We are often told we need to be assertive. Assertive, but not aggressive. And that can be a tall order for many of us, especially those of us that learned to make our way through life as the pleaser/appeaser. For those of us that fall or have fallen at some point into this category (myself included) when we try to make a conscious shift, we may find ourselves over correcting and drawing a much harder line than we intended. Imagine a pendulum swinging all the way from the left to the right. We feel guilty about it, and may find ourselves going back and forth in our heads thinking – “Did that come across as rude? “Did I overdo it?” “Do I need to apologize?” Maybe we do end up apologizing, maybe we’re not sure, but things are awkward. This assertiveness thing is too hard, too sticky. And maybe we’re better off just doing what we do best – going along to get along. Or maybe the shift is an unconscious one and perhaps the resentment we have shoved down for so long finally boils to the surface and we blow our top like a fiery volcano. This explosion becomes another mess we need to clean up and we find ourselves full of shame, guilt, we over apologize, maybe we beat ourselves up about it and punish ourselves and we double down on trying to be the pleaser, because good people don’t do things like this, right? If I was a better person, I would have been able to keep my cool and wouldn’t have reacted that way, right? In my opinion, assertiveness is one of the hardest things to get right, mainly because we have so much baggage around it. When I really started looking at the roots of this for myself, I had to go deep. Find the root cause If you’ve never met me in person, outside of the virtual world of zoom, there is something about me you will notice instantly. No, not my dazzling smile or my bright blue eyes, as lovely as they may be. I’m 6 foot 1. If I were male, you probably wouldn’t bat an eyelid. But even though humans are getting taller and taller these days due to better nutrition and living standards, 6 foot 1 for a woman is still really tall. And I didn’t shoot up like a weed later in life. I’ve always been tall. All my baby records were off the charts. I was always in the top 1% of height for my age, since about birth. So you can imagine that when I started elementary school I definitely stood out in the room, pun completely intended. And I bet you can guess what happened. I got teased. Bullied is the word we would probably use now. And it was relentless. It was every day, so much so that in the mornings I’d be nauseous and never want to go to school, because I knew what […]
February 15, 2024
6.7 min read
Career, Leadership, Life Direction and Purpose
You Need to Answer this Career Question Confidently
“So we have a new Chief Revenue Officer, and he set up a meeting to get to know me and share some ideas for where he sees the direction of Marketing. And then he asked me a question – and I’m not sure if I answered it right.” “What was the question?” “He asked me where do I see my career going. And I didn’t know what to say and I told him I’m happy with where I’m at.” Heed the career warning of the Cheshire cat I smiled. It reminds me of something the Cheshire cat said in the story of Alice in Wonderland. Alice is wandering through the wilderness and comes to a fork in the road where she meets the Cheshire cat. The cat asks Alice where she’s going and Alice responds that she doesn’t know. To which the cat brilliantly responds – “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.” I also smiled because I hear this all the time, especially from women leaders. Like Alice, we often don’t have a good answer to this very important question. We even misconstrue this question. We think it’s a test of loyalty – are they trying to figure out if I’m wanting to leave the organization? Or a test of arrogance – If I say I want their job eventually will they think I’m all high and mighty? Will they get threated by my ambitions? I should just be happy with where I’m at – right? Yes and no. You may be perfectly happy with where you are in the organization now, and yet, it’s important you have a sense for where you want your career to go in the longer term. These aren’t mutually exclusive. Thinking about the trajectory of your career is a both and, not an either or. Being proactive about your career isn’t being pompous “But I don’t want to be CRO. The thought of it scares me.” She went on to say. But here’s the point. The thought of it might scare you now, but what about in 5 years? It’s one thing to do your due diligence on career planning and then say, this is the career path I think will be best for me, and here is a considered reason why based on research and sound analysis. I like being close to the impact, I enjoy the execution and tactics more than the strategy and see myself more in a marketing operations role rather than a CRO role. Fair enough. But more often than not, we exclude things from our path because they seem too big or because of a fear of the unknown. Or we worry about being perceived as overly ambitious and don’t want to rock the boat. Take active management of your career Taking an active role in the management of your career implies just that. I’m thinking about it, I’m working to create goals for the short term, the mid-term, and the […]
November 3, 2023
4.6 min read
How to Set Boundaries at Work part 2 – The Art of Letting Others Sit in Their S#it
When I think about my own journey, whether it pertains to life or leadership, boundaries are one of the things I’ve probably struggled with the most. Boundaries with friends, boundaries with family, boundaries with colleagues. The problem with human relationships is that they often trigger reactivity in ourselves, especially if we let our buttons get pushed. And when our buttons get pushed we often lose control of our boundaries. And we all have buttons. The more aware of what they are, the better off we can be at managing them and our boundaries. There’s a lot of talk at the moment in popular culture about setting boundaries. Telling people what’s up, how they need to show up with you, be with you, work with you. There’s a lot of emphasis on having feedback conversations to clarify firm lines and if someone God forbid crosses the line, we’re encouraged to label this person as toxic and eject them from our lives. That is one strategy. And in certain situations, it could be the appropriate one. But in my experience if you follow the above a bit too rigorously, you’re going to end up a very lonely person who has managed to alienate just about every single person from your life. Setting boundaries doesn’t have to look so black and white. I’ll give you an example of something that happened to me this week. Silence Can Be a Boundary’s Best Friend A colleague asked for 45 minutes of my time to prepare for an upcoming delivery that we’re co-facilitating together. I don’t know this individual very well and had never worked with her before. I show up to the call on time, as I always do, given that being on time is something I value and something my clients know me for. I login to the zoom and am let into the room, where I hear my colleague speaking on another call and hear other voices as well as hers. She pops a message into the chat – “on another call, be with you in a bit.” Now, at this point I’m livid. She didn’t even think to mute the call she’s already on, so I can hear what’s being discussed. And she’s expecting me to just sit there and wait. Rude and disrespectful are two descriptors that instantly popped into my head. I thought about what I wanted to do. I decided to exit out of the zoom call. I waited a few minutes, sent a few emails, and then popped back in. She finished up quickly after I returned into the room and our call commenced about 8 minutes late. “Apologies Shelley – but it was a call with a potential new client to facilitate something. You’re freelance too, I’m sure you know how it goes.” Cue the awkward silence. I sat there and looked at her on the screen, and then I changed the subject. I didn’t agree with her, I didn’t disagree with her. And it shook her […]
September 7, 2023
4.7 min read
Feeling is Freeing – A trick for processing powerful emotion
I’ve recently taken up a most curious sport – boxing. I kind of fell into it, not knowing what to expect, as it’s offered at my local yoga studio on Sunday mornings. Considering I have an unlimited monthly pass I figured what the heck and signed up. And after a few classes, I discovered the most wonderful secret. The first few classes I was just trying to get my bearings. I clumsily threw a 2 (right hand) punch when my trainer would call for a 1 (left hand). There’s a lot to remember regarding the numbers of the punches, the footwork, to remember to duck defensively. And then it just kind of clicked and something interesting happened. The power of the punch My punches got more powerful, my stance got increasingly steady, and I wasn’t just exhaling as directed by my trainer as I punched. Along with the exhale I started to emit a yell with every strike. The first time it happened I turned beet red, and my trainer Danna smiled and said to me, “Let it out. This is what boxing is all about. There are no rules about noise.” And so I did. And I increasingly do. And I gotta tell you folks, there is something about this boxing thing that is beyond cathartic. I now look forward to my Sunday session every week. It’s my release, my opportunity to let loose, to let the mad, crazy, and downright undesirable woman buried deep inside me out. I’ve started envisioning people on the punching bag, situations and problems that are annoying me, and I punch and punch and yell and yell to my heart’s delight. It’s quite a change from the refined southern woman I was raised to be. The one who was told to smile and be sweet and to behave like a good little girl would. Who learned to bury her anger and sadness and resentment lest it escape and make others uncomfortable. I let these feelings out on the bag and each time I leave I leave just a little bit lighter. This experience has also gotten me thinking about how we express emotions in general, particularly the undesirable feelings. The ones we don’t want to admit to having, things like anger, jealousy, vanity, pride, resentment and even guilt. Ignore feelings at your peril I’ve noticed over the years that we (and most often women) do something really interesting when it comes to our “negative” emotions. Firstly, we try to pretend that they don’t even exist. And when they’re especially powerful and we’re super worried they will bubble up to the surface, we shame them. We shame them into submission by saying things to ourselves such as: “You’re such a horrible person for thinking that. There’s obviously something wrong with you this thought even crossed your mind. If you were a better person this situation wouldn’t bother you at all. Just let it go. Let it go! A bigger person than you would be able […]
March 6, 2023
6 min read
Difficult conversations, Leadership
How to Say No…without sounding like a jerk
The last few weeks I’ve taught a number of courses on time and priority management for busy professionals. One topic that often comes up is the matter of saying no at the office. I often wonder if it’s because I’m based in the South, where we place a special emphasis on “being nice” and “sugar coating” things. And yet it comes up over and over again no matter what part of the US or world I’m working in. Questions like: Our mindset around saying no is Key I often hear concerns about guilt and what will other people think about me if I don’t help them. There are a lot of folks that inadvertently fall into the approval seeking trap. Many of us never develop the strong boundaries in childhood that we need to get us through life, and it rears its ugly head as we get older. And it really is a trap. When you’re stuck in it, you often experience what I call the “Plight of the Martyr,” where you’re constantly solving problems that are urgent for others but ultimately not important to you. And your key priorities fall to the wayside as a result. Think about that continuous improvement project that you’re constantly putting on the back burner. Or perhaps you’re wanting to get back in shape and find yourself sitting at your desk toiling away on an urgent deliverable for someone else and decide to skip that yoga class yet again. What’s interesting is that for some people (myself now included) saying no is not super difficult. When I ask folks who have an easier time why that is the case, they often explain that they value their time. They realize their deliverables and priorities are just as important as others. They also recognize that taking the monkey constantly off another person’s back isn’t a great way for them to learn. That is itself is an interesting reframe, because we often believe we are helping but in many instances, we could be hindering the growth and development of the person asking the favor. Ultimately it comes down to judgement. We do live in a society where reciprocity is valued, and it might make sense to say yes to a request when you recognize you might need a favor down the line. However, if you decide that saying no is the right option, then consider the following technique as a viable option that could save you heaps of valuable time. Use the AIM Framework to say no A – Acknowledge the request. “I can really tell you’re in a bind and I know how important this report is to you and your team.” When we acknowledge we are in effect repeating back that we’ve heard and demonstrate that we’ve understood the request. Don’t skip this part, as it’s important the other person feels that you’re listening and empathetic to their situation. I – Investigate other options. This is when you put on your coaching hat. And rather […]
It was a privilege to work with Shelley as my leadership coach! The process was structured and yet flexible enough to meet needs as they arose. Shelley helped me to grow, learn more about myself, and to really achieve what I set out to accomplish. We worked on planning, navigating a promotion successfully, and so much more! I experienced many successes as a result of working with Shelley, she has great resources, knowledge, and really helps with setting the foundation to this coaching work. She won’t let you down!
Having the opportunity to have Shelley as my Leadership Coach could not have come at a better time in my career. I was recently promoted to CFO and was new to the Senior Management Team. Shelley helped me navigate joining the team as well as helped me to determine who I wanted to be as a leader. The Leadership Circle Profile helped our team to discover our blinds spots and to be able to understand each other better. Working with Shelley not only has affected my professional life in a positive way, but also my personal life. She helped me take leaps and has given me the resources to continue this journey of self-improvement. If you’re looking to find more about yourself and how you can be the best version of yourself, I highly recommend working with Shelley.
I have been working with Shelley for the past 2 years on my leadership development journey. What I thought would be a straight line, I soon learned with Shelley’s guidance, was a winding path with several ups and downs along the way. Shelley supported me as I took a deep dive into my professional and personal history and learned how it affects my approach and my perceptions. She helped me to slow down and recognize certain behaviors and understand that I can pivot in the moment or try again next time. Ultimately, my work with Shelley turned out to be so much more than what I expected. Her approach to coaching was exactly what I needed.
Senior Vice President, Consulting
I’ve learned more about leadership in the past six months working with Shelley than I have in my 10+ year career. She is an incredible coach with many tools in her toolbox. The guidance and mentorship I’ve received from Shelley has been life-changing. She will challenge your limiting beliefs and inspire new ways of thinking.
I highly recommend Shelley if you need a coach, thought partner, and guide as you consider the next steps in your career. She provides practical tools and advice to help launch your career exploration, but most importantly, she is an expert at helping you cut through the noise of your limiting beliefs. At the end of our time together, I had a much clearer vision of what I wanted in my life and a plan to make it happen. My only regret is that I didn’t find her sooner!
My career coaching sessions with Shelley have brought me back to living. It’s been contagious, spreading throughout my personal and professional life. I now have the building blocks I need to continue setting healthy boundaries, the freedom to show up as my authentic self, and an adaption of a growth mindset that has allowed me to make bold decisions and try new things. I’ve discovered that there’s always another way and how to eradicate barriers that lead to tunnel vision. These sessions with Shelley have been a great gift and have given me the momentum I need to continue the journey to be my best self.
It is amazing to think where I was only 10 months ago when I first started working with Shelley and where I am now. Not only professionally but mentally and emotionally. Shelley helped me navigate out of an unhealthy work environment by challenging me and asking me those tough questions we never seem to ask ourselves. What are the values of a true leader? How do those values align with my own? Shelley challenging me and guiding me through some of those tough questions is what led to my epiphany and me having the courage and confidence to leave an environment that threatened my well-being. She taught me how to become more self-aware and self-compassionate. Reminded me to be kind even when the world would understand if I did otherwise. And the biggest one for me, shutting down that crazy inner voice (we all have it!) and replacing it with being present. Shelley has armed me with tools that I will carry with me for a lifetime. Tools that will help me to continue to grow and learn. Life can be hard but working with someone like Shelley does make it easier. She will help you navigate the good and the bad and you’ll learn so much about yourself in the process.
Director of Marketing
First of all I would like to say that I would recommend Shelley to anyone needing career guidance. As my counselor Shelley helped me transition my career from bartending to Tech Sales which was a difficult and scary transition for me. From the start Shelley was fantastic. Initially I had no idea of which direction I wanted my career to go, I just knew I wanted it to go somewhere else. Shelley was so kind and patient as she helped me figure this out, and gave me a step by step guide on how to explore my options and make an educated decision. She also helped me assess my skill set which played a large part in directing my energy. I landed a great job within days of my final session with Shelley, and now I’m month 3 I am absolutely loving it and doing very well. It was the perfect job for me and Shelley was the one that got me there. Working with Shelley was one of the best decisions I have ever made, she literally changed my life and I am so much happier for it.