Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Sounds of Morning

Many sounds break the evening's quiet and signal morning in our home:
  • Beep, beep, beep -The alarm clock
  • Meowwww -Tiger announcing that it's time to eat
  • Coo, Coo - Our doves
  • Click - The light switching on
  • Pop - Opening my Diet Coke tab
  • Step, step, step - Edgar going downstairs
  • Uhh - Gar's first and second wake-up responses
  • Blah, blah, blah  - The morning news, weather and traffic report
  • Water rushing -Baths, showers and a load of laundry
These familiar sounds remind me that all's right in my world.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Painted into a Corner

The visual image of an individual painting himself or herself into a corner is vivid and instructive.  Intellectually we know that we need to plan ahead, but realistically life happens.  Lack of planning is the primary reason that we paint ourselves into a corner.  But we also risk this reality when we make excuses, deny our lack of experience or consistently exhibit a negative attitude. 

Monday, March 29, 2010

Returned Calls

I get countless calls from strangers.  Too many callers spend valuable voice mail minutes stating their request then speed through their callback number.  I'm more charitable than many of my friends and colleagues.  I try to decipher the number and return the call.  Understandably, for many, these recordings generate an automatic deletion of the message. And, it's irritating and an unfortunate waste of my time to have to replay minutes of a message to interpret speedily delivered numbers.

Anyone can tremendously boost their chances of a returned call by slowly and clearly stating at the beginning and end of the message who you are and how to reach you.  Most importantly, give us a reason that is important to us, rather than you, to return the call.

Sunday, March 28, 2010


I was fortunate to have a great-grandmother in my life until my sophomore year in high school.  She was a quilter.  The tiny pieces of fabric intricately cut and stitched were vivid examples of vision, patience, planning and artistic expression.  We still treasure her efforts and creations. 

Today, no one in my family quilts. However, I hope that we will effectively share the enormous collection of tiny tidbits from our family experiences to create our own cherished 21st century tapestries.

Saturday, March 27, 2010


We are all influenced, positively and negatively by all of our experiences.  We are sometimes discouraged from emphasizing individual priorities v. team accomplishments.  Generally it's appropriate and beneficial to broadly give credit.

Though I enthusiastically credit the others who are involved, I eagerly claim the following as mine:
my name
my family
my reputation
my experience
my offspring
my salvation
my influence
my attitude
my impact

Friday, March 26, 2010

Another Shot at a New Year

There's much hype, expectation and self-imposed pressure to make resolutions, affirmations, goals and plans on January 1st.  Why not use the end of the first quarter and the beginning of Spring as two superb reasons to reassess or restart if we're not exactly where we promised ourselves we'd be?  And if we're exceeding our expectations, it's a great opportunity to stretch to achieve new heights.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

How Are You?

Think for a moment about how many times per day we greet or are greeted in person or on the phone with some version of "How are you?".  The most typical response, when we pause long enough to acknowledge, is "Fine".  I've forced myself to pause recently, when I ask some version of the question, to listen to the other person's answer, instead of continuing with an automatic response.  A different response such as, "Terrific, Awesome, or Having a Wonderful Day" instantly jolts me into interacting versus automatically responding.  Perhaps we should consciously greet others with a less expected question to elicit additional positive interaction.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Stop, Look and Listen

One of the most important, yet under-emphasized communications skills is active, intent listening.  When we stop what we are doing, make eye contact and listen carefully to another, we are giving them the gift of attention and expressing interest in their perspective.  And we are giving ourselves the benefit of an enhanced relationship with another.  When we concentrate on what is being said, rather than what we are going to say next, we can learn a lot.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


The 90-mile trip to the airport was littered with vehicles that had slid off the road. The 18-wheelers that "slid-collided" made me realize that I was way out of my sun-belt driving league. And I was jettisoned back in memory to an icy trip years before that shut down the major Arkansas thoroughfares for many hours.  Regardless of our plans, when icy conditions prevail, we must slow down, stop or change course.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Snow or White

In February, I was accosted by an unexpected snow and ice storm that shut down the Little Rock airport.  The beauty of the winter storm provided a gorgeous blanket of white. A few short weeks later, the same road trip provided another checker-board of white.  This trail of white harkened spring! Though one could assume that trees covered in white meant another snowstorm, reality reveals that these white blossoms welcome spring!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Love of Learning

At breakfast this week, a discussion reminded me of a devastating experience in fourth grade.  My teacher told me if I did x, I'd get an A.  I did x and she gave me a B.  I was uncontrollably upset.  When my dear Mother asked about the situation, the teacher admitted that she'd given me a B because she knew that I could do better.  She was correct.  I could have done better.  However, I'd done just what she'd outlined to earn an A.   In her misguided way, I think she was trying to instill a love of learning and a desire to always live up to my potential.  Though I learned these important lessons along the way, it's only with many years hindsight that I can forgive her for misleading me and attribute the positive motive that I assume she intended.  It makes me wonder how often we unintentionally derail a child's natural love of learning.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Lost and Found

Each time we find an item that we've temporarily misplaced, we rejoice. In these instances, after the fear of permanent loss subsides, we are most grateful for a happy outcome. We're jolted to be more careful with our important items.  And we have a fresh appreciation for the value we attribute to the item.

Here's hoping for fewer lost items!  And for a new appreciation for the things we hold dear!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Responsibility Project by Liberty Mutual

Kudos to Liberty Mutual for presenting 15 short films that feature ethics in real world situations.  The themes are all positive and  I commend three films for the selfless caring demonstrated:

The Home Run

Life's always better when we think of others and share in our sadnesses and successes.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Tips from Jim Muehlhausen's Book - "The 51 Fatal Business Errors and How to Avoid Them"

In The 51 Fatal Business Errors and How to Avoid Them by Jim Muehlhausen, the author uses colorful language and shares the stories of many CEOs with whom he's consulted to describe 51 ways to become a more effective CEO. 

Some of his tips include:

• Listen and move on.

• A CEO’s job is to provide best solutions, not just a solution.

• When you allow the customer to constantly create one-off transactions you are herding cats.

• The best way to learn to be more objective is to get a fresh pair of eyeballs. This can be a consultant, a board or a hire from outside the industry.

• Manage outputs rather than inputs.

• Find someone outside the company in whom you can confide.

• Being a highly effective CEO involves moving outside your comfort zone.

• Work with laziness, not against it.

• Delegate, but check important results, processes and functions.

• Do what you know needs to be done.

• Don’t be afraid to make dramatic changes.

• Make a list of everything that you have been meaning to do or complete.

• Throwing too many new ideas at a new employee is like dumping bricks in a pile and calling it a house.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Learning from Boeing - What Makes Passengers Happy?

I had the opportunity to hear Ken Price, Director of Passenger Revenue at Boeing describe their fascinating approach - to make everyone happy, by making the passenger happy.  He described a passenger-centric, research-based approach to designing the 787 Dreamliner which is instructive regardless of our industry.

Though they could control only the actual plane design, Boeing wisely chose to focus on the total passenger experience, beginning with the trip to the terminal. He shared a one-frame editorial cartoon featuring cattle complaining about being treated like passengers.

They were determined to understand customer preference.  As a result, their design welcomes passengers to the airplane with an architectural archway.  Their use of LED lighting and bin space design enhance the interior space. The installation of large windows with electronic screens provide a view to all passengers regardless of seating or the window seat passenger's preference. They added lower cabin altitude, improved cabin humidity and temperature control.

But they didn't stop there.  They decided to positively influence things they can't control that impact the customer experience.  Though Boeing doesn't make seats, their research identified 8 critical criteria for seats.  They shared this research with seat manufacturers and ultimately added a seat catalogue to their manufacturing specifications.

And they were determined to positively impact the passenger's on-board experience.  Working with Disney, they created a course for airlines. Boeing attends the course with the airline and pays for half of the training cost.

Boeing determined that preference drives demand, which drives increased revenue, which drives happiness.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Baby Steps

Anyone who's had the good fortune of watching a child learn to walk knows the significance of baby steps.  The process is incremental and deliberate.  The first steps are shaky and uncertain.  However, the progression beyond the first steps is remarkably quick.  As adults we are often so eager to complete a project that we forget the importance of the baby steps required to launch.  Until we take the first difficult step, we'll never be up and running at full speed.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Performance Assessments

Some think I'm weird because I look forward to performance appraisals.  Though I am fortunate to receive consistent positive feedback during the year, formalizing the review process provides a way to document accomplishments.

Ideally, we'd all provide consistent, timely feedback for our associates, colleagues, friends and bosses.  Life, work and time constraints intervene...

Yes, annual assessments provide an official record of our performance.  Episodic email, face-to-face and social media praising of accomplishments amplify our impact.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Flight Risk

Because I've had the privilege of flying most of my life in small planes with my Daddy, I assess flight risk differently than most others.  In a well maintained plane, with a qualified pilot, my assessment is that the risk is very low - in fact, less than taking a road trip.  And, with most commercial airlines, I also trust that this is my safest mode of travel.

We all assess risks based upon our experiences and available data.  Though my experience is somewhat unique, with the many check points required, flying remains my preferred, safest way to travel.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Sterling Community Impacts

Sterling Bank and our bankers recognized that 2009 was a most difficult year for many Texans. We were able to touch countless lives through corporate contributions and volunteer hours. More than 200 non-profits across the state were grateful beneficiaries of our corporate contributions. And we’ll never know how many lives were touched by the 214 dedicated bankers who invested 8,638 hours of volunteer service.

A record number of Sterling Bankers devoted 50 or more hours to community service in 2009. By giving our 50-hour volunteers the ability to direct $500 grants to organizations that are important to them, we allow additional non-profits to benefit from Sterling time, talent and treasure.

Sterling was once again awarded the Texas Banker’s Association Cornerstone Award for our community program. And one of our bankers, Steve Harker, received the coveted Making a Difference award from the Independent Bankers Association of Texas, acknowledging his 2,462 hours of service with the Red Cross from 2006 – 2008.

Our bankers didn’t let a challenging economy thwart their fundraising efforts. Sterling Bank posted an increase in March of Dimes contributions in 2009, rising 5 places to become the #7 Corporate Houston Fundraising Team. Shelley Cruz and Daran Landry emerged as the #9 and #10 Individual Fundraisers amidst a very competitive field.

By hosting blood drives at 8 week intervals, we’ve increased blood donations each year since 2005. Our 18.8% increase in 2009 donations over our previous record year in 2008, represents a significant number of additional lives saved.

We celebrate and thank, not only our volunteers, but all of our bankers and their family members, who are bravely serving in the U.S. military to protect the freedoms we hold dear.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Is It Time to Change Your Volunteer Post?

Why are we volunteering where we are volunteering? Periodically, we must pause to remember why we are maintaining or neglecting our various volunteer commitments.  We need to remember why we initially engaged with the organization. 

Were we chosen/or did we choose to engage because of a particular skill set, passion or connections?  If so, we need to ascertain if we have added sufficient value from our involvement. We must also question whether the organization could benefit from new blood with a similar reason for engaging.  Best yet, we will realize that our reasons for investing our discretionary time and talent with the organization remain worthy. And when we methodically choose to pare a commitment, my hope is that we will find another organization that will similarly benefit from our engagement and identify another volunteer who will serve in our place.

We all make a difference!

Thursday, March 11, 2010


Perfection can be the enemy of launching, advancing or completing a project.  We can become overwhelmed by the magnitude of the endeavor and paralyzed by the unknowns.  Often it is best to act quickly on a great idea and strive to work through all the variables as they arise, rather than waiting until we have the perfect plan.  A good plan well executed is better than a perfect plan that is never enacted.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


It's easy to get caught in the "must do" trap.  Life and work are filled with never-ending lists of things that we need to do.  Our attitudes about these tasks make a tremendous difference in how we approach and fulfill them.  When I find myself saying or thinking that I have to do a certain thing, I try to remember that in many cases, I get to do this.  Simply realizing that this is actually something that I want to do changes my perspective and interest level.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Building - Learn from Others

Our dear neighbors are planning to build a new home where their existing home stands.  Kudos to them for seeking answers, experiences and opinions from others who have done this.  Their experience will be better from meeting with those of us who have already done what they are contemplating.  Many of us love passing along tips and tricks to others so that they don't have to experience the trial and error that we faced.

When we are contemplating a new venture, we must remember that many others want to pay it forward by sharing their "must do's and don't do's".

Monday, March 8, 2010


There are a million different ways to entertain family, friends and neighbors. Though we each have our preferences, there is only one inviolable rule - we must welcome guests in a way that makes them and us feel comfortable.
I hear of so many parties that might have been, but for hesitant hosts.  Many averted parties are the result of would-be hosts who don't have time to plan ahead to create the "perfect" party.  The perfect party is one filled with good friends and lots of laughter.  The invitations, food, beverages, style and setting take a backseat to being together.  We've had a terrific time at many spontaneous gatherings as well as those that were planned well in advance. 

Entertaining doubles our pleasure.  We get to enjoy the event and the memories that are created.

Sunday, March 7, 2010


Once we press send, leave a voice mail message, post a letter, make a presentation, or host an event, we are waiting for a response. 


Email is the delivery channel that evokes the easiest, quickest feedback.  However, we often forget that ours is not the only, most important, or most time sensitive email among the 100s that our recipient may receive in the next hour, day or week.

Unless there is clear mutual urgency in receiving a response to any of our communications, we may wait far longer than we expect, or never receive a response.  I've found that clear expectations, incentives and deadlines can lead to timely responses.  However, without, or even with, a specific survey solicitation, most attendees won't provide direct feedback for a presentation or event. 

When the response is important, we must ask specifically, follow up diligently and acknowledge appropriately.

I'd love to know your experience!


Saturday, March 6, 2010

Fan Club

Our children quickly realize that their parents are the most devoted members of their fan clubs.  Regardless of changing interests, as parents, we are 100% supporters of their current endeavors.  No other individual, organization or company could hope to achieve this 100% devotion.

However, each of us as individuals, organizations and companies can aspire to attract raving fans.  The rules for "others" are simple:
  • Under-Promise, Over-Deliver
  • Think like an Owner of the Enterprise and Customer Relationship
  • Deliver the Platinum Rule - Treat others as they Expect to be Treated
  • Quickly Resolve Complaints
  • Act Decisively
  • Refer without Expectation, but with Hopes of Reciprocity

Friday, March 5, 2010


We all have things to share with others:
  • Concern
  • Experience
  • Advice
  • Mistakes
  • Successes
  • Connections
  • Referrals
  • Ideas
  • Opinions
  • Respect
  • Understanding
  • Values
  • Wisdom
  • Compassion
May we always remember that no matter where we are in our personal journeys, as we share with others, we increase our learning, experience and perspective.  Most often, important sharing involves listening intently and compassionately responding.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Not a Winter Person

I've heard countless friends, colleagues and acquaintances comment about their time of day preference.  It's normal to hear that one is/or isn't a "time of day" person.  Until this year, I haven't thought intently about a seasonal preference.  I've always known that I love warm weather and water.  This winter has challenged my preferences.  Our average Houston low and high temperatures are listed:
  • November 53 - 73
  • December 47 - 60
  • January     45 - 63
  • February   48 - 67
This season we've had snow, threats of snow and below average temperatures. 

I'm ready for warm, sunny, swimming weather!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Five Stone for Slaying Giants

Curt Tueffert energetically shared excerpts from his book, Five Stones for Slaying Giants, at our recent Sterling Bank officers meeting.  Just as David used a stone to defeat the giant, Goliath, Curt provided five stones for us to overcome our giants:
  • Passion
  • Excellence
  • Vision
  • Value
  • Confidence
And he shared five characteristics that successful sales people demonstrate:
  • Resiliency
  • Personal accountability
  • Self-management
  • Goal achievement
  • Continuous learning
By honestly assessing ourselves against these stones and characteristics, we have a path toward proficiency in slaying our personal giants.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Circle of Life

Yesterday would have been my precious brother's 50th birthday.  Steve was full of love and life before an accident claimed his life way too young.  Yesterday, on Steve's birthday, his dear daughter's son was born.  Her son shares not only the same birthday but also the same middle name as his grandfather.

We never cease to miss those we love and lose, but always cherish special opportunities to acknowledge their continuing presence in our lives.

It's healing for me that Steve's grandson, born on his birthday, has unlimited potential to embody his wonderful characteristics.

May we all seize opportunities to celebrate those who have positively impacted our lives.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Most Hated Chores

Today I wish I had a research project to define the household chores that we like least.  I thought I'd find many top 10 lists, and didn't.  My informal searches yielded these 18 chores (in random order) that most people rate among their least favorites:
  • Cooking
  • Vacuuming
  • Dusting
  • Window
  • Kitchen Appliances and Counters
  • Mopping
  • Dishes
  • Garbage
  • Toilets, sinks, showers, tubs
  • Laundry
  • Mowing and Maintaining Lawn
  • Washing Car
  • Making the Bed
  • Household paperwork/shredding/recycling
  • Shopping for groceries/supplies
  • Ironing
  • Pet chores
  • Baseboards
We all have household chores. Which are the chores that give you the greatest satisfaction or the ones that you dislike most? 

Which are essential? For me, making the bed sets a positive tone for the day.  It acknowledges a night's rest and sets the stage for a well organized day ahead.  Regardless of the chores I have done and undone at the end of the day, I know that the day began with best intentions.