Tina Roth Eisenberg is a Swiss designer based on Brooklyn, New York. She founded and runs a global monthly lecture series called CreativeMornings, she co-created a to-do app called TeuxDeux, she is the founder of Tattly, a designy temporary tattoo shop and she founded and run a co-working space called FRIENDS. But perhaps her greatest accomplishment was starting Swiss Miss design blog and studios. For years, she played the role of a traditional designer. But then she had her first child, a little girl, and she realized she wasn’t fulfilling her purpose and true calling in life. Almost in that moment, she decided to quickly shift gears and dive headfirst into a number of “labor of loves,” where she switched hats to become a serial entrepreneur focused on diving headfirst into projects that really mattered to her.
Each of these projects was proximately focused on something closely related to her heart. As she puts it: “I have a rule: If I keep complaining about something, I either do something about it or let it go.” And Tina has made that mantra an integral part of her life. Each of her endeavors is fueled by the need to solve a very specific problem. This is an inspiring attitude to have. It is not about serving herself, it is about empowering others to embody the constant and important principles of their lives.
In her regular interviews with magazines and blogs, Tina shows us fellow women how to be strong, empowered, and crucial leaders in this world. Some of my favorite pieces of advice she shares includes:
“You can either start complaining and feeling sorry for yourself or you can channel all of that frustration into how can we look at this from a different angle and make it to something good.”
“I’m trying to have really good people in my life: I know I fill them up and they fill me up and we are happy for each other’s successes.”
“I do not want to portray that I have it completely together.”
“I do have a routine, but I would never say I would stick to it forever – I don’t like to be confined by routines that are too rigid.”
Each of these thoughtful statements embodies valuable lessons for each of us to live by. They aren’t blow you away and reinvent your very existence type of guidance, which actually makes them even more meaningful. They are insightful, thoughtful, and cause us each to pause and inventory what we are doing and how we are doing it. My favorite piece of subtle guidance is that we don’t have to portray we have it all together and figured it out. It is perfectly natural to be natural. And we all have our own challenges that cause us pause, frazzle us at times, and shows the outside world that we are strong but can be affected by what occurs around us—just like any other human being around.
Think about the experience of attending a dinner party. As you mingle with new people and engage in conversations, what is the first question most of your new colleagues ask you? My guess: what do you do for work? In most cases, people start any inquisition by determining your professional life first, and then working downward from there. And I’d also bet you that you identify yourself based on your profession and what you have chosen to do for a living. That is quite common, especially because we spend so much of our time fulfilling that role.
But in recent article by Ximena Vengoechea, she stresses just how crucial what we do outside of work is to our very existence and feeling of self-worth. She says, “People say we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. I’d say that we’re the average of the five activities we spend the most time on, too.” There is a great deal of truth to this statement. She continues: “If who we surround ourselves with informs who we are and who we become, so too does how we spend our solo time. Hobbies, side projects, our day to day activities: these are reflections of our selves that add up to form our life experiences over time. If how we spend our time says a lot about who we are, would you be happy with what that says about you?”
I find tremendous value in her thoughts, and it gives me pause to reflect on my life and daily decisions. I work with women who work. The type of women who are constantly thriving in the workplace, but also the type of women who had a great deal of trouble disconnecting from these responsibilities and feel constantly challenged by the work/life balance. But Vengoechea offers some helpful advice, including:
- Look for pre-existing pockets of time you can convert into dedicated project time. I dedicate my daily commute (1 hour each way) to personal project time. Many of my co-workers work on the shuttle to and from the office, but my shuttle ride is strictly Me time.
- Decide when you are consuming and when you are creating, and do not mix the two. That means jotting down ideas in a spark file while consuming content, but saving creation for a more focused time later.
- Set simple, achievable deadlines and goals. Don’t try to do everything at once: aim for reasonable. For me that’s one publishable sketch or blog post a week. I alternate between the two because some weeks are busier than others, but I can always get one of the two out.
- Don’t push it: know when you work best on which types of projects, and honor your natural productivity cycle. I’ve learned that mornings my mind is freshest for creative, strategic thinking. My mornings are great for writing. Evenings I’m worn from the day and have less mental energy, so it’s the perfect time to wrap up sketches already in progress. Find what works for you and focus efforts there.
- Most importantly, pick projects that energize you. For me it’s creative projects that keep me motivated and fulfilled. For someone else it might be starting a family or building a business, exercising or undertaking culinary pursuits. Whatever it is, don’t force it if you don’t like it: it’s supposed to be fun. If it isn’t, switch gears.
This is great guidance to help each of us focus on the work we do outside of work. Sure, we might still get asked that same question at cocktail party after cocktail party. But the truth is that we should really be focused on what we do outside of work, and not allowing our actual work to define us.
More and more, we’ve all heard the term “Influencer” to describe someone who connects and makes a difference in the lives of the people around them. These change creators are highly coveted by brands, by companies, and by audiences across the world. But what exactly does it mean to be an influencer? Is it something innate, into which you are born? Or are Influencers actually built, block-by-block, step-by-step, opportunity-by-opportunity. We are seeing that, at least recently, Influencers are often created in response to a need in the world. They don’t wake up one day and claim to be important. Rather, they rise to the occasion in order to change the world around them.
One such Influencer is a woman named Angie Chang. She co-founded Women 2.0, one of the largest global communities for women working in technology. She has close to 10,000 followers and even more fans. In a recent interview, she outlined the four tenants she adopted early in her career to amplify her voice and connect to the world around her:
- Construct your confidence—everyone else is figuring it out, too. “Nearly every guy I met handed me a card that read ‘CEO of ‘Company X’ and I was impressed. I listened to what they had to say,” says Chang. “Then I’d go through my stack of business cards, put their companies’ URLs in my web browser and realize that many were not only the CEO, but also the first and only employee of whatever company it was. Early on, I was determined to project — and feel — that confidence like anyone else.”
- Deconstruct your networking events. Change says, “For more nervous or introverted meet up attendees, go into a networking situation with a quantitative goal. It might be staying an hour or meeting three people. Don’t let yourself leave before you hit that number. A well-timed entrance doesn’t always mean arriving before the free pizza runs out or walking in fashionably late. Chang suggests segmenting networking events differently. “Go early if you want to talk to the organizer without interruption or if you want quiet time to have more in-depth conversations,” she says. “Go toward the end if you seek quick chats, want exposure among a large number of people, or prefer to choose when to be noticed. Things really started for me when I was new to meet ups, practiced being curious and asked questions.”
- Always default to yes. Even if you’ve decided to become an influencer, it’s hard to know which channels will be most effective for you to meet the right people. So don’t guess. Just go with it.
- Banish blind introductions. “If a person wants an introduction to someone I know, I always ask for the purpose of the connection,” say Chang. “I won’t do a blind connection — it has to be useful to both people. Otherwise, I lose credibility and so does the other person.”
These are just a few of the insider hints and tips that great Influencers implement into their own lives. Developing into an Influencer is a tremendous goal, but begins with a genuine desire to connect with people and make a difference in their lives. Chang didn’t intend to become an Influencer, but she recognized a need and then jumped into action to fulfill it. That is the true beauty of Influencers.
If you are working in a professional setting, I am willing to bet that meetings are an integral part of your day. Meetings with team-members, with potential clients, with current clients, and with c-suite leadership are just part of the job description. We as women need to appear in these meetings as smart, thoughtful, strategic, and willing to voice our opinion and provide essential feedback to the synergistic process. On many occasions, women allow their male counterparts to dominate meetings settings, many times because we don’t stand our ground, speak up in support of our viewpoint, or feel intimidated at the prospect of simply being wrong.
But as collaboration becomes the norm across the board, we have to learn to stand our ground and appear as the smart and intellectually gifted women we are. Sarah Cooper’s book, 100 Tricks to Appear Smart in Meetings: How to Get By Without Even Trying, is a celebration in the hints and tips that we can all employ to control the room, be heard, and most important, shape the direction of our respective companies and projects. After reviewing this book, I was inspired to create a short list of some of the steps you can implement into meetings to really show your connected:
- Encourage everyone to take a step back. This helps people to consider the opinions of others, reduce arguments, and work towards finding a positive conclusion.
- Nod continuously while taking notes. Funny as it might seem, people respect you when they perceive you are paying attention and taking notes. This shows you are engaged and willing to follow up after the meeting with tangible actions steps.
- Ask questions. But not too many. Questions show you are interested in the subject matter and can almost certainly open up conversations that might otherwise go overlooked. Temper your questions and ensure you are asking a thoughtful question at the right time. You don’t want to seem as if you are trying to hard or annoy the presenter.
- Come prepared. On many occasions, you might already know the topic of the meeting. If so, do a little background research to show you are prepared and engaged in the overall purpose of the meeting. This can also help you move the team in the right direction or close the big client sitting in front of you.
- Follow up. Amazing as it might seem, so few people actually follow up with the team after a meeting. Take a day or two to fully digest and comprehend the purpose of the meeting, and then follow up with the meeting leader, potential client, or current client. This shows a genuine desire to connect and engage post meeting.
Meetings are always going to be a natural and important part of corporate America. There is simply no avoiding them. Thus, optimizing the role you play in these meetings can make a great deal of difference in your placement and the opinions others have on you. The simple yet powerful steps outlined above can separate you from the rest of the pack.
Whiskey isn’t the preferred drink for most women. Generally speaking, we think about a rugged man taking shots of whiskey around a fire, or a group of men in suits and ties drinking Manhattans or other blended high-brow variations of this alcohol. And when many people think about whiskey, they often think about Johnnie Walker, one of the most reputable and popular brands of whiskey in the world. In recognizing their immediate appeal to men and a desire to shift to target more women, Johnnie Walker has taken a step in the right direction to support and empower women.
To coincide with women’s history month, the famed whiskey maker announced a new limited U.S. edition with a feminine twist on their iconic logo, which traditionally is a man in a top hat and cane wearing polo attire. But now, Johnnie Walker is attempting to broaden its audience by created a special bottle referred to as the Jane Walker edition. They are producing 250,000 bottles nationwide of this collector’s edition which shows a very sexy looking women in similar garb as the original Johnnie Walker.
They refer to it as “a female iteration of the brand’s iconic Striding Man logo.” With each bottle sold, the company will donate a dollar to organizations that promote women, including Monumental Women and Should She Run. This offers a great opportunity for a traditionally male oriented brand to support women, and offer each of us a metaphorical toast.
A recent op-ed in The New York Times discussed the importance of listening to women in order to empower them. That doesn’t mean responding to their innermost desires and emotions. Rather, empowering women means offering them an opportunity to make a living and support themselves. But it doesn’t stop there. In this article, Marissa Wesely points out that “Putting these women at the center of designing strategies and programs for women’s empowerment will accelerate all our efforts to achieve gender equality.”
As the article continues, it focuses on the conversation of not “what” women want, but whether those of us willing to help are listening and learning from women about what they want. This appears to be a lost art, and an area we do not focus on nearly enough. Think about the last time you had a conversation with a friend. Did you really listen? I mean intently. I don’t mean hearing what he or she said with the sole purpose of responding. I mean using both your ears and prioritizing their thoughts above your response. That is true and deep listening.
Listening is such a fundamental yet powerful action. However, many of us allow it to fall by the wayside as we talk over one another and attempt to be the loudest opinion in the room. But as we shift our lives to one of making a real difference and celebrating the diversity of others, we can better serve those in need by using our ears and not our mouths.