Standing gazing into the pool at my “perfect” life I wondered how I got this miserable. Through many tears and long nights soul searching, I finally found the courage to dig deep in the darkest places of my mind and soul and find how and what went wrong. I traveled back to my story and looked at the events from an adult’s vantage point.
I had the pleasure of interviewing April Kirkwood who is an author, therapist, and public speaker. Her book, Working My Way Back to Me, is an inspirational tale that sheds light on universal struggles involving love, sexuality, addiction, and mental health. She is an advocate for women and early childhood trauma that affects adult romance.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
I grew in a blue collar family in the Midwest living on a small farm with my mom and her extended family. My childhood was filled with wonderfully strong and crazy women who loved me but modeled some really sad messages about men, women, and love. I didn’t realize those messages until I found myself looking back realizing that no matter how I looked, what degrees I had, or social status I arrived to I never could never get it right in the area of her romantic life. I finally hit a dead wall in West Palm where it looked like I had everything any woman would want. Standing gazing into the pool at my “perfect” life I wondered how I got this miserable. Through many tears and long nights soul searching, I finally found the courage to dig deep in the darkest places of my mind and soul and find how and what went wrong. I traveled back to my story and looked at the events from an adult’s vantage point. Each step I forced myself into those parts of our lives and family we never really discuss. There were abortions, affairs, church, parties, divorces, and addictions. I found the multi-generational messages that were innocently imprinted in my being. I spent four years shifting through the rubble of my life and worked my way back until I could do the healing work I needed.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
I was doing a very important interview on skype interviewing a potential staff member. I had my game face on and when, out of the blue, my little yorkie jumped on the desk in front of the screen. Oh, it gets worse! I jumped up to get him and they clearly could see that I had pajama bottoms on with my business top. Well, my act was shattered. Luckily it was with another female who laughed and we’ve been working together since.
What was your biggest challenge to date either personally or professionally and how did you overcome it?
I have a difficult time balancing being a boss and wanting to be friends with staff. As a counselor and teacher, I always want to ‘mother’ everyone. It’s natural for me but makes being a boss more complex in the area of maintaining corporate boundaries. It is a top priority for me to have positive relationships with everyone in my personal space but in the workplace its get a bit delicate to manage. The purpose of our relationship is to the success of the company and that requires each of us making our responsibilities and duties the ultimate goal. In communication with new employees, I have changed my welcome presentation. I smile warmly and say, “Perhaps friendship will be an outgrowth of our work together but it is not the purpose of working together.”
Not keeping professional boundaries spills into many issues. One negative effect of getting too personal with staff is that once your ‘perceived’ power disappears their work often ethic slides. I get it. Friends put up with a lot of crap with one another and we just sort of ignore and forgive each other’s flaws and mishaps and move on. Corporate policy often boasts of family bonds but in actuality, they want you to come and work. End of story!
The other adverse consequence of ‘getting too cozy’ with hires is that they get jealous and envious of your lifestyle. This also gives them a closeup view where they often discover that their boss is human with flaws and has personal stuff just like them. Their mind interprets this to being on a more equal status. Giving a subordinate who considers themself an equal a directive if often met with angst on their part. All relationships are a balancing act and those at work are no different.
Counselor’s Tip: Once you’ve crossed that line it’s almost impossible to get your respect and status back.
What does leadership mean to you and how do you best inspire others to lead?
I sincerely want my employees to let their creative juices flow. I encourage them to bravely go for it. I want them to grow even if it means that they will leave me to move up the ladder. When people stop growing and don’t feel respected all sorts of dark energy corrodes their lives spilling onto the company. I do not micro manage. I never liked being treated that way and I don’t do it to others. In fact, I’d rather they send me an email and give them the lead so I can grow and create as well. I hate babysitting. Never did it in high school and don’t want to do it now.
For example, I consider Fridays a lost day of sorts. Unless there is something special going on, I don’t try to reach out, check on them, or catch them. That would be an awful life for all concerned.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
There are some people that have just showed up out of the blue, although I don’t believe for a minute that fate isn’t in place. Destiny? Perhaps, but I gladly welcome their suggestions and follow their leads with gratefulness and humility. I check my ego at the door and absorb each piece of advice as a gift.
Better yet, these wonderful people keep showing up. Each step of my career someone new arrives to take me forwards in my journey presenting new ideas and possibilities for me to consider. The first person who arrived to inspire me me on this project is Val Gobos. I sent her my book and she adopted me as her project. She is a credited film producer originally from Chicago now in Southern California. I’m eternally grateful to Val because she saw in me what I didn’t see in myself. I was, up until then, a scattered sort of fairy. I whirled and twirled about poking my fingers in too many projects accomplishing not much at anything. If anything, I could honorably admit, I failed into success until I found mentors. Val Gobos is one of many. I want to take this moment to thank each of them.
Was it difficult to fit your life into your business/career and how did you do that?
I still struggle with balancing my career with my personal life. Many days I work at home and for some unknown reason, no one else seems to see it as truly working. I have tried to explain, console, and bargain with family, friends, and four legged friends but usually they don’t get it. Now I try to work around ‘their’ schedules carving out private time when I know they’re busy. Moms are always fitting it all into many areas of their lives. It can happen. I’m living proof.
Did you find that as your success grew it became more difficult to focus on the other areas of your life?
Writing, counseling, and speaking are very intense activities where I give it over one hundred percent of my attention and devotion. It’s emotional and fulfilling. I often find it hard to break away. In order to prevent obsessively working blocking out everything else, I write everything designating blocks of times for work in my calendar. I share it with my kids and post it in the house. It doesn’t always work, but in general, it is effective. For example, five hours to work daily seven am through noon, Monday through Thursday. I add in one hour to exercise. The rest is blocked out as well to take care of home, health, and family. I accruing doing all errands on the same day so I make the most of my outing. I remember my Grandma going to town every Saturday to get it all done. I enjoyed tagging along with her. She was the first ‘at home business owner’ breeding thousands of chickens for egg delivery and more. Who said women working at home is new and innovative! Holidays are reserved for family unless Oprah calls. I’m there.
Can you share five pieces of advice to other leaders about how to achieve the best balance between work and personal life?
Know Your Priorities
As a counselor who has the opportunity to share insights with others about life and death, I have never heard someone near passing say they wished they had worked more. Without someone to share your successes and any monetary benefits, what is it worth? For me life is about relationships and living passionately and my career runs second. Make the soccer game for your son and pay attention. Take your daughter to lunch and actually relax and share your thoughts. Stay off the phone.
Counselor’s Tip: Time is the only non renewable commodity in our world. Choose it wisely.
Research states that those who have happy relationships and participate in social activities have more successful careers. Know the importance of living a well rounded life and make it a part of your daily schedule. If you are fighting with your significant other every morning, it becomes very difficult for you to channel your best self to be a leader and innovator. A leader wear many hats but the most important is to set the tone for your company. Whether you want the burden or not, you are the parent of your company. Everyone is watching and following both your verbal and nonverbal cues.
Counselor’s Tip: Be open and be aware of the power you have to make others feel their best so they can do their best.
An awareness of the components of a life worth living means there will be times in your company that both yourself and others will have to take off for. Births, deaths, weddings, divorces, and hospitalization is part of living. Take those in stride by offering personal days for you, and your employees to de stress, heal, and reenergize. Make it a policy to be on call if a big project is in the works. Research states that more Americans die on Monday mornings between six and eleven am then any other day of the week. Does that sound amazingly odd to you? It shouldn’t, people would rather die then show up at their job and often times, that includes their superiors. Are you Scrooge? If show, consider this a message from the ghost of Christmas future, “Change is not just recommended; it’s a necessity for yourself and your employees health.”
Counselor’s Tip: You get more bees with honey than vinegar.
It takes thirty-three repetitions to create a habit for both yourself and those around you. That’s what it takes to transform your work habits so that your schedule runs efficiently. If it is goes well encourage everyone may follow your lead both at home and at work Imitation is the best form of flattery after all, you’re a leader. Leaders guide, create, and set an example of including joy.
Counselor’s Tip: ‘Be’ a lifelong learner.
This a the golden ticket to experiencing more free time in your personal life. Find like minded people and give them a chance to find their passion by helping you with yours. I love who I work with and they now are truly part of my family. Shhhh….don’t tell them, although I know the jig is up.
What gives you the greatest sense of accomplishment and pride.
Now that my children are grown, I feel a deep sense of accomplishment knowing that they are doing well. I swell up like one of those mother hens with her chicks running loose all over the yard. I am that hen. Seeing their lives holding up the character traits and work ethic I taught them is like a shot of adrenaline in the arm. It also opens a window to fly with a sort of freedom to renew my heart’s passion. I want to continue to work and become more of what makes me proud of myself for them. I want to be a woman that they see go through bad times and keep striving. No one should give up on their dreams. I see stars in the heavens and I feel I’m on the right path. It may sound a bit corny but my best friend is my intuition. My spiritual life is my compass in all areas of my life.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I want women and men of any age to stop living passionless lives at both their workplace and at home. Business owners can help lead the way. It is possible to step silently away and look deeply into one’s beliefs and makes changes. We aren’t stuck. Fluidity to change is always only a moment away. It is possible to bend and not break and gently introduce a new life without ever changing a single thing but your perspective. Once that occurs, life will make changes and show you how and where to walk. Ideas, people, places, and even memories will gently fall away ushering in light, energy, and a jest for life. It is work and it is panful but what is your life worth? What would you do to and to come alive again, laugh again, and be loved again? This is my movement. Live life to the fullest one thought at a time.
What is the best way for people to connect with you on social media?