Self Care and Professional Development

Self care is not just massages and lavender baths. The deeper work may even serve as a form of professional development.

As a society, we have been taught to be there for others to the point that if we take time to do something for ourselves, for our mental or physical health, it often comes with a large helping of guilt.

This is hundreds if not thousands of years in the making. So, how do we shake it off in a way that allows us to fully accept and value the benefits of taking care of ourselves? One possible way is to study and understand the benefits of doing just that.

Being the best possible version of ourselves begins with taking some time to consider why we want to be our best self. The possibilities include modeling the way for our children, moving to the next level in our careers, and a desire to have more energy and enthusiasm to share with the world.

We’re here to talk business, so the first belief we have to embrace is that self-care shows up in our professional life. Proper self-care reduces stress, puts things in perspective, keeps you awake, helps you accomplish more, and helps you learn about yourself as well. Is there anything in that list that won’t serve to help us in achieving career goals and enjoying our daily work more?

The second belief is that we decide that self-care is not selfish. We give ourselves permission to take care of ourselves, treat ourselves the way you would treat a dear friend, and ensure our well-being is a priority.

Doing this often comes with accepting some hard truths. One of those truths is that many of us are invested in rescuing others as part of our identity. Wearing our martyrdom and exhaustion as a badge of honor is actually a huge disservice to everyone involved. But we’re conditioned to do just that.

As we become more self-aware, we examine how our rescuing tendencies are impacting others and ourselves. In our rescuing, are we doing it for them, or are we doing it for ourselves?

The third belief we must embrace is that we teach people how to treat us. How we treat ourselves sends a message to the world—and the workplace—as to what we will accept or let others get away with. Imagine someone in your life that you respect, someone who is a strong and effective leader. I will bet that she makes time to take care of herself, and she is treated with respect as a result.

Self-Care Strategies

Know your worth. When we are undervalued or unappreciated, resentments build up. Take steps to help ensure those around you recognize your worth. That may mean asking for a raise, an additional week of vacation, or not feeling the need to discount your services. Recognize that you deserve to be “paid” what you are worth. 

Build your circle. The value of a strong support system cannot be overstated. Historically, women worked as a team in raising children and accomplishing work. Today, we have isolated ourselves. We are busy crafting a “Facebook worthy” existence instead of an authentic one. The reality of our existence is one that typically includes needing people. Needing help. Needing friendships.

A 2006 breast cancer study found that women without close friends were four times as likely to die from the disease as women with 10 or more friends. Surround yourself with close friends that can shoulder burdens and make you laugh.

This is true in your work world as well. Surround yourself with likeminded people in your professional life. People that support you. People that can coach you through difficult situations or just offer a safe place to vent. Building this work circle can be accomplished in the workplace itself or by attending conferences, retreats, or other professional development opportunities. Online professional communities can also offer a great deal of support and camaraderie. 

Cut the guilt loose. Many of us are guilty of overcommitting. We say yes to everything. This often results in overextended schedules, and busywork that doesn’t really support our big vision. Doing too much can result in scattered focus and doing nothing well.

Sometimes saying no is the more generous thing to do. This is particularly true when your heart is no longer in it.

Think of a committee or board you have been on forever and now imagine giving up that commitment. What would happen if you opened up the space to someone new? Someone who is excited and brings new passion to the project. What would that open for you? Just say “no,” and say “no” to the guilt that comes along with saying no.

Do it for you. Make time for medical appointments, creativity, professional development, and time doing what feeds your heart and soul. Maybe a regular workout will give you the added energy to get through your day with strength and verve. Fitting in time for a hobby or a creative pursuit might be just the inspiration you need. Maybe downtime with a book will provide you with the peace you are seeking in an abnormally hectic day.

Whatever it is, identify what you need and then find the supporting activity or practice. Non-negotiables should be anything to do with your medical care. 

Make a commitment. Make self-care a priority. You must make time. Often, this is time in a schedule that’s already overloaded, and this means prioritizing and claiming space for self-care. One of the supporting beliefs in valuing self-care is that there is a substantial return on the investment. While our never-ending to-do list is calling, it’s vital to make the time for you. Yes, finding an hour to exercise is difficult. But the energy you gain from that workout will far outweigh the consequences of not taking care of yourself. 

By scheduling time for you, it’s easier to prioritize everything and achieve a better balance. Schedule time for self-care and hold yourself—and maybe a partner—accountable for seeing it through.

Celebrate your successes. Establishing a self-care routine can be tricky. Sometimes you will fall short. Allow yourself the gift of imperfection, another form of self-care. Embrace the limitations of your system and do what you can. Celebrate as it becomes a habit and then a routine and you are feeling better and stronger as a result.

Enjoy the ROI. Finally, enjoy the fruits of your labor. Relish in being more motivated, falling back in love with your work and leveraging the competitive edge this mindset and practice is offering you.

Putting yourself first isn’t selfish, you must buy in to self-care in order for it to become a priority, and when you apply any of these strategies for engaging self-care, you’re off to a great start to reclaim your life, both personally and professionally.

5 Communication Habits to Drop as You Move into Leadership

5 Communication Habits to Drop as You Step into Leadership
Rene´ Johnston
As published in the Spokane/CDA Journal of Business

Women leaders bring tremendous strengths, insight and value to the workplace. But let’s face
it, we still face a number of barriers.

As a result of centuries of social and cultural programming, seeds individually planted as early
as childhood, many of us have developed some behaviors and habits that may not best serve us
in the work environment. Below we will explore some of those traits and habits. Keep in mind,
we are all different. We all participate in these to great or lesser degrees and some of us not at
all. Not to be dismissed as stereotypes, these are behaviors that have been observed and
documented in the American workplace.

In positioning ourselves for leadership or stepping into a leadership role, it is worth examining
our own habits and determine if some of those habits may be working against us. After
researching a variety of problematic behaviors, I narrowed it down to five that appear to be the
most common pitfalls. Let’s take a look at how they show up and what we might be able to do
differently. Reflecting strength and authenticity in our leadership style.

Communicating Indirectly–One of the most common offenders is a tendency to use what are
called “softening devices”. We hedge our communication by starting our emails with words like
“just” and questioning phrases such as “Hey when you get a chance”. The problem with this
type of communication is that it lacks assertiveness and authority, diminishing its effectiveness.
Often this leads us to having to send a second email or make a follow up phone call that could
have been avoided had the initial communication been more direct.

What should we do instead? Simple, drop the softening words. Drop the questions. Make a
polite but firm request. It is important to have a sense of the communication styles of those you
work with, so tailor it accordingly but practice what Arianna Huffington calls “compassionate
directness”. You will find it yields better results.

Downplaying Achievements–Women in particular have discomfort surrounding what we may
view as self-promotion. We believe our accomplishments and hard work should speak for itself.
And wouldn’t it be wonderful if it always worked that way? We say things like “Oh it was fun,”
or, “It was no big deal”. The issue with presenting your achievements in this way is it devalues
those achievements. It then makes our actual role in the project or contribution to an
acquisition for example, unclear.

What should we do instead? Take pride in your achievements. This doesn’t mean being
boastful or obnoxious; give yourself permission to be proud of an accomplishment. Taking a
moment to be proud goes a long way in helping us stay motivated to take on the next
challenge. It is critical to recognize others’ contributions, but be sure to paint an accurate picture. Be specific and direct about your role. Look at it as if you were in a position to hire
someone, wouldn’t you want clear, unambiguous information with which to work?

Perfectionism addiction–Many of us seek to attain perfection in all that we do. But at what
cost? Perfectionism is ultimately about control, and when we fall short, we feel powerless. That
can be a disheartening cycle.

What should we do instead? Strive for excellence but let go of the attachment to perfection.
The Greek translation for perfection is “complete”. So, we may be better served to do it right,
be complete and release ourselves from the excess pressure.

So many apologies--How many time does the word “sorry” pass you lips in a given day? Are you
apologizing for things that are completely out of your control? Many of us inadvertently use an
apology as a conversational ritual, to help build rapport. Excessive and unnecessary apologies
do not support a perception of strength which can lead to limited opportunity and influence.

What to do instead–There are other much more effective ways to build rapport.
Wholeheartedly apologize and take responsibility when you make a mistake but let the
recognition and changed behavior do the talking.

Good old-fashioned body language–One of the behaviors many women slip into is delivering
nonverbal communication that doesn’t support a position of strength and confidence. Arms
folded, avoiding eye contact, taking a seat in the corner of the boardroom. You may have
brilliant input and tremendous knowledge of your subject, but if your body language says
otherwise, body language wins every time. The two need to be in alignment for your words to
come across with strength and credibility.

What to do instead–Use strong eye contact, (all non-verbal communication varies within the
context of cultural influences), shoulders back, speak with conviction and take your rightful seat
at the table. Use your physical presence to support your brilliance. The messaging will come
across much more powerfully.

Each individual’s journey to leadership is a unique experience. We may or may not be tripping
ourselves up by participating in these particular behaviors. The important action is to develop a
leadership style that is authentic and uniquely yours.

Lessons in Reflection

Lessons in Reflection (this is an oldie but a goodie)

I was honored recently to speak to the Woman’s club of Spokane.  An organization with a long and storied history.  I chose to speak to share my TedX experience and the lessons I learned from that experience.  It was a tremendous opportunity to reflect on that experience and in doing so I came to the realization that there was much more to that experience than I knew at the time. This is what I chose to share about what I discovered by reflecting on my involvement in that particular event.

I learned that I enjoy taking on challenges and doing something new from time to time.  Not only do I enjoy it—I need it—it lights me up.   Now, I find that significant because we all need to put our energy into those things that light us up.  The things that help us to be the best version of ourselves.

I learned that I was afraid.  In participating in the TedX, I had to take a risk and allow myself to be vulnerable.  It wasn’t the getting on stage, speaking to hundreds of people—as I was putting myself and my message out there that I was not comfortable with.  I was putting something out there that would now be subject to reaction and critique—maybe some great positive support but also subject to negativity and criticism.   Upon realizing this, I thought about how many of us, how many times, have created something and been too afraid of the response to share that creation.  Isn’t it likely that the benefits of sharing the creation are worth the risk of a little criticism?

I also learned that the message of my TedX was something I needed to hear.  I had crafted the message with the intention of imparting wisdom to others.  Looking back, it is clear that it was something I needed to hear.  This got me thinking about how much of what we need might be right in front of us?  And consider our ability to help ourselves.

I learned I was proud of the work I had done.  Maybe more importantly, I learned that it was okay to be proud of it.  I really needed to get comfortable with it—In my line of work, I needed to use as a marketing tool so there was a practical need and it was a huge relief to watch the edited piece (completely out of my control) and see that there were no outrageous verbal stumbles or spinach in my teeth.  Many of us, especially women, are so quick to dismiss and downplay our accomplishments when we should be celebrating them.  Even if the celebration is simply just allowing ourselves to feel proud or be able to graciously accept a compliment.

Lastly, I learned that I really wanted it to matter.  I had always wanted it to be relevant—that was important from the onset but it wasn’t until I had delivered the talk and it was public, that I realized how important it was to me that it wasn’t just fluffy and entertaining but that it was meaningful and impactful to others.  This got me thinking about the importance of the “why” we do what we do—our intention behind it.  I think if we examine our intention in doing something or wanting to do something, and we feel good about that intention, we know we are on the right path.

A few thoughts on what taking advantage of a particular opportunity taught me.  I hope it will mean something to you.

It’s All About Image

Architecture Building Business Coffee Comm

What does your facility say about your business? Is it clean? Is it well kept? Is it intimidating or is it welcoming? What do you want your customers to feel and experience when they drive up and then walk in the door?

When we talk about image, we can’t forget the role the physical space plays in the development and reinforcement of a business’s image. The importance of selecting an appropriate building or space and the right exterior and interior design cannot be overstated.

First, let’s talk about the exterior of your building or space. Take a look at the exterior of banks or other financial institutions; you will see that traditionally they are constructed using brick and/or stone. This use of this exterior material provides a look of stability and longevity. These are important and influential factors when people are making decisions on how and where to invest their money. Choose exterior design elements that convey your message.

Now let’s move inside. Remember that the experience your customer has inside your business is a multi-sensory experience. We tend to focus on the visual but we also need to remember that the smell of the space and the sounds that they hear will also play an important role in a customer’s perception of your business. Scent is the sense most closely connected to emotion. It is important that the space is free of any offensive odors (chemicals, overpowering perfumes, etc.). A little research can help you to decide how to properly incorporate scent into your space. Likewise, choose background music or background sounds that are appropriate and work to further the image you are trying to portray.

Moving on to style . . . Again, I want to emphasize that the look and layout of the interior of your business should be consistent with your image. What do I mean by this? Well, if you want to be known as a highly progressive, technology consulting firm, your interior should reflect that. Furniture pieces that are worn or antique might look out of place and create a conflict in customers’ minds. A clean, uncomplicated look with modern furnishings might be more consistent. Similarly, if you are opening a luxury day spa you will want to plan the space accordingly, and incorporate finish materials and that reflect comfort and encourage relaxation.

This article is not designed to give you a design solution to fit every image but rather to encourage you to think seriously about the role your facility will play in conveying that image. A few hundred dollars in design consulting could go a long way in saving you from making an expensive mistake. Good exterior and interior design is an opportunity to reinforce your image and its message throughout your facility.

Simply put, when a customer is pulling up to or looking around your space, they should be able to sense, without question, exactly what it is your business stands for.

Busy, Another Four-Letter Word?

Busy, Another Four-Letter Word?

There are quite a few four-letter words that might offend. Perhaps one of the most surprisingly offensive and counterproductive four-letter words is BUSY.

When you find yourself relating to any of these scenarios, you may need to look at what “busy” really means to you.

  • Do you find yourself constantly onthe run?
  • Does it feel like you’re putting out fire after fire with no time to catch your breath?
  • Are you Running around a thousand miles an hour, stressing everyone else out (including yourself)?
  • Do you find yourself choosing to do things yourself because you believe it to be quicker?
  • Are you repeatedly on the verge of being late (or actually last) to meetings and appointments?

Do you find yourself having conversations that sound like this? “How are you?”  “Busy.” “Did you see the latest, move, book, art gallery?”, “Oh I have been meaning to but I’m just so busy”.

If you’ve nodded your head in agreement to any of these scenarios, it’s possible that you are you so locked into a pattern of stress and chaos that you can’t see your way out.

Well help is on the way and knowledge is power. Recently, there has been a tremendous amount of research and discussion on just how to change some of these unhealthy habits and behaviors.  You can learn to work in a way that is not just busy but efficient. Because when you are just BUSY, you’re likely the one keeping yourself and your business stuck (think sales goals).

Busy is not the same as productive

Busy can be good if the busyness is increasing business. It is critically important that our store is busy.  In order to sustain and exceed sales goals we must have customers coming through our doors. This means a lot of activity and most importantly a lot of sales resulting from this activity. In regard to the operations of stores, busy is great, busy or even uber-busy is the goal we are hoping to achieve.

  • As an individual, though, busyness can impact business and not necessarily in a good way. This is when “busy” can become a four-letter word. How busy are you?
  • Are you busy or productive?
  • Do the tasks you consistently stay busy with generate results (increases sales and profit)?

Whether you are an owner, manager, or sales professional, the questions apply. For years in the American business culture it has been pounded into our heads that our success is measured by the length of the hours we work, how little sleep we get, how much we are trying to balance at one time and how irreplaceable we are to the organization.  It might be time to throw out that tired measuring stick in favor of a more progressive approach.

Recently much research has been conducted and new patterns of thought have emerged that make a strong case for looking differently at how we perceive work.  Let’s begin by looking at some of the notable findings.

What Others Have to Say

In her recent book Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder, Arianna Huffington describes some of her revelations after collapsing and suffering an injury as a result of sheer exhaustion.  The cofounder and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post Media Group makes a compelling case for the need to redefine what it means to be successful in today’s world.

In Thrive Huffington explores how our relentless pursuit of the two traditional metrics of success — money and power — has led to an epidemic of burnout and stress-related illnesses, as well as deteriorating the quality of our relationships, family life, and even our careers. She suggests that in being connected to the world 24/7, we’re losing our connection to what really matters.

In her book, Huffington references the pioneering research and scientific findings in the fields of psychology, sports, sleep, and physiology that show how strategies such as meditation, mindfulness, unplugging, and giving can lead us to embrace a new way of operating.  This new line of thinking and operating calls into question our culture, our thinking, our workplace, and our lives.

If Arianna Huffington can run a media empire and maintain a level of sanity, can’t we?

Speaker, writer, and educator, Greg McKeown’s book, Essentialism:  The Disciplined Pursuit of Less details the practice of getting more done in less time. It’s about getting only the right things done.  He is adamant that this is not a time management strategy, or a productivity technique. It is a system for discerning what is absolutely essential, then eliminating everything that is not, so we can make the highest possible contribution towards the things that really matter.

He suggests we apply much more selective criteria for what is Essential, the disciplined pursuit of less empowers us to reclaim control of our own choices about where to spend our valued time and energy. McKeown describes this strategy as a new way of doing everything.  Essentialism is about doing less, but doing it better, in all areas of our lives.

Why Busy is such a bad idea

The idea is that in making these behavior adjustments we are working toward becoming our best selves.  The concept however is not one born out of pure selfishness. Often we don’t realize the negative effects our “busyness” is having on others and our organization. Consider some of the negative side effects listed below.

“Busy” people put unnecessary stress on the people around them. Tension and anxieties are contagious. Be particularly careful if you are in a leadership position.  An organizational culture needs to be built from the top down.  Good employees seek to model the values and behaviors demonstrated by their leaders.

“Busy” people frequently dismiss other’s ability to contribute. They have the “I’ll just do it myself” mindset. This causes others to feel undervalued and untrustworthy. This also happens when we discount other people’s suggestions for change or improvement.

But “Busy” is who I am.  Who would we be if not this super woman or super man who has it all under control (or is attempting to) and without whom the world (or store) would fall apart. The fact is that we are all replaceable.  If you have truly structured your organization to depend on you to such an extreme degree—you have screwed up.  An organization needs to stand on multiple legs.  Unexpected things happen, life can changes in a heartbeat and our organization needs to be structured to be able to withstand those types of blows.

Why are you so Busy and what can you do about it?

Are your systems less than efficient?  Examine this objectively and work to make improvements. This may take some outside consulting or you may be able to track and monitor your efficiency and course correct. Hint: if you have a hard time asking for help, this might be where you need the most support.

Are you constantly subjected to distractions and interruptions? Identify them and eliminate where possible. This means paying close attention to your use of electronics including email, social media, telephone and more.

Are you taking care of yourself? Be careful not to confuse scheduled “time out” and distractions.  A walk around the block at lunchtime that refreshes you or a taking a moment to read an article that stirs creative thought should be integrated into your day, not eliminated from it.

Are you saying yes when you really want t to say no? Establish boundaries, build fences and hold firm.  It is better to do fewer things well than several things mediocre. Often saying “no” to one thing gives you the room to do something that is meant to be a “yes”.

Are you afraid if you slow down you will have to deal with something you are avoiding?  Maybe something in your personal life? This is a tough one.  Be honest with yourself and challenge yourself to make healthy changes.

It is in great danger of being overused but the old airline analogy regarding the need to put on your own oxygen mask first is applicable here.

Busy doesn’t have to be a four-letter word

We all work hard for different reasons. Many of us feel that in today’s cutthroat business environment if we don’t work around the clock we will be fired or go out of business.  This is a legitimate fear and I in no way want to discount it.  I do, however believe there is a better approach and it is worth examining our patterns to see if we have fallen into this “busy” trap.

As with much in life, it is about quality and not quantity. Focused, quality interactions typically achieve better results than scattered efforts. Whether you embrace Huffington’s or McKeown’s specific strategies or not, the point is to examine, consider and make necessary changes. Even an incremental improvement is an improvement and will begin building a healthier individual and organization.

In closing I’d like you to ask yourself “Is my busyness helping or hurting my business (and personal life)?”…


Some Additional Resources


Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen – Audio Book



Think Better: An Innovator’s Guide to Productive Thinking

by Tim Hurson



How to Reduce Workplace Conflict and Stress: How Leaders and Their Employees Can Protect Their Sanity and Productivity from Tension and Turf Wars by Anna Maravelas



Productive Workplaces: Dignity, Meaning, and Community in the 21st Century

by Marvin R. Weisbord