The Genuine Article

the genuine article?


I had an interesting experience last week. I went to an art and antiques appraisal event at Old Westbury Gardens, Long Island.

I was very interested in learning about a diamond ring my aunt had passed down to me when I was a teenager. The ring sits in a Tiffany box that has a leather top and an aged, white velvet interior. For the last 30+ years, I thought I owned a piece of antique Tiffany jewelry.

My own jeweler had already doubted the origin, but I had a hard time believing him—the ring was in a Tiffany box, after all!

His suspicions were confirmed. The appraiser studied my ring for a while with her loupe. Yes—I have an antique diamond ring, and yes, it’s still beautiful, but the only thing that’s genuine Tiffany is the box!

It got me thinking about how—with the right packaging—we can think that someone or something is more valuable just by the label. Often, we’re wrong.

We need to look closer to learn if they’re the genuine article.


Copyright 2014 Michelle Kerrigan

Ways You Give Your Power Away @Work

We’re up to #4 on the power drain at work. And here it is:

You can’t disconnect and just be.

In this over-connected world, many of you have become addicted to social media, email, and text.

Left to your own devices, you’re always “on” and never “off.”

This addiction, like all addictions, leaves you anxious and powerless, and always wanting more, when you should be looking down less.

For instance:

Do you lose the thread of an in-person conversation in the 3-dimensional world because you’re too wrapped up in the virtual world?

Do you keep your smartphone on all night?

Is your device right next to your bed?

Have you answered (or considered answering) correspondence from work in the middle of the night?

Need I say more?

Learn to work to live, not live to work.

Learn to disconnect and just be.



Copyright 2014 Michelle Kerrigan

Strengthening Your Core Confidence

Building confidence, building your confidence muscle

I ordered my first back brace the other day. I was starting to experience some lower back pain, so my doctor recommended wearing a brace, especially when I weight train.

On my first visit to the gym with the new support, I asked my trainer if I was wearing it correctly. She adjusted it and told me I should only wear the brace when I train. I was surprised. (It felt good, so I was already thinking of wearing it more often.)

My trainer explained that, if I rely too much on wearing the brace on the outside, my muscles will get weaker, not stronger, on the inside. She said that the only way to really strengthen my back is to do core stabilizers—a series of exercises. Then, one day, I won’t need the brace at all.

The experience made me think of the ways we build confidence. Often, we rely on support from the outside to feel good on the inside. We rely on praise from others, looking tan and fit, how we dress, our job title—you get the idea. In the long run, none of these really build confidence—they’re just temporary supports.

Confidence is something you must exercise regularly to strengthen your core. It is best when it comes from within, when, no matter what, you believe in your ability to feel stable and able to do whatever it takes.

And just like my brace, one day, you’ll no longer need the temporary support at all.


Copyright 2014 Michelle Kerrigan

Ways You Give Your Power Away @Work

There are many ways you give your power away in your career, often without you even knowing it. I’ve been sharing a few of these with you.

The first 2–spending too much time and energy trying to change others, and putting all your career eggs in one basket—are discussed in prior posts.

Here’s the third way:

You allow other people to define you.

You are not your title. You are not your executive level. You are not your salary. You are not a company’s definition of you.

You are your definition of you.

Case in point: I recently had a guest on my TV show who, when asked how he wanted his name displayed on the screen, gave his title as defined by his company. Oddly enough, this was not the job he aspired to—in fact, he disliked it so much, he was getting ready to hand in his notice. I asked him what he sees himself as, and he gave a better title—one that describes him and what he loves to do, not his place in a company.

When you allow others to define you, they have the power to change or take away that definition. And when they do, you not only lose your power, you lose your identity.

Your power needs to come from you—no one else.

That’s how you never give it away.

That’s how your definition of you is always yours.


Copyright 2014 Michelle Kerrigan

Quick tips for more confidence at work:

Networking with confidence

This week’s tips are about keeping your network alive and well so you can navigate career change with skill and confidence.

Remember: Gone are the days when a company takes care of you. Now, it’s you take care of you! And, networking is a big part of that.

  • If you’re nervous networking, act like a host. Make others feel comfortable, and then you’ll feel comfortable.
  • Stop clinging to the security of your friends at networking events. The idea is to make new friends!
  • Things change quickly, so keep your network alive & well. Don’t be caught like a deer in the headlights when you experience a setback.
  • Many people stop networking once they have a job. Don’t be one of them.
  • Building strong relationships is key to building your business and your career. So, start building!

Copyright 2014 Michelle Kerrigan

Courageous Conversations Every Leader Should Have

Leadership is never easy; yet, it is one of life’s greatest experiences. The work of a leader is much more difficult today in this ever-changing and distracted world. Leaders need to rise above all the noise to form strong, effective bonds with their teams while envisioning the future and navigating the present.

There is always a certain loneliness in being a leader because you must do things nobody likes. This includes having courageous conversations that require care and confidence. Like it or not, these talks are becoming increasingly necessary as the rate of change in the world accelerates.

Here are 4 examples:

 “I don’t understand. Please explain it to me.” Years ago, I sat in a meeting chaired by the executive vice president of a major corporation. I was a VP sitting at a conference-room table with 20 other VPs. The EVP got up and addressed us. It seemed he was passionately outlining his future strategy for the company. As he spoke, I noticed everyone nodding their heads up and down.  I had no idea what the EVP was saying and I was pretty sure no one else did either.

When he finished, he pointed to each executive and asked “Are you with me?!” It was more motivational than inquisitive, and every single person delivered a resounding “Yes!”

Then he pointed to me. I told him that I honestly didn’t understand what he wanted. He asked sharply, “Why are you being such a pain?” My answer: “Because in order to deliver what you want, I need to know what that is, and I don’t. And, I’ll bet no one at this table knows either.”

I was right. Everyone stared down at the table, embarrassed. But at least we left that meeting with a lot more understanding.

Today, things change so fast that it can be difficult to keep up. Revenue and reputation are always on the line. That’s why clarity is so important for you and your team.  Confusion is the #1 obstacle to productivity, and the #1 obstacle to confidence.  You must lead with clarity and confidence to make good decisions and minimize risk.

“I trust you with this.” Trust me, this is difficult. As a professional worrywart who worked her way up the ranks from receptionist to VP, I’ve always been the one to ensure delivery. In the beginning of my career, I primarily relied on my own capabilities. I was so good at teamwork and execution, my responsibilities grew. As a leader, you want the same success for your team. Your job is to make them stronger.

Make it a point to get to know your team and each person’s strengths. You learn most of those capabilities by trusting them to do what they do best. Without that trust and commitment, leadership just doesn’t work.  As a leader, you gain control by releasing control, and by knowing that no one succeeds alone.

“This is not working out.” One of the hardest things you’ll ever have to do as a leader is to let someone go from the team. Especially someone personable, whom everyone likes.  I’ve faced these decisions and discussions many times, and it never gets easier. But, in this fast-paced business world, you need people you can rely on—people you can trust. And when that bond is broken, you must consider your team, the tasks at hand, the future, and, then, do the right thing.

This is one courageous conversation that should never come as a surprise to the person being let go. Another conversation always precedes it.  A good leader knows when something is wrong, addresses it, and allows time for correction. When correction doesn’t come, it’s time to let go.

“What if this doesn’t work? What if we fail? What if this happens—what then?” “What if” thinking is an important part of all strategy and execution, because it sparks contingency planning and preventive actions. It is a key ingredient in decision-making.

This conversation is essential for minimizing the probability and seriousness of risk. It helps you identify problems before they arise and prepares you for when things go wrong–which they often do. As many companies move at breakneck speed and pivot often, leaders need to be prepared to fail–to be resilient–to bounce back quickly.

“What if” thinking is a big part of this.

Your job as a leader is to avoid being blind-sided and to minimize risk. So the higher your confidence in asking (or answering) these questions, the lesser the probability and seriousness of risk–for you, your team and your company.

Leaders who fear these conversations avoid realistic issues that could impact their organization. Without them, time, money and momentum can be lost, causing delays, dissatisfaction, and overall frustration. So don’t let a crisis of confidence stop you from having them. Be a leader. Be confident.



Copyright 2014 Michelle Kerrigan

Ways You Give Your Power Away @Work

There are many ways you give your power away in your career, often without you even knowing it. Over the next few posts, I’ll be sharing some of these ways with you.

The first way–spending too much time and energy trying to change others—is discussed in a previous post.

Here’s the second way:

You put all your eggs in one basket.

“Diversify” is the name of the game in your career today. Like any investment portfolio, you need to allocate and grow your assets to minimize risk and maximize return. These assets include: your time, your skills, your connections.

However, if you’re like most people, once you get a job, you stop looking. You stop networking. You stop staying in touch. You only focus on the job at hand, allocating all your assets to it. You don’t diversify, which can be risky.

It’s important to do your best for the company that hired you, but remember that this job is only one piece of your career portfolio—a portfolio that you need to continually build.

In today’s volatile world, you increase your risk the minute you take yourself completely off the market. You decrease that risk by learning new skills, meeting new people, staying in touch with your connections and watching the job market. That’s how you keep your options open.

That’s how you keep your power.


Copyright 2014 Michelle Kerrigan

Ways You Give Your Power Away @Work

There are many ways you give your power away in your career, often without you even knowing it. Over the next few posts, I’ll be sharing some of these ways with you.

Here’s the first:

You spend too much time and energy trying to change others.

We all do this. We want to change our boss, our co-worker, our husband—you name it. At one time, I felt like I spent a lifetime trying to change a few people on my team.

Here’s the reality: You can’t. People only change when they want to. You give away your power when you spend time and energy trying to do the work for them–when you want it more than they do.

You may be doing it for their good. You may be doing it for your good. Either way, it’s no good.

So, stop.

Change your approach. Change the way you see them. Change your attitude. Change your circumstances. Change your mind.

Use your power for the one person you can change: you.



Copyright 2014 Michelle Kerrigan

Question of Confidence

question mark of confidence

Question: “I suffer from constant interruptions at work. I lead a great team, but I feel like they always want attention. I want to do the right thing, but I can’t get my work done, and I’m drowning. Suggestions?”

Answer: When I led operations at a start-up, there were constant interruptions.  Working at a startup is like riding in the back seat of a NYC cab—crazy! It was so stressful that, often, there were lines outside my door. I wound up helping them but hurting myself. And, then I remembered that saying from the airlines: “Put on your own oxygen mask first.” I did.

I established “open-door” and “closed-door” times. We all need time to focus, so I set that time for myself. Having that “closed door” hour or two saved my sanity. Give it a try.


Copyright 2014 Michelle Kerrigan

Building Your Confidence Muscle

Building confidence, building your confidence muscle

I started taking vocal lessons the other day to strengthen my voice for radio, TV and public appearances. The training consists of various breathing and phrasing exercises, which looked easy, but felt like torture! I found myself straining my neck, clenching my teeth, and holding my breath! I can see this is going to be a long process.

The whole idea here is to build stamina and focus, so I don’t run out of breath, pause in strange places, and lose my way. These exercises are done with intent and require constant practice. That’s how I’m going to build my vocal muscle.

It made me think of the time when I started weight training. In the beginning, I could only lift a few pounds with my arms and legs. I felt awkward and unsure, and clumsily dropped the weights a few times. I was sore, terribly out-of-shape, and frustrated. Over time—and with constant practice and intent–this changed and I built muscle. Now, the trainer is amazed at how much weight I can lift, and so am I!

This brings me to confidence—another muscle you need to constantly exercise for it to grow stronger.  Confidence, like vocal and weight training, requires perseverance, practice and patience. It definitely requires intent, and like all strength-building, comes in the doing. It’s about challenging yourself to do the things you never thought you could do, until you’re on the other side of doing them.

When you intentionally keep your confidence muscle strong, you never run out of breath, pause in strange places or lose your way.

Did you exercise your confidence today?


Copyright 2014 Michelle Kerrigan