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Invisible Boundaries

Invisible Boundaries – A poem by Jessica Tietjen

We may have escaped and broken free

From the cage that we could see

But beyond the cage lies an invisible boundary

A boundary and barrier that are hidden carefully

This boundary, this barrier was created intentionally

To keep us trapped and stuck within

Unable to escape, to move beyond where we have been

To believe that we are finally free

When in reality we just can’t see

We can’t see the ways we are still trapped

Trapped by our own ability to adapt

Adapting to the hidden limits that appear natural

When really their benefits are actually unilateral

Their benefits only for those who create and keep them

To prevent us from seeing and bringing mayhem

For those who want us to believe we are free

That we should be happy and carefree

When in reality we are bound by this invisible line

Only able to see glimpses when we are not blind

When we are not blinded by their stories and illusions

The tales they tell of our freedoms and delusions

That our desire for more than what we have is unreasonable

That what we ask is unspeakable, unachievable, & inconceivable

That we already have all that we could possibly need

That we’ve been blessed with what’s already been agreed

And to ask for more only demonstrates our greed

We are free to vote, work, speak, own, and breed

What more do we need?

How dare we believe our voice carries weight

That our answer of “no” should stop rape

That our opinions and views might be considered first-rate

That we have the ability to change our own fate

How dare we ask for more protection

From abuse, rape, incest, and molestation.

That the actions were not the result of our instigation

That blaming the victim is just a deflection

How dare we want to be trusted and believed

For others to hear and witness how we were aggrieved

To believe our stories of being hurt and deceived

To recognize the pain, we’ve endured and received

How dare we demand retribution for crime

For abusers and rapists to receive adequate time

To prosecute and punish these crimes full-time

To recognize these crimes all the time.

How dare we demand equal pay the work we perform each day

For our superior, exceptional work, they consistently downplay

To receive the same recognition and opportunities in the workday

To speak of our success and not stay out of the way.

How dare we ask for more time after our babies are delivered  

For the time we need to recover, nurture, heal and not be withered.

To be paid enough money to afford to take time

And not be forced to stop working or go part-time.

How dare we demand to feed our babies with the milk we create

For the time we need to adequately acclimate.

To be given the time and necessary break

For pumping our breasts while you patiently wait.

How dare we ask to return to our jobs without a set-back

For the ability to continue and keep our careers on track

How dare we need something different in terms of support

For the opportunity to prevent our careers being cut short

How dare we demand better choices for childcare

For money, time, and access to places with quality care.

To ensure children grow up safe and unharmed

To allow us to focus on work and not be concerned or alarmed.

How dare we demand and need quality maternal medical care

For the doctors, medicine, pre- and post-natal care

To prevent unnecessary death of new mothers everywhere

To monitor for depression without judgement and with due care.

How dare we need empathy and support for what we’ve endured

For care and compassion and to be reassured

To have our concerns heard and not obscured

To get what is truly necessary in order to be cured

How dare we think our experiences with pain should be heard

For our stories to be accepted not twisted and blurred

To know that our mental health is more than just a catchword

To receive mental and spiritual support for all we’ve endured.

How dare we demand crazy not be how we are defined

For the traumas we’ve carried in our heart, body, and mind

To provide real care that can heal all of humankind

To receive compassion for how we’ve been maligned.

How dare we want to decide with our mind about our body

For we are more equipped than anybody, everybody, and somebody

To decide what we need given our unique situation

To be free to choose without damnation.

How dare we demand the right to decide

With our doctor’s advice as our guide

For the right to decide what happens to our bodies on the inside

For the right to decide who will live and who will die

For no one should have to make this decision, this choice

But the only answer lies in the patient’s voice  

How dare we want to be considered in decisions of the court

Even though we were never even considered at the start

That at the time we were little more than a life escort

That our perspectives and opinions did not require support

How dare we demand that our voices should be heard

That our opinions and needs are not absurd

That although we’ve been quieted, we’ll have the last word

That we have the roar of a lion, not a little lovebird

How dare we…

But do we dare?
Will we dare?

What will we dare?

After more than 200 years, we’ve not yet remedied these atrocities

For to remedy these wrongs, we must admit their inadequacies

That they did not know then what we know now is true

That the world they created failed to consider another point of view.

That when they made their decisions and when they began it

That they did not consider the perspective of half the beings on the planet

And in this decision, they created a world inherently broken

Which now requires that we become outspoken.

Will we dare to believe that our voices can be heard

That our needs and demands are not absurd

That we must rise up, see, and speak to the invisible

The barrier they pretend isn’t real or visible

But somewhere deep down we all know it’s there

We all feel this hidden and invisible barrier

When we start to push beyond what we’ve known

We feel the boundary hold us as real and hard as stone

If we want to truly expand into our rightful place in this world

We must destroy the invisible boundaries created by our old world

By destroying these limits we’ll transform the world for the best

A world where our daughters will not be oppressed.

If we want to finally make this world right

We must accept our role in this special fight

We must step into our power and light

We must fully accept our birthright

Our right to be considered fully for the unique ability of childbirth

Our right to be seen, heard, valued, and demonstrate our worth

Our right to protection anywhere on earth

Our right to change the world and initiate a re-birth

Our right to stand side by side as equal beings on this earth

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@evolvingtoexceptional by Jessica Tietjen
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My New Journey

The time has come for me to make a very big announcement about my future and I felt sharing the events that led to this new journey was important to understanding my decision. 

How it started…

Throughout 2020 I experienced the emotional pull on my heart, felt by so many, of the challenges the world is facing today. By Christmas, I felt a nudge and had a strong desire to write a book – a desire that couldn’t be ignored. In the Spring, I was feeling the overwhelming effects of the loneliness created by the pandemic and went on Meetup to look for ways to connect. I ended up finding the “Voices of Women Summit” and being a guest speaker at the Summit. While watching the other speakers – one stood out – one had a clear message that felt like it was just for me – her name is Keira Poulsen. Keira is a coach who supports women writers and helps them to publish their messages and bring them in the world. Keira shared her own experience with writing and her passion and purpose – the discussion was magical.

https://www.keirapoulsen.com/

By April 2021, I had written a few thousand words and knew what the book needed to be about, but I was totally lost on the process and publication. Most of the advice I received was – to write the book, find an agent, and then try to get a publisher. Then, I remembered Keira and reached out to her – this decision was one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life. Keira’s approach is spiritual and one of support, guidance, and encouragement. She provided me all the steps and tools I needed to successfully write and publish my book.

How it grew…

Through the coming months, the book came through as if it were meant to be written, because certainly it was! The knowledge was based upon my learning and experience, but the examples, analogies, and stories were clearly divinely inspired. The book I wrote has a message for the world – a message desperately needed – a message that we can all live exceptional lives and the knowledge to do so is readily available to us!

The book – “The Exceptional Life R-Evolution” is meant to provide people with a practical guide to reach peak performance and create exceptional experiences in our workplaces, homes, and communities. We are meant to evolve our performance to reach our peak and, in doing so, we can live better lives, exceptional lives. If enough people choose to do so, we can create the exceptional life r-evolution! I knew in my heart and soul it was time for an evolutionary revolution – so as humans we can and will live exceptional lives – lives filled with success, joy, happiness, and peace.

The shift in my heart…

As I completed the book, I felt a nudge, a pull, and ultimately a calling I could not ignore to move my life in a new direction. I attempted to quiet and ignore the calling – because I felt quite attached to my current life. I have loved the company, Experitec, which I have worked at for over ten years and dedicated my life to it’s becoming and staying an exceptional workplace. Many of the Experitec employee owners are like family to me and I have been totally committed to helping them live their best possible life, an exceptional life, and for Experitec to be a part of it. I strongly believe workplace experiences must be exceptional if people are going to have exceptional lives – the workplaces impact our personal life and vice versa. My passion and purpose were to make this a reality at Experitec, and we did it! Experitec was recognized three times as a Gallup Exceptional Workplace Award Winner! I was also blessed to be able to do accomplish everything working with the most phenomenal, committed, and talented team of employees – every day was a joy working with them!

The decision…

Unfortunately, due to a variety of factors, challenges, and the incessant ringing of the call I continued to be pushed and pulled into an entirely new direction. I made the very difficult and heartbreaking decision to separate and move on from this company I have loved and devoted myself to in order to accept God’s call for me to do something different in my life. Despite my best efforts to remain, God is not one to be ignored and he continued to send messages and direction that gave me little choice but to accept. As a result, I have made the decision to pursue a new career – God’s new direction and plan for my future. I have been called to help more people live exceptional lives and this calling includes serving in a variety of ways.

Working with Workplaces to become Exceptional

First, I want to help more businesses become exceptional workplaces just like I did with Experitec. I especially want to partner with businesses who can’t afford a full time VP of HR or Talent Management but want to achieve taking their good or great business and become exceptional! I will apply the same practices and strategies I created that helped make Experitec a phenomenal business and company to work for and with. I will create customized programs that incorporate the business culture and current practices and partner closely with internal resources providing coaching and support. Successfully becoming an exceptional workplaces happens with time, commitment, and intentional effort by all leaders and employees. And it is entirely possible no matter your size, location, or industry.

Women, Inclusion, and Workplace Respect

Second, I want to focus on the challenges associated with inclusion in the workplace. Specifically, I will coach and support women who are interested in or growing into leadership positions. I know from personal experience the talent and capacity many women have for leadership – but many don’t receive the same support, coaching, and advice as their male counterparts. I look forward to making an impact in increasing the number of ready female leaders in the workplace. I also hope to partner with organizations who truly want to change their cultures and create greater inclusion. The workplace of the future is inclusive – and the sooner businesses start working on it the better!

Providing Corporate Resources to Individuals

Third, I want to help individuals who don’t have the same access to training and development as those in the corporate world. I want to provide them the tools, knowledge, and strategies to reach peak performance in any role they perform – especially the roles we perform at home and in our communities. These roles are often overlooked, and individuals are left trying to figure out what to do, how to do it, and most don’t even know how many resources are available to help them.

The Official Launch of Evolving to Exceptional!

To achieve these objectives, I am launching my new business Evolving to Exceptional which will provide consulting, coaching, training, and support services to businesses, families, and communities. I believe this new business can make a major difference in the world today for all those who seek to live a better life, their best life possible, an exceptional life!

In my new book, I share my 90-year-old grandmother told me with a smile on her face and tears in her eyes “I lived an exceptional life” and I want every person to feel the same when they look back on their life. What will you say when you look back on your life? Will you think, “I lived an exceptional life?” I truly believe we can change the world if we just focus on changing our performance in it – and I hope to start the Exceptional Life R-Evolution in the process.

To the Experitec Employee Owners

I know Experitec has all the tools, strategies, and approaches necessary to continue to be an exceptional workplace. I am hopeful the leadership team will continue to foster these practices and maintain the amazing culture Experitec has always had. I will always consider myself part of the extended Experitec Family and will remain available to everyone for support, advice, and guidance in the future. Although I will miss Experitec, the employee owners, and especially those I worked closely with very much – I am very excited about what I will be doing in the future. I know God’s plan for me will allow me to make an even bigger impact in the world.

What comes next…

My new book will be available officially on October 10, 2021 – make sure to get on my list so you can get it right away! I promise you will be impacted by its message in ways you can’t even imagine. Sign up Today! If you want a sneak peak of the first chapter sign up here: Free First Chapter!

If you want to stay connected and continue to hear more about this journey and what I am doing to transform lives – get on my email list, follow me on social media (@jessicatietjenjd) and stay in touch! I already have more in the works coming soon!

For anyone out there interested in learning more about Evolving to Exceptional and the offerings we have available you can reach me at contact@jessicatietjen.com

The Journey is Just Beginning

As I say in my book, we each climb many performance mountains throughout our careers – they each look different – for me I am about to embark on my new journey and plan to enjoy and embrace every moment! I am passionate about helping people to live exceptional lives and I look forward to making a difference in the world! 

Speaking Truth to Power

Believe me when I say I know. I know how hard it is. I know how intimidating it is. I know how overwhelming it is to even think about speaking truth to those in power. And the further from power you are the scarier it becomes. Despite the difficulty, we all must speak up, speak out, and speak our truth when those in power are making choices, decisions, and practicing behaviors that are harming us or others.

Why is it so important that you speak your truth? Let me tell you why

Reason 1: Limited Perspectives

First, we must acknowledge that not everyone has had the same experiences or sees the world from the same perspective. Or more importantly, sees the world from the same valuable perspective that we bring based upon our unique experience in the world. Although sometimes this is intentional, often times it is simply unconscious and the result of living a life without the challenging experiences we’ve had in our lives. By speaking up we give those in power the opportunity to consider a perspective different than their own. A perspective which they may never otherwise hear and a perspective that may in some cases change their behavior, decisions, choices, and actions. By giving those in power the opportunity to reconsider their perspective and take action with the knowledge of your truth and unique perspective, you are providing them the benefit of the doubt that when given the chance they will take action to remedy the situation.

Reason 2: Ignorance or Indifference

The next reason we must speak truth to power is that without this truth those in power can remain ignorant or even indifferent to our experiences, our challenges, and how their choices, decisions, and behaviors are impacting us negatively. Without direct knowledge, without hearing directly from someone who has experienced a particular challenge those in power can choose to ignore, pretend, and sometimes even believe that there is no problem, that there is no challenge, and that no one is experiencing anything different than what they themselves see and experience. Even when they have knowledge or suspect there is a problem or there is some frustration or there is some challenge without people speaking the truth it is possible for it to remain silent and ignored.

Reason 3: Your Health and Well-Being

When we withhold our truth, holding it back, burying it inside of us, and failing to speak our truth, experience, or challenge to power – it sticks. Each time it sticks to us, it wears us down and it causes us to carry extra weight. And although at first it may seem insignificant, as those weights pile up, because inevitably without change they will, their weight begins to impact us. To cause harm to our mind, body, and spirit. Those who have suffered the consequences of holding in a truth that needed to be shared know firsthand the suffering, the pain, and the struggle that comes as a result. Even if speaking our truth does not bring about change, even if it causes pain and change in our life, speaking out and speaking up allows us to release the weight and allows us to be free of the experience. Living in an environment where we are being harmed, where we are unable to speak and be our authentic selves, and where we can’t speak our truth – hurts us far more than staying silent ever will.

Reason 4: Change is Essential

Even if we feel like we can carry the weight, like we are strong and can tough it out. Like we can live in an environment even if it causes harm, even if it causes us frustration, even if it causes us to cry or scream on a regular basis. Even if we feel and believe these things, if we fail to act, if we fail to speak, change will never come. The same behaviors, the same frustrations, the same experiences, will continue not just for us but for everyone like us who has experienced something similar. Where power is either actively causing harm or ignorant to the harm that exists the only way it will ever change is if enough people have the courage to speak up and insist change is necessary.

Reason 5: Your Truth Matters

Whatever your truth is, whatever your experience, whatever your challenge, whatever has happened that needs to be spoken – it matters. It is important, you are important, your experience what you have to share and bring into the world matters and is worth sharing. I know you probably think you’re alone; I know you probably think it’s only your truth and others aren’t struggling. I know you think you don’t want to be a bother. You think I don’t want to cause drama. I don’t want to risk my job. I don’t want to risk what people will think of me. You are not alone! Others are certainly struggling. You are never a bother because you matter. Speaking your truth, speaking up when harm is being done is not drama. Drama is unnecessarily talking about other people and things that can’t be changed. Standing up against anything that is causing you harm is not you creating drama, it is you standing up for yourself. Your truth matters even if it causes you to lose your job. I know that is hard for many they rely upon their jobs. But there are laws to protect you, to allow you to speak up when unacceptable, inappropriate, or offensive behavior is occurring. We never control what other people think of us but what truly matters is what we think of ourselves. How would you feel if you were able to stand up for yourself, if you were able to truly speak your truth?

Reason 6: Your Life Matters

As much as we grow attached to our experience, safety, and the comfort of whatever environment we exist in, our life and living it fully is far more important. When we step up, speak out, and share truth we run the risk that our life will change. It may change for the better or it may change in ways that make our lives more challenging. But if we don’t speak, we will continue to exist in a life weighed down with truths we cannot share unable to change the experience for ourselves or others. Living an exceptional life, living your best life possible, a life filled with joy, happiness, and success is not only possible, but also absolutely essential. However, so long as we are stuck hidden and holding back our truths, so too will we struggle in our lives. Instead, as we speak our truth, as we stand up for ourselves by speaking up and speaking out, we demonstrate that our life matters. Our experience, our perspective, who we are as individuals is also important. We are more than just a number, we are more than just a widget in a machine, we are people, and we deserve to be treated as such.

Conclusion:

We each will make our own decision of when and how to speak our truth. I know it’s hard. I know it’s overwhelming. I know it’s complicated. And I know that when the time is right, when you are ready to put down that weight, you will step up and speak out your truth and the challenges you have faced. You will speak this truth to power and as a result, things will start to change.

If you look around, they already are changing. Many have already begun. They are speaking up, they are saying no, and they are changing the world one truth at a time.

You may have recently caught on the news the Afghanistan women protesting outside of the government. This image demonstrates to me that no matter the risk, no matter the consequence, sometimes speaking our truth and standing up for what is right must come first. And if these women can do it. If these women who know the severe consequences they will likely suffer as a result by the Taliban can do it then certainly those of us in far less dire situations can do likewise.

When you are ready, when the time is right, when the weight is too much to bear, when you know change is needed, I know you will speak your truth. And when you do, take heart – there are many who have gone before and many more who will go after you! You are not alone! You are joining those who stand for truth!

Changing the World one truth at a time!

Journey of a Working Mother Feeding Babies!

In honor of world breast-feeding week I want to take this opportunity to speak on the topic of the many challenges of being a new mom, especially a mom who is balancing breast-feeding while going back to work! My breast-feeding journey over the last five years has been interesting. My journey started with my son five years ago and he was great at nursing. I started working hard at pumping extra milk for when I went back to work – which meant even less sleep – I would pump in the middle of the night after nursing.

Unfortunately, I made the decision to go back to work (to a leadership meeting nonetheless) at six weeks and subsequently developed mastitis. I actually developed mastitis twice while nursing my son – both times following leadership team meetings. Coincidence I think not! Pumping was a really big challenge for me as a member of the leadership team. I tried to squeeze it in during the breaks of our leadership meetings but 20 minutes to pump meant no time for bathrooms, drinks, or even taking a breathe. Then, I tried to travel, I brought a pump and tried to pump and store the milk, even pumping in bathrooms! It was so stressful. With my son I made it nine months and thankfully, probably for both of our sakes, he was no longer as interested and we were able to end that journey pretty peacefully. I was pretty content with the length of time I made it and I had enough pumped milk to help him stay on breastmilk through a year, just out of a bottle.

Fast forward three years later and my journey of breast-feeding twins begins. You want to talk about a complete game changer – nursing twins is a complete game changer compared to a singleton! (Singleton is what Twin moms refer to when you have only one baby – a term you only learn when you have twins!) I remember being in the recovery room after my C-section and I could see both of my girls were rooting like crazy they were desperately looking to nurse. I looked at my doula and the nurse and I said “they’re hungry aren’t they?” And they both looked at me with “YES!” I really wasn’t ready but I knew what I needed to do and I knew I needed to bond. With the help of my doula and nurse (remember I can’t move I’ve just been cut open across my stomach and still numb waist down) both babies get latched on. I was in the recovery room tandem feeding (feeding at the same time) two brand new 38 week baby girls.

Now some might find that to be a disgusting image. I, on the other hand, find that to be a oh hell yes image because that is hard, really freaking hard to do! My stomach was just cut open from side to side, my organs moved around, I’m still recovering from all of the drugs that were put into my system in order to do that, and I’m breastfeeding these two brand new baby girls.

The next four days were kind of a roller coaster the girls were nursing well and but there were still two of them. I continued to tandem feed them and if I had not I might never have survived those first four days. Everyone was so impressed at how good we were doing – I was barely surviving but putting on the brave face. There were some challenges early on with whether the girls were getting enough milk or enough colostrum to get to the level that they needed to on whatever the tests where. I can’t even remember what they were anymore but we were testing them regularly and doing everything we could to get them where they needed to be so that I wouldn’t need to supplement with formula. I wasn’t exactly sure why but I felt very strongly and intuitively that they needed to keep getting breastmilk. Call it mothers intuition but it felt very, very important at the time.

After four days in the hospital it was time to leave. I barely was discharged because of the postpartum answers on the post partum quiz. I was really struggling, I was really tired, it was taking a lot of energy to feed two babies and recover my body at the same time. I cried all the way home in the car just overwhelmed, exhausted, and worried.

Then we started the round the clock tandem feeding of two babies. All I can say is that it’s a blur. I don’t remember much those first four weeks other than extreme exhaustion, not really having time to bond, or hold the babies much because all I was trying to do is feed them. The doctor wanted me to pump after each feeding adding to the exhaustion – they were slow to gain back their birth weight. I tried to sleep as much as I could and get the nutrients that I needed. It was most literally the hardest job I’ve ever done. And keep in mind I went to law school there was a time where I studied for the bar and I only slept four hours a night to maximize the number of hours in the day I had to study, to prepare for the bar and that was nothing compared to what I went through with nursing twins. During those early weeks I suffered pretty severe post-partum depression, with intrustive thoughts, and extreme exhaustion. Thankfully my husband was home the first four weeks (score one for businesses who provide fathers parental leave – 2 weeks per child), he saw it, recognized it, and got me help and medication.

Then things stabilized for a while, until it was time to start trying to get back to work and I realized pretty quickly that I could not pump enough milk to make up for what my twins needed to get while I was gone. To add complexity my daughter Scarlett was refusing the bottle so when I was gone she would not get anything which meant it was up to me to get back to be able to feed her. When I finally did get them both to take bottles and ultimately after 4 months of extreme exhaustion and trying to get back to work, struggling to get back to work, I realized that something had to give.

I decided I would try to supplement with formula to reduce some of the stress and takeoff some of the pressure on pumping. This is when I discovered my initial gut instinct was 100% correct. Unfortunately formula did not provide a reduction in stress, in fact, it made things substantially worse. You see, it turns out my girls both have something called FPIES, food protein intolerance, which causes them to get violently sick from dairy. Each time we tried to give them formula a little bit of time will go by, and then they would start projectile vomiting for probably over an hour.

At one point, we weren’t sure quite sure of the cause yet and were trying different formulas. My husband decided to give both both babies formula while I was at work. Almost immediately they both started projectile vomiting everywhere. My husband was texting me ‘you’ve got to come home you’ve got to come home.’ Needless to say I was a little (or a lot!) upset that we decided to do both babies at once, again, while I was trying to work, in order to test the latest formula. I knew yelling at my husband would do no good and he looked at me and said ‘I’m so sorry this was all my fault’ and I said ‘yes it was I’m not gonna yell because there’s no point.’

Next we had to get the full official diagnosis from the many doctors and appropriate medical professionals required to get this diagnosis despite already really knowing what it was. Then, we had two choices continue to try different formulas like soy or try to continue to breast-feed and look at what other options existed for trying to get breastmilk to supplement with. The problem with the first option was that those formulas do not taste good, especially when compared to breastmilk, so in order to get the babies to take the formula I would’ve had to stop nursing them. I did not wanna do that I just wanted to supplement, I just wanted a break, I just wanted to not worry about how much I was pumping when at work, or when I was away from them.

I started on my journey to look what other options existed for getting breast milk and one of my friends from high school messaged me after seeing one of my Facebook posts and told me how she had donated breastmilk to another mother through a human milk for human babies Facebook group. So I join the Facebook group, took a chance and posted that I was looking for milk for my twin five-month baby girls. And something amazing happened, I got milk from three different mothers. One of them provided me with multiple batches of milk that she overproduced for her son. I am eternally grateful to these women. I couldn’t imagine that other women would even do that until I experienced it and that gift was tremendous for my babies. As a result I was able to keep nursing and we had the extra breastmilk to supplement with so that the babies could get enough milk as we continued on through our journey with breast-feeding.

I was not able to make it back to work in the office until January 2020. Once I did, I got braver than I’ve ever been in my whole life. I decided that I would try the Elvie pumps and I would pump while in meetings, while doing training standing at the front of the room, speaking to employees training them on topics as I was pumping breastmilk. I was so proud of myself. No one knew (except my employees) no one could tell it was just tucked inside and I was able to continue on and not be hooked up to a pump in my office unable to do the things that I needed to do, unable to participate in the meetings that I needed to participate in, and unable to be an effective performer in the job that I so loved and wanted to do.

After finally making it back to work you all remember March 2020 when COVID hit and we all went home and frankly that might’ve been the best thing for my journey with my babies because being at home meant that I could easily step away for 20 minutes feed them and come back to a meeting or even listen to the meeting while feeding them. And I can tell you there were times where I was tandem feeding my nine-month-old twins holding my phone over their heads responding to conversations on leadership meeting calls providing my input, providing my perspective, all while feeding my babies.

Given my babies challenges with formula and transitioning to other milks it took a while to transition them. Ultimately they transitioned to ripple which is a pea protein milk and so my breast-feeding journey continued until the girls were 18 months. I never in my wildest dreams imagined breast-feeding twins until they were a year and a half old and doing so lovingly, joyously, and seeing them grow healthy and happy. But I made it I made it through all of it. I made it through the early days. I made it through getting back to work. I made it through coming home and nursing regularly in between my responsibilities. And I made it through the final transition when my babies stopped nursing.

All of the pain, all of the clogged ducks, the mastitis, the fevers, the exhaustion, the self-sacrifice, that goes into breast-feeding is one of the most transformative experiences I’ve had in my life. The choices that I made or simply the choices I made in my life situation. I am grateful that I was able to make them and I’m grateful that I was able to do the things that I was able to do. And I’m even more grateful for the other women who helped me to do what I needed to do for my babies.

I also want to say there’s no wrong way to feed a baby. In fact, if I had been able to feed them formula that probably would’ve been much easier than what we went through. Any way that works for you, any way that works for the mom, is the best way whether that’s breast-feeding, whether that’s pumping and bottle feeding, whether that’s formula, whether that’s donated breastmilk, whatever your situation is, however your baby gets fed is the best way!

I want to conclude by saying for those mothers, especially working mothers, who are trying to balance wanting desperately to breast-feed their children, wanting desperately to still perform their job, you are not alone. It is hard as hell, it is overwhelming, it is exhausting. But you are strong, you are amazing, don’t give up, do what works for you, and trust yourself. Trust yourself to know what the right decision for you and your baby in that moment is for you! And don’t be afraid to put a pump in and pump in front of the room! You won’t be the first and you won’t be the last, we can do this, we can do this mamas if we do it together! I honor your sacrifice, your incredible role as a mother, and all that you accomplish in life as a result of this journey.

Keep on, Keepin’ on!

If anyone needs support, advice, or just words of encouragement – please reach out to me! I survived my journey with tons of support from other mothers and you need to know we are here to support you too!

The Coaching Conundrum

Conundrum: a confusing and difficult problem or question

In my upcoming book, The Exceptional Life R-Evolution, I talk about the importance of having experiences to learn, grow, and develop the skills necessary to perform our roles successfully. Even more importantly, to continue to improve and evolve how we perform our roles. When I talk about the roles we perform, I mean all the roles we serve: the role of wife, the role of mother, the role of parent, the roles we perform at work, in the world, and in our communities – every single role that we perform in our lives.

The challenges with performing all these roles is we all can’t be experts at everything. In fact, it is truly impossible for us to have expertise in how to perform at our best in all the roles that we actually are expected to perform. We can’t already have the wisdom and expertise necessary to perform them well without having had experience performing the roles. Do you see the conundrum? In order to get the necessary experience, to have the necessary expertise, to acquire the necessary wisdom, to do the role well, we need coaching from someone who, in fact, has already done the role. Someone who can provide us their expertise, knowledge, wisdom, and understanding coupled with their external perspective, advice, and guidance.

The coaching conundrum is that in most circumstances, we don’t have access to the coaching we need. Unless you are lucky enough to work in a workplace for an already great manager who can perform, coach, direct, lead, guide, and support you in your development and the performance of your role, you’re basically screwed. I know when I first started managing, I was awful. I did not provide my early employees the support they deserved in terms of helping to coach and develop them as employees. Now after more than 10 years of coaching, managing, and developing employees, along with additional skills development, training, and coaching for myself, I think I’m pretty decent.

But what if you have a new manager like I was who doesn’t know what they are doing or never got the necessary experience to be a good manager and coach? Or worse, what if you have a bad manager who has no intention of improving? And what about all the other roles we perform? Where do we get the coaching, support, skills, and guidance that we need in our roles at home and in our community? How do we find the right coach for the particular need that we have at a given moment in our career, in our lives, or in her personal journey?

I’ve recently been exposed to a whole new world of coaches, of guides, of healers, of leaders who provide support, guidance, experience, and expertise in many different areas. They exist, but most of us don’t even know to look for them until we unfortunately encounter a problem, issue, challenge that we’re trying to solve. Like when we encounter marriage issues, or child behavioral issues, or find ourselves needing to make a change in our careers – voluntarily or involuntarily. And it can be difficult to find the right person that fits for us. The person that can provide us the specific guidance and direction that we need in our life and our specific situation.

Which is why I think we need two things: first we need significantly more coaches, and then we need a better way to find the coach that will be a fit for us! In fact, I think even the coaches themselves need coaches. And the coach we need will change throughout our life. I may need a coach to help me with my marriage at one point in my life. Then, I may need a coach to help me write a book at another point in my life. I may need a coach to help me with my career or a coach to help me with my parenting. And at different times, I may need all these different coaches.

Recently on a journey to write my new book, The Exceptional Life R-Evolution, I was struggling trying to figure out how to get my book written. Then, I stumbled upon my own coach, a coach who specializes in helping women write books. At the same time, I started with a career coach, an Executive Leadership Gallup Strengths Certified Coach, who guides and coaches based upon how best to use the strengths of those they are coaching. Both these coaches have made a tremendous impact on my life already. In just a few short months, I’m finishing a book, I’m getting clarity with respect to my career, and I’ve grown in my knowledge, skills, ability to leverage my strengths effectively.

I recognize not everyone can afford a coach and the support they provide to help them in their roles. Which is why I wrote The Exceptional Life R-Evolution, to provide everyone the framework for how to think about their performance, evolve their performance, and reach peak performance in any role. As part of the book launch, I will be creating an open Facebook group, for anyone to join, share, give, and receive coaching! You will be able to share your experiences to help others and receive the experience others to help you! I hope it provides access for those who need it.

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What’s better for your career – learning new skills or to play golf?

Early in my career I remember distinctly having a conversation with a fellow employee about whether we needed to learn to play golf. We discussed getting lessons and even went one day to the driving range. You see, I work in the technology and industrial arenas where historically all the leaders, executives, and sales people play golf. In fact, my company is a sales organization and we even joke from time to time that sales people really only bring donuts and play golf! (As an aside, I know first hand this is completely false because my husband was in sales and I experienced his early mornings and late nights visiting customer sites!) One of my first senior mentors even shared with me he only learned golf so he could get access to power for his career!

But seriously, I’ve watched leaders in my industry play golf, make decisions while they played golf, hold work meetings playing golf, interview candidates playing golf, and attend conferences where everyone plays golf. I contemplated whether the time spent learning a sport that I had never previously played, other than hitting a few balls at the driving range, was worth the time investment. Intuitively I knew that it was, but ultimately, I just couldn’t justify that the time spent learning a sport was really that valuable to my future when compared to learning additional skills.

Instead I chose to learn those additional skills. I chose to get trainings, certifications, and keep up my CLE requirements for my law degree and bar license. As a result, over the last 10 years I’ve read hundreds of books, been trained in more than a half a dozen different major training curriculums, been certified to teach three of those programs, I’m a certified Gallup Strengths Coach, and I’m working on certificates in neuroscience and coaching. I’ve also created my own website, written a few articles, and most recently I’ve even written a book on all of the concepts I’ve studied over the last 10 years. (Keep an eye out for more on the new book coming soon!)

Despite all I have accomplished, I seriously wonder sometimes if I had only learned to play golf how much further would I be in my career? How many additional conversations would I have had? How many opportunities or doors might’ve been opened? How many relationships might I have been able to develop?

Surely all I’ve accomplished is far greater and more valuable than learning to play golf, right?

Honestly, I’m not really sure and will likely never really know. As long as workplace meetings, decisions, and relationships building activities occur in places where everyone is not invited, included, or cannot participate inevitably many will be left out of opportunities. Don’t get me wrong I don’t have a problem with golf my husband plays golf, my fathers plays golf, my mother plays golf, I have friends who play golf but why can’t it be just a game? Why does it have to be so closely tied to our work? Why does our ability to play golf have to impact our work experiences and relationships?

And if we want a sport to play and socialize why not pick one easier to learn and that allows more people to participate, even without learning it! What if workplaces adopted pickleball as the new golf? Pickleball is the fastest growing sport, anyone can jump on a court and learn to play within minutes, it’s outdoors, it’s social, any age can play, and it even includes ways to make it accessible for those in wheelchairs to participate!

I hope one day making a decision as to whether to learn a particular sport for the purpose of a career is no longer relevant. I hope one day what we bring to the table, what we learn, what we are capable of, what we are and can do are what drive our opportunities. I hope by the time my twin two year old girls and five year old son are in the workplace the question of whether to learn to play golf has nothing to do with their career. I hope they can choose to play golf or not based only on whether they are interested in and enjoy the sport. I hope their careers will be based on their skills and capabilities in the workplace and not on their ability to play golf.

I hope careers will be based on skills and capabilities in the workplace and not on the ability to play golf.

The Pandemic Pivot

Recently in a discussion with my sister, she said to me “I am having trouble moving out of pandemic mode.” You see, as a family we were particularly cautious. We have a number of family members, including myself, in the high-risk category which caused us to take a cautious approach throughout the last year of the COVID pandemic. As I and my husband completed our vaccinations, we began making changes– putting our kids back in school, going into our office, and I even ate at a restaurant. Each of these represented steps we were taking to begin to pivot from pandemic mode to a new mode of operating.  My sister, who gave up her job due to the pandemic has not yet begun taking these same steps in her family.

A few days later, I was talking to one of my employee teams and answering questions about returning to the office. One person asked me “What is the sense of Leadership? is there a deadline to return? How should we approach this?” I paused and the conversation with my sister came to mind. In answering her questions a few important thoughts came to mind which I think worth sharing and considering.

We all are going to go through a process of pivoting from pandemic life to whatever life is going to look like next. Everyone approached the pandemic differently – some continued with the same practices, some were moderately cautious, and others (like my family) were particularly conservative. I personally want to respect every person’s decision and choices. I encourage everyone to do the same in their interactions with others – coworkers, families, and friends.

Particularly in our workplaces as we come back together with our co-workers, we must be respectful of the various experiences people have had throughout the pandemic. Some may have lost family members, some may have suffered from mental health issues, and others may not have been impacted directly at all. Everyone is likely at a different point in the process of pivoting, and we need to be respectful and conscious of those differences.

I believe we all do need to begin considering how we pivot and adjust into this next phase of life. At Experitec, we have taken an approach which provides employees with this level of flexibility. For those with high concern, we have provided time for employees to get vaccinated before returning to the office. For those without concern, our offices have remained available for collaboration and working spaces.

Now, as individuals we must each start from a place of empathy and understanding in our interaction with others. Understand and respect different perspectives and experiences. For those who have been less restrictive – understand those who have been restricted likely have reasons for doing so. For those who have been restrictive – recognize others feel differently and creating conflict for past decisions is not unhelpful. We need to stop making how we treated or experienced or lived through the pandemic an automatic indicator of the persons beliefs, political affiliations, or thoughts on other topics.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

In conclusion, as you make your pivot from the pandemic to the next phase of life – start with understanding, resist judgment, reduce conflict, focus instead on learning from your interactions with others, and growing as a person. We all deserve, after the challenges of the pandemic, an opportunity to heal and transition to this next phase of life peacefully.

As always I welcome feedback, thoughts and comments!


Update: I am currently working on a book that will highlight the lessons we learned in the pandemic, how to processes them, and how these lessons when applied with a practical approach to performance can help us have exceptional work and life experiences!

Women’s History: Transforming How We Live and Work

I have been so busy the past few weeks I missed doing an actual post for International Women’s Day! On Monday March 8th, I was honored to participate in the Voices of Women Summit on Exceptional Workplace and Life Experience, Coaching, Vulnerability and Courageous Leadership. If you want to check it out here is the video!

Over the course of the past month, the challenges of being a working mom were particularly apparent. The first week of March, I was working to transition my twin 18 month old girls, Arabella and Scarlett, to Montessori School. I initially had a nanny when they were born but lost her due to COVID and they have been with my parents ever since. Thanks to the world of COVID, my girls have unfortunately had very limited interactions and experiences at this point in their lives.

The first morning we tried to leave them in the classroom – they lost their minds! I know this is normal, I know they will be ok, I know it will all be fine – but in the moment, as their mom, it ripped the heart out of my chest. As a mother, when I see my child screaming and crying for “mama” every ounce of my being screams at me to go to them and pick them up. I am not sure if this applies to all families – but my husband does not have the same reaction and is not impacted in the same way. As moms, I truly believe we have a unique and lasting connection with our children that is incredibly deep – I feel it at a cellular level. As a result, making the decision to send my children to school was tremendously difficult.

My girls first interaction at school!

I want to be clear – this is absolutely the right choice – I truly love and adore working and would not be the mom I am if I took care of them all day long. I love being a working mom. Because I love working, when I stop working, I am excited, energized, and ready to play with and enjoy my children. The weekends can be fun adventures where we enjoy and experience time with our kids intentionally and having fun on purpose. Even knowing it is the right decision for my family – the experience of sending them back to school brings me back to the reality of the challenges facing working women and the decisions we are forced to make. I feel the guilt of making the choice to work, to send them to someone else for the day, and to miss moments in their lives. I know from speaking with and connecting with many mothers I am not alone in this perpetual struggle making these decisions.

In the past month, I have met with all my employees about their future work preferences. These discussions made apparent to me another challenge – for two parent working families – the challenges with finding time. The time spent picking up/dropping off kids, the time after school lets out, the time with parents at the end of the day, time for doctor appointments, and time for all the unpaid work. What is unpaid work? We women (and some men) know it quite well – it is the six to twelve loads of laundry a week, cleaning the house, grocery shopping, making meals, ordering necessities, picking out birthday treats for school, shuttling to activities, and the list goes on! When both parents work – these activities can’t all be outsourced – they must be fit in around everything else that is happening.

One of the greatest blessings in the remote work world has been having more time – more time for unpaid work, more time for our families, more time for ourselves, and apparently even more time for professional work. My observation from these discussions is employees are more than making up for any lost time due to family (or other commitments) because working remotely has allowed the time to be able to do so. In a world where one family member is not carrying the full load of all the “unpaid” work, splitting the work between two working parents is significantly easier when we have workplace flexibility (time and location). The impacts are small but noticeable – the ability to move laundry throughout a workday, the extra sleep takes the place of the morning commute, the extra hour with children at the end of the work-day taking the place of the evening commute, the peace and quite of our homes as compared to the offices for reflection and self-care, and the list goes on.

As a leader, I believe strongly we can both produce tremendous performance results AND have exceptional life experiences with our families! However, in order to do so, we will likely have to rethink how, where and when we work. If we are able to make this transition, we will be able to achieve something truly great – the ability for employees to be exceptional in their work and at home.

Prior to COVID and during COVID (and maybe still today), many struggle daily with feeling like they are failing in both their work and family life. Women in particular struggle with feeling we can never achieve greatness at any one thing because we have to be good at doing so many things. We feel torn between our children and our careers. We struggle daily with the choices we have to make. As workplaces, leaders, and communities, we must begin to look at how we help people, and especially women, feel like they can be successful and ultimately be successful in both their work and family life (and not having to choose between them).

As Women’s History Month draws to close, I think it appropriate to reconsider how women might make history moving forward by transforming how we live and work. By engaging in meaningful discussions about the different experiences women and men have with working. By challenging long-held assumptions about how men and women should work, who should be responsible for the unpaid work, how and when that unpaid work is done, and how and when we interact with our families. By recognizing how changing our practices has and could continue to bring about tremendous value to our families, workplaces, and communities. We can craft a future which creates harmony between our work and lives allowing us to feel successful in both.

Many intelligent women have written about the challenge’s women face (e.g. Melinda Gates in The Moment of Lift; Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez) throughout the world. By comparison, the challenges I discuss here are quite small when compared to those in other places of the world. However, all change which improves the lives of women, and subsequently improves our families, workplaces, and communities, is good change and worth the investment of time and resources. Although, much work is still left to be done, I believe wherever and however we can do this work – we should. We have taken a step forward and I hope we are able to maintain that progress, however small it might be, and continue to improve.

Journey of a Working Mother Feeding Babies!

Every mother has a journey with feeding her babies – this is mine! In honor of breastfeeding week – I want to share my journey – the challenges, the successes, and the significant transformations! All mama’s need to know they aren’t alone and it is HARD!

The Coaching Conundrum

In order to get the necessary experience, to have the necessary expertise, to acquire the necessary wisdom, to do the role well, we need coaching. We can’t coach ourselves on what we don’t know and have never experienced!

International Women’s Day: Voices of Women Summit Jessica’s Session

Voices of Women Summit

https://voices-of-women-summit.heysummit.com/talks/exceptional-workplace-employee-engagement-women-in-leadership/

Description: As Leaders we must be courageous and willing to be vulnerable with the people we lead, by sharing our own personal experiences and challenges in both the workplace and our lives outside the workplace. This courageous leadership and vulnerability allow leaders to meaningfully connect with and provide better coaching for employees. Continually coaching employees cultivates a mindset of growth, high accountability, strengths-based development, and extraordinary performance. Employees who experience continuous strengths-based coaching and apply the principles to their careers and personal lives are more likely to achieve extraordinary performance. Extraordinary performance creates exceptional life experiences, workplaces, and ultimately stronger business results.

Due to the exponential changes in technology, the challenges in the world (particularly women in the workplace), and the rate at which we are experiencing change, navigating these challenges while fulfilling our desire to have a positive life experience is difficult.

Watch this session to learn more about: vulnerability and courageous leadership and why we all must be leaders in the future; how continuous coaching based upon strengths helps to achieve extraordinary performance; and why if we believe in our ability to achieve extraordinary performance we can create exceptional life experiences, workplaces, schools, and communities.

Buckle Up, Hold on, It’s Going to Get Bumpy

Technology has reached what we only imagined could be possible and is changing at an exponential speed.

How are we going to keep up with technology?

While participating in the Microsoft Ignite Conference this week, I learned about new technology that most literally blew my mind! I knew this technology was coming. I knew the future of work would eventually become the present. But I had no idea how close this was to reality. These tremendous and exponential changes to technology are coming at a time when the world has already shifted underneath our feet. The past year has transformed how we live – not just how we work. We all want to have the best life experience we can. This new technology can either enhance this experience or overwhelm our lives.

The two latest technology introductions Microsoft released are Microsoft Mesh and Micorsoft Viva. I recognize these are only just two examples of technology that is being released and updated at a rate multiple times what it has in the past but wanted to unpack a bit how a few specific examples are changing our world and lives. These examples could be expanded to include the tremendous and extensive technology that is most literally transforming our world at work and at home.

Microsoft Viva & Microsoft Mesh

Microsoft Viva is a set of tools to enhance the employee experience of the future and includes Connect, Topics, Learning, and Insights. This new technology has the potential to transform how we work and interact. It is based upon the Microsoft Teams platform and integrates these elements of the employee experience into the daily work of employees. As a Talent Management/HR leader, this is the true jackpot of new releases. These tools could transform how we connect, learn, grow, and execute our work.

  • Insights – will provide suggestions and the ability to manage your productivity and wellbeing.
  • Learning – will bring training and development into the Teams platform.
  • Topics – will enhance our ability to search for answers and information and better manage knowledge across the organization.
  • Connect – will bring all the information and resources employees need into one common location for easy access and information about what is happening in the organization.

All the Viva enhancements are incredibly valuable to the new hybrid workplace and will allow us to share information, collaborate, and learn no matter where we are working. As in most businesses we are actively considering our next steps with an in-office, remote, or hybrid workplace. I personally believe hybrid work, at a minimum, is the future of work. As businesses, we must look at these technologies and figure out how they will help us to do more meaningful and valuable work. As individuals, we must learn from our work practices and personal habits and consider how we best manage our lives to improve productivity and well-being or achieve, I like to use the term, Work-Life Harmony.

Microsoft Mesh (my mind was blown when I saw this) is the future of interactive experiences occurring virtually but with virtual reality. In other words, you can virtually transport yourself to the same space of those you are working with to see them, make eye contact, move around, and work or be together all from your own location. For example, the technology is going to allow surgeons in the US to support surgeons in Uganda! Can you imagine the various use cases and value this could bring to so many different types of applications? I knew one day this technology would be possible (we have seen it in movies for years) but I didn’t realize it would be happening now! Considering the use cases, the training, the infrastructure, and the need to adapt how we see the world in response to technology like this is a significant endeavor. However, if we can democratize its use and leverage the opportunity, we might truly improve this world and the lives of people in ways we never imagined.

Combining Technology & People Successfully

As a leader of technology, I am obviously biased to see all the possibility and think new technology is pretty cool. However, it’s more than just cool – it is going to be essential. How this technology and the people who will need to use it in order to get the best benefit come together successfully is going to be critical in the future. I’ve observed my teams of employees struggling (although ultimately successful) to change at the rate changes are being made. I don’t think we are going to be able to slow down the rate at which technology is changing and we are going to need to adapt in order to stay competitive as well as maintain a positive life experience.

How this technology and the people who will need to use it in order to get the best benefit come together successfully is going to be critical in the future.

Jessica

Next week I am speaking at the Voice of Women’s Summit for International Women’s Day on March 8th and plan to discuss what we need to do to navigate these challenges. We must all be leaders of ourselves and those we serve (in workplaces, homes, schools, & communities), lead with courageous leadership acknowledging the challenges we experience and continually coaching on critical skills for future performance. If we can do this well, if we can develop the necessary skillsets and capabilities to combine our human capacity with the latest in technology, we can and will achieve extraordinary performance. In doing so, we will create exceptional workplaces, schools, communities, and most importantly life experiences. Ultimately, if we can change and improve ourselves at the rate we change and improve technology we might truly have a life experience we value, find rewarding, and enjoy.

Note: The Voices of Women Summit is Free and if you can’t attend you will get access to the recording but you must register! See below for more details on my session.

If you would like to attend my session at the Summit please use this link to register: https://voices-of-women-summit.heysummit.com/?sc=0Oz1yaVa&ac=TUYn7E7O

Exceptional Workplace and Life Experience, Extraordinary Performance, Vulnerability and Courageous Leadership

As Leaders we must be courageous and willing to be vulnerable with the people we lead, by sharing our own personal experiences and challenges in both the workplace and our lives outside the workplace. This courageous leadership and vulnerability allow leaders to meaningfully connect with and provide better coaching for employees. Continually coaching employees cultivates a mindset of growth, high accountability, strengths-based development, and extraordinary performance. Employees who experience continuous strengths-based coaching and apply the principles to their careers and personal lives are more likely to achieve extraordinary performance. Extraordinary performance creates exceptional life experiences, workplaces, and ultimately stronger business results.

Due to the exponential changes in technology, the challenges in the world (particularly women in the workplace), and the rate at which we are experiencing change, navigating these challenges while fulfilling our desire to have a positive life experience is difficult.

Join this session to learn more about: vulnerability and courageous leadership and why we all must be leaders in the future; how continuous coaching based upon strengths helps to achieve extraordinary performance; and why if we believe in our ability to achieve extraordinary performance we can create exceptional life experiences, workplaces, schools, and communities.

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