Mental Outlook

Reward and Indulge Yourself at an Elite Retreat

By Dr. Nancy D. O’Reilly
For three days and two nights, I was recently privileged to be part of a hand-picked group of women at the Fairmont Princess Resort in Fairmont, Arizona. Holly Dowling, who had recently been my podcast guest on “Conversations with Smart Amazing Women,” is an award-winning keynote speaker and women’s advocate. This was her second such event, where she chose participants who are successful, well-positioned women who are still struggling to fit in time for themselves. I truly felt that the theme for the weekend was “Indulge Yourself.” But it was more than that. Holly put eight women together and gave us a safe, sacred place where we could develop trusting relationships and bonds that would extend well beyond our time at the retreat.
Although Holly had designed all-inclusive mind, body, and soul experiences with conversations and thought-provoking activities for self-reflection and growth, the remarkable thing about the experience was watching trust develop among us. Women need that trusted space. We actually opened up and became close very quickly, yet we discussed trust over and over again. And it took three days for many of us to feel comfortable enough to share our most personal truths.
It still amazes me that professional, successful, well-positioned women so often  don’t recognize their own self-worth. I admire their fearless compassionate adventuresome natures. Yet, when they describe their accomplishments, they do so in an offhand way, dismissing as nothing the achievements most others only dream of accomplishing. Like many other women, these powerhouses often put themselves last and don’t take time to reward themselves or care for their own well-being.
I hope you can recognize and acknowledge your worth and encourage you to indulge yourself. Take the opportunity to participate in a retreat of your own, even if it’s only an afternoon in a peaceful place, taking time to read that book you’ve been wanting to read, getting a massage, or slipping away for a weekend (without your phone). You are uniquely wonderful. Each of us is special, so toot your own horn and celebrate the successes in your life.
By all means, if you have an opportunity to gather with like-minded women in an event such as the Elite Retreat, please take that opportunity. I’m still talking about it more than a month later with the awe that comes from having experienced something precious with my sisters that I will cherish for many years. In fact, the most important part of the retreat for me is remembering who each woman is for herself and the connection we created in just a few days.
To find out about the next Elite Retreat hosted by Holly Dowling, click HollyDowling/Elite-Retreat.

10 Life Lessons from Leading Women

Excerpted from Leading Women: 20 Influential Women Share Their Secrets to Leadership, Business, and Life (Adams Media, 2015, ISBN: 978-1-440-58417-6, $16.99,, by Nancy D. O’Reilly, PsyD

To become part of the “women-helping-women” movement that’s sweeping the nation, and indeed the world, we first must access our personal power. This means we need to master our external environment (often, the workplace), tackle our own internal barriers, and learn how best to connect with other women. Here, excerpted from Leading Women, are 10 actions you can take right now. (Chapter title and the author of each chapter are listed below each tip.)
Learn how to manage interruptions. Men tend to interrupt women more than women interrupt men. As a result, women often don’t get their thoughts, ideas, and opinions heard. This can harm impact and credibility in the workplace. Develop a phrase, such as, “I’m not quite done yet,” or, “Hold that thought,” to help you manage these interruptions.

—“Power Up! Three Ways to Build Credibility and Make Yourself Heard” by Claire Damken Brown, PhD

 Leverage your feminine skills. As the world grows ever more complex and connected, there is a growing need for “feminine” skills, such as relational intelligence, emotional intelligence, inclusion, and empathy. Be clear about the skills you have to offer. Embrace them. They define a new kind of leadership, a more collaborative, interactive leadership.

“Soft Is the New Hard: The Hidden Power of Feminine Skills” by Birute Regine, EdD

Practice self-compassion. Ask yourself daily, What’s the most loving thing I can do for myself right now? Sometimes it means forgiving yourself for mistakes or simply lightening up on yourself; other times it means taking a walk or a hot bath or calling a good friend. When you love and take care of yourself, you will find it inevitably serves everyone.

—“Do You Need a Reason to Love?” by Marci Shimoff

 Strive to carry yourself with poise. Poise is usually defined as dignity, ease of manner, or composure. It also reflects wisdom, an acceptance that things do not happen overnight and that there are certain things we cannot transform. The knowledge that life is not always fair and it’s nobody’s fault. Poise is an understanding that putting one foot in front of the other is part of the power we have as human beings, as women.

—“Poise, The Final Ingredient” by Linda Rendleman

 Realize that who you are is different from what you can accomplish. Many of today’s women feel we must do something “amazing” before we die, but “amazing” is never defined. As a result, we are in constant pursuit, wandering from job to job, goal to goal, and relationship to relationship. Ask yourself: Who am I beyond my skills and knowledge? If I did not have to be great, what path would I take? What is my highest potential?

—“The Burden of Greatness” by Marcia Reynolds, PsyD

Find a healthy balance between feminism and narcissism. True beauty is a combination of what’s inside and what’s outside. We need to connect the two. Don’t waste time trying to stop the inevitable. Our clocks tick on no matter what we do—or do not do—to our faces and bodies. Finally, stop judging yourself regarding your appearance. Look in the mirror and talk to yourself like you would a good friend.

—“The New Beauty Paradox” by Vivian Diller, PhD, with Michele Willens

Brand your daughter with words of strength. Do you want to brand your daughter as a princess waiting to be rescued or do you want to brand her as a hard worker, or good problem solver, or smart, or willing to try new things? Take every opportunity you can to notice, to praise, and to strengthen those genuine skills and talents you want to foster. She will believe you and these traits will grow.

—“Seven Keys to Unlocking Female Leadership” by Janet Rose Wojtalik, EdD

Don’t let the divisive label of “feminism” stop you from supporting women’s equality. There are steps we can take to create a world where women have equal opportunities and rights and live in a world free from violence and oppression. Here are three ideas: 1. Become more aware of legislation and how it affects women. 2. Champion women and girls in your company, profession, and community. 3. Think globally. Stand up for women who have few rights and live under oppressive conditions in other parts of the world.

—“You Don’t Have to Be a Feminist to Support Women’s Rights” by Cheryl Benton

Avoid philanthropy based on handouts. Instead, support efforts that give women information and teach them how to use it. This is the approach taken by women like Wallis Annenberg, who helps fund community education and innovative projects; Melinda Gates, cofounder of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which facilitates people’s access to information; and Oprah Winfrey, a vocal and active supporter of education and teachers.

—“Information: The Best Form of Philanthropy” by Shirley Osborne

 Cherish the hard times. Often, they, not the good times, lead to your purpose, passion, and life’s work. Part of this is learning how to see obstacles as stepping stones. Go over them, under them, or through them, but don’t let them knock you down. They are an important part of your legacy and help you become not just a survivor but a sur-thriver.

—“Live Your Legacy: Leadership, Philanthropy, and Transformation” by Aurea McGarry


Originally published in Imperial Valley News, an online publication for the Imperial Valley Weekly, a weekly newspaper serving the El Centro, CA area.

You Can Be the Woman Who Is Helped Today

Keynote Speaker, Author, Leadership Coach

Judy Hoberman

After a successful 30-year career in sales and writing numerous books on gender differences in business, Judy Hoberman has found her true purpose and has focused on her newest goal, “to help one woman a day.” When she announced this goal to different groups of women, she was always surprised when a woman in the audience would raise her hand and ask, “Can I be the woman you help today?”
This is why Judy has expanded her reach in two ways: she wrote her new book, Walking on the Glass Floor: Seven Essential Qualities of Women Who Lead, and launched her new foundation at the same time. Judy knew that her purpose was to give women the tools they need to succeed in their careers, provide for their families, and have time to do what they truly desire. She already did this through the business she founded, Selling In A SKIRT, which is an acronym for:

  • Standing Out
  • Keys to Success
  • Inspiring Others
  • Results Oriented
  • Time Management
  • All while having Fun!!

Through coaching, consulting, sales training, speeches and a weekly radio show, Judy gives women important tools to help them succeed at their purpose.

Women Who Are Mentored Become Amazing Role Models for Other Women.

Walking on the Glass Floor is different than anything Judy has ever done. She began with the idea that if you have cracked through the glass ceiling, you are now walking on the glass floor. If you’re there, you have a responsibility to help other women get there too. Her purpose turned the corner of feminine leadership, to help women realize that we are phenomenal leaders and many of the skills that we don’t think of as being leadership skills are in fact the best tools for effective leadership.
Growing up and being told that she couldn’t do certain things because she was a girl created an obstacle for Judy that she felt she must overcome. In the process, she discovered her gifts, one being the way that she coped with being told that she couldn’t do something. It fueled her fire and she became all she wanted to become and in turn, was determined to help others do the same.

Create Relationships Before You Need Them.

Although her career was in sales, Judy doesn’t think of what she did as selling. She saw it as a form of communication and creating relationships. She helped people and worked with them to achieve what they needed. She advises her clients now to make relationships. It doesn’t matter who you are speaking to, there is always an opportunity for a wonderful relationship.

Help Another Woman Today

This conversation is full of helpful information for women leaders. Judy comments on women’s lack of self confidence. Even women who are at the top of their field have told her that the most difficult thing for them is having the courage to show their self-confidence. Dr. Nancy adds that it’s also fear of failure that holds many women back and comments on how much she likes Judy’s chapter on taking risks. Judy says she knows how important this information is for women and that is why she formed the foundation, to get the book into the hands of the women who need it and to help women in more ways than she could otherwise. The mission is to support women and women’s initiatives through writing, workshops and publications.
Underneath it all is Judy’s desire to help women know what incredible leadership skills they already possess. It only requires a shift of perspective to see how passion, a sense of purpose, a talent for creating relationships and working in collaboration can be essential tools in the hands and heart of a gifted leader.  Check out Judy’s website,, for more information and listen to this conversation for more of Judy’s personal story and why she and Dr. Nancy say we desperately need more women leaders.

The Pursuit of Happiness

Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared – Buddha
Happiness is a big deal. According to Lisa Firestone, Ph.D., like love, happiness is often spoken of like it’s a physical object we must find and snatch up. Yet, also like love, happiness is something we are more likely to cultivate within ourselves than stumble upon in our wanderings. As the Dalai Lama has said, “Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.”
When we look at happiness as an object, we may put goals or milestones in front of our happiness. As Paula Davis-Laack writes at HuffPost, women may be setting themselves up for happiness failure by buying into certain myths of happiness:

  • I’ll be happy when I get married or find that perfect relationship.
  • I’ll be happy when I make more money.
  • I’ll be happy when I have kids.
  • I’ll be happy when I lose weight.
  • I’ll be happy when I change jobs/get a new job/get promoted.

Society spins a very seductive story for women, making it seem as though they’re not really worthy unless they’ve achieved these milestones. However, the truth is we don’t have to hit a certain goal to be happy. Dr. Nancy has written that, “It’s not money, good looks, success or even love in our lives that makes us happy. Many people who have all these things and should have high levels of happiness reported feeling glum and bored. So why don’t these things bring happiness to their obviously wonderful lives?”
“Things don’t make us happy, because people quickly adapt to change. We get used to the new things in our lives, which soon become everyday and predictable. Research also suggests that each of us has a “set point” for happiness, a level of contentment that stays about the same even when external circumstances in our lives change.”
For some women, that set point solidifies with age. A new study recently found that women get happier later in life, particularly between the ages of 50 and 70. Study author and psychologist Katherine Campbell says the findings suggest that mood improves as women transition from midlife to late-life. She says, “Women feel more in control of their lives and are still physically capable of enjoying their hobbies and traveling. They are often more financially stable and have less responsibility for children. They are free to enjoy the fruits of their hard work and are able to prioritize their own needs and wants.”
If we follow the Dalia Lama’s wisdom and look at happiness as originating from our own actions, we can modify our actions to work towards happiness in our everyday lives. As Dr. Firestone writes, “Determining what these actions should be is each individual’s personal adventure, but research can provide some guidance. Studies show that the happiest people are those who seek meaning as opposed to immediate gratification or pleasure. To find fulfillment, each of us must uncover our true hopes, ambitions, dreams and ideas, and then make our actions match these ideals.”
Where is your meaning? Is it in your child’s laugh? In your work? In your community? What about your hopes? Your dreams and ideas? Your ambitions? What actions can you take to bring more meaning to your life, and dedicate yourself more fully to that which you feel most passionate about?
There are things we can all do, not only to bring new meaning into our lives, but to make the world a better place for all of us to live in. Here are a few ideas to help you get started:

  • Do something nice for someone.
  • Go out of your way to help another woman.
  • Reach out into your community and volunteer.
  • Take five steps each week towards your personal goals.
  • Spend time with friends or family.

There is no time like the present to take control of our power and perception, and create happier, healthier lives. We can tap into our own personal meaning by shifting our actions, expressing gratitude for what we already have, and taking time to be kind in words and actions toward others. The rewards of taking these actions and accepting responsibility for our own happiness are immeasurable. But daily setting this course toward these goals in every action you take will keep your steps on the path of personal happiness without distraction from society’s conflicts and crises. And your candle can share its light with others working toward their own happiness and sharing their light as well.

Make Happiness Your Default Setting

In the world today, happiness can be elusive. There are injustices, wars, need, greed, divisiveness, and more at play on a global scale. And that doesn’t even begin to touch the struggles of daily life. While all of these issues affect women and men, it seems to impact women more. In fact, one of the best documented gender gaps is the mood disorder — depression. Women are about twice as likely as men to develop major depression.
However, a new study finds that many women get happier in later life, particularly in the years between 50 and 70. The study, believed to be one of the first of its kind, measured “Qualities of happiness” which included optimism, self-esteem, social support, social interest, freedom, energy, cheerfulness, and thought clarity. University of Melbourne researchers also found that both negative mood and depressive symptoms decreased significantly over that time.
Study author and psychologist Katherine Campbell says the findings suggest that mood improves as women transition from midlife to late-life. “The women in this study reported feeling more patient, less tense, and they tended to be less withdrawn as they entered their sixties,” she says.
“Women feel more in control of their lives and are still physically capable of enjoying their hobbies and traveling. They are often more financially stable and have less responsibility for children. They are free to enjoy the fruits of their hard work and are able to prioritize their own needs and wants.”
That’s great news because happiness is important, not only because it feels good, but also because it’s actually good for you. According to study published by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, women who have a positive outlook, or are happy, have a much lower risk of dying from serious illnesses, especially cardiovascular diseases. The study finds that a higher degree of optimism coincided with a lower mortality risk from cancer, heart disease, stroke, respiratory disease, and infection.
For those women who have not necessarily hit their “Golden Years” of happiness, or are off to a slow start, there are several things Martin P. Seligman says you can do to make happiness your default setting. First, he suggests that we learn to be miserable or happy internally, not through material or external rewards, but by building good character. The rewards are not extrinsic but intrinsic, stemming from inner satisfaction rather than satisfaction from the outer world. Seligman’s school has identified 24 character strengths that we can develop to guide us to happiness in our lives. Their study of over 5,000 men and women revealed four core traits that were most important. They called these “heart strengths”: gratitude, hope, zest and the ability to love and be loved. Put simply: “Relationships with other people are what makes us the happiest.”
In addition to working on creating or improving our relationships, we can also work to embrace a “path” to happiness. Seligman suggests:

  • The “pleasant life” path involves finding activities and things that give you pleasure. You enjoy lots of fun, good times and play.
  • The “engaged life” path allows you to lose yourself in some passion or activity. You look up and the time has flown. That is joy.
  • The “meaningful life” path requires having a purpose in your life. Giving of yourself as a volunteer provides a reason to get up each day. You’re doing more than just taking up space and oxygen.

Choosing a path and working towards happiness not only makes a difference in our health, it can make a difference in how we relate to ourselves and others. My Leading Women co-author Kristin Andress writes that, “When you focus on mastering your mind, and thus your perceptions and perspective, you discover different paths in the landscape of your possibilities.”
Framing and reframing your experiences can prevent you from slipping into a state of anxiety or depression. The ability to catch yourself when you get that sinking feeling lies in being aware that it is happening, and choosing to pause and select a new perspective. This is much more than seeing the glass half full or making lemons into lemonade. It is a matter of deciding how you will integrate your way of “being” into your life and lifestyle. The power to reflect on your perspective and reframe it gives you an opening to see the world, other people, and yourself in different ways. Typically, it is also a much more peaceful and satisfying way to live.
As negative stories continue to dominate the news and genuine happiness seems to become the exception, not the rule, it really is the perfect time to take control of our power and perception, learn to master optimism, and create happier, healthier lives. We can also reach out and connect with other women and help them find a way to take control of their lives and find happiness in the everyday too. We are all sisters; when we connect we not only become happier people, we truly can change the world!

When We’re Bullied We’re All Children

stressed bullying victim
Have you noticed that when we find ourselves in the crosshairs of slights, snubs or outright attacks, we suddenly feel small and vulnerable? Our typical instinct is to go hide somewhere—like under the bed.  While that may be a child’s response, full grown women and men can come under attack from a bully at a moment’s notice. Why is that behavior so common and what makes people of any gender or age turn to bullying others?
Bullies aren’t evil, according to “5 Ways to Help Children Deal with Bullies Compassionately” from Fractus Learning. Bullies are unhappy. Bullying indicates inner turmoil. The author behind the info graphic, psychologist Chiu Lau, says that there are many reasons people behave badly. One reason is that they may feel bad about themselves, so by making others feel bad, they feel better. Some people learn that being mean to someone is a way to get what they want. Others bully because they have been bullied, so they try to protect themselves by scaring others. The list continues, but the point is there isn’t one simple answer. In general, the bully lacks something and perceives he or she will gain from acting badly. So how can children (and adults) deal effectively with bullies?
There’s a lot of advice about this. One is to understand that it may not be about you, unless you’re standing in the way of the bully’s pursuit of a coveted job, love interest, or other perceived desire. Even if the bully wants power over you, it’s still not about YOU; it’s about how it makes the bully feel. Some just want to win and feeling power over another person makes them feel powerful. But fighting back only adds fuel to the bully’s fire. Anger and aggression beget more anger and aggression. Running away also is not a positive option unless you’re in physical danger. Then it’s the best option.
Although it’s an unpleasant situation, maybe you should actually thank the workplace bully for giving you a chance to grow, suggests Marlene Chism, author of Stop Workplace Drama.  She says it gives you an opportunity to examine your personal boundaries and figure out what you’re willing to accept from another person and also why you’re avoiding confrontation. Most important, Marlene recommends that you take this opportunity to reinvent and realign. If you see yourself as a weak victim, you definitely need to change your perspective and invent a new YOU who is a powerful creator. She advises changing your communication style starting with how you communicate to yourself.
However, if you feel personal danger, you should immediately seek help. Tell someone you trust, suggests Fractus Learning. In a child’s case, it could be a favorite teacher or parent. Whoever you tell, remember there is power in sharing your stories. If a bully is bearing down hard and you fear for your job, your safety or even your life, don’t try to handle it alone. Even if you don’t have a trusted person you think might help, explaining your situation to someone else will help you understand your own feelings so you can get some perspective on the situation. Leading Women co-author, Bridget Cook-Burch talks about how changing the story you tell yourself can transform your life. In the situation she describes in her chapter in the book, she feared for her loss of livelihood when a client began to harass her. Sometimes, the threat can seem so severe that we can’t see a way out and try to avoid or ignore it. But this kind of fear only compounds itself if it’s allowed to fester inside. Bridget’s powerful story tells how to overcome the fear to reinvent and realign your life, much as Marlene suggests.
Elaborate studies have been performed to determine if bullying is cultural or inherited. Bullying not only crosses cultures and time periods, it also crosses species, according to Hogan Sherro, who analyzed it for Scientific American. Therefore, he concluded that it must be a human trait––part of the human condition–– which is used to intimidate and control the balance of power in social situations. In fact, some companies develop an entire culture based on bullying, according to Bullying Statistics. This develops because management doesn’t admit to or deal with underlying problems. The same article lists the unproductive outcomes from bullying, including stress, high turnover, absenteeism, loss of motivation, etc., all of which can result in a costly impact on the bottom line. The author urges victims to document the bullying behavior and report it to management. “Companies with good anti-bullying policies usually hold meetings from time to time to remind employees what workplace bullying is, how to report it, and the consequences for bullying,” she writes.
Whatever the social situation, it’s important to name the behavior accurately. Identifying bullying, whether it’s on Facebook, in the classroom or at work, is the first step. Then, advises Fractus Learning, treat the bully with compassion. If you’re strong enough to come out from under the bed, invent your own story and become a powerful creator, this might indeed work. The bully is unhappy and feels powerless. When you’re sincerely kind to people, they feel valued. Being an example of kindness may be difficult in the face of someone telling you that you’re ugly, but that’s what Chiu Lau (and Mother Teresa) recommend.
If kindness was simple, then everyone would be kind and no one would experience meanness and bullying,” writes Susan Swearer, Co-Director of the Bullying Research Network. She challenges us to imagine a world where kindness is the norm and then create it by teaching, modeling and rewarding kindness. Punishing bullying behavior doesn’t work. Instead, she says, “it makes better sense to focus on teaching and modeling pro-social behavior, like teaching kindness.” Pro-social behaviors include being respectful, creating gratitude activities, volunteering and giving service, and fostering working together. She outlines this teaching plan with the intention of presenting it to children.
But imagine if we grownups did the same thing in our workplaces. Suppose we encourage each other to help out when one of our workmates seems stressed or overwhelmed. What if we hold employee meetings to brainstorm ways we can reward one another for good work, support each other’s ideas, and even-out the workload? Apply that same model to any social situation—committee, community event, city council, or foundation—kindness begets kindness and toxic relationships cannot thrive in its midst. It’s not easy to always be kind when you’re under pressure, and it may be impossible in a heated moment with a bully bearing down on your neck, but it feels a lot more satisfying and rewarding when you achieve it. And when you practice it on a daily basis, thrown in with a dose of gratitude every day, you diffuse the power of any potential bully by setting out the best example of the human condition. Yes, there are just as many studies that report kindness is also part of the human condition. And these random acts also span centuries and species, just as bullying does.
Kindness is actually intuitive, reports Melissa Dahl. It’s only when we think it over, that we become selfish.  She cites studies where college students’ first inclination is to share, not hoard, and heroic acts where people risk their own lives in a matter of seconds to save the life of a stranger. Overwhelming evidence of everyday heroes blazes across the front pages of every crisis. In each case, people reach out to help a neighbor they may never have met, possibly one who shook a fist at them in traffic. So kindness is a matter of choice. YOU can choose how to react to bullying behavior. You can focus on resenting the bully or YOU can try to help a powerless person to get beyond their feelings of loss. Even though it may take practice, remember that your first instinct as a human being is to be kind.

Five Must-Do’s for Women Seeking Greater Influence in 2017

Charlene Ryan had never been political, but the polarizing candidates in 2016 changed that. For the first time, she worked to elect a candidate and even donated money. Since the election, although nervous, she is ready to play a leadership role in her community, but where to begin?
The first step is to lean into her circle of women friends. The 20 women now in the US Senate – from both sides of the aisle – have made news by meeting for dinner every quarter to work together. One of their most notable agreements prevented a government shutdown in 2013. One commentator joked, “The women are the only grownups left in Washington.”
No one party or person has all the good ideas, so the important thing is for us all to work together for the good of the country. Here are a few useful strategies I’ve learned from the smart, amazing women co-authors of my book, Leading Women: 20 Influential Women Share Their Secrets to Leadership, Business and Life. These strategies will increase your ability to advance your beliefs and increase your influence.

1. Look closely at how you feel about exercising power.

Today, many women and men are willing to step up and act. Feldt’s nine power tools help women understand who they are so they can define their own terms. Women have plenty of ambition, but too often fail to use it to develop their plan, and take responsibility for working it.
Although the doors to power have been open for decades, women haven’t been stepping through. Co-author Gloria Feldt says when power is defined as “power over,” women want no part of it. When she redefines it as the “power to” work with others, women feel quite differently. With this simple paradigm shift women can “choose power over fear to lead authentically as women.”

2. Build your power by speaking in public. 

By speaking up, “A woman is transcending conventional attitudes toward the woman’s role and the woman’s place,” Phillips says. That’s OK. Claim your outsider status as a badge of honor. Draft your bio carefully and let the emcee establish your expertise so you get the respect you deserve.
“Delivering a presentation that achieves its purpose can be empowering,” says co-author Lois Phillips, PhD. Success requires planning, so start by deciding: What do I stand for? What do I believe? Am I willing to take the heat for asserting my ideas?

3. Plan ways to keep the floor and make yourself heard. 

For example, if another woman acknowledges an interruption by saying, “Now, let’s hear more of what Elaine was saying,” she is more likely to regain the floor. When a man offers Elaine’s idea as his own, her ally could say, “Thanks for supporting Elaine’s idea. Let’s ask her to give us a few more data points.” There are personal strategies to help a woman recover after an interruption, but she is much more likely to succeed with allies.
Men are accustomed to talking over women, says gender communication expert and co-author Claire Damken Brown, PhD. To combat that, strategize with other women to get the message out.
When you do have the floor, make sure you don’t numb your audience with every detail. Keep it simple, and offer one word, one sentence and then one paragraph to keep the attention of the audience.

4. Gather Your Nerve and Take Your Rightful Seat

“Women have been trained to hide their skills,” says international speaker and co-author Lois P. Frankel, PhD. She urges women to claim the seat they deserve at the table, regardless of how many men are present.
“Think strategically but act tactically,” says Frankel. While it’s tempting to roll up your sleeves and jump into an assignment, ask yourself some questions first, such as, “Will doing this add value? What is the most efficient way to do it? Should I be doing this or is someone else better suited? What might be a better idea?”

5. Strategize and Use Your Feminine Leadership Skills

Bringing dissenting sides together, knowing when to push, when to pull, and when to stand your ground is typical of feminine negotiation styles. These so-called soft skills are in fact hard to learn and apply, according to-author Birute Regine, EdD. Considering all sides of an issue, listening attentively, empathizing and keeping your focus on the big picture are feminine skills that help women develop beneficial policies.
The quarterly dinners of Democrat and Republican women senators are an example of this willingness to work together. “The women are an incredibly positive force,” one woman confided to a TIME reporter. “We work together well, and we look for common ground.”
Women like Charlene Ryan get involved when they want to change something. That’s great! When you learn a great change technique, apply it in your own life and share it with another woman. Let’s create a world in which every woman claims her power, sees her advice and expertise valued and respected, conquers her internal barriers, and works together with other women and men.

Your Big, Bold, Passionate Summer

Seven Ways Women Can Find Adventure in Their Own Backyard (and Why They Should)

If you’re like most women, your life is well entrenched in routine. But Dr. Nancy D. O’Reilly says breaking out of your rut and expanding your world can propel you to success. Here are tips to help you plan the most adventurous summer yet.

Each morning you struggle to wake up and try not to become too frazzled while getting ready for work. Eight or nine (or more) hours later, you come home, check as many chores as possible off your to-do list, and collapse into bed. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. Even your hobbies and downtime are part of the same old routine: book club on Tuesday nights, TV on Thursday nights, dinner with your girlfriends every other Friday.

So what’s wrong with that? Well, a CNN article suggests that trying out new hobbies and discovering new interests might stave off memory loss. But also, says Dr. Nancy D. O’Reilly, when we exist and endure instead of approaching life as an adventure, we not only miss out on lots of fun, but we squander our full potential.

“I’ve been fortunate to meet and work with so many women who are amazing, successful, high-performing leaders in many different fields,” says O’Reilly, who, along with 19 other women, cowrote the new book Leading Women: 20 Influential Women Share Their Secrets to Leadership, Business, and Life (Adams Media, 2015, ISBN: 978-1-440-58417-6, $16.99, “And one thing they all have in common is their courage and their sense of adventure.

“They’re not satisfied with the same old, same old,” she adds. “They’re out there setting goals, connecting, taking risks—not just professionally but personally too.”

In other words, how we work and how we play are deeply connected. When we approach life with enthusiasm and intensity—whether we’re driving a collaborative project or learning how to surf—we grow, learn, gain new skills, and expand our sphere of influence. And when we see that taking risks pays off, we’re willing to take more.

That’s why O’Reilly has a summer homework assignment for women: Be brave. Try something new and fun. Expand your world. Not only will you increase your joy in the moment, you’ll get practiced at boldness and adventure. With time this attitude will become your default setting, increasing the likelihood of success in all areas of your life.

“The good news is, you don’t have to travel to Timbuktu,” adds O’Reilly. “There are adventures waiting in your own backyard that you have probably never considered.”

Here, she shares seven tips to help you wring every drop of joy and excitement out of this summer:
Don’t waste the weekend. How many times have you realized that it’s Sunday evening and you haven’t accomplished any of the things you meant to over the weekend (other than sleeping in and binge-watching a show on Netflix)? This summer, O’Reilly encourages you to make the most of your weekends by rising early(ish) and spending your time purposefully.

“Set a goal for every weekend to do something you’ve never done before, whether it’s visiting a new state park, learning a new sport, throwing a neighborhood block party, or even just cooking a new type of cuisine for dinner,” O’Reilly suggests. “And accept the fact that these types of activities almost never happen on the fly—you need to talk to your family and decide in advance how you want to spend each weekend.”

Get out of your vacation rut. Is your family going to a certain beach this summer because, well, that’s what you always do? Even if your family thoroughly enjoys a familiar destination, consider making plans to visit a new place this summer. For example, instead of experiencing the surf and sand, you might rent a mountain cabin or plan a road trip through several national parks.

“Vacationing in a new place will be a treat for your brain, your eyes, your taste buds, and more,” O’Reilly comments. “You’ll probably meet interesting new people as well. It’s fine to use some of your vacation time to rest and rejuvenate—but be sure to plan a few adventures too. Maybe this will be the year you finally take that surfing lesson or tour the landmark you’ve always wanted to visit.”

Find creative new day-trip destinations. Imagine a 100-mile radius around your home. Chances are, there are more fun places and events in that radius than you can cram into one summer: hiking trails, historic sites, lakes, new restaurants, museums, community theaters, festivals, and more. Whether your family is taking an out-of-town vacation or not, plan to visit some of them. (What better way to make the most of your weekends?)

“Some friends of mine block out one weekend every month for a day trip,” O’Reilly shares. “They keep a folder full of clippings and ideas, and they are slowly working their way through it. What a great idea! Remember, adventure isn’t something that can be found only hundreds of miles away. You may be surprised by what your area has to offer, and by how much it has grown and changed while you’ve been stuck in a rut.”

Learn a fun new skill. One of the great things about summer is that the pace of daily life does tend to slow down somewhat. Take advantage of longer days and more relaxed schedules by taking the time to learn something new. Sign up for a class, join a club, or ask a friend to share her expertise.

“Your new skill could be kayaking, target shooting, water skiing, mountain biking, yoga, woodworking, or even skydiving,” O’Reilly says. “If you’re not at least a little nervous about what you’ve chosen to do, move on to something else. Remember, the idea is to challenge and exhilarate yourself—and that won’t happen if you’re not stretching beyond the boundaries of what feels comfortable.”

Do at least one thing to give back to your community. Men and women who care enough about others to volunteer their time, talents, and treasure are the kinds of people you want to meet. And on a personal level, giving back enhances gratitude and contentment, and can even reduce stress levels. So whether your “cause” is homeless animals, adult literacy, or clean oceans, get involved this summer.

“I want to be clear that giving back doesn’t have to mean writing a big check,” O’Reilly comments. “Your time and talents are just as impactful. If you can’t find a preexisting organization in your community that speaks to your heart, pull together a group of likeminded folks and start your own project, like a community vegetable garden.”

Make a point to meet new people. Your kids will meet new friends during summer sports and day camp—and you should try to do the same! If you’re putting O’Reilly’s previous tips into practice, you’ll already have dozens of new people in your orbit. You might also attend networking events, get on a new team at work, introduce yourself to familiar faces at the gym, and respond “yes” to more social invitations.

“I would especially encourage you to seek out other women,” O’Reilly urges. “Women inherently know how to make satisfying, mutually fulfilling connections. In fact, I am seeing the growth of a true women-helping-women movement in which we are creating an ever-expanding network that offers expertise and support to women in business, government, education, philanthropy, and other fields.

“Most of us are so busy and overwhelmed that we just don’t make it a priority to connect with other women,” she adds. “But when you’re purposeful about doing this, your life will become richer, more exciting, and more creative. When we join hands, we can accomplish so much.”

Do all of these things in the spirit of joy and gratitude. There’s one important caveat when it comes to stretching your boundaries and planning an exciting, adventurous summer: You have to approach this goal with a positive, open attitude. Otherwise, your plans won’t feel any different from the other uninspiring items on your to-do list, and they definitely won’t help you to take your power and reach your potential.

“That said, when you’re in the midst of the daily grind, summoning up positivity can be easier said than done,” O’Reilly admits. “The good news is, a significant amount of our happiness comes from the ways we perceive our world—and we can choose to have an attitude of gratitude. Instead of thinking of what you have to do, focus on what you get to do. Every time you learn something new, receive a new opportunity, or learn a new skill this summer, allow yourself to savor the moment and say thanks. You’ll find that your joy levels steadily rise—and that you are more and more excited to expand your world.”

“As an adult you may not get a summer vacation—but it’s time to recapture the excitement and anticipation you felt as a child at the beginning of each summer season,” O’Reilly concludes. “Start with one or two ‘adventures’ from the list above and notice the changes in your mood, creativity, motivation, and maybe even energy levels. Here’s to the most exciting summer you’ve had in years—and to expanding your potential!”


Originally appeared in “Home Based Working Moms” May, 2015.

ALL Moms Are Leading Women

A Mother’s Day Celebration of the Leadership Traits We Naturally Possess

If you’re a mom, your kids have done more than steal your heart, make you laugh, and (occasionally) drive you crazy. They’ve also brought out your inner leader. Just in time for Mother’s Day, Dr. Nancy D. O’Reilly looks at seven leadership traits moms possess naturally, and how they manifest in business as well as in the business of mothering.

It’s a great time to be a woman. Over the past few decades, the leadership torch has passed from one gender to the other. Not that men are irrelevant in business. (Far from it.) It’s just that women’s “feminine skills”—those inherent qualities that make the fairer sex such great nurturers, connectors, and collaborators—are being recognized for the tremendous value they bring to the global economy. And according to Dr. Nancy D. O’Reilly, these skills aren’t just seen at the conference table: They’re on full display at play dates and PTO meetings, too.
“When I was researching my book about the secrets of successful women, I realized something amazing (but not surprising),” says O’Reilly, who in collaboration with 19 other female leaders wrote Leading Women: 20 Influential Women Share Their Secrets to Leadership, Business, and Life (Adams Media, 2015, ISBN: 978-1-440-58417-6, $16.99, “All moms are leading women. Whether a mother works outside the home or not, nowhere are her leadership skills more apparent than when she parents her children.”
Lois P. Frankel, PhD, who is one of O’Reilly’s coauthors, says that you are a leader if you have ever convinced anyone to follow you. Mothers definitely fall into that category—just think of how they manage to corral their broods into a (more or less) cooperative group while handling a myriad of tasks such as negotiating client contracts, cooking dinner, and organizing the high school fundraiser!
Here are just a few leadership skills women naturally possess—and how they manifest in both business and in the business of mothering:
Mothers are flexible enough to do what works. Whether you’re moving forward with a new business plan, leading a team charged with fixing a faulty process, or pitching a new idea to a client, you’ll surely run into roadblocks and opposition. Women are great at navigating these situations because, instead of digging in their heels and holding fast, they stay open to other options. They’re great at coming up with solutions that benefit everyone. And according to O’Reilly, many women learn this skill in the trenches of motherhood.
“Kids don’t respond well to the ‘command and control’ type of leadership,” she comments. “If a stubborn three-year-old is refusing to eat her green beans, it’s almost impossible to force her. If you try, you will end up with an ugly scene, at best, or a lifelong aversion to green beans, at worst. A mom knows to say, ‘I forgot to tell you, these are special Big Bird beans. That means if you eat them, you can watch your Big Bird DVD after bath time.’
“The kid gets a win because she gets to watch her favorite video,” O’Reilly adds. “Mom gets a win because the kid eats the green beans and she, the mom, gets 30 minutes to herself after dinner. Is this a bribe? I call it good negotiation! It has the desired effect and is good for both parties.”
Mothers are giving, nurturing, and empathetic (and yes, these are leadership skills).  These “soft skills” are actually quite formidable and difficult to learn. After all, points out coauthor Birute Regine, EdD, no one ever succeeded in mastering relational intelligence during a two-hour seminar! The innate ability to nurture relationships makes women amazing leaders in the workplace. They can have a huge impact on company culture and morale (and thus productivity and growth).
“Even more than business leaders, mothers give freely of their time, energy, and love—usually without questioning it for a second,” says O’Reilly. “Of course, this is only part of what it takes to raise high-functioning human beings—parents must also instill a work ethic, self-discipline, and so forth—but it’s the caring and encouraging that makes these life skills ‘stick.’ Why? Because it makes the kids want to master the attitudes and behaviors Mom is imparting.
“Soft skills fuel performance because they speak to the acknowledgment and validation people crave, deep down,” she adds. “This is true whether they’re five or 55—and whether the setting is the home or the workplace.”
Mothers like to talk. Yes, women occasionally get a bad rap for being chatty (which is actually a misconception in business, points out coauthor Claire Damken Brown, PhD, since research shows men talk more and hold the floor longer during meetings). However, it turns out that our talking patterns are actually a huge strength. Feminine communication contains valuable, detailed information that helps us understand the situation and make connections.
“This benefits us not only professionally, but at home, too,” notes O’Reilly. “We know what’s going on at school, down the street, and in the community—and we can leverage that knowledge to make sure our kids get the support, encouragement, and opportunities they need.”
Mothers make meaningful connections (beyond mere networking). In business, traditional let’s-exchange-business-cards networking rarely pays off in a meaningful way. Often, that’s because participants go into each interaction wondering, What can this person do for me? Instead, connections that result in success happen when we ask, What can we accomplish together?
“Women know that connection and collaboration, not competition, are best for everyone,” says O’Reilly. “In fact, a women-helping-women movement is rapidly changing the playing field for women in business, government, education, philanthropy, and other fields. And, of course, this movement has been helping us on the home front for millennia, as mothers reached out to other mothers to share childcare and chores and keep the family economy healthy. Reciprocity and the genuine desire to help are at the heart of these connections.”
Mothers know how to facilitate collaboration. Successful collaboration is a valuable business (and life) skill, and as anyone who’s ever done it knows, it involves a lot more than just putting a group of people in a room and asking them to work together. To achieve positive results, points out coauthor Birute Regine, EdD, leaders must accurately read nonverbal cues and others’ emotions, use empathy, and be sensitive to fairness and turn-taking.
“All of these are feminine skills, and mothers use them every day at home as we rally the troops to keep the house clean, cook dinner together, run a family business, or have fun during family game night,” O’Reilly says. “We’re experts at making sure everyone does their part while feeling heard, valued, and loved. In fact, it’s around the proverbial dinner table that we all learn to first speak up for ourselves and debate issues that are important to us.”
Mothers are resilient. In business, female leaders are often noted for their ability to power through tough times, creatively using obstacles as teachable moments and stepping stones. These women shift their focus away from what went wrong (and even away from how they thought the outcome should look) and focus instead on how their current resources can be leveraged to create a rosier future for their organizations. (For example, if a leader’s company is failing in one area, she might see that “failure” as a springboard to move in a fresh new direction.)
“Every mother knows what this is like,” comments O’Reilly. “We’ve been through all kinds of struggles with our kids, yet we don’t give up on them. We tirelessly work to make sure they have resources and opportunities, sometimes in spite of their best efforts to drive us crazy! We come to see, just by living and mothering, that ‘this too will pass,’ that life is a work in progress, and that the most frustrating challenges can lead to the most fruitful outcomes.”
Mothers don’t mind asking for help. For the most part, women are not diehard individualists. That’s because they value the greater good—of their team, department, employees, or family—more than their own egos. And on an instinctive level, they understand that utilizing the resources and expertise of others is often the most efficient and effective way to get things done—at the office and at home.
“Women don’t feel diminished as individuals when we enlist the aid of others—quite the opposite!” O’Reilly notes. “We understand that tapping into our ‘sisterhood’s’ collective intelligence is something to be proud, not ashamed, of. And this is nothing new; as I’ve pointed out, women have been relying on each other for eons. It’s easy to imagine one of our ancestors asking another, ‘Can I drop the kids off at your cave while I gather dinner? How do you get them to eat all their bison?’ And of course, we still do this: ‘Do you know a reliable babysitter? Where’s the best place to buy stick-on labels for summer camp?’”
“Even in our increasingly enlightened modern age, motherhood and career are all too often seen as two separate, and usually conflicting, arenas,” O’Reilly concludes. “And while we’ll probably never come up with a magic formula on how to ‘have it all’ (if such a thing is even possible), we can make meaningful strides in this direction by acknowledging that these two areas of our lives actually depend on many of the same skills.
“By seeing mothers as leaders whose parenting experience can translate profitably into the professional realm, all of us—moms, families, and organizations—stand to gain tremendously,” she says.
First appeared in Imperial Valley News on April 29, 2015.
Imperial Valley News is an online publication for the Imperial Valley Weekly, a weekly newspaper serving the El Centro, CA area.

Leverage Your Strengths for Mutual Gain

Gallup Certified Strengths Coach

Marsha Friend-Berkson

Guiding teams down their paths to ever-greater success is the passion of Consultant and Gallup Certified Strengths Coach Marcia Friend-Berkson. When her marriage and business with her husband ended, her coach suggested that she analyze her with the Clifton Strengths tool. In organizing some work for an organization at the time, she realized that she naturally had tasks that energized her and others she pushed to the side. It was liberating to know that she could outsource those and focus on what she was good at.
What she learned about herself intrigued her so much that she took the workshops to become certified and for the past two years has helped several San Diego companies and social-profit organizations to utilize the system for their own team-building success. As Berkson says, when you leverage your strengths for the organization’s greater good, you realize that we’re all in this together and everyone contributes more when they work from a place of empowerment.
“What would happen when we think about what is right about people rather than fixating on what is wrong with people.”

– Donald O. Clifton, Father of Strengths Psychology

Dr. Nancy and Berkson talk about how people usually want to fix what needs improvement, rather than celebrating their talents. When Donald Clifton invented the tool, he thought it really could be transformative. Gallup’s measurement of it shows that when you leverage from your strengths, you’re three times happier in life and six times more engaged in your job. Berkson says that you soar when you understand your strengths, because they describe you, influence your choices and explain how you filter the world. And because you understand that you are good at some things, but not so great at others, you work in ways that are in sync with your natural gifts.
Women are typically strong at relationship-building skills, but don’t think it’s valued as much as analytical skills in business. However, when men discover how good women on the team are at collaboration and developing relationships, they reach out to leverage the skills that they lack. For the women, it’s validating and increases their sense of self-worth. For the men, it reveals how crucial these strengths are to the success of the organization.

Imagine being excited about going to work every day.

Gallup research shows that only 18% of the United States workforce are actively engaged in their jobs. Dr. Nancy quotes a statistic that reports over 50% of American workers are unhappy with their jobs. She wonders about how so many people could follow paths that leave them so dissatisfied.
Berkson says that’s why she is so excited about what happens to people when they find their own strengths. People get energized and happy to figure out why they are drawn to particular skill sets. People start to feel good about where their secret sauce is and how they can leverage theirs to have someone else support them.  The spirit of trust grows. The atmosphere becomes collaborative over leveraging each others’ strengths to reach a common goal. Her goal in the process is to ultimately help people become their own advocate and to be able to talk honestly about their strengths and how they would like to use them to accomplish their work.
To find out more about Berkson’s experience of how the assessment works with different organizations, listen to this interview. Then check out her website,,  for her on-going writings and to contact her with questions.

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