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Friday, November 27, 2015

Leadership Essay: In Praise of Working Mothers by Steve Gladis

In Praise of Working Mothers

In my life, I have been a jerk—regrettably, on more than one occasion. Just ask my wife. Fortunately, I have learned a lot. Indeed, the great gift of aging is wisdom.

In one of my many states of “jerkdom,” I believed that in the workplace everyone should be treated equally, including working mothers. That sounds like a great democratic notion, however impossible and wrong-headed. Many critics of such special accommodations are often men—like me years ago—and woman without children, both of whom share once tragic flaw: They have NO idea what it means to be a working mother. Personally, I did not appreciate what it took to work full time and raise a family. In my era, one partner worked and the other stayed home to raise the children—usually, but not always, the wife.

However, when I had a close-up-and-personal look at what my two grown daughters, both with young boys,  have to do just to get out of the house in the morning to get to work, I was stunned. It’s like having two full-time jobs, not one: Your “work” job and your child-rearing job. And in many cases you also run the family business—the household—a third job. It’s a wonder more working mothers don’t just quit all their jobs and head off to Tahiti to escape.

If propagating the species is one of humankind’s primary responsibilities, we have to make special accommodations for working mothers. It’s simple: No new babies, no future for the world. We accommodate the workplace for all sorts of reasons: Injuries as well as both physical mental disabilities. Surely, mothers don’t have a disability; rather, they just have the most important of all jobs—raising children.

So, how do you teach people who want equality in the workplace that raising kids requires the help of the village? I’ve heard of a great experiment that high school kids are put through to teach them about having children. Each of them is asked to bring in a five-pound sack of flour to class. For one month, they must take it everywhere with them or ask someone to take it, while they go to the bathroom or go out on a date! It doesn’t take long to get the big picture: Raising a bag of flower—that doesn’t get sick, doesn’t cry, and doesn’t need to be changed, rocked, taken to expensive daycare, fed, bathed, put to bed or be worried about—is still an enormous amount of work.

So, the next time some very-hard-working mother has to take her child to the doctor or stay home for an extra half-hour to help her child get over a nightmare—just ask yourself: How much do I care about the human race? 

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Beyond Happy: FINAL Post

Final Words. Beth Cabrera has written an important book for women and men alike. We need to pay attention to what we expect from each other. Outdated social constructs around the role of women are not only irrelevant but also pernicious to a healthy, productive society. Men and women need to address policies, attitudes, and expectations. Moreover, Cabrera has given us all a clear path toward being happier, healthier and more purposeful.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Beyond Happy: Post #5: Relationships R Us

Relationships ‘R’ Us.  Cabrera’s research reveals that close relationships with family and friends as well as coworkers have a huge effect on our well-being. Indeed, relationships are the foundation upon which Feeling Good and Doing Good rest. Family and Friends: A 30-year longitudinal study of Harvard grads concluded that human relationships (especially love) had the single greatest impact on people flourishing. Further, in study after study by significant psychologists, like Martin Seligman, Ed Diener and others, the results show that close relationships/friendships create happier, healthier and more engaged people. Coworkers: We often spend more of our awake, conscious time alongside people we work with. We want to belong to a tribe. So, connecting with people at work is important. In fact, if you have 3-5 good friends at work, you’re 50% more likely to stay in your job.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Beyond Happy: Post #4--Doing Good

Doing Good. When we have goals that are true to both our values and our strengths and that provide a positive, meaningful impact on others, we’re “in the zone” of true well-being. There are three conditions that will increase our sense of Doing Good: Live your values; Develop your strengths; and, Be generous. 1) Living into your values means figuring out what you value in life. Cabrera provides a list for readers to select key values. Focusing on values that matter produces purpose—the holy grail of doing good. 2) Developing your talents into your strengths is critical to success. And the key finding that emerged from Gallup’s extensive research shows that people are engaged, happy and most productive when working in their strengths. 3) Finally, generosity—serving others—rounds out the three areas of doing good. Research by Wharton’s Adam Grant demonstrates the powerful effects of generosity on finding purpose and being productive. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Beyond Happy: Post #3--Feeling Good

Feeling Good. When we feel happy and positive, our lives get better. We get healthier and the people around us benefit from our positive emotions—especially if you’re a leader. Positive people have
lower levels of anxiety and depression, are more resilient and creative, and are healthier and more secure. Indeed the brain structure changes—morphs—based on what we think about. It’s called neuroplasticity. There’s been abundant research on positive emotions and how people get them. In particular, three conditions foster feeling good: Being mindful, grateful and hopeful.  1) According to the founder of the highly respected program Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, Jon Kabat-Zinn, mindfulness is “…paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.“ Mindfulness reduces stress, increases the space between stimulus and response, and helps us enjoy where we are right now. 2) Gratitude has been the subject of significant research showing that when we reflect daily on what we’re grateful for, it’s very difficult to be depressed. 3) Finally, hope in the future is critical to happiness; however, being hopeful is not just wishful thinking. Cabrera suggests the following: Visualize your ideal future, identify strategies to get there, keep a victory log of your success, and realize how much work it took your role models to get to where they are.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Beyond Happy: Post #2--No One Can Do it All

No One Can Do It All. How would you like two full-time jobs? Well, if you’re a woman in America today, there’s a pretty good chance that’s your fate, along with exhaustion. Outdated workplace policies, 19th century expectations of women, continuing gender discrimination (like pay), and a host of unfair public policies, like woefully inadequate maternity leave for mothers, all stack the deck against women. Cabrera recounts this with the precision and directness of a seasoned researcher and with the heart of a working mother, who has been there herself. And her key finding is that women want exactly what everyone wants: To live a happy and meaningful life. Her precise formula is that Well-Being = Feeling Good (happy and positive) and Doing Good (having a sense of meaning and purpose).

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Beyond Happy: Post #1--Overview

Overview. Beth Cabrera knows about working women and well-being. She’s a working mother, a
psychologist, and a professor who researches and teaches at the #1 Well-Being University in the country: George Mason. There’s no doubt that her book will become a roadmap for working mothers who want to lead a happier, healthier life. She presents a compelling argument why women can’t do it all. She also presents a much better alternative: Well-being. Her formula contains two simple and powerful factors: Feeling Good (being mindful, grateful, and hopeful) and Doing Good (living your values, developing your strengths, and having a positive impact). She also presents compelling data, stories, and fascinating research around the most important element of thriving—being socially connected by having positive interactions, showing appreciation, establishing trust, and being generous.

Beyond Happy: Women, Work, and Well-Being by Beth Cabrera (Association for Talent Development, 2015)

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