Stop Apologizing

Etiquette

It’s no secret that half of the workforce is female. It’s also not a secret that a majority of those working females are also mothers. This summer, I chose to work remotely so that my children could spend time with their grandfather and attend awesome summer camps that were out of the state. I am a firm believer of taking my children outside of their comfort zone. At the ripe ages of 6 and 8, we left Atlanta for 5 weeks. I rented an office in Beaufort, SC where my father lives, and let my boys have the best summer of the lives. I only missed two days of work and had the most productive five weeks in nearly 6 years.

Typically, I tend to go out of my way for the professional and philanthropic relationships I have in my life. My personality type lends itself to advocating for others and causes in need. Because I wasn’t in proximity, I was unable to fill the gaps placed upon me by these relationships. They were not expectations that were discussed with me, just the assumption that I would be able to handle a task, or make a meeting, or help them with an initiative that is totally outside of my scope of responsibility and wouldn’t have normally made my priority list. Because of the distance between South Carolina and Atlanta I found myself apologizing for expectations that other people had placed upon me. I found myself feeling guilty for not being able to rise above for a friend, colleague, or a cause. I also found myself saying ‘I’m sorry” a lot for things that pale in comparison to what I am responsible for – raising my children, spending time with my family, and running my business. I stopped apologizing.

If you come to a crossroads when someone or a cause makes you feel guilty for choosing your family or your business, never apologize. Instead, state your priorities and thank them for their understanding.

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Dress: Jaycie Dress from M.M. LaFleur

Duty In All Matters Is The Only Thing That Matters

Business

“I had a job to do so I did it”, is what my stepdad told me about being a 20 something year old dropped into the middle of Vietnam. He never really talked about Vietnam much but I knew that my stepdad was a true patriot.

After graduating from college where he played basketball, my stepdad was drafted into the Army’s 101st Airborne. At 6’7 he was a formidable guy. He was the M-60 gunner for his platoon, which was nicknamed “The Pig” because it weighed over 25lbs. He earned two bronze stars in just under a year in Vietnam, and to be honest, I am not sure why, because he never spoke of his accolades – he just wasn’t the type.

His sense of duty from the military and teamwork from his college basketball days permeated his entire life.  He made a good career in electronic sales and eventually was the GM over the business. Back in the early part of his career he was consistently the top sales person, but he never spoke about it. I imagine that he gained his success by building true relationships within his customers. He was never developed the sleezy side of the sales business. He had that military theme of duty that he extended to his customer base.

As he grew into the GM role the sense of duty went into hyper-drive. He was the first one in and last one out on most days. He told me once that he was amazed at how some people could be successful without the effort. He chalked it up to them being smarter and having natural abilities to connect the business dots. For him, he had to work hard every single day and that was the only way he knew how to be successful. He helped mold a company of future leaders by displaying the discipline of hard work and his company is undoubtedly better for his decades of hard work.  

Just prior to his passing, a large, long-term client of mine had been acquired by a competitor. All the projects we had went on hold and eventually went away all together. It was a hit to the business. A colleague asked if we were going to be okay without their business and I responded that it would be a tough year, but eventually it would be a good thing because the leadership will most likely break-up and move to other companies that could then become new clients. She was amazed by my confidence, but I was only being truthful. I was right. Two years later the business has returned just with different companies. Lessons learned by my stepdads understated approach and sense of duty to his clients gave me that confidence.

He not only was the guy you could completely count on at work, but he also was the anchor of our family. Unfortunately, we lost him two years ago due to a group of individuals that did not hold the sense of duty in their job

I am thankful that he taught me some lessons.

  1. The hardest working person in the room is often the person that never complains about it.
  2. You will never be criticized by someone doing more than you.
  3. Talent means nothing without hard work.
  4. Duty in all matters is the only thing that matters.

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In Loving Memory of Burt Stills

“Sleep On It” : Dealing with Distraction

Business, Management
My boss, and owner of TheOProtocol has been an integral part of my professional life for the past five years. As I navigate a cluster of “seasons” that all seem to be overlapping one another;  this has been especially true. When she sees me starting to sink into the mud in one capacity or another, she is always quick with some words of wisdom to help me reset.

Yesterday, as I showed up to the office late, not as put together as I would have liked and otherwise flooding with emotion over personal “nonsense”, she offered another piece of advice that I will keep in my arsenal as I move forward in my career. Interestingly enough, it is one I’ve heard her say to candidates in the past as they consider job offers so that they may not make any decisions with a distracted mind: “The biggest life moves are marriage, children, home buying and career moves. Take a minute. Sleep on it.”  I translated this message into the following:

It was clear that I let what should have been a simple morning get away from me over something that could have been dealt with later on in the day, tomorrow or wasn’t even worth the mental space. I spent the morning being extremely distracted. As a 31 year old professional in the midst of a new marriage, fresh off the purchase of a new home, chasing a two year old and pregnant with another, these words could not have rung any more tried and true. There have been some major changes in my life; all of which carry an extreme amount of DISTRACTION. These distractions can be a career cancer if one is not careful. What start out as simple tasks or worries can grow into catastrophe if not dealt with appropriately. I let them get the best of me. For the other 99% of the population, this could have been a critical error in ones professional status.
Dealing with distraction can seem like a vertical climb as opposed to just an uphill battle. With so much going on, it is key to highlight what is important in the “now” so that you may sort out what is important for the future. Truth be told, heeding the advice of the experienced and taking a moment to pause, think about one thing at a time, develop a plan and then sleep on it, can provide you with the clear headed, forward thinking, constructive mindset you need as you navigate the next steps in your life. If you wake up in the morning still feeling good about your decision, whether it be a new home, a career move or even just a commitment to picking out what you’re going to wear the night before, then you know you’re making the right move for you; one that was made free of distraction and mental haze. Staying disorganized, disheveled and scattered will not only have an impact on your happiness but it can quickly dismantle your career and have a domino affect on the rest of your life.
So the next time you’re feeling like your being crushed by the weight of your house, your kids, your marriage, schedule or your career; take the time to dissect your mind, prioritize your thoughts, and sleep on it.

Don’t Let Poor Body Language Speak for You.

Etiquette

While we love a woman who is articulate, sharp and assertive, we hate to see them fall victim to poor body language. Whether you are the Head Honcho or trying to land that first career defining role, what you say is just as important as what you DON’T say. Below are a few pointers to keep in mind when trying to become an employee, or trying to manage a team of them.

Positioning Yourself in a Conversation While Standing:

It is important to let your audience know you are interested in what they have to say. Squaring your feet, torso and chest with a supervisor or person in charge is a great way to non-verbally assign respect to that person’s position. Make sure to keep your feet close together as a wider stance could signal a desire for domination or automatically jumping on “offense”.

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Crossing Your Arms:

If you pay attention throughout the day of how you stand or sit, you may find that you cross your arms simply because it’s comfortable. While this may be an easy way to give your shoulders a break, it can be a sign of a “standoff-ish” attitude and make you seem unapproachable. As a leader, you want your team to be comfortable engaging with you. This increases company morale, and can lead to some excellent team conversations.

You might think you’re presenting confidently like this:

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But most people are going to see or feel this:

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Opening your hands during a conversation:

Many of us speak with our hands. It is important to be mindful of how aggressively you are using your hands when speaking to or presenting to an audience. Keeping your hands between waist and chest height is a good rule of thumb to begin. Next, extend your arms with palms up and fingers open to show a sign of welcomed input and engagement. Closed fists and flailing arms can be intimidating and distracting.

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Present with Pride:

While many of us are able to identify the obvious “do’s and don’t’s” (chewing gum, tapping fingers, shaking legs etc), we often fall short on how we present when we think people are not watching. Standing in a room full of people, it is often easy to let our posture relax. This can be one of the worst mistakes you make in theses social situations. Whether you like it or not, someone is always watching. So if you’re the CEO or the new hire, make sure you present with shoulders back, a level chin and confident presence. Make the middle point in a room your lowest point of vision. If no one is engaging with you, start to move around the room; do not stand and start to sway as this will make you look like you are lacking confidence or you are anxious. Simply put, present like the boss is watching. You got this!

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The Right Way to do (P)Leather

Work Wear

Fall is a great time to start getting out the sweaters, boots and heavy coats. It’s also a great time to start incorporating other fabrics into your wardrobe. Leather (or pleather if you prefer) can be a tricky one, especially in the context of office wear.

During our shopping trip to Ann Taylor, we found two pieces that incorporate “pleather” in this case, without being over the top or trashy looking. The first piece is a shift dress with a wide block of pleather across the neckline, creating flared sleeves on either side. The rest of the dress is a flat black. This is a great mix of both fabrics without being too loud or in your face. (P)Leather is best when it’s not clinging to your skin, rather, a little looser and free moving.

The singular color leaves a lot of room for a patterned heel or earring, but be sure to keep it toned down and “calm” for the office.

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If this much (p)leather is too much for you, try incorporating it as an accent fabric. Below, this Ann Taylor grey 3/4 sleeve shift dress uses leather around the neckline and pockets. This is a great way to add some flare to an otherwise pretty basic shift dress. A pair of black (p)leather pumps finish off the look and tie in the trim on the dress perfectly; making for a simple to put together look for fall.