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.