Karen Howells has worked as a leadership development consultant for 25 years and executive coach for more than 15 years. In that time, she’s learned a lot about the struggles particular to working women, and she shares some of these with us today.
4word: What do you love best about consulting/coaching?
Karen: I help women, as well as men, in my sphere of influence (church, workplace, referrals) who are struggling with their next career step or wrestling with living out their faith.
It’s so gratifying to walk alongside so many amazing young women at this stage in my life. I was given this gift multiple times by older women as my career has grown, and I’ve never forgotten it!
What I love most is being a supportive catalyst for others, as a sounding board, a challenger or a developer of others, so that they can make their best, unique contribution. What could be more fun, really?
4word: What are some common themes that you hear from professional women – Christian or non?
Karen: Managing faith, work and family continues to be a huge challenge for women, especially women who want to live in step with God’s spirit and commands. There is only so much time, so women must make very careful, prayerful choices for the stage of life they are in.
Many also struggle with the culture at work being so diametrically opposed to true Christian faith. It’s as if working women of faith are living “cross culturally” in their work environment. Learning how to navigate those differences without being judgmental or strident takes clarity and lots of prayer!
On the other hand, it’s all too easy to become just like everyone else; we manage a paradox in that we must be salt (different than the prevailing culture) but light (showing Christ’s unconditional love and grace). Hanging onto God throughout your workday on this “balancing beam” is the only way I’ve found to possibly do this with integrity and consistency!
4word: How can organizations like 4word address those themes/needs?
Karen: First, connecting likeminded women helps us to know we are not alone. The enemy works to isolate and condemn us. We think we’re the only ones struggling with these and other issues – and of course are not!
I also think challenging women to listen to what God is saying to them is an important role for 4word. It’s easy to buy into the prevailing church culture of “easy answers” that actually may not be biblical! Our most important source for truth and direction is God’s word, accurately interpreted and then spoken to our hearts. Community and pastoral guidance are very important, but ultimately each of us is accountable to and led by God.
4word: How do you “lean in” to God during the work day?
Karen: I work to keep my morning devotional time a regular practice. This can be challenging with travel and early morning meetings, so I am flexible when I need to be. I use the Bible on my iPhone or listen to it on CD in my car.
Having an accountability buddy or group is enormously helpful, too. I have a walking friend who’s at a similar stage in life, and we have regular walk/pray/talk dates that start my day and my week on the right foot. Music also helps me refocus. Hearing God’s truth through music when I have a break in the day can get me back on track and reenergize my entire attitude and day!
4word: Is this an advantage that Christian businesswomen have? If so, how?
Karen: Yes – in so many ways. First, it gives us an eternal perspective. We can see that a missed promotion or toxic boss really are just a vapor and “short and momentary affliction.” We have hope on this much longer runway all the way to eternity!
Secondly, we have a comforter in the Spirit of God. When we are tired, afraid, lonely or upset we can ask for what we need and find support and healing. Third, we have forgiveness and grace. This is very crucial in a work culture that can be conditional, unfair, harsh and superficial.
We can accept forgiveness for ourselves because of what Christ has done and who we are in Christ. Nothing makes us “a failure.” We are completely loved and accepted. This truth offers us freedom and power to continue on, even in the darkest times.
Finally, in these times of exploding and often overwhelming information, we have the authoritative truth of God and compass for living well right in the scripture. That’s big! I have found time and again all I need to overcome any challenge is all there in the Word.
If you’d like to hear more from Karen, you’ll be glad to know that she’s speaking at the 4word Portland luncheon in October. Can’t make it? You can learn more on her website: thehowellsgroup.com.