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    5 Ways Women Business Leaders Can Control Technology Overload

    April 15th, 2013

    Women Business Leaders have two choices when it comes to technology: Control or be controlled.

    I had the luxury of meeting some women business leaders for lunch today to celebrate a birthday.

    A supposedly relaxing two-hour lunch on a patio overlooking the Gulf Coast became a harried flurry of confused energy. Cell phones rang with “urgent” calls, a conference call usurped one of the party attendees during the appetizer and mimosa course.

    Nearly everyone lamented how difficult it was to “get away “ on a Friday afternoon. Now lets face it, we were all disconnected from our desks, but none of us had escaped technology. We have entered the magnificent age of working remotely with the freedom of access, the joy of being any place and working any time. Did I say magnificent?

    As I watched this dysfunctional Coastal luncheon I wondered how to harness technology that has afforded us efficiency but perhaps taken away a sense of freedom.

    We all want to “super serve” our clients and customers but as one diner complained “my client wanted to know why, when he emailed me at 10pm on a Saturday evening, I didn’t call him back” I offer some basic rules on how to remain efficient but take control of technology:

    Be selective

    Don’t get sucked into small tasks; stay on track. Make sure that you are consistently aware of your big picture goals. This will ensure that you are spending your time wisely.

    Schedule time to check email

    Limit the times you check email. Try early, middle and end of day. Use this scheduled time to work without distraction, as the cost of context-switching is huge. While email is an essential and an efficient means of communication, evaluate and prioritize your responses.

    Schedule uninterrupted time to focus on important projects

    Besides getting out of email, it’s important to schedule time on our calendar where we focus on the projects that will bring us the most value. Sometimes that means being very clear to others about what you are and are not going to be paying attention to.

    Integrate mindfulness in the flow of your day

    Take a breather and recharge. The information will be there when you return and you will have built up mechanisms to efficiently shift through the clutter. Learn how to focus on one thing at a time. We can then learn to deal with many demands on our attention. For example, Twitter is a constant stream of information that can be diverting but we pop in and find moments that create meaning that couldn’t exist before.

    Deliberately deal with Social Media Platforms

    As business women leaders, we use compassion in our work. We apply this trait to our team as well as our customers. That same compassion is crucial for our own effectiveness in making a difference. Learn to set limits, develop boundaries and create a healthy balance in the use of technology to create meaning for yourself.

    In summary use technology but don’t let technology abuse you.

    3 Basic Rules That Will Help Women Business Leaders Plan And Manage Their Day

    February 15th, 2013

    Women business leaders can maximize their time by following some basic rules to help frame and manage their day.

    If your day is anything like mine, you are constantly trying to catch up. You know what I mean, that frenzied feeling at the end of the day that has a “to be continued scenario” Day after day….

    Here are some tips that may help you reclaim your time – or at least add a semblance of order to your day. It is a matter of taking control before you are swooped up in a vortex of multi- tasking.

    Rule #1

    Set a plan for the day. Spend five minutes before turning on your computer in the morning to write down what you want to accomplish that day. Be realistic. Schedule time in your calendar to get each thing done, putting the harder tasks at the beginning of the day.

    Rule #2


    Every hour take a minute to stop what you’re doing, look at your list, and reflect on your last hour. Was it productive? What can you do to make the next hour productive?

    Rule #3


    At the end of the day after you shut off your computer, review your day and ask yourself what you were able to accomplish. What will you do differently tomorrow?

    By following these rules you are giving yourself what you give your clients or employees; focus, evaluation and review. You are treating yourself to your personal talents which helped you become a woman business leader in the first place.


    Bouncing Back: Lessons for Women Business Leaders from Bikram Yoga

    September 12th, 2012

    photo credit: DennisSylvesterHurd via photo pin cc

    I recently celebrated my 10th month as a breast cancer survivor – and I have learned many lessons — but none so poignant as the lessons I learned when I took a Bikram Yoga class. I had taken many yoga classes prior to my diagnosis but thought that Bikram Yoga, with its rigorous postures combined with heat, was not an activity that I could easily participate in.

    Well, being an adventuresome woman with an openness to possibilities, I was drawn back to try a class. As I timidly entered the Bikram room I was overcome with heat and fear – what if my life had changed so dramatically that I could not do this? That was all I needed – an opportunity to overcome fear. As I struggled though adapting to the reality of not being able to do some of the exercises because I cannot lie on my chest, I started thinking of how I could extract lessons from this experience. I completed the class, have continued going back and want to share some of my observations with other women business leaders about how one “bounces back.”

    It’s not what you do but who you are, doing it
    As I accepted my limitations and did not measure myself against any one else – I was impressed with what I could do rather than what I couldn’t.

    Use fear as a motivator
    Feeling fearful for me is a signal that I am putting boundaries on myself. It is a good barometer for action – a signal to figure out barriers.

    Adopt a problem-solving mindset
    I had some issues to overcome – rather than use these limitations as excuses – I approached them as solvable problems. This allowed me to gain control of the situation rather than sink into the victim mode.

    Energy from the participants
    Drawing energy from the other students was extremely helpful. Pay attention to resources surrounding you.

    Stay open to possibilities
    If I would have approached the class expecting to perform as I did prior to surgery, I would have faced defeat without even trying.

    Embrace yourself with a smile
    This needs no explanation.

    I hope you are invigorated by challenges – I think they break the monotony!

    How Women Business Leaders can Create Better Meetings

    July 1st, 2012

    Photo by Voka - Kamer van Koophandel Limburg

    I have reached a point in my life where I am experiencing “meeting overload.” I really like the idea of collaborating and I am also committed to accountability. In my blog for women business leaders about making meetings fun and effective, I talk about the various characters around the table. Knowing whom you are dealing with helps frame your approach to the meeting. I always like to have an agenda, a meeting goal, expected outcomes and a system for tracking tasks and themes for the follow up meetings.

    In an American Express blog by Barry Moltz, he outlines some great meeting tips gleaned from Al Pittampalli’s new book, Read This Before Our Next Meeting. I think these meeting suggestions should be incorporated into all businesses meeting plans:

    1. Meet only to support a decision that has already been made
    The successful meeting must have “a bias for action.” According to Pittampalli, a meeting should only focus on two activities: Resolve conflict and to lead coordination of action.

    2. Move fast—end on time
    Set a time limit for each meeting. Pittampalli reminds us that “Every meeting costs a fortune. Spend it wisely.” Start and end on time by only discussing the relevant issues and actions that need to be taken right now.

    3. Limit attendees to the meeting
    The more people attending a meeting, the more people that need to agree to take an action. This slows down the meeting process. Pittampalli believes every attendee needs to ask themselves two questions before attending: Do I add critical value sitting in the meeting? Can I give my opinion in advance of the meeting?

    4. Reject attendees that are unprepared
    Create an agenda and send material in advance for everyone to be prepared. This way, the discussion can begin at the start of the meeting and no one needs to be “brought up to speed.” Pittampalli says that agendas need to state the problem, the alternatives and what decisions will be made at the meeting.

    5. Create committed action plans
    Pittampalli insists that every meeting should have a plan of action at its conclusion including: What action is being committed to, who is responsible for each action and when will it be completed?

    6. Work with brainstorms
    Pittampalli has detailed guidelines around how brainstorming exists inside effective meetings. These include only inviting people that are passionate about the idea and who can praise other people’s ideas liberally. Most importantly, use a strong outside facilitator that can lead a timely brainstorming session.

    I know it’s a challenging list considering all of the meeting-happy businesses out there, but I never met anyone yet who says honestly that they “love meetings.”  I am always thinking of ways to make the meeting process less painful, and I’d welcome your tips in the comments below.

    Why Women Business Leaders Need to Delegate More

    June 15th, 2012

    photo by Yandle

    I never realized how difficult it was for me to delegate until I was blessed with Ella, an intern extraordinaire. I have had much success mentoring young women by having them shadow me. But my new intern took this one step further by taking over some of my tasks. These included getting me organized, managing my schedule and travel plans and generally making my life easier. I cannot imagine how difficult and frustrating this must have been for her. I was holding the chaos on my desk close to my chest, as she relentlessly tried to assume command. After a few weeks, I have to say that the mentoring went both ways – I learned to delegate, and I guess she learned about life as a woman business leader.

    Here’s a good list of things you need to delegate, condensed from an article by Fabienne Frederickson:

    1. Delegate anything that does not make you money
      If you’re doing something that doesn’t make you money, it’s not your “brilliance work” – those activities you perform that bring in the most amount of money using the least amount of time and effort. I want you to look at how much you earn per hour when you’re doing your brilliance work. Now, consider how much you’re not earning when you’re doing other work you could be paying someone else to do.
    2. Delegate anything that you’re not good at doing
      If you’re not good at doing something, chances are you’re not enjoying it, not doing it well and taking longer to do it than someone else would. For me, that task is bookkeeping. I spent way too many hours struggling to keep up my books until I finally realized it was best to have someone else do the job.
    3. Delegate what you don’t know how to do
      I don’t know how to code HTML or how to build a website. But I know that if I want to get more clients and make more money, then I have to have a professional web presence. That means hiring someone who’s got great coding and website skills, and delegating that work to them—which is exactly what I did.
    4. Delegate what you don’t have time to do
      When I started my business, I kept my own schedule and at first, this made sense. But over time the more clients I brought on and the busier my calendar became, the more time it took to schedule–and reschedule–meetings.

    It’s been working out for both of us, but I do admit I probably put up more of a fight than I imagined! For me, delegating was easier said than done, but I highly recommend it for anyone who feels overwhelmed. You probably are!

    6 Ideas Women Business Leaders Can Use to Become Excellent at Anything

    June 8th, 2012

    photo by Courtney Dirks


    As I come to grips with adjusting to life post breast cancer trauma, I find myself struggling with what it is I really want to do. I realize that I have developed skills over the years through my experiences as a woman business leader, but I also acknowledge that I have been juggling too may balls in the air. I have always talked about focus and understanding what it is that you are really good at and honing your skills.

    Now, as I look at my options ahead, I realize that whatever I choose to do has to be something that makes a difference in others’ lives. Cultivating the focus means surpassing failures and setbacks, and spending my time working toward that goal, never allowing failure to be an option.

    Tony Schwartz outlines some worthwhile ways to achieve excellence below:

    1. Pursue what you love
      Passion is an incredible motivator. It fuels focus, resilience, and perseverance.
    2. Do the hardest work first
      We all move instinctively toward pleasure and away from pain. Most great performers, Ericsson and others have found, delay gratification and take on the difficult work of practice in the mornings, before they do anything else. That’s when most of us have the most energy and the fewest distractions.
    3. Practice intensely, without interruption for short periods of no longer than 90 minutes and then take a break
      Ninety minutes appears to be the maximum amount of time that we can bring the highest level of focus to any given activity. The evidence is equally strong that great performers practice no more than 4 ½ hours a day.
    4. Seek expert feedback, in intermittent doses
      The simpler and more precise the feedback, the more equipped you are to make adjustments. Too much feedback, too continuously can create cognitive overload, increase anxiety, and interfere with learning.
    5. Take regular renewal breaks
      Relaxing after intense effort not only provides an opportunity to rejuvenate, but also to metabolize and embed learning. It’s also during rest that the right hemisphere becomes more dominant, which can lead to creative breakthroughs.
    6. Ritualize practice
      The best way to insure you’ll take on difficult tasks is to build rituals — specific, inviolable times at which you do them, so that over time you do them without having to squander energy thinking about them.

    Tony wrote the list above after realizing he could achieve things he never thought possible. But, to do that takes much effort and deliberate actions. Is there anything you’d add to the list?

    13 Small Things Women Business Leaders Can Do to Simplify Their Day

    May 18th, 2012

    photo by Jyri

    As I recover from the horror of being diagnosed and treated for breast cancer, I find myself slipping back into the frenzy of overly-busy work days. How did this happen? As I reflect on the early days of settling into and treating my disease, I see a calmer and more serene person. It has been a life-changing journey with some very pleasant, unexpected outcomes. Now, I always look for the positive in bad situations. Another upside of this personal crisis was the ability to enjoy a simple day with the gift of time.

    As a woman business leader, I don’t often get the opportunity to create, write and just “be.”  So, when I came across this advice on how to simplify your life from Leo Babauta, I wanted to share it with you.

    Start early
    Going into work early was one of my favorite tricks — it was quiet, before the phones and chatter and meetings started, and I could get a lot of work done in peace. By the time everyone else was getting started, I’d gotten two or three big tasks checked off.

    Limit your hours
    Cut back on your hours and set a limit — say 6 or 7 hours a day — and get your most essential work done within that limit. Limits force you to be effective.

    Make a short list
    Make a long list of all the tasks you need to do … then make a short list of 1-3 things you really want to get done. Choose so that, if you got only these tasks done, you’d be proud of what you did today.

    Batch distractions
    Things like email, reading blogs, Twitter or another social networks. Set a time for these, preferably later in the day: say, from 3-4 p.m. Another approach might be to do them for 10 minutes at the end of each hour — but stick to that 10-minute limit!

    Write shorter emails
    If email takes up a lot of your day, the simple change of limiting yourself to 3-4 sentences per email will make a big difference.

    Limit meetings
    Some top Google executives just do 5-minute meetings — anyone who attends these meetings had better be prepared, and concise. If you can get out of meetings and just get the notes, it could save you hours per week.

    The fewer repetitive and routine tasks you have to do, the more time you’ll free up for creating and important work. So automate wherever possible.

    Eliminate paperwork
    I used to deal with a lot of paperwork, and even then I knew it was a waste of my time. Whenever possible, eliminate paperwork in favor of digital.

    Clear your desk
    Clear everything off the top of your desk. Everything should be: filed, given to the appropriate person, given a permanent spot in a drawer, or trashed/recycled.

    Get away
    If you can get out of your office, and find a peaceful spot where you can focus on important work. Working from home is a good option here. The more you can do this (it might be once a week, or an hour a day, or half of every workday), the better.

    Take breathing breaks
    Every 15-20 minutes, get up from your desk, and take a breathing break. When you get back to work, remind yourself what you want to be working on, and clear away all distractions.

    Practice a focus ritual
    Every hour or two, do a refocus ritual. You might start it taking a walk for a couple of minutes to clear your head and get your blood circulating. Then return to your list of Most Important Tasks and figure out what you need to accomplish next.

    Schedule big blocks of creative time
    Not everyone can do this, but when possible, put a big block of 3-4 hours in your schedule for creating or doing other important work. Be ruthless about clearing distractions and doing the work you love during these blocks.

    I can see that there are areas I need to work on, and I am going to heed Leo’s advice! Oh the joy of a simple day! Please let me know what methods you use to simplify your day.

    How Women Business Leaders Can Recover from a Business Crisis

    May 16th, 2012

    by filipe.garcia

    I recently reconnected with several of my high school classmates. This may not seem unusual except for one detail – we attended school in Johannesburg, South Africa and have now spread to locations throughout the world. This was undoubtedly one of the positives that occurred after my diagnosis with breast cancer – the fact that my high school friends reached out to me with sincere compassion and caring. Another plus was that there is a virtual group where many of our classmates stay connected and share life’s ups and downs.

    One of the women in the group reached out to the rest of us as she was maneuvering through some tough business issues. I am going to share a wise response that came from a former classmate and renowned doctor who now practices in Orlando, Fla:

    • When your life is overwhelming and you feel that you are losing control –focus on the issues that you can manage.
    • Identify the things in your personal and financial life that you can manage, pay very strict attention to them and ignore the rest.  You will find that you can begin picking up the pieces as you recover from your crisis.
    • Pay attention to yourself, your health and mental health. It is more important than ever that you eat right and exercise and try to relax – these are things you can control.
    • Pay attention to your family and friends. Do not lose sight of them, do not let them fall apart with everything else.
    • Identify the one or two or three things of your finances that you can possibly control, no matter how insignificant, and focus intently on them.
    • As you recover from the crisis, you will start again picking up the pieces, in a controlled, gradient fashion. As you begin getting things under control, even after possibly losing much, you can start rebuilding in a much more deliberate fashion with a more solid foundation.

    Finally, remember there are things you CAN do. Here is an “exercise” that you can use to make sure you are taking care of the important things. Follow the sequence and you’ll find that there are three dynamics at play here:

    • Self (Dynamic 1),
    • Social, family and friends (Dynamic 2)
    • Financial, the outside people, partners, creditors, etc. (Dynamic 3)

    You MUST start with Dynamic 1, you cannot succeed in 2 without success in 1, and you cannot succeed in 3 without 1 and 2 in control. I hope I have offered some useful take-ways for those of you undergoing a difficult challenge.

    10 Ways Women Business Leaders Can Combat Communication Overload

    December 15th, 2010

    If communication overload is keeping you from finishing your to-do list, try these 10 strategies to reduce the noise level and get back to work.

    Good communication is a key part of running a successful business. People who work in silos can’t share vital information. Changing business needs must be communicated.

    But in a recent BNET article, consultant, writer and former tech executive Steve Tobak argues that while a lack of communication venues once hampered progress, the pendulum has swung too far the other way. Now, communication overload threatens productivity. Tobak offers 10 methods women business leaders can use to combat this trend:

    1. Hold meaningful meetings: Sharpen focus by making sure every meeting has an agenda, start time and end time. Ensure every attendee has a specific purpose for being there.
    2. Form small teams: Remember that every person added to a process adds complexity and can therefore reduce overall productivity. As Tobak puts it, have fewer cats to herd.
    3. Create fewer email distribution lists: Everyone wastes time reading emails they really don’t need to see. Automatic distribution and “reply to all” are major culprits.
    4. Hold fewer meetings: Tobak warns against internal meetings to prepare for other internal meetings, “all hands” meetings and other gatherings that can waste time.
    5. Reward individual initiative: One innovative way to fight the urge to form a committee for every issue is to reward individuals who develop solutions on their own.
    6. Abandon matrix management: According to Tobak, the organizational concept doesn’t work and leads to mass confusion. He advocates abandoning it altogether.
    7. Avoid management fads: Management fads rise and fall like hemlines, but one thing they have in common is that they tend to result in many meetings. Tobak advises against them.
    8. Delegate: It’s tempting to want to be involved and stay informed. But sometimes assigning responsibility and walking away achieves the best outcomes. Avoid micromanagement.
    9. Assess ROI: New communications tools can be tempting to use just for the novelty. However, if the ROI isn’t clear, it’s best to avoid them.
    10. Don’t forget the importance of time: In a very real sense, time is everyone’s most important asset. Make sure you use it wisely.

    As a woman business leader, ensuring efficient communication is a major part of your job. Consider these strategies to create optimal communication levels and to make sure your most precious resource – your time – is managed wisely.

    Women Business Leaders: Use These 4 Steps to Improve Team Communication

    December 15th, 2010

    You can improve team communication by creating a consensus plan, defining communications tools, encouraging participation and leading by example.

    Technology tools open endless opportunities for global collaboration. But it’s important to have a communication plan in place to make sure all team members are on the same page.

    Communication expert Wayne Turmel outlined 4 steps women business leaders can use to improve team communication. Although it’s geared toward virtual teams, there are lessons in the article that can be applied to groups of any type:

    1. Build a communication plan together: Different people process information in different ways, so it’s important to build consensus to maximize the flow of information. A joint discussion can reveal preferences about issues such as email response time, who should be copied on emails, etc. Plus, if your team is consulted in the process of creating the plan, they’ll likely feel a greater sense of ownership and be more apt to follow the guidelines.
    2. Define your communication toolkit: Since there is now an array of communications tools available, including e-mail, videoconferencing and phone calls, find out which tools your team members prefer. Ask about training needs and explore emerging collaboration methods. As a woman business leader, you can coach your team to get the best results.
    3. Monitor adherence to the plan: Once you and your team agree on a plan, make sure everyone sticks to it. If you’ve scheduled conference calls, thank those who attend and follow up with those who miss meetings. Take a look at your team collaboration message board if you’ve established one. Make note of who participates – and ask those who do not to provide their input.
    4. Be a good role model: The most effective way to encourage your team members to adopt the communication plan is to use it yourself. As a woman business leader, you set the tone. When your staff sees that you are consistently using the plan, they’ll know it is a vital part of team operations.

    Read more about this in Wayne Turmel’s recent BNET article


    In a fast-paced business environment, communicating with your team can make all the difference. To foster open communication at your company, build a consensus communications plan, define your tools, make sure employees stick to the plan and use the plan yourself to establish credibility. These 4 simple steps can provide a competitive edge for your enterprise.