family needs, she leaves her job around 5 to take care of the immediate family needs, grabs something to eat and heads to her home office for another couple of hours of work. 

    It doesn’t matter whether you are a super-organized person or not; plenty of people feel like they just can’t get ahead. There’s no rest for the weary and certainly no margin in so many people’s lives.

    More and more workplaces are developing family-friendly policies, and that’s good for families. But if your company’s policies aren’t meeting your particular needs, it may be time to reevaluate your situation. If you are thinking about creating more margin in your life, ask yourself what changes you need to make. It may take a while to implement your plan, and you may even have to take a pay cut, but realize that those changes could lead to less stress and more overall happiness.

    “Many times these types of changes occur only after experiencing a trauma such as a death in the family or a serious illness,” states leadership development consultant, Dr. Zelma Lansford. “People get so caught up in what they are doing because they think what they are doing is important. Then something happens that causes them to ask, ‘Is what I am doing getting me what I want?’ Often the answer is no. 

    “The key is getting people to ask the question, ‘Is what I am doing important and essential in my life based on everything I believe?’ before a traumatic experience comes along. People have to ask themselves, ‘If my life were going to end in the next two months, what would I be doing differently?’ We need to frequently revisit our priority list and focus on what really matters. What used to be so important can often become insignificant. An alignment of our values with work and activities can give meaning and satisfaction to our lives. A realignment moves us to a solid approach to life - which tends to create more margin.”

    When it comes right down to it, most people will not look back on life and celebrate the time they spent at work. Instead, they will celebrate the relationships they have had and their positive impact on generations to come. Before taking on any additional commitments, consider asking yourself, “In two months, two years, or 10 years, will I be glad that I did this?” Often we don’t think one more thing is going to make that big of a difference, when in reality it may be the very thing that sends us over the edge.

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    Understanding How Your Mind Works

    John Medina is a developmental molecular biologist with a lifelong fascination for how our minds react to and organize information. He is currently an affiliate professor of bioengineering at the University of Washington School of Medicine and director of the Brain Center for Applied Learning Research at Seattle Pacific University. 

    One of the outcomes of his journey is the New York Times bestseller, Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home and School. The provocative read takes on the designs of our schools and work environments.

    "Your brain is fully capable of taking little black squiggles on this piece of bleached wood and deriving meaning from them," Medina says in an email. "To accomplish this miracle, your brain sends jolts of electricity crackling through hundreds of miles of wires composed of brain cells so small that thousands of them could fit into the period at the end of this sentence. You accomplish all of this in less time than it takes you to blink. Indeed, you have just done it. What's equally incredible, given our intimate association with it, is this: Most of us have no idea how our brain works."

    Consider this. We try to talk on our cellphones and drive at the same time, even though it is literally impossible for our brains to multitask when it comes to paying attention. We have created high-stress office environments, even though a stressed brain is significantly less productive. The layout of our schools requires most real learning to occur at home.

    "This would be funny, if it weren't so harmful," says Medina. "Brain scientists rarely have conversations with teachers and business professionals, education majors and accountants, superintendents and CEOs. Unless you have the Journal of Neuroscience sitting on your coffee table, you're out of the loop. I wrote Brain Rules to help people become more productive by understanding what little we do know about how the brain operates."

    Medina asserts that, if you wanted to create an education environment directly opposed to what the brain was good at doing, you probably would design something like a classroom. If you wanted to create a business environment that opposes what the brain is good at doing, you'd probably design something like a cubicle. And if you wanted to change things, you might have to tear down both and start over.

    "My goal is to introduce people to the 12 things we know about how the brain works," says Medina. "I call these brain rules. For each rule, I present the science. And then I offer ideas for investigating how the rule might apply to our daily lives, especially at work and school.

    "Whether you are teachers, parents, business leaders or students, by using what we know about how the brain works -- such as how it's affected by stress, how it forms memories and what it takes to engage it -- we can identify ways to better harness its power and improve performance."

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    5 Ways to Overcome Loneliness in America

    We are a nation of millions, but Cigna Health Insurance recently released a national survey that reveals we are a lonely nation. 

    According to the survey of more than 20,000 U.S. adults:

    • Nearly half of Americans report sometimes or always feeling alone or left out.

    • One in 4 Americans rarely or never feel as though people really understand them.

    • Two in 5 Americans sometimes or always feel that their relationships are not meaningful and that they are isolated from others.

    • One in 5 people report they rarely or never feel close to people or feel like there are people they can talk to.

    • Americans who live with others are less likely to be lonely compared to those who live alone. However, this does not apply to single parents/guardians – even though they live with children, they are more likely to be lonely.

    • Only a little more than half of Americans have meaningful in-person social interactions on a daily basis, such as having an extended conversation with a friend or spending quality time with family.

    • Generation Z (adults ages 18-22) is the loneliest generation and claims to be in worse health than older generations.

    • Social media use alone is not a predictor of lonelinessRespondents defined as very heavy users of social media and those who never use social media have similar loneliness scores.

    Even though there are more ways than ever before to connect with others, the struggle to feel connected is very real and can not only lead to emotional issues, but physical ones as well.

    According to David M. Cordani, president and CEO of Cigna, this lack of human connection ultimately leads to a lack of vitality. 

    The good news is that this study reinforces that we are social creatures made for relationship and that communities matter. Less-lonely people are more likely to have regular, meaningful, in-person interactions and are in good overall physical and mental health. They have also achieved balance in daily activities, are employed and have good relationships with their coworkers. 

    More specifically, the survey showed that getting the right balance of sleep, work, socializing with friends, family and “me time” is connected to lower loneliness scores. However, balance is critical, as those who get too little or too much of these activities have higher loneliness scores. Here are some details:

    • Sleep: Those who say they sleep just the right amount have lower loneliness scores.

    • Spending time with family: Those who spend more or less time than desired with their family are on par with one another when it comes to experiencing feelings of loneliness.

    • Physical activity: People who say they get just the right amount of exercise are considerably less likely to be lonely

    • The workplace: Those who say they work just the right amount are least likely to be lonely; the loneliness score of those who work more than desired increases by just over three points, while those who work less than desired showed a 6-point increase in loneliness

    If you are one of the millions feeling trapped by loneliness, here are five strategies for overcoming it.

    • Put down the technology. While gaming and social media make you think you are connecting with people, your brain knows otherwise. 

    • Make a move. When you are lonely, it is easy to tell yourself nobody wants to be around you anyway. If you are breathing, you are meant to be in relationship with others. Making the first move toward relationships with others can often be the most difficult. 

    • Be intentional about putting yourself in situations where you can have human interaction and create relationships. It could be a class, a recreational hiking club or something else. Think about things you enjoy doing. Find others who are doing that thing and join them.

    • Know the difference in being lonely and spending time by yourself. Quiet time to rejuvenate and get your head together is healthy. Spending all of your time alone and away from people is not.

    • Find a way to help others, minimize your time alone and utilize your talents in the community. Volunteer at a local food bank, pet shelter or other nonprofit. 

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    Helping Women Succeed in the Workplace

    When Susan Packard was 25 and working in a sales position at Home Box Office, she saw an opportunity to advance in the organization.

    “I went to my boss, Bill Grumbles, and told him I thought I was the right person for the position,” says Packard, co-founder of HGTV and author of New Rules of the Game: 10 Strategies for Women in the Workplace. “He paused, looked at me and said, ‘Susan, do you want to run a company some day?’ I replied yes. He proceeded to tell me why I did not want to take that particular position and educated me on the types of jobs that would best position me for my future aspirations.”

    That was the first of many educational moments for Packard as she began her ascent to the C-suite. She went on to be founder of Scripps Network Interactive and co-founder of HGTV.

    “A few years ago, a friend of mine said she thought my story was interesting and I ought to consider writing a book for women on navigating the workplace,” Packard says. “The more I thought about it and the more time I spent mentoring women in the workplace, I realized my friend was right. There are many lessons I have learned through the years that could be beneficial for other working women.”

    Packard’s book serves as a toolkit of behaviors and strategies to help women advance in the workplace. She refers to the behaviors and strategies as gamesmanship. 

    “I talk about why it is a bad idea for women to act like men, the importance of composure, why women need to create a network around them of people they trust, how to dress and why competition isn’t a bad thing,” Packard says.

    Another strategy in Packard's book is the art of brinksmanship to gain an advantage without clearly stating your goal. In poker, this is the art of reading "the tell."

    For example, Packard recalls taking her HGTV CEO to meet with the head of Tele-Communications, the cable industry's leader at the time. They arrived for the meeting and had to wait two hours. When the meeting finally began, the guy stated his company’s position. Packard believed it was ridiculous. About fifteen minutes into the meeting, Packard stood up and declared the meeting over. When her CEO asked why the meeting went so badly, Packard replied, "It did not go badly. We actually won that round. They wanted us to beg. We needed to tilt the power in our favor."

    It took two years, but they eventually closed the deal. Packard contends it is that kind of dealmaking that helps perfect the art of business brinkmanship.

    The book cover has a queen chess piece with a king chess piece in the shadows. Packard explains that the queen is the most powerful piece on the chess board. She is the only one who can move any direction on the board. Similarly, women in the workplace are adaptable, mentally fluid, and typically can juggle a lot of balls simultaneously. Women have unique opportunities to shine powerfully and positively. There's no need to hide behind the shadows of men in the workplace.

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    Trust is a Most Precious Commodity

    What can destroy a relationship, cause a company to lose customers and make athletes sacrifice millions in endorsements?

    It's trust, of course.

    If you've ever regretted giving your heart to someone or done business with a company that didn't deliver on its promises, you know that trust is a BIG DEAL.

    "The single uniqueness of the greatest leaders and organizations of all time is trust," says David Horsager, author of The Trust Edge: How Top Leaders Gain Faster Results, Deeper Relationships and a Stronger Bottom Line. "When there is low trust, everything takes more time and money and creates more stress. Lack of trust is your biggest expense. Companies with high trust levels outperform companies with low trust levels by 186 percent. Everything of value from relationships to financial systems are built on trust."

    Whether you're trying to build a strong marriage and family or a multimillion dollar organization, trust matters. In fact, Horsager contends that, even if you have excellent communication skills, insight, vision and charisma, you won't go very far without trust. 

    He also says it's the currency of business and life.

    So what is trust, exactly?

    According to Horsager, it's a confident belief in someone or something. It's the confident belief in an entity to do what's right and to deliver on what is promised and to be the same every time, whatever the circumstances. For example, being trustworthy implies reliability, dependability and capability. You are trusted to the degree that people believe in your ability, your consistency, your integrity and your commitment to deliver.

    Horsager's research has identified eight pillars which are key to building and supporting trust:

    • Clarity. People trust the clear and mistrust the ambiguous.

    • Compassion. People put faith in those who care beyond themselves.

    • Character. People notice those who do what's right over what's easy.

    • Competency. People have confidence in those who stay fresh, relevant and capable.

    • Commitment. People believe in those who stand through adversity. In this instance, actions definitely speak louder than words.

    • Connection. People want to follow, buy from and be around friends. It's easier to trust a friend than a stranger, so look for ways to engage with people and build relationships.

    • Contribution. People immediately respond to results. By giving of yourself and your talents, you are investing in others.

    • Consistency. People love to see the little things done consistently.

    Remember, it's not likely that you'll get just one big chance to be trusted. Instead, you'll have thousands of small ones. Just like a savings account, when you respond consistently you will see the results build up over time.

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    Living Life With Meaning

    Joseph Hernandez and his wife of 47 years were preparing for retirement and discussing how they would celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. At 67, Joseph was full of life and had just received a clean bill of health from his doctor.

    Joseph loved people, and he devoted his life’s work to helping others build strong families. While attending a conference this past July where he was teaching on how to help families thrive, Hernandez became ill and passed away. In the blink of an eye, an undetected aneurysm took him from his bride, his family, friends and colleagues.

    In the midst of tragedy, meaningful moments can offer powerful takeaways about living life.

    When Mrs. Hernandez realized something was wrong and called the ambulance, team members and colleagues who had become friends immediately surrounded her. Some put their dinner plans on hold when they realized what was happening. Friends rushed to the hospital, orchestrated phone calls and tried to thoughtfully anticipate potential needs.  Although they had no idea what to expect, they wanted to be there and offer support.

    Joseph left this earth doing what he loved, surrounded by the people he loved. While remembering him, many felt it was amazing that he died doing what he was most passionate about. They discussed the importance of doing what you love and making the most of every day. “Life is short,” they said. “Make what you are doing count.”

    While it is hard to believe that Joseph is gone, it reminds those left behind to focus on what really matters in life – relationships.

    At the end of the day, the relationships we cultivate make life rich. Life’s pace seems to move faster and faster. Relationships are often neglected while people pursue career aspirations, take care of children and fulfill community commitments.

    Have you told your loved ones how you feel lately or taken time to catch up with a longtime friend? Have you forgiven those who have offended you? It is easy to assume there will always be tomorrow, but there is no guarantee.

    Have you ever felt the nudge to visit a sick friend or provide child care for a busy parent? Have you thought about calling someone just to check in? If so, did you talk yourself out of it because it would throw your entire schedule out of whack? Or maybe you thought you weren’t the right person, wouldn’t know what to say or that it might have been awkward somehow. Perhaps you look back and wish you had taken the time because everything else wasn’t that important. You might even understand that whether you had the words or not, your presence would have been comforting.

    During the ordeal and its aftermath, Mrs. Hernandez said it meant a lot that people came to be with her, knowing they had stepped away from important work.

    Simply being willing to show up says you care. Life is short, so make your moments count.

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    4 Tips for Job Exits and Relationships

    Sara* was sick and tired of the way she was being treated at work, so she decided it was time to leave. She totally planned to let her boss know how she felt about things on her way out. 

    There was no way to know that three years later she would be interviewing for another job - and her interviewer would be the very person she unloaded on when she left her former workplace.

    “This is not unusual,” says Pamper Garner Crangle, President of Pamper Garner and Associates, a consulting firm that helps companies manage and measure “people problems.”

    “People get emotional and feel the need to vent before they leave a job. They often don’t care how they come across because they are leaving. But, I try to remind them that how they express their frustration is very important in the world of business. I tell people that your reputation often precedes you. If you handle things poorly at one company, chances are good that it will get around to other companies in the area. Like Sara, you never know when you will have to interview with someone you threw a tantrum in front of years ago.”

    Studies indicate that lack of loyalty is one reason people feel justified in leaving a company badly.

    "Years ago most people were very loyal to their place of employment,” Crangle says. “Today, many young people have seen their parents work in a loyal fashion for many years, sacrificing time for their marriage and family relationships, only to be downsized. So they have decided they don’t want to put in extra hours or put their personal ownership in the workplace.”

    Even if you don't feel a sense of loyalty to your company, there are good reasons not to leave on a sour note. Two of those reasons include future references and job possibilities.

    “I think sometimes people forget the importance of relationships,” Crangle shares. “In a day and age where broken relationships are all around us, people tend to think of leaving a job like trading in a used car for a new one or getting a new cell phone.”

    Regardless of whether you feel loyal to a company or not, attitude and presentation can make or break a conversation. Believe it or not, saying goodbye respectfully and finishing well can impact your long-term career.

    You can avoid burning bridges when you leave your job by following these tips:

    • Give a proper notice. Two weeks is generally acceptable, but in some cases more time can ensure a good transition. Offering to work out a longer notice gives the company options and allows you to leave on a good note.

    • Keep your comments positive. You may be unhappy and ready to tell your boss some ways to improve the workplace, but should you? Your best bet is to keep your comments positive - or at least balanced. You never know what the future holds.

    • Stay focused. When you know you are leaving, it is easy to let things go. Staying focused and completing any unfinished business is powerful when you are looking for references in the future.

    • Do a good job training your replacement. Help and support your replacement as much as possible. Even if they want the scoop about the workplace, keep your comments positive and respectful. If they ask why you are leaving, give an appropriate answer. Perhaps you could say it was time for a change or you need to experience a different environment. Or maybe you could say that your priorities have changed. You don’t have to go into detail.

    There are many entrances and exits in life, both personally and professionally. Your reputation hinges on the first impression and the last impression you leave. It is sometimes tempting to sever ties with others, but we live in a small world. Although it takes more effort, it will benefit you to maintain a good relationship with those for whom you worked. You never know when you will run into those people again.

    *Not her real name

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    Developing a Workforce

    Stowers Machinery, in partnership with Caterpillar, has a scholarship program called "Think Big." It pays recipients about $13 an hour to apprentice in the shop and it reimburses tuition and other school-related costs. The student must maintain a B average to receive the scholarship.

    Workers alternate between working eight weeks at Stowers and going to school for eight weeks. After they earn an associate degree, Stowers will hire them full-time.

    "This is a fantastic opportunity for someone, yet we have the hardest time giving away the scholarship," says Rhey Houston, Stowers vice president and Chattanooga area manager. "We have a full-time recruiter who goes to every high school in the area, looking for potential scholarship recipients, and it is still almost impossible for us to fill the slots."

    One interested young man contacted Stowers about the scholarship. He was awarded the scholarship during his school's senior night. But he worked only a few days before telling his supervisor, "I'm not cut out for this kind of work every day."

    "Unfortunately, he is not the exception to the rule," Houston says. "We have had several success stories, but they are fewer and farther between. It is baffling to me that people do not want to take advantage of an opportunity to work for a well-established company that pays well and offers full benefits including a 401k."

    Houston knows he isn't alone in his frustration. He regularly talks with companies in the area who lament not being able to fill positions.

    "I recently spoke with a guy who said, 'I can't grow my business because I can't find people to hire who have driver's licenses,'" says Houston. "Another guy told me he would be able to have five additional machines running if he could just find people to drive them."

    Approximately 9,000 people are looking for jobs. It's difficult, however, to fill more than 15,000 job openings in the greater Chattanooga area. Why is that? It's partially due to lack of education, or perhaps lack of driver's licenses.

    What is wrong with this picture? Employers are complaining they can't find qualified workers and people are complaining they can't find jobs. Somewhere along the way there is a serious disconnect.

    In an article titled The New Unemployables, Aaron Renn shares a conversation with his father, a retired quarry superintendent. While the job wasn't glamorous, his dad said they offered some of the area's best wages, full benefits and profit-sharing. Still, hiring and keeping employees was hard. The overwhelming majority of applicants weren't viable enough to interview. Plus, one-third of those he hired failed to last even six months.

    Renn surmises that perhaps what we are seeing has nothing to do with job availability or wages. It may have everything to do with the basics, instead. The basics include having a high school diploma and reliably coming to work every day.

    In the book Creating an Opportunity Society, the Brookings Institution's Ron Haskins and Isabel Sawhill offer a solution. They say that to avoid poverty and join the middle class (at least $50,000 annual income for a family of three) U.S. citizens need to complete high school at a minimum, work full-time and marry before having children. 

    Doing all three decreases the chances of being poor from 12 percent to 2 percent. It also increases the chances of joining the middle class or above from 56 to 74 percent.

    It's possible to combat the "unemployable" problem and break the cycle. Healthy adults must model and promote the importance of education and a strong work ethic in homes and communities. Additionally, we can mentor those who have no example to follow.

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    #MeToo and Its Effect in the Workplace

    There is no doubt that sexual harassment and assault is a real problem for women and men, and the #MeToo movement has brought attention to it like never before. In the midst of the conversation, though, it seems like it would be a huge mistake to view all members of the opposite sex as the enemy. 

    We can take advantage of this moment in time to individually and collectively do our part to make this world a better place - one where we teach and expect men and women to value each other. That will bring about real and lasting change in relationships.

    Believe it or not, there are still men who are respectful of women and are actively encouraging them, promoting them in organizations, and holding their opinion in high esteem. 

    While the #MeToo campaign has produced some long overdue constructive conversation and accountability for inappropriate behavior, there is a potential downside. Some experts believe the campaign has created a climate of mistrust between men and women, leaving many guys feeling fearful and anxious that a behavior with good intention could be taken out of context and come back to haunt them. Some guys are choosing to give up even trying to be in relationship with women.  

    It is unfortunate that many men who actually look out for the best interests of women say they are scared to death that something they do or say might be misconstrued. Opening a door or pulling out a chair is considered common courtesy by many, but some find it offensive. While they may not say anything, when a man other than a loved one calls a woman hon, darlin’, sweetie, kiddo and/or a pet name, it typically doesn’t go over well. In fact, many women would call it condescending.   

    Findings from a survey conducted by LeanIn.org found that since the media reports of sexual harassment emerged last fall, almost half of male managers say they are uncomfortable participating in a common work activity such as mentoring, working alone or socializing with women. Specifically, senior men are 3.5 times more likely to hesitate to have a work dinner with a junior level woman than with a junior level man, and five times more likely to hesitate to travel for work with a junior level woman. Almost 30 percent of male managers are uncomfortable working alone with a woman—more than twice as many as before. The number of male managers who are uncomfortable mentoring women has more than tripled from 5 percent to 16 percent. This means that 1 in 6 male managers may now be hesitant to mentor a woman.  

    Dr. Richard Weissbourd, director of the Making Caring Common Project at Harvard, along with his team, stumbled upon some troubling findings as they sought to identify young people’s challenges and hopes, and who influences the way they think about relationships. Of the more than 3000 young adults and high school students surveyed, at least one-third of respondents said: It is rare to see a woman treated in an inappropriately sexualized manner on television; and that too much attention is being given to the issue of sexual assault.

    Surely we can do a better job of teaching relationship skills early on to help girls and boys learn the difference between healthy, respectful behavior between sexes and sexual harassment. Here’s how to start:

    • Don’t leave it to your child’s imagination to figure out what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior in relationships.

    • Model respectful and healthy interactions with the opposite sex.

    • Talk about sexual harassment - what it is and isn’t. Sexual harassment is defined as any unwelcome, unwanted pressure, verbal, visual, or physical contact of a sexual nature. It is any repeated or deliberate action or behavior that is hostile, offensive, or degrading to the recipient.

    • There is a big difference in flirtatious behavior and sexual harassment, but sometimes the line can be blurred. Discuss boundaries and why they are important.

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    3 Ways to Be a Better Listener

    A few years ago a video, It’s Not about the Nail, went viral. Today it’s been viewed more than 16 million times. In case you haven’t seen it, it's worth the watch! 

    The video shows a husband and wife arguing about a nail in her forehead that is snagging all of her sweaters and causing her headaches. When her husband tries to tell her that the nail is causing the problem, she becomes defensive and tells him he always tries to fix things - when what she really needs is for him to listen. When he listens to her describe how awful it is to have this constant nagging pain, he responds by saying, “That sounds really hard.” Relieved that she feels like he finally understands, she says, “It is. Thank you.”

    Whether you are listening to your child, a co-worker, your spouse or you are the one wanting others to listen to you, something powerful happens when people feel like they are not only being listened to, but completely heard. 

    When people were asked, “How do you know when someone is listening to you?” they said things like, “They don’t interrupt me when I am talking. They look at me. I can tell they are 100 percent zoned in to what I am saying and not distracted by their phone or who might be walking through the door. They ask questions to make sure they are on the right track.”

    Most people believe they are good listeners, but when you get right down to it, we live in a society that is filled with noise, and most of us have a hard time slowing down enough to listen well. In fact, many have gotten so used to the chatter they literally have a hard time focusing when things get quiet. 

    One thing is for sure: You cannot seek to listen well and also be doing something else. 

    David Myers’ work as the director of the Brain Cognition Lab at the University of Michigan makes it very clear that the brain does NOT multitask. It may act in parallel functions (touch, sound, vision), but when engaging in distinctly different tasks, the brain operates like a toggle switch - jumping from one thing to another. You cannot be looking at emails and listening to someone talk about their day at the same time. It’s literally impossible.

    If you want to enhance your listening skills, consider trying some of these strategies:

    • Be attentive. If you are in a place filled with distractions, move to a different room. If timing is bad, say so and propose a different time to talk so someone can have your full attention. 
    • Ask questions. Sometimes, asking clarifying questions can help to make sure you are tracking with the conversation and not making assumptions. This also helps cut down on the temptation to start crafting your response instead of listening to the very end.
    • Pay attention to body language. Even young children will grab their parent’s face and say, “Look at me,” when they are trying to tell them about their day. We can tell when people are present without really being present by the look in their eyes. Turn toward the person who is speaking and make eye contact with them - it shows them you are not just physically present in the moment. Taking notes can help you stay focused, but it also sends a message that you are paying attention.

    Listening is a skill that takes practice. If we are honest, most of us would admit we can do a better job of listening to the people in our world, whether we agree with them or not. While listening well takes time and energy, it’s a worthwhile investment in any relationship, especially since communication involves both talking AND active listening. People know that what they say matters when you listen well. 

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    Why Soft Skills Matter in the Workplace

    People often talk about what helps young people succeed in the job market. In the last few years, we've placed tremendous emphasis on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). The question is, however, will these skills actually help young adults find and keep jobs?

    In a recent Washington Post article, Cathy Davidson cites two studies touting that workforce readiness isn’t only about the hard skills. Take Google, for instance. They analyzed hiring, firing and promotion data since the company began in 1998. The most important qualities of Google’s top employees were: being a good coach, communicating and listening well, people smarts - valuing different points of view and values, having empathy toward and being supportive of colleagues, being a critical thinker and problem solver, and being able to make connections across complex ideas. Guess what came in last? STEM expertise.

    Additionally, Google found that their highest functioning teams were not necessarily the teams with the smartest team members. Instead, they were the teams with members that exhibited these traits: equality, generosity, curiosity toward the ideas of teammates, empathy, emotional intelligence and emotional safety.

    Caroline Beaton, a Forbes contributor who covers the psychology of millennials at work, asked more than 100 top HR managers, recruiters and CEOs what was important for entry-level job seekers. Nearly all of them said soft skills such as leadership, communication and collaboration were more important than others. The head of HR at Prezi said he looks for candidates with a solid foundation of soft skills and trusts the rest can be built upon those. 

    According to Beaton’s research, there are four additional soft skills that are under-discussed yet essential for workplace success: focus, more than a college degree, agility and humility. 

    Employers today look for workers who can concentrate, which is apparently difficult due to various things, including technology. Additionally, Beaton shared that while employers value higher education, many interviewers said college graduates often lack people skills. One CEO said that recent college graduates do not have the necessary skills, and he realizes he must hire someone who is still willing to learn after graduating from college.

    Job seekers who can adapt and adjust will have a leg up when it comes to applying for a job due to the fast pace of change in almost every workplace. One CEO said she looks for individuals who demonstrate resourcefulness, goals-driven behavior, team player mentality and relentlessness. 

    Finally, Beaton found that employers want to hire humble people who don’t take themselves too seriously and are willing to admit when they don’t know something - in addition to willingly asking for help when they need it.

    Undoubtedly, hard skills are important. The Google research, along with others, shows that teaching soft skills will be every bit as important in preparing the next generation well for the real world of work.

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