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How to Be a Leader Who Brings Unity and Calm to Your Team

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October 17, 2020 10 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” – John C. Maxwell

 

Life got messy in 2020. 

It’s not just the virus. It’s the way the virus has changed everything we once took for granted—from the way we to the way we get to work. 

Or don’t get to work, as the case may be. 

Although forecasts and timelines vary, one thing is clear: COVID-19 is here to stay.

The rest is largely unknown: particularly regarding decisions made by businesses and individuals.

Researchers predict that COVID-19 will continue to cause mayhem and distress for years to come. Intermittent lockdowns and panic-buying will simply become a part of daily life. And, if a vaccine is finally approved, international deal-making will probably get in the way.  

More people will be affected, and even more people will stay at home. 

Many of us are only just starting to realize that there may never actually be a time when we go back to “how things were before.” And those feeling it the most are the faithful nine-to-fivers.

This time last year—before COVID-19 was even heard of—a large proportion of the working world spent their day at the workplace. We showed up at work, did our job, and went home again. It was also where we engaged in the bulk of our daily social interaction: where we discussed projects with colleagues, attended meetings, shared a lunchroom, and chatted idly around the watercooler. 

Over 40 million people have lost their jobs since COVID-19 hit. The rest of us have been forced to stay home and have conversations with our screens. Research by the Society for Human Resource (SHRM) estimates that around two-thirds of Americans are now working remotely due to COVID-19

And boy, are we feeling it. 

Related: Four Ways Businesses Can Support Employees’ Mental Health Amid COVID-19

From remote by choice to remote by force

It’s true that even before the pandemic struck, remote work was on the rise. The last five years have seen a 44% growth in people working anywhere from their kitchen table to beachfront cafes in Bali. But here’s the difference: it used to be a choice. 

For many, the digital nomad lifestyle is the way forward. Christian and Rasmus Mikkelsen (the Mikkelsen twins) recently launched PublishingLife, a fully remote education company that helps other entrepreneurs build their own online business.

Although they initially considered setting up a corporate office, they realized the benefits of staying remote far outweighed bringing their staff into one location. They are now determined to remain 100% remote as their business grows, as per the general trend. 

“For businesses that were already partially, or completely, operating remotely, the effect of coronavirus was minimized because employees could continue about their business whether they’re at home, traveling abroad, or in quarantine,” says Rasmus. “Companies with big corporate offices were forced to close their buildings and send workers home, which has been surprisingly effective and successful.”

They firmly believe that despite the massive impact that coronavirus has had on the business world, remote work could be a powerful model for the new age.  

“Even after the pandemic is over, I think we will see a lot of businesses keep many of their employees remote,” says Rasmus. “It’s a huge benefit to the business because it saves employees valuable time commuting to and from work. Plus, the physical location is no longer an obstacle when hiring. It is an even bigger benefit to the worker because it creates an endless number of work opportunities, and people love the freedom of remote work. Work on your own schedule from anywhere in the world. How could it get any better?”

Sure, there are numerous benefits to remote work, and many companies have been able to weather the economic downturn purely by sending their workers home. Google Inc. recently announced that most of its 200,000 employees will continue working from home until July 2021. 

But nine months into this mess, the novelty has started to wear off. And it’s taking a huge toll on our mental health

The mental impact of remote work

In the absence of daily preparation and training, even the most competent may struggle to perform and engage as well as they did previously. Those who are new to working from home have reported feeling isolated, disconnected, and anxious. 

Working remotely means you can’t just knock on the boss’s door when you have a question. Lack of face-to-face supervision and the inability to ‘reach out’ may mean the work doesn’t get done. Reduced can quickly lead to a lack of productivity, which only reinforces the despair and worry.

We’re also missing a vital component of standard human interaction: physical body language. A rushed or particularly blunt email from a boss or colleague can quickly be interpreted as a sign that the sender is angry. When working in the same environment, we might otherwise know that they’re just having a bad day. Reading the tone of voice in text is a job in itself. 

Above all else is a new and pervading sense of . Those who live alone or don’t have opportunities to connect with others in their remote-work environment may be particularly vulnerable to stress and depression.

Meanwhile, those with other commitments in their personal lives are now contending with multiple distractions – restless kids, pets, partners, chores—all which make for a suboptimal work environment.  

Related: Why Your Mental Health is the Key to Your Success in Business

Why leaders need to tune in to their workers

COVID-19 has already brought an enormous amount of stress into our lives. What with the daily pandemonium of supermarket queues, health fears, stringent hygiene, media reports, and general anxiety, virtual work commitments can seem a little overwhelming. 

This is where leaders and managers need to put themselves in their workers’ shoes and realize what they may be facing.

In becoming more conscious, managers and business owners can make an enormous difference to the way their employees get work done. Better yet, they can help their employees continue to give their best and positively impact the organization. 

Social media marketer Kim Barrett from Your Social Voice specializes in helping business owners succeed online. He believes that from 2021 onwards, businesses will change in ways that have never been seen before. 

“Leaders in business are going to have to put all stakeholders’ interests first, rather than just their own bottom line,” he says. “The tide has gone out on the business owners that only care about their own profits. As Warren Buffet famously said, “All those that were swimming with no pants have been exposed.”

Now, says Kim, is the time for a new kind of management: one in which leaders are called on to demonstrate the kind of behaviors they expect and need from the people that work for them. “I’d expect to see that exponentially increase in 2021 and onwards as the truly conscious leaders step forward and lead by example.”

The advent of the conscious leader

Much of the way we operate stems from unconsciousness—learned patterns that have been ingrained in us since birth. We often don’t even think about what we do or how we do it.

But if leaders are going to see their companies through the pandemic, they will need to engage more with their workers. This means recognizing common humanity—the fact that every employee is an individual with needs. 

Consciousness, at its most basic, is awareness. For leaders, the capacity to understand a worker’s personal circumstances can help them create a conscious culture where people know what’s expected. To be effective and thrive, employees need to know that they’re understood. 

Digital Nomad Summit founder Olúmidé Gbenro believes that conscious has been a long time coming. And now, it’s more important than ever. But to implement consciousness successfully, businesses in all niches will need to take a holistic approach. 

“When it comes to community building, we focus our attention a lot on mental health,” he explains. “Being an online entrepreneur, people can often be in front of the laptop too much. Traveling as a digital nomad may seem great, except it’s not always easy to find friends and connect with other human beings.”

“Being a conscious leader in this case means emphasizing the importance of socializing and supporting everyone in our community. It’s creating a safe space so we can all coexist and grow together at our own pace.”

This can be as simple as having conversations around mental wellbeing. Workers need to know they have a safe space to speak up about how they’re coping at home, and what to do if they’re not. 

Robert B. McGuinness, business coach and founder of Soul Venturer, says that leaders now need to honor what he calls the ‘soul standard’. “I believe this is going to change the future of and the future of . The days of going into business solely for money won’t work in the new economy. The real currency is impact! Impact that comes from the depths of who you are.”

“In this new economy and society, the need for our deepest and most authentic desires are at our fingertips. If you aren’t doing something that is deeply aligned with who you are at your core, I believe it is going to be deeply challenging to find something sustainable for you in the future.”

Related: 4 Ways Conscious Entrepreneurs Elevate Humanity Through Business

Strategies for becoming more conscious 

  1. Actively listen to your employees. Look for what isn’t being said rather than what is. Observe communication in all forms—spoken and written—and try to understand how the worker felt when they made that communication.

  2. Listen to yourself. Does your inner voice criticize you or encourage you? Whatever you’re hearing from within will influence the way you treat others. Focus on developing the self-awareness that fosters positive thinking.

  3. How’s that tension? COVID-related stress affects us all, and that stress can turn even the most gentle leaders into monsters. Schedule some time for true relaxation and stress reduction. Make sure to encourage your employees to do the same.

  4. Be present. Whether you’re in a virtual meeting or writing an email, be aware of where you are. Try to keep your mind from wandering into other places. Thinking about what you did yesterday or what needs to be done tomorrow will only rob you of what needs to be done now.

  5. Slow down. This situation isn’t changing anytime soon. What good will rushing do?  How will rushing make your workers feel? Anxiety can make you appear fiery and out-of-control, which will only make people panic. Take a breath. Respond when you’re calm.

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How The Epoch Times Created a Giant Influence Machine

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For years, The Epoch Times was a small, low-budget newspaper with an anti-China slant that was handed out free on New York street corners. But in 2016 and 2017, the paper made two changes that transformed it into one of the country’s most powerful digital publishers.

The changes also paved the way for the publication, which is affiliated with the secretive and relatively obscure Chinese spiritual movement Falun Gong, to become a leading purveyor of right-wing misinformation.

First, it embraced President Trump, treating him as an ally in Falun Gong’s scorched-earth fight against China’s ruling Communist Party, which banned the group two decades ago and has persecuted its members ever since. Its relatively staid coverage of U.S. politics became more partisan, with more articles explicitly supporting Mr. Trump and criticizing his opponents.

Around the same time, The Epoch Times bet big on another powerful American institution: Facebook. The publication and its affiliates employed a novel strategy that involved creating dozens of Facebook pages, filling them with feel-good videos and viral clickbait, and using them to sell subscriptions and drive traffic back to its partisan news coverage.

In an April 2017 email to the staff obtained by The New York Times, the paper’s leadership envisioned that the Facebook strategy could help turn The Epoch Times into “the world’s largest and most authoritative media.” It could also introduce millions of people to the teachings of Falun Gong, fulfilling the group’s mission of “saving sentient beings.”

Today, The Epoch Times and its affiliates are a force in right-wing media, with tens of millions of social media followers spread across dozens of pages and an online audience that rivals those of The Daily Caller and Breitbart News, and with a similar willingness to feed the online fever swamps of the far right.

It also has growing influence in Mr. Trump’s inner circle. The president and his family have shared articles from the paper on social media, and Trump administration officials have sat for interviews with its reporters. In August, a reporter from The Epoch Times asked a question at a White House press briefing.

It is a remarkable success story for Falun Gong, which has long struggled to establish its bona fides against Beijing’s efforts to demonize it as an “evil cult,” partly because its strident accounts of persecution in China can sometimes be difficult to substantiate or veer into exaggeration. In 2006, an Epoch Times reporter disrupted a White House visit by the Chinese president by shouting, “Evil people will die early.”

Stephen K. Bannon, Mr. Trump’s former chief strategist and a former chairman of Breitbart, said in an interview in July that The Epoch Times’s fast growth had impressed him.

“They’ll be the top conservative news site in two years,” said Mr. Bannon, who was arrested on fraud charges in August. “They punch way above their weight, they have the readers, and they’re going to be a force to be reckoned with.”

ImageA 2018 gathering in Taiwan for practitioners of Falun Gong, which backs The Epoch Times.
Credit…David Chang/EPA, via Shutterstock

But the organization and its affiliates have grown, in part, by relying on sketchy social media tactics, pushing dangerous conspiracy theories and downplaying their connection to Falun Gong, an investigation by The Times has found. The investigation included interviews with more than a dozen former Epoch Times employees, as well as internal documents and tax filings. Many of these people spoke on the condition of anonymity because they feared retaliation, or still had family in Falun Gong.

Embracing Mr. Trump and Facebook has made The Epoch Times a partisan powerhouse. But it has also created a global-scale misinformation machine that has repeatedly pushed fringe narratives into the mainstream.

The publication has been one of the most prominent promoters of “Spygate,” a baseless conspiracy theory involving claims that Obama administration officials illegally spied on Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign. Publications and shows linked to The Epoch Times have promoted the QAnon conspiracy theory and spread distorted claims about voter fraud and the Black Lives Matter movement. More recently, they have promoted the unfounded theory that the coronavirus — which the publication calls the “CCP Virus,” in an attempt to link it to the Chinese Communist Party — was created as a bioweapon in a Chinese military lab.

The Epoch Times says it is independent and nonpartisan, and it rejects the suggestion that it is officially affiliated with Falun Gong.

Like Falun Gong itself, the newspaper — which publishes in dozens of countries — is decentralized and operates as a cluster of regional chapters, each organized as a separate nonprofit. It is also extraordinarily secretive. Editors at The Epoch Times turned down multiple requests for interviews, and a reporter’s unannounced visit to the outlet’s Manhattan headquarters this year was met with a threat from a lawyer.

Representatives for Li Hongzhi, the leader of Falun Gong, did not respond to requests for comment. Neither did other residents of Dragon Springs, the compound in upstate New York that serves as Falun Gong’s spiritual headquarters.

Many employees and Falun Gong practitioners contacted by The Times said they were instructed not to divulge details of the outlet’s inner workings. They said they had been told that speaking negatively about The Epoch Times would be tantamount to disobeying Mr. Li, who is known by his disciples as “Master.”

Credit…Julie Jacobson/Associated Press

The Epoch Times provided only partial answers to a long list of questions sent to its media office, and declined to answer questions about its finances and editorial strategy. In an email, which was not signed, the outlet accused The Times of “defaming and diminishing a competitor” and displaying “a subtle form of religious intimidation if not bigotry” by linking the publication to Falun Gong.

“The Epoch Times will not be intimidated and will not be silenced,” the outlet added, “and based on the number of falsehoods and inaccuracies included in the New York Times questions we will consider all legal options in response.”

Falun Gong, which Mr. Li introduced in China in 1992, revolves around a series of five meditation exercises and a process of moral self-improvement that is meant to lead to spiritual enlightenment. Today, the group is known for the demonstrations it holds around the world to “clarify the truth” about the Chinese Communist Party, which it accuses of torturing Falun Gong practitioners and harvesting the organs of those executed. (Tens of thousands across China were sent to labor camps in the early years of the crackdown, and the group’s presence there is now much diminished.)

More recently, Falun Gong has come under scrutiny for what some former practitioners have characterized as an extreme belief system that forbids interracial marriage, condemns homosexuality and discourages the use of modern medicine, all allegations the group denies.

When The Epoch Times got its start in 2000, the goal was to counter Chinese propaganda and cover Falun Gong’s persecution by the Chinese government. It began as a Chinese-language newspaper run out of the Georgia basement of John Tang, a graduate student and Falun Gong practitioner.

By 2004, The Epoch Times had expanded into English. One of the paper’s early hires was Genevieve Belmaker, then a 27-year-old Falun Gong practitioner with little journalism experience. Ms. Belmaker, now 43, described the early Epoch Times as a cross between a scrappy media start-up and a zealous church bulletin, with a staff composed mostly of unpaid volunteers drawn from the local Falun Gong chapters.

“The mission-driven part of it was, let’s have a media outlet that not only tells the truth about Falun Gong but about everything,” Ms. Belmaker said.

Credit…Henry Abrams/Agence France-Presse, via Getty Images

Mr. Li, Falun Gong’s founder, also saw it that way. In speeches, he referred to The Epoch Times and other Falun Gong-linked outlets — including the New Tang Dynasty TV station, or NTD — as “our media,” and said they could help publicize Falun Gong’s story and values around the world.

Two former employees recalled that the paper’s top editors had traveled to Dragon Springs to meet with Mr. Li. One employee who attended a meeting said Mr. Li had weighed in on editorial and strategic decisions, acting as a kind of shadow publisher. The Epoch Times denied these accounts, saying in a statement, “There has been no such meeting.”

The line between The Epoch Times and Falun Gong is blurry at times. Two former Epoch Times reporters said they had been asked to write flattering profiles of foreign performers being recruited into Shen Yun, the heavily advertised dance performance series that Falun Gong backs, because it would strengthen those performers’ visa applications. Another former Epoch Times reporter recalled being assigned to write critical articles about politicians including John Liu, a Taiwanese-American former New York City councilman whom the group viewed as soft on China and hostile to Falun Gong.

These articles helped Falun Gong advance its goals, but they lured few subscribers.

Matthew K. Tullar, a former sales director for The Epoch Times’s Orange County edition in New York, wrote on his LinkedIn page that his team initially “printed 800 papers each week, had no subscribers, and utilized a ‘throw it in their driveway for free’ marketing strategy.” Mr. Tullar did not respond to requests for comment.

Ms. Belmaker, who left the paper in 2017, described it as a bare-bones operation that was always searching for new moneymaking ventures.

“It was very short-term thinking,” she said. “We weren’t looking more than three weeks down the road.”

By 2014, The Epoch Times was edging closer to Mr. Li’s vision of a respectable news outlet. Subscriptions were growing, the paper’s reporting was winning journalism awards, and its finances were stabilizing.

“There was all this optimism that things were going to level up,” Ms. Belmaker said.

But at a staff meeting in 2015, leadership announced that the publication was in trouble again, Ms. Belmaker recalled. Facebook had changed its algorithm for determining which articles appeared in users’ newsfeeds, and The Epoch Times’s traffic and ad revenue were suffering.

In response, the publication assigned reporters to churn out as many as five posts a day in a search for viral hits, often lowbrow fare with titles like “Grizzly Bear Does Belly Flop Into a Swimming Pool.”

“It was a competition for traffic,” Ms. Belmaker said.

Credit…Kyle Johnson for The New York Times

As the 2016 election neared, reporters noticed that the paper’s political coverage took on a more partisan tone.

Steve Klett, who covered the 2016 campaign for the paper, said his editors had encouraged favorable coverage about Mr. Trump after he won the Republican nomination.

“They seemed to have this almost messianic way of viewing Trump as the anti-Communist leader who would bring about the end of the Chinese Communist Party,” Mr. Klett said.

After Mr. Trump’s victory, The Epoch Times hired Brendan Steinhauser, a well-connected Tea Party strategist, to help make inroads with conservatives. Mr. Steinhauser said the organization’s goal, beyond raising its profile in Washington, had been to make Falun Gong’s persecution a Trump administration priority.

“They wanted more people in Washington to be aware of how the Chinese Communist Party operates, and what it has done to spiritual and ethnic minorities,” Mr. Steinhauser said.

Behind the scenes, The Epoch Times was also developing a secret weapon: a Facebook growth strategy that would ultimately help take its message to millions.

According to emails reviewed by The Times, the Facebook plan was developed by Trung Vu, the former head of The Epoch Times’s Vietnamese edition, known as Dai Ky Nguyen, or DKN.

In Vietnam, Mr. Trung’s strategy involved filling a network of Facebook pages with viral videos and pro-Trump propaganda, some of it lifted word for word from other sites, and using automated software, or bots, to generate fake likes and shares, a former DKN employee said. Employees used fake accounts to run the pages, a practice that violated Facebook’s rules but that Mr. Trung said was necessary to protect employees from Chinese surveillance, the former employee said.

Mr. Trung did not respond to requests for comment.

According to the 2017 email sent to Epoch Times workers in America, the Vietnamese experiment was a “remarkable success” that made DKN one of the largest publishers in Vietnam.

The outlet, the email claimed, was “having a profound impact on saving sentient beings in that country.”

The Vietnamese team was asked to help Epoch Media Group — the umbrella organization for Falun Gong’s biggest U.S. media properties — set up its own Facebook empire, according to that email. That year, dozens of new Facebook pages appeared, all linked to The Epoch Times and its affiliates. Some were explicitly partisan, others positioned themselves as sources of real and unbiased news, and a few, like a humor page called “Funniest Family Moments,” were disconnected from news entirely.

Perhaps the most audacious experiment was a new right-wing politics site called America Daily.

Today, the site, which has more than a million Facebook followers, peddles far-right misinformation. It has posted anti-vaccine screeds, an article falsely claiming that Bill Gates and other elites are “directing” the Covid-19 pandemic and allegations about a “Jewish mob” that controls the world.

Emails obtained by The Times show that John Nania, a longtime Epoch Times editor, was involved in starting America Daily, along with executives from Sound of Hope, a Falun Gong-affiliated radio network. Records on Facebook show that the page is operated by the Sound of Hope Network, and a pinned post on its Facebook page contains a promotional video for Falun Gong.

In a statement, The Epoch Times said it had “no business relationship” with America Daily.

Many of the Facebook pages operated by The Epoch Times and its affiliates followed a similar trajectory. They began by posting viral videos and uplifting news articles aggregated from other sites. They grew quickly, sometimes adding hundreds of thousands of followers a week. Then, they were used to steer people to buy Epoch Times subscriptions and promote more partisan content.

Several of the pages gained significant followings “seemingly overnight,” said Renee DiResta, a disinformation researcher with the Stanford Internet Observatory. Many posts were shared thousands of times but received almost no comments — a ratio, Ms. DiResta said, that is typical of pages that have been boosted by “click farms,” firms that generate fake traffic by paying people to click on certain links over and over again.

The Epoch Times denies using click farms or other illicit tactics to expand its pages. “The Epoch Times’s social media strategies were different from DKN, and used Facebook’s own promotional tools to gain an increased organic following,” the outlet said, adding that The Epoch Times cut ties with Mr. Trung in 2018.

But last year, The Epoch Times was barred from advertising on Facebook — where it had spent more than $1.5 million over seven months — after the social network announced that the outlet’s pages had evaded its transparency requirements by disguising its ad purchases.

This year, Facebook took down more than 500 pages and accounts linked to Truth Media, a network of anti-China pages that had been using fake accounts to amplify their messages. The Epoch Times denied any involvement, but Facebook’s investigators said Truth Media “showed some links to on-platform activity by Epoch Media Group and NTD.”

“We’ve taken enforcement actions against Epoch Media and related groups several times,” said a Facebook spokeswoman, who added that the social network would punish the outlet if it violated more rules in the future.

Since being barred from advertising on Facebook, The Epoch Times has moved much of its operation to YouTube, where it has spent more than $1.8 million on ads since May 2018, according to Google’s public database of political advertising.

Where the paper’s money comes from is something of a mystery. Former employees said they had been told that The Epoch Times was financed by a combination of subscriptions, ads and donations from wealthy Falun Gong practitioners. In 2018, the most recent year for which the organization’s tax returns are publicly available, The Epoch Times Association received several sizable donations, but none big enough to pay for a multimillion-dollar ad blitz.

Mr. Bannon is among those who have noticed The Epoch Times’s deep pockets. Last year, he produced a documentary about China with NTD. When he talked with the outlet about other projects, he said, money never seemed to be an issue.

“I’d give them a number,” Mr. Bannon said. “And they’d come back and say, ‘We’re good for that number.’”

The Epoch Times’s pro-Trump turn has upset some former employees, like Ms. Belmaker.

Ms. Belmaker, now a freelance writer and editor, still believes in many of Falun Gong’s teachings, she said. But she has grown disenchanted with The Epoch Times, which she sees as running contrary to Falun Gong’s core principles of truth, compassion and tolerance.

“The moral objective is gone,” she said. “They’re on the wrong side of history, and I don’t think they care.”

Recently, The Epoch Times has shifted its focus to the coronavirus. It pounced on China’s missteps in the early days of the pandemic, and its reporters wrote about misreported virus statistics and Chinese influence in the World Health Organization.

Some of these articles were true. But others pushed exaggerated or false claims, like the unproven theory that the virus was engineered in a lab as part of a Chinese biological warfare strategy.

Some of the claims were repeated in a documentary that both NTD and The Epoch Times posted on YouTube, where it has been viewed more than five million times. The documentary features the discredited virologist Judy Mikovits, who also starred in the viral “Plandemic” video, which Facebook, YouTube and other social platforms pulled this year for spreading false claims.

The Epoch Times said, “In our documentary we offered a range of evidence and viewpoints without drawing any conclusions.”

Ms. Belmaker, who still keeps a photo of Master Li on a shelf in her house, said she recoiled whenever an ad for The Epoch Times popped up on YouTube promoting some new partisan talking point.

One recent video, “Digging Beneath Narratives,” is a two-minute infomercial about China’s mishandling of the coronavirus. The ad’s host says The Epoch Times has an “underground network of sources” in China providing information about the government’s response to the virus.

It’s a plausible claim, but the video’s host makes no mention of The Epoch Times’s ties to Falun Gong, or its two-decade-long campaign against Chinese communism, saying only that the paper is “giving you an accurate picture of what’s happening in this world.”

“We tell it like it is,” he says.

Ben Smith contributed reporting. Jack Begg contributed research.

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Wealthy Millennial Women Tend to Defer to Husbands on Investing

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When Representative Katie Porter ended her troubled marriage, leaving was tough, but one thing made it easier: For years, she had handled the family’s investments and savings plans, and she was confident that she and her children would be OK.

“It was really important to me to know that I would be able to feed and house and care for my children that next month, and the month after that,” Ms. Porter, Democrat of California, said of leaving her husband, who she said had physically abused her.

Not enough women, she said, see competency in personal finance as key to freedom and security.

A study published in June by the Swiss banking group UBS underscored that point. It found that even the most educated and high-achieving millennial women were not as involved as their husbands in long-term financial decision making.

In fact, millennial women — part of a generation thought to have pushed for open-mindedness about gender roles — exhibited less financial independence than boomer women did. Among millennial women living with male partners, 54 percent said they deferred to their partners for long-term financial planning rather than sharing that responsibility or taking the lead themselves, compared with 39 percent of boomer women, according to the study, which surveyed 1,320 women with at least $250,000 in investable assets.

The primary reason those women deferred was a belief that their husbands knew more, the study found.

There have been worrying signs of a lack of progress toward gender equality at all income levels. A Gallup survey published in January found that opposite-sex couples ages 18 to 34 were no more likely than older couples to divide household chores equitably.

The gender gap in financial autonomy is especially critical now, with women at particular risk of getting sidelined during the coronavirus pandemic. Of the 1.1 million people 20 and older who left the work force in August and September, nearly 80 percent were women, according to an analysis by the National Women’s Law Center.

A study published last month by the consulting firm McKinsey & Company found that a third of mothers had considered leaving the work force or downshifting their careers during the pandemic, with a majority of those citing child care challenges as a primary reason.

The UBS study also found that fewer millennial women than boomer women saw financial participation as necessary for equality, with 76 percent of millennials (ages 24 to 39) saying it was essential, compared with 89 percent of boomers (ages 56 to 74).

Many conversations about women’s empowerment are focused on negotiating salary increases, Ms. Porter said. “But what good does that raise do you if you don’t know what your savings plan is going to be with that little bit of extra money?” she said. “What good does it do to climb that ladder and get that next higher-paying job with better benefits if you don’t take the time to invest that retirement fund correctly?”

Sallie Krawcheck, chief executive and co-founder of Ellevest, an investment platform for women, said millennials might not have realized that if they do not have financial equality, they do not have independence.

“Younger women haven’t had as many hard-won lessons,” she said.

The UBS study has limitations: It did not survey the boomers when they were three decades younger, the age millennials are today, so it is hard to conclude to what extent the differing attitudes are because of age and acquired wisdom versus other changes. And the women surveyed, all of whom had at least a quarter of a million dollars in investable assets, may not be representative of their generation over all.

Erin Lowry, a personal finance adviser and the author of “Broke Millennial,” said one reason boomer women may be more likely to view financial independence as essential for equality was that they have witnessed what can happen without it: Many were raised by mothers who were denied loans or credit cards in their names, she said.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, as the director of the A.C.L.U.’s Women’s Rights Project in the 1970s, litigated a string of cases that paved the way for the Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974, which prohibited creditors from asking about sex, marital status or the use of birth control.

“I know a lot of millennial women who are feminists, liberated and whatever, who let their husbands handle all the finances,” Ms. Lowry said. “It’s very much still an archetype in heterosexual relationships.”

A graduate student in her 30s said that when she got married several years ago, her husband made most of the money and handled the couple’s long-term finances. That meant he had more say than she did in decisions like where their daughter went to school and where they went on vacation, she said.

He began to physically abuse her, she said, but because she depended on him financially, she did not feel as if she could leave the relationship. It was only after friends encouraged her to set up a separate bank account and take other steps to take control of her financial life that she could leave.

“There’s a complacency that the world is equal, we’ve got it made, we can do anything we want, we’re going to have awesome partners who will be our equals,” said the woman, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of a pending legal case against her husband and because she was concerned for her safety. It’s easy to think financial autonomy is not essential when it is, she added.

“It’s part and parcel of our daily independence,” she said, “which has to be constantly reaffirmed.”

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The 6-Figure Life Coach: Debbie Cherry of Practitioner Freedom

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October 24, 2020 6 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Turning clinicians into coaches so they can show up for their clients and earn six-figure incomes is what keeps Debbie Cherry motivated. She’s the perfect person to do it, because it’s a journey she’s walked herself.

Like many clinicians, Cherry started off trading time for dollars with one-on-one counseling sessions, but the need to make a bigger impact and start to reclaim some family time led her to launch Relationship Remedies, a couples-counseling program. The process of creating and that program helped Cherry identify some of the gaps that stop many clinicians from growing their businesses successfully. 

“I saw clinicians falling through the cracks because they didn’t get online sales and marketing, and they didn’t understand the technology,” she says. “They had something awesome to share with the world, but they needed help to do it.”

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Freedom for wellness practitioners

Cherry realized that she had the marketing and to help those clinicians take the next step and launch coaching programs of their own. So in 2018, Cherry launched Practitioner Freedom, which works with therapists, counselors, clinicians, psychologists and other healers to help them transition from the one-on-one medical model to a one-to-many online delivery model that helps them serve more people while creating more personal freedom for themselves. 

“We focus on simplifying the marketing process and reducing the noise of fancy funnels and email list-building to guide clients to the most powerful way to show up and get clients,” Cherry explains.

And she has has picked a lucrative niche. According to and the ICF, the number of coaches worldwide has increased by 33 percent between 2015 and 2019. Estimated revenue from the sector was $2.849 billion in 2019. 

One of Cherry’s key mantras is “show up.” It’s what she does herself, and she helps her clients to do the same, using the technology and platforms that are readily available, like , to connect on a deeper level. As she advises: “We can leverage social media and platforms in this online connection world for good. Look at that as a new opportunity to find people and connect with people, and just start showing up and sharing what you believe.”

For her, that’s been the game-changer that helped her build a six-figure business: “The more you put yourself out there, the more Lives you do, the more people you talk to, the more you show up and are seen and stand for something, the more clients you’ll get, and the quicker you’ll have a sustainable business.”

Related: The 6-Figure Clinic Owner: David Mancini of Pure Health Chiropractic

Creating an impact with generosity and tenacity

In addition, she encourages that you have to be generous and tenacious. Generosity means being willing to be vulnerable in terms of taking risks and potentially failing. Meanwhile, tenacity is about constantly finding a way to get your message out there and create the big impact you want to make.

In this process, Cherry adds, it’s also important to identify your niche. But she cautions her clients to focus more on psychographics than on demographics. “It doesn’t have to be a focus on this person from this background doing this profession,” she says. “It’s more: What’s their worldview? What matters most to them. If you can articulate what they’re going through and where they want to be on a deep, specific level, then they feel heard and seen, and that’s how you cut through the noise.”

Clearly, this approach is working for Cherry, moving her from a six-figure to a seven-figure business in a very short time. But while showing up and building a strong business foundation gets you from nothing to six figures, the game-changer for a seven-figure business is having the right around you.

“Don’t hire people to fill holes or take pressure off,” Cherry affirms. “When people are hired to plug gaps, often they’re not as empowered to really be a part of it. Hire people who are all in on the vision you have. We believe strongly in innovation and not becoming cogs in somebody else’s wheel. We believe in throwing out old paradigms and looking for new ways to streamline and accelerate and advance quickly. We also believe in the freedom to choose how you want to do things. And we believe in having fun.”

Cherry models what she wants her coaches and her clients to duplicate. She describes her leadership style as collaborative rather than hierarchical, focused on freedom, , flexibility and leveraging team members’ gifts. She’s also keen to avoid what she sees as outdated paradigms.

“Every little decision is how do we maximize our energy and not get in a service model rut,” she says, “where we are just running ourselves into the ground.” 

Shaping the future of wellness

While 49 percent of coach practitioners reported reduced income because of the pandemic, Cherry’s own business is bucking the trend: “I think it’s helped us to really claim our position in questioning the status quo and it’s helped our clients as well in trying to enroll their clients in a transformation because more people are at home, and that’s kind of opened up new possibilities.”

One of Cherry’s favorite success stories from the program is about a person who was on disability and was on the verge of giving up. “They invested in the program, followed the steps, really did the personal growth work to show up and serve their clients at a higher level and learn new skills,” she recalls. “Within two months, they had 10 high-paying clients.” And now that client also has a six-figure business.

Related: This Business Owner Helps Fitness Trainers Go From Hourly Wages to 6-Figure Salaries

Cherry has a strong vision for the Practitioner Freedom program. “We’re really working hard at how you leverage your gifts,” she says. “How do you maximize your time and energy and resources? We want to lead by example and help form the future of wellness.”

And the coaches she works with want to do the same. “All of our practitioners want to be leaders in the wellness area,” Cherry says. “So they want to get out of diagnosis, labels and relieving symptoms and into defining wellness and the new paradigm. That’s where we’re going as a team.”

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