Invisible Standards

“We need your voice,” I said in closing a workshop with about a dozen women on a Saturday in early September.  I was making a connection between an exercise we’d done on developing our own voices and the needs of our national economy.  I view the development & expression of women’s voices as fundamental to our country’s long-term economic well-being.   For me it’s an easy and obvious linkage – although I won’t bore you with the details here.  What surprised me in that Saturday moment was the reaction I got.  The attendees were honestly touched.  My comment seemed to elevate our work.  It connected every one of us to something greater.  Our voice work was instantly relevant.  Meaningful. Continue reading…

The shame of should

A grad school classmate of mine and I were at dinner last week with another friend, Tricia, who had an undergraduate degree from UPenn.   Tricia mentioned that she’d recently attended an informal get together for women from her graduating class.  She’s been out of school just over twenty years.  “Shame” she offered in summary of the get together – immediately capturing our full attention.   “Many women weren’t doing anything because they were ashamed that they hadn’t done more since leaving school.”   I understood her remarks to mean that negative self judgment played an enormous role for many of these women.  It impacted their choices and their beliefs about success or failure because they hadn’t done what they ‘should’ have done.   Wow.  This discussion left me wondering, what role shame?   Continue reading…

A Transition Solstice Celebration…

Who wouldn’t give their right arm for more hours in the day?   When faced with the prospect of newly available time, most of us instantly think about what we could do.   The possibilities are endless.  Think about it.  An important ‘to do’ for work.  A laundry list of actions in support of children, spouses, or dependent elders.  A few minutes for long deferred personal care or even a personal interest.   Maybe even a few moments dedicated to a long overdue job search.  What would you do with ‘found time?’  Would wishing make it to your list?



Time was on my mind this week as we enjoyed the Summer Solstice. Celebrated on June 21st, the day marks the true start of summer for me.  It is our ‘longest’ day of the year in the Northeast, offering six more hours of daylight than its astronomical opposite on December 21st.   It makes me think about time and how I choose to spend it.  A concept, I might add, that I rarely thought of pre-transition.

Solstice derives from two Latin words; sol, or sun, and stare, to stand or stop.   Early astronomical observers believed that on the solstice the sun stopped its progression in the sky.  Its literal translation is the day when the sun stands still.

The solstice’s definition caught my attention this week because I’ve been noodling a presentation I gave earlier this month.    On June 9th I hosted a luncheon ‘dry run’ of the key messages from my upcoming book, Women & Transition: Reinventing Work and Life (Macmillan Nov 2015).   The outset of the conversation was standard fare: transition’s definition, its anatomy, and an overview of a process that I created to help women navigate transition.

What really caught my audience’s eye was a list at the end of my remarks about what surprised me most in my research.   For those unfamiliar with my research, I spoke with two hundred women in various forums about transition over an eighteen month period.

Before I share the surprise, let me give you some background.  It’s a bit of an  oversimplification so please bear with me.

Thanks to my research and my own circuitous path, I found that transition requires us to navigate an iterative two-stage process.  The first stage is ‘envision,’ during which we develop a hypothesis of what ‘might be’ possible for us.  It goes by many names.  A dream.  A wish.  A personal strategy.  You can choose the vocabulary most comfortable for you.  This stage asks us to think beyond our assumptions about what we could or should do – staring down boundaries set by ourselves and by other’s expectations of us.

The second stage is ‘validate,’ a stage during which we test and retest and learn about our ‘envision’ hypothesis.  This stage is experimental and flexible – progressing in increments designed to fit our own circumstances.  At the end of all this you get a refined wish and real life experiences to give you the confidence to move in that direction.   I referred to the transition process’s cycle at the June 9th lunch as the dream/do loop.

The surprise I shared on June 9th?  I’ve witnessed again and again that women shortchange the work in the dream stage, preferring instead to do.  The work of thinking – wishing – is difficult, non-linear and uncertain.   Let’s face it most of us would rather clean the refrigerator on a sunny day than undertake such a task.

Wishing seems fanciful.  This is only partly true.   Here’s what I’ve learned:  Dreaming requires us to trust our instincts – and most importantly to dignify what we hear.   There is a competency we build up in the process – we learn to quell the negative internal voices that instantly pop up to extinguish whatever those instincts may be telling us.

In the summer weeks ahead be aware of the shortening days as we begin the long cycle towards the Winter Solstice.  If you find yourself with a moment or two, dream.  I’ve found it’s the most useful do you can do.

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A simple step: reframe

Last week my ten-year old son and I watched the replay of the first game of the NBA finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors.    We were rooting for the Golden State Warriors, his stand-in team given that his beloved Celtics will sit this one out.  Thanks to his interest, I stumbled onto a terrific example of one of my favorite transition tools  – reframing.

Continue reading…

Distance versus Denial

Last week I was struck by a quick comment made by Joyce, a mid-forties marketing czar and parent.  She’d lost her job just prior to year-end 2014.   A mutual friend asked if I would have coffee with her.  “I’m ready,” she said as we settled into our seats at roast, our local Starbucks alternative.  She wanted to initiate a job search.  There was something else I heard – her tone and demeanor didn’t quite match.  “I put all that stuff behind me,” she said.  As if saying, ‘isn’t that what I’m supposed to do?’   Continue reading…

Four and Foresight

“I got a sense of breathing for the first time,” said a dynamic woman whom I interviewed early on for Novofemina’s Voices of Transition column.   Prior to being laid off she was a multi-decade employee of a large corporation.   She was also the parent of several children, one of whom she lost to a rare childhood illness.   She got herself another job within a year of her termination.  She described her transition as enlivening.     She was energetic and peaceful when we spoke.    I will never forget how I felt as I listened to her tell me her story.  Awful might be an exaggeration – but not much of one.  I remember thinking, ‘how did I ever get myself in this predicament?’  Her confident, delighted state seemed a million miles away from where I sat.

Continue reading…

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…

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?


Copyright © 2014  All rights reserved. No content on this site may be reused in any fashion without written permission from

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…

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…