Let’s hold it together this year

Aligning core values vs. making resolutions

Having just started another year, some of you may still be making New Year’s resolutions. Think forward a few months. Come June or July you might get frustrated, feel disappointed, and give up because you haven’t reached those resolutions. Been there! Done that!

“Holding it together” is where New Year’s resolutions often miss the mark. I decided to try something different this year: I am going back to my button. After all, what is better at holding things together than a button? Especially your button!

Here is what I mean about going back to my button.

The beginning of a new year is a transitional time. It’s a chance to reflect and re-evaluate. Approaching my career transition 14 years ago, I reflected on what was important to me at that time—before I did anything else. I identified my core values using a four-hole button.Button_Exercise

Core values are qualities you consider worthwhile, your highest priorities, and deeply held beliefs about how you want to live your life. for me, that meant filling those blanks with these four things: Family, Faith, Quality, and Health. That same button has supported me over the years as I have faced career, family and personal decisions.

Why a button? And why four holes? Couldn’t you get by with two?

The main purpose of a button is to hold things together. Think of our roles as women: We are connectors. We hold things together. We are wives, mothers, grandmothers, volunteers, employees, and so much more.

And if you want a button to stay connected, to be stronger, a button with two holes is always better than one with only two!

Here’s how you can reflect on your button this year, instead of making resolutions.

Step 1: Brainstorm a list of core values. List as many as you like. But then narrow it down to the  four that are most important to you. That’s right; select only four of the most important things in your life right now. This is not easy. It may take serious thought and time, but this focus will serve you well as you navigate the year.

Here’s a tip I share with my clients: When deciding how to select and prioritize your values, think about how much time you are spending in each area. For instance, if “being healthy” is important to you, make sure you are not just saying it but actually doing it. Are you involved in an exercise routine and eating the right foods, or are you just saying it’s important because you know you need to be healthy.


Step 2: Print a copy of my button worksheet. Write one core value for each hole. It doesn’t matter what order. From now on, think of them all as equally important. Keep this button at close proximity, so you can reference it as situations come up, decisions need to be made, or as a way to measure that you are allocating time for each core value throughout the year.

Step 3: Concentrate on what’s important to you this year by using your button to hold your personal and professional life together. For example, if you’re like me and consider quality a core value, you might ask yourself:

  • How can I ensure that quality is part of my personal and professional life?
  • What do I have to pull back on so I can have more quality time with friends/family?
  • How can I ensure that the work I am delivering is quality not only to me but to my clients/customers/colleagues?

Questions like these will allow you to focus on what’s important in your personal and professional life. And isn’t that what each year is all about?

The benefit of this exercise is enormous, especially during transition: starting a new job, beginning a new project, joining a new organization, launching a new business, or even just beginning a new year. Transitions call for decisions, and core values are the truest basis for those decisions.

I wish you a happy 2016!

May your year be rich and full, as you live life according to your core values!

“Tamara presented a clear strategy to help me identify my values, sense of purpose, and goals so I could hone my job search to positions I would find professionally and personally fulfilling.” (from a woman re-entering the workforce)

“Juggling family, home and work is challenging. Getting in touch with my personal core values has given me the confidence to know what I can say no to in a highly demanding career and still be considered a valuable team member while keeping my family first in my life.” (from a physician who is a wife and mother)

Learn about achieving TRUE™ results: new webcast

Achieving TRUE Results is the key to building and maintaining strong relationships in any kind of work environment.

You can incorporate TRUE™ Results in your organization by learning the skills for demonstrating Trust, Respect, Understanding and Empathy when interacting with people, or by setting TRUE™ standards for service/team.

Here’s a great way to begin.

Please watch my brand new webcast about TRUE™ Results [click here for access]. (When you access this link, look for my photo, where you can click to see and hear a short preview and/or register for the full webcast for $37.)

I recently recorded this webcast with a friend and colleague, Debbie Duffy of Bridges Court Reporting. Debbie has built an enterprise around her values of quality work and dedicated customer service. I truly admire her business sense and vision.

Though the webcast is housed on the Bridges website, which serves the field of court reporting, the message is vital for anyone who wants to build and improve business relationships.

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To see in brief how important TRUE Results could be to your organization—whether you’re working directly customers, serving in a support role or leading a team—check out this post that outlines the principled way we build and improve business relationships.

If you have questions about using or achieving TRUE™ Results in your organization, please email me. I would love to help!

Communicate with Confidence

When describing your current job,
what impression do you leave?

confidence levelIs it Confident? Strong? Capable? Or are you leaving an impression that makes the prospective employer question your abilities, skills, and most of all, your value?

The critical element to getting a job today is CONFIDENCE. 

Confidence is conveyed the moment you walk into the interview room or make that first phone call and gets stronger with every moment of conviction.

Does the question “So, what do you do?” make you wince? Think about the last time someone asked you “So, what have you been working on lately?” Did you say:

  • “I am just a stay at home mom.”
  • “I am only an administrative assistant.”
  • “I am only a volunteer coordinator.”

These are examples of how women have described their current job situation during my Women in Career Transition Workshops.

I have found that, when asked, women are more likely to have a tendency to downplay their career position.

Using “ONLY” and “JUST” to describe your role can be a sign of weakness, low confidence, uncertainty. It just plain devalues the work you do.  These words are called negative modifiers. By using these modifiers you start by giving your audience (whether friend, co-worker, or even your prospective employer) a disclaimer! “Only” and “Just” downgrade what you are about to say and leave the wrong image of yourself.

You do not want to have to re-build yourself from a deficit; you want to present all the great qualities and skills you already possess!

How can you start changing the way you sell yourself? DELETE, OMIT, and STOP using any negative modifiers to describe your position. This small change will have a huge impact on your ability to communicate with confidence.

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Some skills and qualities are required for employment, regardless of the position a company is hiring for. One of these skills is COMMUNICATION. Communication is a key attribute we all need to succeed in the workplace.

How you describe your role to others informs how your audience will gauge your communication skills and trust in your abilities. If you cannot communicate with confidence to an employer, then that employer will question your ability to communicate with confidence to them, their employees, and their clients.

You have the POWER to put your future employer at ease by giving them a clear, confident reflection of yourself.

As you are preparing for an interview, make sure you know as much as you can about the open position. Once you understand what the job entails you can incorporate pertinent words, skills, and experiences into how you describe yourself.

During the interview, think about these tips:

  • Start changing your words when describing your job
  • Omit “ONLY” and “JUST” from your vocabulary
  • Replace “ONLY” and “JUST” with words that describe the position you WANT
  • Align your background to the job

For example:

Instead of saying … Say this instead …
I am just a stay at home mom. I am efficient and highly organized individual.
I am only an administrative assistant. I enjoy working with a diverse group of people and projects. I have experience managing multiple day-to-day tasks to maintain a consistent and productive office environment.
I just coordinate programs as a volunteer. I have experience managing groups of people and complex schedules while filling enriching programs.

Answer these questions and think about how you want to be remembered:

  • What words do you want to describe you?
  • How can your experiences (paid or unpaid) be of value to a prospective employer?
  • What impression or connection do you want people to make when they see, hear, or think of you?

You have the experience. Now you have the tools to take hold of your image and get working on the career you know you want!

No skills? No accomplishments? Come on!

Do any of these phrases sound familiar to you?

“I lack the skills to get a job.”
“I have no accomplishments.”
“What am I going to do next?”
“Who would hire me? I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for 15 years.”

If you’re struggling with thoughts like these, you’re in the company of some great women. Again and again, I hear women say they are skill-less and not worthy to re-enter the workforce.

They’re wrong, and so are you.

By asking just a few questions, I’ve helped women uncover “transferable” skills they didn’t know they had. Building on that information, these women have re-packaged themselves and transitioned successfully back into the workplace.

How encouraging is this for you? (And how rewarding for me!)

Reflecting on the past year, list all your accomplishments.

At the start of my Career Transition workshops, I invite everyone to reflect on the past year and list all their accomplishments. Let me share how that went for Andrea.

Andrea is a 50-something empty nester who’s been a stay-at-home mom for 15 years. Her husband was just laid off from his job, and now Andrea has to go back to work.

When I invited everyone to list their accomplishments of the past year, most of the women started jotting down thoughts. Not Andrea. She motioned me over and said, discouraged, “I have no accomplishments.”

As a mother of four myself, I knew she was wrong. The first words out of my mouth were, “Congratulations, raising a family is your most significant, if not the greatest, accomplishment.”

I knew she was selling herself short, so I began asking questions: “What activities did you do this past year? What did you do as a mom? As a friend? As a volunteer?” I was ready to listen for “things done” and “time spent,” to help Andrea write her list of accomplishments.

Andrea looked at me and said, “The only thing I did this year was organize our annual family reunion in Michigan. It was a huge hit, well attended, and everyone loved it because I stayed within our budget.”

In the workplace, I thought, they would call Andrea a “Special Events Coordinator.”

As she discussed the specifics of this accomplishment, without even realizing it, Andrea used all four of the Universal Skills most companies look for when hiring prospective employees:

  • Leadership: planning, organizing, decision making
  • Communication: corresponding with attendees, contacting the resort, sending invitations
  • Teamwork: coordinating activities with other family members
  • Technical: using Microsoft Word, sending e-mails

As Andrea described this experience, her excitement and confidence grew, and her accomplishments began to fill the paper.


I see this so often. Women—especially stay-at-home moms—rarely take into consideration all the things they do in a year, paid or unpaid. They don’t recognize the transferable skills they possess—let alone how beneficial those skills would be to certain careers, industries or jobs.

But this is a fact: Every volunteer, every mother, every part-time worker, every career woman has a pool of accomplishments.

Remember Rosie the Riveter?

Rosie-the-RiveterDuring World War II, this cultural icon represented American women who left their homes and returned to work, taking jobs vacated by men who served in the military. Like many of us, they had to re-enter the work force. If those 20th century women could do it, why are we—women of the 21st century—questioning our skills, accomplishments and abilities to be successful in the workplace?

It’s up to you to realize the value you bring to a prospective employer. And it’s not hard to keep a log of activities, skills used and results. But if you’re struggling to do it yourself, then let me help.

Find your next career by choice, not chance. Reinvent your skills. Repackage your accomplishments. And most importantly, reinvest in yourself!

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Oh, if you’re wondering, Andrea completed the TKFay Career Transition series and re-entered the work force as an administrative assistant for a small insurance company.




Connecting values to vision

We’re only human. And one of our greatest human desires—in work, in life, in anything—is to be “connected.” Especially in a world where transition, change, and redirection are so much a way of life, connecting values to vision helps us align with and connect to what’s important.

Maybe you think about your values and vision. Even better, you might even talk about our values and vision. But have you taken time to write them down? Laid out in black and white, your Connected Values & Vision Statement is an incredibly useful tool.

The process is simple. Just write down what is important to you and how you visualize success. The value of this exercise is enormous, especially at times of transition: when starting a new job, beginning a new project, joining a new organization, launching a new business, committing to new objectives.

Connecting your values to your vision is as easy as remembering the ABCs:

About You

Write down your core values: the things that are so important to you that you want them to define the way you live. Then ask yourself, “Do I spend 80% of my time living these core values?” If not, then reevaluate your list—or your life! You will be more satisfied, motivated, and productive when you devote quality time to your core values.

And know this: If you don’t define your core values, others will do it for you. Why leave that to chance?

Be at Work

Your core values won’t change much over time; but your work values might. When was the last time you took stock of what matters to you at work? What do you enjoy doing? Where do your strengths lie? What skills and qualifications will contribute to your success? Identify what’s important to you in a work environment now, and write it down.

Knowing your work values can guide you in choosing the right project, assignment, location, job, company, or career. They form a checklist that helps you assess whether a situation is a good fit. For example, you can stack your work goals up against an employer’s mission statement or corporate culture, and look for alignment.

Create a Vision

Finally, write a personal vision statement that incorporates your core values and work values, factoring in your passions and strengths. When crafting your vision statement:

  • Begin with “I.” You own this statement. Make it yours.
  • Write in the present tense. These words are for the here and now.
  • Use concrete, specific words that describe the life and work you want.
  • Aim for no more than four or five sentences—long enough to be complete, but short enough to remember.

Here’s a statement I wrote for myself, years ago:

I want to obtain a job/career where I can balance my family and professional life while contributing financially to our family; allowing me the opportunity to continue to nurture relationships; supporting others with my talents; staying focused on myself, spiritually and health-wise; and maintaining a standard of excellence in my profession and family.

With this work complete, you’ll have a valuable framework for evaluating current work situations, future career moves, and even professional development opportunities. Connecting and aligning opportunities to your values and vision means taking control, so you can act with intention and make good decisions.

Your Connected Values & Vision Statement will serve as a benchmark to measure whatever comes your way:

  • Here’s a new opportunity. How does it fit with my values and vision?
  • Something feels “off” here. Is there some aspect of this work that is disconnected from my values and vision?
  • I want to make a stronger contribution. What needs to change so my work feels like an extension of my values and vision?

Crafting your Connected Values & Vision Statement is like drawing your own compass to navigate new pathways. With this compass in hand, you’ll be able to focus on priorities, make sound decisions, and choose opportunities rather than landing them by chance.

Take control. Practice those ABCs. Use that compass.


Note to Business Leaders

Companies spend thousands of dollars drafting mission, vision, and value statements … and then fail to communicate these important messages to employees. Some people spend years never knowing their company’s vision—let alone what it means or how their actions support it. Don’t let that happen on your watch! The same ABCs described here can be applied to organizations, too. Ask yourself questions like these:

  • What matters most to our organization?
  • Have we shared our mission/vision/values with all employees?
  • Do front line managers know the importance of our mission?
  • Are we connecting our customers to our culture? How do we know?
  • Are our people demonstrating the mission through their actions and strengths—especially as they relate to and interact with our customers?
  • Does our culture encourage continued training for people to grow in their ability to support our mission?

Connecting past to present

Our fast-paced, ever-changing, high-tech lifestyle challenges personal interaction. Can you make eye contact through a monitor? Do keyboard characters express sentiment? Will team members from different generations find benefits or barriers?

In one powerful afternoon this summer, I experienced a building, nurturing, and reconnecting of relationships across generations, genders, and other demographics—the very things businesses strive to achieve every day with their customers.

The last weekend of June, the tiny town of Earlville, Illinois celebrated its 150th anniversary, or sesquicentennial. Earlville is not just where I grew up, but where it all began for me. “It” is my entrepreneurial spirit—my respect for small businesses and my appreciation for the impact of relationships on every facet of business.

Earlville is where my grandfather started his business, first on foot, then by carriage, then in his first storefront in 1939. My grandfather’s hard work, quality service, and ability to connect with people brought a thriving business to Earlville—and an enterprise that has carried on in my family for generations. (Later, my grandfather turned the business over to my father, who in turn passed it down to my brother.)

kaleel-earlville-paradePart of Earlville’s sesquicentennial celebration was a parade. My two uncles—the only two living from the original family—rode in a horse and carriage, honoring how the business began so many years ago.

I was proud to be among 40 family members who gathered in matching tee shirts to celebrate our family’s legacy and enjoy a reunion after the parade. We came from near and far, representing all living generations. We met and connected with family members we hardly knew.

All afternoon, I watched the interactions and listened to the laughter and conversations. Not once did I see anyone reach for a cell phone, steal away with a computer, or even glance at a watch.

And that’s not even the best part.

The most memorable moment came when all of us merged into one building: the former hardware store that had closed along with several other businesses in this once-active community. Earlier this year, this building reopened as the Earlville Museum. And on this Sunday afternoon, the place was alive again. People milled about, taking in their history, hearing stories, recreating memories they once knew. Strangers met. New friends visited with old friends. The occupants of yesterday met those of today. Children talked to adults. Teenagers asked questions of their parents.

And in the corner, a video played. The entire family congregated around a tiny monitor, straining to see and hear. The recording was an interview with my 99-year-old grandfather, Nemer Kaleel. He was discussing our family’s business, just six months before his death in 1987. We listened to how he answered the questions. We watched his mannerisms. This was the first time my own children ever heard their great grandfather’s voice. And to me that voice carried his vision. He used his voice to share his mission, to connect with people way back when … and even now.

I thought to myself, “This is what companies strive to do—to engage generations, to build relationships, and to connect with people in a way that carries vision and mission into the current moment.”

What kind of business are you in? No matter what it is, isn’t this precisely what you are after? How do you engage customers in your vision and mission?

Teaching & leading from the heart

TKFay founder Tamara K. Fay inspires clients to maximize strengths and overcome challenges. Her passion to help people stems from a family legacy of building a business with quality, service, and hard work.

Tamara’s grandfather immigrated to the United States in 1905, carrying all his belongings in a single suitcase. Determined to make a life for his family and a name for himself, this man turned that suitcase into a mobile business by developing a portable inventory of useful goods to sell. As the personable Grandpa Kaleel routinely turned chance meetings into business transactions—and even into lasting friendships—his business grew.

In time, Tamara’s grandfather and his business took root in a rural community in Illinois. He continuously improved the enterprise: first walking from farm to farm, then investing in a horse and buggy, then opening a storefront in town. Tamara’s grandmother minded the store (and the house and children) while Grandpa continued the “field sales” efforts. Their clothing, shoes, linens, and other household items satisfied a growing community.

Tamara’s father assumed responsibility for the operation in the 1940s. Today, Tamara’s brother and sister continue to run the family business in Oswego, Illinois.

For more than 100 years, this family business has provided quality products and personal service to loyal customers. All her life, Tamara worked and watched.

“From the time I was six or seven, I worked the store. We all did. We walked to town, and my dad put us to work. When I was very young, I dusted the patent leather shoes and broke down boxes from the latest shipments. As I got into my teenage years, I had the coolest job: My dad gave me free reign to do all the merchandising. I was very involved at school, but we all had to work the store. Grandpa died at 99, so he worked right alongside me.”


Tamara even returned to the store as an adult, in one of the most significant career transitions of her life.

“I was home raising the kids and wanted to reinvent myself. So I worked for my sister and brother as they set up a new segment in their business: The Prom Shoppe. With the money I earned helping them, I bought my first computer to start my own training and development company. Now, that business has evolved into TKFay Consulting LLC.”

Observing her entrepreneurial family in action, Tamara saw the hard work it takes to achieve success. She saw problems transformed into opportunities. She learned to treat all people with the same respect, regardless of their positions or situations in life.

“My dad never met a stranger. No matter if they scrubbed the streets or were top executives, he would talk to them. I remember one time I opened the back door to a man begging for money. Dad didn’t turn him away. He invited that man in and took him right through the store to the restaurant in front, where he bought him a full meal and something to go.”

Most important, Tamara experienced how an enterprise can generate far more than income; by providing goods and services, a successful businessperson can evolve strong relationships and improve people’s lives.

Today, Tamara carries these principles forward in her own business: TKFay Consulting. (The K stands for Kaleel, as in Grandpa Kaleel.) Better yet, through her workshops, coaching, consulting and other client interactions, Tamara is sharing her family’s values with a broader circle of businesspeople.

Achieving professionalism & TRUE results

Employees at all levels benefit from TKFay’s practical, actionable instruction. All our programs are based on achieving TRUE results through Trust, Respect, Understanding and Empathy.

TRUE is not just an acronym; it’s a principled way of building and improving business relationships. Effective leaders, managers and employees incorporate TRUE principles to build and maintain productive relationships with colleagues and customers. Here’s a peek at what we mean …

Trust is the foundation of any relationship. It’s required to foster strong business relationships, internally and externally. We evaluate trust based not on words, but on displays of honesty, ethics and follow-through. If you say the report will be done by 3:00 pm, then you must complete and deliver the work on time. That’s how you earn trust. Without trust, how can you build—let alone maintain or grow—a relationship that strengthens your business?

Respect means valuing the strengths each person brings to a business situation. We are working in the most diverse work environment in this nation’s history. Age, gender, ethnicity, culture. Although you may not always agree with or even like what others say or do, you must regard them with respect. In the workplace, we demonstrate respect by our work choices as well as our actions.

Understanding others means accepting their unique qualities, rather than imposing our own preferences and styles on them. The opposite—misunderstanding—causes interpersonal conflicts that get in the way of progress. TKFay uses tools such as the DiSC™ assessment to build awareness of behavioral styles. By understanding our own ways of working and appreciating how others work differently, we can learn to flex and adapt to one another in order to achieve strong results together.

Empathy is essential to build quality relationships. Through empathy, you put yourself in another person’s place, viewing a situation from his or her perspective. This calls for skills such as active listening, observation of body language and ability to ask clarifying questions. With a strong grasp on communication skills like these, you are better equipped to solve problems and handle conflict, as well as influence, persuade and negotiate.

TRUE results improve efficiency and reduce expenses while people establish and sustain strong relationships internally and externally. And all this comes with no increase in operating costs, no cash outlay for additional equipment, and no investment in additional resources. That’s good business.