5 Important Lessons New Female Leaders Need to Learn
Posted on April 23, 2016
This month’s post is for us Women leaders in Business. I hope you find it helpful.
Thank you for reading.
Women have long been told that thinking and acting “like a man” in the workplace is the only way to get ahead and to be taken seriously. This mentality may have prevailed decades ago when women were just gaining a foothold in the professional world, but modern women have learned that career success is not about adjusting to the male-dominated status quo. It’s about changing that status quo by embracing what makes the female perspective unique, and overcoming the doubts that keep women from reaching their full potential.
This is especially true of young female professionals who are just beginning their careers and have aspirations of rising through the ranks in their industry. Women who want to lead may find themselves up against superiors who question their priorities or blame disagreements on them being too “emotional” or “aggressive.” Worse yet, these women may have trouble find the leadership opportunities they’re looking for in the first place.
“[Research by Catalyst] on women in the S&P 500 companies shows that women comprise 45 percent of the total workforce, on average, yet only 25 percent of the senior leader roles,” said Marcia Mueller, an executive career coach and the talent development practice leader at the IMPACT Group. “The number of women leaders drops significantly in technology, science and industrial service industries. So the first leadership challenge women may face, is finding an opportunity to be a leader.”
Whether there’s a leadership role you want at your current company or you’re fighting to create your own, here’s some advice from successful female business leaders to help you navigate your path.
Unpack your fears — then conquer them
Fear is consistently one of the biggest challenges women say they face in the workplace. It’s the fear that they won’t be taken seriously by the “boys’ club” that runs their company. The fear that having a family and raising children will reflect negatively on their commitment to their careers. The fear that anyone who has ever said their gender is a hindrance was actually right.
These various fears often lead to a lack of confidence and feelings of inadequacy. Sabrina Parsons, CEO of Palo Alto Software, said women will try to compensate for these feelings by over-apologizing — a habit that not only betrays their fears, but also shows a tacit acceptance of “the way things are.”
“Women shouldn’t feel the need to apologize for who they are and the skills they bring to the table,” Parsons said. “We need to come together and demand that we are given the flexibility to excel in our jobs. Confidence — and embracing being women, rather than apologizing for being women — is what will help women rise to the next level and climb the corporate ladder.”
Shattering your career inhibitions starts with the right attitude. Marygrace Sexton, CEO of Natalie’s Orchid Island Juice Co., said it’s important to embody self-assurance and professionalism in all that you do.
“From your wardrobe to your attitude, exude confidence,” Sexton said. “Be the most impressive and focus on attention to detail in everything you do. Be someone [your colleagues] respect.”
Find a mentor
Mentorship can give any professional a leg up in their careers, but entry-level women stand to gain a lot from having a strong workplace advocate. Although this person doesn’t necessarily have to be someone within your company, an in-house mentor may be able to connect you with the right people in the organization to propel yourself forward.
Find a mentor who will guide and endorse you,” said Paula Stephenson, director of marketing at Smoke’s Poutinerie. “It’s not enough to find someone who will give solid advice. You also need that person to spread good news about you.”
Julie Burleson, founder and CEO of Young Chefs Academy, said to look for someone you work with who is particularly impressive and sets an example for others. Make the effort to ask this person questions and develop a good relationship, she said.
“Seek wisdom and advice from trusted individuals and foster those relationships,” added Madison Cork, founder and president of Cork Communications. “Doing so will give you a filtering system for unforeseen complications and shed light on your current shortcomings. Mentors become your biggest allies when you are ready to step into a new field or position. Share your sincere gratitude with those who are willing to serve in this capacity for you.”
Put yourself out there
One of the best ways to get noticed at work is to promote yourself and vouch for your own abilities through the work you do. Career coach Mueller advised women to develop their leadership skills by volunteering for small-scale projects, such as cross-department committees and extra assignments to show your supervisors what you’re capable of.
But performance is only one part of demonstrating your value in the workplace. Mueller also noted that networking — especially within your own company — is an often overlooked, but highly important tool for women who want to advance their careers.
“When senior leaders have special assignments or projects to be done, they go to those they know,” she said. “Learning how to be ‘known’ is key to gaining the stretch opportunities that lead to career growth. Building a strong brand and an internal network is not bragging, it’s helping others in the firm know the value you can bring.”
“At work, you should develop a team of colleagues and allies — the people you can count on to help you navigate your professional journey,” Cork added. “From finding the copy machine to navigating complex office politics, a strong network of co-workers will be as important to your journey as your closest friends or most trusted family members are to your world outside the workplace.”
Burleson offered a word of caution, however: Taking on too much “extra” work could end up backfiring if you don’t manage yourself well.
I notice other women [put] too much on their plates when starting their careers,” Burleson said. “This could lead to burn-out. For this reason, it’s important to make small, but impactful goals that allow you to push yourself while still learning the ropes. Try to challenge yourself to approach a project differently or dream up new and fresh ideas to share with the leadership team.”
Stand your ground and show your strength
Women ask questions, use facts and emotions in decision-making, and tend to favor collaboration, Cork said. These traits are necessary to build dynamic teams and lead them to success, but they can also be misdiagnosed as weakness by a more aggressive co-worker. Being “tough” doesn’t mean steamrolling your team; it means showing others why a collaborative leadership style gets better results.
“It is imperative that women in leadership maintain their intrinsic style, while not being afraid to stand their ground when they know they have the best idea or right path forward,” Cork said.
Act as if equality is a reality
Many female professionals have felt the effects of the gender gap during their careers, whether it was a pay dispute, a lost promotion or just a snide comment from a co-worker. Even if your work environment champions equality, you probably know other women who have faced some kind of discrimination, subtle or not, because of their gender.
It’s difficult to think this way when cases of gender inequality are talked about in the news and on social media every day, but if women want to be viewed as equal in the workplace, they must stand their ground and demand the respect they deserve — and it starts by behaving as if the gap has been closed.
“I have noticed that if you act like there’s equality in the workplace, then there will be,” Stephenson, of Smoke’s Poutinerie, said.
That’s not to say that people in the workplace. A shift in mentality — that is, truly believing and acting like women’s opinions and contributions are equal to men’s, because they already intrinsically are — can spark the necessary discussions to truly create change in the workplace dynamic. To this end, Sexton, Natalie’s CEO, reminded women that their gender should never be an excuse to settle or not achieve their goals.
“Work the hardest and excel at what you do,” Sexton told Business News Daily. “Fight for what you believe is right and have confidence in your ability to succeed despite adversity. Remember, it is not a weakness to be a woman — it is a gift.”
Thank you again for reading this article.
Top 10 Time Management Apps and Software for the Busy Entrepreneur
Posted on June 26, 2016
Dear Friends of Donna’s:
Well, summer is here, finally. Looking forward to enjoying a few “Lazy, Hazy Days” with my husband down the beach and with possible friends. But, in the meantime, it’s Work as usual!
No one can dispute the countless benefits technology has brought us. It has undoubtedly allowed us to connect, perform, improve and leverage our resources beyond what was once imaginable. We all make daily use of a wide variety of different tools and devices to make life easier and more comfortable. How many tools and apps are you currently using to optimize your time?
If you are not taking advantage of the hundreds of apps and tools out there, you are certainly missing out. With so many apps to choose from, how do you know which ones to use? Of course, this will depend on your needs, and so, I was thinking of how I could Bless yall, my faithful Readers with a few (proven) apps that work for better Time Management for the Busy Entrepreneur. Listed are the top 10 apps/software:
- Rescue Time
If you have doubts that you are using your time wisely, this app will send you weekly reports to indicate your time thieves. You may be shocked to discover how much time you are wasting.
Manage all your tasks effectively
If you are struggling to manage everything you have to do and you work with many different devices, this app is for you. It is a great free tool which is compatible with your mobile, computer, gmail, outlook, etc. It helps you to manage your tasks easily and reminds you of them wherever you are.
Share and send large files effortlessly
There are many apps that allow you to transfer content from your computer to other devices, but Dropbox is free and easier to use than others. With the Dropbox app, you can access and share important files on the go.
Capture everything in one place
Evernote is a free productivity tool that allows you to capture all your ideas, thoughts and images in many different ways, eg with voice, notes or images. You can even record your meetings, interviews, speeches and ideas, create lists, add voice or text attachments and share your files with friends. Now you can also sync Remember The Milk with Evernote to really optimize your time.
Need to just get something done?
- Focus Booster
This app is based on the principles of the pomodoro technique for individuals who procrastinate and feel overwhelmed by tasks. It is designed to enhance your focus and remove any anxiety you might have with time.
Track time spent on projects
This is a great alternative to time-sheets if you need to track how much time you spend on different projects. Effective time management starts with being clear on exactly how much time you actually spend on your projects and tasks, and then analyze how you can manage them more effectively.
Create focus on the tasks at hand
Mindmapping is a great productivity technique, and Mind42 is the best free mindmapping app. It helps you to get more organized by focusing your thoughts, thereby gaining clarity on what needs to be done.
- Syncback Freeware
This free software allows you to back up, restore and synchronize your files easily. It not only saves you time now, but also in the future. If you have never backed up your files before, you should certainly not overlook this pivotal tool.
Do you want to manage your to-do lists effectively?
- MyLifeOrganized (MLO)
Check this out if you find it difficult to manage all your tasks, to work with your to-do lists and to organize your goals. This task management system helps you to target what you should be focusing on to reach your objectives. It automatically generates to-do lists, with priority actions for your immediate attention so that you can track your progress methodically.
Do you often need to capture business cards?
This free Linkedin app allows you to take a picture of a business card, capture the information and upload it immediately. This way you can stay on top of new connections without wasting time getting organized and connected.
I hope this Post has been a help to you. I use some of these apps/software myself.
How to Get the Most Out of Virtual Assistants
Posted on March 20, 2016
This month’s post is on “How To Get the Most Out of Virtual Assistants. There are many VA tools out there to help busy CEOs and executives, whether they hire a VA (such as my Company, Donna’s Secretarial Service,) or not.
In this post, I will discuss Microsoft Window’s Cortana, Apple’s SIRI, and Google Now. I hope this helps you!
Virtual assistants like Siri, Cortana and Google Now have become a fixture in many people’s daily lives, helping them get driving directions, find phone numbers and search the Web using their voice.
Now a crop of savvy users have found ways to use those tools at work, too.
Virtual assistants can tackle a range of workplace tasks, such as scour emails for important information, send reminders about future appointments and set up meetings automatically. Thanks to big data and artificial intelligence, assistants are better able to understand the way people really communicate and are beginning to anticipate their needs.
According to Gallup, nearly two-thirds of working adults say they don’t have enough time in the workday to complete what they set out to do. Here’s a look at some of the ways people are using the fast-growing army of virtual-assistant bots to make their work lives more efficient.
Checking in with staff
Aimy Steadman, chief operating officer of BeatBox Beverages, an Austin, Texas, startup that sells boxed, wine-based cocktails, needs to ask her roughly 50-member sales team the same questions each day: What sales did you make? Which distributors did you check in with and what updates do you have from them?
Instead of having to remember to send out a daily email, she relies on a piece of artificial-intelligence software called Howdy to check in with her staff and get the information from them.
Howdy, which works inside the popular office-productivity software Slack, is programmed to shoot each member of her team those questions each day. The program collates the answers into a single document, which it sends to her when the answers are ready. If she needs answers sooner, she sends a chat to Howdy, typing “Howdy, do you have an update for me?” into the Slack interface. Howdy then sends her a document with employees’ responses, while sending a reminder to those who haven’t gotten around to it to pony up.
The time saved by not having to send out the daily email and collect the information is time she can spend “growing the business,” Ms. Steadman says.
Working by voice
The accuracy of apps that recognize speech was poor for a long time but has surged in the past two years, according to Stanford University computer-science professor Christopher Manning. That has made it much more feasible to do a number of tasks by voice command alone.
For general note-taking and dictation, office workers can edit and write documents by voice using applications like Microsoft Corp.’s Cortana, which works on the Windows 10 operating system, or Alphabet Inc., which recently added voice dictation features into Google Docs. Users of Google Docs now have the option of pressing a microphone button on the left side of their screen, which enables them to capture ideas, write memos and edit tasks—without touching the keyboard. (Accuracy is far from perfect, though.)
It’s also possible to search through all the files on a computer by voice. Mike Halsey, a U.K.-based technology writer, uses Cortana’s signature voice command—“Hey Cortana”—to search for items on his PC. Rather than search for a document by calling up individual apps, Cortana will automatically search through all Microsoft apps, such as Word and PowerPoint. Cortana’s voice assistant understands what he is saying 60% to 70% of the time, Mr. Halsey says.
Russ Buchmann uses Google Now to avoid an all-too-common problem: When he’s close to a store, he realizes he needs more office supplies—but doesn’t remember exactly what.
If Mr. Buchmann, head of IT at Tyrone, Pa., retailer Shoe Fly Shoe Inc., had human assistants, he could simply dispatch them to a store to buy the items. But with Google Now, he doesn’t need to.
When he realizes he needs to buy routers, he says to his phone, “OK Google. Note to self: Pick up routers at Best Buy.” Google Now adds the note to his reminders list. The next time he finds himself close to a Best Buy, the female voice of Google Now pipes up with an alert reminding him that he has a shopping list there.
“It takes some of the pressure off of having to keep track of everything,” Mr. Buchmann says.
Both Siri and Cortana can also be configured for location-based reminders. In addition, workers can configure their virtual assistants to send time-based reminders—for example, to remind them to call someone by Wednesday or to file a document to their boss by a certain time.
Of course, each company’s virtual assistant works best in its own ecosystem of apps. Google Now works best with Gmail and Google apps, Cortana works best with Microsoft products, and so on.
Combing through emails
Searching through emails looking for a particular piece of information is one of the most tedious work tasks. Now virtual assistants have been programmed to streamline that job by recognizing certain key pieces of information in the messages.
For instance, when Mr. Buchmann wants to track his orders for new parts, he needs only to speak into his phone and ask it, “OK Google, show me my shipment.” Google Now dives into his Gmail account, pulls out a list of tracking numbers for packages en route to the company’s stores and reads them aloud.
Likewise, Google Now can pull up flight information, saving him from digging through messages for the information.
Microsoft’s Cortana tries to be helpful proactively. If the program detects language in an email that suggests the user is interested in having a meeting, such as “Let’s get together,” the program will ask if the user wants a meeting to be set up.
Google is also testing a proactive timesaving feature that suggests responses to an email a person receives. For example, ”We’ll be there” or “I’ll check on it.”
Still, these email-sifting tools are fairly limited for now. For example, Cortana and Google Now can only do advanced scouring for package and flight information. It could take a long time to train the software to recognize other categories of information, as it requires feeding it masses of data.
And Cortana’s predictive feature doesn’t work for inbound requests. For example, if a worker received an email from a salesperson that included the words “buy now,” the system wouldn’t suggest scheduling a meeting. Cortana was designed that way so users wouldn’t be inundated with requests they didn’t want. The drawback is that a request from an important person—who the worker might actually want to meet—will be ignored too.
Unlike Cortana and Google Now, Apple’s Siri can’t sift through emails and pull out information. However, Siri can be used for email dictation, such as, “send an email to so and so.”
Setting up and keeping track of meetings is one of the main tasks of any real-life assistant. Dennis Mortensen, CEO of virtual assistant company x.ai, believes that software can do as good a job.
With his company’s software, users can pick one of two personalities, Amy or Andrew, to be their virtual assistant. Once users have made their choice, they simply copy Amy and Andrew on emails sent to people the user intends to meet up with. (Their emails are Amy@x.ai and Andrew@x.ai.) The software detects language like “Let’s meet up” or “Can you schedule a call” in messages and chats with the person on the other end to set up a time, then sends a calendar invite.
Bubba Page, CEO of Outro.com, has been using Amy over the past year. He was about to hire a real-life assistant, but says that with Amy, he hasn’t needed to.
He says that as a startup CEO, he gets 200 to 300 emails a day. By the time two parties agree to meet, and then decide on a time and place, scheduling can take a lot of back and forth—he estimates it takes six emails on average before a meeting is complete. Amy saves him time by taking over that job. He says the software works well enough that he recommended it to his employees and that he uses the bot to set up all his meetings, except those with the most important people on his contact list, such as investors.
“There’s a slight chance something could go wrong,” he says, “and I don’t want to risk it.”
He also admires the smooth way Amy responds when conversations get out of her league. “I just wanted to pass along this message I received from Kelly,” she said to him recently, about a conversation that was too complicated for her to handle. “It doesn’t look like it’s a message I can provide an answer to, so I suggest you follow up with Kelly directly.”
* * *
Of course, the growing intelligence of virtual assistants comes with trade-offs. Privacy is a big one. Like a real-life assistant, the value of a digital assistant comes in knowing the boss—their past meetings, their priorities, and their preferences for who they like to speak with.
For a digital assistant to shoulder some of the functions of a real-life one, it requires permission to access your personal data—and a lot of it. For Cortana to suggest a meeting, or for Siri to tie an unknown number to a person, they need to be able to read the content of your emails. Location-based alerts, like those offered by Google Now, require giving the assistant the ability to monitor your location all the time. Ultimately, individuals are providing tech companies with a far more intimate and complete picture of their lives than ever before.
There are courtesy trade-offs, too. Many virtual assistants work by the user speaking aloud to computers. But speaking aloud to a computer, particularly in work settings, can be annoying to colleagues. Mr. Buchmann, for example, says that he often asks “OK Google” questions about topics that come up during meetings with colleagues. So far, he says, no one has called him rude, but he does try to be careful. “I definitely think there’s a time and a place to use your voice,” he said. “And a time and a place not to.”
Ms. Dwoskin is a former Wall Street Journal reporter. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Corrections & Amplifications
BeatBox Beverages sells boxed wine-based cocktails. Its chief operating officer, Aimy Steadman, asks her sales team each day which distributors they checked in with. An earlier version of this article incorrectly described BeatBox as a cocktail-delivery company and said the sales team checked in with suppliers instead of distributors. (March 14, 2016)
I hope you find this post informative and helpful.
Thank you for reading.
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FAMILY AND FRIENDS SUPPORT ENTREPRENEURS, SMALL BUSINESS OWNER SUPPORT
Posted on December 26, 2016
Business owners need a lot of support to succeed, whether it’s financial, operational or emotional. One of the most important sources of that support for many entrepreneurs is their network of friends and family members.
Bank of America’s Small Business Owner Report, based on a semiannual survey of 1,000 small business owners across the country, found that more than half (53 percent) of the respondents rely on family to serve important business roles, like advisers, employees, investors and partners. Additionally, 38 percent of the entrepreneurs surveyed have received a financial gift or loan from family and/or friends at some point to fund their business, and 35 percent said that friends and family help them the most with running their business.
“We know small business owners are inherent self-starters making significant personal sacrifices on behalf of their businesses, but what’s fascinating is this dimension of family, friends and community that they see as core to their success,” Sharon Miller, head of small business at Bank of America, said in a statement.
According to the report, here’s how small business owners view the support they receive from their personal connections.
Most small business owners who borrow from family or friends feel grateful. Sixty-six percent of entrepreneurs who used funding from family and/or friends to help with their business said that they feel grateful for that support or appreciate it. Respondents reported other emotions related to borrowing from friends and family, including anxiety or pressure to pay it back (30 percent), happy or optimistic (27 percent), and awkward or embarrassed (23 percent).
“We didn’t see signs of reluctance or payback guilt among the 38 percent of small business owners who said they’ve received financial support from family or friends for their business. In fact, very few actually said they felt awkward or embarrassed about it,” Miller said. Of those surveyed, a vast majority had no regret about asking their loved ones to invest in their business. Miller added, “Perhaps that’s because nearly three-quarters intend to pay it back.”
Owners of newer small businesses – those whose businesses are less than five years old – are not only more optimistic than their more established peers, but they are also more likely to receive financial support from family and friends (34 percent, compared to only 18 percent of both growing and well-established businesses).
Small business owners rely on family for support beyond financing. Emotional support can be just as important to a small business owner as financial support. The stresses that come along with building and growing a business can’t always be solved with money. Fifty-seven percent of respondents said that they rely on family and friends for emotional support. Volunteering and providing business referrals are other nonfinancial ways that friends and family can support a small business owner.
“Beyond investments in the business, 13 percent of small business owners say their family or spouse financially supports them with personal expenses such as buying groceries or clothing,” Miller said.
Small business owners and local communities rely on each other. According to the survey, nearly two-thirds of small business owners report that residents in their community actively support small business, with nearly 50 percent saying their local community plays an important role in the success of their individual enterprise. To show their appreciation, 67 percent of small business owners surveyed reported that they support charitable or nonprofit organizations in their community.
“A strong tie to the community and the support of local business is important to many small business owners,” Miller said.
As a Small Business owner, I rely sometimes on my family and friends for guidance. Especially, I have to say on my husband who often “warns” me to stop working so hard and get off my computer late at night (like now). But, as a Small Business owner, I wear many hats and I often tell my friends, family and Business colleagues, that I work harder now (as a Small Business owner) than I did in Corporate America for over 35+ years. At least when you have a 9-5, at 5pm. you get to go home to your family and “live”. When you’re a one-woman show, you run everything about the Company, and hence, wear a lot of hats and have to combine work with family time (a lot of times). But I would NOT go back to Corporate to save my life! I often say, “I’m living the American dream and living my life like its’ GOLDEN! (as the song goes by fellow Philadelphian, Jill Scott!
With that, I will say “Good Night, America”
God bless and again, thanks for reading. (Feel free to leave comments and questions).