Out With Her New Book A Game of Life - A Women’s Game Plan For Success. An Exclusive Interview With Author Patricia Kennedy.
Q: What is your book The Game of Life! all about?
PK: The Game of Life! is about the landscape that persists in today's corporate environment. Focusing on women in that arena and the challenges we face, I share how we got to where we are through socialization, conditioning, societal norms, expected or acceptable behaviors that shape how we as women show up in the world. Then I share actions we can take to be the change we want to see in the world.
Q: What inspired you to write The Game of Life?
PK: In addition to being a coach for women my entire career, I have started mentorship programs, coached Women in Leadership, and mentored countless people. I also volunteered for women’s groups. I have advocated for women’s rights – especially in the workplace, for a long time.
In my lifetime, I have not seen much change. I remember when my children were first born and how much I wanted things to be different for women in the workforce. And I prayed that things would get better for them. Well, now that my two daughters are grown, it still hasn’t!
Q: When you talk about the game of life in your book, what game are you talking about?
PK: The career game. Most people in corporate America want to have a solid career and show progress and do work that matters to them. Right? Well, women have a different set of rules than men do. It should NOT be that way, but it is. Women will not apply for a role unless they have 100% of the qualifications. Men, on the other hand, will apply with meeting only 60% of the criteria. Did we, as women, make up those rules? Maybe. I certainly didn’t, but I used to adhere to them in many cases. So, it is essential to know what challenges you face as a woman so that you can be successful in your career game plan!
Q: In researching the information for your book, The Game of Life!, what was the most surprising fact you learned?
PK: I was shocked to learn that in many cases, women get handed tasks while men are often chosen to work on opportunities. In the corporate environment, how this might show up is that on any particular team when a party or a space needed to be reserved for that team, women are more tasked with this behind-the-scenes work than men.
For my book I researched how men will not raise their hands to volunteer for this type of work – rarely. Men are more often given opportunities like projects that hit the bottom line – profit and loss.
Now I am not stating this happens every time on every team, but it happens frequently. So, looking at that type of phenomenon through that lens helped me to think about how many times that had happened to me and women leaders with whom I’ve worked. You do not typically get promotions for task-related work, but you do get visibility, promotions, and raises for work related to opportunities.
The point of my sharing is to bring awareness and to ensure the work you decide to take on as a woman will move you forward in your career. That was a big eye-opener for me, personally.
Q: What would you tell your younger self now that you wish she had known at the start of your career?
PK: That it is a man’s world, and things are stacked against women. You will be judged on things you do and say in the workplace differently than men. And I would tell myself to create a game plan early on to be successful. Make those goals and go forth and make a difference while ensuring the work you do take on will get you closer to your goals.
I am not suggesting that you can simply pick and choose the work you get to do but be mindful of it. In The Game of Life! I also give examples of how to effectively say “No” to these types of requests.
Q: As a coach, what are the top three habits that best serve women in the workplace?
PK: 1. Be intentional. You don’t do what you don’t plan.” I cannot say enough about this. Be intentional about what you want to do and where it is you wish to go in your career, and periodically check in with yourself to ensure you stay on track.
2. Protect your time. I give some examples of tools you can implement to ensure you stay on track when your schedule goes haywire. There are processes you can follow to make certain you are working on those items that are important to you and your career and putting other things on the back burner. Part of this process must be to get comfortable with the fact that there will always be things on the back burner or that you just will not be able to accomplish. Protecting your time is of paramount importance to stay on track and for you to achieve the goals important to you.
3. Practice self-care. This is especially important during stressful meetings, in between meetings, or before you go deliver that big presentation. Mindfulness work helps (meditation) and especially taking 3 deep breaths or some type of mindful breathing technique to bring your mind and body into a state of calm. Those are just a few examples.
Q: How do you use what you've learned from authoring your book to empower your coaching clients?
PK: The Game of Life! is a starting point. It lays the foundation for many of the elements that help most people. But some of us need coaching and support to implement these ideas and practices. It is similar to dieting. Most of us know we need to stay away from sweets and eat whole foods, including vegetables, but we don’t do it. We don’t think about why we don’t do it. In other words, we know what we SHOULD do, but we don’t do it. Some say it is simply willpower or some other reason. But there are usually a few mistaken beliefs that hamper your success. That is precisely what coaching has helped my clients to uncover.
Q: What is one word of advice you can offer to young women who want to reach your level of success?
PK: First, define what success means to you. I hope any young woman reading this response achieves success well beyond anything I could dream. But the most important thing to keep in mind is to define what you want. What does success look like to you? Everyone should have a different answer to that question. It could mean you want to travel. Therefore, you find a job that pays you to travel (flight attendant, pilot, astronaut, travel blogger, etc.). It doesn’t always mean you become president of the United States, but I do hope someone takes up that mantle and gets into office quickly! You get to define what success means to you. Then make plans to achieve it.
Q: What advice would you give to young women who want to pursue their dream and start a business?
PK: To go for it! You never know if you could make it unless you try. I see so many women working full time jobs and starting businesses on the side. It is not easy juggling both. Many people give up. If it is truly your dream to start a business, keep pursuing it. Never give up. I remember I once had to make an emergency visit to the dentist, and she was an elegant, older woman who told me she went to school to become a dentist at the age of 50. The only thing in our way is ourselves in many cases.
Q: After high school, where did you feel your career path would take you?
PK: After high school, I did not have a career path in mind for myself. That is why I encourage all people, especially women, to see a career path for themselves and to set goals. I went from job to job without much thought until I was in my late twenties. That is when I realized I had better get a degree and start taking this job thing seriously! Once I did that, my career took off. But even then it was a long time before I started planning my next move. I think there are a lot of women who have had similar paths to mine, and I want to help women to take the time to learn what it is they want to achieve in their lives and move forward with that as their career goal. Sometimes just having a job to pay for your life goals is all you need to have to find deep satisfaction in life.
Q: Can you tell us how you manage your work life balance?
PK: I learned early on, it isn’t scheduled, it’s not going to happen. Everything is on my calendar. My free time, meditation time, workouts, are there so that I make certain they get done. Also, every day I block my lunch hours, evenings, and weekends for my family. Family always comes first. Another thing that is important is to take 5 minutes before each meeting to take deep breaths, a quick job in place or some other activity for myself. I find it helps me to get in the right frame of mind before I dive into something else. Taking that time is important!
Q: What's your advice for women in male-dominated fields?
PK: Be aware of the landscape, know the game that is being played and then decide what rules you wish to follow. Reading my book, learning everything you can about the reality of the environment, having mentors, get coaching, are all things will help prepare you for your career. Women pave the way all the time and have always done so. Get the experience but do not tolerate unequal behavior or pay. Last, don’t give up.
Seven Things About Pat Kennedy
1. What's your favorite family tradition?
Thanksgiving. We celebrate all the things for which we are thankful and celebrate the native lands upon which we live. The smell of turkey in the oven, the bustling in the kitchen to create festive and familiar dishes always bring me a sense of thankfulness.
2. Tell me about the best vacation you’ve ever taken.
All vacations are the best! Seriously, when you can just relax and enjoy a new place, it helps the mind calm, and we remember who we are (if we truly let go of our work struggles). I will say the last vacation was in south Florida and I swam every single day in the pool, we went to the beach, had lovely food. It was simple but re-energizing.
3. Do you read reviews, or just go with your gut?
Oh, I read reviews! I want to know all the dirt on something and try to read past the negative to really try to get a sense of whether something makes sense to move forward with it or not (including movies, books, product, places).
4. What’s your big passion?
I am passionate about helping women. We are treated like second class citizens even though we make up half of the population. I want to help women regain their sense of self, realize their power, and create the life they want. My mission is to make the world a more equitable and balanced place, one woman at a time.
5. Cake or pie?
Cake. Every time. I like to eat pie but if cake is on the menu, it’s mine!
6. What was your favorite subject in school?
I likes/disliked all the classes equally. Math is actually amazing if you have the right teacher. The one class I still relish to this day is aeronautical science. I realize this course is not taught in many high schools, but it was astounding! The first time I was in an airplane, I flew it. The instructor took off and landed, of course, but I did get an opportunity to actually fly the plane while in mid-air! I will never forget it.
7. What celebrity would you like to meet at Starbucks for a cup of coffee?
Viola Davis. Where do I start? Look at what she has accomplished in her life. She brings so much depth to every character she portrays, and she was listed as one of Time magazines most influential people in the world. I would completely go fan girl, but I would treasure any words of wisdom shared in that conversation.