Conflict: A Catalyst

August 9, 2012 § 2 Comments

I ran across this wonderful TED Talk from Margaret Heffernan discussing the constructive role of conflict within organizations.

To summarize the video, Heffernan shared the story of Dr. Alice Stewart who was a epidemiologist in the 1950’s. She specialized in the study of patterns and she began looking at the rise of childhood cancers and trying to find a cause. Her partner, George Kneale,was a keen statistician and his role was to review her data and prove her wrong. She used conflict with her partner to strengthen her argument for the cause she discovered which turned out to be doctors using the relatively new technology of x-rays on pregnant women. Unfortunately, it continued to take the medical establishment another 20 years before they stopped the practice. Dr. Stewart knew that she needed her data and analysis of it to be as strong as possible and she used conflict constructively to achieve that.

As Heffernan notes, as individuals, we generally do everything we can to avoid conflict. When there is conflict, it creates stress and we take steps to avoid conflict. But, could we turn this conflict into an opportunity to become stronger? Isn’t that really what change boils down to – conflict?

Now, I am not talking about the useless kind of conflict that goes nowhere (think all the arguments you ever had with a sibling in the backseat of a car on a long trip).

I am talking about the conflict you have when you hate going to work every day because the job is boring. Maybe that conflict is telling you its time to move on to a better and more challenging position.

Have you ever had a conflict with a friend who is asking you to do something different? Is she pushing you to expand and try something new or address a habit that’s not constructive?

Ever had conflict with your children? Isn’t that usually them trying to exert their own influence and independence?

Conflict starts a conversation. I think Margaret Heffernan is right to recommend embracing conflict and using it as a tool to dig deeper and understand the issues. The next time you encounter conflict, can you reframe it and use it to develop an action plan to move forward?

Posted by: Heather Comstock


Purse Shopping and Group Brainstorming

July 20, 2012 § Leave a comment

This is a post from our fabulous intern, Jennifer Reitz. Jennifer is finishing her doctorate degree and helping PEC develop this new project! We’re thrilled to have her expertise at the Empowerment Center.

We’ll seize an opportunity to shop for accessories, but what about leadership opportunities? (photo by Nancy Arseneault)

“Oh wow, I love your purse!” This compliment means a lot to a woman who has spent hours shopping for the right purse, and it definitely sweetened my day to hear it from a co-worker a few weeks ago. What was your last purse-shopping experience like? One of my childhood memories involved trudging through store after store on a Saturday afternoon with my Aunt Deb in search of “the one”- that special purse that meets as many criteria as possible on the purse “must have” list: the right size, color, material, strap length, number of pockets, a good price…and the list goes on. Some of us ladies are a bit more particular than others when it comes to purse-hunting, but we can readily apply this scenario to some other situations in our lives. Looking for the right house? Spouse? Daycare for your kids?

My most recent job search resembled purse-shopping in many ways. When I started searching for a new job after my husband’s out-of-state job transfer, I knew exactly what job I was looking for, and I was sure it’d be a piece of cake to snag it. My academic counselor had assured me that my advanced degree would make me an asset any organization and former employers had nothing but praise for work I had done in the past. Well, things sometimes don’t go as planned, do they? You might visit seven different stores to find the perfect purse, only to have to wait a month for it to go on sale. One important lesson I’ve learned is that there’s more to a job than meets the eye- you might love the paycheck, but hate the hours… or love the hours, but feel like you’ve wasted your education.

What drew me to PEC was the idea of working with others who have experienced the same “being stuck-ness” that I have, and helping those who are “stuck” back onto the right path. You could say that PEC wants to help you find the right purse! When we don’t have the resources to get “unstuck” sometimes we end up settling for something less than what we want or less than what we need, just for the sake of being done with the search. It’s kind of like buying the ugly purse on clearance because we were tired of looking, right?

Does this sound like you, a friend, or a family member? Awesome! Well, sort of…I say that because we need you (or them) on August 2 from 6:30 to 8pm for a Focus Group, or essentially a group brainstorming session. PEC is introducing an innovative experience-based leadership program starting late this fall, and we could really use your feedback to make it just what you and other ladies in our area need. If you’ve worked with PEC in the past, you know how important this is to our mission! We believe this type of program is exactly what many of could use to get “unstuck” and get just a little closer to our career goals, and we can only do it with your excellent insight. Check out our flier, and we really hope to see you there on August 2nd as we continue to guide ladies to their own “perfect purse!”

PEC focus group flier

For more information, email Jen at jennifer.m.reitz (at) or call the PEC office at 410-799-1097!

Resumes, Big Dreams, & Maryland Women

January 31, 2012 § Leave a comment

Here are few random reads from all us here at Pinnacle as we wind down the month of January!

Cindy posted on our Linked In discussion group an interesting article “What Recruiters Look For On Your Resume in 15 Seconds”.  How do your personal marketing materials compare?

Maria passed on this interesting website for the radio show, Women Talk Live.  Check out the blog post about dreaming big. What are your big dreams or audacious goals for 2012?

If you have ever driven down the Baltimore-Washington Parkway and wondered who Gladys Noon Spellman was and why the Parkway is dedicated to her, visit the Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame  and take a walk through Maryland history.  A great way to have a few conversation starters for your next networking event!  Some of my favorite picks are below.  Which ones were your favorite?

Margaret Brent – petitioned the Maryland General Assembly in 1648 for the right to vote as a landholder and as attorney for Lord Baltimore.

Mary Young Pickersgill – In an age with no social safety nets, Pickersgill worked for housing, job placement, and financial assistance for women.  She is best known for sewing the “Star Spangled Banner” currently housed at the Smithsonian.

Mother Mary Elizabeth Lange – A refugee from Santa Domingo, she founded the first order of African American nuns in the Catholic Church, the Oblate Sisters of Providence in 1829 in Baltimore.  A Servant of God, she’s on the path to being recognized for sainthood by the Catholic Church, joining another Marylander St. Elizabeth Ann Seton.

Posted by: Heather Comstock

Presenter Profile: Cindy Virtue

January 17, 2012 § Leave a comment

By Heather Comstock

This is the first in a series of posts to introduce you to the audacious ladies who make the Empowerment Center work! They go above and beyond to help clients and are determined to make a difference in women’s lives – particularly because they have had to forge their own path through a life transition. Their own experiences coupled with their training and expertise provides a positive experience for women coming through our doors.

Cindy Virtue talks with an attendee at the 2011 Women's Empowerment Conference (photo by Nancy Arseneault)

Cindy Virtue is The Empowerment Center’s Career Coach and has been providing job search and career management coaching for over six years. Throughout her career, Cindy told me she has always tried to work the “career ladder” and work toward advancing her career within the positions she held. Cindy doesn’t stop teaching either! In the time that I have known her, I have learned a lot about what it takes to stand out in today’s professional sphere from resumes to social networking!

After the birth of her second child, Cindy left the workforce to stay at home with her kids. As they grew, she continued to keep her skills fresh by volunteering. She was very involved with the PTA advancing into leadership positions. Volunteering helped her stay connected with other parents and professionals and keep her skills up.

At a job fair nine years ago, she met Empowerment Center founder Lisa Dolce who was looking for administrative help for her company. As Cindy got involved she really enjoyed the work and meeting the clients. She decided to become a coach herself. She currently holds certifications as a Job & Career Transition Coach and a Certified Job Search Strategist. She continues to earn Continuing Education Credits (CEU’s) from the Career Master Institute to keep abreast of new developments in the field.

Cindy’s focus is one helping women who are coming back into the workforce after time out to be a caregiver either to children or aging parents. Because she has made the same journey, she understands where these women are and the value they do have for employers. She uses her training to help clients understand their own value, learn to communicate their value to potential employers, and breaks down the job search process in smaller steps making it less intimidating and more manageable.

Come meet Cindy at one of our Free Job Clubs the first Tuesday of each month or sign up for one of her workshops. Her next session is “On Linked In? So What? Getting Started Using Social Media” on Thursday, January 19th at 10:00 a.m. Register here You can contact Cindy via email at  

The Hillary Factor: Leadership and Communication Skills

June 25, 2011 § Leave a comment

Communication skills of women leaders and how they potentially effect their success… 



What Makes People Powerful?

June 18, 2011 § Leave a comment

Paul Jones via

A new book delves into the skills that separate the alphas from the omegas.

A new book from Stanford University professor Jeffrey Pfeffer, Ph.D., delves into this very issue. Pfeffer, a professor of organizational behavior at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, released his book, Power: Why Some People Have it and Others Don’t last month. Pfeffer’s argument is that there’s a crucial skill set that separates alphas like Steve Jobs andGoogle ( GOOG – news – people ) cofounder Larry Page from the omegas–and that potentially matters more than I.Q., charisma, and even hard work…..

Read more at:

Suze Orman: Women and Money!

June 12, 2011 § Leave a comment

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