Why aren’t you at the table?

Today’s guest post is by Dr. Doretha Walker, past president of the Charleston, SC Center for Women Board of Directors, columnist, blogger and educator. Doretha’s words of inspiration and information are always a delight!

Are you in the same place that you were a few months ago while others seem to be advancing? Are you patiently or impatiently waiting for your blessings from God to drop down into your lap? Why aren’t things going the way you want them to?

The other day I was ecstatic when a friend asked me to be on her team of trainers. Honestly, when she told me about the project months ago I sat there waiting for her to ask me to be a part of it. She didn’t and I sat in front of her disappointed, yet said nothing. I waited for her to approach me and eventually she did, but what stopped me from asking her? I did not ask because she was supposed to know that I was one of the best people she could have on her team. She was supposed to want me. Crazy, huh? Yes, it was.

There is no rule that says we are supposed to sit and wait for opportunity to knock. There rule is that those who pay attention to what the universe provides and rise up and at least make an attempt to seize the chance to succeed win. And if the attempt does not work out, there is no shame, but what if it does? What are we throwing away by not being our best selves, by not stepping into the light?

I am a certified life coach, so you would think that I would know about these traps and avoid them yet, many times I walk around wondering why I did not get the invitation to be at the table when I should be doing all that I can do to create my own opportunities and sit as the head of my own table inviting others. I should not be sitting and waiting for someone to notice me or to read my mind and neither should you. So don’t be surprised if I knock on your door and if you knock on mine, I promise to let you in.

If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door. ~Milton Berle

Don’t wait to strike while the iron is hot; make it hot by striking. ~William Sprague


Dreams, magic and women supporting women

How Far by Robin Norgren

When people feel supported…magic happens. There’s newfound confidence. Opportunities burst out where obstacles had existed before. Dreams take practical forms and begin coming true.

And to make all this happen, sometimes all you need is for someone to believe in you and your dream.

Through her Walker Phenomenal Spirit Award, Doretha Walker is doing just that - believing in people, helping them make their dream come true - and supporting other women as well.

Doretha’s story about why and how she started this award is an inspiring lead BIG and give BIG message.

I am Doretha, and the Walker Phenomenal Spirit award is my dream. The fund was born because I wanted to provide a source of money for women to fulfill their dreams. At the time, I was contemplating going back to school and could not find a place to get grant money that did not require me to fit into a box. I was not unemployed, on welfare, abused, homeless, gay, a single parent, or any of the other labels that generally apply in giving money to women. When I first conceptualized this award, I did not have any money to create a fund; but when I received a bonus at work, suddenly I did it. It is as simple as that.

Also, after thinking of the legacies left behind by Rosa Parks and Coretta Scott King, I wondered what my legacy would be. I decided to build it while I was alive.

I was not exactly sure what this award should look like and was even more unsure if people would accept it and support it. When I heard Oprah say that it was our duty to give back and to stop living our lives small, I knew I had to do it. I could not let my dream sit in my heart and fester. I had no excuse not to do it this time.

The poem by Langston Hughes, A Dream Deferred, sums it up nicely:

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?

Or fester like a sore-And then run?

Does it stink like rotten meat?

Or crust and sugar over-like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

No dream should ever expire due to being unfilled. No dream should ever be deferred indefinitely. Dreams are what enable our souls to fly. This award is my dream and I hope to make other women’s dreams come true for many years to come.

The Walker Phenomenal Spirit Award offers a $1,000 one-time grant to a woman aged 35 years and older to help fund a project, activity or event that fulfills a heartfelt desire.


This Week’s Fav Leadership Reading

The Value of Ritual in Your Workday (Harvard Business Review by @peterbregman)

After encountering three people in the last month who espouse the value of rituals, we revisited this post.  Folks are saying that Western civilization is losing touch with, or perhaps interest in, ritual. We’re so busy being busy that we forget to be mindful. This post advocates adding simple rituals to one’s work day, things like “stopping for a moment and noticing what you’re about to do, what you’ve just done, or both.” There’s nothing woo-woo (we’re not big fans of woo-woo at GYBO) about simply reconnecting with oneself and what’s important. It’s actually pretty rewarding we’re finding out.

Be A Woman of Power (YouTube video, interview: Anita Zucker, CEO, The InterTech Group)

If you are as interested in women in business and power as we are, you’ll enjoy this interview with Anita Zucker, CEO of The InterTech Group, and recently named to the Forbes’ billionaire list.  Jennet Robinson Alterman, Executive Director of The Center for Women, interviews what the Financial Times named as one of the 50 most prominent business women in the world. Mrs. Zucker speaks openly about her life and how she and her husband, Jerry, raised a family and built a global conglomerate together centered by the Hebrew expression “tikkun olam” meaning “repair of the world”.

Moral potency: building the capacity for character based leadership (free ebook by Sean T. Hannah and Bruce Avolio)

Do you ever listen to the news (like the melt-down at Rupert Murdock’s The News Corporation) and wonder where people lost their ability to discern right from wrong? In this is fascinating paper, Hannah and Avolio offer up some answers via a new paradigm they title moral potency and its component elements: moral courage, moral efficacy, and moral ownership. We read this 44-page downloadable ebook cover-to-cover, captivated by the concepts they propose to build ethical leadership. Their work began with the question: why do leaders who know what the right ethical decision or action to take is still fail to action when action is clearly warranted? “…we believe organizations can seek to develop leaders who cannot just determine what is right (i.e., make ethical judgments), but more importantly, step up and do what is right under pressure. This is critical as leaders serve as exemplars for others to emulate and establish the normative tone for their organization.”

Something to noodle: “Before you can inspire with emotion, you must be swamped with it yourself. Before you can move their tears, your own must flow. To convince them, you must yourself believe.”  ~Winston Churchill


Giving back and learning

Do you know anyone who is looking to update their resume  AND help a worthy cause at the same time? If you do, please read on!

Three years ago I began the second act of my life. Part of that change included moving from San Francisco to Charleston, SC to be closer to family. One of my second act goals is giving back, and the Center for Women provides me with an extraordinary outlet for doing just that.

The Center is the only comprehensive women’s development center in South Carolina. In 2010, it conducted over 110 programs and events and served 6,000 women; and in 2006 it received a grant from Oprah’s Angel Network!

Up until recently, South Carolina’s unemployment rate was above 12%, one of the worst in the nation. Responding to local requests for providing assistance with job searching, resume preparation, career counseling and interviewing, the Center for Women created a job coach program. The program is staffed with volunteers, and I’m honored to be one of them.

Local reaction to the job coaches has been overwhelmingly positive. I return home from every session and workshop I conduct feeling both humble and grateful. Humble in knowing that I had exceptional opportunities that gave me my corporate charm bracelet of success. Grateful that I’m able to share what I’ve learned with women eager to learn. It’s so moving when I receive a note from an over-joyed woman who has just landed a job or has been promoted. Those notes are gifts which fill me with delight.

A popular workshop

A popular session at the Center for Women has been their three-hour workshop on best practices in resume preparation. Because not all women are able to work that amount of class and travel time into their schedules, I’ve volunteered to help the Center conduct an experiment in online learning and expanded reach.

Periodically, I’ll facilitate a live 90-minute resume preparation workshop. We’re looking to learn if  online development sessions provide another scheduling option for busy women (and men!).

I’m also hoping that more people learn about the Center for Women and its programs. Another one of my second act passions is helping business women take their skills to the next level. Having been a female executive, I want to help more women fill more senior level positions.

Doing good and learning, too

The June 9, 2011 resume workshop is full of rich, meaty content. The handout is a useful tool (I promise as I created it!). And all proceeds from this modestly priced session (the Center sets all prices low, under-pricing and over-delivering) go to the Center for Women. What a great “two-fer” for participants - learning and doing good at the same time…sweet!

So, if you know someone whose resume needs spiffing up and who wants to support a worthy cause at the same time, please share the word and join me in supporting the Center for Women!


When it’s time to lead somewhere new

Today’s guest post is from Doretha Walker, past president of the Charleston, SC Center for Women , blogger at Wecanflyhigher.blogspot.com and Ph.D candidate. Having just done through some major life changes, Doretha shares some candid and touching insights.

Leadership is not only important when you hold the title, but it is incredibly crucial when that title is no longer yours, when you get fired.  While from time to time we all dream about being free to pursue other opportunities, I do not think anyone really dreams about being fired. Severance packages aside, there is a certain amount of ego involved.

I hated my job. I had allowed it to suck the life out of me. I allowed it to take over my life making me completely miserable. I continued to work hard making myself an invaluable employee. Or at least that’s what I thought. Anyway, there are two sides to every story, and I found myself walking out of the door never to return. And while I will admit that leaving on my own terms was my preferred exit strategy, God often decides that something more drastic is required.

The truth is that I stayed much too long where I was. I referred to my job as ‘it pays the bills’. Not a ringing endorsement for the place where I spent most of my waking hours. Everything happens for a reason, doesn’t it? I needed to go.

Now is when I am so happy that I’m a leader. Notice that I did not use past tense. I firmly believe that leadership traits do not disappear when situations change only the method in which they are delivered is different. I am still a leader. I still have the skills to prioritize, analyze, strategize, and motivate. Only for right now I need to use those skills on myself. I need to remain focused, remain positive and refuse to allow myself to feel sorry for myself. And above all else, do not panic. I still have a dissertation to write.

Lee Childs said it best:

It’s about opportunity… you’ve learned a few things. You’ve got skills and work habits. You’re in charge. But try something. Anything. Sit back, take a breath, believe in yourself, identify your dream, and go for it 110%. Trust me, your motivation will never be as strong. And the chance might never come your way again.

At the moment, I have not entered into another employment opportunity, but I know what it is that I do not want. I am convinced that my leadership abilities will serve me well in whatever comes next.

And for now, I am doing some of those things that I wish I had the time to do before.


Why are you at the table or why are you the leader?

Today’s guest post is by Doretha Walker. Doretha is past president of the Charleston, SC Center for Women , leads at DAK Americas, and blogs at Wecanflyhigher.blogspot.com. Doretha provides inspiration and information to support women so they can fly to their own success.

I did myself a grave injustice the other day at the Charleston, SC Women in Business Conference, Pathways to Power.

First, let me say that I hate speed networking. So when it was time to do it, I allowed myself 36 seconds of my allotted two-minute time. Okay, I didn’t want to be there so I didn’t fully participate.

It wasn’t that I didn’t have two minutes worth of merits. I mean, in my current position, I lead a locomotive crew. I established a foundation. I’ve met Oprah, and I promise you that it takes longer than 36 seconds to read my resume. What was I thinking?

There is a saying that you may be the only Bible (or holy book) that someone will read today. Well, your two minute speed networking speech may be the only resume someone will read today. I gave myself 36 seconds of airplay. So why should I expect anyone at my networking table to think I was worthy of more? They may have wondered why I was even at the table.

I missed a multitude of opportunities. I earned my journey and I have a right, no, I have an obligation to share it. It may inspire someone else.

Hoda Kotb wrote in her book that a man sitting next to her on a plane said something like don’t hog your journey. It isn’t meant just for you. In other words, many need to see where you are going and understand how to get there so they may do the same.

I think Marianne Williamson said it beautifully “…as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people the permission to do the same.” Isn’t that what we as leaders strive to do – inspire, encourage, and uplift while accomplishing the mission?

Not only did I miss the chance to inspire, I lost the chance to have a door opened to something had someone been looking for what I had to offer. But I offered nothing while I had plenty to offer. I think this is called self-sabotage.

As leaders, we have earned our stripes and some of us have the battle scars to prove it. Our accomplishments are what brought us to the table and to the position of leader.

Understand that telling others how we arrived at our present destination is not bragging. It is simply charting the milestones that paved the way to our successes. It is our road map. That map may be traditional or it might be a bit scenic, but it is ours. It is ours to share. It is ours to be proud of.

So remember, people need to know why you are at the table or why you are the leader. You are there for a reason; and if you don’t believe that, why should anyone else? Do not follow my lead and short change yourself.

Share your journey. You are worth at least two minutes of airplay. Take it.

And you can bet that I will be fully present and accounted for during my next speed networking session.


Taking Personal Accountability versus Taking It Personally

Today’s guest post is by Doretha Walker. Doretha is the past president of the Charleston, SC Center for Women whose day job is Resins Production Planner for DAK Americas.  Always the over-achiever, Doretha ran her first marathon at age 45 and is working on her Ph.D.  She blogs at Wecanflyhigher.blogspot.com. The inspiration for her blog name was a fact shared by a friend that only 14 African-American women flew commercial airplanes.  Through her blog, Doretha provides inspiration, information and other links to topics to assist women in flying to their own success.

I learned that while it was encouraged to delegate authority (we even had Delegation of Authority cards) I knew that I could not delegate responsibility. I was completely responsible for what my unit did or failed to do. It is called accountability. I was accountable for my platoon and later my company. I should not blame others. I should investigate and implement processes and procedures to ensure that any failures should not happen again and learn the lessons.

Personal accountability is crucial for the success of any leader, yet is it surprising when we actually see it. Michael McCain of the Toronto based Maple Leaf Foods Company displayed it when the company’s hotdogs were involved in a major outbreak of food borne illness that caused  12 confirmed deaths and made many others seriously ill. He stood up publicly and stated,

Certainly knowing that there is a desire to assign blame, I want to reiterate that the buck stops right here… our best efforts failed, not the regulators or the Canadian food safety system… I emphasize: this is our accountability and it’s ours to fix, which we are taking on fully.

McCain immediately took responsibility and did not play the victim. While I am sure that there was an in-depth investigation and that some people may have lost their jobs, that topic was not discussed in a public forum. McCain – as the leader – took the brunt of the fallout.

On the other side of the personal accountability coin is taking things personally. Taking things personally is not the same thing as personal accountability. Although you should feel accountable for your department, it is not your fault if an employee violates a procedure or fails a task unless you were right there encouraging him/her or if you gave the directive for the violation.

If a process fails, yes you are accountable, but do not take it personally because it is not really about you. It is about the thing that failed. Perhaps, in hindsight, there are things you could have done differently, but regardless, do not take it personally.

Katie Skow states,

No matter whom you are or what you do, one thing is certain: criticism is inevitable. There will always be someone who doesn’t like your work or the way you do business.

Take it in stride, glean the lessons within the message, and apply them as necessary.

The best time to apply this is when you lose your job. It is difficult to understand that it is a business decision (consult your labor board if you think differently).  During this time, not taking it personally is not an easy thing to do, but by focusing your energies elsewhere you will get a sense of satisfaction especially when you find that better job.



Girl Power and Woolly Mammoths

Dr. Elaine Yarbrough was the featured speaker this past Monday evening at the Entrepreneur Networking Event presented by the Charleston Center for Women.  Elaine’s career includes over 25 years experience training, consulting, mediating as well as researching, speaking about and promoting women and their power.

I had the privilege of participating in one of Elaine’s training sessions several years ago and still use what I learned.  She has the unique gift of presenting challenging information in an engaging and low-key humorous way.  (When a taxi driver told her that men were meant to lead since they were the hunters and women were the gatherers, Elaine told him she couldn’t recall the last time her husband shot a woolly mammoth for dinner!)

Some priceless nuggets from her riveting presentation for women everywhere to ponder, promote…and do:

Replace cat fights with support.  As Elaine pointed out, the cat fights for which women are infamous are “rooted in being chronically low-powered.”  Without the power to fight those with more power, attacks are aimed at one another. Elaine asked the audience to consider their own behavior: Do you make catty comments about what another woman said or wore or did?  Do you join in the office cat fights?  Claim your personal power by supporting other women.  Do business with them. Reinforce their comments in meetings.  Know each other’s stories.  Have each other’s backs.

Be motivated by accomplishment, not approval.  Elaine sited what happens in early education as part of how women are socialized to seek approval.  When a little girl correctly answers a question, the teacher responds with “good girl!”  When a little boy responds correctly, the teacher asks additional probing questions to expand his thought processes.  What a telling difference. So, find your affirmation in working issues through to a positive conclusion instead of seeking approval for having behaved as a “good girl.”

Pushback when gender slurs come your way.  Elaine shared results from a political study showing that female candidate’s approval ratings went up when they challenged gender slurs directed at them.  Approval ratings dropped for female candidates who didn’t pushback.  As Elaine said, “start putting yourself up, not down.”

OK, power women,it’s time to get our girl power on!

Are you ready to support one another, seek positive outcomes and toot your own horn?!