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.


When leaders need to be led

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

There are times we as leaders, we need to sit back and allow others to lead. The other day I had a meeting with a placement agency. Both the young men seemed professional and knowledgeable, yet the first thing I thought of was that I probably had more skills, experiences, and knowledge than both of them put together. However, in this situation I was not in control and needed to be led.

Needing to be led is a new thing for me. It has probably happened to me many times, but in my new role as not having a full-time job, I am noticing it more. And it feels a bit strange and yet comforting. It is nice to be able to run my dominant nature off for time to time so I can recharge it for later. I will admit that it is also uncomfortable because I am not at the head of the line leading myself to greater employment. I (as wonderfully highly skilled and educated as those young men told me I was) am in need of help navigating the employment jungle.

I will admit that I have not turned my future employment possibilities completely over to them. I am still networking, following my own leads, and sending out resumes. I have to. It is nice having an ally, but the leader in me wants to lead me. And I think that is healthy and productive. After all, it is my life we are talking about.

Rely on your own strength of body and soul. Take for your star self-reliance, faith, honesty and industry. Don’t take too much advice — keep at the helm and steer your own ship, and remember that the great art of commanding is to take a fair share of the work. Fire above the mark you intend to hit. Energy, invincible determination with the right motive, are the levers that move the world. ~Noah Porter

Being led is not a bad thing. In fact it humbled me by reminding me that there is no way I can know everything or everyone and protocols often change without warning. A true leader adapts and relinquishes command for the betterment of the cause. The cause at the placement agency was me.

He who has never learned to obey cannot be a good commander. ~Aristotle


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.