Sunday, January 31, 2010

Who's Your Cheerleader?

Yes, I was an exuberant high school cheerleader.  I didn't realize, until now, that these skills would serve me well through my life and career.  It is often unexpected, but always appreciated, when we privately or (when possible) publicly acknowledge the successes - major and minor - that our friends, colleagues and acquaintances enjoy.  Occasional cheerleaders are icing on the cake.  Consistent cheerleaders - those friends and family members who always send an email, call, leave a message, write a note, or stop by to celebrate our successes and encourage us when we're struggling, are AWESOME!

My consistent cheerleader has always been Mama.  Though 99% of the time she's my acknowledger and encourager, she also keeps me grounded.  When I need to hear opportunities for improvement, she lovingly delivers them.  And I accept them with her loving intent.

We all need someone like my precious Mama in our lives. 

Earn, find, cultivate or recover a cheerleader in your life.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Think Like an Entrepreneur

Ken Jones, Director of the Entrepreneur & Venture Development Center at the University of Houston Downtown, edu-tained (educated and entertained) our guests at our recent Sterling Bank Women’s Business Initiative luncheon in Houston, as he challenged us all to “Think Like an Entrepreneur”.

His definition of an entrepreneur is “one who knows the outcome is up to her and wants it that way”.

Ken identified the top two reasons for bankruptcies as lack of capital and lack of talent. He then shared seven critical requirements for entrepreneurial success:

• Risk tolerance
• Distinctive competitive advantage
• Clearly defined customer
• Financial literacy
• Exposure of business to target markets
• Selling to all customers
• Every employee earning 3 times her salary for the company

The goal is to position to achieve superior, long-term profitable growth regardless of changes in the economy. A vivid example of successfully incorporating the seven critical elements began with the discovery that though there are 10,300 restaurants in the Houston area, only a very few are open at 2 a.m. when the bars close. One of Ken’s students opened a restaurant to cater to wee hour diners and made $1.17 million the first year.

He encouraged us to truthfully examine two key questions:

• If you competed against yourself, how would you win?
• Would you do business with you?

Ken recommended two books which are required reading for his students, Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell and Stop Acting Rich: And Start Living like a Real Millionaire by Thomas J. Stanley.

He concluded with his 8 R’s for success:

Revitalization – rejuvenating value proposition with new services and justifying premium pricing
Retention – hold customers longer – ask them what’s important
Reacquisition – winback odds are 3:1 v. 8:1
Referrals – earn 3 referrals over the course of a year from your best customers
Regeneration – precision marketing – pursue professional niches
Rainmaking – at one of his companies each employee’s business card had President as their title
Related Sales – McDonald’s has a 1 in 2 chance of success
Reputation Building – your brand is the gut feeling others have about your company

Friday, January 29, 2010


We are fortunate to have curbside recycling in our neighborhood.  It amazes and distresses me how much we offer for recycling every two weeks.  But it pleases me to know that our junk mail, plastic containers, newspapers, shredding and aluminum cans are being recycled.   We've almost eliminated plastic water bottles, with our use of filtered water and reusable water bottles.

Because I work for Sterling Bank, our sensitive information must be destroyed.  However, I receive much more non-sensitive information at the office that can be recycled.  I keep a separate box in my office that I fill and take to a non-profit recycling center adjacent to our office.

We take clothes, shoes and household items that we no longer need to Goodwill or Dress for Success.  And toiletries are always welcome at the Way Station at Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church.  The Houston Food Bank distributes our contributed food and highly leverages monetary donations.

One of my mottoes has long been, "Out of my life and into yours."  When we share our un-needed blessings with others, we all reap the benefit.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Revolutionizing Sight

Contact lenses revolutionized life for people like me.  I got my first pair of glasses in the 4th grade.  The standards when I was a child required you to be 13 to get contact lenses.  There wasn't a "maturity factor" option to get an earlier contact lens prescription.  I impatiently counted the days until I could get contacts.

Though a respected ophthalmologist, who examined me, insisted that "putting contact lenses on your eye to restrict additional vision impairment" was like "putting a hat on your head to keep you from growing",  contact lenses were a godsend for me.  My vision was regressing each year before I started wearing contacts.  My vision has shown remarkably little degradation since I became a contact lens wearer.

Technological advancements have vastly improved contact lenses.  For many years, I wore hard contacts.  There was a lengthy period of increasing your wearing time, over a period of days or weeks, to allow your eye to adjust to this foreign object.  Of course, today, any contact lens wearer leaves the prescriber's office with a comfortable lens, that needs little to no adaptation time.  Today's technology comparison of my first lenses, to those others and I now wear, would probably be equivalent to using a typewriter versus enjoying the benefits afforded by laptops and smart phones.

How thankful I am that brilliant, entrepreneurial researchers continue to enhance the ways that we all see the world!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


It's (almost) embarrassing to admit that eating is my favorite hobby.  I've been surrounded by fabulous chefs my entire life - first Mama and now Edgar.  And Houston is a foodies' paradise with world-class cuisine from every desired point on the globe.  We've enjoyed grand meals in the finest, acclaimed restaurants and marvelous surprises in no-nonsense diners.  It's always a treasure hunt and treat to discover a new restaurant and/or chef that/who hasn't yet made the papers or gotten the wide-spread word-of-mouth buzz.

Food is the catalyst for festive, fun-filled functions.  Enjoyable feasts, great and small, provide immediate gratification and create multi-sensory memories.

Let's eat!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

No More Wrinkles

Okay, for all of you who were expecting a miracle cure for skin - I'm sorry!  I love using linen cocktail napkins, hand towels, placemats and dinner napkins.  And the only way to make this happen is by sending them out or ironing them.  Odd as it may seem, though I dread the process, I derive satisfaction from converting a wrinkled mass of linens into a beautiful stack of usable napkins, placemats and hand towels.  So much of what I do requires days, months or years to realize success.  As tedious as it is, ironing delivers immediate success.

Monday, January 25, 2010

In the Periphery

How many times are we one conversation away from making a connection or reconnecting with those we've lost track of?  Recently, at two different events, I connected with individuals who I've known peripherally for years.  The connections were possible because of a question I asked in the first setting and my seating proximity in the second setting.   When we are aware and open to making connections, friendships can be ignited or rekindled.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Poof - You're a Parent

Even for those of us who have nine months to excitedly anticipate parenthood, it's pretty intimidating when you leave the hospital and realize that regardless how prepared you thought you were, this is going to be a lifetime of on-the-job learning.

My wonderful friend who has been happily single and childless has turned her life upside down to incorporate her niece and two nephews into her life, heart and home while their mother receives treatment.  She didn't have time to plan and prepare for this challenging opportunity.  She didn't seek this enormous responsibility.  It was suddenly thrust upon her.  Out of love, she agreed to convert her "everything in its place, magazine layout home" into a child-friendly sanctuary for these precious children. 

Whether expected or unexpected, it's as if a magic wand is waved and poof - you're a parent.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

So Much to be Said

I spend my life advising, planning, connecting and executing.  Because I have the chance to interact with so many amazing individuals, I have the opportunity to glean their wisdom, incorporate their tips and selectively share their stories. I invite you to share your stories and recommend the successes of other phenomenal individuals who are Connecting Everything.

There's so much to be said.  When we listen, we continue to learn, allowing us to better lead from wherever we are.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Fairy Tales

Fairy tales are indeed timeless, and three favorites provide vivid reminders of simple rules for life:
  • Be Credible - The Boy Who Cried Wolf  - Once credibility is destroyed, it is difficult to impossible to restore.
  • Recognize the Importance of Each Individual - Cinderella  -  Neglect, mistreatment and disregard of individual worth are morally wrong behaviors, which also preclude achievement of maximum ideas, experiences and perspectives.  There may be brilliant, aspiring inventors, executives, teachers, artists, physicians or friends who we are failing to recognize and encourage.
  • Seek TruthThe Emperor's New Clothes  - We need friends and associates who will tell us what we need to hear, not what others might think we want to hear.

Thursday, January 21, 2010


When you drop a single rubber band, or even a bag of loose rubber bands, they hit the floor and stay.  Each individual rubber band is able to do its job, to stretch and secure a stack of items. But when you rearrange the rubber bands into a ball, the bounce is impressive.  The rubber bands collectively do what was impossible when operating independently.

It's much the same with disconnected talents.  When everyone on a team is independently doing his or her own thing, incremental successes from individual contributions result.  But, when the collective talents are applied to a project or vision, the benefits of different ways of thinking, operating and executing are realized.  New heights of performance are possible.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


My collegiate daughter and I went to a nearby favorite park to hit tennis balls during her Christmas break.  Not only were we the only tennis players, we were the only ones in the whole park.  Another couple entered the tennis courts just as we prepared to leave.  As I turned toward the car, Julia spontaneously said, "Let's go swing".

What an exhilarating rush of childhood memories - from her childhood and mine!  There's pure joy in this simple activity. 

As our children are maturing, they often hear, "you're not old enough".  As adults age, they often think, "I'm too old".  Though the height varies through the age cycle, swinging can bring joy at any age.  I highly recommend it for the young and the young at heart.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

You Really Asked a Candidate That?

At our recent Sterling Bank Women's Business Initiative luncheon in Fort Worth, I had the chance to moderate our terrific HR panel for our presentation, "You Really Asked a Candidate That?".

Our experts included:
Whit Smith - President and Founder - WhitneySmith Company
Henry Robinson - Partner - Kelly Hart Hallman LLP
Wanda Dalton - Executive Vice President, Chief Human Resource Officer - Sterling Bank

They truly have heard some outrageous questions asked of candidates and statements made to them:
  • I told you that you are too old.
  • You don't need this job because you're pregnant.
  • You are too large to stand on your feet all day.
  • How do you feel about pornography in the workplace?
  • So you have young children?
Their excellent advice included:
  • Do not write on the candidate's application or resume.  The information would become part of a permanent file and would be discoverable in litigation.
  • Use a series of meaningful, structured interview questions.
  • Avoid yes/no questions.
  • Use - What? How? Why? Where? Which? When? Is? Are? Can? Describe... Tell me about... Explain.
  • Tailor questions to the specific job you are trying to fill.
  • Avoid esoteric questions such as "if you were a color, which would you be?".
  • Avoid questions about strengths, weaknesses and most embarrassing moments.
  • Superstar candidates are discovered through networking, referrals and trade associations.
  • Expand your network so that you do not field only one class of candidates.
  • Interviewing is notoriously unreliable so seek data supporting the information gleaned.
  •  Hire givers v. takers.  Primary interest in salary, benefits and vacation tend to reflect a taker. 
  • Job offers can be made contingent upon a drug test, criminal background check and/or credit report.
  • Meaningful reference information can often be obtained if you talk about the job you are seeking candidates for rather than specific questions about the candidate.
  • Look for and explore gaps in a resume.
  • Ask why the candidate left the previous job.
  • If someone tells you the candidate was a great employee, ask what made him or her great.
The closing caution came from Mark Twain.  "It ain't what you don't know that gets you in trouble.  It's what you know for sure that just ain't so."

Monday, January 18, 2010

Different Ways of Seeing

I still vividly remember my precious Mother's angst as we drove home from the optometrist so very many years ago. With my new glasses, I kept commenting on the individual leaves on the trees, mortar between the bricks and other details that lucky 20/20 vision individuals routinely experience.  Distant views of these things had been obscured with my serious near-sightedness.  I had no basis for comparison, so my newfound clarity was awesome. 

Mine is a dramatic example of illumination, but hopefully a reminder that we all see things differently.  Only by comparing visions do we have the benefit of different ways of seeing a situation.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

God Be With Us

I recently heard a hymn with words from the Saram Primer in 1514. 

"God be in my head, and in my understanding.
God be in my eyes, and in my looking.
God be in my mouth, and in my speaking.
God be in my heart, and in my thinking.
God be at my end, and at my departing."

What a simple and beautiful way to remember to do, say and think the right things.

Saturday, January 16, 2010


I've been fascinated with kaleidoscopes for as long as I can remember.  I love the constant change of colors and patterns.  And I love the way that varying amounts of light changes the intensity of the colors' shades.  Our church has a magnificent round stained glass window above the alter.  It's always beautiful, but when the sun is shining brightly, the vibrant colors intensify.  When you stare long enough, the images blur and this work of art becomes  an enormous, spectacular kaleidoscope.  This secondary beauty is probably nothing that the artist ever anticipated.  Beauty truly is defined by the beholder.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Change a Letter or Two

One or two letters can make an enormous difference in not only the meaning of a word, but in the expected outcome:

Learn in order to Earn
Put Joy in your Job
Plan and Plant
Thirst for First
Win, don't Whine
Hear with Heart
Live to Love
Love to Live

Thursday, January 14, 2010

How Do You Get to ...?

When you ask for the best way to get to a particular location, you'll generally get two different answers from my husband and me.  We will both get you to the intended location.  And we each feel that ours is the best route.  "Best" is subjective.  His way is best for him and mine is best for me because we each feel that our way is quickest or least subject to traffic delays.  Our individual routes give us a feeling of control over ever-changing variables.

So often we get caught up in the unimportant mechanics of how something is accomplished rather than celebrating the myriad paths that lead to success. 

This year I'm going to try to remember that when I'm literally driving or driving a project I get to choose the path.  When someone else is at the helm, I need to enjoy the alternate route and be an enthusiastic participant in the journey.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

So Close ... So Far

Does anyone play solitaire with a deck of cards anymore?  Sitting in front of the fireplace, visiting with family, I shuffled and dealt.  After a few hands, it looked like I was going to win.  All the cards were up, but I was still one card away from winning.  The 2 of clubs was missing from the deck.  So, if the deck had been complete, I'd have won, right?  Not necessarily!  Inserting that one missing card, would have changed the whole order of play. 

In work, life and cards when one critical component is missing, you can't declare victory.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Warmth Within

Houston's unseasonably cold temperatures are raising heating challenges around the city.  Three distinct challenges surfaced in my environs.

The heating system in my office wasn't working properly on Friday.  It's hard to send an email when you're wearing gloves.  On Saturday morning, the sound of a blown transformer got me out of my warm bed to investigate.  The repairs were made quickly and our neighborhood's power was restored within an hour and a half.  On Sunday, everyone at church was wearing coats during the entire service.  The HVAC system is being replaced and there was no heat in the sanctuary.

In each case, warm attitudinal accommodations for the inconveniences transformed chilly physical conditions. Guess I needed three chances to remember that how we respond to a situation makes an enormous difference.

Monday, January 11, 2010


I love the holidays!  The transformation of our home as we decorate every room is exciting.  There can be no doubt that it's the Christmas season. The transformation is complete when Christmas school vacations begin and the constant, welcome flow of our children's friends fills our home with vibrancy, joy and laughter.

When the last nativity is stored, and school begins again, our home initially seems a little empty.  Lovely memories and beautiful photos help fill the void.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Only 51 More Weeks

What's in a week? Each week represents nearly 2% of the year.  The first week of 2010 was fast-paced and productive.  What a great way to set the tone for the remaining 51 weeks of the year!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Good Enough

What does it take for some of us to realize that "good enough" is "good enough"? 

There are many cases when perfection is not only expected, but demanded.  With surgery, aviation and financial transactions, less than perfection has serious consequences. In other arenas - good enough is a-ok.  Farming, exercise and communication are areas where seeking perfection can prohibit any positive yield.  The world is filled with good intentions that never yield action because we fail to settle for good enough. 

How much more effective I would be if I'd more frequently settle for sending a timely and heart-felt email to acknowledge a special accomplishment v. waiting for the perfect (and often never available) time to send a lovely handwritten note.   Since we often negatively critique ourselves for the things we've left undone, we can give ourselves a well-deserved break, by realizing that some communication actually delivered, is far better than imagined communications that remain undelivered.

Friday, January 8, 2010


I spent many years of my life blissfully unaware that sleep deprivation was a problem.  I allocated the minimum number of hours for sleep that seemed to work - usually four.  It was a way of life and I didn't realize that others who were getting regular sleep were getting daily renewals.  To me sleep was only a necessity, versus a nurturing activity.

Now that I am older, wiser and less sleep deprived I can readily attest to the benefits of 6-8 hours of daily sleep....zzzzz.....

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Gotta Getta ...

Years ago, when our children were young and Beanie Babies were the "must have" items, we searched high and low for the animals that they most wanted.  The adventure was exciting and frustrating.  And the fascination was relatively short-lived. 

This reminds me that we need to think through the things we really "gotta get".

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Things that Disappear

There are things that disappear without warning:
  • a sock in the dryer
  • a phone number
  • a memory
  • a friend
  • a special dessert
And others that disappear when we don't heed warnings:
  • reputations
  • relationships
  • opportunities
May 2010 be a year when all things that we value are visible!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A Unique Collection

I take great joy in providing postally used stamps for my friend's collection.  Thanks to him, I've become very aware of the many nuances in seemingly similar stamps. And, if you happen to receive anything from me with a stamp placed catawissy, it's not an accident, but a tribute to my friend's possibility of attracting as many versions of available stamps with the fewest possible cancellation marks.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Queen of Cliff Notes

Law school taught me to get to the bottom line.  In an age when we are inundated by information 24x7x365 it is increasingly important to be able to sift through the mountains of information we are presented and quickly determine which items are relevant.

One of the best gifts I received from my law school education is my self-proclaimed title as "Queen of Cliff Notes".

Sunday, January 3, 2010


So many of us have camera options on our phones, but I've been pleased, surprised and amazed to have my traditional camera ever ready to snap shots of family, friends and colleagues.  For a few ounces of extra weight in my purse, I always have the opportunity to capture special events.

I love all of the snapshots everyone in my life continue to share.

And I also cherish the professional photos our gifted friend, Temple Webber, continues to produce for our special events.

Saturday, January 2, 2010


Our precious daughter was delighted to answer the doorbell and find that her boyfriend from Miami had converted airline miles to surprise her for a post-Christmas visit.  This was a super surprise!  They are in sync.

And, in sync is the only right way to deliver surprises.

Surprises are only wonderful when they bring joy to the recipient. A surprise party for a super shy person, hosted by an exceptionally extroverted friend, seems to the extrovert the perfect way to spend a special day.  However, the introverted birthday person would much rather have spent the evening with one or two special friends. 

Positive surprises include visits, calls, letters and emails from those we cherish; photos from special events; a recommendation on LinkedIn; a referral; a congratulatory note...

And worst of all, are negative surprises.  If the employee is expecting a raise, and instead, receives a written performance plan, there's a clear and unacceptable disconnect.  There should be no surprises in this arena.  Employees should consistently know if they are meeting, exceeding, or failing to meet expectations.

Negative surprises tend to relate to allocation of time, unspoken expectations, inconsiderate behavior, treating another as we'd like to be treated rather than how they'd like to be treated...

May most of our 2010 surprises be positive!

Friday, January 1, 2010


A new year, a new decade and 365 days to live, love, learn, laugh and linger with those we treasure.  It's a time to let go of things that are holding us back and embrace things that will help us soar.  I'm not big on resolutions, but do like to think aspirationally.   I aspire to be my best self in 2010, not only for me, but for those I hold dear.

May 2010 reveal countless special moments, memories and milestones!