Feature Story

BJ Gallagher

Inspirational author, speaker, and corporate consultant

Inspirational author, speaker, and corporate consultant, BJ Gallagher educates and encourages women to empower themselves in the workplace and in life. She is a former manager of training and development for the LA Times, who left the newspaper to share her message of “The Power of Positive DOING” to a broader audience of corporations, small businesses, professional conferences, and women’s groups. BJ blogs regularly for the Huffington Post, writes award-winning books, and delivers keynote speeches around the country – motivating and teaching with empathy, warmth and humor. In this interview, BJ discusses her positive message, some ideas for tackling challenges, and how to live a life you love.

Q: What drew you to a career educating and inspiring women in the workplace?

BJ Gallagher: I believe that if you help women, you help the whole world. Women raise the next generation; women provide the social “glue” that holds families and communities together; women are naturally oriented toward others, and as such, we are the ones who build bridges, nurture relationships and resolve conflicts. That’s not to say that I don’t work with men, because I do. But women provide a unique leverage point where I think I can make a bigger contribution. If I can help women transform their own lives, their families, and their workplaces, together we can transform the world.

Q: A frequent theme in your work is “The Power of Positive DOING.” How can people actively incorporate this into their lives?

BJ Gallagher: Great question! The Power of Positive Thinking has gotten lots of attention in recent years. Everything that exists in this world started with a thought, an idea, a notion in someone’s mind. But thinking isn’t enough – it’s the beginning. If you look at every successful woman who’s ever lived, you’ll see that after she had her great idea, she moved into action. She started taking steps – even if they were just small steps – toward bringing her idea into reality. She acted on her vision, her dream. She started moving in the direction of what she wanted to create.

So that’s what I teach women to do. Choose to think about what you DO want in your life, not what you don’t want. Then once you’re focused on what you want, start moving in that direction. And baby steps are just fine. You don’t need to take big, giant leaps. Don’t let yourself fall into all-or-nothing thinking. Remember, “inch by inch, it’s a cinch.”

Q: How do you overcome challenges to the corporate status quo, both as a woman and an initiator of change?

BJ Gallagher: Well, it depends on what the challenge is, since not all challenges are alike. If your question is, “How do I bring about positive change in my organization?” then I can answer that. First, start with yourself. You can’t change anyone else, but you can change how you show up in your life and in your work. Second, start where you are. No matter what your age, or what level you have, begin there. Don’t fret because you may not have a lot of power or influence in your organization – you still have some. Work with what you’ve got.

Third, look around for kindred spirits and align yourself with them. You’ll be more successful in changing your career and changing your organization if you do it with others. Don’t try to be a Lone Ranger. Fourth, don’t let what you can’t do stop you from what you can do. Just because you can’t do everything doesn’t mean you can’t do something.

And fifth, keep at it over the long haul. Personal and organizational change are evolutionary, not revolutionary. Lasting change is usually incremental. Go for the small wins. Celebrate every bit of progress you make and reward yourself for ever success, no matter how small.

BONUS TIP: Don’t try to convert the unconverted. Seek out people who are already converted and work with them to be more successful. The unconverted will take care of themselves: they’ll either die off (literally or figuratively) or they’ll see the good stuff that’s happening with you and they’ll get on board.

Q: What is the best advice you can give to someone about to embark upon a life change?

BJ Gallagher: “Buckle up – it’s gonna be a bumpy ride!” Seriously, though, I’d give a couple pieces of advice:

First, tap into spiritual resources that nourish you. 92% of Americans believe in God, but we may have very different notions of who or what God is. Doesn’t matter what your spiritual faith is – just make sure you’re tapped into it. The only security I know is spiritual security – let be that the rock upon which you build your life; let that be the water that refreshes you; let that me the food that feeds your soul.

Second, go where the love is. Spend time with the family and friends who have your best interest at heart. If you don’t have friends who will be there for you, pick new friends. Choose friends worth having. Surround yourself with people who will support you in what you’re up to in life.

Q: What inspired you to write children’s books and how has this impacted you?

BJ Gallagher: My first business book was A Peacock in the Land of Penguins, and I wrote it in parable format, complete with simple illustrations. It looks and reads much like a kids’ book, even though it’s a business book. I describe it as: “Dr. Seuss Meets the One Minute Manager.” It was hugely successful, now published in 23 languages worldwide. People learn best through stories – they forget facts and figures, but they always remember good stories. (see www.peacockproductions.com)

As I wrote a few more business parables, I realized that I was really writing children’s books for grownups. So I thought perhaps I should try my hand at writing children’s books for children. That’s how I came to team up with my good friend Cathy Conheim. Together we wrote a book about her cat called What’s the Matter with Henry? The True Tale of a Three-legged Cat and it won two awards in 2006. So then we wrote a book about her poodle, Dolly, and titled it What About Me? I’m Here, too! (see www.henrysworld.org)

I’ve had great fun doing those books and would like to do more for kids. I have two that I’ve written for children who have parents in uniform (military, firefighters, police, security guards, airline pilots and flight attendants, etc) One is My Daddy Wears a Uniform and the other is My Mommy Wears a Uniform. I’m currently looking for a publisher for them.

I love kids and animals. I guess I have this sort of Earth Mother thing going on. So writing children’s books gives me a way to express my love for the children and the animals – they are the vulnerable ones in this world. They need our special attention and care.