Archive for the ‘Business’ category

Women and leadership

October 27, 2020

Women’s voices. Women’s perspectives. That’s what drew me to the Wahine Forum 2020 for the first time and especially to the panel discussion on “Leadership is a practice, not a position,” with moderator Jennifer Oyer of Community Impact Advisors.

Day-to-day, we need leaders who do what they say – who have a “mindset of congruence,” said Faith Geronimo of Hawaii Information Service. What they think, say, and do need to be aligned.

In times of crisis, we sometimes need a different kind of leader – or maybe a different facet of leadership takes precedence.

“I look for a water leader,” revealed Susan Eichor of aio. “Someone who can fill in the spaces where a leader is needed, flowing around obstacles, with an ability to move seamlessly between the strategic and tactical, vision and execution.”

I love this idea of a water leader, someone who can react fluidly to change, take initiative, and yet welcome all to the table.

One thing to guard against is taking passive-aggressive actions, warned Ku’ulani Keohokalole of People Strategies Hawai’i. Don’t avoid confrontation and then have “parking lot conversations” to make decisions without the whole team.

It’s as if she were speaking to me personally. I try avoid confrontation and often “soften” my language so that it’s more a suggestion than a directive.

The panelists agreed that building relationships is key to being a leader. You need a sense of humility, to be welcoming, and to know when to offer guidance. Be intentional about reaching out. For example, keep doing those check-ins before and after meetings to see how people are doing.

And who checks in with leaders? It’s important to have good mentors who align with your goals and values, Eichor said. I think it’s equally important to be a good mentor and peer.

Keohokalole talked about women and “imposter syndrome,” the feeling that you are inadequate or doubt your own skills. “Sometimes we self-sabotage,” she warned. Geronimo advised, “Be who you are and put your heart behind you.” And Eichor added, “Create a space where people can be who they are.”

How do you have difficult conversations? Start with “What is your intention?” advised Keohokalole. Then figure out the right words, and speak in private.

How do you practice leadership? What are the traits that you look for in a leader, and that you want to strengthen in yourself?

8 principles to navigate burnout

October 13, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many of us to be either overworked and overwhelmed – or underworked and overwhelmed. Thankfully, many organizations, businesses, and associations have been providing webinars, resources, and training to help us cope.

Building our resilience to uncertainty and strengthening our coping skills is not something we do just once. I attend mental health webinars not just to learn something new, but also to refresh my memory. I make the time to attend these webinars because my mental health is important not just to me, but to the people around me.

As part of a series on “Overworked and Overwhelmed: Build Your Burnout Toolkit,” UHA Health Insurance and the Hawaii Health and Work Alliance (HHAWA) presented a webinar with author and researcher Brad Stulberg, “Navigating Periods of Burnout and Disorder.” The webinar was recorded and you can watch it at

Stulberg shared 8 principles to navigate burnout that we can start applying in our lives immediately:

  1. Stop resisting what is happening. “When we are going through periods of change or disorder… the faster we can accept and start seeing reality for what it is, the better.” I admit I was in denial about the severity of COVID-19 at the beginning, even as I followed the stay-at-home order and social distancing mandates. And then I couldn’t deny it any longer.
  2. Focus on what you can control. After the pandemic, I couldn’t control where I worked, the amount of work I had to do, or how much I had to learn, but I could control my work boundaries (not answering the work phone after hours) and set aside time for family and to re-charge.
  3. Nail daily habits. The three daily habits are physical activity (a walk on the beach, a jog in the park, or a workout at the gym all count), sleep (without being interrupted by social media notifications), and nutritious food (chocolate is a fruit, right?).
  4. Stick to routines. My 14-year old son struggles with this, especially with remote learning and more flexible schedules. But that routine is exactly what we need. For me, my morning meditation and evening journal reflection bookend my days.
  5. Stay connected. Community makes us stronger, and the most resilient people have strong ties to other people. Keeping in touch can be especially hard for older people, who don’t do email or video conference. With this in mind, I ask my son to call and write my parents a short note every now and then to show them that he is thinking of them.
  6. Think adaptation instead of change. Change is scary. Taking small steps, and adapting a little bit of the time, is not as scary. I think of it this way: if I had known about all the responsibility that came with my current job, I wouldn’t have accepted it. But I grew into those responsibilities slowly, with time to adapt and adjust.
  7. Respond, not react. Reactions are quick and unthinking and often damaging. Instead, respond with deliberation by following The Four Ps: Pause, Process, Plan, and Proceed. In fact, I follow this procedure when I receive comments, emails, or texts that upset me. Instead of replying right away, I wait a few hours, and sometimes a day or two, until I can reply thoughtfully.
  8. Show up, get through, and worry about making meaning on the other side. “We tend to make meaning on the other side of challenging circumstances.” We might not see how we’ve grown or been changed by this pandemic until months or years later, and that’s okay.

How do you prevent burnout? What strategies do you use to cope with feelings of being overwhelmed?

Re-imaging work after COVID-19

August 11, 2020

When Hawaii began the stay-at-home order, I was lucky enough to be able to work from home. The transition wasn’t smooth, but it wasn’t difficult either. Things had to get done, and we found ways to do them remotely.


A few months have gone by, and now I can’t believe that I planned my days to avoid traffic. Meetings and errands were about traffic (or bus schedules), not what was convenient for me.


And I’ve been thinking, how can I keep working remotely even when it’s safe to go back to work? And how many people feel the same way?


For those of us who can continue to work, COVID-19 has changed the way we think about work. What will the future hold?


Re-thinking the work week. Some companies have tried 10-hour a day, 4-day a week schedule. But we could also consider staggered work days, where employees come in to work just 1-2 days per week. Employees could share work-spaces, resulting in smaller office requirements and lower overhead for companies.


Creating more jobs as personal assistants. Generous people have stepped up to help neighbors who are unable to get to the store for groceries or necessities. We could see an increase in companies that offer personal shoppers and personal assistants, who can run errands for us.


Offering tax incentives to work at home. Government could double-down on tax credit to employers who allow employees to work from home at least 2 days a week; and create a tax credit for employees who work from home at least 2 days a week to offset their higher electricity bills.


Giving up our cars. Many of us are resistant to giving up our cars, and Hawaii’s mountains and valleys make public transportation tricky. But working from home means that more of us could give up our cars, or encourage people to start Car Huis, where residents share cars within their neighborhood. If there are more cars on the road, and the roads are in good condition, at some point we may be able to re-allocate funds from road maintenance into social services.


Converting hotel rooms for island living. If stay-at-home orders become more common, empty hotel rooms are another way to meet the need for affordable housing in Hawaii. In June 2020, there were 339,400 vacation rental units, with an average occupancy rate of 13.8%, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority. If we could allocate 3% of vacation rentals, we could add 10,182 affordable housing units. Residents could sign up for meal plans to help hotel kitchens stay open; and weekly cleaning services to help housekeeping continue.

How has your vision of a dream job changed? If you are able to work from home, what are the challenges and benefits? If you are unable to work, have there been any positive notes?

Learning new things: two webinars and a video

May 5, 2020

If you’re like me, you’ve been signing up for a lot of webinars recently. Many organizations and leaders are providing free training about new legislation, leading in times of crisis, coping with stress, parenting, working remotely, and more.

Webinars are a good way to feel connected to other people, learn something useful, and add meaning to my day. Sometimes I need that reminder that we are all facing the same challenges.

I’ve found that learning something new, or re-learning something I’ve stopped practicing, is a good way to start the day. It makes me feel prepared for any challenges that might come up.

Here are two webinars and a video that I found particularly compelling:

Appealing to my business side, VitalSmarts hosted a series of five webinars about “Crucial Skills for Crucial Times” with Joseph Grenny, Justin Hale, and Emily Gregory. Three highlights:

  1. Be Safe/Feel Safe. Especially in these uncertain times, customers and employees need to be safe physically and feel safe mentally and emotionally.
  2. Have the right conversation. To have honest conversations, we need to make people feel safe by communicating mutual respect and mutual purpose. This struck me because I am witnessing a mediation at work, and I could see that we were having the wrong conversations.
  3. Regain control of your job. For every action, choose to DO, DECLINE, or RENEGOTIATE. Otherwise, you may end up being busy without being productive.


For times of stress and overwhelm, certified life coach Deborah Shannon offered a free webinar “Tame the Stress Beast: How to Inoculate Yourself Against Stress.” Three truths about stress:

  1. Stress is a natural reaction to a perceived threat. It’s a neurochemical response. Physiologically, we experience stress the same way as if we were escaping a lion on the savannah.
  2. Stress is a formula, which means you formulate it! Stress is when pressure exceeds resources. Most stress is self-generated.
  3. Stress is a tool and a weapon. It is an evolutionary survival mechanism, it’s part of a healthy sense of urgency, and it’s part of the creative process (creative tension).


And something particularly helpful when most of us are wearing face masks outside our homes, Vanessa Van Edwards has a 14-minute video, “How to Read Faces… Even When Everyone is Wearing a Mask.” She gives tips us and tricks for decoding microexpressions in other people’s eyebrows, eyelids, and upper checks (and made me think about my own microexpressions under the mask).

If you are working at home, how do you keep active – physically and mentally? Have you decided to learn a new skill or take up an old hobby? What webinars have motivated, compelled, or entertained you?

Conflict resolution for superheroes

April 28, 2020

I’ve been thinking a lot about how to resolve personal conflicts recently.

The COVID-19 crisis is testing us in many ways – emotionally, physically, and financially. We are more isolated from others and yet closer to the people we live and work with.

Inevitably, personal conflicts will arise and relationships may be strained.

It’s a good time to remind ourselves that we can resolve conflicts peacefully.

When my son was in the third grade, he was a big fan of superhero movies, especially “Iron Man.” I found a free poster for kids about Superhero Conflict Resolution: I Messages.

The poster focuses on “I Messages” and gave us four easy tips to resolve conflict:

  1. Say the person’s name.
  2. Tell how you feel.
  3. Tell why.
  4. Tell what you want.

Here’s is my then 8-year old son’s idea for resolving conflict between Iron Man and Killian from “Iron Man 3:

Iron Man says, “Killian, I feel angry when you burn people up. Please stop burning people. Thank you.” Killian responds, “Iron Man, I’m sorry. I will roast marshmallows for people.”

We may disagree and we may argue, but Hawaii will get through this together.

Have you used “I Messages” to resolve disagreements? What are your tips for resolving conflicts?