Four Career Guideposts for Women

When I made my journey from welfare to CEO four succinct guideposts became crucial to my transformation. Malcom Gladwell said that to master anything you must do it 10,000 hours. The only problem with that is that if you are doing something that doesn’t work – you’ve just become proficient at being stuck. 

Guidepost #1: Seek Your Childhood Innocence. 

If we go through our lives expecting one challenge after another, that’s what shows up – life becomes a problem to solve instead of being fun like when you were a child and could play outside all night long, catching fireflies and naming stars. We start to adopt messages from experience as truth when they are nothing but interpretations. Soon life is merely solving one challenging interpretation after another. I know this well because I mastered it with what seemed like 10,000 hours. 

I was a stay-at-home mother with four children under seven-years-old living what looked on the outside...

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Get Unstuck

You know that head trash that keeps you up at night - I’ll never find the right job - I’m getting old - He doesn’t like me - I am stressed from work - She doesn’t love me - I’m not smart enough? Self-inquiry questions start the journey to clear a path through mind clutter for clarity: 

Who am I?

What do I want?

What is my purpose?

How can I serve?

What am I grateful for?

This self-inquiry brings awareness of what is true to you - the open soul, free of assumptions and expectations. 

You are not your thoughts, experiences, sensations. You are the observer of them - free of them whether positive or negative. 

Don’t fake positive thinking. That is artificial. You’ve undoubtedly seen people trying too hard to be positive. “I can handle this. It will be fine,” when they really feel exhausted and defeated. Pretending only makes you more stressed. Admit and be curious about how you feel without attaching any future or...

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Six Acts that Build Executive Presence in a Difficult Moment

If you have ever been in an escalating conversation that is confrontational you know how hard it is to maintain composure when your heart starts racing and every nerve ending in your body is screaming “Danger!” With practice you can be the master of your own behavior in these high stakes moments, pacify yourself and be the respected colleague people notice has grace under fire. 

When you’re first aware that a situation is getting combative that is the sign to switch tracks before you’re on the runaway train of freeze-fight-or-flight. This is when your reaction becomes physiological -  your voice quivers, your palms get sweaty, and your heartrate elevates. Most people fear that this lack of physical control will show and undermine their effectiveness. It’s important to regain control of your body’s reaction by accepting what is going on with you and creating space for it to calm down. Turning away from the discomfort is not the...

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How to Have Executive Presence in an Anxious Moment

Often clients ask me how to have executive presence - how to remain calm in the face of feeling stressed, threatened and judged.  

Mindfulness is key. Being mindful is being a third party observer to feelings we’ve leaned away from so that we may lean into them without judgment or the feeling of being swallowed by them. We observe the thought in the context of right now instead of forever feeling flawed.  

Think of a bird in the sky sometimes flying erratically especially when other birds are attacking. The bird is your thoughts or emotions. The other birds represent perceived threats. Yet the sky is constant. Undisturbed. When we identify with the sky instead of the bird we identify with our AWARENESS of all the thoughts and emotions instead of being consumed with the affects of thoughts and emotions. Here we can stay calm. We can mindfully stay in the moment without judgment and observe the situation from a detached perspective. In this safe place we can...

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When Drama Overwhelms You

You’ve seen it at work and at home. Someone is anxious about something and suddenly you are feeling anxious too. You know this isn’t healthy and that you shouldn’t feel this way which only makes it worse. Now you’re self-judging for not distancing yourself from the drama and begin to doubt your own effectiveness. You start losing sleep and wake up in the middle of the night, running the day’s conversations over in your mind.  

Lately, I’ve been feeling overwhelmed and sucked in by another person’s angst. Drama is created when a person can’t accept the way they feel so they try to externalize it or put that feeling off on others, usually in a highly demonstrative or desperate way. This behavior provides them a temporary yet unsustainable relief from their discomfort. Thus, they continue the drama dance to try to unload their despair. 

I notice I have been feeling anxious and assuming the anxiety of this person. I’ve...

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9 Questions to Ask Yourself Before a Major Decision

This list is a guide for when you need to test your aspirations that require a major adjustment to your life and career. It’s a reality check for change. Grab a pen and get started. 

  1. Am I happy? It’s a simple yes or no question. If the answer is “no” then follow with this, “How will I change my perspective and/or situation to create happiness?” Life is short. Don’t have an accidental career or life. 
  1. What does my gut say? Your head is too intellectual. Your heart is too emotional. Trust your instinct. 
  1. Does this change align with my values and those of the people it will affect? Write down your values? Write down the values of important people in your life. You might have to sell this change. Know the benefits to all parties. And know who it will hurt. Is it worth it? 
  1. Am I making this change to run away from something? Change for the sake of change is a mistake. You’ll find yourself in a similar...
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Undoing the Wicked Toll of Comparing Yourself to Others

Recently I listened to a client who is struggling in her marriage discuss how difficult it is to watch other happily married couples. I understand the feeling. I spent a lot of time in my first marriage wishing I had what others had and comparing myself to them as well as enabling bad behavior by making excuses for him. Then my third child was born with a developmental disability and I used to sit at playgrounds comparing her to other children while somewhat insensitively pushing her and her therapists like machines because I became so outcome focused. 

What I realized is that when we compare our lives to others and grasp at what isn’t ours we lose sight of all the good things we do have and this strips our fulfillment. This “less than” focus keeps us from letting go of what boundary maven Dr. Henry Cloud calls ‘necessary endings’ to allow for things to bloom in our lives. A healthy rose bush needs to be pruned for new buds to grow. If not,...

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I'm Feeling Anxious

I’m feeling anxious today. I have committed to take two journeys simultaneously that will

1) I’m taking a six-week Dreamwork Coaching Program with master Will Sharon to help my executive coaching clients further build their conscious awareness, peace and effectiveness. It’s not for the faint of heart. It requires online training, hours of classes, work with a partner and more. 

2) I’m taking a Podcast Fellowship Program with a colleague of Seth Godin’s to learn how to launch my first Podcast series around ‘New SMART Leadership.’ 

I asked myself, “Ok Mary Lee, what would you ask a client in this position?” The answer is that I’d ask her to execute the PAUSE Cafe strategy...

I PAUSE and take a deep breath. 

I ASK myself, “What’s going on with me?” I’m feeling scared that I won’t be able to manage my time and will feel stressed. I feel vulnerable because I am not good with...

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What are you going to remember about Christmas? – The Happy Holiday’s Plan

What do you actually want to happen this Christmas? Are expectations already making you tense? After all we have been fed for two months via television, radio and print what the ‘perfect’ Christmas should look like. You know you don’t want to feel loneliness, fear and anxiety. Be the creator of what you want.

The Happy Holiday’s Plan

  1. Discard the goal of the magazine or TV perfect holiday. Perfection is not a strategy to happiness. Actually, it is the antithesis. Seeking it distances us from the intimacy of kinder and gentler moments. 
  1. Discard expectations. They are an excuse for not welcoming and accepting the people we love just as they are – that includes ourselves. 
  1. Create a vision of what you want from this holiday. Imagine it is January 2nd and you are reflecting back on Christmas. What will have happened for this to have been a great holiday? Were you present with people who are most important to you or did you commit to so much...
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Special Offer - 90 Seconds to Ease Cards for Executive Presence

I AM SO EXCITED TO ANNOUNCE THIS! I have spent the fall writing and designing a very special set of go-to practice cards that capture the essence of how I teach my clients to have and maintain executive presence. They are ready in time for the holidays!

When tense moments threaten your executive presence 90 Seconds to Ease Cards bring you confidence, connection and calm before you do, write or say something you regret.

What you'll get:

• 10 beautifully designed cards with 90-second go-to strategies to serve as your private coach in difficult moments.
• The ease of having something quick and sturdy at your fingertips to address anxiety with flow on the go.
• A unique and thoughtful gift for congratulating someone in a new role, a special occasion or for yourself.
• An easily accessible tool to carry with you anytime or have handy in your desk, briefcase or nightstand.

You don't want to get emotional at a meeting. You don't want to lash out or withdraw at a...

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