Transition’s Enabler….

As you look forward into the New Year have you been considering transition?  Maybe you’re rebounding from a 2013 job loss but you’re questioning if you want to get back into the same thing.  Maybe you’re someone who has prioritized other’s needs over your own and now find yourself ready to re-prioritize.  Maybe you are realizing that you need to regroup because your long sought after career choice isn’t all that you thought it might be.   Whatever the drivers transition simply represents a point in time when we’re faced with a decision: to change or to transition.   Which path will you choose?

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“What is transition?” asked a woman who was giving me feedback on one of my project’s just prior to the end of last year.  Her question was sincere.  It’s a question that I get often.  It always gives me pause.  Transition.  How would you define it? Continue reading…

A gift for you this holiday…

“What will be the fullest expression of your greatness?”  Sounds jarring, doesn’t it?  It isn’t meant to be.  The New Yorker’s Philip Gourevitch stated in a Postscript piece eulogizing Nelson Mandela, “It was in the negotiations of apartheid’s end that Mandela’s greatness found its fullest expression.”  The instant I read the sentence I loved it.  Why?  I believe that every person, no exception, has a greatness quotient.   Our toughest work?  Bringing it forth. Continue reading…

Holiday gifts….

“What are you getting out of it?” offered a Focus Group participant.  She was describing her rubric, the screening technique that she’d adopted to view her options.  This slant was a new non-negotiable for her, designed specifically for her transition. “There was a time,” she said, “when I was getting divorced.  I had a serious financial situation.  I needed to keep the job.”  Now, years later, she described her quick decision to take a ‘package,’ ending a multi-decade marketing career inside a large employer.   Her adult siblings became thoroughly unglued by her decision.  To her it was an obvious choice.  The only choice.  Does her calculus hold true for you?  What are you getting – or giving this season? Continue reading…


‘It has a lot to do with how women see their options,’ observed a leader of gender studies at an esteemed Boston university.  She participated as an industry expert in last spring’s Research Jam.  This remark was in response to our discussion about when & why women choose to transition.  Her perspective was incredibly simple.   Do women perceive that they have options?  Some do.  Many others don’t.  In your world what role do options play?  What would happen if you expanded your aperture for options just a bit? Continue reading…

The Big Picture….

Have you ever missed an opportunity to transition?   Knew that something wasn’t right but felt it wasn’t the right time to address it?  Or better yet, ignored the signs?  Or maybe you were oblivious to the signs entirely.  If I’m honest I completely missed an opportunity to transition about five years prior to my current one.  It wasn’t so much that I ignored the signs.   I was aware that I needed a change.  What I didn’t get was the enormity of the change required.  I can’t help but wonder if I’m not alone in this borderline clueless category.  Continue reading…

Marquee Moments….

“What are they going to ask me,” queried a former colleague as we were talking about her upcoming job interview.    ‘Marquee projects,’ I responded without even thinking.   She sought a new, expanded role in another company.   When we worked together she led a huge enterprise-wide initiative.   Yes, this was in addition to her day job.  Sound familiar?  Continue reading…

Transition: Embracing ‘New’

“That may be good science — but it is bad archaeology,” said anthropologist and archeologist Professor Rosemary Joyce in the Berkeley Blog last June.   She was critiquing reports of archeological findings in Honduras.   It seems that researchers, although not archeologists, used a plane outfitted with LIDAR, a laser detection technology, to map remote portions of the Honduran jungle rumored to house ‘lost cities.’  Joyce publicly maligned the findings.    Was it simply the technology’s newness that upended her?  Continue reading…

400 and 2

‘I’ve got young children,’ recounted a slight teenager as he retold of a pleading woman’s request as he worked to untangle her from the rubble of last week’s garment factory disaster at Rana Plaza, Savar, Bangladesh.  400.  The number of workers, largely female, who won’t be returning to waiting children or siblings or spouses.  $37.  The average monthly wage that makes a difference there.   Great hopes relinquished all for another tee-shirt.  Great hope…despite tremendous personal risk. Continue reading…

Engaging our hearts…

“We need you to be a part of this institution with all your heart,” said Dean Nitin Norhia, Dean of the Harvard Business School (HBS), in his closing remarks for the W50 Conference last Friday in Boston, MA.  W50?  It was a two-day celebration marking the fiftieth anniversary of women’s participation at HBS.  A dear friend of mine who looked puzzled when I told her about it asked, “that’s something to celebrate?”

Quirkiness aside I was intrigued by the Dean’s choice of words, ‘your heart.’   Earnest.  Simple. Powerful.  He sensed power enough in the connection with women’s hearts that he appealed to it.  Directly.   What else can benefit from that type of engagement?

At two years into transition I think transition is about having the confidence to listen to your heart.   What will make your heart sing?   The answer is highly personal.   To understand it requires a long journey full of ambiguity, isolation and energy.

In January I had the pleasure of spending the morning with a well-regarded researcher of gender studies at Babson College, a leafy hot bed for entrepreneurship just outside of Boston.   Thank you Research Jam for such wonderful access.   Or, did I always have it?

Anyway we talked about her observations on the transition that women go through when choosing entrepreneurship.  Her responses surprised me.

I asked about the triggers she sees when this transition occurs.  “The trigger is a ‘realization,’ a realization that living the dream is not just for only a few people,” she shared.   Sound familiar?

She also shared her view of transition’s characteristics.   Three I thought bordered on profound.  First, transition like entrepreneurship requires a self-created identity.  In entrepreneurs she observed that this skill set is highly developed.

A self-created identity.   Interesting.  If I’m honest I’ve had a more productive second year in transition than my first.  It might be because I’ve created a working hypothesis or draft identity that supports all my various experiments.  It goes something like this.  “I’m interested in women’s development.  This manifests itself in three ways….”   This is where I break and fill in my experiments, including Novofemina.   It’s nothing earth shattering but it serves as an umbrella under which I can align my various trials.

Thai Umbrella Maker

Thai Umbrella Maker

Her second characteristic…in transitioning to entrepreneurship women realize that they can create a business on topics that matter to them.  Climate change.  Nanotechnology.  Organic foods.  You name it.  As a side note this fact played out consistently in the responses to the Research Jam’s Online Survey.  Women shared example after example of businesses that were created out of all sorts of passions and events in their lives or the lives of their loved ones.

Her final characteristic was ambiguity.  From my humble perspective this is the show stopper for many in transition.  Most women I know have so much going on – care of aging parents, paying off education debt, managing families, cultivating all sorts of relationships, work – they don’t have time to invest in ambiguity.

Allowing ambiguity to hang around for any period of time seems like a luxury.  Am I right?  Women need to wrestle with ambiguity quickly so that they can get on with the 25 other things they need to accomplish before lunch.

It’s funny.  A person I interviewed earlier this week also mentioned ambiguity.  She thought it was the great divider too.   A veteran of transition and a gracious mentor to others she thought that those willing to walk with ambiguity in transition yield a tremendous benefit.  To her ambiguity opens our hearts to surprisingly valuable views.  Those who don’t go there never see this potential nor benefit from its many gifts.

Before concluding my conversation with the gender research expert at Babson she mentioned data about the growing number of women choosing entrepreneurship.  Why is that I wondered out loud?

“Many are disenchanted with the environment from where they came.  They see it as their only avenue forward.”

Coincidentally I heard this as well at the W50.  “Women seek entrepreneurship as a form of escape,” remarked HBS Professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter at the W50 Conference last week.   Long time readers will recall that I didn’t really enjoy her book, Confidence, in spite of its awesome title.

What an interesting theme…both thought leaders were onto escape.   How do you respond if overtime you aren’t listened to in the work environment or in other environments where you contribute ?    Escape sounds so negative.  Is it simply another trigger to create?  Creating something that can leverage the fullness of our potential.

I’m a bit critical of a Dean who appeals to hearts of women and the minds of the other gender.  But I’ll suspend that conclusion for the more productive……I believe that women get really engaged when they are passionate about something.

Transition in large part is about having the confidence to listen to our hearts.  Make no mistake….it isn’t a solitary introspective activity.  It requires reaching out to new people and challenging new experiences.  Each of these activities needs a common denominator…..your heart has to be in it.  Where is yours these days?

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