Friday, December 31, 2010

Winding Down

I wish that I knew how to wind down.  I've visited with so many relatives, friends and colleages who have been winding down their year since December 1 and I'm jealous. I think that the coroner is the only one who can bring a stop to my never-ending "to do list".  Since winding down isn't an option for my personality type, I've chosen to change my perspective and be grateful for my many responsibilities and interests.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Grateful!

With all the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season, I am ever so grateful that family, friends and neighbors choose to let us know that we are important.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Find It!

One of our Christmas presents is a family game, Find It!  It's a self-contained scavenger hunt concealing 47 different objects.  As promised, it enterained all ages for days.  And it is a reminder that we don't always see the things we know are there.  It encourages patience, persistence, experimenting with different techniques and the pursuit of group goals.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas Babies

With no disrespect intended for Jesus, I now have 3 Christmas babies.  Of course, Jesus is the reason for the season.  My beloved nephew, Michael, is now 25.  He was born on Christmas Eve and we just celebrated his 25th birthday.  We've had the distinct privilege to celebrate his birthday each year.  Each year the family gathers for Michael's birthday.  Our celebratory feast marks his special occasion.  After dinner, birthday cake and birthday wrapped presents are opened, we move to our Christmas celebration.

My third Christmas baby is Jax.  Though his birthday is not in the Christmas season, this was his first Christmas and he enchanted 12 adults aged 18 to 79.

Monday, December 27, 2010

World's Longest Sudoku

One of my gifts is the World's Longest Sudoku by Frank Longo.  It is nearly 22 feet long (21'9 3/4") and has 167 puzzles with 8,929 empty squares.  I know I can rise to the challenge and plan to complete it by August 15, 2011.  I thought 33 weeks (5 puzzles per week) was a very reasonable goal - then I saw a review on Amazon by someone who completed it in 12 days.

I still think mine is a very reasonable goal for me.  This stark contrast in expectations was a helpful reminder that we all need to set goals that are 3M:  meaningful, measurable and meetable.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

The gifts of Christmas are abundant!  They include love, family, time, kindness, anticipation, joy, laughter, tradition, food and surprise.  May we remember that these gifts should infuse the coming year.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Starting the Day

Our family has different ways of waking up.  Some pop up ready to tackle whatever the day holds.  Others cling to the covers until the last moment.  The way we start the day is soon forgotten as we fully engage in the day's activities.  This is just another reminder to me that there are myriad ways to get things done.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Santa Collection

I never dreamed when I received my first Santas many years ago that my collection would grow and grow.  It has become a treasured part of our Christmas decorations and a fun conversation element. No two Santas are alike. They represent the friendships and memories I cherish with the givers. 

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Cherished Friends

The gifts of friendship, laughter and saying whatever comes to mind are among the many things I cherish this Christmas! My family seemed astonished, when I said, "Yes, I've been at lunch all afternoon!" They had no way of knowing that it seemed like only 30 minutes. Through good times, tragedies and everything in between, it's lovely to know that I have friends who will laugh, cry, applaud, advise, listen and counsel. And above all: they will understand that we are all doing the absolute best that we can with each situation that evolves.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Week

As impossible as it seems, it's already Christmas week.  In the midst of the scurrying to finish shopping, baking and decorating, we owe it to ourselves to pause each day to remember the reason for the season. 

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Appearances

Julia and I just got manicures and pedicures.  We both had the same reaction to two women who came in after us.  They were wearing their team's NFL jerseys.  We were pleasantly surprised to find that both were articulate professionals with highly responsible careers.  It made no difference in this setting what our expectations were, but it was a two-fold reminder:
  • dress for the role you have or aspire to have
  • don't let initial assumptions based upon appearance preclude learning what an individual has to offer

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Bizarre Dream

I rarely remember my dreams.  Recently my vividly recalled dream challenged geography, time, reality and the compassion of others.  My take-aways are:
  • Everything matters - though we may not think of the significance, others might
  • Everyone matters - I'd not seen the only person I recognized in one segment since I graduated
  • Every idea matters - context and content are crucial

Friday, December 17, 2010

Love is Forever

Yesterday brought front and center for me how precious and fragile life is. December 16 would have been my brother Mark's 52nd birthday, if not for Hodgkin's Disease.  And yesterday we received one of the most memorable Christmas cards ever.  Our dear friends lost their precious son this year. Their most special card reminded us that impact is not measured in years lived, rather in love infused. 

In loving memory of Mark, Sean and all others I've loved and lost, I thank you for reminding us all that life is fleeting, but love is forever.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Stressless

I've finally realized that I must always achieve optimal results to be satisfied. I've frequently observed that if I happened to be a Wal-Mart greeter, I'd organize the shopping carts for optimal shopper and enterprise success and propose options for increased efficiency.  I share that observation to make the point that much of my stress is self-imposed. 

The fact that "stressless" is not a word, actually gives me comfort.  Since a certain amount of stress is always present, our best option is to stress less about the less important elements in order to experience less stress.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Jigsaw Puzzle Calendar

Yesterday was the equivalent of working a jigsaw puzzle as I tried to match open dates in multiple cities and venues to accommodate 3 recurring internal meetings, 25 customer events, my outside board commitments, Julia's and Gar's graduations, Alley season performances and Kinkaid varisty lacrosse games.  It's invigorating to already have so many exciting things to anticipate in 2011.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Disappointment

Things don't always work out as we hope or intend.  How we deal with disappointment sets the stage for our next success. 

Monday, December 13, 2010

4 Steps of Gift Giving

To encourage myself that I'm making progress in getting ready for Christmas, I've broken gift giving into a four step process:
  • Inspiration
  • Acquisition
  • Preparation
  • Celebration
Gift-giving is joyous when you have inspiration for an appropriate gift.  Sometimes even when we determine what we'd like to give, acquisition is impeded by availability.  When substitution is required, the process starts over.  Creativity or simplicity can mark the preparation phase as we wrap our acquisition.  And my favorite step is celebration.  Though it's not always possible, I love spending time with the recipient as she or he unwraps the gift. 

My Christmas list is in various phases of completion.  And since I've already had the joy of celebrating with a very special group of friends, I have those beautiful memories to add to special gifts I've received.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Gift of Time

Many of us are racing against the clock to finish our work year and achieve all the things on our personal agenda.  There are projects, meetings and reports at work.  At home we try to combine Martha Stewart's decorating and entertaining skills with Santa's intuitive ability to create the perfect gifts beautifully delivered. We trust that the U.S. Postal Service will achieve their normal two-day delivery of our Christmas cards once we stamp the final greeting.

In the hustle to accomplish everything, we can lose focus of the joy of spending time with those we cherish.  Dinners, lunches, cocktails, galas, concerts and impromptu visits with neighbors provide the unwrapped gifts of time to enjoy our relationships.  The gift of time is priceless. 

Saturday, December 11, 2010

When 2 Day Delivery Means 5 Days

This week I ordered a Christmas present that I was excited to give several friends.  My order was placed on Wednesday and I opted for 2 day delivery. It was going to be perfect to receive the order on Friday for presentation on Saturday. I got a call mid-morning on Thursday to confirm my order and was informed that because I'd placed the order after noon on Wednesday, my 2 day order would arrive on Monday.  This was 3 days later than expected and 2 days too late.  Had I been willing to wait 5 days for my delivery, I could have saved premium shipping charges. I had to cancel the order and start the gift search again.

Two days to the company meant, "if ordered on Monday, Tuesday or before noon on Wednesday". To me, two days meant "receipt 2 days after ordered". Clear communication of terminology and expectations is always required for deadlines.

Friday, December 10, 2010

USA State Street Signs by Julia Lovett

Work in Progress, United Streets of America
Work in Progress, United Streets of America

My daughter is determined and creative.  She recently spent a weekend on her bike photographing all 50 state street signs in Washington, D.C. 

Thursday, December 9, 2010

I'm My Own Best Friend

Several recent issues with friends and the popular line from a song, "I'm my own grandpa", brought front and center the necessity of loving and respecting ourselves.  We all need loving, supportive and nudging advocates.  However, our best way of maintaining positive equilibrium, is to be the best friend to ourselves that we strive to be for others.  We need to be loving, supportive and instructive, just as we'd be with our other dear friends.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Curiosity Kills Cats

Though Tiger thinks I’m Mom Cat, he’s wrong.  Since curiosity is apparently a cat killer, I’d be long dead if I was a cat.  Curiosity keeps things interesting, alive, vibrant and ever-changing.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

It Could Happen to Anyone

Edgar has joined the Way Station ministry at our church, Palmer Memorial Episcopal, serving a hot breakfast to hundreds of hungry Houstonians each Friday.  He always comes home so moved by the experience.  Friday was more emotional than ever, as he greeted a well-educated colleague in the line.  The impact of job loss became far more than a statistic when this former classmate shared his story. 

It makes me realize just how very fortunate I am to have a great job that I love. 

Monday, December 6, 2010

Great Adventure

Gar told me to be casually dressed for a surprise birthday adventure yesterday afternoon.  We had a great time at Trans-Siberian Orchestra's winter concert tour!  It was 2 1/2 hours of non-stop entertainment.  I loved everything about it - his novel idea, the terrific shared experience and another wonderful memory.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Christmas Tree

Our beautiful Christmas tree completed our holiday decorations.  Each ornament has a story.  It's filled with priceless ornaments that Julia and Gar have made through the years.   There are scores of splendid and sentimental ornaments we've received as gifts.  And there are homely ornaments that make us laugh.  It's a fabulous collection that is uniquely ours.  Though a designer wouldn't readily detect a theme for our tree, close examination would reveal that the theme is love.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Double Your Effectiveness at a Networking Event

Networking events provide the chance to meet new people. This won't happen if you spend the event visiting only with those you know.  If you arrive with a friend, separate.  If one of you goes left and the other goes right, you will be able to meet in the middle and connect those you've met.  After the event, take time to compare notes about who you met.
At your next chamber or association meeting consider asking the organizer if you can contact other table hosts and mix your tables for new connections.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Help! My Networking is Not Working!

Here are highlights from my presentation for our Sterling Bank Women’s Business Initiative luncheon in San Antonio this week:

When we find that our networking is not working it’s almost always because we’re not working for our network!  When we work for our network, our network will be effective. We need to create long-term mutually supportive relationships.

We must give before we can expect to get.

We learned the fundamentals of networking in kindergarten:
“Make new friends and keep the old
Some are silver and others are gold.”

Effective networking is a game where everyone wins.  Though our gamesmanship improves from kindergarten through our lives, we learn from each game we play.
Four childhood and one adult game provide networking dos and don’ts:

  1. Tag – It’s quick and brief with no meaningful interaction, but at least we’re in the game. Engagement is necessary.
  2. Barrel of monkeys – Networking is fun! The links can become sizable, but they are quite fragile.  Bigger is just bigger, not necessarily stronger.
  3. Twister - Interconnecting with others reminds us that networking is not an event, but the sum of all of our relationship building activities.
  4. Lego – Building a solid foundation allows us to create a mutually supportive network. When we integrate all of the relationships in our lives we netconnect.
  5. 21 - My Way (see my 12/2 blog) – Changed rules create unlimited winners.
The common theme of these games is that we increase the number of winners when we don’t keep score.  Before moving from kindergarten analogies, it’s helpful to remember that networking is a long-term process.  It’s like the 5-year old who asks in January how long it is until Christmas. She and we are encouraged to keep believing and be good.

And if we spell NETWORKING as a kindergartner might, we get NETWERKING.  Dissecting this word reveals a fun way to remember the mutuality of networking:
Net We R King (done right, we all win).

There are many ways to maintain, strengthen and grow our relationships including:
  • Events
  • Face-to-face one on one or small group meetings
  • Phone
  • Email
  • Notes - Send thank you notes, recognition of accomplishments, congratulatory, sympathy
  • Recommend books
  • Offer time-savers – sending yourself an email with notes from a presentation eliminates the need to transcribe
  • Teach someone else what you know
  • Recurring appointments in outlook
  • Compliment someone in front of others
  • Speak
  • Write
  • Nominate
  • Volunteer – active involvement – board development committee
  • Recommend
  • Ask for advice
  • LinkedIn – easy way to follow-up with those you met during the day – Personalize your messages rather than using the standard ones provided.
  • Blog
  • Share great finds – sales, sites, courses, resources, restaurants, service providers
  • When introducing others capture something meaningful about each party
Here’s my big girl expanded version of the friendship poem:

“Make new friends and keep the old
Some are silver and others are gold
Add new people to the fold
But don’t let relationships grow cold
Share the stories to be told
Let your listening be bold
Share advice when you’re polled
But be wary not to scold

We like to buy – not be sold
So put your sales pitch on hold.

Break the networking mold
Netconnect with young and old”



Thursday, December 2, 2010

New Game of 21- Everyone Wins

Many adults are familiar with the "21" or Blackjack card game.  I concocted a new version of 21.  As the featured speaker for a Sterling Bank Women's Business Initiative luncheon, for one of my exercises, I provided a deck of cards for each table.  My only instructions were to deal all the cards and see how many winners each table could produce.  As I'd hoped, the players shared cards to ensure that everyone was a winner. One of our 10 tables had to overcome a 21 purist.  And we had over-achiever tables that ensured that they had a 21 hand for everyone present and created 21 for as many additional hands as they could muster.

We all have opportunities to change the rules to create more winners.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Stamp It

I don't know why I this is the first year I've bought Christmas stamps online, but it's my favorite holiday stress buster of the day.  In 2 minutes I was able to get exactly the quantity and selection of stamps I wanted before I'd even showered.  Unless you feel a need to watch antsy strangers in a long line at the post office before finally settling for a mix of stamps currently in stock, do yourself a favor and order online.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Children's Theatre

Gar was part of the terrific cast for Kinkaid Children's Theatre production of Sleeping Beauty.  It was fun to see so many seniors, some of whom we've known since pre-k, create an entertaining and memorable play.  Watching the children in the audience actively engage with the actors was quite special.  Little did we know that the magic would continue after the play closed.  A most generous family hosted all the actors and the parents of senior actors for a lovely 3-course dinner.  The dinner was held in memory of their son, who had loved performing in Kinkaid Children's Theatre productions.  They reminded us that many lives are touched when a committed group works together to create a little magic. 

Monday, November 29, 2010

Changing Traditions

We changed a long-standing tradition of spending Thanksgiving in Arkansas after Julia's freshman year in college.  This was our second year to host my parents for Thanksgiving.  We've discovered that by allowing our traditions to evolve, we capture priceless family time together.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Red and Green Friday

Retailers begin decorating for Christmas before Halloween. I think we need distinctions for holidays, and refuse to put out our first Christmas decoration until the day after Thanksgiving.  And though many gifts must be acquired, black Friday is one day that I refuse to shop.  Black Friday was red and green in our home.

It has begun to look a lot like Christmas as we carefully placed nativities, angels, santas, nutcrackers, crystal ornaments, holiday toys and needlework works of art. Christmas dishes and stemware were put into daily meal service.

Red and green Friday is a far better way for me to seize the Christmas spirit than fighting rabid shoppers for once-a-year deals.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

My Favorite Special T-Shirt

My friend Anna is an adult Special Olympics competitor in many different events. She and her mother are weekly volunteers at the Special Olympics office. Anna created the winning design for a t-shirt that was produced for summer campers.  I was so moved that Anna chose me as the recipient of one of her t-shirts.  Each time I see or wear this special shirt I am vividly reminded that we all have unique talents and that many treasured gifts are those that we make and share with others.

Friday, November 26, 2010

I Love Thanksgiving Leftovers

I love everything about Thanksgiving including the leftovers. I treasure the time with family, friends of all ages popping in for a visit, spades competitions and the Thanksgiving evening feast.  This year everyone except Papa made a signature dish.  It was fun having everyone in the kitchen infusing the food with love, talent and tradition.  And the menu evolves each year to incorporate yummy new recipes to complement our must have favorites.

As much as I enjoy every bite of the actual feast, I also eagerly anticipate the day after Thanksgiving leftovers.  The food is terrific when formally served on Thanksgiving Day and equally delicious when casually enjoyed the next day.  It's fun to see the contrast.  Everyone enjoys some of everything within their dietary restrictions on Thanksgiving.  The next day some family members choose equally broadly and others very narrowly. Some microwave a replica of the previous evening's meal; others choose only dessert or heaping sandwiches on reheated rolls.  And I can almost taste the potato soup that we'll create from last night's mashed potatoes.

I'm thankful for all of my blessings including Thanksgiving leftovers.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Lovely Surprise

I was so eagerly anticipating Julia's arrival yesterday, but anxious about her arriving at 8:00 p.m. on the busiest air travel day of the year.  Two of her classes were canceled and unbeknownst to us she called Continental and booked the last seat on an earlier flight.  To complete the surprise she called a friend to pick her up at the airport.  When Mama and I came home from a most successful shopping trip, Julia had just arrived.  There's so much to be thankful for including the lovely surprise of several more holiday hours with Julia.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving Has Begun

I love Thanksgiving! I have so much to be thankful for including family, friends, faith, health, career and volunteering.  Though I express gratitude for my blessings every day, it is wonderful to have a holiday focused on thankfulness.

We've been eagerly anticipating a long weekend filled with love and laughter. Mama and Daddy have arrived and Julia comes in this evening.  The fun has already begun.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Success Mapping

I've had the unique opportunity to read Arlene Johnson's terrific book, success mapping: Achieve What You Want... Right Now!, before hearing her speak on the same topic for our November Sterling Bank Women's Business Initiative luncheon in Dallas.  She is accomplished, engaging and determined.  We all left the luncheon without a doubt that we must determine what is important and focus on progress every day.

Her personal story of defying her doctor's projections that her oral cancer would prevent her from being understood in her verbal communications or even being able to open her mouth wide enough to enjoy a cheeseburger, vividly demonstrates the significant power of completely seizing and achieving personal goals.  We all benefit from the reality that Arlene overcame this dire prognosis to launch her successful speaking and consulting career.

Reading Arlene's book is the next best thing to spending one-on-one time working through her eight clearly defined steps for achieving personal and professional success. Each step is illuminated with instructions, worksheets and stories of clients working through the process. She helps us take the plan from theory to reality.

Embracing our potential, clarifying our options, believing that we will succeed, removing obstacles and executing our plan creates a map for individual success.

Two of Arlene's key questions to propel us forward are:

What do I want to accomplish that I haven't?
What are my benefits and consequences of doing and not doing this action?

"The strategy of hope without action robs you of the joy of experiencing progress today and dreams fulfilled tomorrow." Arelene helps us to intentionally plan and achieve our goals.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Incredible Gift!

A dear friend created a fabulous gift that I'll treasure forever.  She saved all the Christmas card photos we'd sent through the years and created a beautiful album.  It brings great joy on many levels.  Friends, family, memories, creativity and thoughtfulness are captured in this unique gift.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Dressing for Success

Most of us have heard the importance of dressing for success since preparing for our first job interview.  It absolutely makes a difference in the selection process.  Each time I stand in an airport security line, I'm amazed at how quickly accomplished business people can undress for success.  The movements are robotic as everyone places shoes, belts and jackets in the bins.  No one looks like a tip-top professional at this moment without our business armor.  The rapid transformations at the other end of the line allow busy professionals to regain their professional aura.  It's as if this temporary time out never occurred. 

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Does Everyone Else Have Twins?

Earlier this week 10 bankers hosted 13 special guests at a business luncheon. I always look for interesting connections. As I visited with three of our attendees, I became amazed that they were each the parents of twins.  Because this was definitely not a group discussion topic, it is possible that one or more of the other 10 attendees are also parents of twins.  My curiosity caused me to find the expected incidence of twins in the U.S. population.  It is 32.1 in 1000 births. 

This unusually high incidence of twins reminded me that when we look for commonalities, we will find them.  Common denominators are the fundamental building blocks of strong relationships.

Friday, November 19, 2010

We Can Only Control Ourselves

I've been quite stressed trying to cram another year's worth of important projects into the 4th quarter.  As a recovering perfectionist, it's difficult to accept the reality that regardless of how hard we try, we cannot control the actions or inactions of others.  As an eternal optimist, I approach each new project with the hope that my colleagues will seize each new opportunity with the enthusiasm, potential and urgency that I recognize.  Some do and others don't.  I've finally realized that I cannot control my colleagues' actions.  I can only control my actions, communications and opportunities delivered.

Dealing with others is fascinating, messy, imprecise and ever-changing.  As I've embraced the understanding that my associates are doing the best that they can, I've reaffirmed that though I can set expectations, I can only control myself.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Let's Speak Purple

Women naturally speak pink and men naturally speak blue.  Expressing ourselves in the norm of our gender is expected and important.  However, just as we wouldn't use acronyms, colloquialisms or slang when communicating with a non-native speaker, we must be similarly sensitive in communicating important messages to colleagues of a different gender.  Nuances are often as important as the words we use.  Though we need to be authentic in our communication, adapting words and phrases to ensure that we are connecting with our entire audience is prudent.  We all need to be adept at speaking in shades of purple.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Which Hat?

I'm not a literal hat person.  I only wear literal hats when required for costumes or sun/wind protection in boats, convertibles or outdoor adventures. However, I wear many figurative hats - individual, spouse, mother, daughter, sister, grandchild, niece, cousin, aunt, friend, boss, executive, employee, mentor, volunteer, mentor, board member, neighbor, familiar stranger...

Regardless of the hat that I am wearing, I aspire to provide what is needed and expected of those to whom I'm connected.  However, we must ultimately and importantly connect with those who wear one of our important hats.

I tip my figurative hat to each of you who have enriched my life!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Motivation is Individual

I wish that I could motivate others to undertake beneficial tasks, projects and careers.  It's taken me half my life to realize that I can only motivate myself to do the things that I want and need to do.  For all others I can provide encouragement, create a ripe environment, contribute resources, nudge progress and give feedback.  Just as we cannot lead a horse to water, we cannot instill in another our definition of achievement or our model of striving toward success.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Making a Difference in Classrooms

Sterling Bank's annual Thanksgiving grants benefited 28 classroom projects in high poverty schools in Houston, Dallas and San Antonio.  DonorsChoose.org makes it easy to find projects and quickly learn of the impact through the immediate grateful feedback from these classroom teachers.  This appreciative letter from one of our Houston projects beautifully illustrates the difference these classroom grants can make.

Dear Sterling Bank, Aunt Pat, Mrs Salinas and Anonymous Donor, 
My students CHOSE to skip recess so they could learn more math! I could not believe what I was hearing when my students actually decided they would rather play our new multiplication Bingo than go outside for recess - WOW! They loved it!
They were so thrilled when the boxes arrived! They have even started making suggestions for how we can use the materials in workstations. It is so nice as a teacher to see them get excited about and take ownership of their learning.
Thank you so much for your generous contributions to my students and me. It truly will help me be a better math teacher and help them be better math students! Thanks again!
With gratitude,
Ms. W.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Rubber Band (Wo)man

How often we discount the value of staples until they are unavailable.  I've seen so many rubber bands abandoned and tossed into the trash.  As an ultimate recycler this pains me.  I love achieving multiple uses for available resources. 

I actually use very few rubber bands.  Staples and paper clips fulfill most of my needs.  However my rubber band consciousness was heightened when Edgar started a rubber band ball.  His ping pong ball sized starter project has grown to a grapefruit sized bouncer.  It's been fun to contribute to this growing bouncing ball. 

In addition to the satisfaction of knowing that these rubber bands won't be trashed, I've enjoyed another family visual for recycling.  And I love the reality that rubber bands are the ultimate example of stretching without losing our identity.  So another identity I'll readily embrace is rubber band (wo)man.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

What's Open?

When our minds and ears are open more than our mouths, we learn more and offend less.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Predictably Irrational

Dan Ariely's fascinating book, Predictably Irrational - The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions, gives us insight into the reasons that most people don't make smart, rational choices.  He explores the impact of relativity, anchoring, free offers, social norms, ownership valuation, price conditioning and non-cash cheating.

Relativity captures the concept that that most people must see a product or service in context with other like things before they know if this is something they want.

Anchoring is our practice of establishing a particular price to establish the worth of a product.

Our captivation with free offers often moves us to make purchases we would not otherwise consider.

Social norms can influence us to volunteer our service when we would otherwise be unwilling to provide discounted service.  When money is involved we tend to use market value to assess the situation.

Once we own something, we become vested and tend to elevate the value of the item.

Price conditioning can cause us to believe that a higher cost product delivers higher value.

Non-cash cheating takes many forms from increasing the value of a lost insured item to wearing and returning garments.  It is easier to rationalize these actions when cash is one step removed from the acts.

His excellent examples for each of these concepts provide a new lens for considering rational and irrational decision-making.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Following Bright, Shiny Objects

In a recent meeting, peppered with distractions, a colleague mentioned that we tend to follow bright, shiny objects.  What an apt description of what was happening!  Little did I know that this tendency to get diverted from a goal has been labeled Bright Shiny Object Syndrome. 

And the distractions don't just occur in meetings. With fingertip access to never-ending email, social media and search options, it's easy to rationalize our distractions.  The information is interesting, useful or important.  The unlimited new opportunities presented may be more fun the things we are working on. 

Laser focus on critical objectives can help us curtail our natural desire to detrimentally follow bright shiny objects.  Creating time to explore new possibilities is healthy.  Intense time sensitivity and goal orientation help us balance existing priorities and avoid being seduced by an unmanageable number of new bright shiny objects.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

What Time is It?

Technology is great when it works.  It's terribly frustrating when we're depending on it, and there's a glitch.  Last week, as I popped out of bed I noted the time on our radio controlled clock.  Terrific! I had plenty of time to get some things done before my 7:45 breakfast meeting with a non-profit executive and another volunteer.  When I went in to rouse Gar, he consulted his electronic devices and quickly realized it was far later than expected.  Because of the altered daylight savings time calendar, our clock adjusted to the last Saturday in October time change rather than observing the actual change which was to occur a week later. 

No matter how good our tools are, we sometimes need human intervention to determine what time it really is.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Walking on Water

It's awesome to have our staunch supporters who believe that we walk on water.  It's especially beneficial when we feel like we're slogging through the mud.  When we're challenged, it's important to rely on our knowledge, skills, experience and relationships.  It's easy to get discouraged by focusing on the things that we find difficult when dealing with a challenging opportunity.  By focusing on the resources we have and drawing on past successes, we can plough beyond the obstacles.  Sometimes we have to slog through a bit of mud before we appear as if we walk on water. 

Monday, November 8, 2010

How Many Hands?

Ideally we are born with two hands. As we mature from birth to adulthood, we develop many skills and abilities which require dexterity, experience and practice.  As youngsters we use our hands as we learn to write, tie our shoes, dress and groom ourselves, create art, express love and concern, and nourish ourselves and others.

As we mature and choose to benefit others, we can use our hands by actively volunteering for many needed projects.  Hands on projects are as varied as the myriad organizations serving our communities. 

When we donate dollars to reputable non-profit organizations, we are choosing to give a hand up versus a hand out to the intended beneficiaries.

Everyone benefits from applause!  Whether we are celebrating our work colleagues, award winners, non-profit beneficiaries, family or friends, we have 2 hands to offer pats on the back or lead applause.

A handshake is an expected business greeting.

(And, a hand is the chosen measure - 4 inches - to express a horse's height.)

Generally with more hands applauding, creating, loving, nourishing, supporting and greeting others, we achieve more positive outcomes.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Once a Debutante

It's hard to believe that Julia's debutante season began one short year ago.  It was an exciting year filled with presentation balls and parties.  There were numerous chances to visit with lovely friends and the opportunity to make many new acquaintances. We overlayed this whirlwind of activity into our naturally full schedules, proving that there's always time for fun family celebrations.  We have many memories to treasure.

As we drove into the club last evening for the first presentation ball of this season, we were once again merely relaxed attendees.  But this time we saw the presentation through fresh eyes.  We could fully appreciate the preparation, emotions and nervous energy of the 25 debs and their extended families.

As is the case with many noteworthy events, what we observe at show time is only the tip of the iceberg.  We are sometimes oblivious to the reality that only because of the careful planning and execution by so many others, we have the chance to be beautifully entertained.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Expectations

We all have expectations for every project or goal.  Whether we are optimists, realists or pessimists, we all have a view of how our expectations will be met, exceeded or missed.  High expectations, backed with appropriate skills and resources tend to create excellent results.  As we lower our expectations, we tend to get less stellar results.  When we continually accept excuses for missed performance expectations we are on a path for failure.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Giving Thanks

Sterling Bank just hosted our 5th Annual Thanksgiving reception to honor non-profit executives and our 50-hour volunteers.  It's one of my favorite events of the year.  Our hardworking non-profit friends spend their days thanking donors.  This is our chance to turn the tables and recognize the significant impact they make in our community.  In conjunction with the celebration, we also announced Thanksgiving Grant recipients.  This year we doubled our grant funding to complete 28 classroom projects in high poverty schools in Houston, Dallas and San Antonio. 

I'm thankful that so many wonderful individuals share their talents to make an enormous difference in our community.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Who Has 500 Things to Share?

Amazingly, I've created 500 posts to share in the past 16 months, one post at a time.  We need to encourage our family and friends to share their thoughts, experiences and recommendations.  When we gain and share the input of others, we expand our influence and impact.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Voting

Our hard fought right to freely and peacefully cast our votes is a treasure that too many Americans relinquish.  I am most thankful for my right to vote.  Though I won't agree with all of the outcomes, I am grateful that we can easily express our preferences with no negative personal consequences.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Turn-by-Turn Directions

I'm the only directionally challenged individual in my entire family.  Turn-by-turn directions are a godsend to me.  The only time that north, south, east and west are meaningful to me is when I'm in my own driveway or on I-10 or one of the major thoroughfares that run parallel to this interstate highway. 

Julia shared the most amusing turn-by-turn directions that her friend discovered in Google Maps.  There are 82 steps to get from Japan to China.  Step #43 is by far the most challenging - jet ski across the Pacific Ocean. 

Even when we have turn-by-turn directions, getting to our destination may not be as easy as 1 to 82.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween

This great site allows you to be enormously creative in carving pumpkins, with absolutely no mess.
Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Too Much To Do

I'm trying to cram another year's worth of activities into the 4th quarter, including making plans for 2011.  The first month of the quarter zoomed by, filled to the brim.  The process is made more challenging as new opportunities arise daily to be added to my already overflowing schedule. 

When I have too much to do, it is essential to take time to capture all the projects in one visible document.  This eliminates one source of anxiety, the fear that I've forgotten about a smaller but important project.  Mental milestones allow me to realize that the overly frantic pace is temporary.  And taking a few moments to relish successes keeps my energy flowing.

Friday, October 29, 2010

When Tragedy Strikes

When tragedy strikes, follow your instincts. No one has a script.  If you think you should visit or call...DO!  We received the unthinkable call last night that dear friends' precious son had been murdered in a home invasion.  We could have waited to give them family privacy, but we followed our hearts and instincts and appeared spontaneously to provide hugs.  Absolutely right decision!  

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Out of Our Element

One of our new, unique Sterling Bank "fun"draising projects for March of Dimes was "Dress an Executive for Halloween".  I had 10 other willing senior executives who agreed with me to be bid upon for dressing rights. Our teams were tame, and only three chose to bid.  Each of these teams chose to dress their own senior executive.  Since I was not an executive to be dressed, I rallied my other "non-chosen" colleagues to donate to dress our willing CEO. 

We "mummified" our CEO, discovered that our Operations EVP is a "hot dog", realized from our HR "flapper" EVP that there's a lighter side to work and ascertained that our Specialty Banking and Investments EVP will step way out of his comfort zone to make a great impression.

When we're willing to be vulnerable, we often make great connections and memories.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Why Aren't You Smiling?

I've had the opportunity to stand in many airport security lines and have become puzzled by the fact that very few people are smiling.  Most travelers are visiting loved ones, taking care of business or returning home after a trip.  Anticipation of a great visit, successful business meeting and homecoming are all reasons to smile.  Gratitude for love in my life and an exciting job brings a smile to my face.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

What's in Your Glass?

My attitude is generally very positive because my glass is overflowing with gratitude. I recently did a gratitude exercise with a negative friend whose glass has barely anything in it.  We set a timer for the exercise, and reset it each time something negative was said.  After a few timer resets, my friend struggled to list a few important reasons to be grateful.  My assistance was then requested to propose items to add to the list.  Though many obvious areas of gratitude were rejected, several additional important ones were added.

Our thinking, positive and negative, directs our actions, attitudes, interactions and impacts.  A gratitude list provides a tangible way to focus on possibilities rather than problems. 

Monday, October 25, 2010

Most Frequently Mispronounced Words and Phrases

Yourdictionary.com has compiled a list of the 100 most commonly mispronounced words and phrases in the English language.  A review of the list reveals incorrectly added and missing syllables, common misspellings, transposition of letters, and substitution of familiar words to form humorous phrases.  In the case of the phrases, it appears that the mispronunciations are the result of hearing but not seeing them written.  I still vividly remember as I was growing up thinking what an odd name "Hollow Notes" was for a pop duo.  It made much more sense to me when I learned that the group was actually "Hall & Oates".

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Hunting

We are all hunting for the best, whether it is happiness, a date, mate, friend, meal, deal, acquisition, kill (traditional hunting), gift, vacation, job, school, service provider, entertainment, book, opening line or meaning.

People generally like to provide advice.  When we are able to articulate what we are hunting, we'll usually find others who are willing to help us identify what they think is the best available. Everything's connected in the search for the best.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Self Awareness

Wouldn't it be great if we could observe ourselves as others see us?  We are often unaware of things that we routinely do that negatively impact our image including:
  • Failing to make eye contact
  • Fidgeting
  • Slumping
  • Frowning
  • Sighing
  • Talking too much
  • Allowing technology to interrupt live conversations
  • Closed body language
These tendencies are easy to address when we become aware that they are barriers to achieving our highest effectiveness.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Two Speeds

It's not easy to admit that we're not good at something. I'm not good at just sitting idly.  Obviously I can sit and visit, participate in a meeting, work on the computer, drive or read.  Perhaps it's because I only have two speeds: on and asleep.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Funding Classroom Projects

For anyone with a desire to help fund projects in individual public school classrooms, DonorsChoose.org provides an easy way to select from thousands of teacher requests.  DonorsChoose.org is an award-winning online charity that presents public school teachers' classroom project funding requests from across the U.S.  Small gifts really make a difference because the site pools donor funds to make individual classroom dreams a reality.   It's easy to search for projects by location. And the projects are incredibly diverse, allowing incredible donor flexibility.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I'm Not in Charge

I'm accustomed to being in charge.  Julia planned a fabulous D.C. weekend chocked full of wonderful activities.  My only role was to show up and enjoy the fun of being with Julia.  I was not in charge and I loved it! 

Our ordinary way of being is not our only way of being.  Flexibly adopting appropriate varying roles is a good thing.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Keep the Wheels Turning

Our guess is that it had been 10 years since I'd been on a non-stationery bike, but it never dawned on me that riding through D.C. would pose any challenge.  After the first 3 challenging minutes, when I wobbled on my bike and nearly caused a traffic jam, riding a bike was as natural, though not as easy, as it had been in my youth. 

When I was young, I remember riding 100 bike laps around our home.  It was no exercise or health challenge, but another personal test that I concocted. 

Fortunately, Julia didn't reveal to me that we'd be riding off and on for 6 hours when we began our adventure.  I didn't ask, and she didn't tell what route we'd complete.  My wheels kept turning, enjoying each precious moment with my dear child. 

Life beautifully unfolds when we seize special opportunities to keep literal and figurative wheels turning.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Stress Buster

It is easy to focus on what is missing from our lives. Stress is often the result of too much to do with too little time or too few resources.   When I recognize how thankful I am for abundant opportunities my attitude of gratitude is an instant stress buster.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Anticipation

Ideally spending time with family and friends provides threefold enjoyment - anticipation, experiences and memories. Such was the case with my wonderful trip to D.C. this weekend to visit Julia. We short-change ourselves when we fail to savor all three aspects.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Charity Fundraising Ideas for Companies

Sterling Bank supports many deserving non-profits in our focus areas through direct contributions and volunteer hours.  Much of our employee fundraising involvement in Houston and Dallas is committed to March of Dimes.  In San Antonio, our bankers raise funds for United Way. 
Employee fundraising ideas that we've successfully implemented include:
  • Meals and snacks of every variety
  • Bake Sales
  • Chocolate Sales
  • Sending Singing Pink Flamingos Office-to-Office
  • FunFests with Children's Activities, Camel Rides and Music
  • Water Balloon Toss to Douse Your Favorite Managers
  • Rent-a-Manager for a Day
  • Rent-a-Team for a Half-Day
  • Silent Auctions
  • Children's Art Calendar
  • Selling March of Dims Labeled Products including bears and bracelets
  • Jeans for Babies
  • Pumpkins or Booties for Babies
  • Garage Sale
  • Change Wars
  • Cutest Pet Contest
  • Extra Vacation Day Auction
We would love to know of other office friendly, low cost and easily executed charity fundraising ideas.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

No Hassle Driver License Renewal

Friends recently shared horror stories of waiting 4 hours to renew their driver licenses.  My notice arrived this past weekend alerting me that no online or mail-in option (truly no hassle) was available for this renewal.  I wasn't looking forward to spending a big chunk of time on this necessary chore. After discovering that early renewals are available, I checked to see if the Department of Public Safety offices were open on Columbus Day.  Yes!  Everything worked perfectly.  I walked into the DPS office at 3:00 p.m. and exited with my temporary license just 40 minutes later. 

Pending deadlines typically drive my actions.  Seizing the first available block of time after receiving my notice, to tackle this dreaded task, saved me time and eliminated weeks of negative anticipatory stress. 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Destination Walking

The health benefits of walking should be motivation enough to get me moving now that it is too cold to swim.  Even though I know what I should do, executing an alternate exercise program isn't as easy for me as I'd like.  It struck me yesterday that destination walking fills my need to multi-task and allows me to be a little greener.  Day one worked well with my trip to the post office.  Fortunately our neighborhood has many places that I need to frequent within walking distance. 

Monday, October 11, 2010

24 Hours

I have 24 hours before I need to get ready for work tomorrow.  My list of things to accomplish is long, but somehow visualizing this concrete time line motivates me.  We use appointments and deadlines every day at work.  By creating a schedule for today's tasks, I'm feeling more hopeful already.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Life-Size Greetings

There's nothing like spending time with loved ones on special occasions.  College schedules interfere with Julia's late August birthday.  It caused me great angst her freshman year that we wouldn't get to be with her on her actual birthday.  We traced our outlines to make and decorate life-size cutouts of ourselves.  When she opened her one-of-a-kind birthday greeting she was instantly surrounded by those who love her dearly.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Congratulations!

I've received so many lovely acknowledgements for my recent promotion.  It's always meaningful to the recipient when others take the time and effort to recognize our special moments or milestones.  It's easy to get caught up in all the tasks that we're juggling, but it only takes a couple of minutes to pen a congratulatory email message.  Because we're all so busy, many paths are littered with well-intended, but unsent affirming notes.  Taking positive action to recognize others helps strengthen relationships.  I've never regretted sending an encouraging note.  The only notes I've ever regretted are those that I didn't take time to pen and send.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Hot Potamus Pickles

Twenty years ago we made and packaged spicy pickles as Christmas goodies.  Our cute purple hippopotamus labels alerted the recipients that these were "Hot Potamus Pickles".  A special friend made my day by sharing that her family still enjoys that recipe.  Her younger sister just requested the recipe so that she, too, can make them as holiday treats for her friends.

It's always a day brightener when we are able to share a nicety from years past that continues to send positive ripples into our ever widening networks.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Oops! Did I Say That?

There's nothing like having a young child to make you vividly aware of what you say.  I'll admit that I have a tendency to communicate with and comment about other drivers when I'm behind the wheel.  My communications are generally gestures to allow them to enter my lane, ask them if I may enter theirs or thank them for allowing me to move to their lane  My comments, which they never hear, are not always as friendly, generally questioning their motive or intellect, when they've cut me off or nearly caused an accident.  I was not conscious of my venting comments until I heard them repeated from Julia's car seat behind me, "Idiot! Jerk!" 

We don't always have a feedback mechanism that's as direct as Julia provided me, so we need to be self-aware of the messages we are conveying.  Positive, supportive, helpful, instructive, motivating and empathetic are the patterns I choose to find in my communications.  Julia's backseat color commentary from so many years ago provides my reminder that others are listening.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

2 in 24 Million

The reality that everything's connected continues.  I was a guest at a luncheon yesterday, assigned a seat by my host, next to someone I'd not previously met.  In the course of conversation, we determined that he and my husband both attended the same prestigious prep school in New Hampshire - Phillips Exeter Academy.  And, as he relayed to my seatmate how he'd met his wife, we discovered that my seatmate and I both knew the two families he mentioned in San Antonio.  There are nearly 24 million Texans, with 6 million in Houston and 2 million in San Antonio.  Two hundred miles separate these major metropolitan areas.  It amazes me with these odds that 2 attendees in 800 would have a strong connection to a northeast school 1900 miles from Houston and know the same 2 families among 2 million residents 200 miles away.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Rules to Break & Laws to Follow by Don Peppers and Martha Rogers, PhD

In their instructive book,  Rules to Break & Laws to FollowHow Your Business Can Beat the Crisis of Short-Termism,  Don Peppers and Martha Rogers, PhD share their helpful research.

Many predictions are based upon totally false assumptions – use of cars worldwide would be limited to number of chauffeurs; telephones limited by human operators making connections – blinded by current business model

Rules to Break:
  1. Best measure of success is current sales and profit
  2. With right sales and marketing effort, you can always get more customers
  3. Company value is created by offering differentiated products and services
12 Laws to Follow:
  1. Long-term value is as important as current sales and profit. (Examine most resented fees. A $100 customer who has been with the company for 10 years has generated $12,000 in revenue and is likely to generate twice that much if loyal for another 20 years.)
  2. Create the most possible value from the customers and prospects available to you. (Not all associates sell the organizations whole range of products to their assigned customer.)
  3. Earn and keep the trust of your customers. (Treat the customer the way you would want to be treated.)
  4. Treat each customer with the fairness you would want if you were that customer. (Respect customer’s interest; don’t just sell the product being promoted.)
  5. To earn your customers’ trust, first earn your employees’ trust.
  6. With no customer equity you will have no future earnings. (Create a good enough experience that customers keep buying.)
  7. Culture will drive value or drag value. (Front-line employee is the company to the customer. Culture is what employees do when no one is looking.)
  8. If being fair to customers conflicts with company’s financial goals, fix the business model.
  9. Always use technology to create more trust. (Use technology to improve the customer’s life and you’ll probably sell more products.)
  10. Customers may forgive honest mistakes but they will never forgive dishonesty. (Customer trust can be destroyed all at once or with a thousand small demonstrations of incompetence.)
  11. Success requires constant innovation. (Encourage creativity.)
  12. Dissent and diversity drive creativity and innovation. (A group of only experts tend not to make best decisions because they are less likely to investigate alternatives. Don’t succumb to groupthink.)

Monday, October 4, 2010

It Takes Practice

It took a lot of practice to hone important skills that we use daily - reading, writing, math and interpersonal interactions.  It takes consistency to hone our interpersonal skills.  And continually absorbing new information and creating additional levels of expertise differentiates true leaders. 

We didn't learn to read Shakespeare in pre-k.

We didn't learn how to lead a company in our first corporate years.

When we were developing basic skills as a child, parents and teachers emphasized the importance and held us accountable.  As adults it is up to us to stretch ourselves for continued growth and relevancy. 

Sunday, October 3, 2010

$3000 Pen

After signing our luncheon check, my friend gave me the $3000 pen she'd just used.  It looked like a 99 cent retractable promotional pen to me.  However, she'd received it from her health challenged dog's vet. 

Though this is an extreme example of a value mismatch, there are many examples of items with sentimental value or those received as special recognition objects that are far more meaningful than the cost originally paid.  And think about what we are willing to pay for services rendered for skills that we don't possess, but are easy for an expert in a particular field to provide. 

In any successful negotiation we need to understand the value each party attributes to various aspects of the deal.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Speak Like a CEO by Suzanne Bates

I read Speak Like a CEO by Suzanne Bates and wanted to share some of her excellent advice.

Bates Communications received 293 responses to a 2004 survey on ten dimensions of leadership.  The leadership value system articulated by the respondents included:
  1. Honesty/Integrity in business and personal interactions.
  2. Vision – have it, articulate it and inspire action.
  3. Listening – approachable, open to suggestions, and flexible
  4. Giving feedback – give credit publicly for jobs well done; regular constructive feedback, not once a year.
  5. Emotional intelligence – communicate empathy and compassion, treat people well, and relate to them on a human level. Have a positive attitude, remain calm under pressure and demonstrate passion and commitment for the work.  Show appreciation for those who make things happen.
  6. Clarity
  7. Knowledge and Intelligence – smart in every sense of the word.
  8. Managerial skills – delegate and allocate resources for greatest effectiveness and efficiency.
  9. Follow-through
  10. Humility – willing to seek information, ask for advice, take appropriate risks and admit mistakes.

Eight secrets for speaking well:
  1. Talk about big ideas (Gettysburg address, Kennedy’s vision for going to the moon)
  2. Speak in the moment (face questions head on)
  3. Keep it Simple (explain the steps)
  4. Be a Straight Shooter
  5. Be an Optimist
  6. Focus on the Future (In difficult times, we look to leaders for hope.)
  7. Be Real
  8. Stand for Something

Friday, October 1, 2010

Rock to the Top with Dayna Steele

I had the opportunity to hear Dayna Steele and read her book, Rock to the Top – What I Learned about Success from the World’s Greatest Rock Stars.

Tips that she shares include:

Passion + Hard Work = Success
Confidence - Look and act confident, the actual confidence will follow (many rock stars only appear confident)
Quality - Your quality will define your long term reputation (a band is a perfect example of teamwork)
Organization - Organization helps you manage the unexpected (guitar strings break and tour buses break down)
Technology - Embrace and learn new technologies (rock shows would be pretty boring without technology)
Branding - Have a one sentence description for what you do (rock bands names say it all)
Networking - Friends and family are your most valuable assets (almost every band started this way)
Knowledge – Know a little bit about everything (you create more fans when you have broad interests)
Health – Take care of yourself first (not everyone can be Keith Richards)
Appreciation – Write thank you notes (no one can do it alone)

Even if we are only subject matter "rock stars" in limited realms, we can all adapt Dayna's tips improve our abilities to Rock to the Top.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Career Directional Signs

Think about how useful it would be if we had Mapquest like career directions:
Spend 5 years in job X (unless you are enjoying the journey)
Transfer to job Y (if you need to change lanes)
OR
Exit current company (only if the alternate route provides faster acceleration and far better opportunity)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Typing

Who would have ever guessed that typing, a skill that was once pigeon-holed as secretarial, would become a mainstream necessity?  Though most frequently referred to now as keyboarding, the familiar QWERTY layout, designed in 1887, is still in use.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Hopping, Stopping and Cropping

As we are hopping from one valuable, important commitment to another, hoping to make a difference, we sometimes need to stop.  If we've overextended our time, talents and/or treasures, we need to decide what to keep and what to crop.   Only if we are coping well with all of our commitments should we keep on hopping.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Broken

Words, like jobs or relationships, without context, aren't good or bad.  However, if "broken" were presented for an assessment, I'll bet it would get a high negative rating.  We may think of broken dishes, bones or promises.  But it is good when bad habits, fasts and wild horses are broken. 

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Fun and Food with Friends

The most obvious reason to entertain is to spend quality time with family and friends.  We love trying new restaurants, revisiting favorites and hosting dinner parties at home.  It's easy to get into a rut. Mixing familiar and novel places, dishes and participants creates anticipation, excitement and memories. 

A favorite childhood rhyme emphasizing the importance of literal friends can be expanded to include experiences:  "Make new friends and keep the old; some are silver and the others are gold".

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Learning from Others

Our access to information has never been greater.  Trying to sort through all the wonderful sources can be overwhelming.  Here are 6 providers of electronic newsletters that I find valuable:





Friday, September 24, 2010

Killer Shoes

Edgar was in a check-out line behind an attractive 20-something.  He noticed her "killer shoes" (a distant cousin of some that I'd recently purchased).  When he commented, "killer shoes", she immediately reacted as if she'd won the lottery.  She'd just spent her first paycheck on these "killer shoes" and was ecstatic to attract unsolicited positive feedback from an astute gentleman that she'd made a great wardrobe enhancing purchase.

Everyone has some degree of insecurity.  When we notice something positive about others, if we question whether to mention it, "yes" is generally the best answer.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

You're so...

When a positive comment enters our brain it should exit our lips.  When a negative comment reaches our brain, we need to grab it, analyze it and decide if it's necessary or important to share. 

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Creative Invitation

Gar received the most special, creative invitation to Cotillion (which he enthusiastically accepted!).  Gar has loved boating and fishing from the time he was old enough to participate.  I can't think of a more fitting way to invite him to a most special event than "commissioning" the S.S. Cotillion.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Suspending Planning and Succumbing to Spontaneity

We sometimes create the best memories when we suspend planning and agree to embrace spontaneity.  Thus, I agreed the day before the adventure to join a 1400 mile road trip to create "home away from home" for Julia.  Though a 3-seat U-Haul was not ultimately available, I treasure the reality that I was willing to spontaneously embrace a multi-day trip that had not initially included me. 

When we are willing to passionately pursue available options, we benefit from the experience gained from those that materialize and from the expanded thinking resulting from those that don't work out.  We always need to be willing to embrace alternatives in order to maximize our experiences.  Flexibility is a great attribute in our ever-changing world.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Lead Like Dr. Seuss

I've always loved Dr. Seuss books.  So I thought about leadership in his rhyming fashion.

So You Want to Lead?
Work as Agreed
Assess Need
Plant the Seed
Follow a Creed
Acknowledge a Good Deed
Read, Read, Read
Be an Info Feed
Listen and Heed
Learn to Plead
Know When to Cede
Control Greed
Bite Tongue When Teed
Daily Lead

Sunday, September 19, 2010

I'm Not a ... but I Know a Great One

Networking at its most productive best allows relationships to develop which encourage us to connect friends with others who can best meet their needs.  I don't know a woman who has found her gynecologist in the phone book or on her insurance carrier's website, but I know many women who have followed me and other women to our doctors.  How much more reassuring is it to visit an expensive new restaurant that a colleague with a similar palate enjoys?  When we're trying to sort through the many educational options available for our children from pre-k and kindergarten programs, through middle school, and on to high school and college, we rely on statistical information, heavily supplemented by the experiences of friends and friends of friends.  And when we're looking for great employees we cast our net to our network.  These calls for employee candidates are some of the most indicative of solicitations that aren't necessarily intended to appeal directly to our addressee group.  Rather they are opportunities to cast a wide net to allow a broader network to reveal ideal matches and allow our friends to advocate for those who are deserving of recommendations, making these candidates rise to the top.

Since everything's connected, it's up to us to discover how the relationships we have or have access to, meet our needs and the needs of those we know.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Proximity Matters

We just moved into our corporate headquarters on Monday, and we've already begun to realize productivity improvements.  As I'd indicated in an earlier post, our temporary office space persisted for 2 years.  Rather than depending upon email, phone calls and inter-office mail to many of our colleagues, we can now easily meet face-to-face. We no longer have to factor travel time into many internal appointments. After "corporate camping out", we are so grateful for storage space, opportunities to host more than one multiple party meeting and a quiet environment that is conducive to enhanced productivity. 

Friday, September 17, 2010

Outrageously Delicious

I am blessed to be surrounded by accomplished family and commercial chefs.  Fortunately, I have an ability to moderate expectations.  My family chefs (Mama, Edgar, Julia and Gar) consistently delight the palate with their creative concoctions, prepared with love.  And since we are foodies, we are always seeking the "best of category" from commercial chefs. 

Ambience is a bonus, though not required to earn high marks from our discriminating crew.  Though we've eaten at many of the world's most acclaimed restaurants, many of our most memorable, outrageously delicious meals have been prepared with love by our family chefs.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Opening Doors

Opening doors for others is a nice thing to do, whether it's a literal, physical door or an introduction.  When we open a door for someone else, we don't know what positive ripples result.  When we do the right thing without any expectation of reciprocity, we have an immediate "feel good" benefit.   And, because everything's connected, there are sometimes unexpected additional benefits.  Many open doors revolve. An introduction we freely make may set the stage for a future introduction we'd like to have. 

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Varied Ways of Presenting

I recently spent 4 hours in a board retreat for a successful, respected non-profit organization.  Though I had heard the call to action presented in various meetings previously, photos, stories and comparative data were shared last week, that more vividly conveyed the necessity of the capital campaign. 

We can all fall victim to information paralysis, overload, mundane, difficult material or blah, blah, blah.  Just because we've said something doesn't necessarily mean that those we want to act on the information have understood what we want or why they need to do anything.

Repetition, illumination and confirmation help to ensure understanding.  Reminds me of so many classrooms of my youth.  I didn't know then the necessity of varied presentation to connect with so many listeners.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

55 Special Years

As I've grown older, more experienced and wiser, my appreciation for my parent's 55 year marriage has increased.  Few of the friends I knew during K-12 had divorced parents, or were otherwise part of single family households, so I assumed that a two parent family was the norm.  As my horizons have expanded, I've learned that family units take many forms. 

And I've learned that regardless of how devoted two persons are to one another, life arbitrarily throws curve balls that cause many well-intentioned couples to strike out. 

My precious parents have weathered many storms, including the unthinkable deaths of both of my brothers, during their 55 year marriage.  Through thick and thin, joy and sadness, they've created a special bond and grateful clan. It's exciting to celebrate their first 55 years with them.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Did You Really Hear What I Said?

How often are we guilty of assuming that once we've said something, others heard what we conveyed?  Many misunderstandings are the result of one person speaking and another hearing something totally different than the message which was conveyed.  Distraction, pronunciation, background noise and hearing impairment are common causes of message distortion.  When it's critical that our message is received as intended, we must check for understanding.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Making Magic

Anyone who's been fortunate to see Alley Theatre productions in Houston knows how beautifully sets, costumes and lighting are created, and how professionally the works are selected, directed and presented.  It's easy to recognize the talented cast, but not always as clear who all the other amazing professionals who create this magic are.  

As an Alley Board member and proud Houstonian, it's exciting to know that the 3 Alley premieres from last season are being produced for additional audiences in New York and beyond.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Iked

When our corporate office was severely damaged two years ago by Hurricane Ike, we assumed that our temporary office arrangement, co-located with a Banking Center and Commercial Banking team, would be short-term.  A number of factors caused this temporary situation to last for 2 years. 

Though we were severely space constrained, a number of positives emerged. Of course the banker and customer relationships that resulted are #1.  And by being able to directly and consistently interact with retail and commercial bankers on a daily basis, we developed a deeper understanding of the joys and challenges they face.  Because meeting rooms were limited, we utilized previously under-utilized spaces.  The rut was also broken for standard venues for out-of-office breakfasts and lunches, as our Houston geography moved from 610/290 to Westheimer and the Beltway.  Oddly enough, I also realized a timing benefit.  The past 2 years are the first in my long career when an in-office end time became important.  When the Banking Center drive-through closed at 6:00 p.m., I knew I had a maximum of 20 minutes before the security system would be set. 

Change is always disruptive. When we accept change and look for silver linings, we're often rewarded in unexpected ways.

Friday, September 10, 2010

A Herd of Individuals

It's easy to categorize a group with a convenient label. However, I designed my diverse herd of pigs as a charitable fundraising tool, to appeal to many charity-minded individuals.

Regardless of our similarities, we are all unique individuals.  Our unique characteristics make us valuable members of the herd.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Leadership Bones

There are countless ways to view, describe and practice leadership.  We have 206 bones in our bodies which can be grouped into 5 major categories: skull, vertebrae, ribs/sternum, pelvis and arms/legs.  Though our skull has only 28 bones (13.6%), the brain is at the body's pinnacle and controls all other elements/actions.  Creative, decisive and strategic thinking sets the stage for success in any organization. 

Because over half (120) of our bones are in our arms and legs - this would indicate that action is one of the most important leadership elements.  The best plan which isn't executed serves two purposes: an academic exercise or an opportunity for another entrepreneur to seize.  Acting on a well-designed plan distinguishes dreamers from doers.

Vertebrae and ribs/sternum (24.3%) are the core of our being. Our spine and mid-skeleton (core values and ethics) give us a strong foundation for all of our actions. This moral compass guides our decisions.  When we think and act with high integrity, we succeed.

Leadership results when we strategically engage our brains and bodies to create positive, ethical action.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Do It Ourselves 24x7x365

When I was growing up, churches, hospitals and fire/police stations were about the only establishments open on Sunday.  There were no self-serve gas stations or check-out lines. ATMs were introduced during my youth. In the past years we've gotten accustomed to being able to conduct business 24x7x365.  Technology coupled with our need for speed and convenience has led to us to choose to serve ourselves rather than be subject to time frames instilled by others. 

As the speed of life has increased, we've taken on more tasks that once were done for us.  Just because we can conduct business 24x7x365 doesn't mean we should.  Technology doesn't need a break, but humans do.  Rather than letting technology control us with its continuous availability, we owe it to ourselves to consciously choose to use the access available to us to balance the things we must and should do with those we'd also like to do.  Many of us have lost sight of the fact that technology was initially introduced to allow us more leisure time. With our ever-present electronic leashes we're in danger of reverting back to agrarian times when sleep was the only weekday down-time.

Because we can do many things we need to do 24x7x365, let's seize the chance to carve out time each day for the want to dos rather that fill all available hours with the musts and shoulds. 

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Convenient Air Travel

My parents still live in the town where I grew up, 90 miles from a major airport.  In Houston, we have the advantage of two commercial airports within 20 - 45 minutes from our home. Flying in on the last non-stop at 9:45 and leaving on the 9:40 flight the next morning is easy when you're only 20 minutes from the airport.   Though this need rarely arises, it's fabulous to take advantage of it when it allows me to maximize pleasure and business.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Labors of Love

Julia was due on Labor Day (a very appropriate due date), but chose to enter our lives a few days early (she continues to maintain her early over-achiever distinction).  How fitting that on the 22nd anniversary of Julia's due date Edgar and Gar are finishing a 1400 mile trek to provide lovely, meaningful furnishings for her senior year apartment! 

Labors of love are ideally as meaningful for the givers as they are for the recipients.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Waiting

I'm not good at waiting - I get impatient at stoplights.  Because I honor appointment times, I expect others to do the same.  Yesterday I spent the day waiting for a promised notification for an important online activation, which never occurred; and for a locksmith who arrived 5 hours late. 

Think about the increase in productivity and decrease in stress that results when we all timely follow through with our commitments. 

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Uniquely Me!

We are all inundated with messages about things we could, should and must do.  After adhering to our core beliefs, we need to give ourselves permission to be uniquely us.  Only by being our authentic selves do we provide our best personal and unique perspectives, talents and skills to any project we embrace.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Fall New Year

School has started, sports have kicked off and the curtains have risen on the arts seasons.  With so many beginnings, we all have the potential to restart our year. 

Happy Fall New Year!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

What Did You Say?

What we hear isn't always what the other person said.  One of my favorite such stories is of the grandmother who discovered plastic army men in her coffee cup.  When she questioned her young grandson, he was quick to lovingly respond, "Because the best part of waking up is soldiers in your cup". 

Miscommunication occurs frequently due to use of unfamiliar terms, making assumptions and not hearing what was said.  When the message is critical it is important for both parties to check for understanding.  When we fail to verify, we may even hear the exact opposite of the message that was intended, as happened years ago.  When my brother, Steve, got a horse, I hopped on behind him. We were enjoying this new experience until the horse spotted the barn and began to race toward his food.  I was frantically yelling, "Whoa!!!!" and Steve in frustration yelled, "Why are you telling him to go?"

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Great Lifers

When I mentioned to a friend that my son was a lifer at Kinkaid, he, not being a Kinkaidian, laughed.  Lifers, at Kinkaid, are those special, fortunate students who enter in pre-K and exit at high school graduation after 14 delightful, challenging and memorable years. 

Though I don't have the exact statistics, my educated guess is that 20% of Gar's graduating class has been together since pre-K.  Unsung benefits of a loyal core are the ability to accept, recognize, overlook, forgive, applaud and recognize many class members as they really are, not as they might appear in any given circumstance, stage or year.   Additional benefits are the many keepers of the culture and traditions.

Kinkaid would benefit from recognizing the "almost lifers". Julia entered in Kindergarten, so her 13 excellent years didn't warrant special designation.  And how about recognizing "mid-lifers", all who have been Kinkaidians since the beginning of middle school? 

Productive longevity at any cherished institution makes a great lifer (my definition definitively excludes all who are justice system lifers).

Commitment is key. When we commit to a life of excellence, we excel regardless of our entry point.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Furniture Shuffle

We've been blessed by an abundance of furniture.  It always seemed so distant that Julia and Gar would need furniture for their own spaces. In the blink of an eye, Julia's a college senior and moving into a nice unfurnished apartment. The game of furniture shuffle has begun.  It seems like a combination of chess and twister to get the pieces she needs.  We had 3 antique chests placed in a large closet and one in the garage.  Each chest was currently storing items.  Getting the chest she chose required emptying the contents of the closet and chests, emptying and cleaning the chest in the garage, then moving everything back into the closet with the garage chest substituted for Julia's chest.

As is often the case with a time consuming labor of love, many positives emerge. It gives me great joy to know that Julia will have furniture that's meaningful to her as she creates her first independent space apart from university housing.  I organized this closet when we moved in 5 years ago.  As items have been added, the closet was no longer as easy to navigate as it originally was.  We once again have easy access to its contents.  And I found a votive holder that I needed to complete the breakfast room centerpiece.

The great thing about the game of furniture shuffle is that everyone wins.

Monday, August 30, 2010

What's He/She Like?

My last post about Beauty sent me down memory lane.  When I arrived in Houston as a new undergrad, I naturally developed friendships with others similarly situated. I was most fortunate to quickly develop a network that included fresh Houston transplants, established Houstonians and native Houstonians.

My vivid recollection of introductions for every single person I knew included my character/skills/traits/basic bio description.  Only when pressed did I add a physical description.  With many years of life and work experience, I hope that more and more people will choose to describe others by the beauty of their being, versus their superficial appearance.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Santa Claus Leadership

Recently I was moderating a Sterling Bank Women's Business Initiative panel and it occurred to me that great leaders are a lot like Santa Claus:
  • belief
  • positive attitude
  • service orientation
  • passion
  • vision
  • stellar reputation
  • committed
  • servant leader
  • appropriately attired
  • always planning, preparing or executing