Recently, I was inspired by an interview with actress Kate Winslet who has just finished filming a new movie only six weeks after giving birth to her third child. “…There’s actually something really empowering about going, ‘Hell, I can do this. I can do all this.’ And that’s the wonderful thing about mothers. You can, because you must, and you just do.”

After having three children myself, the Parkinson’s law adage which states that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion” has taken on new meaning. I get so much more done now – personally and professionally — than I did prior to having children. I may not sleep or relax as much, but I certainly accomplish more in every aspect of my life.

As a purpose-driven person, I take everything that I undertake very seriously. I believe that everyone should be able to define what a life of purpose means for them, and then align their life in a way that continually furthers you toward that goal. For me, there was never any question that I would have a life that includes both being a mom and a working professional.

Gladys Kravitz

Gladys Kravitz

“Soup from a Can”

Rarely, if ever, do I mentally revisit non-work-related small-talk conversations, particularly if they took place with individuals from outside of my inner circle. As an executive recruiter, I speak to literally dozens and dozens of people every week, and I simply don’t have the mental capacity or inclination to run a continuous loop of past conversations. I’m always on to the next thing. However, for many years now, there’s a comment that has lingered in my mind, perhaps feasting upon my “guilt” as a driven, working mom.

Eight years ago, while living in a well-to-do suburb in Minnesota, a nosey neighbor (think Gladys Kravitz from Bewitched)approached my husband in our driveway when my twin boys were only a couple months old. “Kristi isn’t going back to work, is she?” My husband proceeded to tell her that I was, in fact, heading back to work in a few weeks. My daughter was two years old at the time, and I was entering the phase of experiencing real sadness each time I faced leaving my babies to go to the office. But, I was going back to work.

“Well, my children have never even tasted soup from a can,” judgmental, nosey neighbor — condescending and awkwardly — volunteered to my husband who felt it was a clear effort to try to discredit me (while apparently attempting to gain some sort of credit for herself).

Hmmmm…”never tasted soup from a can” somehow equates to exceptional mothering skills?

For years now, each time I heat a can of soup for my children’s lunch thermoses, I think about this comment. Should I be spending more time cooking up large kettles of homemade soup every weekend to save my children the horror of eating soup from a can? Perhaps this comment rankled me so much because I am one of the best home cooks out there, or maybe it’s just because I find the inherent judgment so distasteful. Regardless, it was a comment intended to cast the stay-at-home mom in a more positive light, and to throw the professional, working mom under the bus. I mean, how could I possibly be preparing healthy meals for my family when I work outside of the home?

Clearly, this modern day Mrs. Kravitz had absolutely no idea who she was talking about. Cooking and gardening have been my primary hobbies for decades. I began cooking when I was 13-years old as my mother rejoined the workforce. She would leave notes every day asking me, for example, to put a meatloaf in the oven or place a pot on the stove at a certain time. This quickly led to me preparing full meals for dinner. Had my mother not gone back to work, I may never have learned to cook, a skill I have built upon for over 30 years. Moreover, my husband also likes to cook, and makes a hot breakfast for our children every single morning. These kids suffer not in the food department.

Actively Creating Personal and Professional Alignment

Back in 1997 when I began my retained executive search career as an entry-level Associate with the world’s largest search firm, I quickly realized that if I persevered long enough to become a Managing Director, this career could allow me the flexibility to come as close to “having it all”as possible — a family and a flourishing career. It has since proven possibly to be one of the best careers out there for a “working mom.”

What I have done for the past 17 years is create a career, working environment and family life that are completely blended and co-exist in ways that work well 90% of the time for me, and more importantly, for my family (with one calendar that incorporates both sides of my life). And, I managed to write a three-award winning book along the way.

Am I sounding defensive? If so, it’s because I have felt defensive for years every time I think about the infamous soup line.

Playing Small

Over the years, it has become clear to me that the tension that exists between professional, working moms and stay at home moms is the obvious byproduct of playing – and thinking – small. I don’t play small. Nor do I make judgments as to whether a woman decides to work outside of the home, or not. For me not to have a career where I can exercise/bring to bear the best of myself would not be a good decision for me, nor would it be the example that I want to set for my children.

I take a great deal of pride in having my career while at the same not cutting corners in any respect as a mother. As a matter of fact, I consistently attempt to go above and beyond in everything I undertake – both personally and professionally – every single day. For example, I have a personal distaste for the unsupervised circus in school busses, thanks to several traumatic childhood experiences. As such, my husband and I have made a commitment not only to drive our kids to school each and every day (an easy commitment to make given that the school is five-minutes from our house), but also to walk them to the door. Between the two of us, we have never missed a day, and it’s always a very special family time that we all cherish.

No, being a working mom does not, at all, automatically equate to cutting corners, or taking the easy way out when it comes to child-rearing. I have been blessed to find a rewarding career that I have fully integrated with my personal life. I am also grateful to have a tremendous amount of support and help in my life from both my husband and my mother. I am blessed.

Far Bigger and Lasting Lessons

Obviously, I have spent a great deal of time stewing in this kettle of imperious, other-kind-of-mom judgment. However, I have finally come to terms with this commentary after observing how my now 10-year old daughter – and 8-year old sons – are learning from my example. Yes, I take pride in the fact that they love my food (well, most of it), and will enthusiastically ask most every day what we are having for dinner. But, there are far bigger and lasting lessons taking shape here.

How am I going to teach my children to actively pursue and create their very best lives if I am not a living, breathing example of doing the same?

If I Were Today to Give Up My Career and Professional Activities to Stay at Home, What Would that Say to My Children?

The example my children see today is an ever-present mom who always has time for them, who creates a lovely home for them, and who always places them first. They also see me working hard, focusing, concentrating, preparing for meetings, engaging in interesting telephone conversations and Skype calls (that they don’t quite understand, but know are pretty important), traveling occasionally to locations they wish they could visit, and celebrating lots of professional wins together with them. They also know that their mom is a writer and author with a purpose to help other people to improve their lives. My writing also is fueling them to try to be the best young writers they can be. Every day they observe the importance of being self-motivated and consistent in effort. They see hard work, and they are learning work ethic. They are happy and secure, and understand how my career enhances all of our lives.

My kids will never play small. They are being taught that they are here to create significant lives and to do it their way. They don’t have to settle for playing small ball.

And, my boys also will never, ever have the perspective that females are somehow less. Their mom works, loves, cooks, plays…and occasionally mows the lawn. They know I’m a well-rounded leader who can do it all, their sister can do it all, and every female in the world is their equal. There’s no question that they’ll relate to women throughout their personal and professional lives in positive and healthy ways.

My children also consistently hear conversations about the importance of thinking big and pursuing greatness. They routinely hear conversations I have with their father about topics such as values, missions, callings, integrity, and purpose. As a recruiter, it’s second nature for me to point out –pretty much everywhere that we go – the jobs people are performing and the myriad career options my children have ahead of them.

Unquestionably, what I do today is shaping these little people into the great people they are becoming. I am present. I pay attention. And I am not missing anything. I noted to my daughter just this week that I’m so proud that she’s taken complete responsibility this year for doing her homework, and meeting her deadlines without prompting every evening from me. She’s internalizing the work hard / play hard environment in which she’s being raised in ways that are already becoming part of her own work ethic. She’s learning that to live our best lives, we must take responsibility for ourselves. She likes the recognition she’s receiving for being a great, not just good, student.

And, I think that really sums it up: My example as a working mom is going to prove to be the difference maker in forming these little souls into great — not just good — people. And, really, it’s not about the homemade soup.

However, in a shout-out to my modern day Mrs. Kravitz, the judgmental, subversive mom from Edina, I share two of my family’s favorite soup recipes.

LeBlanc Family French Onion Soup frenchonionsoup

Ingredients:

2 1/2 pounds or ~5 large sweet yellow onions, halved, and sliced 1/4-inch thick (8 cups)

1/4 pound butter

4 bay leaves

5 sprigs fresh thyme

1 scant teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon fine ground Tellicherry pepper

½ teaspoon fresh ground pepper

1/2 cup medium-dry sherry

1 Tablespoon (or more to taste) beef base

64 ounces beef broth (I use Pacific or College Inn)

1 cup brandy or Cognac

1 1/2 cups good dry white wine

Freshly grated gruyere and gouda cheese

Directions:

In a large stockpot on medium-low heat, sauté the onions with the butter and bay leaves for 60 minutes, until the onions turn a rich golden brown color. Deglaze the pan with the brandy and simmer uncovered for 5 minutes until reduced by about half. Add the beef base and simmer 2 minutes. Add the white wine, salt and peppers, and simmer uncovered for 15 more minutes.

Meanwhile, slice baguette one-inch thick and top with mixture of grated gruyere and Gouda cheese. Place under broiler until cheese is bubbling and starting to brown.

Add the beef stock plus salt and pepper to the onion mixture. Bring to a boil, then simmer uncovered for 20 minutes. Remove the bay leaf, taste for salt and pepper, and top with warm cheese toasts.

 

LeBlanc Family Beef Barley SoupBeef-Barley-Soup-2-410x307

Seasoning Mix:

1Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon salt

1 Tablespoon paprika

2 teaspoons dry mustard

2 teaspoons black pepper

2 teaspoons onion powder

2 teaspoons dried sweet basils leaves

Ingredients:

1Tablespoon good olive oil

2 pounds beef oxtails (in Denver, I find them at Tony’s or Edwards)

2 cups chopped sweet yellow onion

2 leeks chopped (white only)

4 carrots, diced

2 stalks ½-inch diced celery

4 garlic cloves, minced

4 bay leaves

4 sprigs fresh thyme, tied with kitchen string

1 cup pearled barley

4 cups left-over, cubed roast beef or prime rib (optional)

Directions:

Heat olive oil in a large pot. Lightly salt and pepper the oxtails and add to the pot. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until browned all over – approximately 12 – 15 minutes. Remove oxtails from pan and reserve.

Add the carrots, celery, leeks, onion, and garlic to pot and cook 12 – 15 minutes until the vegetables are just starting to soften and brown. Add the spice mixture and mix well, cooking for 4-5 minutes. Add thyme and bay leaves, and return oxtails to the pot, along with the cubed left-over beef, if using. Add the broth and raise the heat to a boil. Then, reduce heat to a simmer for 60 minutes.

In a separate pot, bring four cups of water to a boil and add barley. Simmer for 30 minutes and drain.

Remove bay leaves, oxtails and thyme bundle from pot. Add barley and simmer for 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

 

Kristi LeBlanc is an executive recruiter based out of Denver, Colorado, as well as  a writer, author of the award-winning book, Living with Certainty, speaker, and mom.

How do you become inspired and motivated to approach your life and career with the utmost purpose, productive action, passion, and positivity? The defining characteristics of the most successful, fulfilled, and joyous individuals — including top-flight executives, entrepreneurs, and championship team players — are about far more than the leadership style they’ve adopted or the persona they’ve assumed in order to assimilate more effectively into a particular organization and its culture. The actual qualities that make someone truly extraordinary are far more intrinsic to who they are as individuals and encompass myriad thoughtful, ingrained approaches to their life and career.

Many of the principles and precepts that create extraordinary personal lives should also permeate one’s professional approach if you are to live authentically and purposefully. The “best of the best” executive talent understands and integrates both personal and professional success principles, and they know how to assimilate and interchange these approaches throughout their lives in a way that unlocks and stimulates creativity, leverages passion, fulfills purpose, elicits development, and brings meaning. They do not reserve their deepest, most profound and strategic thinking only for work because those who live the most fulfilling lives don’t garner their joy merely from work – they thrive upon the totality of well-rounded lives and reap significant pleasure from both the professional and personal aspects of their lives.

How have they done this? Very simply, individuals who are extremely satisfied with their career progress, who are surrounded by family and other healthy relationships that bring forth their life’s greatest joy, and who live their lives with resounding positivity and meaning, typically took the time very early on to discover their life’s passions, purpose, and priorities. And since that time, they have kept these priorities defined, focused, and squarely in front them, providing guidance and clarity as they moved along their life path. They put the pieces of their life together so that their thoughts, actions, talents, relationships — even expressions of gratitude — remained centered around their deepest authenticity — who they are and what they are all about, whether they are on or off the “stage.”

50 Traits of Positive, Exceptional Leaders: The Real Career Success Tools

  1. They understand the immense, overarching importance and necessity of figuring out their life’s purpose. They have carved out time for this significant contemplation, and consider the understanding of what they are on Earth to do and accomplish to be the most useful discovery of their life. They are committed to the expression of their purpose, believing that the purpose of their life is, in fact, to apply their purpose every single day. Not surprisingly, the people who make life’s most significant discoveries and contributions are those who have embraced their unique gifts and have confidently, creatively expressed their purposeful authenticity in an imitable way. A life of greatness is a life of purpose. You are sure to wander aimlessly and build a life around the wrong targets (leading to inevitable feelings of emptiness, angst, and wanting down the road) if you don’t get very clear about your purpose.
  2. They are able to articulate with extraordinary vision and specificity what success means for them – how it feels and what it looks like in their life. They know where they want to have an impact, and they thrive on these feelings of accomplishment. They understand the types of experiences that will allow them to grow and experience meaning. Feelings of personal and professional “success” and fulfillment are important because they lay the foundation for creating true vocational fulfillment.
  3. They can readily separate the wheat from the chaff and get to the heart of the matter to focus on what’s important. They also know how to apply themselves to the most high-impact activities when they find themselves with prime work time. The sense of accomplishment they feel from these core work times fuels further action and keeps progress and momentum moving forward. When focusing on details, they don’t lose sight of the big picture.
  4. They have strong self-assessment skills and have unlocked and understand their intrinsic talents and gifts. Their time spent at work adds to their self-esteem because they are actively engaged in roles that leverage their strengths and interests and/or that allow them to develop. They have actively sought and utilized developmental feedback throughout their careers.
  5. They positively approach their thoughts in such a way that they intrinsically bring to bear their best self, making choices and decisions that help them remain in a purposeful, pure, dynamic, and positive flow.
  6. They don’t merely skim the surface of their lives. They dig in deep, and think profoundly and with the big picture in mind.
  7. They live and work deliberately and in the “here and now” moment. They maintain a “present” focus – not ignoring the past or future – but remaining engaged in the improvement of current actions and processes.
  8. They get extreme comfort and pleasure from their family and friends and understand that these individuals and healthy relationships are, in fact, the most important, enduring aspects of our lives and have so much to do with our life’s fullness and degree of happiness. (Just ask one terminated executive whether he made the right decision in neglecting his family/children for years for his job, and you’ll never have to wonder if it was the right thing to do again. If your family is, in fact, the most important aspect of your life, you will not allow them to be neglected. You will allocate time appropriately to both family and career.)
  9. They live principled lives of high moral character, integrity, and honesty. Their values permeate their personal and professional lives.
  10. They have a need to constantly self-actualize and achieve. While professionally they keenly watch the competition and are, indeed, competitive individuals always striving to win and be the best, personally they don’t continually waste time comparing themselves with others, as they tend to leverage their own strengths with the fullest force. They have discovered ways to feel acknowledged, needed, valued, positively challenged, responsible, significant, successful, appreciated, and encouraged at work which carries over to bring positivity to their personal lives.
  11. They possess an abundance mindset and believe that their effort and expression of their purpose will be rewarded. They don’t believe that there is a limited supply of reward.
  12. They feel good about themselves, are unpretentious and do not live or work from a place of massive ego. Because they live from a core of pure purpose and passion, they have solid self-esteem and solid footing.
  13. They treat others with dignity and respect expecting to earn the reciprocation like everyone else – one step, one interaction, one day at a time. They are ever mindful of the best interest of others.
  14. They set priorities based on their purpose and their life’s overarching goals. They have sacred boundaries drawn around certain activities and people that they do not cross. Their priorities are very clear which prevents feelings of bitterness from developing when they do have to make a sacrifice. They have a balance in their life that allows them to enjoy and take pleasure in personal and recreational pursuits. They have an internal equation and compass for how to divide their time. They have not sacrificed their personal lives for their career. They listen to their internal voices when they get out of balance and need to redirect their time.
  15. They are flexible as needed because they have their eye on a larger prize than just the hour, day, or even the week. They know that the external world will always be fundamentally unpredictable, but their firm dose of purpose – internal certainty about what they want and who they are – allows them to make the occasional shift or sacrifice.
  16. They understand the significant role that serendipity can play in our lives, particularly, when we are in our flow or zone, and they follow their instincts and hunch as they see fit.
  17. Money, prominence, and prestige are not their sole, or even primary, drivers. While they want financial stability and freedom, they clearly understand what brings them deep meaning and joy. They have not allowed their priorities to become completely skewed by building a life purely around financial success – this is one of the reasons that many wealthy executives eventually get to a place of inevitable unhappiness and not uncommonly want to make a late-career switch to a not-for-profit leadership role that might bring more meaning. Money and financial rewards serve as poor guiding lights with respect to our happiness and life satisfaction – and once you use them as your key goal, you find it harder to ever supplant them with more meaningful drivers. When your vocation is truly a part of bringing forth your most fulfilling life, it provides deep and lasting personal development, growth, service to others, contribution of your unique gifts, and achievement of meaningful benchmarks. It also brings appreciation, recognition, and acknowledgment from constituencies that matter to you — be it family, friends, a team, colleagues, or customers.
  18. They haven’t drawn a line or separation between who they really are – purpose, passions, spirit – and their vocation or career. They don’t feel as if they must abandon their true essence to go to work and get through the day. Rather they approach all aspects of their life with the fullness of their purposeful authenticity.
  19. They do not allow fear to hold them back. They are bold and are not afraid to take a risk, seize the moment, be different, think different, or express their individuality. Because they possess the ability to think deeply and strategically, they are not reckless. Their risks are thoughtful and calculated. They know that very often moving through fear and anxiety is how greatness is born.
  20. They possess the ambition to realize their fullest potential.
  21. They find their jobs to be fun and exciting – they like what they do professionally and they want to do it. They literally will get up earlier than necessary in the morning because they are excited to start their day. An amazingly small number of people are truly jazzed and energized by their jobs.
  22. They believe that the future is big, compelling, and great. They live with hope, optimism, and positivity. Their optimism, when combined with purpose, brings them to their goals, heightens their confidence in their capabilities, and inspires additional goals that further build upon their success.
  23. They are resilient through change as they accept change as a part of life and welcome the lessons change brings as an integral aspect of their intended personal growth and development. They keep their eye on the prize/big picture. Life’s inevitable changes, challenges, and distractions are part of the cycle, and they don’t allow themselves to be sidetracked from taking purposeful action toward their goals. They don’t lose their hope and optimism.
  24. They feel that they are doing something for the greater good, beyond their professional demands.
  25. They feel immense gratitude for their good life. Nothing is taken for granted. They express their thanks and gratitude freely and frequently. They are grateful for all that they have and believe with no doubt, and with immense hope and optimism, that even better is on the horizon.
  26. They live without a victim mindset. They view themselves as capable, self-sufficient, and ready to lead.
  27. They take responsibility and don’t make excuses.
  28. They are hard workers who diligently and conscientiously apply themselves, personally and professionally. They never stop taking action to move forward. Even when they are tired, stressed, or anxious, they maintain a high level of effort and action. They are thorough, outstanding in their execution, detail-oriented, and the quality of their work is exceptional. They always go above and beyond.
  29. They want to leave a legacy that is significant and meaningful and that leaves the world a better place than they found it.
  30. They create and engage in traditions and celebrations, personally and professionally.
  31. They are life-long learners and are open to learning from anyone anytime. They admit when they don’t have the answers and proactively educate and inform themselves. They are always eagerly seeking further learning, development, and enlightenment. They never stop trying to move themselves to the next level. This approach to life keeps you moving forward; when aligned with purposeful action, you are an unstoppable force.
  32. They work to earn people’s trust knowing that trust-based relationships endure.
  33. They inspire confidence by not only knowing what to do, but through a willingness to jump in and take action themselves.
  34. They are strong mentors and get personal satisfaction from developing others, empowering them, and seeing them progress. They have also sought and utilized mentors and have surrounded themselves with an inspiring, supportive inner circle.
  35. They see things through and honor commitments rather than giving up or flitting from one thing to another.
  36. They expect tests and challenges to happen from time to time and face anxiety and challenges head-on while maintaining the greater perspective that irrespective of how dire the situation may seem, it will somehow stretch, grow, and serve them. They have perspective about life’s inevitable ups and downs, and face them with resiliency. They do not get sidetracked for long or sabotaged. They can be counted on to become their best self and best leader during times of challenge. They know that by kicking into overdrive to solve a particular problem, they will open new doors. They step into action, step into the moment, and proactively reshape and redefine the situation with authentic inspiration, confidence, resolve, strategic thought, and optimism. When faced with trials, their dreams and visions do not diminish, but rather grow more resolute.
  37. They are proactive about keeping to the path that feels right for them and maintaining their peak energy level and happiness. When they find themselves in bad situations, perhaps an ill-fitting role, culture, or supervisor, they figure the best way out.
  38. They take great pride in being good managers and leaders and garner significant personal feelings of reward from teaching, developing, and recognizing others, and also from fostering effective teamwork. They gain significant fulfillment from helping others to achieve, reach goals, and be their best selves. They truly want to positively touch the hearts and minds of others.
  39. They are strong communicators and relationship builders who take the time to develop deep, engaged, and meaningful relationships and to express interest in others. Even those individuals with a more introverted intrinsic nature take the time to cultivate relationships. They believe in the power of interconnectivity and respect the ability and potential contribution of others. They effectively team with others and excel in the communication and buy-in of collective mission, vision, and values. You cannot build a truly successful team and culture without leaders who are relationship builders. Our relationships — and how we cultivate and grow them – can make or break our careers and lives.
  40. They don’t carry unnecessary burdens and fret about the past.
  41. They tune out naysayers and armchair quarterbacks, never allowing the uninformed to take them off their course.
  42. They possess a keen awareness that they are setting an example for others in everything they say or do, in the vision they share, and in their demeanor. They roll up their sleeves and jump in whenever needed. They walk their talk.
  43. They care for and nourish themselves, physically, mentally, spiritually.
  44. They create and innovate.
  45. They have a sense of humor.
  46. They don’t waste a lot of time being offended, taking things personally, complaining, or fretting over who likes them or who doesn’t.
  47. They believe in their greatness, maintain a focus of excellence, visualize their success, and never stop dreaming and believing that all their driving desires will come to fruition. They live from a positive baseline. They expect success yet are undaunted (and may even be surprised) when things don’t come together as planned.
  48. They are completely self-motivated.
  49. They always celebrate success, big or small, knowing that supporting progress along the right path is as important as setting the right goal.
  50. They do not participate in negative energy-producing situations, including gossip and discussion of the trivial. They bring positivity in the face of negativity. They have full lives and realize that their full effort needs to be placed on the meaningful. When they do have time to unwind and relax, they do not focus on anything that carries negative, destructive energy.

The approach of the most purposeful, fulfilled and successful individuals teaches us the importance of living an integrated life that leverages your best, most profound and inate abilities and traits. Through discovering your purpose, and subsequently experiencing passion through the application and leverage of your unique gifts, you can experience new dimensions of yourself and begin to live with an underlying fulfillment, optimism, self-assuredness, confidence, and deep joy that you may have never previously known.

Living with Certainty
While clearly there is no one right way for everyone to live that carries with it the absolute guarantee of success and fulfillment, just beginning with the intention to create a more authentic, passionate, and abundant life carries power that can help to fuel productive action. Living with Certainty™ describes a process or template for uncovering your best self and beginning to live from a place of pure, purposeful positivity. This places you into your life’s optimal flow from which the fullest expression of your potential can begin to be realized. How you overlay the template to your own life, and the extent to which you attach the insight and meaning that subsequently emerges, is up to you. For some this process is intrinsic to who they are and how they live – they don’t call it “living with certainty.” Rather it is simply how they live their most authentic life. I have seen it time and again.

Living with Certainty™ can reveal to you a fresh perspective on your life and how you have up until now approached the discovery of your best self and your life’s purpose. This new lens can help you to understand how the path you have taken, for better or worse, has led you to the place you are today, and to chart a new course that will bring you ever closer to deeper meaning, fulfillment, and success (however you define that for yourself).

Kristi LeBlanc has spent over 15 years as an award-winning, retained executive recruiter with the globe’s largest, most prestigious executive search firms, including Korn/Ferry International where she was a Senior Partner. She is currently the Executive Vice President & Managing Director, N.A. Consumer Practice with DHR International, a top-5, retained, global executive search firm. She is also the author of the three-time award-winning book, “Living with Certainty: Experience Deep-Soul Joy,”  and the creator and CEO of Living with Certainty™ LLC where she is a corporate keynote speaker and organizational/personal consultant with a focus on developing positive leaders and positive corporate cultures. To learn more visit http://www.Livingwithcertainty.com, http://www.dhrinternational.com/consultants/consultantsviewbio.aspx?consultantid=329, or call Kristi at 303-997-9328.

“Work can provide the opportunity for spiritual and personal, as well as financial growth. If it doesn’t, we’re wasting far too much of our lives.” – James Autry

 

Serious, mainstream discussion about the power of pure, passionate, positive energy is becoming more prevalent everywhere I go – company/client meetings, schools and universities, health clubs, churches, book clubs, you name it. Organizations of all shapes and sizes are indicating a high need for an infusion of positivity throughout their ranks. Meetings, correspondence, water cooler talk, clients/customers, and overall corporate cultures are increasingly becoming infused with negativity in attitudes, demeanors, vocabulary, and rhetoric. Whether the context is personal or professional, pervasive negativity can sabotage all of your other efforts.

As an executive recruiter and business consultant focused on the recruitment of positive leaders, as well as on the development of powerful, positive corporate cultures, I have repeatedly witnessed first-hand the command and influence of pure, positive energy. Whether I am placing an individual into an executive role, or working with an organization to plant the seeds of a more positive, productive culture, the corporate need in this tough economy has been the same for several years: recruit the most positive, resilient, and inspiring leaders possible, and develop initiatives, programs, and job profiles that will engrain a more positive attitude — and more positive results –throughout the organization.

The collective consciousness, or culture, of your organization – its intrinsic values, attitudes, rhetoric, and behaviors — infuses the business and its employees. Positive, affirming corporate cultures are dynamic, energized work environments that proactively drive employee behavior creating better teamwork, and, overall, a more productive, engaged state of mind for all of your employees. Your leaders and managers set the tone for your organization’s culture. And if they are not putting forth a conscious, clear, and consistent effort to be positive these days, the slide will inevitably be toward negativity.

Through Thousands of Conversations…
In almost 15 years as a retained executive recruiter, I have had the privilege of interviewing and assessing literally thousands of the globe’s most successful, purposeful, passionate, fulfilled, and joyous individuals. A guiding, intrinsic positivity and passion for what they do are defining traits of the “best of the best” executives — their work is more to them than a job. It is also interesting to note that the executives in “transition” who tend to rebound the fastest — not only securing a challenging and personally fulfilling role, but building an impressive and lasting network along the way — are innately positive individuals with a strong sense of resiliency and faith that they will land on their feet. People – including potential employers – are attracted to them and want to be around them.

Defining Positivity
Specifically what constitutes positivity and positive energy as I describe here? Well, this is about a great deal more than merely smiling, posturing, cheerleading, or repeating positive affirmations. This has more to do with a palpable optimism, confidence, faith, encouragement, empowerment, vision, and resiliency in your interpersonal and communication skills, values, beliefs, actions, demeanor, relationships, expressions of gratitude, and overall leadership style.

Profound positivity and positive energy – the kind that carries with it the potential to transform lives and organizations — is substantial, inspiring, and contagious, even in the worst of times. It can’t be faked. It is intrinsic to who you are and how you live your life, personally and professionally.

And it all starts with feeling passionate and purposeful about what you do.

If you are in a leadership role, ask yourself: Do my thoughts, choices, emotions, attitudes, approaches, actions, and belief system all positively align every day in the pursuit of my passion and potential? Does every day bring for me the opportunity to optimize my greatness and success? It is through the daily, personal application of an integrated, positive alignment between your purpose and passion with your thoughts, actions, beliefs, and expressions of gratitude that you will create a life of great reward and fulfillment.

The Power of Living All Aspects of Life with Positive Energy
Despite the depressed economy and market conditions, there are those people and organizations that are not merely surviving, but thriving. According to a Stanford Research Institute study, 88 percent of success is about attitude and only 12 percent is about education. Those people who live and work from a baseline of pure, passionate, positivity live fuller lives and enjoy myriad other benefits, including improved health, affirming personal and professional relationships, enhanced joy, productive choices and decisions, effective leadership, greater resiliency, enhanced professional accomplishments and success, and more effective problem-solving abilities.

Your ability to maintaining a positive mindset in both your life and work is a determining success factor, particularly in the toughest of times when so many people are being asked to take on added responsibilities and work longer hours. Everyone has felt the pressure brought on by restructuring, downsizing, upside down life-work balance, external uncertainty, and reduced budgets. The repercussion of these business adjustments is a resultant pervasive attitudinal and cultural slide toward apathy, pessimism, and outright negativity.

The demand for positive leaders has never been greater. You will always be challenged and tested, and an innately positive mindset serves as the bedrock of an iron will and the ability to prevail. To live a truly productive life and have a successful career, you must consistently rise to the occasion when faced with adversity, roadblocks, or negativity. Yet finding individuals, teams, and organizations that have at their core an unwavering positivity is rarer than one might think.

Without the internal fire provided by living and working everyday with purpose and passion, you won’t have the fuel to keep moving forward in the toughest of times. This is the secret of life-long positivity, fulfillment, and joy: irrespective of your specific circumstances, if you first believe that your own life has purpose, you follow your passions, and you live with an abiding faith and perspective that a master plan exists for your life and its inherent lessons, then you tap into a self-actualized personal power and internal certainty that empowers every aspect of your life, including your career.

What Does It Mean to Live with Certainty?
I am frequently asked to define what it means to “live with certainty.” It means that the internal faith, belief, authenticity, purpose, passion, and positivity with which you live ignites an internal certainty, power, and influence greater than any fears or anxieties you may have. Self-actualized, high-achievers live and work each day with purpose, passion, and gratitude which serves to further fuel their positive attitude and productivity. Positive leaders understand that while they cannot control every aspect of their lives, they can control their mindset and attitude. They possess an unyielding faith and confidence in their vision and ability to ever-create a better future, personally and professionally. They trust in themselves and their abilities. Pessimism and negativity are not part of their mix.

Make no mistake; this is not the Pollyanna-Sunnyside view of life. Rather, it’s one of the most profound and effective ways to “cowboy-up” — when things get tough you must have the positive belief in yourself and your ability to prevail to get back up, dust yourself off, and keep trying. And as a leader, you must model this approach for your employees every single day.

Positivity as Key Leadership Trait
In this challenging business environment, positivity as a key leadership trait is a highly sought after attribute that is increasingly finding its way into every job description I write. Increasingly, when I am retained to replace a senior executive, it is because the incumbent was not a transformational conveyer of positive belief within the organization, but rather was perceived as entirely focused on the financials, unapproachable, overwhelmed, overstressed, and underwater.

Positive leaders generally tend to be more motivated and productive than less positive individuals. They inspire others with their belief and faith in a better future in a way that is contagious. A truly positive leader first believes in the grand potential of his/her own life, which only then can transfer to his/her career through the expression of a passionate and achievable vision for their company, employees, and customers. Whether personally or professionally, the positive leader believes that he/she will successfully tackle the next challenge, climb the next mountain, make that next sale. 

Your goal as a leader should be to uplift the beliefs of your employees. As a leader you establish your personal style and “brand,” in part, based upon the level of positive energy in your actions, reactions, vision, beliefs, interactions, relationships, progress, and expressions of gratitude. If you truly want to set yourself up for the next big job or promotion, begin by being the most positive, optimistic, faith-fueled visionary in your organization, particularly during the most challenging times.

Without question your demonstrated belief that you can succeed in a down market will go a long way in bringing out the best in others. This belief should be palpable in everything you say and do, so that when you do have to make the tough calls, your employees will have greater trust that your actions are in the organization’s best interest. The great contributors and great leaders have the ability to remain optimistic and fueled by positive energy even in the worst of times. Particularly when the going gets tough, they maintain positive energy through an optimistic attitude that they control much of their destiny and the best is yet to come, as well as an unflinching belief in a greater purpose which inspires powerful action.

The level to which you feel and express positive energy will directly affect the depth of your relationships and, as a leader, the ensuing level of respect and credibility you receive. Throughout my career working with organizations of every size and sector, I have witnessed the tremendous impact one positive leader can have on an organization. This is especially true with sales leaders where it is said that a lack of positive attitude plays a role in the failure of up to 50 percent of all salespeople. If you can’t successfully overcome rejection and navigate the left turns, hurdles, and roadblocks, you’ll never really understand your own resilience and personal power (or inspire anyone else), nor will you achieve your greatest potential and success.

Do you as a leader, or do the leaders in your organization, understand the impact you/they have on the beliefs, confidence, and goals of your employees? Do your employees believe that you care about them? Do they find you to be inspirational and positive? Do people love working for you? Do you have a reputation for bringing out the best in others? What you personally believe and project — and the limits you set — are contagious and affect the degree to which your employees actually engage and feel loyalty toward you and your organization.

Positivity Begets Positivity
I know for certain that positivity begets positivity. As you extend the best of yourself and release positivity into the world, you invite more positive energy into your life, and goodness will ensue. I recently heard Oprah Winfrey say that you must believe that great things can happen in your life. When you are the recipient of goodness or positivity, recognize it, give thanks for it, and hold it in your heart. And then with every opportunity – how you live, how you give, what you do, and who you are, release that goodness and positivity back out into the world as it was given to you.

I look forward to sharing more with you in the months ahead about the power of positive energy and how to inject more of it into your relationships, leadership and team-building approach, and corporate culture. Whether in your career, family, school, sports team, or church group, you can become the positive difference-maker who characteristically reveals your best self and shines. The results will be inspired and engaged family members, children, friends, co-workers, team members, and customers who will in turn feel unleashed and inspired to allow their own best selves to shine. This is the stuff that transformation and success are made of. I invite you to become an active participant in my Positivity Blog — strategies for life and career — by sharing your comments at http://www.livingwithcertainty.com/blog.

Kristi LeBlanc is the Executive Vice President and Managing Director, N.A. Consumer Practice with DHR International, a top-5, retained, global executive search firm. She is also the author of “Living with Certainty: Experience Deep-Soul Joy,” which was named Best New Non-Fiction Book of 2010 by USA Book News,  and the founder and CEO of Living with Certainty ™ LLC where she is a workshop presenter, keynote speaker, and organizational consultant with a focus on developing positive leaders and positive leaders and corporate cultures. To learn more visit http://www.dhrinternational.com/consultants/consultantsviewbio.aspx?consultantid=329,  http://www.Livingwithcertainty.com or call Kristi at 303-997-9328.

Work can provide the opportunity for spiritual and personal, as well as financial growth. If it doesn’t, we’re wasting far too much of our lives. — James Autry

In this still-challenging business environment, so many executives and leaders are faced with one pressing issue after another. It makes it easy – even seeming like a necessity – to forge ahead with little regard for what can seem like some of the “softer” skills and considerations. Achieving the goal is what matters the most for many hard-nosed, hard-charging leaders,  but you have to remember that for the long-term the journey matters as much as the short-term goal.

Given the state of the US (and world) economy, the new generation of employees, and the current slide toward negativity in life and in so many organizational cultures, one of the worst things you can do as a leader is to disregard the importance of relationship-building and gratitude-sharing. The bold, driven leader without a strong EQ and personal touch may achieve short-term goals quicker than others, but now more than ever we need leaders who can create real and sustainable success. We need leaders who are positive and who care about people. We need leaders who are process-driven communicators with strong values and strategic visions who are in it for the long-haul. Just because you can take the hill faster than others does not make you the strongest, most effective leader. It means you are hard-charging, and sometimes that’s all it means.

Organizations now must work harder than ever to create cultures of positivity and achievable, engaging goals for all employees. No one should feel left behind. Make people feel that they are an integral part of the process or you’ll lose. You’ll lose their hearts, minds, loyalty, commitment, and effort. Where to begin?

Stabilize Employee Mindsets Through Appreciation– Most effective way to do this? Show them that you appreciate them, their effort, and their contribution. Let them know beyond any shadow of a doubt that their contribution matters and is important to the organization’s success, both short- and long-term. If they aren’t feeling the love, so to speak, they are vulnerable to jumping ship. And this is the last thing you want your most positive, purposeful employees to do right now. These employees are at a premium. When was the last time you said, Thank you, to an employee? When was the last time you gave someone the proverbial pat on the back? A phone call, note, or email can go a long way in letting employees know that you’ve noticed their contributions and you appreciate them. Who can you empower, inspire, motivate, encourage, and appreciate today? Or better yet, how many people can you empower, inspire, motivate, encourage, and appreciate today?

Let Employees Know You Care About and Respect Them as Employees and People – The added dimension of employees feeling that you care about them as both employees and individuals is important to keeping them engaged and putting forth optimal effort. It makes them feel that you respect them and that, in turn, will allow them to have more trust and faith in you. If you are charged with building a team and stabilizing turnover, you are well advised to let people know that you care if you want their trust. Show a personal interest in each individual. It has long been known and shown that potential is unleashed when we show people that we care about and believe in them.

Engage Employees Through Dialogue, Soliciting Their Feedback, Relationship Building, and Corporate Story – Sterile working relationships with one-sided, top-down “dialogue” do not engage employees, let alone garner their commitment or unleash their potential. If you only engage with employees on a passing, surface-level basis, only occasionally paying attention to them or conversing with them, you can rest assured that they will disengage from their jobs and from the organization. They need to be hearing from you and interacting with you consistently, including messages about the organization’s corporate story. Stories are one of the most effective ways for you to engage employees in the company, its goals, and the role they play in the big picture. The organization’s mission, vision, and goals need to be constantly reinforced through your ongoing efforts to develop significant relationships with each of your team members and should be reinforced through corporate storytelling. Yes, policy, procedure, and formal feedback are important communication points – that goes without saying. But, you also need to take some time to develop the personal side of your relationships, while also incorporating your corporate story to reinforce their role and importance. Learn more about Corporate Storytelling.

Bottom line – make a more proactive effort to engage with your employees if you want greater loyalty, commitment, positivity, and productivity. Show them you care. Show them you appreciate their effort. Show them respect. Listen to them. Solicit feedback. Take time out of your busy schedule to dialogue with them. Provide mentoring and development. Celebrate wins.

Very basic stuff – Yes. But being done far less today than one would ever expect. It’s the first step in creating more positivity within your ranks.

Serious, mainstream discussion about the power of pure, passionate, positive energy is becoming more prevalent everywhere I go – company/client meetings, schools and universities, health clubs, churches, book clubs, you name it. Organizations of all shapes and sizes are indicating a high need for an infusion of positivity throughout their ranks. Meetings, correspondence, water cooler talk, clients/customers, and overall corporate cultures are increasingly becoming infused with negativity in attitudes, demeanors, vocabulary, and rhetoric. Whether the context is personal or professional, pervasive negativity can sabotage all of your other efforts.

As an executive recruiter and business consultant focused on the recruitment of positive leaders, as well as on the development of powerful, positive corporate cultures, I have repeatedly witnessed first-hand the command and influence of pure, positive energy. Whether I am placing an individual into an executive role, or working with an organization to plant the seeds of a more positive, productive culture, the corporate need in this tough economy has been the same for several years: recruit the most positive, resilient, and inspiring leaders possible, and develop initiatives, programs, and job profiles that will engrain a more positive attitude — and more positive results –throughout the organization.

The collective consciousness, or culture, of your organization – its intrinsic values, attitudes, rhetoric, and behaviors — infuses the business and its employees. Positive, affirming corporate cultures are dynamic, energized work environments that proactively drive employee behavior creating better teamwork, and, overall, a more productive, engaged state of mind for all of your employees. Your leaders and managers set the tone for your organization’s culture. And if they are not putting forth a conscious, clear, and consistent effort to be positive these days, the slide will inevitably be toward negativity.

Through Thousands of Conversations…
In almost 15 years as a retained executive recruiter, I have had the privilege of interviewing and assessing literally thousands of the globe’s most successful, purposeful, passionate, fulfilled, and joyous individuals. A guiding, intrinsic positivity and passion for what they do are defining traits of the “best of the best” executives — their work is more to them than a job. It is also interesting to note that the executives in “transition” who tend to rebound the fastest — not only securing a challenging and personally fulfilling role, but building an impressive and lasting network along the way — are innately positive individuals with a strong sense of resiliency and faith that they will land on their feet. People – including potential employers – are attracted to them and want to be around them.

Defining Positivity
Specifically what constitutes positivity and positive energy as I describe here? Well, this is about a great deal more than merely smiling, posturing, cheerleading, or repeating positive affirmations. This has more to do with a palpable optimism, confidence, faith, encouragement, empowerment, vision, and resiliency in your interpersonal and communication skills, values, beliefs, actions, demeanor, relationships, expressions of gratitude, and overall leadership style.

Profound positivity and positive energy – the kind that carries with it the potential to transform lives and organizations — is substantial, inspiring, and contagious, even in the worst of times. It can’t be faked. It is intrinsic to who you are and how you live your life, personally and professionally.

And it all starts with feeling passionate and purposeful about what you do.

If you are in a leadership role, ask yourself: Do my thoughts, choices, emotions, attitudes, approaches, actions, and belief system all positively align every day in the pursuit of my passion and potential? Does every day bring for me the opportunity to optimize my greatness and success? It is through the daily, personal application of an integrated, positive alignment between your purpose and passion with your thoughts, actions, beliefs, and expressions of gratitude that you will create a life of great reward and fulfillment.

The Power of Living All Aspects of Life with Positive Energy
Despite the depressed economy and market conditions, there are those people and organizations that are not merely surviving, but thriving. According to a Stanford Research Institute study, 88 percent of success is about attitude and only 12 percent is about education. Those people who live and work from a baseline of pure, passionate, positivity live fuller lives and enjoy myriad other benefits, including improved health, affirming personal and professional relationships, enhanced joy, productive choices and decisions, effective leadership, greater resiliency, enhanced professional accomplishments and success, and more effective problem-solving abilities.

Your ability to maintaining a positive mindset in both your life and work is a determining success factor, particularly in the toughest of times when so many people are being asked to take on added responsibilities and work longer hours. Everyone has felt the pressure brought on by restructuring, downsizing, upside down life-work balance, external uncertainty, and reduced budgets. The repercussion of these business adjustments is a resultant pervasive attitudinal and cultural slide toward apathy, pessimism, and outright negativity.

The demand for positive leaders has never been greater. You will always be challenged and tested, and an innately positive mindset serves as the bedrock of an iron will and the ability to prevail. To live a truly productive life and have a successful career, you must consistently rise to the occasion when faced with adversity, roadblocks, or negativity. Yet finding individuals, teams, and organizations that have at their core an unwavering positivity is rarer than one might think.

Without the internal fire provided by living and working everyday with purpose and passion, you won’t have the fuel to keep moving forward in the toughest of times. This is the secret of life-long positivity, fulfillment, and joy: irrespective of your specific circumstances, if you first believe that your own life has purpose, you follow your passions, and you live with an abiding faith and perspective that a master plan exists for your life and its inherent lessons, then you tap into a self-actualized personal power and internal certainty that empowers every aspect of your life, including your career.

What Does It Mean to Live with Certainty?
I am frequently asked to define what it means to “live with certainty.” It means that the internal faith, belief, authenticity, purpose, passion, and positivity with which you live ignites an internal certainty, power, and influence greater than any fears or anxieties you may have. Self-actualized, high-achievers live and work each day with purpose, passion, and gratitude which serves to further fuel their positive attitude and productivity. Positive leaders understand that while they cannot control every aspect of their lives, they can control their mindset and attitude. They possess an unyielding faith and confidence in their vision and ability to ever-create a better future, personally and professionally. They trust in themselves and their abilities. Pessimism and negativity are not part of their mix.

Make no mistake; this is not the Pollyanna-Sunnyside view of life. Rather, it’s one of the most profound and effective ways to “cowboy-up” — when things get tough you must have the positive belief in yourself and your ability to prevail to get back up, dust yourself off, and keep trying. And as a leader, you must model this approach for your employees every single day.

Positivity as Key Leadership Trait
In this challenging business environment, positivity as a key leadership trait is a highly sought after attribute that is increasingly finding its way into every job description I write. Increasingly, when I am retained to replace a senior executive, it is because the incumbent was not a transformational conveyer of positive belief within the organization, but rather was perceived as entirely focused on the financials, unapproachable, overwhelmed, overstressed, and underwater.

Positive leaders generally tend to be more motivated and productive than less positive individuals. They inspire others with their belief and faith in a better future in a way that is contagious. A truly positive leader first believes in the grand potential of his/her own life, which only then can transfer to his/her career through the expression of a passionate and achievable vision for their company, employees, and customers. Whether personally or professionally, the positive leader believes that he/she will successfully tackle the next challenge, climb the next mountain, make that next sale. 

Your goal as a leader should be to uplift the beliefs of your employees. As a leader you establish your personal style and “brand,” in part, based upon the level of positive energy in your actions, reactions, vision, beliefs, interactions, relationships, progress, and expressions of gratitude. If you truly want to set yourself up for the next big job or promotion, begin by being the most positive, optimistic, faith-fueled visionary in your organization, particularly during the most challenging times.

Without question your demonstrated belief that you can succeed in a down market will go a long way in bringing out the best in others. This belief should be palpable in everything you say and do, so that when you do have to make the tough calls, your employees will have greater trust that your actions are in the organization’s best interest. The great contributors and great leaders have the ability to remain optimistic and fueled by positive energy even in the worst of times. Particularly when the going gets tough, they maintain positive energy through an optimistic attitude that they control much of their destiny and the best is yet to come, as well as an unflinching belief in a greater purpose which inspires powerful action.

The level to which you feel and express positive energy will directly affect the depth of your relationships and, as a leader, the ensuing level of respect and credibility you receive. Throughout my career working with organizations of every size and sector, I have witnessed the tremendous impact one positive leader can have on an organization. This is especially true with sales leaders where it is said that a lack of positive attitude plays a role in the failure of up to 50 percent of all salespeople. If you can’t successfully overcome rejection and navigate the left turns, hurdles, and roadblocks, you’ll never really understand your own resilience and personal power (or inspire anyone else), nor will you achieve your greatest potential and success.

Do you as a leader, or do the leaders in your organization, understand the impact you/they have on the beliefs, confidence, and goals of your employees? Do your employees believe that you care about them? Do they find you to be inspirational and positive? Do people love working for you? Do you have a reputation for bringing out the best in others? What you personally believe and project — and the limits you set — are contagious and affect the degree to which your employees actually engage and feel loyalty toward you and your organization.

Positivity Begets Positivity
I know for certain that positivity begets positivity. As you extend the best of yourself and release positivity into the world, you invite more positive energy into your life, and goodness will ensue. I recently heard Oprah Winfrey say that you must believe that great things can happen in your life. When you are the recipient of goodness or positivity, recognize it, give thanks for it, and hold it in your heart. And then with every opportunity – how you live, how you give, what you do, and who you are, release that goodness and positivity back out into the world as it was given to you.

I look forward to sharing more with you in the months ahead about the power of positive energy and how to inject more of it into your relationships, leadership and team-building approach, and corporate culture. Whether in your career, family, school, sports team, or church group, you can become the positive difference-maker who characteristically reveals your best self and shines. The results will be inspired and engaged family members, children, friends, co-workers, team members, and customers who will in turn feel unleashed and inspired to allow their own best selves to shine. This is the stuff that transformation and success are made of. I invite you to become an active participant in my Positivity Blog — strategies for life and career — by sharing your comments at http://www.livingwithcertainty.com/blog.

Kristi LeBlanc is an Executive Vice President with DHR International, a top-5, retained, global executive search firm, and is based out of Minneapolis and Denver. She is also the author of “Living with Certainty: Experience Deep-Soul Joy,” which was named Best New Non-Fiction Book of 2010 by USA Book News,  and the founder and CEO of Living with Certainty ™ LLC where she is a workshop presenter, keynote speaker, and organizational consultant with a focus on developing positive leaders and positive corporate cultures. To learn more visit http://www.dhrinternational.com/consultants/consultantsviewbio.aspx?consultantid=329,  http://www.Livingwithcertainty.com or call Kristi at 303-997-9328.

Work can provide the opportunity for spiritual and personal, as well as financial growth. If it doesn’t, we’re wasting far too much of our lives. — James Autry