Iyanla Vanzant Says Women Were Born “for Such a Time as This”

Iyanla Vanzant "If you are a woman, you were born for such a time as this," Iyanla Vanzant said at the 2020 Pennsylvania Conference for Women. "Things are changing, we know that. Things are changing fast. Some of us don’t understand this is simply time for a reset; and in order to be in alignment with what is unfolding, we as women must embrace a spirit of becoming. So many of us are caught up in doing. "But we must embrace the spirit of becoming—something new, something renewed, something more," she said. "As women, we must embrace that in us there is so much more than what appears to be on the surface—we are so much more than what appears to be on the surface." What follows are excerpts of her thoughts on dealing with change, the necessity of self-care, and having a vision now.

Dealing with Change

  • "For such a time as this we must embrace the spirit of peaceful change, knowing that all change is preceded by chaos, that things must be torn down before they can be built up."
  • "We must know that wherever there is fear there must be trust and, as women, we must learn to trust ourselves. We must trust that we deserve and will have a voice and hand in everything that impacts us."
  • "The change that is being born through us … so we can be new light onto the world—doing things the way women do them."

Self-care

  • "In such a time as this we must embrace nurturing and self-care. It requires us to stop doing and be with ourselves. We’re so busy serving and giving and doing and running that we are giving from an empty vessel."
  • "This is truly the time when we have to fill our cups and give from the overflow. Because as things change, we have to be willing and able and ready to change; and that means we have to be nourished and fortified."
  • "We must not just nurture our body and intellect. We must nurture our heart and spirit."

Choice and Vision

  • "Must embrace the spirit of creative, conscious choice. Choice is our power. Power and choice are interchangeable because they are all about we as women taking dominion in and having authority over our life. Your choices are critical foundations of self-realization."
  • "You must have a vision. We cannot go through life any longer allowing someone else’s vision to pave the way for us."
  • "Know in this moment that you are pregnant with possibility, and the possibility that will come to life is the one that you can see. Don’t worry about the how. Have a vision, and it will pull you forward; and those possibilities will be birthed through you."

About Iyanla Vanzant Iyanla Vanzant is among the most influential, socially engaged, and acclaimed spiritual life coaches of our time. Her work, over more than 3 decades, includes 15 published books, and the current No. 1 reality show on OWN: the Oprah Winfrey Network, "Iyanla: Fix My Life." Iyanla is a woman who speaks with the authority of having done what she now helps others do. As she puts it: She emerged from welfare mother to New York Times bestselling author, from the Brooklyn projects to Emmy Award-winner, and from broken pieces to peace. "What I have learned from all of the difficulties in my own life," she says, "is that human beings have very thick skin. I call that skin our spirit, our Highest Most Powerful self. Spirit is the key to everything we desire."
Check out more highlights from the 2020 Virtual Pennsylvania Conference for Women!

Put Fear in its Place: A Conversation with Luvvie Ajayi Jones

Luvvie Ajayi Jones

We should all have a friend like Luvvie Ajayi Jones: a woman who is joyously bold and doesn’t let us get away with thinking: Oh, that’s just the way she’s made. We could never be that bold.

In an exclusive conversation with the Conferences for Women this month, the two-time New York Times best-selling author of I’m Judging You and Professional Troublemaker reminds us: We all have the power to speak up in our own way.

The conversation, which appears below, has been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.

Q: Your first book, I’m Judging You, was about inspiring people to leave the world better than they found it. Your new book, Professional Troublemaker, is about how to do that. But let’s start with why do we need more professional troublemakers, especially in business?

Because those are people who will speak up and say what needs to be said, even if it’s difficult, and because they are the people who will make sure we don’t create that public campaign that will cause a backlash. They are the ones who are going to call it out in a meeting and say we should rethink that. So I think we need to start encouraging people to challenge us to be the best versions of ourselves and do our best work.

Q: That sounds so great and fits well with someone with your character. But for people who don’t have that kind of courage, how do we get that?

Honestly, I don’t think courage is a character trait. I think it’s a habit. I think speaking up is a habit; truth-telling is a habit. And I think everyone can do it. You don’t have to be bold to speak up and challenge something. You can challenge something thoughtfully in your way. And you can do what is in your power in your way. I think it’s a habit for everyone who can make that decision: next time I feel compelled to speak up about something, I will push past the fear.

Q: Speaking of fear, you don’t believe in people becoming “fearless,” even though we see so many books about that. How would you characterize a healthy, realistic relationship to fear?

I think we are always going to have fear about something. That is a deeply human emotion. And instead of expecting ourselves to stop being afraid, we just need to accept that we are not going to do less because of our fear. You will do hard things and know you’re afraid, but you’re going to do it anyway. It’s not that it’s going to stop being an emotion you feel. I don’t care how bold you are, how audacious you are in this world; you are going to feel that. But what’s important is what you do with that fear. You move forward and do the thing any way that feels important, that feels necessary.

Q: There is much to fear in the world right now. We are all familiar with that dynamic. But you say that we also fear ourselves. What do you mean by that?

I think we fear the fullness of ourselves because we fear the judgment that comes with it. We’re afraid of people not liking us. We’re scared of being demonized and weaponized. And I think we shouldn’t be afraid of ourselves. We should be who we are, knowing that some people won’t like us. You will make mistakes. It’s part of the human experience. And if we are fighting against it, we are fighting against being a regular person navigating this world. So, doubling down on ourselves and our values is important because when we aren’t sure who we are, we can absorb all the things that people say we are.

Q: When you say it, it sounds like such common sense: not everybody will like you. But it’s so common. So why do we get caught up in what other people think?

I think there is power in knowing that not everybody will like you. You don’t even like everybody, so how is everybody going to like you? Instead of worrying about the people who don’t like you, worry about deepening connections with people who are your tribe. I think we spend a lot of time trying to win over the people who don’t like us. We weren’t put here to be liked by everybody. It’s just not possible. So, release yourself from the pressure.

Q: Let’s talk about speaking up. Many people in the workplace are concerned that if they speak up, they might put their jobs at risk. How do you evaluate whether to speak up in any given situation?

I think it is important to figure out: What is the worst-case scenario that you are afraid of? And then be logical about it. How likely is it that this worst-case scenario will happen if you say something that is thoughtful if you say something that honors your character? How likely is it you will get fired because you challenge someone in a meeting? How likely is it that if you get fired, you’ll get no other job? How likely is it that you’ll lose your home because you just can’t get any other job? I think what happens is we attach those hike stakes to every situation, and then we say I was afraid of speaking up. But a lot of us are walking around with a lot of power. So, if you’re the person who runs a department, your speaking up is not going to get you fired. If you’re the person who has been there for 20 years and has deep alliances in the company, there is very little at stake for you to challenge something that is happening that is not OK.

Q: Your mission is to empower a million people to fight their fear – because that will change the world. Given what we have all been through over the past few years, do you think women are now more or less ready to do that now?

I think women are more ready to do it. I think we’re tired of a world that is constantly telling us we’re not good enough, that we don’t have what it takes. I’m really encouraged by the fact that we are in this transition period where we are all starting to understand that there are absolutely systems that are working against us, but we also don’t have to make it easy for the system to cheat us. We don’t have to enable patriarchy. We don’t have to enable a lot of these things. We might still have to fight against this big machine. But we have power. And we have the power to fight in numbers. Women doubling down on connecting with each other is really important now, and the power that we can create by those numbers can actually shift a lot of things.

Luvvie Ajayi Jones will speak at the Massachusetts Conference for Women on December 2, 2021. Register now!

Posted in Speaker Articles, Life on Your Terms Tagged |

Inspiration, Innovation, & Gratitude: Qurate Retail Group’s Karen Etzkorn Shares Her Tips on Keeping Her Team and Herself Motivated

Karen Etzkorn

Q: What do you do to keep your team innovative when so many people feel wrung out from the pressures of having lived through COVID?

We always strive to keep our teams motivated and innovative through different initiatives and projects, so it was important to maintain this practice throughout the pandemic. In addition, our team members want to be part of something bigger than themselves, so we give them opportunities to apply technology in creative ways to real-world challenges. For example, we continued with activities like our internal hackathons while also launching new ways to connect, like our virtual tech meetups. Hackathons allow team members to work with others they may not have been able to collaborate with before and have the potential to see their creative solutions implemented and impact the business.

Q: How does remote work change how you approach innovation? Are there specific things that you do differently to inspire creativity and teamwork?

For IT, staying innovative and achieving goals through distributed teams is nothing new. We have always had teams working remotely, so fortunately for us, we have already learned how to engage virtual teams, ensure all participants are heard (no matter where they’re joining from), and sustain our creativity in a virtual environment. Over the past year and a half, we have been sharing our best practices with our company as a whole. These include taking inventory of key activities that add value when completed in-person and developing operating models that create consistency across different work environments. As leaders, we needed to change the conversation from talking about deliverables and status updates to asking questions about what team members have been doing to become more efficient in the way they are delivering.

Q: People often say that they have grown the most from the most challenging experiences. How has the experience of the past year changed you in ways you are grateful for?

The past year and a half have proven what our team can achieve amid adversity, and I am deeply grateful for the incredible dedication and flexibility that they displayed. Across our company, our team stood together, pushing toward our shared goal of supporting our customers in extraordinary circumstances. Team members were willing and able to adopt new ways of working while also finding creative ways to maintain our sense of “team” and unity, such as virtual water cooler time. In the past, we may have hesitated or prolonged the rollout of a new platform or program for fear that there would be resistance to change or other impediments. However, the pandemic demonstrated both for our team members in the business and our IT Team that even large-scale initiatives can be done remotely and well. Our teams from different functions and geographies have been able to pull together and find creative ways to stay connected and achieve their objectives collaboratively.

Karen Etzkorn is Chief Information Officer of Qurate Retail GroupSM. In this role, she leads information technology and digital strategy spanning applications, data, cybersecurity, and infrastructure to drive long-term growth, innovation, and productivity.

Posted in Speaker Articles, Innovation, Inspiration Tagged |

Cecilia Muñoz on Raising Children While Working in the White House

Cecilia Muñoz

For eight years, Cecilia Muñoz served as the highest-ranking Latina in the White House under President Obama while raising two daughters. Now a senior advisor with New America, she spoke with us recently about what policy changes we need to support families—and how she managed parenting and work. Muñoz is the author of More Than Ready: Be Strong and Be You…and Other Lessons for Women of Color on the Rise.

Q: COVID set millions of women back professionally and financially as millions were forced out of the workforce, in part due to their role as primary caretakers in their families. What do we need to do to create more balance and better support women in the future?

We need to invest in workplace policies: paid leave, sick leave, time away. And we need flexibility—to give people the space to be caretakers.

But the way we set the tone about leave policies is also important. So, for example, if employers say you get to leave, but you know they don’t want you to take it all, that doesn’t work.

I worked on the Biden-Harris transition team, which was done entirely online during the pandemic. There was a culture of waving at the kids you could see in the background. It sent a message: Don’t be embarrassed by your family responsibilities. That kind of tone is very important.

For employers, being involved in policy conversations also sends a signal. It’s a very good thing for companies to have generous policies, but they also should be saying there should be a standard for everyone.

Q: You raised daughters while having a very high-powered job. And you write that at times you didn’t think you could do it and other people didn’t think you could do it. How did you manage?

I had a picture-perfect mom and home, and I agonized over the differences in experience for my kids—not the least of which was that I would be out of the house 10 hours a day and working frequently from home. As a consequence, our meals were different; our house was different.

In writing my book, I asked my children what it was like for them, and they didn’t understand the question. They found it hilarious that I agonized. Their experience was that I was just Mom, and things moms and dads do include going to work every day.

But they understood—we managed to convey—that they were the most important thing. And that turns out to be everything. The fact that my house didn’t look like my mother’s house, and my garden didn’t look like my mother’s garden didn’t matter.

Our daughters noticed that we had healthy dinners together all the time. They understood that we made that effort and that that was special. Now they both are women who cook and enjoy eating and see meals as a joyful thing, not just as fuel.

They also noticed that we shared labor. There were no real “mom jobs” and “dad jobs.” They saw us figuring out how we were going to manage the household and transportation as a team. They had those experiences where gender does not dictate what the labor is, and I think that’s a very big deal.

Q: You’ve said that you needed to learn how to work and how not to work. What do you mean by that?

This is something I’m still working on. My working-all-the-time muscles are very well developed. I have to be deliberate about going for a walk and not listening to a book on tape. I’m the kind of person who still says on the weekend: I’m going to sit on the sofa and read a book. My husband looks at me like, ‘Why are you telling me that?’

There’s no real formula to finding balance. We have to get to it in our own way. But my number-one suggestion is to be aware if you were cramming stuff from your to-do list into every day and not achieving balance. You get to be on the list—and things that give you joy. It’s not extra. It’s essential to being human.

Q: How do you stay strong enough to focus on making a difference and not worrying about whether other people like you?

A friend shared the advice: Get your love at home. I think about that anytime I’m making difficult decisions. If my goal is to get everybody to like me, I will take the actions I need to make them like me. But they may not be what needs to happen to get the job done.

In public life, you have to endure criticism. I still endure it. It doesn’t mean I get to be disagreeable. But it matters a lot to me that my people know who I am no matter what. Then I can make tough decisions because work is not where I’m looking for love.

Posted in Speaker Articles, Career Choices, Life Balance Tagged |

3 Ways to Develop the Emotional Agility to Help You Thrive

Susan David

Despite the difficulties of our times, many people squash what Susan David, award-winning Harvard Medical School psychologist, refers to as “so-called negative emotions,” such as grief, sadness, and frustration.

But people who are open to the reality of human experience are better able to foster innovation, creativity, and the wholehearted capacity to be themselves, says David, author of the number-one Wall Street Journal bestseller, Emotional Agility.

And given the enduring challenges in both our work and our family lives, emotional agility may be more important than ever.

David defines “emotional agility” as a process that enables us to navigate life’s twists and turns with self-acceptance, clear-sightedness, and an open mind.

It is the opposite of emotional rigidity, which she defines as getting hooked by thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that don’t serve you.

Emotional agility, she says, makes room for all thoughts, stories, and emotions, including the so-called negative ones.

“There’s nothing inherently wrong or damaging about having a so-called negative thought like I’m an imposter,” says David. “There’s nothing inherently wrong with having a so-called negative emotion like grief, stress, anxiety, or frustration. And there’s nothing inherently damaging about having a story about who we are and what we’re capable of.”

The danger comes, she says, when we allow these thoughts and emotions and stories to dictate to us what we should do next.

Using the pause between stimulus and response

Victor Frankel, the late psychologist, and Holocaust survivor, famously wrote: “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom.”

When we are emotionally rigid, there is no space between stimulus and response, says David. But when we are emotionally agile, we can move into and stay in that space.

“Our emotions are designed to help us address and adapt to stress,” she says. So, when we experience thoughts, emotions, and stories, we need to know these are just normal ways of being. They are the way our bodies prepare us to respond to the world appropriately. There’s nothing wrong with them no matter what social media tells us when they implore us just to be positive.”

How to cultivate emotional agility

  1. Show up to how you and others feel with acceptance and compassion.
  2. “One of the great myths about self-compassion,” says David, “is that it involves being weak or lazy or letting yourself off the hook. But what we know is that people who can be this way with themselves are more honest, courageous, and risk-taking.”
  3. As leaders, we also need to show up with acceptance and compassion for others, according to David.
  4. But when we feel stressed, we often harden our expectations of ourselves and others. So at times like that, David recommends trying to soften the edges. Of course, this doesn’t mean not having expectations of others. But it does mean seeing what people are genuinely experiencing.
  1. Develop the ability to step out of your emotions.
  2. “Emotions are data. They are not directives,” says David. “Just because I feel a strong emotion doesn’t mean I’m right. Just because you feel undermined doesn’t mean you have to shut down. We own our emotions; they don’t own us.”
  3. To step out of your emotions, David recommends using more precise language to describe what you are feeling.
  4. “Often, we use very big labels to describe what we’re feeling,” she observes. “‘I’m stressed’ is the one I hear most often. But there is a world of difference between ‘I feel stressed’ and ‘I feel depleted.’ ‘I feel stress’ and ‘I need more support.'”
  5. So, try to label your feelings with greater accuracy. This will help you better understand the cause of your emotions and what you need to do about them.
  6. She also recommends not defining yourself by your emotions. Instead, just notice your thoughts and emotions and stories for what they are: thoughts and emotions and stories.
  1. Recognize that your emotions contain signposts to who you most want to be in the world.
  2. “Life is always asking us, ‘Who do you want to be?'” says David. “Emotional ability is about having a lifelong correspondence with your values and heart.”
Posted in Speaker Articles, Health & Wellness Tagged |

Readers Write: About Work-Family “Balance”

Mom distracted by small children while working from home

Thanks to our readers for sharing their experience of work-family issues this month. Here are some positive ideas from two of our readers.

Next month, we will explore how to fight fear. If you have a story to share, please send it to [email protected].

Employees Finally Have the Power to Choose by Mboone Umbima

I have been thinking about this a lot lately, and my thoughts over the years have evolved. I am now at a place where I believe there is nothing such as work-family balance. The secret lies in employers and employees creating an environment of fluidity, industry withstanding.

The world of work (“post-COVID”) has changed, and the pandemic created space for deep reflection on how we work in addition to how we tend to our children and families.

For me, one thing is clear: For the first time in many years, employees finally have the power to determine what kind of working experience they want. Especially if you are good at what you do, you truly have the power and can choose the employer that will meet your needs.

Women will need to use their voices, level up, and ask for what they need because it just won’t be handed over on a platter. This is the time to do so.

Balance is Elusive. Focus instead on Your Top Three Priorities –Sohee Jun

I’m allergic to the word “balance.” It’s an ever-elusive goal with an end-post that keeps moving.And as a leadership coach to high-performing women, I see most of us trying exhaustively to attain work-life balance; it keeps us tired, trying to spin all of the plates in the air perfectly and simultaneously.

It wouldn’t be such an overwhelming task if the ‘plates’ were true priorities in our lives, grown out of our values.But, instead, we spin the plates of obligation, shoulds, perfectionism, shame, and the biggest one of all: the plate of comparison.

Ready to drop those plates and spin ones that are authentic to you? Here’s what I’ve learned:

  • Reframe how you think of work-life balance to one of work-life integration. Integrate only those activities, projects, tasks, events, etc., that align to your top three priorities.
  • You can identify the priorities that matter to you by getting clear on your values.Once you have your top three values, all priorities start to shift and become clear in terms of what matters most to your work and life.
  • Then, look at your weekly calendar.What can you integrate more of and take away from your day-to-day that will help you align your days with what matters to you most? For example, if creativity is one of your core values, look at your weekly and daily schedule to see if you’ve made room for it.

This is a continuous practice in aligning your life to make it authentic to what matters to you most! Start, learn, iterate, and most of all, love the process!

Posted in Speaker Articles, Life Balance