Thursday, December 31, 2009

Things that Magically Multiply

It seems that some things magically multiply when we aren't looking:
  • wire coat hangers
  • junk mail
  • wrinkles in linen
  • lint
  • dust
  • leaves
  • trash
  • dirty clothes
And others only magically multiply when we are paying attention:
  • smiles
  • laughter
  • positive feedback
  • memories
  • friendships
  • joy
  • love

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

12 Days of Christmas - My Way

On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me a loving hug and a kiss.
On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me 2 helping hands.
On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me 3 errands run.
On the fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to me 4 home for dinner.
On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me 5 more minutes.
On the sixth day of Christmas my true love gave to me 6 great ideas.
On the seventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me 7 knowing glances.
On the eighth day of Christmas my true love gave to me 8 more strings of lights.
On the ninth day of Christmas my true love gave to me 9 tins of goodies.
On the tenth day of Christmas my true love gave to me 10 ones for tipping.
On the eleventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me 11 hundred miles.
On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me 12 gifts delivered.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Pretty Woman Syndrome

One of my favorite movie scenes is the reappearance of Julia Roberts in the snooty Rodeo Drive stores when she has unlimited purchasing power. 

When one makes purchasing assumptions based upon the buyer's appearance or knowledge rather than treating every interested party as a valued prospect, major opportunities are lost.

I was privileged to grow up in an unpretentious small town. My family had the chance to build businesses beginning with heavy construction. I vividly remember two stories of overalls-clad individuals being approached. In the first, my Dad asked a farmer on a tractor to whom he should present a bill for work they had completed. Surprisingly, this affluent farmer was working his own field and paid cash from his bib pocket for a sizeable invoice.

Another overalls-clad farmer appeared in an equipment dealership inquiring about a particular tractor. Because of his appearance as a man of meager means, he was not treated well. He subsequently purchased a large fleet elsewhere.

Years ago, I called a specialty car dealership on behalf of an out-of-state "cash-in-hand" buyer for an in-demand vehicle.  Because I wasn't on a waiting list or knowledgeable about the vehicle, I didn't even receive the courtesy of a follow-up call.   Bet if I called today, I'd be treated as royalty!

I wish everyone treated others as they wish to be treated. More friendships, business relationships and pleasant interactions would result.

Monday, December 28, 2009

I am a Blogger!

When does one admit that they are an accomplished athlete, public speaker, musician, consultant, subject matter expert...?  We often need acknowledgement from others to realize that we are actually what we are aspiring to be.  Among my other roles, I am a blogger.  Though my # of posts confirms this, my lunchtime experience provided unsolicited, unexpected confirmation that I have a wonderfully diverse array of readers. A friend from 3 jobs ago, stopped by our table to say hello and say how much she enjoys my blog. Though I have no clue who my readers are, I am so very grateful that lovely individuals from 123 cities in 12 countries have chosen to view my articles.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Oh No, My Toe

There's nothing like a deadline to make me realize that I can only control so many elements, and ultimately I'm not in charge.  

I woke up early on 12/23. Every minute was pre-allocated.  There were many presents to wrap and deliver, plus some yet to acquire.  I was looking forward to making treats for our neighbors.  The Mistletoe Ball was scheduled for 8:00 p.m.  And our Arkansas departure was set for 4:00 a.m. on 12/24. There were also a couple of work deadlines to cram into my vacation schedule.

My perfectly crafted plan did not allow for 3 1/2 hours at Baylor Family Medicine.  My little toe lost a battle with Julia's suitcase and looked like it was taking a permanent left turn.  All personal attempts to put it back in place were futile, and the swelling added to the sense of emergency.  Thankfully, x-rays confirmed my guess that it was dislocated rather than broken.

After realigning my toe, the medical staff seemed surprised when I asked how soon I could wear heels.  Their 3-4 week timeline didn't match my 3-4 hour requirement. 

Though the day went haywire, enough was accomplished.  I like to celebrate at least 12 days of Christmas. Hope my neighbors will too!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Twelve Days of Christmas

This is my most ambitious needlework project ever undertaken.  It began with a blank piece of fabric and evolved one tiny cross-stitch at a time.

May your 12 Days of Christmas be Merry and Bright!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

The Christmas season is filled with excitement, anticipation and traditions.  So many marvelous sights, sounds and tastes are associated with Christmas.  It's always wonderful to experience the heightened friendliness that is prevalent in most communications.  It's a celebration of the birth of Christ.  And it's a season to spend time with family and friends.

May the love and joy of the Christmas season fill your New Year!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

On Fire!

A set of circumstances gone awry led to votive candles being set and lit on the balustrade of Houston's loveliest ballroom.  I happened to be the victim of a fire that ignited my ball gown.  My precious son was at my side.  When I said, "stomp me", he did.  Fortunately, he only had to stomp my ball gown. The candles were removed before the receiving line opened, so the only casualty of the evening was a sizable hole at the bottom of my dress. 

Though my intention was not to share the news beyond those who observed the incident, news spread like quiet wildfire through the event.  The puns were prevalent -you're hot; you're on fire; you know how to spark a party...

Despite a startling beginning, the party was lovely.  My early crisis prevented a potentially wide-spread set of casualties.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


Nothing conveys interest more easily and convincingly than a smile.  Babies instinctively return smiles at an early age. Strangers become a bit more familiar when smiles are exchanged.   Just thinking of friends and loved ones evokes smiles. 

A smile is a picture that can convey a thousand words and emotions - love, affection, familiarity, approachability, glee, joy, pride, acknowledgement, humor, connectivity...

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Our daughter was presented at the second of her debutante balls this week.  It's a lovely time of tradition, friendship and excitement.  In honor of her presentation, she chose to cut her hair and donate the locks for a wig to assist someone undergoing medical treatment. 

What a beautiful transformative act!  She has a stylish new look, an unknown beneficiary will have one less worry in the struggle to get well and all of us who love Julia were once again touched by her generous spirit.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Where Did You Buy That Coat?

One of my friends from Houston bought a lovely mink coat in Dallas.  Fifteen years later, she and her husband were visiting Park City, Utah.  A man approached her in a store and asked if she'd purchased her coat from a store that he named in Dallas.  When she quizzically affirmed that she had, he proceeded to tell her that he remembered making the coat in New York. 

Though time and distance intervene, I'm continually amazed at how very connected we all are.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


So often when I'm driving, I am thrilled to notice the many shades of green that our subtropical climate provides year-round.  And it's delightful to see seasonal blooms throughout the year.  Our normally sunny clime highlights so many lovely attributes.

On my way to church on Sunday, uncharacteristically heavy fog blanketed my trek.  Rice Boulevard's marvelous canopy of trees provided a special tunnel leading me to my destination.

We usually think of fog negatively.  When we're in a fog, we're not thinking as clearly as we'd hope.  Fog can cause countless transportation delays.

However, today's fog made me appreciate anew the fabulous canopy of trees surrounding Rice University.  Thank you, Grandfather Lovett, for your enduring vision.

Saturday, December 19, 2009


We can't impose our dreams on another. 
They must be allowed to find and follow their own dreams.
We can and must, however, nurture dreams - our own and those of others.

Friday, December 18, 2009

What Do You Have in Abundance?

Yes, you can think about tangible assets! And, I applaud you if you have abundant fiscal resources!  In some way, you have maximized your tangible assets.  Congratulations!

But, when I penned the question, I had other assets in mind. 

What practical, readily transferable human assets do you have in abundance?
  • Common sense
  • Creativity
  • Logic
  • Successful ventures
  • Lessons learned from failed ventures
  • Relationships
  • Compassion
  • Passion
  • Intelligence
  • Tenacity
We all have abundant gifts.  Sometimes the challenge is realizing what we easily do that can provide benefit to others.  Human assets are like a candle flame, the more we share the more we gain.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Live the Life You Have!

I always benefit when I attend our Sunday church service, and this week was no exception.  The lesson conveyed from the Gospel applies to all of us regardless of beliefs - "Live the life you have with integrity."

We can all wish for, dream about, anticipate or prepare for another reality.  But, we all have the hand that we were most currently dealt.  Those of us who choose to love the life we have can positively impact ourselves, our families and those with whom we interact.

Regardless of our jobs, we should do them to the best of our abilities.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Blank Sheet

All options are open when we grab a blank sheet of paper.  I find this extremely liberating.  Especially when I give myself permission to create as I go rather than tackling the blank sheet as a finished product in the making.  Capturing ideas, editing, inserting additional thoughts, striking unwanted statements as a better option emerges... This allows me to see an article or slogan evolve.

All these years later, I now clearly know why I always provided the required outline after I'd written a paper.  I needed to see what would develop rather than treat it as a finished project at the outset.

We all have different ways of learning, processing information and seeing the world.  Embracing our most comfortable style allows our creativity to flow.

Do you find a blank sheet of paper liberating or intimidating?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

What's Your Advice for 2010?

In response to another's question I offered these 10 tidbits:
  • Seek to do well every day
  • Listen twice as much as you talk
  • Look for opportunities in the midst of challenges
  • Treat others as they wish to be treated
  • Act with enlightened self-interest
  • Learn from everyone you meet
  • Know when to say "yes" and when to say "no" and do it
  • Have a positive attitude
  • Think creatively
  • Have fun
What are your recommendations?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Don't Bulldoze the Ornaments

Some of my parent's friends were offering items from their attic to their children.  Mrs. P had said that anything that the children didn't want would be thrown away.  After selections were made, Mr. P took the remaining boxes to the dump.  A day or two later, Mrs. P went to the attic to get her Christmas ornaments.  She didn't realize that her ornament boxes had been removed with the other attic contents that the children were evaluating. Her lifetime collection of Christmas ornaments had been delivered to the dump with the unwanted items the children hadn't claimed. 

A quick trip to the dump revealed that the procedure was to bulldoze the grounds each day.  It appeared that a logistical error had cost this family all their prized ornaments.  Further inquiry revealed that the bulldozer was broken.  Thus, recent deliveries hadn't been covered.  Unbelievably all the boxes were recovered and not a single ornament was broken.

At face value, a broken bulldozer wouldn't appear to be anything more than a maintenance issue to be resolved.  As with so many things, one person's challenge creates opportunity for another.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


Literally!  So many of us have encountered unexpected questions for which we have no immediate answer, which leave us temporarily speechless.  For the first time in a few years, I've gotten laryngitis.  Because I talk all the time, to so many different constituencies, it is always troubling to me when I am literally - speechless.

So much can be communicated by gestures.  And everyone tries to listen as we whisper our thoughts. I'm always so pleased with how much I can communicate to so many even when my most recognizable communication skill is compromised.

Perhaps I got laryngitis to remind me that vocal communications are just one element of what we convey.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Sea of Red Lights

I have all of the advantages of living in a major U.S. city.  We have access to world-class arts, restaurants and medicine and have an economy that has fared far better than the rest of the nation.  Our cost of living is superior to most metro areas.  And generally, though I am out and about a lot, I rarely have traffic problems.  I've always been blessed to live close to work.  In fact, years ago when asked about working for a wonderful company that I admired, my response was that it was "GU".  My definition of GU was geographically undesirable.  Fifteen - twenty minute travel time has been my benchmark, which I've been most fortunate to have experienced during my entire career.  Often, I've enjoyed 5-10 minute commutes, which few expect to find in a major city.

So, when I am caught on a freeway in rush hour traffic, as I was this week, and see only a sea of red tail lights, I experience anxiety.  My assumption is that those who experience daily delays find multiple coping strategies, including books on tape, programmed calls to contacts and self-imposed think time.

A trip that takes me 12 minutes for morning meetings took me 37 minutes this evening. Regardless of the time involved, if you triple the commute, it's significant.

My hat is off to those of you who endure daily seas of red lights.  You are far more patient than I am.  I'd love to know your stress-reducing actions.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Share Your Talents

According to Volunteering in America, 61.8 million Americans (26.4% of the adult population) volunteered between 2006 and 2008, and the average time volunteered was 34.7 hours.  Eight billion hours were volunteered, with a value of $162 Billion (using Independent Sector's volunteer rate of $20.25).  Imagine what an enormous difference we could make just by boosting volunteer involvement!

Volunteering has been an expectation for as long as I can remember.  It was role modeled for me as a child.  Though I've put heart and soul into many volunteer activities, I've generally felt that I gained far more than I contributed.  However, positive feedback from beneficiaries has confirmed that it is very much a two-way street.  I've often categorized volunteer involvement and contributions as "enlightened self-interest".  Both are good for the individual/corporation and the non-profit.

Though I've engaged with many fabulous non-profits through the years, I'm currently most engaged as the Vice-Chairman of DePelchin Children's Center, Board Member at Alley TheatreHouston Better Business Bureau and  Greater Houston Women's Chamber of Commerce.  I also love serving as an advisory board member for Junior League of Houston and Houston Technology Center and as the Corporate Advocate for March of Dimes and the corporate host for blood drives at 8 week intervals as a 6+-gallon donor for the Blood Center. I loved my American Leadership Forum experience where I am a Senior Fellow and former board member. I'm also an active advocate for SEARCH, Center for Houston's Future, Girl Scouts and BioHouston. And with my family, we lead an usher team at Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church.

Perhaps I'm over-committed to these marvelous organizations, but I only engage with organizations that I believe are making a difference.  My full level of engagement will illuminate for other non-profits who seek my involvement that when I respond, "I cannot take on one more commitment", I am providing a true assessment. 

If you are not currently an engaged volunteer, please find an organization that will value your time, talent and  treasure.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

What Size Do You Wear?

Does vanity sizing confuse anyone else?  I used to know what size I wore.  Now, it depends on the designer.  I most often wear 2s or 4s, but some 6s also fit.  The size on the garment's tag means very little to my ego.  If the item fits and I feel good in it, it doesn't matter to me what the label says. 

Too often we can get caught up in equally arbitrary definitions in other areas of our lives and miss the opportunity to explore multiple options to find just the right fit.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Games We Play

Football, basketball, soccer and lacrosse are all games that our very athletic son plays. He and my husband also hunt, fish and shoot.  Our daughter runs.  I swim.  And we all play spades, gin, Hearts, Scrabble, Monopoly, Taboo, Apples to Apples,  Scattergories and Farkel.  Solitaire, Freecell, Mahjong and Minesweeper offer occassional diversions. 

These are all defined games with rules that are universally understood.  We need to remember that when we're playing other less defined games, we need to share the rules with the other players.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Every Day is Special for Someone

We all have different expectations for every day.  When it's a special day for us, our personal expectations accelerate.  Most people we encounter don't know that a non-holiday is a special day for us, but we can always choose to make every day special for those with whom we interact.

Monday, December 7, 2009

There are Some Things Kindle Can't Do

I know for sure that Kindle won't replace books!  Kindle is a wonderful and cost effective delivery mechanism for much printed media.  Even from one who likes the tactile sensation of hardback books and has no desire for a personal Kindle, I appreciate the technology.  I enjoyed reading a novel on Edgar's Kindle on a road trip, and realize it is the perfect tool for his insatiable reading habits. 

Pop-up books are marvelous, creative joys.  No matter how advanced the technology, digital media can't do justice to a pop-up book! 

Sunday, December 6, 2009


Friends are one of God's most extraordinary gifts to humans. How fabulous that we can connect in meaningful ways with so many marvelous folks!  I am eternally grateful that I  have friends from birth, kindergarten, Church, elementary school, junior high (yes, that's what it was called when I enjoyed the experience), high school, college, Chi Omega, all of my employers, our neighborhoods, law school, social clubs, Junior League, volunteer activities, our children's preschool, Kinkaid...

Saturday, December 5, 2009


It rarely snows in Houston.  And it never snows this early in the winter.  I took the day off yesterday and had the joy of decorating our Christmas tree with the backdrop of gorgeous falling snow.  We often appreciate the unusual glories of nature. And for Houstonians, this was a special, beautiful day to remember.

Friday, December 4, 2009

What's Cold?

I recently attended a breakfast meeting with a speaker from Boston. The morning temperature in Houston was under 50.  For our speaker, this was a heat wave compared to her temperatures, and she was surprised to see attendees arriving in winter coats.  In the most air-conditioned city in the U.S., with a climate where the average temperature in our coldest month of January is 41, this was cold.  My mind and body can't even comprehend the temperatures endured during the winter in cold climates.

We adapt to our environments.  Though we might assume that temperature is a common denominator, what is cold to a southerner may be balmy to a northerner.  Our different climate assessments provide yet another way to highlight that two people can be exposed to the same scenario and have totally different experiences and reactions.

When common understanding is important, we need to ensure that we develop a consensus view of the scenario.  For the particular issue, we need to define what's cold.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Little Things

Little things can brighten our days:
  • an unexpected compliment
  • a note from a friend
  • a call from a loved one
  • a child's laugh
  • a baby's smile
  • a sale at a favorite store
  • sunshine after the rain
  • the first bloom in the garden
  • a hot bath
  • a cold drink
  • the driver who acknowledges your silent plea to change lanes
  • finding the perfect gift
  • generating a great idea in a meeting
  • checking one more item off your to-do list
  • reconnecting with an old friend
  • being recommended by a friend or colleague
  • sitting in front of a cozy fireplace
  • starting a new book
  • a cat's purr
  • solving a puzzle
  • enjoying a great meal
  • coming home
In our haste we can miss some of life's treasured moments.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


In addition to our normal frequent trips to Goodwill, we emptied our storage unit this year.  Our donations reached a new family record.  It always brings me great joy to share things with others that we've enjoyed and no longer need.   It's energizing to care and share.  And, it's liberating to send things on to create additional joys in the lives of others.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


We all have our methods of dealing with the never-ending demands on our time. I can't imagine trying to manage a calendar without an interactive online tool.

Scheduling not only actual external and internal business and personal appointments, but also allocating time to evaluate, prospect, plan, think, advise, exercise, relax and visit would make days more manageable, enjoyable and reflective of reality.  Everything that demands a 30-minute or more block of time deserves an appointment.

When we are committed to success, we juggle time. I manage all of my planned appointments incredibly well, so I need to more effectively utilize my calendar to reflect the balance of my commitments to make juggling life less stressful.

Monday, November 30, 2009

So Long

I love greeting arriving loved ones!  And I hate parting.  One would think that departures would become easier over time, but they never are. My daughter is in school 1400+ miles away and my parents live 550 miles from here. Planning and anticipating the next reunion before our departing hugs and kisses makes saying "so long" tolerable.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Christmas Tree Lights

My nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize is the person who discovers and mass produces Christmas tree lights that work every time you plug them in for as long as you have them.  Think about the peace on earth that will result when there are no more tiffs about dark spots on the Christmas tree.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Busiest Time of the Year

Take a deep breath!  Today and the next 33 days hold the prospect of festive fun, fabulous food and fantastic fellowship.  There's also the risk of uncontrolled stress as we overlay the many required preparatory tasks on top of our already overflowing schedules and year-end deadlines.  Amidst the business, we owe it to ourselves to pause each day and reflect on why we are making the choices we are.  Which things must we do?  Which things will we enjoy doing?  What will bring joy to others?  What can we eliminate without detriment to ourselves or others? 

Friday, November 27, 2009


I love Thanksgiving!  It's all about the food, family and fellowship.  There's a wide-spread attitude of gratitude.  And there's a fridge full of wonderful left-overs to enjoy during the weekend as we pause and play together. These left-overs will soon vanish.  The left-overs worth preserving throughout the year are our Thanksgiving attitude and our focus on those who are important. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Visible Addictions

We prepare for meetings, engage in discussions and execute commitments.  These executions are expected.  We try to camouflage any detrimental characteristics or faults.  Though most of us try so hard to put our best foot forward, many among us suffer from visible addictions such as smoking and chronic lateness. 

In a world obsessed with advantage, eliminating visible addictions would appear to be a giant leap forward.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


For as long as I can remember, I've enjoyed attributing images to the clouds. Just as with every other projection, different people see different things.  My favorite options for observing the clouds have evolved:
  • lying on my back in the yard as a young child
  • out of the back of the rearview window on childhood road trips
  • in the passenger window as an adult
  • from patios, decks and pools
  • aboard fishing boats and docks
  • outside the window of small and large planes
  • creeping inside my office windows
  • encompassing sports stands
  • surrounding me as I step outdoors
  • lying on my back in the pool

Monday, November 23, 2009

Say What?

Years ago, a friend asked me to be his guest at a luncheon.  When I arrived I was delighted to find that we were seated at the reserved sponsor table.  We were having great conversation at the table as we enjoyed lunch.  My friend quietly asked me when I wanted to speak.  AHA, I was not just his guest, I was the guest speaker.  This fact was known to everyone in the room except me.  Rather than embarrass my friend or create any commotion, I quietly asked how long my remarks were supposed to be.  I had approximately 5 minutes, with conversation flowing around me, to consider how I'd address this 15-20 minute extemporaneous speech for 120 or more guests.

Another group, a few years later, asked me to talk about "keys to success".  As I was, at this time in my career, generally asked to address economic development and the Houston economy, I spent a good bit of time preparing for this alternate topic.  My host greeted me and provided the printed luncheon program that clearly indicated that I'd be speaking about Houston's economy.  Once again, I needed to make a quick decision about what message to convey.  So, I changed from the presentation I'd prepared to the one the group was prepared to hear.

Though these are extreme examples, when we can adapt to what our audience of one or many expects, we are far more successful than when we stick to a message that may not resonate with our listeners.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Link, Tweet and Friend Like a Pro

Social media is a hot topic! Google returned 89.4 million hits for social media on the morning that I announced the program and 131 million hits today. We had a panel of social media experts who shared their tips on how to "Link, Tweet and Friend Like a Pro" at our recent Sterling Bank Women's Business Initiative Luncheon in San Antonio.

Our well-qualified panel included:

Katie Harvey, President and CEO of KGBTexas

Nan Palmero, Chief Inspiration Officer at SalesBy5

Christine Pechayco, New Media Editor at Sterling Bank

Donna Tuttle, Project Coordinator at San Antonio Business Journal

Their excellent advice included:
  • Listen, inform and engage
  • Use feedback to improve services
  • Push headlines thru Twitter and Facebook
  • Provide tips that journalists might use for stories
  • Be aware of the legal implications for financial institutions and public companies
  • Benefit from research and customer service opportunities
  • Recruit Gen Y employees through Facebook
  • Invite your audience to special events using social media platforms
  • Treat social media as an additional communications tool
  • Create instructional videos on You Tube
  • Build communities
  • Access experts and share expertise using LinkedIn discussions
  • Get sucked in to the fun of these platforms
  • Expand your mind, friends and business
  • Social media adds communication channels
  • Assess an organization's culture
  • Stay active, particularly if you are using these platforms for your company
  • Remember that it is extremely difficult to regain credibility if it is lost
  • Maintain conversations
  • Treat interactions as you would face-to-face conversations
  • Do not bombard your audience
  • Alerts will allow you to follow topics of interest
  • Social media levels the playing field between large and small companies and it's free
  • Offer journalists sneak peeks
  • Tweet up in your areas of interest
  • Be curious and step outside your box
  • Transparency and honesty are essential
  • Be helpful, courteous and do not disparage
  • Avoid cereal/sandwich communications - most others don't care what you are eating
  • Lose control of communications by engaging others
  • Apologize if you offend
  • Push your own message
  • Inform
  • Create guidelines and add them to the employee handbook
  • Realize that you don't know what employees are saying in face-to-face conversations to alleviate SM fears

Saturday, November 21, 2009


A friend who hadn't traveled by air recently asked if she would have to take off her suit jacket to pass through security.  The answer is, "yes", unless you aren't wearing a top under your suit jacket.  She indicated that she didn't like to expose her bare arms to others.  My response was that the "airport invisi-shield rule" applies.  Because everyone going through airport security is subjected to the same examination, everyone just develops a one-on-one relationship with the screeners, and doesn't acknowledge other passengers until the redressing stage at the other end of security.

When everyone is out of their element, the "invisi-shield rule" is in effect.

Perhaps it would be advantageous to invoke the "invisi-shield rule" in other settings to allow colleagues to eliminate the focus on their appearance and focus solely on their contributions to the discussion at hand.

Friday, November 20, 2009

What to Wear?

Wardrobe anxiety is an ongoing dilemma that plagues so many people - what shall I wear?  Men have far more clear-cut guidelines than women for the many invitations that indicate business attire or black tie.  Business attire is the only easy designation for women.  Black tie for women can mean anything from cocktail attire to ball gown depending upon the occasion. And the only way to know for sure is to have previously attended, know someone who has, or call the host.   And, business casual confuses everyone.  The safest option for business casual is jackets for men and women, but many organizations are far more casual in attire.  And casual varies enormously.  For some, it means flip flops and cut-offs.  For others it means, I'm not wearing a jacket.

The dilemma for women is further complicated in that we want to fall within an acceptable range of the guidelines as they are interpreted, but we definitely don't want to be wearing the same outfit as another attendee.

New entrants into the workforce often face a triple challenge:  they have donned a uniform or casual wardrobe from pre-k through college graduation; they don't have the wardrobe or budget to dress for their new environment; and they don't know which role models to emulate in acquiring a professional wardrobe.

This is yet another area where the buddy and observation system needs to be in full force. We learn by trial and error, observing, asking, experimenting and evolving.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


At an event this week, a friend introduced one of her colleagues as a terrific management coach who transformed her life.  I immediately wondered what advice he could have given to earn such a glowing recommendation.  Without the need to ask, they both readily volunteered that education was the key.  At first I was disappointed to learn that the answer was so obvious.  Then I realized that most great advice is simple and readily apparent to others.  What I initially failed to acknowledge were the detailed discussions they must have had that led to the conclusion that in order to advance her career she must complete her college degree.  And what a huge commitment that she had to accept to go back to college while juggling the demands of her career.

Though she was able to quickly relay her transformation story, incredible effort was required.  We sometimes miss the impact of the message until we understand the process required to achieve the result.  Education is a transformative process.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

I'm Going to Be Tall

"I'm going to be tall when I grow up" became a remark I frequently made through the years among friends endowed and/or obsessed with height.  I didn't think much about it, and I suspect the folks who heard it didn't either. When my precious daughter was 3, she confidently announced that this wasn't going to happen.  She accurately assessed that I was as tall as I was going to be.

Being short has advantages which are not readily visible to those of you who aren't.  We get to move to the front of gatherings because everyone else can easily see over us.  We are on the front row of photos.  We are appreciatively acknowledged as we look up to others regardless of whether they deserve the acknowledgement. And, in a nation obsessed with size, small and petite has become more interesting to others.

Though I have always jokingly alluded to being tall, I'm happy just as I am.  And the more we all come to embrace who we are, the happier we become.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Marcus Buckingham's Focus on Strengths, Invigorating Moments and Happiness

I had an opportunity to hear Marcus Buckingham, a most engaging and entertaining speaker who has done considerable research on happiness. He has found that there are common traits among successful people regardless of superficial differences.

Positive answers to these five questions are indicators of happy people:

1. How often do things you really like to do?
2. How often do you feel positive before you start your day?
3. How often do you experience an emotional high in life?
4. How often do you get so involved that you lose track of time?
5. How often do you feel invigorated at the end of a long, busy day?

He believes that building on strengths and managing weaknesses is a strong life practice. We get different fulfillment when we focus on who are rather than what we are not. We are frightened by our weaknesses, but shouldn’t fixate on what is wrong. We should fixate on what is working. Ben Franklin said, “A wasted strength is like a sundial in the shade.”

Women now have more domains that ever in which to excel which leads to more stress and can lead to less happiness. Rather than juggling, he has found that happy women create a deliberate imbalance toward invigorating moments in each role. Happy women realize that moments matter. Being creative, celebratory and deliberate about moments that invigorate allows us to draw strength from life.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

It's More than the Message

I've recently had the opportunity to hear two very different author speakers.  Each of these women is an accomplished presenter, has a terrific story to tell and has amassed many fabulous tips to share.  Though the audiences learned from each of these women, they both sabotaged their ultimate effectiveness.  They forgot that a presentation is more than just the message.  The delivery is also very important.

The first woman became so absorbed in her story that she disregarded 3 attempts by her host to end the presentation.  Because she spoke far longer than was expected, she lost the attention of many audience members who were initially absorbed in her story.  And because she failed to honor the event end time, she literally lost attendees who had to leave for other commitments. 

The second woman has an ego as large as her celebrity.  Many audience members overlooked her self-absorption because they were fascinated by the message and the messenger.  She was so focused on her success that she failed to grasp the importance of connecting with the audience. Though she wished success for everyone in attendance, she continued to tout her own superior success, leaving little room for widening her circle to include anyone in the room.

Any effective classroom teacher makes a connection with students and takes a whole semester to cover the material.  They are sensitive to message, audience, time and delivery.  Their executive summary on the first day, sets the stage for additional information spread throughout the semester. Speakers who are engaged to deliver a 20 - 50 minute keynote must deliver the executive summary and ideally, like the classroom teacher, leave the audience wanting more.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Accidental Match-Making

Though it was more than 25 years ago, I vividly remember encouraging two friends to attend an event together.  I was crazy about each of them, wanted to include both of them for the event and independently told them not to worry because it was just one evening.  I set the bar very low, only hoping for a gathering made more fun by being able to include both of them. This was definitely not the typical match-making scenario of selling the stellar traits of two special friends to encourage their interest in one another.  The pressure was off for everyone.  They had a marvelous time together that evening, continued to date and have celebrated 25+ years of marriage. 

Sometimes we try too hard to sell.  When we interject our impressions and interests too early our preconceived notions can preclude a relationship from unfolding.  As was the case with my friends, often all we need to do is make the introduction and let the relationship develop naturally.

Friday, November 13, 2009

1000 Ways to Say No

Though we don't think we want to hear "No", that's sometimes exactly what we need to hear.  Until we hear "No", we hold on to the hope, illusion or possibility that we will hear "Yes!".  Lack of a negative response may prevent us from realistically assessing a situation, diversifying our options or moving on to other more promising possibilities. 

There are 1000s of nice ways to say "No" without being offensive or hurtful.  We've all been told how important it is to handle business rejection without taking it personally.  It's equally important to deliver timely and necessary "No" responses.  Unresolved issues create stress and anxiety for all involved.

Though saying "Yes" is far more fun and rewarding, delivering a "No" can allow everyone to move forward, exercising productive alternatives.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


I had an opportunity to participate last evening with a dozen accomplished women in a strategy session to begin planning an event we are hosting in the spring.  It was refreshing and energizing to observe and engage in the group dynamics. Everyone in attendance knew some of the other participants, but no one had met all attendees. A dozen different suggestions and opinions were offered for each topic. Discussions and disagreements were handled professionally.    In a room full of leaders, it was great to see the volley of ideas among truly engaged participants.  Everyone contributed, shared the floor and acknowledged creative options.  The time-bounded agenda was honored and the progress exceeded expectations.
It was obvious that everyone had a common objective to seize the best ideas in order to create a stellar event.

This was brainstorming at its best - egos checked and ideas freely flowing.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


One of the most powerful questions we can ask is "Why?".  If we ask the question, then silently and non-judgmentally listen to the answer, we can learn ever so much.

Why did you:
  • study...?
  • move to...?
  • start your particular business?
  • contribute to...?
  • recommend...?
  • change your mind?
  • like the ...?
  • dislike the ...?
  • make this decision?
  • make ...?
  • create ...?
  • ...?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


If it's important, give "somebody" a name. We shouldn't say, "somebody said...".  He or she deserves credit for their observation, idea or suggestion.  Otherwise, it's just gossip or hearsay and doesn't warrant being said, much less credited.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Beyond Appearance

Ever notice how a favorite t-shirt gets softer and softer the more often it's washed and worn? It's likely not attractive, but it's familiar, perhaps represents a sentimental event, has been through a lot of good and bad times, and is absolutely comfortable.  We tend to forget the appearance and instead value the other, more meaningful attributes.

Comfort foods tend to be childhood favorites or guilty pleasures.  Often they are very simple and inexpensive.  Oddly, I have yet to hear anyone list caviar, filet mignon or pate as a comfort food. More often, it's foods like pot roast, mashed potatoes, chicken and dumplings or Mama's meatloaf that evoke wonderful memories.

Sight is such a powerful sense that it often takes precedence in describing and reacting to people and things.  What we actually see is usually overridden once we engage with another.  Two friends powerfully reminded me recently that appearance is inconsequential.  Their appearances are altered but their attitudes, impacts and spirits have positive impacts far beyond first impressions.  These special friends have reminded me to always get to know the person.  Friends unmet, with appearances that may not be engaging, are readily waiting for us to ask a question which may lead to a treasured relationship.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Seeing Familiar Things with Fresh Eyes

For over twenty-five years we've attended the opening debutante ball of the season.  It's always an elegant party filled with energy and excitement.  The honorees are beautiful and glowing in their exquisite gowns. The fathers are handsome in their tails and bursting with pride as they present their angels to a packed ballroom.  Some years are more personally special than others depending upon our relationship to any of the debs of the season.  But it's always a remarkable party with floral designs that continue to amaze and delight.

Everything changes when you are an honoree family.  You see things that you never experience as an ordinary attendee. There's an unspoken but palpable bond among the mothers of the honorees.  As each young woman is presented, the other mothers share supportive glances and subtle gestures of acknowledgement.  So much can be positively communicated without saying a word.

You get to see very personally how lovely friends, acquaintances and even unmet friends are when your daughter is one in the spotlight.  You are acutely aware of the poise and enthusiasm of each honoree as you have the chance to observe individual and group dynamics during rehearsal and as they dress at the club for this extraordinary evening.

As with many things, there's so much more to glean when you change your view of a situation.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Special Occasions

Special occasions take on a life of their own.  We create wonderful, lifetime memories when we overlay them into our normally crazy, hectic schedules.  This weekend is the first of our daughter's three debutante presentation balls.  Everyone's wardrobe is ready and final appointments are scheduled. Julia's and my parents' flights arrived on-time.  It's showtime!

Though every day is filled with memorable moments, special occasions create memories the whole family can share.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Amazing Optimism and Creativity

My years as a Junior League volunteer at Texas Children's Hospital are golden.  I was frequently asked how I could go every week without being depressed.  Never did I leave TCH without being grateful that my situation was mine.  Most often, I left incredibly inspired by the amazing children who joined us for weekly craft projects. 

Our method was to invite children who were cleared to leave their floors to join us to create a craft project.  We were often blown away by children who were only hours out of serious surgeries who joined us.  And we had the joy of developing relationships with precious patients who battled chronic or terminal illnesses.  Their outlook, realism, optimism and "seize the day" attitudes provided as much or more benefit to the faithful volunteers as did our compassion, commitment and creativity provide to the patients we were fortunate to serve.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

I'd Love to Be Invited For...

Some of us obsess about invitations. The least favorite part of my job is trying to find willing participants for worthwhile, but perhaps misunderstood, charity events.

We always want everyone to feel special. And we never want anyone to feel that they've been excluded. Further, we don't want anyone to feel merely obligated to accept an invitation. How awesome would it be if we could candidly express our interests?

An employee might say, I'd love to represent us at events for ..., but really don't enjoy/appreciate events for... and am generally available on ... from... to ...

A customer might say, I love being included, but really have an interest in..., or I would be there in an instant if I didn't have a conflict, or am delighted that Sterling is engaged in the community, but I choose not to participate in after-hours events.

Personally, I love dinner parties, galas, debutante balls, dinner dances, luncheons, plays and movies.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Learning from our Children

Children have an incredible power to inspire.  Seeing things through their eyes is refreshing and amazing.  They remind us that possibilities are unlimited, growth occurs daily, hugs solve problems and life is full of humor.

Children come out of the womb with the unspoken, but very accurate news flash, that "I'm not my sibling, so you better be prepared to treat me differently".  If only we could always remember that we are all unique with our own gifts, abilities and perspectives.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Right-Sized Spaces

We always had hunting dogs when we were growing up.  When we were quite young, a wonderful doghouse arrived.  It wasn't at all attractive to the dog, but it was a delightful, tiny playhouse. This doghouse, blanket forts, huge boxes from our wonderful neighbor grocer, and isolating an area of the landing at the top of the stairs, allowed us to exercise our imaginations by creating perfect kid-sized spaces.

My fascination with right-sized spaces continues. A few years ago, just after we'd finished construction of our new home, Julia and Gar were scurrying to finish their summer reading on the night before school started.  I didn't want to interrupt them and found my own book to enjoy. Within minutes, they both joined me in the master sitting room, the smallest room in our home.  Now my precious children were exercising their imaginations in the coziness of yet another perfect kid-sized space.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Power Lines

Power lines along our thoroughfares provide a vivid reminder of how dependant we are upon electricity.  But what about the other lines that power our lives? 
  • Email provides the power to communicate quickly with one or many of our connections. 
  • Cell phones and Blackberrys enable us to stay in touch from nearly any location. 
  • Prayer connects us to God and provides hope and comfort to us and those we include.
  • Memory is the line that powers relationships.
  • Friendship and love are the power behind our happy lives.
  • Laughter is the universal connector.
  • Encouraging words have the power to change an outlook or an outcome. 
We all have far more power than we realize. 

Friday, October 30, 2009


FEAR - Fantasies Emerging as Real

Often it is only in retrospect that we can determine that our fears were without merit.  We know that things are okay when we realize:
  • We weren't ridiculed for our attire or costume
  • There were no monsters under the bed
  • Missing a couple of answers on a test did not equate to failing
  • There were people to visit with at the event
  • Our idea was accepted for review or implementation
  • We weren't the only ones who had an early curfew
  • Other parents also called to check on the party logistics
  • We were far more disappointed in our results than our parents indicated that they were
  • The customer didn't leave though we had a problem
  • The clean bone break healed perfectly
  • Everyone showed up and had a fabulous time
  • The meal was spectacular
  • We won
  • The doctor said, "all is okay!"
  • The job is yours
  • The baby is healthy
  • You've been selected for ...
  • Others felt/reacted the same way
  • The offer/deadline has been extended
  • ... is safe
  • You're covered
  • You were right
  • Things couldn't have been better
  • The outlook is improving

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Who's Watching?

We sometimes think we are invisible when we are among strangers at an event or venue. Do we act differently when we think no one is watching? I've decided we should always assume that someone is watching. Recently a friend was leaving a big box store as Edgar was arriving. He spotted her because she was walking to her vehicle, but she didn't notice him because he was camouflaged in one of the many arriving SUVs. There was nothing noteworthy about the missed opportunity to visit. It was just a reminder to me that we never know what others may casually observe without our knowledge.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

We all have our methods of dealing with the never-ending demands on our time and our ever growing number of possessions. My challenge is trying to keep up with everything once it's not visible, whether it's commitments or things.

My commitments are noted in my on-line calendar as actual appointments or as all-day events which serve as reminders of pending reports, occasions or the need to take action. And, of course, my never-ending to-do lists supplement my technology tools. Thank goodness for email folders. Different projects can be organized and the folder title provides a visual to easily find all of the relevant information.

Our stuff is easy to find when I put like items in a logical place. The difficulty is trying to locate a rarely used item that has no peer. Then the search begins. What would have been a logical place at the time the item was stored? Edgar recently asked for his grandfather's monogrammed cane. We both remembered that it had hung in the hallway of our old home with other Rice University memorabilia. The challenge was to ascertain what might have been a safe and logical location when we moved. After a search of all the readily available locations, I discovered it carefully stowed in the cabinet of the grandmother clock. Seemed logical at the time - grandfather cane/grandmother clock.

How do you deal with those things that are out of sight to keep them from being out of mind?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


My dear Mother stitched this delightful piece for me when I was young. It hangs in my laundry room, vividly reminding me to find humor in every day life.

Monday, October 26, 2009

50 Ways to Make a Difference

There are millions of ways to make a difference. Here are 50:

1. Volunteer

2. Give blood

3. Recycle

4. Donate items that are no longer needed

5. Spend time with an old friend

6. Be a role model

7. Accept an informational interview

8. Make an introduction

9. Provide a recommendation

10. Send an unexpected greeting

11. Smile

12. Offer to help

13. Make a micro-loan

14. Share ideas

15. Solicit opinions

16. Congratulate others

17. Change bad habits

18. Thank a service provider

19. Follow-through on commitments

20. Say yes when you can and no when you need to

21. Give a sincere compliment in front of others

22. Be courteous

23. Do my best everyday

24. Acknowledge the contributions of others

25. Offer ways to incrementally improve a service or process

26. Give others access to data, templates, research

27. Negotiate fairly

28. Drive friendly

29. Treat others as you’d like to be treated

30. Buy an item from a child who asks – lemonade, cookies, tickets

31. Accept an invitation to present in a school

32. Lend a book

33. Share opportunities that are beneficial to others

34. Vote

35. Opt for on-line delivery of documents

36. Purchase and use a re-usable water bottle

37. Support a friend’s endeavor

38. Accept an invitation to connect

39. Live healthy

40. Look for solutions

41. Expect positive outcomes

42. Offer a different perspective

43. Collaborate

44. Pray

45. Thank a soldier

46. Thank a teacher

47. Express condolences

48. Add to someone’s collection

49. Refrain from gossiping

50. Exhibit an attitude of gratitude

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Were We at the Same Event?

I was once again vividly reminded that we all experience things from our own unique perspectives.

A friend and I were talking about an event she'd attended where she'd heard a popular elected official present. It was her first time to hear this individual and she thought it was a terrific presentation. I mentioned that I had heard this individual many times and generally enjoy hearing this person speak, but had attended a recent event where the person was distracted and rambled. As we delved further, we realized that we'd been in the same audience.

She saw energy, openness, candor and knowledge. I'd heard this individual convey all of these attributes, but was also accustomed to preparation and focus. She was delighted; I was disappointed.

There was no call to action in this presentation, so it didn't matter that we had such opposite assessments. But, what if it had been a situation, when there was a need to have everyone receive and act upon the same message? If the feedback loop only included her representative assessment, the opportunity to miss the goal would be enormous. One might assume that those with prior experience with the speaker would automatically be aligned, and view it as terrific that a newcomer was now onboard.

This was a reminder to me that when the outcome is important, the feedback loop needs to be broad.

Saturday, October 24, 2009


It doesn't matter if we are individuals or organizations. We all seek to be relevant.

I attended an advisory meeting this week for a non-profit organization that has been a big part of my life for over 20 years. Kudos to the organization for proactively seeking multiple inputs in creating a strategic plan to ensure that this very special, high impact organization remains relevant during the next 25 years.

As individuals, I think our best way to remain relevant is to stay engaged, learn continuously, maintain our curiosity, embrace change, seek diverse young perspectives, exhibit flexibility and be willing to admit that we don't have all the answers.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Who Says These Events are Special?

We can get so engrossed in our own experiences that we don't realize that everyone else doesn't view special occasions the same way we do. It was helpful for me to view a pending ball from two different perspectives.

My view:
Exclusive event
Awesome once in a lifetime experience for the honorees
Fabulous party
Great band
Exquisitely decorated venue
Fun people (friends and chance to meet new ones)
Yummy food
Super friending
What we do!

Another perspective:
Don't like big events
Dressing up isn't my thing
Crowds are stressful
What would I wear?
Strangers aren't friends unmet; they are strangers
I'm out of my element
I congratulate you, but don't want to be at a formal event

Similar differences in perspective will exist when parties are not equally interested in a particular sport, music, drama, film, festival or cause.
May we all find the daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, annual and once-in-a-lifetime events that help us soar!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

25 years at a time

Edgar and I celebrated 25 short years of marriage this year. Time does fly when life is full, active and robust. What incredible children, memories and advances we thankfully acknowledge!

Last night I attended the 25 year anniversary of one of our Sterling Bank offices. The mutual successes were illuminated by the stories of remarkable clients assisted as this office has grown and prospered.

My parents' average age is 3 times 25. Thankfully, they still act like they are are only 2 times 25. Unfortunately, they've experienced the grief of a million times 25. Yet, they embrace life as vibrantly as any 25 year old.

Our children have yet to reach the 25 year milestone. Yet they have experienced the equivalent of many 25 year increments of technological advancements in their young lives.

Twenty-five years seems like an eternity when you're young, yet like an impossibly short excursion as time flies.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

When Do We Get My Uniforms?

When our first child was born, I was blissfully unaware of how very competitive admission to highly selective private schools is in Houston. This is one of the many joys of growing up in a small town where everyone attends public school. Reality sank in as we left her interview for admission to kindergarten.

Often we don't realize how badly we want something until it's something important to and for your child. Success and avoiding disappointment are mutual goals.

As we got into the car after the interview, my precious daughter asked, "When do we get my uniforms?" We'd not made a big deal about the interview and told her we were going to check out a new school. So, I said, "We need to see if you like the school and if they will have room for you in the class" I tried to hide the stress I was suddenly experiencing as she made it crystal clear, "I want to go to school here!". Prior to that declaration, it had merely been something we wanted for her. The stakes were higher now that she wanted it too.

The wait for her good news seemed forever long and so very welcome when it arrived.

This was a vivid reminder that seeking a successful outcome for someone you love and treasure is far more powerful than seeking it for yourself.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


When I was nine, I told my maternal grandfather that when I had a daughter I was going to name her Julia, in memory of his mother, a great-grandmother I never knew.

As a child, it never occurred to me that my husband would have opinions about this important matter. When I proposed this name, Edgar was initially unreceptive to the idea. Though my grandfather probably would not have remembered that long ago declaration, I did.

Happily, we ultimately agreed and I had the joy of introducing precious Julia to my wonderful grandfather - delivering on a promise made so many years earlier.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Life by Company Slogan

Ideas for Life. Imagine. Power of Dreams. Expect Great Things. Resourceful By Nature. Dreams Made Real. How Big Can You Dream? Discover What's Possible. The Possibilities are Infinite. The Power of Choice. Have It Your Way. It's Your World. Take Control. Life More Interesting. Get In the Game. Discover What's Possible. Decide with Confidence. Do More. Expect Something Extra. You Can Do This. Just Do It. Make the Most of Now. Keep on Thinking. It's Your World. Take Control. Just What You Needed. Know How. Listen and You Will See. Taking You Forward. Changes for the Better. Operate at Your Optimum. Pushing Limits. Make Progress Every Day. Watch Yourself Change. The Perfect Experience. Live Richly. Excellence Endures.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Unlikely Journey

I got a message this week from a dear friend, recounting a most unlikely journey. He reached for an interoffice envelope, and while addressing it, noticed that it had originated from me. This would have been perfectly understandable several years ago, when we worked for the same organization. This envelope, however, originated with me, criss-crossed several of our company locations and landed across town at another organization, in the hands of one of only two people who I know there.

The envelope's unlikely journey gave us an expected, and always welcome, chance to connect.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Take This Job and Love It!

Terri Langhans, a Certified Speaking Professional, author and COE (Chief of Everything) at Blah, Blah, Blah Etc. Inc., was the featured speaker at our recent Sterling Bank Women’s Business Initiative Luncheon. She motivated and entertained our appreciative audience as she presented her marvelous message "Take This Job and LOVE It!"

It is abundantly clear that Terri loves her job and she shared tips for everyone to love theirs. She urges getting a new pair of glasses, which is a vivid way of reminding us that we always find what we are looking for. If we are looking for a mess, problem or boring meeting, we’ll find that. But if we’re looking for solutions, interesting interactions or success, that’s what we’ll find.

She outlined six things that can lead to burnout – workload, control, reward, community, fairness and values. And she offered a great twist, noting that in order to experience burnout, one had to have once been on fire. Rekindling the flame can occur by changing our perspective about the cause of burnout or finding a job where these factors are a match for us.

We’re all familiar with RDA in food and vitamins. Terri prescribes creating RDA for what we are looking to achieve.

And she’s a big proponent of using questions. We need to ask ourselves what a good mom or leader would do. When confronted with an uncomfortable question from another, she suggests responding with a question. Why do you ask? What is it that you want to know? And if someone is ranting it often works to add a question to their complaint. Her daughter came home from school and spewed, “I hate my math teacher. He’s an idiot.” Terri’s response was, “You hate him? He’s an idiot?” This allowed her daughter to vent about tomorrow’s test and her misplaced book, which were her real issues.

In order to love our jobs, we need to understand what is important and let the professional inside us shine.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Highs and Lows of an October Day

I woke up early, knowing that I had a flight at 8:00 a.m. This was a day where everything needed to go smoothly and every minute counted.

Before I left the house:
Our precious son needed multiple wake-up options
Our 14-year old cat had an unfortunate encounter with a raccoon
A shower unexplainedly overflowed into the living room

On the road:
All was going 100% perfectly, until the traffic stopped. Thankfully, it was a temporary slow-down due to an 18-wheeler blow-out and residual impacts.

At the airport:
Looks like the economy is improving, due to my visual assessment of the number of early morning travelers compared to 4 months ago. Fewer screening positions open. A number of occasional travelers who don't know the drill. Made the flight! Spotted one of our dear nephews on the flight!

When I Landed in Dallas:
Urgent message to call our CPA about questions for our 10/15 return. Walked Edgar through the location of the missing data before the event began.

Our Sterling Bank Women's Business Initiative event:

When I Landed at Home:
Got the tax news from Edgar and said I'd forego the community partner celebration. Glad that I heeded his advice and arrived to congratulate my friends.

At home:
Processed all the tax returns. Edgar dressed, then sent the tax returns while I dressed for our Black Tie Dinner Dance.

Dinner Dance:
Small world continues to evolve as I discover that the dinner guest I'm seated by and I have both sequentially hired the same incredible associate.

What a day!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Goldilocks v. Gildedlocks

In this age of abundant choices we've become like Goldilocks - we want everything just right, if not better. That's simply not always possible. And in some instances, it leads to average or detrimental results.

Courses, opportunities or projects that are too easy can bore us; if they are just right we cease to learn, stretch and grow. Courses, opportunities and projects that are a bit too difficult probably provide the right challenge.

Food and beverages seem to be categories where the Goldilocks Syndrome is justified - too little or too much can be unhealthy.

We know that too little exercise compromises our well-being; moderate increases beyond the recommended levels help us achieve improved health.

Interpersonal skills tend to be an area where a deficiency significantly negatively impacts happiness and success; and exceptional abilities make a tremendous difference in friendships, careers, contacts and contracts.

What's just right in community engagement of our time, talent and treasure? The needs are never-ending, so we can question what difference one more hour or one more dollar will make. To those served, the impact can be life-changing.

Help me not to be Goldilocks, but Gildedlocks - one who always understands and applies the effort-consequences-benefit equation.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Who inspires you? I had the chance to visit today with a dear friend who is beating cancer. I'm the ultimate optimist, so I categorize him as beating cancer, though he still has 1 more chemo treatment and 6 radiation treatments ahead. I can't wait for his doctors to validate his survivor assessment. I saw it in his eyes. His attitude is far better than so many of my colleagues who are dealing with far less serious issues. Though we think that we need to encourage our friends who are suffering, fighting, surviving - it is often those friends who demonstrate a life filled with courage, optimism and thriving. We do need to encourage, support and listen to our friends, regardless of the challenges that they are facing. And, we need to listen for the inspiration we receive from them.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

It Doesn't Always Matter How Big You Are

The biggest and strongest win many competitions. When position and strategy play a more significant role, size doesn't matter. This is beautifully illustrated in an exchange between two radio operators communicating from the water. The first operator says, "Move right." The second operator responds, "I'm aboard an aircraft carrier, I have priority and I'm moving left." The first operator responds, "Your call. I'm in a lighthouse."

Monday, October 12, 2009

We're All in the Same Boat

We travel amidst a sea of drivers who act as if they are invisibly cocooned in their vehicles. We seat-belt into our vehicles and begin a new journey. We sometimes forget that these are real people, with families, lives, jobs and deadlines. When we're rushing to an important meeting, cutting it close to be on time for an appointment or clearly running late, we tend to think only of our need for speed. Ever wonder how many other drivers are in your same situation? I rarely do, but everything is connected, and I imagine that my scenario is readily replicated.

We all recognize idiot drivers when they interrupt our journey. How often do we stop to think that some of the things that these idiot drivers are doing "that irritate us and disrupt our journey" are things that we've also done when we are distracted or in a hurry?

I get frustrated with those who ignore my turn signal, tailgate, think that the multiple warnings that the lane is ending don't apply to them, linger at a green light and who drive more slowly than seems possible. I'm alarmed by those who recklessly change lanes at a high rate of speed, those who carry over-sized and under-secured loads and those who weave distractedly, sleepily or impaired from the lane in which they are traveling.

I am always appreciative of drivers who indulge my adrenaline rush and acknowledge my left turn signal as I attempt to move 4 lanes left within half a block and then navigate a high speed 4 leftward-bound lane change in less than a tollway mile. It's not for the faint-hearted.

Where better than our streets, roads, highways, freeways and tollways to practice the Golden Rule?

The idiot drivers I've encountered are numerous, but thankfully I've also encountered equal numbers of considerate drivers who realize that we're all in this together (everything's connected).

Sunday, October 11, 2009


Preparation distinguishes those who excel and those who don't. It's easy to spot in an academic environment with class discussions, papers, tests and quizzes quickly showing the difference among those who've prepared well and those who've done just enough to get by.

Athletes and musicians are elevated to elite status by talent, passion and practice (preparation).

Candidates interviewing for a job are evaluated based upon their preparation: experience and fit for the open opportunity. Their ability to communicate how what they've done demonstrates the likelihood that they'll excel in the new environment distinguishes the successful candidates.

Leaders who are most prepared are able to steer their organizations successfully regardless of the economic climate. Preparation comes not only from experience, but also a willingness to continuously learn, adapt and passionately execute.

I've often said that parenting is about being prepared to treat each child as a unique individual with specific interests, abilities and needs.

When we conscientiously prepare, we are able to deliver against ever-changing expectations, situations and options.

Saturday, October 10, 2009


We all know the story of the ant and the grasshopper. Of course, the ant is the hero in this story. The ant worked diligently and prepared for the coming winter, while the grasshopper frolicked and played.

Many of us tend to be too much like the ant, scurrying, working and planning non-stop. We postpone fun for later. Perhaps we should be "anthoppers". The ant still comes first, but we inject some fun into the experience.

Friday, October 9, 2009


We hear and read constantly about life-work balance. This elusive concept reminds me of a see-saw at the playground. Generally in attempting to balance, one party is up and the other is down. That's what many attempts at life-work balance feel like - rarely are all elements in balance - mostly one is soaring and the other isn't.

I think life-work juggling is a better description of effective harmony. An experienced juggler can keep many balls in the air by touching each one in rotation. Only when the rotation is interrupted does a ball hit the ground.

Juggling works best for me when I realize that my roles and responsibilities are integrated rather than neatly siloed. Making some time each day to address each of my roles works far better than focusing exclusively on one area and resolving to make up in another area after the big project, family event or volunteer responsibility is over. Reality proves that each area won't receive equal focus each day, but touching all the balls keeps them all in rotation.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

I'm Early, Now What?

All of the chefs I know, both family and paid professionals, can only meet their own and constituent expectations by planning and preparing for the event(s) ahead. Whether family meals, parties or a daily influx of new and returning patrons, they need to know who will or might be joining them. My most vivid example of extreme chef preparation and flexibility occurred earlier this year when one of my normal venues for my Sterling Bank Women's Business Initiative luncheons failed to notify the chef when the date of our event changed. Their internal change order reflected a day of the week/calendar date mismatch and they internally resolved the discrepancy without consulting me. I was traveling from out-of-town and thankfully arrived very early the morning of our luncheon. In fact, I was a day earlier than the chef and staff were expecting me. We had a challenge to create a positively, memorable event rather than making apologies and experiencing a bomb. There could have been enormous negative ramifications. My mind raced to determine what "big kid happy meals" I could procure, deliver and position (explain) with only 2 hours notice. Thankfully, this experienced, professional chef always plans ahead. And I'm the only one (plus a few trusted Sterling Bank colleagues) who know that we were so close to delivering an unexpected contingency option.

This successful event, delivered, despite severe challenges was only possible because a professional chef plans ahead.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Social Media Pet Peeve

I've never asked for a recommendation on LinkedIn, but have happily recommended many deserving colleagues. Some, I have proactively recommended, and many, many others have unilaterally solicited recommendations. Some of those soliciting recommendations have reciprocated with lovely recommendations and sincere thanks for the acknowledgement. Many others have happily posted their recommendations without ever even acknowledging that I've responded to their request and posted nice things for the online world to see.

Our time is a precious commodity. The least that an "online recommendation solicitor" should do is thank the person who takes time to provide a recommendation. Better yet, though they can't pay it forward with this advocate, they can post a recommendation for their recommender and then post some "pay it forward" recommendations for other deserving colleagues.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

What Did You Mean?

Tone, inflection and intent matter in communication. “WOW” can and often does mean: terrific, awesome, or outstanding. However, it can also mean: ooh, I didn’t expect that. The words must be taken in context to avoid making wrong assumptions. This is especially important when communicating via email. What if you send your boss a message saying that you got the big deal you’d been working on at a 35% discount and your boss replies, “WOW”? Is this an enthusiastic response or disappointment that the discounting was higher than expected? If you are accustomed to receiving enthusiastic replies, such as: “WOW! That’s fantastic! I knew you could do it!”, the one word response could be a sign that the deal is not as profitable as your boss had expected. Or it could simply be a case of pressing send before finishing the intended communication.

Taking time to appropriately position our written and spoken communications can make all the difference in our relationships.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Familiar Strangers

How many people do we enthusiastically greet without knowing their names? We can feel a connectedness that transcends names: the people in our building or adjoining buildings who we see with inconsistent frequency in elevators, skywalks or tunnels; the ever-changing security guard; the family usually seated 5 rows in front of us at church; the airline representative who we see only occasionally; the waiter who moves from restaurant to restaurant.

I label these people "familiar strangers". I am always pleased to see them, but haven't yet had the opportunity to elevate them from "familiar strangers" to acquaintances with names, or friends.

Though I don't always know their names, I appreciate the mutual recognition and connectedness that familiar strangers represent.

Sunday, October 4, 2009


Nothing changes my outlook like remembering that I always have options. So often stress results from feeling trapped. Many people are trapped in relationships that aren't fulfilling, jobs that aren't inspiring and expectations that are too demanding.

When we feel that we can't quit a boring, dead-end or mis-matched job, change or leave a toxic relationship or find a new, invigorating opportunity, we feel trapped.

Thankfully, I have a fabulous family, omnipotent God, terrific job, delightful friendships, rewarding community involvements and have been blessed to be born in the U.S.A.

I'm grateful for my countless options and hope that you will discover the abundant options available to you.

When I'm feeling overwhelmed, I try to remember that my situation is temporary, non-life-threatening and controllable. I try to count my blessings including success, creativity, ability to multi-task, experience and communication skills.

Silo thinking leads to extreme stress and inability to draw upon related skills to address the current situation.

May we always open our minds and hearts to the numerous options available to us.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Traveling at the Speed of Life

Most of us cannot comprehend traveling at the speed of light. Traveling at the speed of life is fast enough! Years ago, I asked my precious children if time seemed to be speeding by just because I was getting older. They wisely answered (and I far preferred their observation) that days were speeding by because we were so busy.

When I was a child extensive scheduling didn't begin until kindergarten. And it was very reasonable. There wasn't the constant barrage of birthday parties, play dates and extra-curricular activities.

When my first child was born, I felt that I was already late for my first appointment. I didn't call her special pre-school from the hospital. Thankfully, she got in, despite my tardiness.

My children's activities in pre-school were more prevalent and varied than my junior high opportunities. This was my first example that life had accelerated.

When 24x7x365 connectedness is added to the equation, we quickly realize that we'd all get a speeding ticket if our journey was conducted on any public thoroughfare.

Thankfully, traveling at the speed of life is not a traffic violation.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Is the Grass Greener?

The grass is always greener when a professional is responsible for the care and feeding.

This applies to instances when we hire professionals to maintain our grounds. It is also relevant to job search options when an individual is discontented with a current employer but hasn't professionally examined the pros and cons of his/her current situation versus an alternative employer. If we only look at the above ground (green grass) optics, we may miss the deeply rooted core fundamentals. Temporary situations may look ominous, but we owe it to ourselves, careers and employers to determine if this is a temporary (water rationing during a drought) anomaly or a systemic problem. Unless we professionally invest time to understand and examine our current situation versus alternatives we may fall victim to the reality that the grass is really only greener in very specific geographies (employers).

May green grass flourish as we professionally invest in the care and feeding of our careers.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Ask, Listen and Learn

My natural inquisitiveness and concern for others serves me well. As you'd expect, I've learned from CEOs, managers, front-line associates, non-profit execs and professional consultants.

I've also gained tremendous insight from my children and other children with whom I've been fortunate to interact. When we're willing and able to listen and learn, the amazing perspectives of all of our young friends will enrich our lives.

I've benefited from the wisdom, experience and challenges shared by my office friends who are security guards and maintenance workers. Some of their children are attending amazing schools. These hard-working individuals know the difference that an education can make. Unlike many with whom I routinely interact, these committed individuals are working double shifts to ensure that their children have the best opportunity available.

Wonder what I'll learn today!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Needle in a Haystack

With all of the advertisements, email solicitations, mailings, cold calls, billboards, seminars and networking events bombarding us, it often seems like getting a distinct value proposition delivered to an interested and able buying partner is like finding a needle in a haystack.

Many of these well-intended and carefully crafted communications pieces get lost in the clutter of our hectic, chaotic daily lives. With so many messages, meetings, projects, calls and deadlines competing for our time and attention, we often find that only those messages from a known messenger or with an intriguing subject line command more than a few seconds of our precious attention.

We can win prizes for creative content, yet be destined for the immediate recycling bin if we fail to connect via known messenger. Everything is connected. Finding the missing link in our relationships from who we know, who they know, and how our friends are connected to those whom we need to know makes the difference between success and oblivion.

A needle with a very long thread could be visually spotted in a haystack. Or we could attract the needle with a powerful magnet. Our carefully crafted messages delivered with knowledge, enthusiasm and understanding to those with whom we've carefully connected through excellent relationship threads will stand out.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Living through Construction

We are so programmed to deliver a finished product that we may miss a critical opportunity to differentiate enhancements. In our "deliver 100% solutions environment" we may do a dis-service to our friends, colleagues and constituents when we don't show our constituents that progress is painful.

As a consequence of Hurricane Ike, each day I travel 6 miles on one of Houston's most traveled major thoroughfares - Westheimer. A major reconstruction project incorporates 9 miles for this critical transportation artery. I travel between Loop 610 and Beltway 8. The construction project extends 3 miles west of my destination.

The reconstruction of Westheimer has been a challenge. However, each new lane mile of reconstruction brings terrific improved mobility. If the project had been completed instantaneously, all of the regular commuters might have taken the project improvements for granted. Since we've lived through the progress, we can, will and do appreciate the improvements.

I think this sometimes happens in business as we strive to make things transparent for our clients and colleagues. Given the road construction example, perhaps we need to illuminate for others the process we go through to achieve substantial improvements, rather than just providing turn-key enhancements.

Though living through construction is painful, it makes us vividly contrast the final improvements.

Anyone who has lived through a home renovation knows first-hand that the end result is worth it, but those who aren't familiar with the achievement obstacles aren't fully appreciative of the twists, turns, obstacles and delays that had to be endured to render a fabulous result.

Trials make us strong. Recognizing enhancements makes us vividly aware and appreciative.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Who's the Teacher?

We ushered at Church on Sunday.

Our church, Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church, is in the heart of the Texas Medical Center/Rice University community and adjoins Hermann Park. Our neighbors are our affluent Medical Center/Rice neighbors and those who use some version of our adjoining parks as their current address.

Though Palmer feeds and ministers to countless homeless Houstonians through the Palmer Way Station, we rarely have homeless friends in our 9:00 a.m. Sunday service.

Today, we welcomed a Way Station client into our 9:00 a.m. service. He chose the last pew. As an usher, I had the chance to invite him to communion. I don't know if he didn't initially realize that we were administering communion at the front and back of the Church, or if he didn't realize that I was welcoming him to communion. So much is communicated with gestures and facial expressions. When we made eye contact, he eagerly took communion.

I would not have thought of my new stranger encounter again, until he changed my life. As he left the service, he asked one of my fellow ushers and me where he could contribute. He gave a few cents to my friend.

Until today, the story of the Widow's Mite was a parable. Today, it became a real example of faith and thankfulness.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Powerful 3 Letter Words

These 19 three-letter words represent powerful ways of understanding, acknowledging, doing and being.


Saturday, September 26, 2009

100 Blogs! One Step at a Time

It is important to have a goal in mind (almost every time) when you tackle a new project. For me, becoming a blogger, did not exactly fit this model. Two people, my best friend and our Sterling Bank New Media Editor kept telling me that I should blog. One weekend in May, I responded to their challenge and encouragement. Had I been told then that I had to create 100 blogs by the end of September, I would never have started.

I had no idea that I had 100 things to say and share.

This experience has reinforced for me the importance of taking one significant step at a time. And, the impact of listening to those who care about us and who value our perspective.

I am most appreciative of those of you who have read my blogs, provided comments and forwarded my entries to your friends and colleagues.

Thank you!

Friday, September 25, 2009


This week has been another crazy juggling act. I'd put a notation on my calendar for an event that I'd like to attend, even though I knew the possibility was very iffy. How glad I am that I kept that visual reminder to alert me to an option that I would otherwise have missed. When, at the last minute, I decided that I could make it, I called to see if space was still available, grabbed my purse and headed to a remarkable event.

Participating was energizing in so many ways - great content, connecting with interesting colleagues, discovering two opportunities to build our business, meeting face to face someone I'd interacted with on the phone and via email, and the chance to encourage a friend who was having a very down day.

This was another vivid reminder to me of the value of keeping optional appointments tentatively available on my Outlook Calendar to capture special opportunities when schedules change.

Timing matters!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Pass or Fail

I had the wonderful opportunity this week to hear Ken Jones address a group of business professionals at the Greater Houston Parnership's Marketing Excellence program. Ken is a University of Houston professor and consultant who made me want to once again be a student. His definition of entrepreneurship is crystal clear: "one who understands that the outcome is up to me."

His distinction between the often misunderstood realities of marketing and sales was succinct and useful:

Marketing generates demand
Sales cultivates demand

Ken's reality check for students and others was perfect:
The real world is pass or fail. You don't get an 82% grade on a loan application. You are either approved or declined.

His remarkable advice is to view a company website as an "employee" hit home, as 93% of purchasers go first to a website.

One of Ken's most appropriate challenges was to determine what you would do: "If you had to compete against yourself and win".

He vividly reminded us that risk and reward are related. For each employee, regardless of job title, value contributed to the organization should be 3 times the employee's paycheck.

Ken shared 8 R's for success:
Related Sales
Reputation Building

Finally, he reminded us to evaluate how others think. We often get caught in our own perspectives. We must evolve to understand how others think in order to meet their needs and expectations.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Does 1 matter?
1 degree represents the difference between freezing or not, boiling or not, teaching at the collegiate level or not, and qualification for a job or not.
1 point is the difference between an A and B, B and C, C and D, and D and a failing grade.
1 fraction of an inch/second makes the difference between winning or placing second in any timed Olympic or other competitive event.
1 vote makes the difference in winning or losing an election.
1 accepted marriage proposal changes an entire family tree.
1% point interest rate can make thousands of dollars difference in interest paid.
1 inspirational conversation or speech can turn a life around.
1 more sales call can make the difference between exceeding and missing quota.
1 more dollar can make the difference between eking by and bankruptcy.
1 more meal can mean the difference between health and sickness.
1 more meaningful interaction can mean the difference between living and dying.
1 more encouraging interaction can make the difference between staying and leaving.
1 more pill/treatment can make the difference between sickness and health.
1 more positive interaction, contribution, call, meeting can make the difference between being employed and not.
1 more day can make the difference between on-time and late payment, impacting your credit rating.
1 more absence can make the difference between passing and failing; remaining employed and being terminated; salvaging or terminating a relationship.
1 more conversation can make a lifetime memory.
1 more chance can turn a life around.
1 more try can make a record.
1 more interview can launch a career.
1 less calorie, cigarette or drink can start a new life.

Everything we do makes a difference to ourselves or someone else.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Seeing Things as They Can Be

I've learned that one form of creativity is seeing things as they can be:

the dress that became simple, elegant and unique with embellishment removed
the suit that became distinctive and a favorite with a change of buttons
the jacket that became one-of-a-kind with a change of lapels
the shot glasses in a wooden base that became a favorite vase
the inverted rectangular vases that became stands for Limoges boxes
the ornament tree that became a floral centerpiece
the trays that became chargers

We all see things differently based upon our experience and perspective. It's fun to see things not only as they are, but to be able to see and convert them to the things that they can become.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Let's Play!

As adults we so often get caught up in the things we need to do. I've frequently joked that when it's my time to die, I will be bargaining for a few more minutes to get everything finished. The musts, shoulds, and wills (see 9/14 post) consume many of us. I've begun to realize that we need to have some down-time without apologizing to ourselves or anyone else (though I do rationalize that my online SCRABBLE games are an activity to keep my brain from atrophying). OK, I'm not yet without apology to myself when I neglect the never-ending to-do list. But, I'm trying!

Let's play!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Positive and Negative Labels

Labels provide a convenient way to categorize people and things. Labels can be liberating, acknowledging and congratulatory or restricting and defeating.

We don't think twice when we share with a friend that our colleague is: bright, accomplished, amazing, creative, results-oriented, A+, capable or interpersonally excellent.

However, what happens when the following are attributed to our colleagues: difficult, slow, ornery, loner, slacker, needy, marginal?

We have other ways to label our colleagues - letter grades, percentile ranks, percentage of quota achievement, job classification...

And when we fail to comment, others fill in the blanks.

What about the ways we can refer to others that can have dual meanings - special, political, particular, opinionated? When appropriately supplemented with tone, inflection and reference, the meaning is clear. When absent, a person may be stuck with a label that may or may not fit.

It's convenient and helpful to give a visual characterization such as female, male, short, tall, hair color and build to allow others to identify new contacts.

Though labels are a convenient way to categorize people and things, I think we need to be aware that we may unintentionally limit our friends' acceptance among our circle if we fail to adequately explain or describe positive attributes and/or motives.

May I always remember to attribute a fair assessment of those I know, and may they attribute the same to me!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Everday as a Parent is Golden!

We get so caught up in our daily personal and business expectations that we sometimes forget to celebrate important family ocurrences that aren't major family celebrations. We intellectually accept the fact that our job as parents is to prepare our wonderful, precious children to be ethical, productive, and highly functioning members of society. Our heartstrings intrude, and we often fall victim to the reality that distance is the pits. My head knows that this is the best school for my precious angel, but my heart wishes that a perfect alternative existed far closer to home.

For those whose children are still in infancy or toddlers, cherish the moments! The days turn into weeks, months and years. I'm stunned by how quickly my angels have progressed from precious infants, to charming toddlers, to angelic lower schoolers, to questioning middle schoolers, to amazing upper schoolers and college students.

I've loved each stage and phase of my amazing children's incredible development! I've always hated to hear anyone say that they can't wait until their child "....". Those parents are missing magic moments everyday.

Thank you, Julia and Gar for bringing me incredible joy each and every day!