Category Archives: Change

Women in Leadership: It’s a Matter of Life and Death

BusinessWoman_outside2Close your eyes. Bring into your awareness the face of a person in your life who you believe is a great leader. As you see that person’s face in your mind’s eye, think about what it is about that person that had an impact on you. Remind yourself of those things; say them quietly to yourself.

Open your eyes.

My guess is that no matter who you saw in your mind, their impact on your had nothing to do with what the person has on the outside (financially, educationally, or anatomically) and had everything to do with what the person is like on the inside. It was likely someone whose passion, purpose and positivity were contagious, and you wanted to be a part of whatever that person was creating.

Leadership is everything. It is critical to any well-functioning organization, university, community and family. When it is done well, it’s the reason people are attracted to join, and to stay. When it’s off course, it’s one of the key reasons that people leave (or otherwise disengage).

I happen to believe that effective leadership is also a matter of life and death.

There is an interesting phenomenon in typical organizations. As you move up the ‘ladder’ from entry level positions to more senior leadership roles, the importance of technical skills goes down, while the importance of self- and social-awareness goes up. The importance of self- and social- awareness at higher organizational levels is not new; what might be new is the realization that the way we are working is actually making our capacity for self- and social- awareness go down! Constant multi-tasking, crushing workloads, and long ‘break-less’ work days are taking a toll on our ability to regulate our emotions and build meaningful relationships.

What’s also interesting is that women almost completely vanish from the picture at higher organizational levels!

While women make up 50% of the workforce, and earn 50% of university degrees, they comprise only 18 % of executive roles and hold a mere 5 % of CEO seats.   Yet, there is so much evidence that women make effective leaders. Last year, Zeneger Folkman, a company that studies leadership, found that women rated higher than men on 12 out of 16 attributes tested. After analysing 7,280 of their clients’ performance evaluations, they found two traits where women outscored men significantly: taking initiative and driving results.

And, there is some evidence that organizations with more women in leadership positions perform better financially.

Every organization, no matter what their purpose for existing, needs to be productive and sustainable. And, productive, sustainable organizations need people who are engaged and energized around their purpose.

Sadly, both productivity and engagement are at an all time low in our country, while stress and mental illness are at an all time high. People are working longer hours, and feeling less satisfied with their results. If extreme stress is not causing premature death (and it clearly is in some cases) it is certainly contributing to mental and physical dis-ease.

I think there is a connection between all of these factors. We need to change the way we work and live. And, we need more chicks in charge!

More women need to step up, lean in, and otherwise support and encourage each other to assume more leadership roles. Not only because we are 50% of the workforce, but because it only makes sense that we will create a happier, healthier, and more productive country when we – all of us – men and women – together – utilize our collective intelligence and maximize our opposing strengths.

Some of the reasons that women do not step into leadership includes a concern about being able to maintain work-life balance while holding senior roles. It is exactly that concern for balance that organizations need today.

Perhaps I should have started with this disclaimer: This post is not anti-men. Nor is it pro-women. It is, instead pro encouraging the right women and men to lean, step and jump into leadership opportunities – and to create positive, productive and prosperous workplaces.

March 8 is International Women’s Day. The 2015 theme is ‘Make it Happen’. So, I invite you to make it happen! Let’s change the way we work and live and make this a happier, healthier, more humane world for us all!

And…the next time you close your eyes and think of a great leader, I hope you see yourself.



Immunize Your Organization Against Negativity

positivity=productivityI just had my flu shot – the last couple of years the Government of Canada has recommended that we ‘Get the Shot, Not the Flu’.  The purpose of an immunization – although it is not guaranteed – is to provide yourself with as much protection as possible from contracting the influenza virus (which can be very nasty and long-lasting – in addition to being highly contagious).  I ran into a doctor friend of mine who said that last year she and her family missed the shot, and they were ‘down’ for about 2 months in total as the flu made it’s way through their home.

So, if we can immunize ourselves from the nasty effects of influenza with a vaccine, what can you do to immunize yourself and your organization against negativity (which can absolutely be nasty – and contagious – costing you and your organization time, energy, and money)?

Here are a few ideas to keep in mind.  The prescription is a daily dose of P.O.S.I.T.I.V.E.:

is for Present: This is about more than just showing up, it’s about really being there in mind and body. Something that can help you be fully present is to remember to take regular breaks, and during your breaks be mindful to how you are feeling, and what you are thinking.  If you are more present, you’ll help to encourage everyone in your organization to do the same.

O is for Optimistic: What are you thinking?  Literally.  Is your internal dialogue filled with hope and possibility?  Do you speak about setbacks as temporary, and as opportunities to learn? Change your internal and external dialogue and notice what new things you notice.

S is for Shared:  Ensure that everyone in your organization has a voice.  Your culture is shared – whether you know it or not – so why not make sure you seek out the voice that works FOR you, rather than falling victim to the one that might work AGAINST you.

I is for Intentional: Do not leave your organizational culture to chance.  Be intentional about what you want to create – within your organization, and outside in the community and world in which you exist.

T is for Thank-full: Gratitude is the #1 strategy for happiness (which equates to energy and productivity in organizational terms). Look for ways to be grateful each day.  (Start each meeting with a reflection on what’s good in your organization; at the end of the day, notice one thing for which you are thankful that day, etc.). And, of course, let the people in your life know how grateful you are for them.

I is for Inspired: Allow everyone in the organization to see – every day – how they are part of something bigger than themselves.  Help them to see just how connected we all are.  (I think this video illustrates some of that sentiment.)

V is for Vulnerable: According to Dr. Brene Brown, ““Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.” Need I say more?  Be yourself, try new things, make mistakes and talk about them – get real with people around you.  You – and they – will be glad you did.

E is for Energized: If you do something from each of the above every day, you’ll be energized!  On top of that, remember these other things that are not only good for your body, they are good for your mind; smile (even a fake one has positive effects), eat well (most of the time – in grade 5 my son learned about the 80/20 rule…eat until you are 80% full, make healthy choices 80% of the time…makes sense to me), drink water, and move as much as you can (hop, jump, run, walk, dance).

What do you do to immunize yourself and your organization against negativity?  I’d love to hear your ideas.

Deri Latimer is an expert in positive possibilities for people! She is one of fewer than 10% of speakers globally who hold the designation of CSP (Certified Speaking Professional), the international measure of excellence for professional competence, proven experience, and optimal client satisfaction. Deri combines a business degree in human resources management with 20 years of experience engaging audiences across every business sector. Deri provides inspiration and information to create psychologically healthy organizations for increased positivity, productivity, and profitability!


Holding On and Letting Go

I was a bit cranky this week.  While it could be due to several things (hormones, late summer nights, preparing for a new school year, etc.) I wondered why I was feeling a little ‘edgey’.  

My daughter started university a few days ago.  She is – in addition to being smart, kind  and beautiful - a very independent woman.  Of course, I am happy about that.  So why was I cranky, then? 

At the end of her first day on campus, I was excitedly waiting at home for her to arrive and tell me all about her adventures.  I was actually peering out the front window waiting for her to walk down the street.  (I haven’t ‘peered’ out the window since she and my son were very small, and I was worried about traffic, bullies or other harmful forces in the universe.)

Time passed and she did not arrive.  Instead, I got a text from her saying she was meeting friends and would be home later.  

I realized that – while I was anticipating sharing in the experience of her first day, she wasn’t rushing home to tell me all her stories…she was rushing off to share those with friends. 

Now, it’s not the first time I have realized I am not forefront in my children’s minds (nor do I even think it is healthy that I would be) – it just ended up being a really BIG time!  And, I felt a bit ‘off’ for a time.

I realized it was because I was focusing on what I thought I was losing, and not on what I was gaining. 

Just like the video below demonstrates, we all notice exactly what we are focusing on — and we also miss that which we are not focusing on. 

Sometimes, as parents, we both want to be needed, and we want our children to be independent.  It’s also true for leaders and our staff members.

What I realized is that we can have both.  It’s not either/or, it’s ‘and’.

We can hold on to the realization that we have created the conditions around which our child (or staff member) can be independent, and we can let go of our old belief that people only need us when they depend on us.

That’s exactly what our purpose is…as parents and leaders…to create conditions for success.  And a part of that is to both hold on and let go.

As you look at the next year in your life, what will you focus on?  What will you hold on to…and what will you let go?





Are You Looking Up or Falling Down?

I have been speaking with someone who is really feeling ‘down’ right now.  And, I have to admit…it’s kind of …well, ‘bringing me down’.

Partly it’s because this person has been ‘down’ for a very long time.  And partly it’s because I am having to ‘fight’ to stay ‘up’ – and I don’t like it one bit.

So, I have made a decision to limit my time with this person.  It may seem selfish, but I believe it’s what’s best for me – and for this person. 

It has got me thinking about how we ‘grow’ that which we focus on (and surround ourselves with).  If we only talk about what’s bad (difficult, unpleasant, frustrating, etc.), that’s what we notice.  And then we say ‘see, I was right!!’  And guess what (you already know this)…everyone else around us starts to feel the same way we do…and we all fall into the muddy pool of despair together (okay, maybe I am getting a little dramatic!!)

Well, no more.  I have never been a person who stayed ‘down’ for very long; and I have to admit, I have now reached my limit!

Do I sometimes feel ‘down’?  Absolutely!  I just refuse to choose to stay there.  Frankly, it’s way too exhausting!

I have been researching the brain for a client project lately.  You likely already know that we are actually hard-wired to notice danger (i.e. what’s bad).  So, we need to ‘work’ at noticing what’s right.  And, when we do…we release all sorts of wonderful neurotransmitters like dopamine that ‘open up’ our perspective and allow us to see more possibilities.  Focusing on what’s wrong acutally ‘closes’ our viewpoint, and limits our ability to see options and opportunities right in front of us (we sometimes ‘fall’ right past them). 

We can develop a habit of noticing what’s good (right, beautiful, pleasant, joyful, etc.), though.  Begin by making it your intention every day to look for what’s right – for what’s good.  Have your discussions be mostly about what’s going well.  When someone shares good news with you – pass it on!  Spend just a little time on the difficulties in your life.  Share them, yes.  Label them, for sure.  Then reappraise or reframe, and carry on.  The more you stay focused on the difficulties, the more they ‘grow’ (and the downward spiral continues).

I read a couple of articles recently that struck me and support this message.  In ‘Can watching a move about Happiness make us Happier?’    The author, Ryan Niemiec, says ‘The renowned observational learning theorist, Albert Bandura, observed that most of what we learn in life comes from what we observe and that this information is encoded within us for future use. Thus, it makes perfect sense that watching a movie about happiness would help us learn more about happiness and actions we might take to become happy, as we observe the positive role models in a given film.” 

And he goes on to say ” The idea is to expand and widen these moments of happiness. Along these lines, science guides us to reminisce about the positive (in this case, the positive aspects of the movie), to savor and relish in the positive state, and to share the positive feelings with others. When you see a movie that leads you to feel happy, what do you do with that positive emotion? Do you mindlessly leave the theater while the credits are rolling looking to be the first person in the parking lot? Do you turn to your mobile device while walking out of the theater, curious about who might have e-mailed or sent you a text message during the film?

Or do you take time to reflect on the work of art you just witnessed? Do you discuss the film with others? Do you examine the strengths and behaviors the characters in the film exhibited and how they might serve as models for you? Do you consider the ways in which the characters impacted you and what subsequent changes you might make?

Taking the time to be mindful of these questions might help you expand your happiness.”

A second article I read was meaningful to me more than one way.  Mostly, because I have a daughter about to graduate from high school.  And I, like all parents, have spent my life working to prepare her to be a resilient, productive, positive, happy person. 

The article in HR Magazine called ‘Graduate Recruitment:  You need a good attitude, not a good degree says Ernst & Young’  written by David Young states that “with over 22% of 16-24 year olds out of work, graduates will need to build resilience and get out of their comfort zones if they are going to realise their potential, according to the findings of a survey by Ernst & Young…(the survey) showed that while graduates have many core strengths, they aren’t always willing to take risks and can struggle to recover from setbacks.”

In other words, you have to be able to look up or you’ll fall down.  And when your perspective is ‘down’ it really is just like falling…you are taken away, easily, down a vortex of negativity.

Looking up might take a little more work at first, but the ‘up’ view trump the other one – hands down!!

Deri Latimer, B Mgt, CSP, is an expert in possibilities for people! She is one of fewer than 10% of speakers globally who hold the designation of Certified Speaking Professional. Deri combines a Business degree in Human Resources with experience from business sectors including health care, manufacturing, education, agriculture, government, mining, transportation, tourism, and professional services. Deri helps individuals and organizations optimize their performance by managing their energy; applying the latest research and practice in positive psychology, appreciative inquiry, emotional intelligence, neuroleadership, and employee engagement.



An Ounce of Prevention…

Someone I know is currently living with depression.  Anyone else out there?  I know there are a lot of us.

This is sort of new to me (this whole ‘thinking and talking about depression’ thing) – and sort of not.  Let me explain. 

23 years ago, I was young, in love, a new bride – and 8 months later – a widow.  My new husband died by suicide.  It completely caught me off guard.  I was definitely still in ‘the honeymoon’ stage and oblivious to any pain he quite clearly must have been experiencing. 

I, needless to say, was changed that day.  I knew that it was my invitation to learn as much as I could about preventing people from coming even close to making such a decision.  I decided that I wanted to do everything possible in my life to build positive, healthy relationships with the important people in my life (including myself!).

It was that experience that set the course for the rest of my life – and my life’s work.  I am now a voracious reader, explorer, experimenter, and practitioner of everything positive – infusing positive psychology, emotional intelligence, and neuroscience into each and every presentation and workshop I deliver.  I believe – and practice – everything I ‘preach’ to the individuals, teams and organizations I visit each week.  I know this ‘stuff’ works. 

So, when I got word that someone I know is experiencing depression, I was dumbfounded.  I, was, however, hopeful too! 

I went to visit him, I brought my ‘toolbag’ of tips and strategies (called PAI’s, or Positive Activity Interventions, in Eric Barker’s post in Business Insider).  My goal was to give him – and his family – hope. 

Unfortunately, he was not – and still has not been - very responsive to these PAI’s.  He is also not talking to anyone – professionally or otherwise.  It has perplexed me…however, I am determined to figure this out.  I care about him, and I don’t give up easily.

In Eric’s article, he says something alarming:

The World Health Organization (WHO) projects that by 2020 depression will be second only to ischemic heart disease as the leading cause of disability for all ages and both genders.

If that is the case (and even if it’s not) we can all do something – right now – to practice some prevention for ourselves and the people we care about who are not living with depression.  And, we might just be able to help our depressed buddies along the way, too.

Let’s inoculate ourselves by practicing a little PAI from time to time. 

Below are some examples of PAI’s.  I know…they seem trivial.  You might find yourself saying ‘Come on, really?  Can this actually make a difference?’  Well, the answer is ‘yes’!  Each PAI will increase positive emotion – and that will help you build up your immunity to depression.  That’s prevention. 

Try them out – starting today:

  • Be nice to others you meet in your life
  • Help someone out with a task
  • Volunteer for a social service organization
  • Express how grateful you are to people you care about
  • Note ‘what’s good’ today
  • Reframe negative events more positively
  • Notice – and rework – your explanatory style when faced with a setback
  • Meditate
  • Smile

If you are depressed, more positive emotion can help you to begin to ‘heal’ from your depression (along with the rest of the great things you are already doing in concert with your doctor).  Perhaps, it can be part of the ‘cure’.

Helping someone out, for example, can have huge benefits – for you!  Sonia Lyubomirsky, says “The major aspect is the positive emotion. The most significant feature of depression is the absence of positive emotion … (it is) a feeling of emptiness.”  Not only can being positive improve your mood, it can also develop into a healthy upward spiral.  Lyubomirsky says, “You might be more approachable to others, or be more creative and imaginative. It snowballs, and you are more likely to experience even more positive emotion.”   “It doesn’t involve you going to a doctor. It’s not a replacement, but its a great alternative to therapy or medication.”

So, practice an ounce of prevention every day.  Whether you are depressed or not, just do it…and notice what happens.  That ounce of preventions might just be that pound of cure you’ve been looking for.
 Deri Latimer, B Mgt, CSP, is an expert in possibilities for people! She is one of fewer than 10% of speakers globally who hold the designation of Certified Speaking Professional. Deri combines a Business degree in Human Resources with experience from business sectors including health care, manufacturing, education, agriculture, government, mining, transportation, tourism, and professional services. Deri helps individuals and organizations optimize their performance by managing their energy; applying the latest research and practice in positive psychology, appreciative inquiry, emotional intelligence, neuroleadership, and employee engagement.