The Progress of Silence…

“If you do that once you’ll spend the rest of your life figuring out how to make that happen every year,” said a friend.  I was explaining that I was escaping for the summer with the kids to a shack near the beach on Cape Cod.   Another woman we both knew had done something similar years before.   My friend shared that this decision had altered that woman’s course from then on.  My transition had just started.  “Let’s face it,” I reasoned out loud, “no one is looking for me for the first time in decades.”  Why not?…I said trying to convince myself. Continue reading…

A different lens

For those dying to son’s team lost their play-in game 3-2 in the 11th inning last weekend (Resilience, 6/14/2014).   A real nail biter.  Despite the loss the season was a great experience for him.  Positive.  Challenging.  Engaging.  In fact, I’ve been noodling what a group of nine-year olds and their undying optimism might contribute to transition.   Any guesses?


A great attitude perhaps?  No fear of failing?  Boundless energy?  Another experience I had last week brought a different lens to it for me.

“It’s very hard to keep energy to maintain the right mindset,” shared a woman at  a luncheon I was facilitating.  She’d recently been fired from more than a decade of service in the technology industry.   The event was still raw in her mind.  She was sad.  Angry.  Exposed.

It wasn’t helping that colleagues were still calling to say, “I can’t believe you were let go….”  In a more lucid moment she offered, “I refused to play the games.  I know that’s why I lost my job.”

It wasn’t until later in the conversation that I began listening in a different way.  The conversation had turned to the challenges of securing a new job as an experienced contributor – particularly in light of the online job search process.  Each woman found herself responding to jobs that were a step back from her prior role’s scope.

Most were targeting specific companies.  Many were networking to try to get a handle on upcoming opportunities.  Most had had the experience of being ‘late’  to a job posting because it had been pre-wired for someone internally even prior to being visible to ‘outsiders.’

I offered an idea on how to network another way.  I suggested that the ladies try a thought leader approach to finding the right ‘job.’  Puzzled looks all around…

This approach requires that you initiate a conversation about something for which you are the expert.

Create a draft of a new asset- a white paper or an outline for a talk to an industry association.   Sound difficult?  It isn’t.   Think about an angle that you – and you alone – would have given your prior experience and your interests regarding where you hope to land.

What then?  Outreach to a few people and ask if they’d be willing to provide feedback or offer a fresh perspective.

Why is this important?  The evolving asset is really a showcase of the value add that you might contribute to an organization.    It will lead in unforeseen directions and value add conversations….guaranteed.

Here’s is where I started listening differently…..

“I like it.  It’s a peer conversation,” shared one woman who finally smiled. Immediately the room got lighter.    Everyone breathed.   This thought leader option seemed to offer an approach that rebalanced an uncomfortable situation for these ladies.   Finally an approach that catapulted these women over, around or through transition’s real emotions like inadequacy, shame, guilt, and fear.

A dozen players tried their hearts out last weekend.  They lost but really they won.

Imagine what might be possible should you be willing to re-balance transition’s gripping emotions.   If you’re anything like my nine year old friends you can’t help but win….

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Tomorrow we head to my nine-year old’s play-in game.   If you are anything like me this play-in concept requires explanation.  It refers to a duel played by the two last place baseball teams who are fighting for a spot in the playoffs.   This season’s games were engaging and high scoring, like a recent 15-18 heart breaker that was given up in the last inning.   The season tally?   3-12.   Despite this lopsided record and the unruly behavior of the other teams these players never traded away their optimism nor their enthusiasm.   Resilient seemed a perfect description for the team. Continue reading…

Transition’s path…

“It’s kind of hard to forge a path on your own….without saying, ‘I want to be like this,’ or follow the path that everyone follows.   It’s really hard to say, ‘No, I’m not gonna do that’…,” said Deirdre, a thoughtful 40-ish woman who had emerged from the hallowed halls of academia.   She went on,  “It’s hard to say, ‘this is really what I want.  There is no set path.'”  In listening I wondered about having the confidence necessary to embark on one’s own path.  Is it another of the requirements necessary for transition?       Continue reading…

Transition: A cop-out?

“Nothing seems to be working,” shared a friend who was describing her job search.  She’d been fully committed to work in the home for close to two years.   Her decision to leave her last employer was a personal one.  She’d had some life issues come up.  An aging parent.   Personal health issues.   “I never thought it would be this hard,” she commented.   She was talking about the difficulty to get back into her profession after an absence.   She seemed incredibly sad.  Unsure.  Could this really be happening?

Listening to this friend I wondered if my pivot to a portfolio career is a cop-out?   Is my transition crusade simply a shield created to protect me from the choppy waters that my friend is encountering?

Let me explain.   Today – almost four years into a transition – I find myself juggling three part-time gigs, aka my portfolio career.    Together their salaries represent a small fraction of my former compensation.    On top of these sit a long list of community volunteering commitments in addition to the growing demands of two active elementary school-aged children.

Have I created this groundswell of activity to simply mute my awareness of the sheer impossibility of re-entering the world I exited?

What do you think?

William Bridges, author of Summer Book Review #2: Transitions – Making Sense of Life’s Changes stated “changes are driven to reach a goal, but transitions start with letting go of what no longer fits or is adequate to the life stage you are in.” (Transitions, Bridges, pg 128)   Bridges introduces three phases to transition:  “ending”; followed by an “empty zone” or “neutrality”; followed by a “beginning”.   “In the first phase of “transition” or “ending” we break our connection with the setting in which we have come to know ourselves.”  (Transitions, Bridges, pg 17) 

I remember being frustrated reading Bridges’ book.  He never really defined transition.  Lately I’ve tried my hand at it.

Transition is a process which requires us to re-imagine our assumptions about identity, capacity or values.   Any one or all three can be involved.  The reality is that each of us has a decision to make when faced with the need to change:  do we change or do we transition?

I’ve found that exploring the elements of transition, like identity, is about acknowledging the entirety of who we are instead of adopting a whole new persona.  That said once the adoption occurs we may no longer resemble our former selves.  Confusing?  Let me try an example.

“Who am I if I’m not me?”  shared a woman as she described her thinking at the outset of her transition.  She’d served as a divisional president at large consumer products company.  Accomplished.  Highly committed.  Hard charging.

Transition surprised her.  She described ‘breathing’ for the first time.  She used words like freedom.  In transition her pursuits became less about someone else’s standards and more about her own.   Transition connected her to new communities in which she was readily able to contribute – something that surprised her at first.

Slide1As I listened to this interviewee and my friend I kept playing an image in my head (see above).    Could it be that transition asks us to acknowledge that we are comprised of many elements – some we emphasize, others we barely acknowledge.   If so transition could allow us to dignify those elements that we’ve previously overlooked or combine elements that we’ve isolated or compartmentalized.

This interviewee went on and on about the emotional connection she’d been able to make with others in her work post-transition.   Any guess?  She derived great joy out of this yet is hadn’t been present in her previous roles.

I can’t help but wonder if my friend who is interviewing needs to listen to a more holistic view of herself.  Maybe combining a few elements – even some previously ignored – could jump-start her thinking about what more could be possible.

I’m not sure I’ve settled on a new identity but I’ve adopted the humility and courage to keep exploring.   The cop-out in isn’t so much in using transition as a shield but in ignoring our instincts that tell us one may be required.

Are you ready to listen, or even better, to begin?

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Looking forward…

“Oh, I can’t do that,” shared an interviewee with a soft laugh.  We were talking about the internal barriers to transition.   Have you ever heard a similar voice in your head?  She’d transitioned before.   She could easily see – in hindsight – the walls erected by her own assumptions.  Those walls restricted her ability to envision what ‘might be.’   She went on, “I knew that I had to stop doing what I was doing.  I didn’t know where I’d end up.”   She seemed stalled by the simple question, ‘What’s next?’  Continue reading…

Opinions of others….

“It would be incredibly valuable to the companies and potentially very lucrative,” remarked my then boss, the CEO of a Fortune 500 company.  We were brainstorming about my next moves.   We both hailed from the tech start-up arena.   He was angling for me to return.   There was a lilt in his voice. ‘What fun!’ He seemed to be saying.   For whom?


I often get the question, ‘how?’ to start a transition.  One of the toughest challenges, I think, is that our networks and people close to us see us as how we ‘are’ versus seeing us as what we aspire to be.

I thought I’d use my own before and after to illustrate this point.

That day my boss was trying to get me to start a new business, a boutique consulting firm.  His concept?  Leverage the incredible experience I’d gotten at the big company and marry it to the emerging tech world that we both loved.  He had it all figured out.  I’d partner with pre-IPO companies to establish SEC compliant processes.  He reasoned that this would be invaluable to the many companies who arrive at the pre-IPO altar with tin cans and string for processes.

“Why not cash in on what you’ve done here?” He remarked.    He loved the IPO dream.  He’d led many smallish tech companies but never to that ultimate Valhalla.

Here is the rub.  I actually considered this path.   I reasoned that I could easily start the business.   I could even be very good at it.   There was a real market need.   As ideas go this one was borderline great.

But, did I want to do it?   I had two kids under age 6.  Was I ready to hop into a services business, particularly one that was deal driven like the IPO market?

Also my exit from this gentleman’s employ had me teetering on the verge of disaster.  Years of five hours-a-night of sleep, spontaneous travel and the demands of my family had taken their toll.    Would transition give me enough traction to stay clear of the magnetic pull of these type of ideas and really listen to what I wanted?   Was it time to afford myself that luxury?

William Bridges, author of Transitions: Making Sense of Life Changes (Summer Book Review #2) said, “changes are driven to reach a goal, but transitions start with letting go of what no longer fits or is adequate to the life stage you are in.” (Transitions, Bridges, pg 128)   He noted that during the first phase of transition,  “we break our connection with the setting in which we have come to know ourselves.”  (Transitions, Bridges, pg 17)

I found an old document on my hard drive this week while searching (unsuccessfully) for something else related to my book project.  The document was a draft aspiration worksheet from 2012 – roughly two years after this conversation with my boss.

My draft said:  I am pursuing my interests in women’s development. This manifests itself in two ways: (a) contributing to Golden Seeds, LLC, an angel capital network dedicated to providing growth capital to women-led start-ups; and (b) authoring the blog, a celebration of Women’s Transition Issues. I am also interested in serving on Boards to leverage my experience as Board Chair of a high-tech start-up and as a facilitator of the Compensation Committee of the Board of Directors of a S&P 500 company. Long term, unqualified success? To be a recognized thought leader on Women’s Transition globally.

Right or wrong it’s quite a pivot from my SEC compliant start-up.   How did I make the leap?

Today’s and the next few posts will cover the many techniques that I used.  There was no silver bullet.

One important early one was starting the iterative process to answer a few basic questions.  Together these questions helped me re-articulate my identity.   They are:

I am ___ (Who).

I do _______ (What).

I love it because ____________ (Why?).

I hope to ________________ (Impact).

Could these work for you?

I wrote the answers to these questions occasionally.   Months would go by and I wouldn’t touch it.    But then I’d have a free moment and take another crack at it.

After a few iterations I broke free from replicating the world I’d just exited.    I married this simple Q&A technique with a few visioning exercises (I’ll cover visioning in an upcoming post).

That coupling really got me started.  Once the aperture of ideas was expanded it became easier to eliminate the boundaries that I or others had erected for me.

Would it surprise you that my former boss has pivoted to a ceo role at a tech start-up?   It makes his heart sing.

At the end of the day we both got something important.

I got the courage to know that more was possible and the humility to keep exploring it.

How will you proceed?   Will you begin?   Are you ready for questions?  Or more importantly are you ready to listen to YOUR answers?


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Fear and Moving Forward

“Have you ever been afraid?”  asked an incredibly articulate 7th grader from the Timilty Middle School in Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood.   The question came via a letter about a month ago as part of a pen pal program that I participate in between the school and Simmons College, my undergrad alma mater.   He went on to share that his fears were rooted in the violence that plagues his neighborhood.   How could he walk home alone?   Not long ago a classmate at the Timilty, an honor student, was gunned down on the basketball court.   Fear?  Continue reading…

Three and counting….

“I really want to work for …..,” earnestly stated my friend Beth.  She and I had worked together for many years.  She wanted to parachute from technology into the sciences.    The company she targeted was impressive although by no means alone in its field.   Beth knew she could get an interview. But a job?   She reasoned to herself that it was this company or nothing.   Ever been there?

Continue reading…

A network’s gift….

“I’m going to prove to him that I can,” shared a friend who was struggling with a decision.  She’d been in finance since we left college.  She was really interested in statistics and the insights it could provide.   She was thinking about going back to school for an advanced certificate in stats.   She’d sought the advice of a professor who was involved in the program.    He wasn’t encouraging when they met.  But, his negativity fueled her.   ‘I’ll show him’ she seemed to be saying.   I couldn’t help but wonder if this guy was a barrier or a catalyst for her?  Continue reading…