Barbara Alfors Coaching and Consulting

Be in choice, be aligned, know your path, know your genius.

Stories

This is me, in a tree.

I’m taking a business development class right now, and one of the assignments I recently had was to think about three authentic stories to tell about yourself when you introduce yourself, so that people can quickly get to know you. 
I haven’t completed the assignment yet – I’m not sure what stories I would like to tell! (Although tree climbing is a top choice.) From my own perspective it’s sometimes hard to see what others might find interesting. 

Thinking about stories also got me thinking about the old stories we hold on to that aren’t actually true. Things like “nobody wants to hear my story” or “I have to know all the answers” that aren’t true and aren’t helpful.

The neuroscience behind these kinds of beliefs is fascinating, and boils down to a couple of things. One is the idea that your brain wants to keep you safe, so it makes up all kinds of justifications for why you shouldn’t try new things because you might fail. Another is stories we made up as kids to navigate whatever might have been going on around us, and while those stories may have been useful to get through childhood they are rarely helpful once we’re adults.

What stories do you tell yourself that aren’t true? And what are your authentic stories that help people know you better?

Hi from Colorado!

Hi!

I’ve got a foot of snow in my new front yard in Denver. Quite a change from Los Angeles! We just bought a house after a year of test-driving the neighborhood, and so far we’re loving it.

I’ve been reflecting a lot on changes – more to come! (One big change; I’ve now got my ACC, which is the Associate Certified Coach from the International Coach Federation. Yay!)

What Can You Do?

bridge image

How can you help bridge the gap?

Earlier this year I went to a Women in Architecture AIA event (WiA) that presented the Equity by Design survey results1 from 2016.  This survey enumerated how far people of color (PoC) and women have to go to be treated equally in the workplace.

I was really energized when I heard the enthusiasm that the presenters and attendees had for tackling this issue – they even had the backing of the AIA!  The enthusiasm was contagious and  I made plans to put together workshops and tools for firms to use in combatting these issues in their own offices.

However, when I started researching and digging into it further, I realized how challenging this particular problem can be.  I met with people who do diversity training for firms, and even they said there’s no way to state the issue plainly and expect anything but pushback from firm leadership, regardless of how well that firm is actually doing with diversity issues.  In fact, diversity training often results in poorer outcomes because once the diversity checkbox gets ticked off in people’s heads, they figure they don’t have to focus on it anymore.

In my July post I promised some ideas about what we can do to tackle the pay gap for women and people of color. Most of us are not willing to start any lawsuits, which are costly and notoriously difficult to win.

If not through legal channels, then what?  Start with one small action at a time.

For those of you in leadership positions, encourage your team to consider whether bias is creeping into judgements on performance. Be aware that cultural issues such as hairstyles, clothing styles, or accents may be contributing to judgements about a person’s performance. Encourage the firm leadership to do a salary review.

If there are employees with performance issues, talk to them. Are there any situations in the workplace contributing to the person not performing their best? Constant microagressions can cause major stress and even lead to burnout.  If any of these issues are present in the workplace, they should be addressed.

If you aren’t in a leadership role, use your voice as often as possible.  Support others who speak up.  You may not agree with their message, but it is easy for dominant voices to take over a discussion and women and PoC to be dismissed without much consideration.  Talk to your co-workers about supporting each other, and lead by example wherever you can.

Realize that there are layers of privilege.  Although the pay gap between white women and white men is significant, it’s minor compared to the gap for people of color.  Be mindful that your efforts to promote women’s voices aren’t at the expense of PoC.

 

1: http://eqxdesign.com/survey-2016


If you would like to explore how to brighten your career path, or are just curious about coaching, contact me to schedule a complimentary discovery session.

 

Boundaries

How well do you know your boundaries?

 

Setting boundaries is something that comes up frequently with my coaching clients.

 

Often times when we run into difficulties, it’s because someone is pushing us in a way that makes us react negatively.  When this happens, it’s helpful to try to get some distance on the situation and figure out what exactly caused the negative reaction, and how to define and communicate your boundaries to reduce the chances that you will have the same reaction if the problem comes up again.

 

I’ve recently run into my own boundaries issue.  I’m volunteering for a non-profit, and I just got some feedback from someone in a position of authority that I’m not doing enough, and I’m not doing it the way he thinks it should be done – despite the fact that fundraising is on target to meet our goals.

 

Whew!  This pushes my buttons hard.  I have very strong values around work ethic, and doing things right. To be criticized for these particular issues ratchets my anxiety to sky-high levels!  This is a situation where my inner critic – that voice in everyone’s head that’s always telling you you’re doing things wrong – really has a field day.

 

Now that I have had a couple days to stew reflect, I’m able to put some perspective on the situation.  First, I know that I am putting plenty of time into this project.  I got some brilliant advice from a non-profit expert that we should establish the expected hours of commitment for each volunteer role in the group so that everyone has clarity on what is reasonable.  Armed with this information, it will be easier for me to push back against the doubts of my inner critic, and prevent the anxiety from taking hold.

 

Second, I need to remember that the fundraising is our responsibility and we need to proceed how we think it should be done.  We cannot give our energy to every suggestion that comes along, especially when the plan we have is already working well. (Hear that, inner critic? We are on track!)

 

And the third thing: I’m getting help!  I’ve asked for someone else to be this person’s main contact and to keep him in the loop.  Perhaps more frequent updates will be able to convince him that we are on track and head off future clashes.  I’m also going to find someone to split off a few other tasks to so there’s less pressure on me to keep everything going, so that I don’t feel resentful when these kind of challenges arise.

 

Despite all this, I’m sure it will happen again. All we can do is practice, and when we make mistakes, try to learn from them.  If this stuff was easy, we wouldn’t have to work at it so hard!

 

Where in your life do you need to find your boundaries?

 

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