Is It Impolite to Be a Powerful Woman?

being a leader“Being a leader is like being a lady.  If you have to go around telling people you are one, you aren’t.”  ~Margaret Thatcher

Such a delicious quote, isn’t it? And a powerful one—but one, if we’re not careful, that can take on a connotation not intended. Time and time again, we come up against the mindset—and the reality, based on research—that compared to their male counterparts, so many women don’t negotiate as hard, don’t push for those top positions, and don’t display what we consider to be “powerful” actions. And why is that? As Chief Everything Officer of my business, I have to own my power. I have to know that I am powerful enough to be successful and happy. There is a huge difference between being an arrogant power-monger and being the confident, capable, dedicated and powerful women we are and have to be as mompreneurs.

What kinds of voices go through your mind as you think of what it means to be a powerful woman? Your grandmother who said, “Arrogance does not befit a woman of dignity” or a teacher who said, “It’s bragging to talk about your strengths” or a mentor who said, “Being powerful alienates those who aren’t”? You know what, guys? That’s thinking small. That’s just thinking small.

Now that’s not to say that being powerful doesn’t come with its challenges and responsibilities. Realizing that you are the person in charge of your destiny, that ultimately the choices you make and the priorities you set determine the outcomes in your life, is a monumental responsibility. As powerful women, wives, moms, entrepreneurs, we alone can make those decisions that work or do not work for our families, our lives, and our businesses.

That’s a lot of responsibility! Now the fear of such responsibility can keep us from living a life of power. But with that responsibility comes great reward as well. The ability to define “success” on your own terms, not borrowing someone else’s definition, not trying to live up to something that your mom or your dad or your neighbor or your friend says that you should be, but owning your own power and calling the shots for your life… It doesn’t get much better than that!

Power is that gateway to sharing our gifts, lifting others up, doing good… which is why we got into business in the first place, right? So whatever your gifts, whatever your strengths, whatever it is that makes you valuable and necessary to the world… own it! Don’t shy away from those amazing talents and the dedication to sharing them and creating a legacy. That’s the powerful woman I want to hang out with.

I’d love to hear your comments.

So what do you think? Power—is it a faux pas? Is it impolite to be powerful? What makes a powerful woman? What makes you a powerful woman? How are you going to share that power?

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When I Grow Up, I Want to Be Sheryl Sandberg

I have been working with some other moms at my fifth-grader’s school on a memory book that each of our fifth-graders will take with them when they leave elementary school and move onto middle school. One of the questions the kids are asked for this book is “Who is your hero?”

Who Is Your Hero?

This sort of question always gives me pause, since I am not in the habit myself of thinking of heroes. I had to ask: “Who is my hero?” And for a while, I just couldn’t come up with anything since the term “hero” made me think of putting someone on a pedestal, making them different from me, and making them superior. I wound up with a whole bunch of weird emotions about that term, shook my head, and then forgot about it.

lean in collageBut over the last few weeks, I have been consuming all the information I can about Sheryl Sandberg and her movement and new book, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead. I’ve watch a smart, ambitious woman put herself in front of the firing squad to stand up for what she believes in–that women deserve an equal shot at success and leadership opportunities, in addition to running a family. And I’ve watched a strong, kind woman respond to all manner of criticism and contempt with grace and self-confidence.

This video clip from CNN.com is a great example of how Sandberg accepts and allows criticism of her views and respects different points of views without losing sight of what matters most to her.

Ambition, Confidence, Leadership

I love what Sheryl is doing to bring discussions of gender in the workforce and the choices about raising a family and being successful in business to the table. I appreciate that she’s using her role as a woman leader in business to speak about a controversial topic that matters. Yes, she has resources that most of us don’t and won’t have that contribute to her success, but that doesn’t make her points less valid. She could simply do her job at Facebook, make a ton of money, and be happy. Instead, she’s choosing to leverage her position to attempt to help working women have better choices.

Bless her heart. If I have to pick a hero, she’d look a lot like Sheryl Sandberg. I’m 42 and she’s 43, so maybe there’s still time for me to be just like her when I grow up. If that doesn’t happen, I hope that one day she knows who I am and how much her message makes a my world a better place.

Special thanks to my little sister, Jessica Axton, for sending this video clip to me this morning. She knows my heart so well.

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Life’s too short to hate your job

Browsing around on Facebook this morning I came across a great post on the Harvard Business Review about the relationship between mentors and mentees. A favorite topic of mine, I read the entire post and took away some great ideas from it, which I’ll talk about in another post.

The author of the post, Whitney Johnson, mentioned a young woman she had recently advised on how to approach a mentor. There was a link to that woman’s post, and I read it. I’m so glad I did, since this is the link that led me to discover DreamChamps, a community that is committed to helping Gen Y job seekers connect with companies who possess exceptional cultures. Their motto is “Life is too short to do work you hate.”

Yeah! Landing on this site and reading their mission statement got me so fired up I decided to blog about it. At 7am. Before the kids were even up. And now that they’re awake, I’m typing as fast as I can before I have to logoff, feed them breakfast and get them off to school.

After I followed them on Twitter and said hello, I headed over to their Facebook Page to see what sorts of things they were talking about there.

This post on their wall caught my attention:

Wondering if company culture actually matters? Think about this.

Your co-workers are your second family. You spend more time with them, than practically anyone else in your life.

Wouldn’t you agree it’s important to like them?

Here’s my response:

“Love this question! Growing up, I got used to hearing the employed people in my life complaining about their jobs, their bosses, their coworkers. Not liking your job seemed to be “the norm,” and I didn’t realize it back then, but I accepted that idea like it was a simple truth: ‘A job is something you do in order to have the opportunity to do (and have) the things you want.’ There was no mention about the need to love the work you do. It was just a job, a way to make money and move up.

“Fortunately, and despite this belief, I had a many great experiences working for IBM and am grateful for my time spent there. But as an entrepreneur, and as a business coach who helps other entrepreneurs be successful on their own terms, I am very focused on aligning how I spend my time with the things that make me happy.

“I’m incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by people I love, respect, admire and rely on as my support in my business. I totally love my job, and my kids know this. I hope I leave behind a new ‘norm’ and belief system for my kids that echoes the DreamChamps motto: ‘Life’s too short to do work you hate.’ I’m teaching them Henry Ford’s philosophy: ‘Find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.'”

What sort of work culture are you creating? What’s your relationship to your employees/team members?  Are you considering this as you hire on team members to your company? Make sure you browse around the DreamChamps website so you can include a perspective from the other side of the employer/employee equation as you build your company.

How are you creating projects, work and a company your employees/support team love to be a part of? Or do you feel this is even something worthy of your time and energy to care about? Please share in the comments below.

* Photo courtesy Erno Hannick via Flickr Creative Commons
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How to Work With Passion

I spent a fantastic hour today interviewing Nancy Anderson, a wife, mother, counselor and author of Work With Passion in Midlife and Beyond: Reach Your Full Potential and Make the Money You Need. What a breath of fresh air!

There were so many nuggets of wisdom that Nancy shared with me and my audience on the WoMEN: What Mom Entrepreneurs Need Teleseminar Series. I thought I’d share some of them here with you. In no particular order, here they are:

The difference between hobby and passion: a hobby is you doing for yourself. Passion converts you to an evangelist of something you love for others.

In this economy, following your passion IS practical! How logical is it to suffer thru doing work you hate?

Discovering your passion can unleash your fears–What if you’re not good enough? What if you fail? This happens because your passion is so important to you.

We often get in touch with our passions when we’re young, but then they get covered up by so many things as we get older: fear, inhibitions, others telling us we don’t deserve what we want, etc.

For most of us, it’s actually difficult to articulate what we most want to do. Nancy recommends writing an autobiography so you can learn for yourself where your motivations and interests came from, as well as how you learned to cover them up or let them go.

It was a fantastic hour. I am grateful to have had the chance to talk to a woman who really has her head on straight and is willing to help all of us love what we’re doing with our lives. Mompreneurs especially need to make sure they spend their time doing purposeful work if it’s going to take them away from their families. I spend the first month of the Mom Biz Makeover Program helping my mompreneurs figure out their strengths, skills, their style and what motivates them to do the work they do.

By the way, if you haven’t already registered for my f*ree teleseminar series, the WoMEN: What Mom Entrepreneurs Need calls can all be heard via phone or webcast every Tuesday at Noon ET. Just click here to see the list of upcoming topics and speakers and fill in your name and email address. You get access to all the upcoming live calls and a replay of the last week’s call!

We’ll continue our discussion of working with your passion and making money at it when I interview Rich German as my special guest on the series next week. Don’t miss it!

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What if you stopped trying so hard?

Everyday, I get an email from a guy named Mike Dooley who offers inspirational messages. Some days, I feel too busy to read them and simply delete them. Other days, it’s like he has somehow been able to read my thoughts and sends a perfect message at just the right moment.

Here’s the message I almost deleted this morning:

Stop thinking that you have to make it happen, Lara, and let it happen… That you have to be better, and be yourself… That I’ve ever judged you, and be free.

What stopped me in my tracks this morning was that this is the exact message I decided to use for a keynote speech I’ve been asked to deliver at a Women’s Leadership Conference next year. And I just came up with this yesterday afternoon.

Since I don’t believe in coincidences, I’m taking this as a sign from the Universe that I’ve chosen the perfect topic. I’ll be talking about authentic leadership, and how the first step is self-acceptance.

Crazy things happen when we accept ourselves–we become a magnet for others who want to accept themselves, too. And all of that has nothing to do with being perfect or better than others.

Photo credit La Bella Sandra Photography
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How Women Are Changing Business

While my business coaching is aimed at supporting mom entrepreneurs, I came across this very inspiring article in Time Magazine recently that illustrates a trend I’m happy to see in the corporate world.

business women group2Women are different than men, and it turns out we do business differently than men. Well, I’m certain that the subset of women known as mompreneurs and WAHMs (work-at-home-moms) have an even more pronounced difference in their approach to business.  (I know, I know, you’re laughing with me right now thinking about the last time you were on a business call while hoisting a naked toddler on your hip with one arm and cleaning up the accident she had on the kitchen floor with the other…. Yep, that’s a different way of doing business, alright!)

Read the article below and enjoy. It’s always interesting to me when large companies start emulating some of the results-oriented business strategies of entrepreneurs.

Reposted article from time Time Magazine, May 2009

The New Work Order

Women Will Rule Business

Work-life balance. In most corporate circles, it’s the sort of phrase that gives hard-charging managers the hives, bringing to mind yoga-infused, candlelit meditation sessions and — more frustratingly — rows of empty office cubicles.

So, what if we renamed work-life balance? Let’s call it something more masculine and appealing, something like … um … Make More Money. That might lift heads off desks. A few people might show up at a meeting to discuss that new phenomenon driving the bottom line: Women, and the way we want to work, are extremely good for business.

Let’s start with the female management style. It turns out it’s not soft; it’s lucrative. The workplace-research group Catalyst studied 353 Fortune 500 companies and found that those with the most women in senior management had a higher return on equities — by more than a third.

Are the women themselves making the difference? Or are these smart firms that make smart moves, like promoting women? There is growing evidence that in today’s marketplace the female management style is not only distinctly different but also essential. Studies from Cambridge University and the University of Pittsburgh suggest that women manage more cautiously than men do. They focus on the long term. Men thrive on risk, especially when surrounded by other men. Wouldn’t the economic crisis have unfolded a bit differently if Lehman Brothers had had a few more women on board?

Women are also less competitive, in a good way. They’re consensus builders, conciliators and collaborators, and they employ what is called a transformational leadership style — heavily engaged, motivational, extremely well suited for the emerging, less hierarchical workplace. Indeed, when the Chartered Management Institute in the U.K. looked ahead to 2018, it saw a work world that will be more fluid and more virtual, where the demand for female management skills will be stronger than ever. Women, CMI predicts, will move rapidly up the chain of command, and their emotional-intelligence skills may become ever more essential.

That trend will accelerate with the looming talent shortage. The Employment Policy Foundation estimated that within the next decade there would be a 6 million – person gap between the number of college graduates and the number of college-educated workers needed to cover job growth. And who receives the majority of college and advanced degrees? Women. They also control 83% of all consumer purchases, including consumer electronics, health care and cars. Forward-looking companies understand they need women to figure out how to market to women.

All that — the female management style, education levels, purchasing clout — is already being used, by pioneering women and insightful companies, to create a female-friendly working environment, in which the focus is on results, not on time spent in the office chair. On efficiency, not schmoozing. On getting the job done, however that happens best — in a three-day week, at night after the kids go to bed, from Starbucks.

And here’s the real kicker. When a company gives employees freedom, it doesn’t just feel good or get shiny, happy workers — productivity goes up. Ask firms like Capitol One, which runs a company without walls or mandatory office time. Or Best Buy, which implemented a system called ROWE — results-only work environment — and found that productivity, in some cases, shot up 40%. Flexibility is no longer a favor to be handed out like candy at a children’s birthday party; it’s a compelling business strategy.

So we need to get rid of the nutty-crunchy moral component of the work-life balance and make a business case for it. It’s easy to do. In fact, a decade from now, companies will understand that hiring lots of women, and letting them work the way they want, will help them Make More Money.

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What about you? In what ways are you doing business “differently” from the way you did it in Corporate America? Or how is your strategy getting things done in unconventional ways? What are the benefits of being a WAHM when it comes to creating success in your business? Please share your story by leaving a coment, and help inspire all of us mompreneurs who sometimes get stuck on the setbacks that juggling work and motherhood can bring.

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Top Limiting Beliefs of Mompreneurs

We all have a little voice inside our head that chatters on and on in the background giving us reasons why we can’t do something: Why we can’t be successful, why we can’t earn a lot of money, why we can’t have it all… The key is to learn to hear this little voice and notice how it creates some limiting beliefs that keep us from getting what we want.

In this installment of the Mom Biz Coach Coaching MOMent, I share some of the top limiting beliefs of the mompreneurs I coach. Have you noticed these thoughts in your head? What other limiting beliefs have you identified for yourself?

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fx4mfqxFYPg[/youtube]

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Four Common Places We Get Stuck

Where are you getting stuck? Chances are, it’s in one of these four common pitfalls: research gathering, procrastination, the “bright shiny objects” syndrome, and negative self-talk. If you can distinguish that you’re stuck in one of these areas, then you have the choice to do something different.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=we8HeAnB8XM[/youtube]

Where are you stuck? Do you identify with one of the pitfalls I described in this video, or are you doing something a little different? Please share your comments as well as tips for getting unstuck.

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How often does “no” mean “the end” for you?

It is totally human to get discouraged when something doesn’t go the way you want it to. Say you come up with an idea for the perfect getaway for you and your husband, and though it makes you sigh and get that faraway, relaxed look in your eyes when you discuss it, your hubby just hears the pricetag and the hassle of getting the kids cared for in order for you to be gone. “No,” he says. “Nuh-uh. Not happ’nin’.”

What do you do?

Well, Alisa Bowman of www.projecthappilyeverafter.com wrote a smart post about this topic today. Whether you’re letting a “no” cause you to stop in your relationship, in your pursuit of your dreams, or in your business deals, you are certainly missing out on some possibilities that exist for you if you’re willing to see no as a “detour” rather than the end.

Here’s the link to her post: http://www.projecthappilyeverafter.com/2009/04/dont-take-no-for-an-answer/

What do you do when you hear “No!”? How do you keep from quitting, getting derailed, giving up or getting stuck?

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