What It Really Means If You’re Indecisive (& How To Figure Out Exactly What You Want)

Decisions don’t have to feel stressful.

Indecisiveness is a way of making decisions by not following your own wants, needs, or desires. In other words, when you are always indecisive, you aren’t deciding to follow what you want or need. If you use this type of decision-making method frequently, it may indicate your own underlying uncertainty about what you really want or need.

Oftentimes indecisiveness indicates fear of failure or disapproval. In addition, it may also mean you aren’t following your true heart’s desires. 

If you don’t know what you want, how can you make a decision to get what you want? In order to conquer indecisiveness, first figure out what you want. You can make decisions that are based on what you wan. However, you first need to develop an awareness of your own feelings and desires. This may not be easy because you may make decisions in order to please others.

To figure out what you want, ask yourself some basic “clean questions.” Clean questioning is a technique, developed by David Grove, of using open-ended questions to discover what you really want. It allows you to access your inner world without the influence of what others want. Using clean language you can conquer indecisiveness.

To use this clean langauge technique learn how to stop being so indecisive, follow these 4 steps:

  1. First, develop your listening skills.

Listen attentively to your own answers without the influence of what you think someone else would want. Listening to your own thoughts takes practice because often the thoughts of others override our own thoughts. This first step allows you to determine what you think and feel about a decision. Take time to relax, listen, and then journal or write down your answers.

  1. Then, ask yourself “clean language” questions.

In order to explore these thoughts and feelings, you’re going to need to explore the issue a bit more and ask yourself some questions. Examples of “clean language” questions include the following:

  • What would you like to happen? This establishes your desired outcome.
  • And what needs to happen? This question establishes the conditions that need to be in place for your desired outcome.
  • Can it really happen?  Do you have the confidence that this desired outcome can really take place? This can be tricky, because our fears and the overriding of our concern about the desires of others, may negatively impact this answer.
  • Will you take the actions needed to make your goal happen? This question will also help you understand your motivation. If you are fearful, then you may simply be unwilling to take the necessary actions to implement your decision.
  1. Next, come up with a metaphor for how it feels.

If the above questions seem overwhelming, ask yourself what it feels like. For example, “It feels like I will be underwater if X happens.” Or, “It feels as impossible as picking up a car.” This reveals a metaphor that you relate to and can use in understanding why you are indecisive.

It reveals the underlying barrier you need to address in order to find the decision that is best for you. The next step is to identify the “who” or “what” of the barrier. Then ask if the barrier is realistic or simply a perceived prohibition by a false belief. Most barriers can be overcome with thoughtful planning. Metaphors are the natural language of the mind and reveal a deeper understanding of our desires and motivations.

  1. Finally, ask yourself this: “What would happen, if I make this decision?”

This explores the fears, prohibitions, and perceived barriers that hinder your decision. Once they are identified and addressed then making the best decision for you will be easier. These barriers are often not realistic or insurmountable but offer resistance to making decisions that are best for your life and not someone else’s.

Using this technique can enhance self-awareness by revealing the inner workings of your indecisiveness. When you practice this technique it encourages you to think differently and may lead to transformation and decisions based on your own wants and needs.

Pat Magerkurth is a life/business coach who studied women in the workplace. Her extensive experience in life and business can help you determine your best strategy for growth. Contact her at pat@inviaconsulting.com for a free consultation to determine if working together will help you move forward to make better decisions for your life and work

6 Ways Smart Women Pursue Growth In Their Careers (That Help Them Achieve Success)

However you define success, there’s a way for you to reach it!

Smart women pursue career growth strategically. Life happens and work life can create challenges for women’s career growth. Because women are more likely than men to spend more time doing household chores and childcare, you may feel bogged down. That’s why a strategy, defined as “a plan of action or policy designed to achieve a major or overall aim,” can help you focus. 

RELATED: 5 Ways To Balance Your Love Life And Career Without Killing Yourself

When you think strategically without the emotions guiding your planning, you are able to be realistic and thoughtful.

Smart women manage these challenges for success by following these 6 strategies for success:

  1. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

Learn to separate small irritants from major issues or challenges. Don’t allow people to “push your buttons”. Emotional Intelligence is the capacity to manage your emotions and not allow them to overcome your reactions and interactions. Self-care means that we let go of fallout from meaningless interactions that cause us to doubt ourselves

  1. Develop self-awareness.

Learn to look at yourself objectively. That means we have to become aware of our emotions, self-talk, and who we are from another ‘s perspective. Being self-aware allows you to think about the situation from a clear head. In addition, understanding who you are in these situations provides an opportunity to practice building your Emotional Quotient (EQ). Successful leaders practice high EQ in their interactions. This doesn’t mean that you don’t have emotions. It means you recognize the emotions and then make a clear decision about how you want to respond for your best health.

  1. Be aware of others’ opinions.

Remember that the need for approval can derail your success. You need to be aware of other’s perceptions in order to hone your personal brand and sharpen your emotional quotient. Separate other’s opinions about you from their perception of you. It doesn’t matter if you think their perception of you is false, it is their perception.

  1. Find tools and approaches that work for you.

Clean questions “What do I want?” “What do I know?” “What do I need to learn?’ These questions offer you a chance to explore the situation from a clear perspective. Each challenge that you face will present opportunities for you to grow and find the right path to your success.

  1. Keep focused.

Frustrations, difficult people, and disappointing setbacks can wreak havoc with our sense of self and confidence. Don’t allow others to pull you off your course. Once you have determined where you want to grow, stay focused on your plan. Consequently, like any good hike there are obstacles and barriers that may attempt to block your way. When you stay focused with a clear mind and heart you can overcome them.

  1. Stay flexible.

Others’ doubts and options are just that, their doubts and their opinions. Deborah Brown stated, “Not everyone will understand what you want to accomplish in your career. Maybe you want a new job but the people in your life tell you to forget about it and just be happy where you are. Or, you want a new career, but you are told it doesn’t make sense or you won’t make enough money.”

Some roadblocks may be insurmountable. However, that doesn’t mean that you give up your goals. You may need to adjust them and revise them as life happens.

Each time you meet a roadblock ask yourself the clean question: “How does this alter my original plan?” It may simply mean you are in the wrong place at the wrong time. As a result, strategically determine what change you need to make to create the best opportunity for your dreams and aspirations.

Actually, our dreams or goals often change based on new information. New experiences, relationships, or life events may alter what we think and feel about our career growth. Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook stated in her book, Option B, after the death of her husband: “Option A is not available so let’s kick the heck out of Option B.” Option B is what you determine is best for you after Option A doesn’t work out. Bouncing back from seeming failure can help you be successful.

Remember that blaming others or frustrating doesn’t help you; it only hinders your clear thinking about next steps after something thwarts your well-planned progress. Keep yourself on the path by following the six strategies outline

Remember to relax, take a deep breath, and ask yourself those clean questions to determine what Option B means to you. You may just find out that Option B was the best path after all.

Pat Magerkurth is a life/business coach who studied women in the workplace. Her extensive experience business can help you determine your best strategy for career growth. Contact her at pat@inviaconsulting.com for a free consultation to determine if working together will help you move forward build a plan for your career growth.

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6 Ways To Bounce Back From Failure (That Help You Build Resiliency)

You’ve got this.

There are lots of ways to bounce back from failure, and they all help you with building resilience. Everyone defines failure differently and most people will say that they learn more from their failures than their successes. Life’s most important lessons are hidden in failure, but it takes courage to examine the situation, uncover the lessons, and learn how to deal with failure productively.

When we fail at something our self-confidence and enthusiasm may be crushed by the experience. Each time we examine the situation, we may be able to see different aspects of the failure that deliver information to inform and build resilience. The following five steps give you a simple process to follow for building resiliency each time you feel that you failed.

Failures come in all shapes and sizes. Personal failures include divorce, relationship problems, loss of friendship, or simple mistakes made in haste or anger. Professional failures include the loss of a job such as being laid off or fired. Another failure may be a lost promotion, loss of job satisfaction, or loss of expectations for your career. The greatest teachers are big failures.

Resilience is the capacity to experience loss, failure, and disappointment and incorporate the experience as a lesson worthy of your attention. When you tap into your well of resilience you are able to see the failure as a part of your journey, not the end of the game. Each time you incorporate the five lessons below you will build a well of resilience that you can tap into whenever you feel that you failed.

“Persistence and resilience only come from having been given the chance to work through difficult problems.” —  Chris Peterson

So if you’re feeling down because of a recent failure, here are 6 ways you can use it to bounce back and be better than ever:

  1. Failure is the greatest teacher.

Failure is the perception that you didn’t do something right and that the loss is your fault. How you perceive an experience determines whether you see it as a failure or as a difficult situation that needs review and attention. An experience that you define, as a failure may simply be a set of circumstances aligned against you.

Or it may be that you didn’t assess the situation realistically and failure was inevitable. The only way to determine the part you played in the experience is to follow these steps and assess what you could have done differently. Therein lies the lesson. The only thing you can control is yourself.

  1. Take time to process your emotions and disappointment.

Failure brings with it a complex set of emotions and self blame. In addition, you may be angry at the situation or person that you perceive let you down or caused the failure. It is okay to feel mad, sad, disappointed, frustrated, confused, and let down.

Take the time through journaling or reflection to process the emotions. You can cry, scream into a pillow, or stomp your feet. But be sure to use this time to process your emotions, not to strike out at those you perceive have let you down or caused you to fail

The first step is recognizing the emotions and then making a clear and thoughtful decision about any actions that you take regarding the situation. For example, if you were fired, it is best not to burn any bridges by striking out or saying things that will make a difficult situation worse. Some ways to process your emotions are to write letters you never send or journal about the emotions and place them in the context of the situation.

  1. Take a deep dive to understand the facts.

The facts of the experience are the events without any emotional content. After you have processed your emotions (this may take several days or even months), breathe deeply and view the facts of the experience. Write down what happened without any emotional bias.

Recognize your actions within the situation without blame or anger to help inform future situations. The old saying that “wherever you go, there you are,” is true. People learn behaviors, beliefs, and strategies for handling failure from childhood experiences. Developing resilience requires you to understand how you react to failures.

It also requires you to take a realistic assessment of your part in the failure. What could you have done differently to generate a different outcome? If you determine that there was nothing you could have done differently, then you may simply be a victim or circumstance.

However, most failures include a turning point where a different choice on your part, may have created a different outcome. The only way to tell is to take an objective look at your experience and then learn.

  1. Incorporate what you learn into your plans.

Each time you process your experiences; you will learn that you could have generated a different outcome with a different choice. Each day is made up of a series of choices. Those choices span from what you eat for breakfast to how you behave in relationships.

Little choices can have big consequences. Did you choose to react angrily or to ignore warning signs that pointed to failure? Self-awareness and the capacity to behave based on that awareness is the cornerstone of resilience.

When you understand the facts of a failure and incorporate the lessons into your sense of self, you can make a different choice the next time. However, some people go from failure to failure without any self-awareness and never understand why their outcomes are always the same. Resiliency is the capacity to gain knowledge and self-awareness and then incorporate those lessons into our life.

  1. Get back up.

When you fail, it feels like you have fallen down in life. Getting back up means giving yourself permission to restart your life using the lessons learned from the experience. It may mean starting to look for another job, starting to find another relationship, or simply getting back out into the world with friends and family.

Some people need to remove themselves from the world to process lessons one through four. Eventually, you need to shake off your disappointment and continue to experience life. Severe trauma can have a deep impact.

If your failure is from a traumatic experience, then you may need to see a counselor to process numbers one through four. It may be that you need to “fake it to make it” in order to continue with life while processing the failure. Only you can determine what you need. The decision to see a coach or counselor doesn’t signal another failure. It means you have the courage to face the situation and work through it to a successful outcome.

  1. Never give up.

Persistence is the best predictor for success. Grit is one of the biggest predictors for success. Tanner Christensen identified four components for developing grit:

  • Learn as you go and get feedback from step three. Feedback from peers and supervisors will help you develop grit or resilience.
  • Find something that you can be passionate about and use that as a motivating force. Find something that you can dig into to gain a greater understanding.
  • Discover a way to develop hope out of the examination process. Failure is not a permanent state of affairs. If you feel you are failing all the time and can’t find hope, get help from a coach or counselor.
  • Success takes time. Give yourself the time to process the experience and develop a plan for your success.

Failure is inevitable. Everyone experiences loss, disappointment, and failure. Resiliency allows you to bounce back from failure and build for a successful future. Your choices and actions determine your success. If you cannot figure out why you keep failing, find a professional who can give you an objective perspective. Remember that failure is not permanent, but is an experience that you can weave into the tapestry of your life.

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” — Thomas Edison

Pat Magerkurth is a life/business coach who studied women in the workplace. Her extensive experience developing resilience and speaking out can help you overcome failure. Contact her at pat@inviaconsulting.com for a free consultation to determine if working together will help you move forward to find the lessons in failure.

3 Common Workplace Challenges Women Face When Climbing the Corporate Ladder

Successfully navigating 3 common workplace challenges women face when climbing the corporate ladder delivers workplace success. Everyone faces challenges at work, but for women the challenges may be different. Oftentimes women may not speak up in meetings with their ideas. Sometimes others in the room coopt a woman’s idea as their own and take credit for it. Understanding the importance of everyone’s input creates an atmosphere of collaboration not competition. Women may feel that they need to recover their voice in order to succeed. And women often struggle with the fact that women want to be nice and don’t assert ourselves so challenges when climbing the corporate ladder present obstacles to success. Our mothers often taught us to defer and deflect rather than take credit for our contribution. These three strategies will help you face these common workplace challenges and navigate the corporate environment. 

It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.”

  1. Finding your voice

Corporate cultures often suppress women’s voices. As a result women may leave their true passions unspoken. Bringing your whole self to work helps you find your voice. Because women may not know their own voice, they fear speaking out at work.

Speaking up and asking for what you want takes courage, and it usually pays off. Many women don’t speak up and ask for the promotion or plum assignment because they fear rejection or don’t show the requisite self-confidence in their skills. Getting the job requires you to understand the situation and prepare to succeed.  Finding your voice is the first step towards getting and keeping a seat at the table.

These Four tips will help you find your voice:

  • Be prepared and know what you want to accomplish.  Prepare with reasons why you are right for the assignment or project.  Ask for the promotion or assignment from a place of preparedness.
  • Increase your self-confidence. Take a self-assessment and understand the value you bring to the table. Find a mentor who can help you determine your worth and articulate how those benefits relate to what you are asking for. “Believe in yourself. If you don’t know what value you bring to the table, no one else will.”
  • Make contributions with purpose and an understanding of what’s needed to succeed.
  • Come to the table with an opinion or option that you can back up with data and show that you did your homework.

Make your voice Heard

  1.     Being Heard

Once you have found your voice it may feel difficult to be heard. Research has shown that men are more confident while women are more competent. Speaking with self-confidence helps ensure others hear you. These 6 tips from Shelley Zalis, at Forbes will help you be heard:

  • Give credit where credit is due. Women in the Obama administration used a technique they called amplification. They recognized each other openly for their achievements, accomplishments, and ideas. When a colleague has a good idea, compliment her on it to discourage men from taking credit for her idea.
  • Open the floor to another woman. After making your point, direct your attention to a female coworker and ask her if she has any additional thoughts. Women are often unable to break into the conversation as men dominate the floor. This strategic approach increases the chance that others hear you.
  • Practice speaking up whenever you can. Even when it is a small internal meeting, use that opportunity to practice your skills. The more often you speak up the easier it becomes enabling others to hear you.
  • Start with a positive, not a negative. Review your unconscious speaking habits and be sure to use forceful or powerful language. When we worry about what others will think, we may speak hesitantly of downplay our own ideas or input.
  • Be mindful of your tone. Practice a strong tone of voice. Avoid raising your voice at the end of a sentence, which can indicate a question. Speak with a steady even tone. Practice with a trusted friend or record yourself to identify any unconscious habits or tone of voice issues.
  • Stand on your own two feet. Stand up for yourself. Mentors and colleagues are great, but it is critical that you are accountable for your own ideas, work, and input.

Four Strategies Using Resilience to Recover Your Voice

  1.     Recovering Your Voice

Resilience helps you find your voice. Because it acts like a muscle, the more resilient you become the stronger it grows. Life always deals out setbacks and challenges. Self-control and resilience delivers greater strength for finding and expressing your voice.

Resilience exemplifies the capacity to get back up, brush yourself off, and jump back in. These three tips help you recognize, develop, and maintain a resilient life force.

  • It isn’t personal. Keep reminding yourself that the only person you can control is you. Check out your feelings and remind yourself that it isn’t all about you. Most people come into a situation with their own motives and filters. Distancing yourself allows you to see the situation more clearly without the emotions. 
  • Be aware of your filters. Each person views the world through a set of filters that includes their sex, family background, and basic personality traits. As a result your filters mix with life situations and these factors color the way we react and view situations. Consequently, self-awareness underpins resilience.
  • Taking a strategic approach to situations means that you step back and review the issues without emotion. Consequently, you can then make a clear decision about how you want to respond. You decide how you want others to view you. As a result you better understand your situation and the filters that color your perspective on these common workplace challenges.
  • This probably feels unnatural at first, but with practice your resilient approach grows stronger. Resilience takes practice and work to develop and maintain. In the light of setbacks review what happened and assess your part in the situation. Ask yourself, “What could I have done differently to foster a different outcome?” Be objective, try to remove your emotions, and then make a decision to try a different approach the next time. Use your emotions as a way to gage the situation and make a decision about how you want to respond.

Most of all value yourself. Self-love fosters finding your voice, being heard, and developing resilience. As a result, self care says, “I value myself and my well-being.” And remember no one is responsible for you, but you. Especially, list three things you want to say or want others to hear. And list ways you can be more resilient and less reactive.

“Women are still in emotional bondage as long as we need to worry that we might have to make a choice between being heard and being loved.” Marianne Williamson

Understanding these three common workplace challenges women face while climbing the corporate ladder gives you great insight into why you may feel stuck. It highlights the areas you can focus on to grow in your career. If you work these three strategies and still find it frustrating or challenging, coaching can help. Please reach out, if I can help you find your best path forward.

Pat Magerkurth is a life/business coach who studied women in the workplace. Her extensive experience developing resilience and speaking out can help you find your voice and be heard. Contact her at pat@inviaconsulting.com for a free consultation.


Making Sense Of The Senseless

The country seems divided, people feel angry and frustrated on both sides of all the complex issues Americans face. Making sense of the senseless helps relieve the feeling of helplessness. There is great controversy about such simple things as respect for the flag, racial injustice, constant war, and income inequality. People continue to strive for the “American Dream” and venerate the rich as something special. Some of the wealthy have a social conscious and care about others, while the great majority of corporations exploit the rank and file as the upper echelon get richer. CEOs make thousands of dollars an hour and have exorbitant exit packages. For example, the Experian CEO who endangered the credit histories of millions who then walked away with $90 million in a “retirement” package.

There Are Good People in a Senseless World

And yet, brave individuals and first responders shielded loved ones and strangers when a deranged shooter began his rampage in Las Vegas. How are we to make sense of all this senselessness? Widespread unrest, the beating of protesters, and recognizing racism defined the 60s and 70s. Americans thought we had climbed to the pinnacle when Nixon resigned and that the fight was over when Barack Obama was elected the 44th President of the United States.

Eight years of relative prosperity after a disastrous economic crash when Wall Street greed ran amuck ensued. Amazingly, Job growth was at an all time high, and it seemed like the top of the mountain. However, many ignored the underlying signs of growing discontent. Rural voters feel overlooked, racism is real, and more young black men die at an alarming rate. Once again the Attorney General wants to use for-profit prisons, and at risk is money for educational grants that lift the impoverished.

No Simple Answers For The Seemingly Senseless

There are no simple answers to these seemingly senseless dilemmas. I am reminded of the turmoil of the 1960s. Race riots broke out, as millions of African Americans said, no more. The Chicago Democratic Convention was wracked with riots in the summer of 1968 against the war in Vietnam. It was the first year that I became aware of the war because high school classmates came home in a casket from Vietnam. There was no making sense of the senseless war. The enemy was Communism and the domino theory that it would spread. Communism would eventually die of its own weight to be replaced by dictators, totalitarianism, and oligarchy. Then out came the Pentagon Papers and it would be several years before the war ended.

Making Sense of Senseless Violence

On May 4, 1970 the Ohio National Guard shot and killed four students and wounded nine others while they were protesting the war in Vietnam. It was a senseless act. These were college students with parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters, boyfriends and girlfriends. This violent act perpetrated by the US Military on citizens expressing their Constitutional right to free speech and expression woke up a divided nation. It was only 22 days from my 20th birthday. This event was a watershed for the Nation in its view of the war and the divisions within our country.

The complexity of the war protests and the turmoil of the 60s and 70s grew out of the post Second World War golden era of the 1950s. Men came back after the war and were welcomed home as heroes, babies were born, and lives resumed in an idyllic state. Eisenhower was president and enjoyed unprecedented popularity, and people were happy to resume a more normal existence. Underlying all of this was the civil rights movement and the incarceration of Japanese Americans during the war. Watching the Ken Burns Vietnam series, I am reminded of my own youthful vigor and opposition to the war and my own protests.

Senseless Struggles Continue

And so, here we are again, maybe on the brink of a senseless war to assuage the egos of the newest leaders and to feed the Military-Industrial Complex. Do not be fooled war and violence enrich corporations. Additionally, the recent rise in the sale of the gun bump stocks that can make a semi-automatic weapon an automatic weapon capable of killing 59 and injuring 489 innocent people in less than 15 minutes demonstrates a senseless struggle. It was a music festival, a place for joyous dancing and fun. The shooter had collected guns and ammunition for decades. And we don’t know and may never know why he committed this crime.

Senseless violence is just that, senseless. As a result, the only way we can only respond with compassion and sensible public policy. Of particular interest is the fact that in the United States there are 146.3 million eligible voters. Over 90 million eligible voters didn’t vote in 2016. The rise of news on the Internet and other electronic media gives rise to unsubstantiated news reports. As a result, opinions masquerading as news polarize people, placing them into opinion bubbles. Many only believe news items that support their core beliefs and seem unwilling to entertain opposite viewpoints as valid. Thus, we no longer engage in civil dialogue.

Value Kindness and Compassion

Consequently, we must value kindness and compassion above winning. Key components to a civilized culture include valuing, caring for, and loving those who have less and struggle to survive. Each human being has value and deserves respect and positive regard. Those who claim Christianity must wake up authentic Christian values clearly expressed in Matthew 5:1-12, that many who claim to be Christian forget or ignore. The beatitudes clearly describe the blessed the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, the merciful, and the pure in heart. In addition, the blessed include peacemakers and those who thirst for righteousness or seek a greater understanding of God.

These Five Strategies Help To Make Sense of the Senseless

  1. Accept that life isn’t fair.
  2. People may claim to be one thing, but indeed are another. Recognize it and believe in their actions, which reveal their true selves.
  3. Be kind and help others. Fred Rogers said, “Look for the helpers, you will always find people who are helping.” There will always be good people, lean their way.
  4. Fight the inner desire to vilify others or think we are better than them.
  5. Understand that periodic turmoil creates the opportunity for change. Just as tilling the earth allows for more fertile growth.

Pat Magerkurth is a life and career coach, helping clients make sense of the senseless in their lives. If you’re struggling with understanding the senseless in your life, reach out to Pat at pat@inviaconsulting.com today to see if working together can help.

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Life Lessons for Navigating Sexual Tensions at Work & Defining Sexual Misconduct

Life lessons for navigating sexual tensions at work and defining sexual misconduct may help you recognize and address difficult situations. Recently, Billy Bush of the infamous Access Hollywood tape fame while a guest on Steven Colbert stated, “it is time to further the conversation”. He went on to clarify that it’s time to discuss how we raise boys in our culture. Conversely, women need to support each other in our efforts to speak up and address sexual misconduct.

In a recent CNN article Anna Navarro, a Republican detailed all of the powerful men accused and subsequently destroyed by sexual misconduct allegations. She stated, “Changing the culture means this is not about profession or creed or color or sexual orientation or partisan affiliation. Sexual harassment is not about Hollywood versus Washington. It is not about Right and Left. It is about right and wrong. America, letting politicians get away with it, is simply wrong.”

In addition, Sheryl Sandberg posted a cautionary note on her Facebook Page. She worried that the current flood of accusations could limit women’s opportunities at work. She also stated, “Sexual harassment has been tolerated for far too long in the halls of government and companies large and small. For the first time in my professional life, it feels like people are finally prepared to hold perpetrators responsible. I’m cheering.”

Recently, the “MeToo” Movement and the reckoning of powerful men for sexual misconduct, brings to light a situation that has existed far too long. Men can be sexually aggressive and inappropriate. Not all men are sexual predators, but the combination of power and sexual aggression can create problems.

This article attempts to put the various situations in perspective. It also addresses strategies to help address sexual misconduct at work. Do women have any responsibility in these situations?

Definitions Help Put Sexual Misconduct In Perspective

The definitions are not always clear under the law. Not all incidents of sexual misconduct are equal. Some misconduct is egregious, while some actions constitute sexual innuendo or foolishness. Specific crimes involving sex include Sexual Assault, Sexual Harassment, and Sexual Abuse. All of these contain specific definitions within the criminal code. Sexual tensions that go unaddressed may create a difficult situation in the workplace.

Sexual Harassment Creates a Hostile Work Environment

A hostile work environment prevents women from thriving at work. According to the allegations of eight women, Charlie Rose created a hostile work environment with unwanted sexual advances and actions. Women felt they needed to acquiesce and tolerate his sexual advances in order to be part of the team. When women reported the actions to his Executive Producer, Yvette Vega she protected him by saying, “That’s just Charlie being Charlie.” Now that the allegations are out in the open she regrets her protective behavior. She was quoted in the Washington Post, “I should have stood up for them,” said Vega, 52, who has worked with Rose since the show was created in 1991. “I failed. It is crushing. I deeply regret not helping them.”

Many sexual harassment situations go unaddressed. Women either leave or they continue to work at the company while feeling violated. Some simply adjust their behavior and avoid contact or situations where they are alone with the perpetrator.

This solution is unacceptable, because the perpetrator created a situation where the woman feels that she must stay in that situation to keep her job. Sexual Harassment is predicated upon a power dynamic. The perpetrator with power and influence  relegates the victim to either tolerating the behavior or leaving the job.

Two Types of Sexual Harassment Situations

The Department of Labor defines two types of Sexual Harassment situations.
1. Quid Pro Quo Harassment i.e. “This for That” – In this situation harassment results in a specific employment decision based upon the employee’s acceptance or rejection of unwelcome sexual advances or requests for sexual favors. In this situation a supervisor will either deny a promotion to an employee or require an employee to participate as a condition of their employment. In addition, preferential treatment based on sexually cooperative employees is harassment.
2. Hostile Work Environment Harassment occurs when unwelcome conduct of supervisors, coworkers, customers, or anyone else the employee must be in contact with on the job creates an atmosphere that is either intimidating or offensive. Examples may include discussing sexual activities, telling off-color jokes about race, sex, disabilities, etc., unnecessary touching, or commenting on physical attributes.

In order to violate the law the following conditions must be met:
It must be unwelcome, subjectively abusive to the person, objectively severe and pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would find hostile or abusive. Consideration is paid to the frequency and severity of the conduct. Additionally, the conduct must be either physically threatening or humiliating and not a mere offensive utterance. It must effect the employee’s psychological well-being and interfere with work performance. Finally, was the harasser in a superior position of power over the employee? “Hostile work environment cases are often difficult to recognize, because the particular facts of each situation determine whether offensive conduct has crossed the line from “ordinary tribulations of the workplace, such as the sporadic use of abusive language . . . and occasional teasing, to unlawful harassment.”

Sexual Assault Involves Unwanted Physical Conduct

According to the Department of Justice definition: “Sexual assault is any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. Falling under the definition of sexual assault are sexual activities as forced sexual intercourse, forcible sodomy, child molestation, incest, fondling, and attempted rape”

Each State has its own laws on the books detailing the legal definitions of Sexual Assault. Force doesn’t always include threatening a woman’s physical safety. It may include emotional coercion or manipulation. A perpetrator may threaten to hurt the victim’s family or other intimidation tactics. Unfortunately, someone known to the victim commits 7 out of 10 sexual assaults.

Sexual Abuse is a Sexual Act by a Parent, Guardian, Relative, or Acquaintance of a Minor

According to Merriam Webster’s law dictionary: Sexual abuse is “the infliction of sexual contact upon a person by forcible compulsion; and/or the engaging in sexual contact with a person who is below a specified age or who is incapable of giving consent because of age or mental or physical incapacity.” Often sexual abuse occurs with ongoing incidents over a period of time.

The statistics on sexual abuse point to a disturbing undercurrent of sexual activities to abuse children. Specifically, a 2012 report found that 26% of sexual abuse victims were between 12 and 14 years of age and 34% were under 9 years of age. Approximately 1.8 million adolescents in the US were victims of sexual assault. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that approximately 1 in 6 boys and 1 in 4 girls are sexually abused before the age of 18, and 82% of all juvenile victims are female. It is particularly disconcerting when you consider that only 30% of sexual abuse victims report the crime.

The Umbrella Of Sexual Misconduct Covers Many Interactions

The definitions above constitute illegal actions. But some actions are less intrusive or not clearly defined, such as an occasional off color joke, or the silly gesture that goes too far. What are women’s responsibilities in the light of the definitions and the obvious sexual tensions in the workplace? These five ideas provide ideas for women to navigate workplace sexual tensions and create a safe working environment.

Strategies for Addressing the Sexual Tensions & Potential Misconduct

Find a guy at work sexually attractive? Be careful! It isn’t fair for a woman to behave provocatively at work and come-on to a coworker. Be aware, office romances can go bad very quickly. If you determine that the relationship is worth pursuing, find another job. Be out in the open with your intentions and the status of the relationship. If the relationship goes south, either of you might paint the circumstances in a different light creating a difficult situation.

Don’t behave in a flirtatious manner at work. Keep your interactions professional, not provocative. If tempted to use your sexuality to manipulate the situation, assess your own motivations. Be cordial not sexy. Make a conscious, strategic decision about how you want to be perceived at work. Your demeanor and clothing can send out mixed messages. It is important to be clear about your purpose at work. If a superior wants to have a meeting in his hotel room, suggest another venue.

If a coworker makes unwanted sexual advances, do the following. Immediately state your boundary. That means simply say , “I am not interested, please do not go any further or do that again” or say “I am offended by that comment, please don’t say anything of that nature again.” Be cordial and friendly, but emphatic.

Document the action with the date, time, place, and exact events without any embellishment. If the action is egregious, touching or forceful, immediately document it and call Human Resources. Some actions may be unintentional and may simply need you to set a clear boundary. Others may need intervention by the professionals in Human Resources. The worst nightmare for HR professionals is a sexual predator who is allowed to run amok within an organization. This puts the organization at financial risk.

Reread the definitions above. Remember you may also fall under scrutiny, if you allow the activity to continue. In addition to protecting yourself, sharing knowledge protects other women from experiencing harassment or assault.

Keep it light, and don’t look for predators or perverts. Men are often trying to be friendly and may not be savvy or aware that they are being offensive. If you state your boundary in a friendly, non-confrontational manner they will probably apologize and not repeat the offensive behavior. You will be able to tell from their response if their remorse or embarrassment is real.

It is time for us to be clear about simple inappropriate gestures or actions versus those of serial sexual predators. Well-intentioned men may act in ways that are outside of their values or your preferences. If they do not respond to a simple “Hey, I don’t like that”, then they are not well intentioned. It is not appropriate to get mad, tell your friends, and then determine that you were abused, assaulted, or harassed. The outcome will not be that you are vindicated because your actions and demeanor will also be under scrutiny. If you get mad, or feel uncomfortable let that person know.

Be aware, be careful, and be willing to speak your mind immediately. If a man places his hand on your body, and you are uncomfortable, say something. If someone says something that offends you, speak up. Letting things fester helps neither you nor the other person. They need to know they behaved in an offensive manner. Finally, don’t “cry wolf” don’t blow a small incident out of proportion. Women who have truly been assaulted, abused, or harassed need our support, not false accusations.

Let’s be real, we all make mistakes or do inappropriate things. It is now our responsibility to speak up when abused, assaulted, or harassed. Personal accountability requires us to express our displeasure with the actions. Use your best resource, your clear voice stating a specific boundary. Silence creates an environment conducive to inappropriate sexual actions or tensions.

Coaching can help you find your voice and learn how to speak up. Pat Magerkurth is a coach with over 30 years experience navigating the workplace. She can help you understand and navigate workplace challenges. Contact her at pat@inviaconsulting.com.

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Are You A Confident Woman? This Is How You Can Tell For Sure

Are you a confident woman? These three questions will tell you for sure and the following suggestions will help you develop confidence. Furthermore for both professional and personal success, develop confidence.

Women are led to believe that being shy and quiet is feminine and desirable. As a result, American culture rails against competent and confident women. When we speak up or state our views emphatically, swift criticism communicates negativity. Yet in order to be successful, women must speak up.

Studies show that self-confidence indicates a willingness to succeed and create valuable work and personal relationships. “Success, it turns out, correlates just as closely with confidence as it does with competence.”  

How do you know if you are a confident woman?

  • Assess your language. Do you use qualifiers when stating your opinion or offering an idea? Those qualifiers include “maybe”, “I’m not sure”, “this may not work”, or “it may not make sense”. Language matters, as a result prepare and state your case simply with self-assurance.
  • Does the sound of your voice raise at the end of sentences? Record and listen to yourself speaking or in conversation. Your cadence can indicate insecurity. Cadence is the rhythm or flow of the sound you produce. Does your voice tone raise at the end of a sentence as if you are asking a question? This indicates that you don’t feel confident in what you say. You can change that style by practicing to change the habit of always going up at the end of a sentence.
  • Are you afraid to speak up and offer input at meetings? Learn to speak up with input that is both relevant and on topic. Ask for a meeting agenda and learn the purpose of the meeting. Develop an idea or input that is solution focused. Practice in a smaller group of colleagues and ask for their feedback.

Enhance your self-confidence with these strategies. First, stop comparing yourself to men. Understand that men have a leg-up in the corporate world because like attracts like. Comparison to men lowers your self-confidence. In her groundbreaking book “In a Different Voice” Carol Gilligan defined one fundamental difference between men and women. They develop differently. Individuals function in relationship to others. When women compare themselves to men, they do not compare favorably.

  1. Caring about relationships is fundamental to a woman’s development. Monitor how you interact at work and recognize this fundamental difference. The idea that the “good woman” is responsive to the needs of others and not her own needs creates a fundamental dilemma for women. The ethic of selflessness (not being selfish) creates a situation where women don’t speak up for themselves. Fundamentally, female scholars posit that men view the world from a position of separateness while women view the world through connectedness. This fundamental difference can skew women’s self-evaluation and hinder self-confidence.
  2. Make a list of the ways this belief may affect the way you interact at work. Because self–examination develops a thought process that allows you understand,  it helps you change the way you interact at work. After you make the list choose how you want to change those beliefs or self-perceptions. Next, ask yourself how changing that perception can increase your self-confidence.
  3. Do you have a place where you can get feedback? Create a lunch and learn group where you can discuss these issues and practice being effective at work. You can even practice your language skills in this group.
  4. Confident women have colleagues at work, not “best friends”. As a result, monitor your disclosures at work even to your work friends. It is best to save personal vulnerability sharing for relationships that are not work related. Personal struggles can undermine your self-confidence at work.
  5. Developing a belief in your competence will enhance self-confidence. Men are more likely to believe in themselves based on their separateness viewpoint. Your competence and self-confidences don’t depend on a false comparison to men. Your ideas merit consideration equally with those of your male counterparts. Owning your competence enhances self-esteem and confidence in your value as a fully participating team member at work.

In conclusion, the journey to self-confidence takes time and energy. Additionally, recognize your value and assess your self worth as it relates to your skills and talents. Recent revelations about sexual harassment, highlight the fact that women need to speak up and speak out. Consequently, improving self-confidence will pay dividends in the future of women at work.

Pat Magerkurth is a coach with over 40 years of experience in the work place. Contact her at pat@inviaconsulting.com for a free consultation to discover how you can improve your self-confidence at work and in your relationships.

Act Like A Woman, But Think Like A Man

Act like a woman, but think like a man to succeed in a male-dominated work environment.  Look no further than the presidential election to find that our culture evaluates women by different standards. For example, no one said that the male candidate needed to “smile” more.

Politics is a male-dominated work environment. As recently as September 2017 Nancy Pelosi reminded the men in a White House dinner meeting that women need to be heard as the men talked over her. She asked “Do the women get to talk around here?” Many women experience being invisible at work.

A study released by the organization Lean In found that white men occupy 67% of C Suite positions. This means women and men of color occupy only 33% of the executive levels in American companies. A study of executive positions in the public sector published by Lynne Rienner Publishers defined five characteristics of an executive position.

  • These roles “uniquely feature solitude” based on their individual actions and accountability.
  • A female leader is subject to greater external scrutiny because of her status as a female and the “great man” model of leadership. This leadership model is at odds with expectations.
  • Leaders often manage a large organizational structure which is hierarchical and may also act as a liaison with external stakeholders.
  • As a leader the executive must be both proactive and reactive. They both set the direction for the organization and react to external forces and factors.
  • In their specific role, each leader must understand a broad set of data points, be able to understand the effect of their actions on the future, and direct their organization.

What does it mean to think like a man?

These characteristics tell us what qualities successful executives or leaders possess.  Thinking like a man means being decisive, assertive, independent, willing to take a stand, and willing to take risks. Feminine attributes include being gentle, cheerful, soft-spoken, eager to soothe hurt feelings, and yielding.  These attributes come from an instrument that plots individuals on a scale from masculine to feminine and in the center is androgynous.

Sandra Bee designed the  Bem Sex Role Inventory to assess how people perceive themselves relative to culturally defined masculine and feminine attributes.  According to Forbes the number one attribute to success is being willing to take risks, which is considered a masculine trait in our culture.

A key dilemma for women in a male-dominated work environment is how to stay out of the traps set by these attributes.  For example, some underlying expectations seem to dictate that women act as the social director or caretaker (planning the social events or always loading the dishwasher). As a result, use these five strategies to think like a man at work.

Five Strategies for Thinking like a Man

  1. Be strategic with your business connections and find mentors and advisers within your field that are not in your workplace. Many successful people have mentors who can help guide them on their path. If you can find a male mentor, good for you.
  2. Speak up in meetings and contribute. At first it may feel awkward because women may not value their own ideas. When constantly interrupted, ask the interrupter politely to let you finish.
  3. Take credit for your ideas and don’t qualify your contributions with language. Statements such as “maybe you’ve tried this before” or “I’m not sure this will work”. Research your idea and prepare a solution focused approach.
  4. Be assertive and don’t let others put you down. You can respond as Nancy Pelosi did in a recent meeting at the White House when all of the men continued to interrupt her. Use light humor, but be careful not to be seen as a clown or silly.
  5. Let go of little slights. Gender bias can be unintentional. Use the interaction as an opportunity to educate your coworker in a non-confrontational manner.

Women getting ahead in the workplace dictates our need to support each other, because women have a long way to go to find parity. First be introspective about your workplace dilemmas. Ask initially what you need to do differently for a different outcome. It helps to recognize your own participation in the system.  Then proactively work to make changes where you can.

As a coach and consultant with over 40 years in the corporate world, Pat Magerkurth can help you solve some of these complex workplace dilemmas. Contact her at Pat@inviaconsulting.com for a free initial session to discuss your specific situation and goals.

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5 Ways To Build Trust In Relationships In Life, Love & Work

Build trust in relationships at home and at work. Trust, a basic building block, creates happy, healthy relationships. Trust builds over time and gives relationships a solid foundation. People often believe that love and friendship conquers all but, sometimes those aren’t enough. Without trust, love and friendship can erode and working relationships can quickly go sour. However, with basic trust, strong relationships overcome many obstacles.

People in strong relationships practice being vulnerable and true to themselves in relationship with each other. This means they rely on and accept each other for who they are. This doesn’t mean that you accept bad behavior, but you assert boundaries when necessary.

People who build trust in relationships still disagree and have conflicts. However, their basic trust fuels their capacity to work through disagreements with open, honest, kind communication. They more readily communicate boundaries and their needs, based on trust.

If you have built basic trust you believe in the reliability, truth, or strength of someone. That belief becomes the foundation for ongoing relationship building and creates a secure space for developing vulnerability and safety.

Here are five ways you can build trust in relationships:

  1. Don’t criticize the other person. Keep your judgments to yourself and don’t offer opinions unless you are asked. When you offer an opinion, do so with love and compassion using non-critical language. Speak to a behavior and not the person’s character. Start with “I have observed…” and then just let it go. It takes five positives to overcome one negative according to the Harvard Business Review. As a result, offer your opinions not to criticize, but to state an opinion or observation.
  2. Practice unconditional positive regard, which assumes the best intentions from the other person. This means assume they harbor no negative intentions. If they intend you harm or are hurtful, determine it over time through their actions. Use your intuition about feeling safe.  If they don’t treat you well, make the decision to exit quickly and safely.
  3. Compassion and empathy provide the safety individuals need to be vulnerable. Vulnerability with another person requires trust and, when shared, can build a solid trust foundation in the relationship. So communicate in a loving and compassionate way, even when you are angry and hurt.
  4. Apologize when you are wrong. Sounds simple, but it isn’t easy to do. The book by Harriet Lerner, Why Won’t You Apologize?: Healing Big Betrayals and Everyday Hurts helps the reader understand the importance of apologizing when you have hurt another person. She also helps the reader understand a sincere apology and why it is so important.

“The best apologies are short, and don’t go on to include explanations that run the risk of undoing them. An apology isn’t the only chance you ever get to address the underlying issue. The apology is the chance you get to establish the ground for future communication. This is an important and often overlooked distinction.”

  1. Communicate using “I” language. This critical communication skill teaches you to take responsibility for our own feelings. No one can make someone feel a certain way. Take responsibility by simply stating “I feel angry when you… For example,  “I feel hurt when you behave this way (state the behavior), but don’t say “you make me mad” or “you make me sad”. As a result, this communicates the feeling as your own while pointing out the behavior or situation to which you reacted.

Strong Couples Build Trust Over Time

Trust, a valuable relationship commodity, builds over time. To build it be positive and accept the other person in the relationship for who they are. Love looses its luster, but successful couples use the basis of trust. As a result, they continue to explore each other as they grow and change.

Pat Magerkurth is an experienced coach who understands the importance of trust in building both work and personal relationships. Contact her for a complimentary session to determine whether you can work together to understand how to build and maintain trust in your relationships. Contact her at pat@inviaconsulting.com.

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4 Strategies For Banishing Mommy Guilt Once & For All

Here are 4 strategies for banishing Mommy guilt once and for all. Each day millions of mothers get up, make breakfast, dress their children, take them to school or daycare, and then go to work.  Moms who work at home also need to find some way to keep their children cared for while they work. Many may still suffer from mommy guilt!

Mommy Guilt may tie these moms together

Working mothers may feel some combination of the emotions listed below depending on their support system, personal ideas about how mothers ought to be, and  cultural influences that are part of their community.

  • Am I failing my children?
  • Seems as if I am not giving my children enough time.
  • Feeling overwhelmed with trying to have a career and a family.
  • I can’t do this much longer.
  • Why isn’t there a better support system for working mothers?
  • My life seems unmanageable.

Research Provides Insights into Mommy Guilt

These feelings are normal, particularly when the burden of childcare sits on the shoulders of women. Men don’t usually suffer from Daddy Guilt as it relates to the care of children. I’m sure there some men feel guilty about being away from their children, but for the most part, this is a female dilemma. However, men today often feel more pull to experience a better work-life balance in order to spend more time with their families. They don’t often experience the same level of self-doubt or debilitating guilt about not being good enough Fathers. A more recent Pew Research study demonstrated that while men’s roles in raising their children are changing, they still don’t share the care equally. More importantly, 45% say it is better for the children, if the mother stays home with the child.

Our culture often programs women to be caregivers. Studies show that, while it has improved, women still bear the major burden of childcare and household chores. Upwards of 46% of households include two working full-time parents. A Pew Research study showed that women are still the main caregivers. In addition, the study showed that 64% of women reported that they provided the majority of care while 53% of the men conceded that this is true.

Effects on Working Mothers

Working mothers must manage both a full-time job and carry the responsibility for care of the children. Mothers manage children’s activities, take care of them when they are sick, and provide for their major needs. As a result, they experience a double bind: do more at work to get ahead like the admonition to “lean in”, and be a super mom by ensuring the happiness of their children.

Strategies for banishing mommy guilt:

  1. Don’t worry about the small stuff such as a messy house or the piles of laundry. Ask for some help from your spouse or if there is no spouse, try to find another way to get help. This can be one of the biggest challenges to banishing mommy guilt. Sometimes it takes creativity and a willingness to recognize that you need some support. Sit with that struggle and try to find a creative solution. People may be waiting in the wings to help.
  2. Give yourself a break. Millions upon millions of children are being raised by working mothers. Children of working mothers more oven than not, turn out just fine. Single working mothers raised two of the last five presidents. Take a breath and realize that you are doing the best you can. In April 2017 the website workingmom.com posted the 50 Most Powerful Moms of 2016. Adana Friedman COO, NASDAQ OMX Group and mother of two “advised us all to spare ourselves the guilt: “I really believe that I’ve been a better parent from being a working mother. And so I wish I hadn’t been burdened with that amount of guilt for so long. I wish someone had said, ‘It’s okay.’ It’s a matter of prioritizing your time so that outside of work you are there for the important things.”
  3. Try to structure the time you need to find work/life balance. Make conscious decisions about your time and communicate with your partner and children about your work life. A partner who supports your work outside the home and shares the household duties helps with work/life balance.
  4. Finally, if you feel guilty, don’t let it overtake you so that you overcompensate as a parent. Remember, when it comes to your children,  guilt is a useless emotion. You are doing the best you can. Accept that and give yourself credit for being aware. Be there for your children when they really need you.

Remember to be present when you are with your children. Try to put the workday away and focus on them. The challenges of balancing priorities takes a willingness to examine your values and determine what is most important at that time. Stay present to yourself and let go of all the “shoulds” about being a Mom.

Pat Magerkurth is a life and career coach, helping Moms put an end to mommy guilt so they can get back to enjoying their lives. If you’re struggling with needless guilt, sleepless nights or anxiety that you’re not good enough, reach out to Pat at pat@inviaconsulting.com today to see if working together can help.