19 posts categorized "Attitude"

September 19, 2013

A Week of Dining on Nuggets


I'm not talking about bite-sized pieces of breaded and fried chicken. I'm referring to the pithy content I'm devouring from attending food-filled events featuring speakers with delicious content.

"The central moral challenge of this century is oppression of women and girls throughout the world." — I heard that last Thursday at the Chrysalis Foundation's "Inspired 2013" event. Sheryl WuDunn, author of Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, shared details of sex trafficking and slavery, maternal mortality, brutality and mutilation, and lack of educational opportunities for women and girls across the globe. Some 60,000 to 100,000 females are missing in our world, and we aren't just talking Cambodia: it's an issue in the U.S. and yes, even Iowa. There's no formula for solutions, but gender inequities worldwide need to be fought with education for girls and access to capital for women. 

"The quality of your communication with yourself determines the quality of your communication with the world." — The Wednesday luncheon of the Greater Des Moines Chapter of American Women in Communication featured my friend Deb Engle, an author, publisher, president of Golden Tree Communications and co-founder of Tending Your Inner Garden. We have 70,000 thoughts a day, so what are we telling ourselves? Any chance that it's negative? (I'm not good enough, smart enough, thin enough, etc.) Time to focus on self-talk that's positive and productive. Change "I'm overwhelmed..." to "I'm powerful and I ask for support when I need to." Science is proving that we can create new inner pathways in our brains, and with strong self-affirming statements we're carving out trails for successful inner dialogue. Deb's upcoming book, "The Only Little Prayer You Need" — with Foreword by the Dalai Lama — will be published next year. It's based on a six-word prayer: Please heal my fear-based thoughts.

"Do you want to win or do you want to make a point?" — Donna Red Wing, executive director of One Iowa, learned that phrase from Walter Cronkite during her 25 years of advocating for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Americans. At today's breakfast meeting of a group called the Consortium, Donna — who came to Iowa for the climate, and she doesn't mean weather — shared that for her "the political is personal and the personal is political." She's worked nationwide for basic rights in the workplace and the ability for LGBT individuals to live with human dignity and be out of danger. She'll marry her partner of 26 years on Saturday. Because of Donna's respectful, persistent and quiet conversations with those of diametrically opposing viewpoints, some of those coming to Des Moines for her celebration are individuals who once had the "you people" stereotype. They've surprised themselves and gotten to know this intelligent, caring and vibrant individual whose marriage will not "hurt their families." 

Right now, I'm too full of gratitude for opportunities to be with amazing women to write any more. 


June 08, 2013

Breakfast with Champions for Families

Talk about starting the day right this week! Early on Tuesday I was taking in every morsel I could about VNS —Visiting Nurse Services of Iowa. "Growing Great Families" is the VNS theme for the year.


For 105 years VNS nurses, social workers, outreach workers and interpreters have collaborated to provide client-focused services. Its programs meet the health and human service needs of 56,000 individuals each year, including 3,550 children across six counties. VNS currently provides access through translations services for 21 different languages and dialects.

VNS of Iowa board member Deb Milligan told the women attending the breakfast how she requests that her guests forget hostess gifts when they come to her home and bring essentials for the Stork's Nest, one of 27 programs operated by VNS. Moms-to-be and young moms in a two-year relationship with VNS earn points when doing the best things for themselves and their child (going to birthing, new mom and childcare classes, medical appointments, etc.). Those points can be redeemed for brand new baby accessories, clothing, furniture, and baby feeding, hygiene, medical and safety items.

While her mother held her easy-going, six-month-old, a 20-year-old rock star young mom being served by VNS shared her story of an abusive relationship, depression, fear and questioning when she learned she was pregnant. Her mother's friend told her about VNS. She's received therapy to deal with depression, emotional and medical preparation for the arrival of her son and instruction on caring for him now. And along the way she received the strength to end her abusive relationship and take responsibility for being the best mom and person she can be. She's now enrolled to study psychology.

"I missed the red flags," she said. "VNS helped open my eyes ... now I'm a better parent for my son and a better person for myself. I'm a lot better, a lot happier."

I know that this non-grandma is going baby shopping. Want to help me stock the Stork's Nest? 

March 30, 2013

"I don't want to go to school today!"

I don't know how many times I said those words from the time I started kindergarten until I graduated from college. But school was just something I did, so it's hard for me to imagine my behavior if I'd been denied access to education. I hope I would have been like one of the extraordinary young women I met this week watching Girl Rising. Viewers of the feature film learned the stories of nine extraordinary young women fighting for education in their countries: India, Cambodia, Nepal, Egypt, Peru, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Haiti and Sierra Leone. 

What changes when women in developing countries are educated ?

  • Educating girls dramatically improves the well-being of their families, communities and countries. 
  • If a mother is educated, her child is 50 percent more likely to survive to age 5. 
  • Educating a girl breaks a family's cycle of generational poverty.  
  • When girls receive 7 years of schooling, they marry 4 years later and have 2.2 fewer children. 
  • When female farmers are educated, crop yields rise. 
  • When women take leadership roles in their communities, corruption diminishes. 
  • When 10 percent more of its girls go to school, a country's GDP increases an average of 3 percent. 
  • When women are educated and empowered, democracy is more likely to flourish and conditions that promote extremism are reduced.  
  • Educated mothers are 50 percent more likely to immunize their children. 
  • When girls are educated, a country's malnutrition and HIV rates decline.  
  • And $1 in the hands of a woman is, on average, worth $10 in the hands of a man.

According to World Vision, there are 33 million fewer girls than boys in primary school. Educate girls; change the world. Find out how to bring a screening of Girl Rising to your community through 10x10.


November 27, 2012

Change vs. Transformation


I hosted a NAWBO-CI coffee in Ankeny this morning for women business owners to discuss "making change." Not the monetary/dollars and cents kind, though the changes we make in how we do business can have big payoffs. Our focus was our behavior, our actions and how we create, implement and sustain change, for ourselves (hey, it starts with us!) and within our businesses.

Consider the intellectual part of our brain — the rational, analytical, visionary side that tells us that today we must work our marketing strategies and make sales calls in order to achieve our annual goals. It gets sabotaged by the emotional part of our brain — the "feeling" part that avoids fear, desires pleasantries and chooses to use today to clean out files, respond to not-so-pressing e-mails, catch up on business reading or accounting, or start researching a project that's not due until next month.

There are always distractions, demands and ways to keep from focusing on our goals and strategic plan activities — even when we know we'd be better off if we just moved forward with a necessary "must do now" tasks and set aside the low-priority "should do sometime" tasks. 

Frankly, change is hard, even for those who feel uncomfortable with where they are. It requires clarity on why the change is necessary, what that change looks like, and how one plans to achieve what's envisioned. It requires commitment and motivation, whether we're talking about self direction or leading a team within your company to embrace a change in our products or services, processes and policies, marketing methods, etc.

This morning business and leadership coach Dr. Christi Hegstad, MAP Professional Development, said she replaces the word "change" with the word "transform," because "change" implies that something is worn out, broken and needs fixing. "Transform" conjures up a vision of creating something new, wonderful and alive. Sounds like something we're all after. What do you want to transform about yourself — or your business — in the year ahead? It's time to start creating!

July 25, 2011

I'm a Hosta

I've long assumed that I was drawn to these shade-loving, easy-to-care-for herbaceous perennials because our yard is filled with trees. And some variety of hardy hosta will grow wherever grass won't. But today I'm thinking hostas and I have a deeper connection.

Last Monday I had a 30-minute session with Madhu Maron, who helps people get unstuck. Our introduction came via email a couple of years ago when a mutual friend suggested that Madhu, who coaches people in reinventing themselves, check out the Schoffner blog. We've corresponded about business ownership, I helped with a bio for her professional musician husband, and we've been following each other on Facebook. A recent email exchange on a day when I was over-the-top crazed with commitments left Madhu picturing me as a high-energy Tasmania Devil in full-throttle behavior. She simply wrote, "Let's set up a time to talk, and you can't be sitting at your desk when we do."

We connected a week ago as I sat in front of our house beside a flower bed that gets enough sunlight to contain both hostas and other colorful, flowering plants. Madhu asked me about my surroundings, so we talked about the hosta beside me. Before I knew it, her gently probing questions helped me focus on a lot of things about my multi-tasking self. Primarily, I've been forgetting to bring my heart along in all the things I tackle each day. I've been blessed with loving so many things about my life (family, friends, clients, writing tasks, volunteer interests, leadership commitments, etc.). The abundance each provides daily needs to be celebrated and savored. But that doesn't happen when one forgets to pause in the present to be thankful.

After that session with Madhu, the week was indeed one in which I stayed in the moment and worked to put self-care and appreciation into everything I did. Whether during the activities of the day or in the middle of the night, when I felt angst I pictured the heart-shaped leaf of that hosta and calmly massaged my hands (hey, that's self care) as a thank you for all the typing, gardening and other tasks I ask of them each day.

Madhu doesn't see many hostas in the Bronx. I sent her the photo above and she saw a whole lot more than I'd been seeing. She wrote: "I notice how dynamic this plant is. It's low to the ground yet reaches up high. The display of green in its leaves is grounding and of the Earth, while the flowers are airy, light and of the sky. Hostas seem to be good multi-taskers, provided they get the shade they need. Sounds like a great metaphor for you, Pam."

It's not just the heat that's making me step into the shade right now. Thanks, Madhu. 


November 01, 2010

A Rally Message: Eat, Pray, Vote

On Saturday I was part of the overflowing crowd of 215,000 who traveled to the National Mall for Jon Stewart's Rally to Restore Sanity (along with Stephen Colbert's Rally to Restore Fear). It shut down streets, overloaded the transit system and eliminated cellphone calling for blocks. Not that I was trying to tweet or contribute to Facebook. I was too caught up in the moment while being pressed into thousands of other happy people who were just glad to be there to laugh (takes much less effort than hating), soak up the signs and attention-getting costumes, and use my presence to make a statement: civility matters!

Here are just a few of the many memorable signs: Think Outside the Fox; Tea Parties are for Little Girls and Mad Hatters; If You Don't Believe in Government Perhaps You Shouldn't Run for it; New Conservative Ideas: (followed by a large empty space); I Don't Like It When You Yell at Me Like That; Team Fear; and We Have Nothing to Fear But Fear Itself...and Maybe Sarah Palin.  

But the sign I want to share most is shown below. Hope you're proud to be doing the same on Tuesday.



September 08, 2010

Paycheck vs. Unemployment Check?

Imagine that you're an employer interviewing for positions requiring educated, experienced workers. New hires have a 90-day probation period. Get this: four skilled, unemployed candidates turn down your job offer. They don't want to lose their unemployment checks that will cover them until at least March.

Business owner Evelyn Reis Perry, Carolina Sound, shared this situation and expressed her frustration on August 6 in a post on the blog site of the Institute for Economic Empowerment for Women. "So we have in place, in DC, a counter motivator for getting the workforce back to work!  How can we fight entitlements that leave us without employees?" 

"I don't understand the attraction to dependency," commented Kay Carrico, owner of In-Compasse International, Inc. in New Mexico. Kay says she's heard the same hiring-dilemma story from business owners and straight from the mouths of would-be employees, too.

It made me wonder about all the things that can happen over time to people who lose their jobs. Do they lose confidence in their own abilities (so much so that they don't think they can show their potential and prove their value in 90 days)? What causes them to "take a pass" on a job that fits their skill set? When they say "no" to an employer that has confidence in them have they also said "no" to themselves? 

I don't know the stories of the four who turned down jobs with Carolina Sound. I have no idea what each believes he or she needs to break the cycle of unemployment.  All I know is that I have a strong need to feel like a contributor on the planet. Maybe it's my irrepressible Iowa work ethic. But if I'm healthy and able to work, I'd rather have the opportunity to stock shelves in the dead of night or work three jobs to keep a roof over my head than to wait at home for my next check from Uncle Sam. If I didn't TRY to get my life back on track, embrace an opportunity, and say goodbye—and thank you—to government dollars that held things together when I was my most desperate, well, I would have trouble looking at my own face in the mirror every morning.

June 05, 2010

Dalai Lama: "Internal Disarmament"

It's been nearly three weeks since I heard the Dalai Lama speak at the University of Northern Iowa, along with 10,000 other people. Much has been written about his words of love, harmony, peace and education of the heart to embrace the value in all human beings. But what's happened since? What's resonating and changing the diverse audience of people who laughed, cried and absorbed all they could from their encounter with the spiritual leader who exudes happiness and reverence for others without even saying a word? His joyous face and demeanor said volumes about how to live.

Well, I'm still taking votes among my friends regarding a statement he made about valuing human life while recognizing that the earth is overpopulated. Capturing every word His Holiness said was everyone's goal, but sometimes we questioned our hearing. I thought I heard: "Resettlement in the womb is not possible." But others heard this: "Resettlement on the moon is not possible."  I've been questioning folks who were there ever since and the "moon" phrase is winning as his statement that day. Heck, there's no reentry to the womb and we never have settled on the moon.

But here are the two words that are at the forefront of my brain from that day: "internal disarmament." That's where it starts. I've been looking at the "weapons" that I carry around, primarily to flog myself for not being perfect, not accomplishing everything I think I should, and even not being as "peaceful" as I could be each day. Too much rushing and doing; not enough being and celebrating our blessings. 

I'm finding that my own mental disarmament is a full time deployment. I might need to call in the National Guard to help me abolish (or at least reduce) thoughts and behaviors that don't serve me well. But I do believe I'm doing better at creating an internal zone of peace each day. Or maybe it's just thinking about the face of the Dalai Lama and the total comfort he illustrated in being himself and sharing his reverence for mankind. 

March 11, 2010

What do you do when you're feeling stuck?

That's the question posed over a week ago by a LinkedIn group member who recently left her post after 15 years in the non-profit arena. Before that she was a successful business owner. While she says her sense of humor is intact, she admits that she's turned "procrastination and lack of motivation into something of an art form." She asked for input on getting unstuck and I'm sharing a few of the comments her post received on the LinkedIn site of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO).

"Being stuck is a state of mind, and sadly, it reflects a focus on the self," writes Stefany Almaden, president/CEO of The Almaden Group, Inc. "The best cure for being stuck is to look around, enjoy what you have, and think about how you can make a difference in someone else's life. Instant joy and satisfaction follow." She says work on this every day and you'll pull yourself together. One day you'll even wonder why someone would think they could be "stuck in life."

Nannette Rundle Carroll, author of The Communication Problem Solver, also suggests doing something for someone else, particularly someone you think might be stuck or down. "It gets us out of ourselves and being productive and compassionate is a great cure for the blues or being stuck.

Nuggets for me: The only person who can get me unstuck is me; It's my mental state that needs attention. It's an ongoing daily practice to stay off the pity pot, and focusing on the needs of others helps to reframe my thinking and find a fresh perspective.

Judith Wentzel, owner of EFT Coaching & Consulting LLC, uses and teaches EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) to remove blocks. Judy says to look at a goal or something that's important to you, find out what's sabotaging or holding you back from achieving it, and then get rid of it. It's the negative emotions (frustration, sadness, feelings of being alone, etc.) that perpetuate what's blocking us. "Once you identify the emotions undermining your success to move forward, you can begin resolving them."  

Sounds simple enough when the "stuck" things are little mental obstacles to overcome, but how about identifying and removing major emotional blocks? One may need ongoing coaching, years of therapy, or a whole lot more (including more non-traditional techniques [How about past life regression?]) to get to the root of the issues that lock you in serious "stuckness."

If I'm slightly stuck (for me that's writing copy that's not flowing the way I would like), I might close my eyes, put a smile on my face and spend 40 seconds taking a few deep breaths. Then I'll rub my hands together (I'm still smiling), face the computer screen and look for ways to change the problematic sections of copy. I may even get out of my chair and office, go consume a piece for fruit, and try to empty my mind by staring at the electric kettle while it warms water for my next cup of tea. Sometimes I'll do yoga stretches, stand up and swing my arms side-to-side to shake up my body and brain, or go outside for a quick walk that focuses on hearing the birds or looking for deer antlers in the woods (if it's the right time of year).

But when I'm deeply stuck I struggle. I might get together (face-to-face, on the phone and sometimes even email) with someone who'll listen and might point out what I'm missing. And sometimes "telling it" reveals what's needed next; the words come out of my own mouth or are typed by me. I recently was given the image of carrying around a backpack full of angst, fears, pains and frustrations. It was up to me: I could get rid of them once and for all, or I could continue to walk around with the weight of the world on my shoulders. I buried it. Then I smiled for days and days. Now, whenever I feel that weight again, I acknowledge it. Then I mentally deposit anything "new" that's giving me mental grief into that backpack. And finally, I picture my burying it again. I dig the hole a little deeper each time. One of these days it will decompose.

That's my answer to what I do when I'm really feeling stuck. Which brings me to another question: What are you carrying around in your backpack?

February 04, 2010

Leaders, embrace the mutineers

You read correctly. Some 70 percent of U.S. workers say they are not engaged or are actively disengaged at work. The #1 reason? The quality of leadership (Gallup Poll). "Listen 'til it hurts," says Steven B. Wiley of the Lincoln Leadership Institute at Gettysburg. Wiley shared lessons from Gettysburg this week in Des Moines at an appearance sponsored by Vistage. Thanks to the kind invitation of Norene Mostkoff, CEO of Hospice of Central Iowa, I had a great dose of both history and leadership.

To refresh your memory, the Battle of Gettysburg was the decisive, three-day turning-point of the Civil War between Union and Confederate forces in July of 1863. Gettysburg was the northernmost point reached by General Lee's armies, and at the site four months later, Lincoln presented his 267-word address ending with the words "...and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth." 

Wiley focused on the leadership style of General Joshua Chamberlain, a Maine college professor who volunteered for service and became highly respected as a military leader for his defense of Little Round Top at Gettysburg. Chamberlain, who received the Medal of Honor, later served as governor of Maine and president of his alma mater, Bowdoin College. 

MV5BMTQ1OTkzMjgwNF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNDYxODUyMQ@@._V1._SX98_SY140_ Video clips from the 1993 movie Gettysburg showed Chamberlain (actor Jeff Daniels) using both transacational and tranformational leadership styles; he exercised his authority while still using relationship-building skills to inspire newly arrived prisoners (a disgruntled band of Maine mutineers) to rejoin the Union's cause and fight with the small band he commanded. He started by feeding their starving bodies and listening to their grievances. As they sat on a hill, he stood just below them so their eyes were level and first told them that while he had a right to kill them, he would not. He said, "We all have value here" and "we are fighting for each other." He shared a vision they could embrace, one with freedom for all. He asked them to join with his men and mentioned that if this battle was lost the war would likely be lost too. He created shared values, modeled courage and confidence, and best of all, he communicated clearly. He gave the men their weapons, and they joined him. Throughout the battle Chamberlain changed strategies as needs arose and enabled his troops to be successful. In the movie, one of the former mutineers saves Chamberlain's own brother from certain death at Gettysburg. 

"Leadership is about the mutineers in your life," said Wiley. "When you engage them you can change the course of history." Chamberlain's leadership skills proved that ordinary people can step up to find their high ground and protect their left flank. It was leadership without prejudicial or political baggage. That battle ended what Wiley called "the greatest amount of human suffering this country had ever seen." And it was a grand example of how one can be an effective leader in a rapidly changing, stressful and frightening environment with limited resources and information.