Sunday, July 16, 2017

Developing and Sharing Your Talents

As a child, I started playing the violin at eight years old with my elementary school's orchestra. After a few months, I asked my mom if I could have private lessons in order to become a better violin player. My violin teacher growing up was Mrs. Helen Mendel, and during one of my violin lessons with her, she had me listen to a recording of a performance by Itzhak Perlman. I remember listening to his violin playing and being so moved by the sound he projected that I told my violin teacher that I wanted to play just like him one day. She responded to my ambitious goal by reminding me that in order to play like him that I needed to practice as much as he had in his lifetime.

Some background on how Perlman became one of the greatest violinists in the world - he started playing the violin at three years old, and just a few months later he contracted polio and lost the use of his legs. He now walks with crutches and performs while seated. Even though he has played in concert halls around the world, appeared on Sesame Street, done a solo performance for the movie Schindler's List, won 4 Emmy Awards, 15 Grammy Awards, and a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008, all of these accomplishments pale in comparison to his true passion which is to teach the violin to others.

He and his wife, Toby, founded the Perlman Music Program in 1993. Seven years later, they purchased an old 28-acre resort and made it into a campus on the shore of Shelter Island, New York. When the wind is right, the sound of music carries across the channel to Long Island's North Fork. Between tours, Perlman teaches at the Julliard School in New York. Perlman also has done several benefit concerts to end polio, a cause that is very close to his heart.

How did Perlman develop his violin talent? It might surprise many of you to learn that as a child, Perlman hated to practice the violin, but one day he asked himself "Why am I practicing the violin and what are my goals in practicing the violin?" This made him do a self-examination of his motives for practicing the violin. He soon realized that in order to become a better violin player, that he needed to change his attitude on WHY he was practicing the violin and HOW he was practicing the violin. He started to focus on practicing the violin with a purpose like creating a better sound or working on his intonation. The more he practiced the violin, the more he realized he had to be organized with specific goals each day of what he wanted to accomplish

His advice to his students is this, "If you practice something wrong-without knowing it-then you have to undo it by practicing even more." He tells his students that if they practice slowly and with true concentration, that they will be more productive in their practice time. This reminds me of the scripture Matthew 25:14-30 about the three servants who received five, three and one talents. I find it interesting that the servant who received five talents created five more new talents.

I admire those individuals in life who not only are willing to develop new talents, but are also willing to share their talents with others. In the Liahona Magazine October 1993, President Elaine Jack reminisces about her grandmother’s talents. "She made all the children’s clothes, knit their socks and mittens, milked cows, churned butter and sold it, raised chickens, ducks, and turkeys, was a counselor in the Relief Society, and gathered wheat.As hard as all that work she did sounds, is any less required of me? I don’t have to do the same physical things Grandma Low did, but I have to be just as industrious, just as compassionate, just as frugal, just as prepared for the winter as she was. This is my heritage.”

What experiences have you had in developing and sharing your talents with others?

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Saying "No" in Order to Say "Yes"

Last month, Angel Zimmerman (Managing Partner, Zimmerman and Zimmerman, PA) gave an excellent webinar on time management. If you missed it, you can catch the webinar here. One of the things I love about webinars - you can listen to the recording later if you over-schedule yourself and run out of time.

If you're anything like me, time is often a struggle. I personally always think I have more time than I actually do. "Oh, I can squeeze in just one more email before it's time to leave." And then I'm late. At one of my prior companies, my colleagues joked about Michelle Standard Time, which is precisely 2 minutes late to everything. Not the best way to gain a reputation. 

So how do we fight the urge to do just one more quick thing? One of the points Angel made in her webinar was the importance of saying "No." And the reason for saying no is that you want to say "Yes" to the next opportunity. Sometimes saying no can be difficult - perhaps you're a chronic over-achiever, or a deeply-rooted people pleaser; however, saying no to things that are less important actually gives you the freedom to say yes to the things you really want and need to do.

A couple years ago I read Greg McKeown's book "Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less" which addresses this very notion of the power of saying no. Greg asserts that by saying no to the wrong things, we have the time to pursue the right things. I actually read this book just prior to having my first baby, and it was the best book I read in preparation for motherhood. I felt freer to say no to unimportant tasks and focus on time with my brand new baby. And when I returned to work, I focused on the most important work items and let go of a multitude of unimportant tasks that would have taken more time away from my family.

Elder D. Todd Christofferson summed up these ideas about essentialism in his April 2015 General Conference talk:
Many things are good, many are important, but only a few are essential.
How has saying no helped you better focus on the essential things in your life?

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

How to Make the Most of Being Mentored

I am a strong believer in finding mentors to help you further your career. I have had two very influential mentors in my career that have not only given me great career advice, but have also involved me in consulting projects that they were working on where I gained valuable experiences. In both incidents, I approached them and asked if I could learn from them. I know it can be awkward asking someone to be a mentor to you, but it may not be as hard as you first think. The worst thing someone could say to you is that they do not have time to mentor you. Many other individuals are more than willing to help out when you come prepared to them with specific questions.

The first question you need to ask yourself is why do I need a mentor. What skills or skill set am I trying to develop in myself that a mentor can help me with?This is very important to define exactly what you are trying to gain knowledge in so that you do not waste your time or a potential mentor's time. May I also add here, that you might not know what you are missing in your skill set until you talk to a lot of different people asking them how they gained the knowledge you are seeking after. This might lead to different mentors at different stages in your life.

Personally, I wanted to be an Enterprise Risk Management consultant in 2009 and I knew that even though I graduated from the University of Utah in Environmental Risk Management, a somewhat related field, that I needed further knowledge in the evolving field of Enterprise Risk Management. So my solution was to seek after those individuals that had established themselves as experts in this field by either offering training to others or by the articles and books that they wrote on the subject.

When we turn to the scriptures, there are many examples of good mentoring. Jesus Christ was a mentor to us all. His mortal ministry is filled of examples on how we should keep the commandments as well as serve our fellow man. Proverbs 1:5 states, "Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance." This is a very insightful passage of scripture because it clearly states that when receiving words of wisdom from a mentor, we need to be humble to accept the advice given even if we ,at first, do not understand the advice.

Following the advice given to us by our mentor is equally important. Many times we do not fully comprehend what it will take to gain new knowledge. For years, one of my mentors emphasized with me the importance of observing those organizations that were successful at implementing an Enterprise Risk Management program. At first, I thought my mentor was repeating himself over and over again and where was the additional advice I so desperately needed to advance in my career. It is not until now, some eight years later, that I have realized the wisdom in his words. By observing many different organization's Enterprise Risk Management programs, I was able to understand what worked and what didn't in their Enterprise Risk Management programs. Only looking at one example was simply not enough for me to understand the process.

Currently, I am mentoring an MBA student at Westminster College. I also appreciate my MBA student being prepared for our meetings and giving me enough details on her project management assignment that she is working on this semester. I think it is very important to be appreciative of the time that a mentor is spending with you, so always be thankful for their time and work around their schedule. Also offer to help them out with a project they are working on. Any little bit of experience you can gain in a collaborative effort will pay big dividends in the future.

Have any of you had a positive experience with a mentor that you would like to share on the blog?

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Ordinary Women, Extraordinary Lives

If you haven't yet taken the opportunity to listen to or read the BYU Women's Conference addresses from our new general Relief Society leaders, I would highly encourage you to do so. (Find various ways to access their talks here. I'm quoting Sister Bingham in this post, but you won't want to miss Sister Eubank's keynote and presidency address and Sister Aburto's heartfelt talk.)

Many things that these powerful, faithful women shared are relevant to the purposes of this blog. For example, it's so clear that our leaders know our hearts and our struggles trying to figure out how to have balance in our lives and to make important decisions. Listen to these words from Sister Bingham
“Many of us have questions....What model should I choose as my own path? How can I express my individuality and develop my particular talents? What is the best timeline for me to pursue an education or further a career or focus on my family? What is my role in the kingdom of God on earth? How can I fulfill my divine potential? These questions can trouble our minds and hearts."
So often, we can be fearful in navigating these questions, but our leaders constantly urge us to be centered in the truth of our divinity and to trust God to help and guide us. 

I'm reminded of this quote from Elder Scott:
Throughout the ages, many have obtained guidance helpful to resolve challenges in their lives by following the example of respected individuals who resolved similar problems. Today, world conditions change so rapidly that such a course of action is often not available to us. Personally, I rejoice in that reality because it creates a condition where we, of necessity, are more dependent upon the Spirit to guide us....Therefore, we are led to seek personal inspiration in life’s important decisions.
Perhaps you remember Sister Beck saying something similar, specifically addressing the complexity of women's lives "The ability to qualify for, receive, and act on personal revelation is the single most important skill that can be acquired in this life."

There are no easy answers to the kinds of questions that weigh on our minds and hearts as women in today's complex, last-days, hastening-the-work world. But I, too, rejoice in the reality that we will never fully find our specific answers "somewhere out there." The most powerful women I know are those who are grounded in God and in their confidence in His guidance. Each of us has work to do! But for each of us, how that unfolds will be a little different. (Be sure to read Sister Eubank's keynote and how she explores the richness that comes from the combination of our unique gifts and missions in life.)

Again, here are thoughts from Sister Bingham:
The wonder of [God's] heavenly economy is that every single one of us can be spectacular because of our unique bundle of talents and abilities. Unlike the world, in His kingdom there is no winner’s platform that only has room for one or two. Each of His daughters has been taught and prepared and gifted premortally with marvelous potential to become a queen in the celestial kingdom.
And each of us has unique gifts and talents that God will use in His time and way to allow us to be instruments in His hands at this critical time in His work. In truth, there is no ordinary work when it is consecrated to and guided by Him.
So, what “extraordinary thing” will you choose to do? Choose something according to your available time and resources. “Do not run faster or labor more than you have strength and means … but be diligent.” Whether your “work of salvation” is largely in the home at this time in life or your influence extends to a global scale, or somewhere in between, the Lord is pleased with your efforts when you are focused on serving God’s children and the eternal goal of returning to Him as a “new and improved” version of your spiritual self. ~Sister Jean B. Bingham
I'm excited for this blog to be re-launched, and for us all to engage with each other as we seek God's help -- and each other's support -- in finding our personal places in God's grand plan and the hastening of His work.

How have you felt God's guidance in the unfolding of your extraordinary story? What helps you embrace your life where it is at the moment?

Monday, May 15, 2017

Welcome Back!

About a year ago, leaders and members of the worldwide BYU Management Society began to meet and discuss opportunities for a Women's Network within the society. Many of us (men and women alike) were enthusiastic about supporting women in their various endeavors, and we began discussing ideas to connect like-minded women globally.

We experimented with a few ideas and ultimately determined that a webinar speaker series addressing career and personal development would be the most effective method for reaching this large audience. We've had several fantastic speakers over the last year address topics such as finding balance, building a business, planning for flexibility, and challenges women face in their careers. However, the time limits of webinars don't allow us to address all of the questions and topics submitted by interested listeners, and thus we determined it was time to rejuvenate this blog.

The purpose of this blog is to connect women from all stages of their careers and lives to discuss personal, educational, and career development in the context of faith and moral, ethical leadership. We encourage thoughtful, kind discussion as we begin to address the myriad topics brought forth by women of faith across the globe. We hope you gain new insight as you follow this blog, as well as provide support to your fellow women seeking to learn and grow. In essence, we hope this blog can become a community of faithful women helping one another reach their goals.

We recognize that each of us has different goals and aspirations. President Nelson describes well some of the different qualities to which we can aspire:
The kingdom of God is not and cannot be complete without women who make sacred covenants and then keep them, women who can speak with the power and authority of God!
President Packer declared:
“We need women who are organized and women who can organize. We need women with executive ability who can plan and direct and administer; women who can teach, women who can speak out. …
“We need women with the gift of discernment who can view the trends in the world and detect those that, however popular, are shallow or dangerous.”8
Today, let me add that we need women who know how to make important things happen by their faith and who are courageous defenders of morality and families in a sin-sick world. We need women who are devoted to shepherding God’s children along the covenant path toward exaltation; women who know how to receive personal revelation, who understand the power and peace of the temple endowment; women who know how to call upon the powers of heaven to protect and strengthen children and families; women who teach fearlessly.
We hope that each of us can bring our different skills, interests, and aspirations to this discussion as we seek to improve together. What topics would you like to see addressed in upcoming blog posts? Leave a comment below.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Being Creative and Compassionate

In October 2008, President Deter F. Uchtdorf addressed the women in the Church with this quote, "He is a God of creation and compassion. Creating and being compassionate are two objectives that contribute to our Heavenly Father's perfect happiness. Creating and being compassionate are two activities that we, as His spirit children, can and should emulate."

I have thought about this quote often in recent weeks and reflected on how true it is. When I am doing something creative or showing compassion towards someone else, I feel so much happier in my life. There are so many disruptions in each of our lives that pull us away from these two truths. Yet this is divine insight for all of us on who are Heavenly Father truly is. He is our Creator and the Father of our spirits. His greatest joy is to see us progress in this life through our own creative endeavors and through our compassionate service towards others. If you see life in that perspective, the rest of our challenges and trials seem quite moot.

What have been your experiences with being creative and compassionate?

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Staying Home, Staying Connected: Keeping networks and skills active while at home full time

This is a loose compilation of thoughts and ideas from women who were involved in the Women in Business conference who have stayed home and been deliberate about keeping an active network and résumé and skill set along the way -- even in simple and small ways.

Ideas for Keeping an Active Network

- Create and/or maintain a LinkedIn profile (update at least once a year, even if you only alter a line or
two to reflect volunteer/service opportunities). Try to connect with people you know from school, from
former jobs, and from other settings.

- Keep business cards in your purse (or diaper bag!) with your contact information (e.g., email and LinkedIn information).

- Find joy in learning about others -- at church, at the park, at the school, at the store. Practice getting out of your comfort zone. Where appropriate, ask for business cards and/or how to connect with them through social media. Spend a little bit of time occasionally reaching out to a person or two with whom you have connected in this way.

- Look for ways to connect people you have met with others who might benefit from knowing them. Networking can be as much about helping others as about helping yourself.

- Look for online groups in LinkedIn, on Facebook, on blogs, etc. with people with similar interests/
backgrounds. Read discussions occasionally; have a goal to comment as well.

- If possible, allocate the time and financial resources to attend a conference (or two) every year (or

- Get involved with your local Management Society chapter.

- See if there is a professional organization in your area that meets together. Attend a meeting on

- Connect deliberately with other women who are in your similar stage of motherhood. It’s important to build that kind of support network, too. (As you do, you may also find other women interested in business/ professional development!)

- Practice talking in positive terms about yourself, your motherhood, your choice to stay home, and your
interests in business. Be prepared with what you want to say when people ask, “What do you do?”

Ideas for Keeping Skills and Résumé Current

- If you haven’t finished your degree, keep that goal in your sights. It’s often easier to finish earlier than later. But later is better than never. And timing is always best guided by God.

- Define what skill set you have developed through education and past experience (your own “core competency”) as well as what skills you are using in church callings or other service opportunities (e.g., volunteering at schools). Ponder what talents and skills you feel God may want you to develop or use.

- Practice talking about your skills with others. (OR, decide what kind of skill set you want to build and try to do some of the below with that goal in mind.)

- As you network with others, look for simple opportunities to offer your skills or time (even a couple of
hours once a month/quarter/year volunteering to help with a defined project, fundraiser, activity, etc. can
give you some experience and exposure). This can also be to create opportunities to associate with those
from whom you may want to learn some skills.

- Consider finding a mentor in your area of professional competency/interest. (BYU's Alumni Database
is a possible resource, as is the Advisory Board list on the Marriott School Website.)

- Shadow someone for a few hours who is in your area of professional competency/interest.

- Subscribe to (or regularly read) relevant industry publications, even if only online. There are also many groups on LinkedIn, on Facebook, on blogs, etc.

- If you don't already have one, consider a subscription to The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, or other reputable news/business magazine or newspaper. (Or read from such sources online.)

- If relevant for your profession, keep up continuing education credits or licenses (or at least know how to do that if the need arises).

- Consider resources like TED or Khan Academy for resources for skill- and knowledge-building.

- Again, if possible, allocate time and resources to attend an occasional conference as part of your family calendaring and financial planning. (Or if you can’t attend, read conference proceedings, etc.)

- Include your mothering skills and needs in your efforts to “keep skills sharp.” There are a multitude of resources available (books, free online networks and resources, conferences, etc).

- Take a class (one-time class, a college class, an online class).

- Teach a class or mini-class (e.g., community education, church activity, classroom presentation)

- Find ways to include your children in volunteer or other efforts, and/or focus “on the side” endeavors in ways that correspond with and support them in their current stages of life.

- Enjoy learning with your children, and teach them things you may be learning along the way.

- Look for ways your family might be able to share some experiences that could also build up your résumé (e.g., family service project to support a local non-profit).

- Write regularly, whether in your journal, on a blog, in a family letter update, or just on your computer in a word processing program about topics that interest you. When you send emails, look for opportunities to practice using good business communication skills.

- Look for opportunities to also practice oral presentation skills at home and elsewhere. (e.g, Teach your children how to use PowerPoint and practice giving presentations to each other.)

- Attend an occasional LDS Employment Services seminar on topics such as résumé building or interviewing skills.

General Thoughts

- You’ll be more effective at staying connected if you are first effective and deliberate about your choice to stay home. Honor this season; be bold and positive about your motherhood (and be patient with the process of learning that goes along with this role). The confidence that comes from being grounded and focused with regard to your eternal roles will show in everything else you may do, and can prevent doing things for the wrong reasons (think of Sister Beck’s recent comment about the risk of doing things to “escape” covenant responsibilities).

- Consult often with God and with your spouse. Ponder words of the prophets, scriptures, and your patriarchal blessing for guidance as you consider what gifts and talents to develop/use, and how/when/where to use them, and as you consider how goals to skills and networks active may play a role in your family’s emergency preparedness plans.

- Embrace the concept of times and seasons. There may be significant periods throughout your mothering where you feel all your time and energy needs to be spent focused on your family. There may be other times when you feel prompted to give some attention to education or professional development. Sometimes there may be a mixture of the two. (Again, personal revelation is key.)

- Be willing to revisit decisions and time/energy allocations frequently. Life and family dynamics can and do change regularly. Also, remember that children often can't (or won’t) vocalize their needs; be sensitive to how your decisions create much of their reality.

- Be aware, brutally self-honest, and deliberate about how you spend your time. It’s easy to waste time when bored, tired, stressed, etc. Be precise about personal and family priorities (scripture study, prayer,
FHE, date night, recreational activities), and tighten your own at-home time usage. Even short spurts of focused time on a regular basis (whether that be weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly, etc.) could help toward a goal of keeping some professional skills, knowledge, and connections active.