Sunday, February 28, 2010

Direct Impact

Whether it's a floor furnace, ceiling fan, radiator, window unit air conditioner, or fireplace, we immediately recognize the impact of these purveyors of hot and cold.  When we have central air and heating, we aren't as conscious of our mechanism of achieving the desired result.

When we are attempting to address the needs of others, we must be aware that they each have different preferred methods of achieving their priorities.  Asking is our only way of ascertaining their ideal method of communication, allowing for the best direct impact.

Saturday, February 27, 2010


How many times during the Olympics have we wished that an athlete had an opportunity for a do-over?  Though the Olympic athletes aren't allowed the chance to recreate their best performance on the world stage, the rest of us have many opportunities to try to ultimately get it right.  However, as with the Olympic athletes, we only have one best shot for each audience.  And just like the Olympians, we should always give important opportunities our best performance.  Unlike the Olympic athletes, we have many audiences.  Do-overs work when we take the chance to address many audiences.  Here's to gold medal performances!

Friday, February 26, 2010

You Did What?

I have had a Citi card since 1990, which I use extensively for business and personal expenses.  A $10 purchase was recently declined, even though I had significant available credit on the card.  Because I've been a customer for so long, my immediate assumption was that the card had been compromised, causing a fraud alert on the account.  I assumed that they were trying to protect Citi and me.

However, when I reached Citi customer service, I was notified that my entire account was frozen because of a large payment that I had made.  The payment was early, was for the entire statement balance (which is my standard way to manage the account), and had already cleared my bank.  They assumed that because of the size of the payment there might be a problem. Though I've been a customer for over 20 years, they made no attempt to contact me to inquire about the payment or to notify me that I had no access to my credit.  The customer service representative understood why I was upset, but indicated that this sometimes happens with large payments. When I asked to speak to a Citi manager, she agreed to free the available credit in excess of the recent payment, and indicated that it could be 14 days before the hold was released.  Only when I called Citi back, with my bank's customer service number and insisted that I be added into the conversation to verify that the payment had cleared my bank, was my access restored. 

I realize that mistakes can happen, but the series of mistakes is mind-boggling.  Had they immediately indicated that they had made a mistake, I wouldn't be writing about this.  Like many, I'm quick to forgive when a sincere apology is made.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Flying or Falling?

One would think that we could easily tell the difference between flying and falling.  As with many things, our ability to determine the trajectory depends on our perspective.  The Olympic ski jump events beautifully illustrate this.  When watching any of these incredible athletes compete, one has the image of them flying through the air.  Reality reveals that they are actually falling toward the bottom of the mountain.

It's the same sensation as we observe colleagues and competitors from a distance.  We don't actually know if they are soaring to new heights or about to descend.

When we compare ourselves with others, without knowing the facts, conditions and objectives, we may set unrealistic expectations. Though competition generally keeps us sharp, the only way we can ensure that we're moving in the right direction is to continually aim for our personal best.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Waiting to Exhale

A couple dear to me has been fighting his cancer through 6 months of grueling treatment.  They just received the most wonderful news that he is cancer free!  HURRAH!

As we were electronically discussing the great news, she indicated that she felt like she was finally able to exhale, and hadn't realized that she had been holding her breath for the past six months.

My response was, "I think waiting to exhale is like learning what it’s like to get enough sleep after years of sleep deprivation. Fortunately, when you’re in the midst of the experience, you don’t realize what’s happening. You’re just doing what you know you need to do to advance every day."

I'm so impressed with the way that my friends dealt with this most challenging situation and am motivated by their attitudes, courage and faith.

And, I hope that we'll all realize that each time we're waiting to exhale (or get some much needed sleep) we're doing what we need to do to support the people and causes we hold dear.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Ps and Qs

It seems like I've always known that minding my Ps and Qs means to act graciously.  However, this is a common term that I only explored recently.  Whether we attribute the origin to "pints and quarts" or to the typeset letters, we are reminded to watch what we are doing.  I was intrigued to learn that one possible origin was an English bartender's charge to watch how many pints and quarts a customer might consume.  Another possibility is the attention to detail required to discern the difference in the letters "p" and "q" in proofreading typeset material.

I'd like to offer another possibility - Presentation and Questions.  Continuing the theme of acting graciously, consider all elements of presenting ourselves.  Are we prepared, professional, prompt, presentable, positive, precise?  As for questions - are we prepared and willing to address them, and eager to solicit additional queries?  Our ability to present information and address questions in settings large and intimate ultimately determines how others judge our mastery of Ps and Qs.

Monday, February 22, 2010


Microphones motivate some and intimidate others.  Fear of public speaking ranks high on any compiled list of top fears. Many, however, are energized by the chance to address an audience of any size. I had the "opportunity" recently to reign in many of my colleagues who loved the chance to address our officer group, and wanted more time than allocated to share their views. 

What's the best way to overcome fear, and as with my colleagues, make the microphone your friend? Just do it.  Start with a small, known group, presenting subject matter that you know well.  If you've ever given a report in a staff meeting or taught a Sunday school class, you actually have public speaking experience.  These experiences aren't intimidating because the settings, audience members and material are familiar. 

As the settings and audiences grow, one thing doesn't change - you are still the subject matter expert. If you aren't familiar with the venue, visiting prior to your speaking engagement will help develop comfort with this element.  If you ask, the meeting host will often be willing to share a list of registered guests.  Knowing that you have friends in the audience, or discovering that everyone attending is an unmet friend, can help you develop your eye contact strategy. 

Once you've addressed the audience, subject and setting - prepare your remarks.  Paring content can be one of the most important exercises.  You don't want to tell them everything you know - you want to share significant, interesting aspects of your subject, with keen attention to the time allocated.  You can be a prince or princess for finishing a couple of minutes early, and quickly become a toad if you overstay your time.

Finally, determine what you'll wear.  Think of this as a sales call.  You want to be appropriately attired for the audience you are addressing.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Yes or No?

We generally love to say and hear "yes" and we don't usually enjoy saying or hearing "no".  Both timely answers are important.  Indecision saps productivity by keeping everyone involved in a holding pattern. Answers allow closure.  We can move forward with implemention or next steps when the answer is positive.  And when the answer is negative, we can move to another option or opportunity. Timely answers provide one of the easiest productivity improvements available.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Sterling Bank Women's Business Initiative Recaps

We've been able to feature a wonderful array of talented speakers for our state-wide Sterling Bank Women's Business Initiative.  Here are recaps from recent programs:


"Linking, Tweeting and Friending with the Pros"

“Think Like an Entrepreneur”

“You Really Asked a Candidate That?”

“WOW Your Customers”

“Link, Tweet and Friend Like a Pro”

“Take this Job and Love It”

“Revelations in the Rearview Mirror”

“Human Resource Essentials”

“Embracing Generational Differences”

“How to Recession-Proof Your Business”

“More Tips on How to Recession-Proof Your Business”

“Market Like a Pro”

Elite Achievement

Olympic athletes are inspiring on so many levels.  Their mastery of their sport combined with passion, composure, perseverance, discipline and the desire to excel sets standards which would lead to success when applied to any field.  These 2,632 men and women competing in Vancouver represent elite achievement.  As we watch the best of the best compete in 15 winter sports events we are reminded just how important one second can be. 

How marvelous it will be if we all catch Olympic fever from these performance role models, and re-commit to being the best in our chosen endeavors.

Friday, February 19, 2010


Fresh flowers brighten every venue.  In our subtropical climate, we plant seasonal blooms twice each year - pansies and periwinkles.  Our azaleas delight us with blooms throughout the year.  And our camellias are drop-dead gorgeous in the winter.  Except during the Christmas season (when we have extensive decorations), we have fresh cut flowers or blooming plants in our home each week. 

Now that our grocery and home improvement stores add blooming purchase options, adding live color to our homes has never been easier or more economical.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


I have login overload!  Technology is grand, but securely keeping track of all of the access procedures for 40 different accounts is tedious.  How I'd love to have a single secure universal id and password to provide access to all of my protected information and tools!  We truly have the world at our fingertips, when we can remember that newest sequence of case sensitive letters, numbers and special characters.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


We are all victims of over-scheduling, but are we perpetrators as well as victims?

We've all bemoaned excessive waits in doctor's offices.  Thankfully, I am healthy and generally only have an annual check-up.  But, I've had many, many experiences of waiting with others.  When we are waiting, we are torn between "the expectation that my appointment time should be honored" and "the realization that if we're the patient with the problem, we want the doctor to take as much time as we need".

Though I'm not a medical professional, I have the opportunity to invite Sterling Bank customers and prospects to more than 30 events each year.  We are fortunate that most of the folks who indicate that they will attend, actually participate in our events.  However, we always, despite our best efforts to confirm, have a number of individuals, who never notify us that their plans have changed.

Until we all commit to honor the appointments we make and to change the appointments we can't keep, we'll all continue to be victims of overscheduling in all facets of our lives.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

One More Thing

There are times when we think we have so much going that we can't possibly incorporate one more challenge. At times, that's just when we are given the chance to see how flexible we are.  The first 6 weeks of 2010 have been incredibly action-packed.  And the past 4 days were filled with 3 major critical work events.  To add a personal challenge to the mix, my Dad's knee replacement surgery was rescheduled to coincide with the largest of these events.   Though my stress level was high, thanks to many colleagues rising to the work challenge; and a community of medical professionals, friends and family members surrounding Daddy and Mama, tremendous success was possible on all fronts.

Curve balls like these remind us that none of us can do it alone, and we can often do more than we think is possible.

Monday, February 15, 2010

11 Things to Know

  1. How to Connect with People
  2. Healthy Habits - Eat, Sleep, Exercise, Stress Control
  3. What Makes Us Happy
  4. Who and What Matters
  5. Personal Definition of Success
  6. How We Want to Be Remembered
  7. What Makes Us Laugh
  8. How We Can Make a Difference
  9. What We Believe
  10. How to Express Caring, Gratitude and Recognition
  11. How to Apologize

Sunday, February 14, 2010


 I realize each day that I am incredibly blessed.  Not only do I have the promise of eternal life - I have the love of a birth family, nuclear family, extended family, friends, neighbors, colleagues and fellow volunteers.

Happy Valentine's Day to Each of You Who Positively Impact My Life!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

No Control!

This week has proven to me, once again, that I am not ultimately in control!

I have a crystal clear reminder of one of the things I can't control:


Friday, February 12, 2010

From "To Do" to Done

This week has been a test in flexibility and a reminder that I can only control certain things.

Some Special Things I planned to do this week:
  • Be with Mom and Dad for Daddy's knee replacement
  • Host and donate in Sterling Bank Blood Drive
  • Attend Scheduled Luncheon appointments every day
  • Finalize plans for All Officers Meeting on President's Day
  • Finalize plans and host Sterling Bank Women's Business Initiative Luncheon in Dallas
  • Enjoy Bolero Dinner Dance
Things I hadn't anticipated:
  • Daddy's surgery would be cancelled at the last minute
  • The Little Rock airport would close
  • A beloved relative would die
  • The ice and snow I encountered in Arkansas would move to Dallas
  • Several of my colleagues wouldn't have their 2/15 presentations available
What actually got done:
  • Enjoyed a surgery-free visit with my wonderful, beloved parents
  • Sterling Bank helped save 75 lives with our 25 donors
  • The All Officers Meeting Agenda was approved and printed
  • Celebrated the well-lived life of our beloved Cousin/Friend - Lovett Baker
  • Enjoyed Bolero Dinner Dance
Anticipated Success:
  • WBI Luncheon in Dallas!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Gracious Celebrity

Many years ago Edgar and I were visiting with Rice University alumni at a popular destination, Kay's Lounge. All the Rice alums knew one another, and I was delighted to get to know Edgar's friends and classmates.  As I was introduced to an athletic, friendly young man, I unknowingly asked the question, "Did you play football for Rice?" (Unbeknownst to me, he played in the NFL.)

He graciously answered, "Yes, he did."

Only because of the grief I later received from others who were present, did I realize that a sports celebrity had chosen to be an ordinary guy that evening.  He chose not to embarrass me for my lack of recognition.

My only conversation with NFL quarterback, Tommy Kramer, was a million years ago, in instantaneous communication time.  However, with all the posturing that generally occurs with celebrities, all these years later, I still applaud Tommy Kramer's graciousness.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


Within 24 hours, I had three distinct reminders that everything is inextricably connected. 
  1. One of my colleages was visiting my office and mentioned that she'd seen a colleague at a recent event. Just then, my phone rang, and the colleague she'd named was calling.  Sterling Bank has 1000 employees, so the odds and timing of this call were especially surprising.
  2. A colleague and I were concluding a meeting in my office as another colleague dropped by to deliver my mail.  The letter on top of the stack was from the non-profit organization, that the colleague with whom I'd initially been visiting, had chosen to designate her Employee Directed Grant. Think for a moment, about all the ways in which this stack of mail might have been delivered.
  3. I arrived at a lunch meeting to discover that I  also knew everyone at the adjacent table, and had a niece dining at a nearby table.  
Mere coincidences or more proof that "Everything's Connected"?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Blooming or Withering

I received a beautiful orchid in early January with several lovely open blooms.  It also had 5 or 6 tight kernels on the end of the stalk.  It wasn't immediately obvious if these kernels were budding or withered.  Over the course of the month these buds have opened one by one, adding to the glory of this wonderful plant.  Because the orchid has continued to grow, it has brought new visual delight with each new bloom.

Just as with the orchid, it's not always obvious if we are blooming or withering. Continuous learning, insatiable curiosity and varied interactions allow us to grow and change.

Monday, February 8, 2010

50% Chance of Success

Last week I had the opportunity to spend time with a sales guru as we discussed an upcoming paid engagement.  As we were finishing our discussion, I enouraged him to consider an organization that I care deeply about when he chooses to deliver another gratis presentation.  He was intrigued by the opportunity to address a new target audience, and agreed to the engagement.  Though I only had a 50% chance of success with my request, I seized the opportunity.  I had a 100% chance of failure without asking. 

This was a needed reminder that often when we think we are simply asking for favors, we are presenting a valued opportunity for the potential provider to expand his or her network.  Positioned correctly, our colleagues may actually be thankful to us for the endorsement we provide when we give them access to a new forum.  When we put another's interests at the forefront we can create tremendous opportunities for mutual benefits.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

What Difference do Ushers Make?

We can't remember how many years we've been ushering at Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church. Suffice it to say, it's more far more than a decade.  I sometimes wonder what would happen if no ushers appeared.  I've decided that the service would progress with little interruption.  Worshippers could grab a service bulletin on the way in. Parishioners would sort themselves out for communion.  The offering could be collected by a priest at the end of the service. 

  • provide a friendly greeting to new and returning worshippers 
  • give the priests a break in organizing parishioners for worship, offering and communion
  • answer questions
  • leave the church clean and orderly for the next worshippers
  • recycle the service bulletins
  • expand the church community
Though the worship service would progress according to protocol - without ushers, it would be a little less welcoming, a bit more intimidating to visitors, a tad more disorderly, and an iota less engaging.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Let's Watch a Movie

It sounds like an easy task. However with so many choices, we must always ask "what do you want to watch?" The choices include:
  • new release
  • action
  • space
  • vampire
  • love story
  • sports
  • mystery
  • new
  • old
  • kid-friendly
  • family oriented
  • motivational
  • biographical
  • inspirational
  • animated
  • classic
  • sub-titled foreign
  • documentary
  • western
  • cult
  • Oscar-nominated/winner
  • featured actor
  • war
  • recommended
  • think it would be worthy
  • best-seller book
  • other
It's awesome to have countless movie options to enjoy.  How often do we avoid choosing one because the choices are so abundant? 

This also happens in our lives.  Because we have so many choices, we procrastinate - often missing golden opportunities.  There are abundant right choices; and being decisive is less risky than we often assume.

Friday, February 5, 2010

ABC's of a Less Stressful Morning

Always put your keys in the same place.
Begin the day by focusing on everything for which you are thankful.
Check the next day's calendar before you go to bed.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Trust Your Gut

I love to be able to say yes, help people, positively position Sterling Bank and solve problems. I always have more on my plate each week than most reasonable people would undertake in a month.  I finally reached my limit last week.  I was asked to be a fill-in panelist for a national conference.  My heart and mind said, "yes" because I love making presentations, knew it would be great publicity for Sterling, and would have enjoyed reconnecting with former colleagues.  I had lovely encouragement from Edgar to participate.  But my gut said, "no", because I already had an overflowing agenda, the topic would have required hours of preparation, and the travel time wasn't insignificant. Though I agonized over my answer, as soon as I decided to say no and delivered the message, I instantly knew that I'd made the right decision. My stress level decreased and I was able to successfully address several important priorities.  And, I didn't burn a bridge, as the conference organizer indicated an interest in having me for a future event. 

As this example indicates, when we make the right decision, for the right reasons, we aren't necessarily eliminating future opportunities to say yes.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

What Were You Thinking?

Every communication is impacted by the tone, setting, intent, context and timing.  I've thought a lot recently about the question, "What were you thinking?" 

When we ask a young child, as we pick them up from school, we might inquire about their impression of a new concept or subject matter.  It is an inquiring question with no judgment attached.  We sincerely want to know what they think about something they've not previously encountered.  The question is asked to seek their honest input. 

It is also a stupid question that I often pose to unhearing drivers of other vehicles who cut me off, drive slower than molasses, decide that all of the miles of notices that the lane is ending don't apply to them, or drive distractedly.

It's the question asked when a beloved child forgets his/her ingrained values.

And, just as when our children are young, it's also the inquisitive way of ascertaining what our colleagues are thinking when they propose a new offering.

So often, we assign limiting parameters to enlightening questions.  I hope that I will most often pose the question with the anticipation of gleaning information that is new to me, rather than judgmentally inquiring.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

What Can I Control?

My thoughts, attitudes, actions and reactions are the only things that I can control.

Monday, February 1, 2010


We have been most fortunate to have J. Downey Bridgwater, Sterling Bank's Chairman, President, and CEO, as a speaker for our Sterling Bank Women's Business Initiative groups in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Fort Worth.  I'm delighted to provide a recap of his presentation on Business Plan Execution.
Downey described putting together model airplanes as a child. He looked at the picture on the box, opened it and started gluing things together. He ignored the plans altogether and charged full steam ahead! Invariably, he had a few key parts left over that would have allowed certain things to work, like the flaps or the wheels.
He labeled this method, “Aggressive and Energetic Execution with Little or No Planning” (which, of course, is a recipe for disaster).

In our haste to get going we must restrain ourselves in order to start at the beginning with a plan. As General George Patton said, “Executing on a good plan today is far better than waiting to execute on a perfect plan someday in the future.”
According to MIT’s Peter Senge, there are five distinct stages of strategic planning:
Telling – “We’ve got to do this. It’s our plan. Be excited about it or reconsider your vision for your career here.”

Selling – “We have the best answer. Let’s see if we can get you to buy in.”
Testing – “What excites you about this plan? What doesn’t?”
Consulting – “What plan do members recommend that we adopt?”
Co-creating – “Let’s create the future we individually and collectively want.”
Most companies evolve to somewhere between Selling and Testing and very few get to the extremely advanced stage of “Co-creating.”
The first phase of strategic planning requires agreement by you, your management team and board on the following:
  • What is your marketplace opportunity?
  • What is your mission?
  • What is the vision that you as the leader have for your company?
  • Who are your competitors, and what is your competitive advantage?
  • What operating model are you going to adopt?  
Next, identify 3 or 4 key Objectives.
Third, formulate a Strategy (or plan) for how you’re going to achieve your objectives;
Fourth, delineate the Tactics or Initiatives that your company will undertake in order to fulfill your plan;
Fifth, ascertain specific Action Steps or Projects that will allow your tactics to be realized.
Finally, prepare a financial forecast that you believe will be the result of the activities that you’ve outlined in your plan.
Now that you have a plan, the most important thing you can do to ensure success in execution is to consistently track and report results.