A Flight Plan for Women (& Men) Who Want to Soar!

I worked my way through college and grad school as a Reservations Sales Agent with Delta Airlines so I can truly relate to the flight plan analogy. In those days, I would book what we called long haul or short haul flights for passengers. 


As an HR professional with ExxonMobil, I’ve also done a lot of recruiting throughout my career. So, continuing with the flight plan analogy, as a recruiter I was trying to confirm prospective employees for a long haul with ExxonMobil. I’ve been on this flight for over 30 years, and it’s been quite an experience. This trip has taken me places I never even imagined when I first got on board, and we’ve made a couple of stops along the way where I got off. For those of you who have chosen to come along for the ride, there are some things we all need to remember about this career journey that we are on.


First, remember that the captain of this flight is our chairman.  There are co-pilots (Senior leadership), flight crew members at all levels of responsibility (supervisors/managers) and passengers with varying degrees of status/experience flying with us.  And like most commercial flights, all we have is a general idea of where we are going but we leave flying the plane to someone else.


Before we take off and soar to higher heights, I need to provide you with a safety briefing. We need to lighten our load of any excess baggage. We can only lift off when we feel confident in our own skin, when we are cultivating our own sense of safety by setting personal boundaries, and when we are clear in minds regarding our compelling personal brand. I believe that in order to have a psychologically safe flight and soar as passengers on this journey, we need to remember 4 things:


1. The S in soar stands for our Strengths. We have to know what we bring to the table we can operate from our strengths. For those familiar with core strengths, I’m a red-blue. That means I’m generally quick-to-act, persuasive and inclusive. I also have strong facilitation and communication skills. We all need to know our strengths and how to put our skills to work in a way that shows we are aligned with the direction of the pilot. But more importantly, we need to know what it takes to get from coach to first class and that’s by taking advantage of opportunities that come your way.


2. The O stands for Opportunities. Early in this career journey, you get onboard and there are plenty of open seats. Sometimes you get to choose but often you have opportunities presented to you. I was always ambitious, and to climb the corporate ladder in HR, so I needed to be flexible to get operations, HQ, and manufacturing experience. I also knew that all roads in the oil industry led to Texas so I needed to be mobile. It’s up to each of us how we respond to the options presented and whether we see them as a chance to learn and grow or just another seat change.


3. The A stands for Aspirations. One of the lessons I learned early in my career is that you need to have personal goals and priorities that allow you to evaluate the opportunities that are put in front of you. In my first marriage, my husband and I discussed each opportunity as it came to us. We didn’t have a clear sense of what we wanted as a family to measure those opportunities against. After 13 years with the company, I got an opportunity for a great career move, but my husband decided he didn’t like where the flight I was on was headed. He decided to get off and I stayed on. Things might have turned out differently if we had defined our aspirations up front together. You have to know what you want out of this so that you can make decisions that align with your goals and aspirations. Then you have something to measure your results against.


4. That’s what the R in soar stands for – Results. We each measure success differently and it’s all relative. Relative to where we started. Relative to the opportunities we chose to take or not take advantage of. Relative to what we expected and our aspirations. More often than not the definition of success changes the longer we’ve been on this journey. As our altitude changes, we see the world differently. Remember, we sometimes have to adjust when we hit turbulence and trust the crew keep us on course. That’s all a part of the journey.

I’m really proud of the journey I’ve had, the great people I’ve been able to work with, the places I’ve been, and the things I’ve accomplished. I had high aspirations when I got on board, and I’ve had many opportunities to learn and grow. As passengers, we have different itineraries with different destinations but remember to buckle up and listen to instructions from your flight crew. We are ready to SOAR!


This is a picture of me realizing a dream after 30 years with the company, which was to fly on the corporate plane. I’m truly soaring!

Unmet Potential: How to successfully fall short and thrive

For every high potential, high performing individual climbing the career ladder, there are literally hundreds (dare I say thousands) that are stuck half way up. According to research by McKinsey and LinkedIn.org on Women in the Workplace, only 86 women for every 100 men get promoted to manager. Unfortunately, many of the rungs are broken for women and minorities. The reality is that there are many obstacles to success regardless of gender and race. We all know that its a pyramid and that the number of jobs at the top are limited but we were sold a dream. In fact, one of my biggest issues with our system is that we frustrate and disenfranchise 80% of our population each year by telling them that they are no longer the outstanding person that they have been told they were all their lives. This isn’t a new phenomena, but I think its time we all looked at it differently. It’s time to update the script on how we define success.

Like most of my colleagues, I was hired based on having been a high achiever all my life. Having successfully navigated college and grad school, I came to Exxon 30 years ago with high aspirations. I did all the things I’d been taught in my MBA program about successfully managing my career. There wasn’t a networking event I didn’t attend. I had mentors and sponsors. I focused on delivering high quality as well as a high quantity of work. I studied what our expectations were to be considered “better than most” and demonstrated the behaviors that were valued by my supervisors and managers. I knew everyone on the staffing and development committee making decisions about future assignments and they knew me. I gave generously to the United Way and celebrated every milestone event with my colleagues. The world was my oyster until one day I realized that I was stuck halfway up that ladder. With all that effort, it seemed that there wasn’t going to be another promotion in sight. I had hit a ceiling.

The point of this article is not to feel sorry for me, but for me to share how I learned to thrive despite my disappointment. The reasons why I didn’t make it while others did are not as important as how I responded to not having achieved what I knew was my potential. I believe there are seven things that can help us learn to fail successfully:

1. Remember that your performance assessment is not your identity. In a recent blog, Becoming a Mental Well-Being Champion, I mentioned having been assessed in every category except ‘needs improvement’. However, the most challenging feedback to receive was that I dropped out of the top performance category. It took years to reconcile that message with what I believed about my own performance and capabilities. There was a song by India Arie called “I Am Not My Hair” which I translated to “I am not my RG” at the time that really helped me to disassociate my identity from performance labels. I had to tell myself that I didn’t change, my level of contribution and commitment didn’t change nor did my IQ.

2. Broaden your comparator group for perspective. I have been able to maintain an extensive professional network externally which really allows me to recognize the quality of the workforce that we have within ExxonMobil. I’ve always been proud and fascinated by the intellectual and technical excellence that I rub shoulders with on a daily basis at work. While I have a lot of equally smart associations, it has not been lost on me that we have hired the some of the best and brightest around the world. My external network keeps me informed of how my peers are doing in other organizations and that often the grass is just as yellow elsewhere.

3. Admit that staying is a choice. Committing to a long-term career is like being in a marriage. It’s no surprise that some days you will question why you’re still here. At some point we all wonder whether we should stay or go. However, reflecting on why you joined and why you stayed is healthy. It reminds you that you are making a conscious choice to stay for whatever reasons that may be. That is empowering because no one wants to be a corporate slave. I acknowledged that the worse that could happen was that I might lose my job as the sole provider for my family. However, when I realized that even if that happened, we would have a place to go and I had marketable skills, that concern was no longer a threat to my peace.

4. Market your skills and abilities. I’ve done countless employee sessions on knowing what you bring to the table and establishing your personal brand. Most assignments later in your career come because someone knows what you can do and preparation meets opportunity. You can tell very little about someone’s background and experience based on their job title, so its important to let people know what you can do. Update your online profile. Develop a short bio. Put a more descriptive title in your signature. Develop an elevator speech so that you’re ready when someone asks “what are you working on these days?” You have to be your own salesperson at all times. Don’t leave that to your supervisor.

5. Redefine success based on your values and passion. At the end of the day, only you know what’s important to you and your family. Think about what brings you joy and/or satisfaction. What excites you about your chosen profession? There are always aspects of a job that are less exciting than others. However, you can lean into those aspects of your job that align with your passion and look at the rest of your to-dos as the cost of entry. As a recovering workaholic, I started to define success as having balance in my life so that I could enjoy the last years that my kids were home (e.g., eating dinner together, dropping them off at school, taking family trips). I realized that being “stuck” actually freed me from pressure at work that would have not allow me that precious time.

6. Set SMART goals that help you measure your progress. I’m still a type A personality that thrives on personal accomplishment, so setting personal goals helps to keep me engaged. We now have talent management processes in place for work goals and development goals, so its important to make those work for you. I know that I am deadline and goal driven, so having SMART goals works for me. It actually works for everyone (I’m just saying).

7. Celebrate your wins. You don’t have to wait for others to celebrate or appreciate you. Sometimes we have to encourage ourselves. Invite your boss to your celebration when you’ve accomplished a personal or professional goal. If not your boss, at least someone who has been part of your success. This is how we build community.

I may not be where I thought I would be at this point or even where I had the potential to succeed. Yet, I look back over my 32 years and I’m extremely proud of my career. I’ve helped a lot of organizations to achieve their business objectives and collaborated with wonderful people around the world to get things done. It may have seemed like I was stuck, but the view looks good from here. What are the possibilities for you with a different definition of success?

Emotions are our Power Tools

Okay, I can’t remember the last time I picked up a drill or a reciprocating saw, because like most of my colleagues, I spend most of my time at a computer. The flipside is that at work, I have been amazed by Microsoft’s Power BI functionality with managing metadata. It’s a power tool for geeks that turn’s information overload into useful insights. This got me to thinking about another power tool that is built into all of us. Our emotions. Before you tune me out, let me explain how emotional intelligence can help us live out our values of resilience, care, integrity, courage and even excellence. I’m not encouraging us to allow our emotions to take center stage, but I do want us to see our emotions as data. When we do this, they can become our power tools for reengagement, creativity, and enjoyment at work.

Emotional intelligence relates to self-perception, self-expression, interpersonal skills, decision making, and stress management. Research has linked these competencies to effective leadership because emotions are what makes us human. However, in business we are generally expected leave our emotions at the door. We see being emotive as bad, but the truth is that we still have feelings whether we acknowledge them or not. When we suppress them, they only become stronger, and we lose the ability to deal with a situation as it really is. When we pay attention to our emotions, they can provide data on what’s important to us and help us to understand ourselves and others. More importantly they can help us define actions connected to our values to respond to what’s creating the emotions.

How do we put our emotions to work? Our thoughts drive our emotions and subsequently our actions. When we sit with our emotions and label them correctly, we can figure out what is making us feel that way. Instead of just saying “I’m stressed,” consider if you’re disappointed, dreading something, or overwhelmed. Doing the analysis to understand the emotion is the first step to decisive action. A critical element of human performance is learning to manage our thoughts. As humans we must rely on both “fast” thinking, which is helpful in everyday decisions to leverage our experience and “slow” thinking, which is more controlled, curious, and strategic to deal with more complex situations. We must resist the natural flight, fight, or freeze response to negative emotions and find the courage to examine our thinking. One of my favorite sayings is change your thinking, change your life (Brian Tracy).

In my own career, there was a time when I was feeling powerless and not able to change a negative relationship with my manager. My first instincts were to flee from the situation as fast as I could. However, I really liked my job and I felt like I was making a positive impact on the organization. When I shifted my thinking from “I need this job, so I have to accept being miserable” to “I have options, but I choose to be here because I like my job,” there was an immediate change in my relationship with my manager. I had the courage to address the behaviors and work challenges that were making us both less effective as leaders. Furthermore, as a leader, I learned to pay more attention to my colleagues and to push through awkward emotional interactions to better understand the situation at hand. I learned to listen more and to notice emotional cues. For example, if I asked, “How are you?” I waited for a response and looked to see if it was consistent with the body language I was seeing.

Emotions are not good or bad. They are tools that can be used by anyone who wants to influence human behavior. Accepting that we are emotional beings is the foundation for resilience. It improves your perception of yourself and your ability to express yourself which enables personal integrity and excellence. Good interpersonal skills are necessary for demonstrating care and concern for the well-being of others. Finally, building these emotional intelligence competencies takes the courage to act with conviction based on data. Emotions make us powerful. If you still have doubts, call me.


Becoming a Mental Wellbeing Champion

Today is World Mental Health Day and I’m here for it! I’m working on becoming a mental wellbeing champion because I can relate to dealing with work hurt during my career and still finding purpose in the everyday. Learning that another colleague had just resigned made me sad because I had seen their struggle. It also made me determined to do more. There is a lot of research on well-being and the power of positive psychology, however, my desire is to be a champion by being more vulnerable. So, I’ll start with sharing how I manage my own mental well-being.

First, the need for a sense of belonging is real and human. I satisfy this need by creating community at work. Whether it’s my work team or my BEST friends, or the extended network across the corporation developed over my 32 years with the company, I try to be intentional about getting to know people and letting them know me as a person. Not everyone that I’ve worked with has become a friend, but I can truly say that I’ve found a true friend with each assignment that I’ve had. We spend a lot of time at work and all you really need is just one person to make your work life fun.

Second, having a sense of purpose gives me perspective. I truly believe that that God has put me in each assignment and that the job is secondary to His purpose for me. Leadership is a high calling and I believe that you can lead from any seat at the table with authenticity and empathy. This perspective helps me to look at my work differently and to remember that nothing that happens to me is by chance. I look for the opportunity to serve through my daily work and that keeps me grounded.

Finally, I remember that things will generally work out in the end for my benefit without me worrying. Every time I’ve had a setback or difficult situation, I’ve learned from it and grown in ways that I couldn’t have imagined. I’ve been labeled “high potential” and I’ve been considered someone who “needs improvement” but I didn’t allow either of those perceptions of me to define me. My IQ didn’t change based on my performance assessment, neither did my work ethic or sense of personal accountability for doing my job. My self-worth is based on knowing who I am, my values, and my connection to a higher power.

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of attending an award ceremony to celebrate with our two ExxonMobil finalists for the Ally Energy’s Annual Grit Awards. Ally defines GRIT as growth, resilience, innovation, and talent. Each of these is necessary for mental well-being. However, Angela Duckworth in her book, GRIT: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, says that grit is the ability to persevere in the face of setbacks and disappointments, and to strive to improve even amid success. One of the most powerful insights in the book is that grit can be learned, regardless of IQ or circumstances and that any effort you make ultimately counts twice towards achieving your goal. If your goal is to have a fulfilling career that allows you to work with amazing people and do some very interesting and valuable work, that can be done. It just takes grit!

Leading with Care

Tips for employee reengagement

Every where I turn, people are stressed out at work. Unfortunately, the underlying cause is often that they don’t feel valued or don’t feel like leaders are concerned about their wellbeing. What’s interesting is that caring leadership has been linked to increased organizational commitment, heightened workplace self-esteem, and improved organizational performance. It struck me, however, that having care as a core value is only impactful if leaders understand what care looks like in action. I was reminded of something I learned studying Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages. That is people feel loved in different ways and they tend to express love based on their own love language. We should learn to show love based on the recipient’s love language. Doing unto others as you would have them do unto you doesn’t actually work. It takes a bit more effort to understand what care looks like to someone else but here are 5 tips for demonstrating the language of care:

1. Mutual respect – Empowered employees feel like they have more control over their work lives. The days of ‘father knows best’ in a patriarchal company culture are over. Employees want to and should be treated as mature adults. This means engaging them in decisions that affect their future and providing them with the resources that allow them to be effective. However, in the words of Aretha, you should find out what respect means to the individual.

2. Meaningful work – Challenging and meaningful work gives purpose and a reason for getting out of bed in the morning. Ideally, each assignment should include an opportunity to demonstrate skills and knowledge as well as to learn and grow. Studies have shown that some people prioritize meaning over happiness. The leader who cares wants employees to feel like they are doing something to further the mission of the organization. Helping people have a line of sight between their work and the company mission is an act of caring.

3. Compassionate feedback- words of appreciation don’t have to be in conflict with constructive feedback. Recognizing that someone is working hard demonstrates care for their effort. Difficult feedback conversations are necessary for learning and development but helpful constructive feedback is rare. By being clear that your intentions are to help them grow as a professional, the feedback is more easily received and you show that you care with words of affirmation for their efforts. Some employees thrive on verbal expressions of appreciation.

4. Flexible time – Making time for family, friends, and fun can be difficult when the pressure is on at work. Recognizing signs of burnout and fatigue is a way to show care and concern for an employee’s well being. Flexible work policies allow leaders to provide time off or allow people to work from home as needed to balance work and life. For some employees the gift of time is the best way to show you care.

5. Rewards & Recognition – Salary increases are always good and knowing that you’re paid competitively is important to almost everyone. However, expressing appreciation throughout the year for meeting goals and reaching milestones is also a way to demonstrate care. Thoughtful gifts and gestures mean a lot to people who need tangible tokens of thoughtfulness.

At the end of the day, people don’t care about what you know unless they also know that you care. Let’s lead with care by getting to know our people and demonstrating it based on what they value.

By the way, what’s your care language? Mine is flexible time!

EMPATHY is the key to I&D

I recently wrote that I needed more than ally in order to feel included and valued as an employee in the workplace. It wasn’t that being an ally was bad, it’s just because it falls short of the need to make my struggle your struggle. The only way that significant sustained progress will happen is for the objectives of inclusion and diversity to be personal. We mostly care about things that matter personally.

The ability to demonstrate empathy is a core competency of emotional intelligence. Fortunately, empathy is a skill that can be learned. Caring builds the empathy muscle and it’s a value that needs to be practiced every day to really master it. In a course called “Living Undivided,” I learned that when you really care you will:

C– choose to allow someone else’s experience into your heart,

A– Acknowledge that their feelings are valid,

R– Recognize the emotion in their experience, and

E– engage and lean in to seek a deeper understanding.

In a meeting to discuss how to build capability within our talent pools, a manager (who I will call Steve) asked why he never heard about any employees from a certain country when discussing executive development. He always heard about the great talent in that country and how much they were contributing but none had been identified with executive potential to date. Just his question started a flurry of activity. Contacts were made within minutes to ensure there were meetings to discuss their potential and development needs. Suggestions were recommended to make sure that there were no arbitrary limits put on their potential (and there were) and steps were taken to make sure a review was planned as soon as possible of the top talent in that country. More leaders should be like Steve. He is more that just an ally.

One Employee Resource Group (ERG), has a senior manager who went to bat to make sure they didn’t lose traction in their mentoring program while waiting on the corporate program. They tested to see where there would still be gaps and aligned their program to make sure that everyone in the organization got the additional feedback and support provided by mentors for their development. Recognizing that their voice carried weight, they leaned in to make sure members of the organization didn’t fall through the cracks because mentoring has been proven to help minorities and women succeed.

At an individual level, caring is staying after work to discuss strategies for balancing work demands with the challenges of being a single parent. It can also be inviting someone on your team who doesn’t look like you to your home or visiting them at their home to get to know them and their family. It can be giving the gift of feedback to someone you know is struggling to understand why they aren’t doing as well as their peers when they are working twice as hard but you know it’s behavioral.

I certainly don’t have all the answers but I do know that people don’t care what you know until they know that you care. Let’s stop trying to be validated and start being the type of humans others want to be around at work — people who care.

28 May 2022

I Need More Than an Ally

I think it is awesome that there are many allies within Black employee networks and other minority employee resource groups within corporations. It’s a proactive way to show support and make a statement regarding the importance of inclusion and diversity.  However, in my humble opinion, this falls short of what is really needed to move the needle with respect to equitable representation at all levels and creating a culture that embraces the unique strengths of our employees regardless of their race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or gender. What we really need are leaders and employees who form an alliance to achieve the aspirational culture defined by the company’s I&D mission statement.  An alliance recognizes the combined strength of its partners to advance both the collective and individuals.

As business-minded individuals, we all understand the need to move from continuous improvement and incremental innovation to strategic and step-change innovative actions to win in an increasingly competitive global economy. Yet, the same is true of our I&D efforts. The time has come for us to do more than meet the minimum requirements.  It’s time to put action to our well-crafted words of support for inclusion and diversity. Not because you want to meet a target. Not because it’s the right thing to do. Because creating an inclusive environment for a globally diverse workplace is a competitive advantage. Leveraging all the talent within your company is the only way to get a great return on the investment made in recruiting them. However, it is only when I&D is personal that we can bring about sustainable changes. 

Let me explain. When I joined the workforce thirty years ago, there were very few women and those who were here then spent a lot of time focusing on assimilation (e.g. trying to fit into a very male-shaped mold). However, I noticed a significant shift when the wives and daughters of our executives started complaining about the challenges they were facing in the workplace. All of a sudden, work-life balance, childcare, and flexible work became important to the men in power. Because it became personal. When someone you know and care about is struggling, you want to do everything in your power to help them out. These weren’t uncaring men. It just took a while for women’s issues to become their issues.

In a recent conversation with a diverse group on racial equality, I was curious as to why a group of late-career or retired white men and women cared about the topic.  Once I learned that they were either an immigrant to the U.S., in a biracial relationship, or had biracial grandchildren, it all clicked.  Before that, other races were just that, other. When something doesn’t concern you, it doesn’t mean you don’t care. It’s just not something you think about on a day-to-day basis. I understand that. However, our success as a species depends heavily on our ability to care about the entire human race. This is what the generation entering the workplace today sees more clearly than the baby boomers who made little progress in this space since shortly after the civil rights movement. I’m with them. I care about more than just my family, my community, and those who I know personally.

Martin Luther King, Jr. once said “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” Likewise, we must learn to work together, look out for each other, and champion one another for us to create true inclusion. Allies should not be my competition because we are on the same team. Because we care, our mission should be to do all that we can to break down silos in the workplace and help the next generation to succeed where we could not.  As an alliance, we can work together to tap into the strengths and capabilities of all the amazing people that we hire and channel their collective energy into building better companies, better work environments, and a better world. When we leverage the capabilities of the entire diverse workforce and make everyone feel valued, we all win.

Let’s form an I&D alliance

A Global Perspective on Race Matters

Celebrating Diversity with Valeria Edmonds

My identity has been shaped by being a baby-boomer born in the deep south and raised as a staunch southern Baptist who has worked for over 25 years in a large multinational corporation and is now living and working in the Middle East. At heart, I still consider myself a country girl from Memphis who spent summers as a child playing in the dirt, shelling peas with my grandmother, and eating homemade ice cream on the fourth of July. Never in their wildest dreams would my grandparents imagine that the skinny knock-kneed little girl they knew and loved would become a global leader who’s traveled to over 50 countries and interacted with men at the highest echelons of business. However, my journey has given me a wonderfully broad perspective on equity, diversity, and inclusion.

Why Does This Matter 

Living at the intersection of race and gender equality has taught me how to survive in an environment with the odds stacked against me. Black women often attribute their lack of advancement to the fact that it’s challenging to find sponsorship in their organizations because they have trouble relating to those with whom they work (Cheeks, 2018). However, I now see more challenges as it relates to economic disparities. What helps me stay grounded is remembering my modest beginnings. It helps me to relate to people at all ends of the socioeconomic spectrum. When I am transparent and openly share my experiences with other leaders, it helps us both to find things that we have in common and not dwell on our differences. This helps us to see each other’s humanity. I find they then treat me as an individual rather than as a member of a group that they don’t understand or relate to.    

The study of intersectionality is an emerging body of research that looks at implications of having multiple areas for potential discrimination. As an HR professional, I’m obliged to help business leaders by identifying the factors that help or hinder people from fully engaging to achieve their strategic objectives. I believe that understanding and focusing on intersectionality is key to engage the hearts of minds of your entire workforce. The concept of intersectionality should make the goals of anti-racism and social justice relatable to most everyone. There is always a connection to be made.

Tell Me More

Globalization has made the world a much smaller place, and global leaders need more than diversity training to lead today’s multinational workforce. I have had the honor and pleasure of working in the State of Qatar for the last six years, and it has taught me a lot about leading multicultural teams. The capital city of Doha is one of the most diverse places to live and work. Because the country is dependent on labor from around the world, only 30% of the workforce are nationals, and virtually every workgroup is a multicultural team. The critical lessons on equity, diversity, and inclusion that I will bring back to the USA from this experience are:   

When you need and have the resources to get the best talent, you will seek it out regardless of race, nationality, or gender.People can and do have pride in their home country’s culture as well as respect for other cultures. Nationals and expats are all proud of Qatar and invested in its success.People will naturally gravitate to others from their home country outside of work, and that’s okay. People need to create and feel a sense of community for psychological safety.People will make enormous sacrifices for work opportunities and a livable wage at the expense of being away from their families for long periods.The American passport has privileges that we take for granted and often don’t even realize. I’m not identified as primarily African American or Black outside of the USA. I’m an American first.

Bottom Line

Historical approaches to improving diversity and inclusion in USA companies have not resulted in much success during my thirty-year career. According to a recent diversity statistics report by Sapling (2020), 68 percent of C-level executives are white men, and by comparison, only 4 percent are women of color. I’ve seen the focus shift from affirmative action to diversity, then to inclusion and diversity, to building awareness of unconscious bias: all to get managers and employees to embrace and champion equity in hiring and progression of minorities. 

Unfortunately, as Dr. King noted in the famous letter from a Birmingham jail, “it is a historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily” (2018). Attention to diversity issues can and does cause resentment from those who operate from a scarcity mentality. The size of the pie is finite, and there are always winners and losers in their minds. Systemic problems require systemic solutions. Therefore, to improve the statistics, we must have a multi-pronged approach with strategic objectives at an individual, team, organizational, and societal level. 

 Individuals must not only be made aware of their conscious and unconscious bias. Still, they must also be accountable for their actions. This is especially true of leaders within organizations who make decisions that impact people’s livelihood.Diverse teams are proven to be more effective, so leaders must be intentional about demonstrating inclusive behaviors. Leading by example to identify and address the specific challenges of intersectionality within their teams.Organizations must work to address the policies and practices that create systemic bias. They should have equity, diversity, and inclusion as part of their strategic business objectives.Societal ills impact organizations and shape the cultural environment that we live and work within. As people of character, we can and should strive to usher in a new millennium.

I’m still just a country girl from Tennessee. Yet, my eyes have been opened to the possibilities of a more equitable and just workplace. It’s time for us to align our actions with our espoused values. By working together, we can achieve a better world and drive organizational success. There is room for all of us to succeed.


Cheeks, M. (2018). How Black Women Describe Navigating Race and Gender in the Workplace. Harvard Business Review.https://hbr.org/2018/03/how-black-women-describe-navigating-race-and-gender-in-the-workplace

King, M. L. (2018, February). Letter From Birmingham Jail – The Atlantic. The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/02/letter-from-a-birmingham-jail/552461/

Sapling. (2020). Diversity and Inclusion Statistics You Must Know in 2020. https://www.saplinghr.com/blog/diversity-and-inclusion-statistics-you-must-know-in-2020

Thriving Late in Your Career

I’ve reached the age and stage where most of my career is behind me. It wasn’t that long ago when I was on that hamster wheel working hard to progress and demonstrate my potential to senior management. The time went by so fast and it still surprises me that I’m now the oldest one in the room at every meeting. However, I’m still energized by the opportunity to add value by leveraging my thirty years of experience and developing the next generation of HR leaders. I thrive when I’m working in my areas of strength, I’m challenged intellectually, and I can tap into my passion for developing others. The truth is we all want to thrive regardless of our age and stage.

Unfortunately, many people get to this point in their careers and they are just biding their time until retirement. It’s so easy to slip into survival mode when you’re not inspired or motivated at work. Yet, we all have a choice. We can fight to remain valid while the world changes around us, we can retire on the job and wait until someone else makes the choice for us, or we can learn how to thrive. Thriving is not about being promoted or achieving a specific position, it’s being energized by knowing that you’re adding value. I’d like to recommend seven strategies for thriving well into the later years beyond eligibility to retire.

1. Focus on giving instead of getting. One of the seven habits of highly effective people is to look for the win/win. However, at this stage, our focus should be on helping others to win. Think of yourself as a servant and be generous with your time and information. I find that when others win, we all win.

2. Define your wheelhouse. By this age, you know what you’re good at and what motivates you. Consider what inspires you and what you’re passionate about. When you are thriving your performance is outstanding because you are leveraging your strengths.

3. Clarify how you add value. By knowing and communicating what you bring to the table. Be intentional about communicating how you contribute and volunteering to do work in those areas. Opportunity won’t knock unless there is a door.

4. Rebrand yourself as a consultant. Your wisdom is valuable. Every business challenge can benefit from understanding the historical context for the problem. You are a living encyclopedia of knowledge so become a trusted advisor. Describe yourself as an internal consultant.

5. Invest in the success of others. Look for ways to train others in the areas where you are highly skilled. This is an opportunity to create a lasting legacy within the organization.

6. Practice contentment. If you constantly focused on getting more, you’ll never have enough. Learn the art of gratitude and you’ll find more contentment with life and all of the things you’ve enjoyed along the way.

7. Manage your energy not your time. Balance is elusive. However, you learn when and what your body needs over time. Eat healthy snacks. Get plenty of rest. Plan your leave based on things that restore your energy. When you manage your energy, you find you have more time to do the important things.

This is my list of things that help me to keep thriving. It’s no longer about the job itself. It’s about having the right mindset. Let’s set our intentions on continuing to thrive because life isn’t over yet!