You’re not faking it

Impostor Syndrome. The fear that people have of being found out as a fraud. Everyone seems to have it. And if you ever felt like you’re not deserving of the success you have achieved, know that you’re in the company of Academy Award winners, best-selling authors, CEOs.

Much has been written about it. Forbes wrote about it. Wall Street Journal wrote about it. Fast Company wrote about it too.

We particularly liked this article in The Shriver Report. The author, the first African American woman to become a Vice President at Avon shares 10 Ways To Overcome Impostor Syndrome.

The tip that resonated most — besides keeping your sense of humor about it all — was this one:

She suggests to do “a reality check by making a list of your special skills and the qualities you have that attract people to you and have gotten you this far.”

Why don’t you “take stock of your success. Keep a written inventory of your skills, accomplishments, and experiences to understand your success. Use logic and facts to assuage your fears. This will help you strengthen the skill of internal validation.”

We’re certainly going to give it a shot!

How to make peace with criticism

Is it just us or is the air getting a bit brisker the higher up we climb on the corporate ladder?

If you are a women, you’re more likely to receive criticism not only for your performance at work but also for your personality. A study confirms that only 2% of men get personality-related criticism at work while 76% of women hear words like “abrasive” and “judgemental.”

The author of New York Times article Learning to Love Criticism says: “Powerful women tend to receive overreactive, shaming and inappropriately personal criticism. Kirsten E. Gillibrand’s colleagues in the Senate making comments about her weight. Christiane Amanpour being blasted for expressing even a hint of anger about the deaths of children in Syria. Hillary Rodham Clinton for not looking well rested enough while circling the globe.”

This is unfair, ridiculous, but it’s also a fact.

So let’s not get dissuaded. Let’s rather find a way to embrace criticism as a surefire sign that we’re on the right path and let’s develop a teflon approach when it comes to dealing with criticism. Nothing sticks and nothing bothers. The article Learning to Love Criticism shares a number of ways to achieve that. Why don’t you give them a try — we sure will:

  • Identify another woman whose response to criticism you admire and try to emulate it
  • Learn to view criticism as information about the other person’s preferences rather than a comment on you
  • Ask yourself whether the criticism cuts so deep because it is related to a doubt you may hold about yourself
  • Don’t get blinded by praise and don’t get paralyzed by criticism

Leadership styles for all seasons

There’s no one size fits all when it comes to leadership. Different situations require different approaches. What worked in one setting might not be as effective in another.

So how are we supposed to know which leadership style to choose for a given business situation?

We found the overview in this article in Fast Company pretty insightful. It breaks out the following 6 leadership styles and describes the situations where they will take you the farthest:

  1. The pacesetting leader. Motto: “Do as I do, now.” Best for already motivated teams when quick results are needed.
  2. The authoritative leader. Motto: “Come with me.” Works best when the team needs to be excited around a new vision.
  3. The affiliative leader. Motto: “People come first.” Best in times of stress or when the team needs to rebuild trust.
  4. The coaching leader. Motto: “Try this.” Works best when the leader wants to help teammates build lasting personal strengths.
  5. The coercive leader. Motto: “Do what I tell you.” Best in times of crisis, such as in a company turnaround or a takeover attempt.
  6. The democratic leader. Motto: “What do you think?” Most effective when the leader needs fresh ideas from qualified teammates.

The article will give you more background. Why don’t you head over and see which leadership styles might work best for your tasks at hand?

Last-minute Presentation Prep

Do you get instant sweaty palms like we do when you have to give impromptu remarks or a last-minute presentation?

Public speaking can be absolutely terrifying—especially when there’s little or no time to prepare. We’ve found some useful tips for making off-the-cuff remarks a little less daunting at Harvard Business Review’s blog. These should also work well for any occasion where you have to say something and are not sure how to say it. The gist?

  • Jot down a quick structure
  • Start with the punchline
  • Acknowledge your audience
  • Memorize what to say–not how to say it
  • Keep it brief

Remember these and we’re sure you’ll kill it.

Tech Shabbat. Why don’t you switch off

Rewind to one and a half years ago: I had just timidly switched off all my screens for 24 hours for the very first time as I wanted to incorporate “screen free” episodes in my life.

My relationship with technology is best described as obsessive. I never met a screen or an app I didn’t like.  Switching everything off seemed crazy and the mere thought gave me separation anxiety. Yet, I wanted to give it a shot.

I had watched this video where Tiffany Shlain, founder of the Webby Awards, talked about her Tech Shabbats. A weekly ritual, where Tiffany would turn off her screens from Friday night to Saturday night. She called them her “resets for the soul” and I was scared — and intrigued! It helped that she was a respected figure in tech and not a random person, overwhelmed by the possibilities of today’s technology. What she said carried weight.

It’s been one and a half years and the weekly Tech Shabbats have become a habit. It’s just something I do. Every Friday night at sundown my screens go dark. My smartphone, my laptop, my tablet. No Facebook updates, no Instagram photos, no tweets, no emoji-based conversations on Whatsapp, Threema, Google Hangout.

It’s pretty drastic.

Often really inconvenient. (Have you tried to find an address without Google Maps in the past 8 years?)

Sometimes a bit annoying. (Especially to those around you who are used to changing plans on the fly, with a text message.)

But I wouldn’t want to miss it for the world. My weekly disconnect.

I vividly remember the first time. I nearly broke into a sweat. Would I miss something? Would I miss EVERYTHING? I distracted myself with aimless activities. Hair needed to be braided. Makeup brushes needed to be cleaned. By Saturday morning I was convinced that I would die if I didn’t immediately switch everything back on. (You think this sounds like the workings of a teenager’s brain? It felt like it too!)

But I learned to appreciate the weekly habit. Felt refreshed. Gained clarity. If I had hit a wall with a business problem in the previous week, during my Tech Shabbat, the solution often presented itself in those screen free hours. It was a bit spooky at first. Now I practically count on it.

Because it makes perfect sense.

We are rarely in situations anymore where we rely only on ourselves. Moments of reflection, quiet, and, God forbid: boredom are scarce. When do “heavy screen users” like I clearly am (and you probably are) just sit down and stare aimlessly into space? How long can a glimmer of a thought develop before we scare it away with a distraction? When do we allow ourselves to be a little bored without immediately resorting to our routine refresh tour-de-force through all our apps?

Now those moments of reflection and quiet are a normal part of my week.

It’s a bit of an acquired taste — like the taste for oysters. But those 24 hours every week work for me. And maybe they work for you too.

If you’d like to try it and are scared I want to remind you that I was basically beside myself. You can do it too!

And I can promise one thing: It’s worth it even just for the joy of switching everything back on again!

Why don’t you try it once and see how it goes?


– Katja Bartholmess. “It’s my passion to inspire and motivate other ambitious women with my stories and experiences from over a decade of entrepreneurship.”

Balance the “balls of life”

“Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling some five balls in the air. You name them — work, family, health, friends and spirit — and you’re keeping all of these in the air. You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. But the other four balls — family, health, friends and spirit – are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged or even shattered. They will never be the same. You must understand that and strive for balance in your life.”

The former CEO of Coca Cola, Brian Dyson, said this.

It rang so true with us that we needed to share it with you. Looking at the things that matter to us with a heightened awareness of their fragility (family, health, friends, and spirit) and resilience (work) might help us make better decisions. We will never have less on our plates and balance is never easy to achieve. But why don’t your try it with us?

The Path to Email Excellence

We are so far from reaching Inbox Zero that we’re not even going to bother trying.

But we feel strongly about emails. Isn’t achieving email excellence as noble a pursuit as reaching Inbox Zero?

We think so. And were thrilled to find this article in Fast Company that promises to give Templates and Hints for the Perfect Email for Almost Every Situation.

It shares emails that kindly say “no” in a variety of circumstances, gives you magic phrases (“You’re right.” “I’d love to help with this.”) as well as power replies to customer complaints (“You’re right, we could definitely do this better.”  “I know this is a huge disruption to your day and I’m working to get it fixed.”), it alerts you to empty words you should skip and full words you should use liberally.

Why don’t you try some of the recommendations and see whether it takes you closer to email excellence? We sure will.

Pump up the Bass for a Power Boost

We all have our favorite feel-good songs. And like athletes warming up for a big game, we know that the right song can prime us for a better performance. But what if we told you that the way you listen to those go-to jams can make a difference as well?

Studies at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management suggest that simply boosting the bass of a song can make you feel more powerful and in control–and that those feelings persist after the song is over.

So the next time you’re getting sweaty palms over that big presentation or interview, why don’t you cue up your favorite song and boost the bass.

Let us know if it works!

Why don’t you record your messages?

Have you ever gotten a cramp in your thumb from excessive chatting on WhatsApp or Threema or whatever your preferred platform is? Those are the moments when we praise their audio note feature and start sending audio clips.

Then this article from Inc. Magazine popped up in our radar and promised to solve all our email inbox problems the same way we solve our cramped thumb problems: By recording your messages.

Mind you, we’re not saying you should record every single email. Far from it. But there are always those emails that require longer, more complex responses. And always those that would benefit from having a personal touch. You can’t call everyone, that would take longer than writing epic emails. You also don’t want to just leave lengthy voicemails that might get ignored amidst the other unheard messages.

But you can record your answer and send it with an email subject that frames the content.

We particularly liked these three advantages:

  • Fewer miscommunications regarding the tone of the message — Everyone who ever either misunderstood the tone of an email and had an email misunderstood, raise your hands. Yes, we thought it was everyone.
  • Much more engaging and personal for the recipient — They will also know you cared enough to try a new and possibly better way to answer their concern
  • You can record responses anywhere — Every iPhone has a Voice Memo function, Androids come with Voice recorder so you can record while you’re sitting in the park or getting your nails done.

Why don’t you pick one email that you’ve been kicking around your inbox for days now and give it a shot? And tell us how it went!

Why don’t you try Morning Pages?

Morning Pages. Have you heard of them?

On first blush they are pages that you write in the morning. Easy enough.

The deeper purpose of writing them — three pages, pen on paper, every day — is to clear your mind of the thoughts and things that would otherwise follow you through your day.

It’s not about writing anything nice or coherent. The more you let go of your inner censor and just write whatever crosses the mind, the better. Also, the faster. (While these morning pages do take time — 30 minutes of your precious morning hours! — you don’t want to write them well into the afternoon.)

The woman who created the morning pages, Julia Cameron, says: “People think they should be artful, but no, they should be as grumpy and as petty as you feel waking up.”

She describes it as a clearing exercise that allows you to move through your day more consciously. A balancing exercise that makes room for creative thinking, creative problem solving, creative creativity.

Are you sold? Why don’t you try it? Write three pages in the morning tomorrow and see where it goes? — And if you’re an avid morning pager already, why don’t you share your experience. We’re all ears!