Author: Deb Schmitz

November 8, 2017

Self Aware Leaders

We are in our last week of our Rising Stars Women’s Leadership Boot Camp.  As in our previous boot camps, we have a group of amazing women.  It is four intense Fridays filled with education, useful tools, self assessments, coaching, comradery, ah-ha moments and fun.

In the picture we all have our thinking hats on as we talk through critical thinking, which was the second session in the Power and Influence Day.  The purpose of critical thinking is not to be right, but to gather and assess the right information. The four characteristics of critical thinking are:

  • Curiosity
  • Awareness
  • Flexibility
  • Common Sense

Consciously demonstrating these four characteristics will help you to improve your skills. A leader with good critical thinking skills will be able to avoid the common mistakes of rationalization, emotional thinking, bias and tunnel vision. Stress and urgent timelines can often make these mistakes every day occurrences, but when you have a tool like the value/effort grid to take you through the critical thinking process, you become a more aware and objective leader.

This is only a small section of what we cover in the four week boot camp. The feedback we have received consistently from attendees is that they become more self aware. A more self aware individual makes a better leader!

Come join us in February 2018 for our next Boot Camp!

October 11, 2017

Show Me the Money! How to Negotiate

Did you know that women themselves contribute to the wage gap?

The reason is very few NEGOTIATE their salary.

This occurs from our first job all the way through our career.  Most women are unwilling to advocate for themselves, it makes them uncomfortable.  In fact only 16% of women negotiate during ANY salary discussion.  We leave approximately ONE HALF MILLION dollars ($500,000.00) on the table over the life of our career by not negotiating our salary!  However, studies have shown we are great at advocating for someone else! So how do we learn to advocate for ourselves like we do for others?

Here are some tips to get you comfortable when the time comes to ask for what you are worth:

  • PREPARE – know how much money you want and why
  • RAISE YOUR EXPECTATIONS – we often minimize our skills
  • COMMUNICATE COMPETENCY – express this in ways that your competency/skills will help the company
  • PRACTICE – we all know we should do this, but getting those words to role off your tongue in a confident manner is important

Taking personal responsibility of knowing what you are worth and understanding WHO you are as a leader are important pieces for negotiating your salary.  We take pride in showing you how to take that responsibility.

September 19, 2017

Ch-ch-changes (David Bowie)

“Turn and face the strange” as David Bowie sings in his song “Changes”. Now a days, change is the norm – so how do we deal with it – especially if you don’t agree with it? One of the “old school” answers would be to “suck it up and deal with it”, but there are better solutions to dealing with change. Be seen as a leader that can exhibit these traits and you will have a team that follows you!Hand holding the word change

  • Give it some time – change grows on us and sometimes our perspective changes if we have time to think about it
  • Ask for more information – NOT questioning the change – explain upfront WHY you are asking for the info
    • understand it so you can explain it to others.
    • understand the why so that you can feel ownership
  • Do NOT assume anything – a dangerous position. Some questions to ask yourself*
    • What assumptions am I making abut myself?
    • What assumptions am I making about others?
    • What am I assuming from the past that may not be true now?
    • What am I assuming about what’s impossible – or what is possible?
  • Recognize the source of your concern
  • Once you understand the change, influence the outcome if possible
  • Implement the change

    * from Change Your Questions Change Your Life by Marilee Adams

July 17, 2017

How to Thrive in a Competitive World

There are FIVE things you can do to thrive in today’s competitive world. Of the five, there are some that come naturally and some that will have us stretch out of our comfort zones:

  1. Continue to Grow and Learn – You can do this by reading, getting more involved with peers, employees- keeping your eyes and ears open for opportunities.
  2. Find your Niche and Excel – So many women are good at so many things, sometimes it is difficult to find your niche. CREATE IT! Then excel in it – be the best.
  3. Focus on Communication – this is one of the skill sets we do a deep dive into in our Boot Camps. Communication is the key to being a great manager or leader.
  4. Expand Your Expectations and Horizons – expect more from yourself. Surround yourself with people that will push you and you can learn from.
  5. Focus on Yourself – invest in yourself (training, coaching, self care). Be that well-oiled machine- mentally and physically.

To learn more on all of these topics, look for our upcoming Boot Camp for Women Leaders starting October 20th and our Great Manager Series starting in September.

June 14, 2017

Leading Beyond Limits

Leading Beyond Limits – that was our theme for this year’s East Tennessee Women’s Leadership Summit, which culminated this past Friday, June 9th! What an amazing day. I, personally, went way out of my comfort zone and lead beyond my own limits.

I have always been a “behind the scenes leader” – no spotlight for me:

  • Head of stage craft in high school – behind the stage
  • Manager at Procter & Gamble at an off site facility – not at the R&D main campus – team player, behind the scenes
  • Working on the East TN Women’s Leadership Summit for 6 years – always in the background – registration, details of the day.

This year, I stepped into the role of Chair of the Summit, knowing I would have to get up on a stage and talk. I would be in the spotlight. TWO of my own greatest FEARS. Going up and down 2 steps without a rail is physically a challenge for me. What would I do? Public speaking is a major fear – always has been, in spite of taking it as non-credit course on a college campus AND joining Toastmasters. What would I do?

I OWNED who I am. I used my cane to get up the steps. I practiced so I was comfortable doing that.

I OWNED who I am. I greeted everyone and performed my role as the Chair. Yes, I was nervous and yes, I made mistakes. AND I overcame them and had fun.

So, I challenge you to think how you can LEAD BEYOND YOUR LIMITS.

  • Is there a leadership role you’ve been shying away from because “you aren’t qualified”? You’re qualified!
  • You say you aren’t a “leader”, yet people keep asking you to help with kids soccer, a work project outside your expertise, or other task. Guess what? You are a leader!
  • You don’t think you are a leader, because you are not a manager. Think again!
  • Like me, you’re “leading behind the scenes”. Step out!

OWN who you are! This is something that doesn’t necessarily happen on it’s own. You need to work at it. We at Mountain Laurel Leadership are passionate about working with women so that they OWN who they are as they become leaders. Come talk with us!

March 8, 2017

Beyond The Usual Suspects

Mining organizations for hidden talent should go beyond the traditional approach of mirroring those currently in power. The problem with this is that it usually rewards white males at the Leadership skills trainingexpense of women and minorities whose path may look different. In order to solve this, it needs to be a two pronged approach:

  1. Organizations need to develop evaluation criteria that allow hiring managers to go beyond the usual suspects
  2. The “hidden leaders” need to place themselves in leadership opportunities.

If you feel you are a hidden leader, here are some steps to position yourself to be “discovered”:

  • Hone your leadership skills through volunteer work outside of your organization
  • Become know as the connector – knowing how to leverage relationships and solve problems
  • Let others know you understand the bigger picture of your work
  • Volunteer to lead an internal effort that enhances the company (warning – it may not be seen as enhancing the company at first, but building upon the above three tips will help – persevere!)
  • Seek outside leadership training and ask your employer to pay for it. You will be seen as a “natural” leader

I have personally done all these and it works! We can help hone your leadership skills! Come join us!

February 8, 2017

Fear and Intuition

Those are two emotions every leader faces. You KNOW in your gut what you should do, say, or act upon in a particular situation. But the FEAR creeps in –

  • I can’t do that
  • we can’t close the line down to fix that
  • upper management won’t agree

Can you even imagine what Christopher Columbus experienced when he decided to set sail around the world?

He was being told the earth was flat and he would fall off the edge. That is real FEAR! But his intuition was telling him something else – there was a world out there waiting to be discovered. As a leader, I’m sure he had to get his followers in a positive state of mind to get on the three ships!

So how do you use intuition as a tool to be a good leader? According to experts on decision making here are seven things to do:

  1. Listen better – ensures you get more of the situational information you need
  2. Reflect on a decision before implementing – look for “unintended consequences”
  3. Examine your beliefs – are they congruent?
  4. Communicate – explain the reasoning behind your intuition
  5. Learn to recognize and interpret your emotions
  6. Create the right learning environment – intuitive decision making gets better with practice. You and your team will progressively make better intuitive decisions
  7. Use situational assessments and case studies – understanding previous outcomes or patterns help improve the intuitive decision making process.
January 11, 2017

Hidden Figures

The Movie “Hidden Figures” is in the headlines. It is about three black women responsible for making great strides in the success of NASA and the space program back in the early 1960’s. It is a piece of history we haven’t known about for many reasons. In an article this weekend in Parade magazine, they gave two reasons:

  1. A lot of the work these women did was considered classified and they couldn’t talk about it
  2. “We were just doing our job” as the lone survivor, Katherine Johnson says.

The second reason is why women should step into their power. There are too many of us that “just do our jobs”, yet either have so much more to offer OR don’t take the credit we deserve!

The title “Hidden Figures” is so apropos for various reasons.

  • We, as a nation, have even gone backwards when it comes to women in computing. Women account for 24% of computing jobs today, down from 37% in 1995. According to studies by Accenture and Girls Who Code, the solution is to develop more tailored programs that appeal to girls’ interests in middle school. Getting more women into computer science could boost women’s cumulative earnings by $299 BILLION and help fill the growing demand for computing talent.
  • Women tend to “hide” in the background or on the sidelines. Giving girls and young women self confidence and support early on can serve as catalysts (pun intended) to stay in STEM programs.
December 14, 2016

Holiday Productivity Tips!

During the month of December, many people slow down in their business life and ramp up in their personal life. Taking the energy of the season and using it in both arenas can give you a head start for the new year!

Here are some tips to have a more productive holiday season:

  • Keep moving forward – you will be ahead of the game come 2017 if you keep moving ahead while most stop moving during this time of the year.
  • Network! – this is the best time of the year – there are more social events than ever.  Start conversations, learn from others and share your passions.
  • Capture the energy of the season.  Don’t get bogged down in the “to do’s”.  Bustle in your personal and business life!
  • Reflect – on the good and the bad.  We often learn more from our mistakes than our successes, BUT we often forget about our successes.  CELEBRATE them!
  • Use the “bonus week”.  This is the week between Christmas and New Years. Love this week because it is usually quiet around the office and you can get so much done.

Here’s to a very PRODUCTIVE holiday season!

November 9, 2016

When Doors Open

We’ve all heard the saying “When one door closes, another one opens”, but let’s think about that open door………

doorsopenJoann Lublin’s second chapter in her book, “Earning It” is titled “Doors Open with a Strong Push”. She talks about situations where women received a strong push for advancement. That push can be internal or external.

Think about examples in your own life. Were you ever SO CLEAR about what you wanted that you would do anything (ethical) to get it? That would be considered an internal push. Starting at the bottom of an organization and working your way up is an example that many of us may have experienced.

Maybe it was a mentor, friend, parent or spouse that pushed you through that open door. In this chapter, Lublin lists some “Leadership Lessons” pertaining to “Doors Open with a Strong Push”:

  • Be tenacious about looking outside of your comfort zone
  • Find Influential internal (company) allies
  • Confront self-doubts about your capabilities
  • Be willing to start at the bottom

Typically opportunities don’t fall in our laps. We need to be thinking strategically, especially in the corporate world and taking that push wherever it comes from.

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