Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Pain - Experience - Comfort

When we are in the midst of a personal crisis, it's impossible to see, believe or understand that lessons will be learned from the profound pain.  We must deal with our situation in the manner and time frame that work with our volatile emotions, fragile state and capacity to deal with well-meaning, caring, insensitive and unknowing individuals.  At the point when we've dealt with the initial shock and adjustment to an altered reality that we never imagined, we must put our new life together one baby step per day.  Some days will be baby steps forward.  Others will be baby or big steps backward.  Each step, regardless of the direction, is a  way of dealing with our new future. 

No two experiences are alike.  But, pain is real.  Regardless of the way that we process our loss, we can all benefit from sincere empathy, especially of others who have lost loved ones. 

Thus, the comfort.  When we receive the comfort extended by others, regardless of form, the giver and we benefit.  I still vividly remember critically assessing comments when my brother Mark died.  I was mourning, angry and inept at dealing with the situation.  Two years later, as we had the unthinkable grief of dealing with my brother Steve's death, I'd matured in my thinking.  Since I'd already experienced profound, untimely loss, I'd had the chance to realize, recognize and process the reality that any expression of concern is appropriate and appreciated.  We teach our children to deal with so many realities.  However, dealing with death is not in the curriculum.

Anyone who extends an expression of sympathy, regardless of form, is to be appreciated.  They've done what other well-meaning, but unacting others would like to express.

From our pain, we gain experience.  When we use our experience to comfort others we reduce our pain and increase our comfort.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Incremental Improvement

When we expect phenomenal change, we are often disappointed.  When we embrace incremental improvement, we realize sustained success.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Wisdom from the (S)ages

In addition to my older relatives, I love all that I've learned from my other special elders:

Mr. Mac:
  • People matter more than things. (He always cheerfully greeted everyone.)
  • Small can be extraordinary.  (He had penny candy in his corner grocery.)
  • When you realistically trust others you will be rewarded. (He had credit accounts for groceries.)
  • Sales tax doesn't discriminate.  (I saved my pennies to buy a 29 cent pair of sunglasses when I was 6 years old.  When I made my purchase, I was made aware that sales tax was added to every purchase.)
  • Big (empty) boxes (toilet paper, etc.) yield countless hours of pleasure.  We made incredible creations using Mr. Mac's big boxes.
  • Family is broader than birth.  We didn't realize for many years that Amy and Beth weren't our cousins.
Mrs. Hayden:
  • There's always time to visit.
  • Friendship can transcend age and distance.
Miss Gray:
  • We also benefit when we help others achieve their goals.
  • Learning what we are not passionate about propels us to discover what matters.
  • Communicating with older friends keeps us connected.
  • I am not a pianist. Practice and passion are required to perfect musical ability. However, reading and appreciating classical music are life skills that I treasure.
  • Creating our own annual stage allows us to celebrate many successes.
Mrs. Craig:
  • Age is just a number.
  • Staying active keeps us young.
  • There are certain things that I cannot physically do.
  • I can do things that those older than I am cannot.
  • Family includes genetics and preferences.
Mr. Condry:
  • The workplace recognizes role v. age.  Do what you are hired to do.
  • Mentors help.
  • Results rule.
  • Presentations can make or break.
  • Everyone needs someone to respect them.
  • When we are willing to learn, we also teach.

Sunday, June 27, 2010


I'd already made a mental note to replace the sad plant in my bathroom.  It had brightened the room for many months.  Suddenly all I seemed to see were the pervasive brown fronds.  Though I wasn't extremely hopeful, I started removing the dead leaves.  Once the pruning was complete, the plant was once again attractive and vibrant.  With a little careful attention the plant that was about to be replaced once again had a bright future.  

We can personally and organizationally begin to resemble the unattractive plant unless we remain vigilant in pruning bad habits and eliminating things that no longer work.  Unless we pay careful attention to details we are at risk of becoming obsolete.  Even when things start to decline, transformative make-overs can bring renewal.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Some Gave All...

We often take for granted the many freedoms we enjoy.  When someone in our circle dies protecting our freedom, we are vividly reminded that we owe incalculable debt, appreciation and honor to all of our soldiers and their loved ones who have bravely fought and continue to lay down their lives to protect the freedoms we hold dear.

Cpl. Chris Yauch is a fallen soldier who has been a part of my circle since his birth.  I am enormously grateful that he was willing, but incredibly sad that Chris had to give all to protect our freedom.

Chris, his family and I grew up in an amazing town in north central Arkansas - Batesville.  I've never been more proud of a community honoring the ultimate sacrifice of a local hero.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Who You Don't Know Matters

Conventional wisdom is “Who you know matters”. In so many cases, this is absolutely true. Referrals, recommendations, invitations, jobs and contracts result from relationships we’ve made and fostered. We need to continue to nurture our relationships by staying connected and continuing to add value for our friends and associates. At networking events, however, the rule changes. Networking events do provide a valuable opportunity to strengthen existing relationships. They also allow us to initiate contacts with those we haven’t yet met. If we fail to broaden our circle, we’ve missed 50% of the value that can be derived from networking events.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Best Women's Business Initiative

My day, week and month were made when I googled "Best Women's Business Initiatives" and our Sterling Bank Women's Business Initiative was #1 among 15.3 million entries.  We've invested a lot of time, money and energy to create educational programs and networking opportunities for executive women and business owners. 

Thank you to the many, many of you who participate.  Please let us know what we can do to keep our program #1.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Each Tiny Step Matters

Counted cross stitch is a creative person's dream.  A project starts with a blank cloth.  The projects, colors, patterns, sizes and finished products are as varied as the stitchers who make the first stitch.  At the outset, the project is limited only by the size of the canvas and the commitment of the creator.  However, as with any project, once the project is launched, each stitch (step or action) matters. The importance of each step (stitch) is readily evident in counted cross stitch where each stitch impacts another.  Each improper stitch must be readily corrected or the finished product won't be what is expected. 

Though tiny imperfections are not as easy to detect in our company lives, the principal is sound.  When we anticipate or discover an error, we must quickly correct it.  If not, we must live with unexpected consequences.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

10 Tens * 2

Ten significant things come readily to mind when I think of 10:
  • Commandments
  • Lists
  • Fingers 
  • Toes
  • Admission to Texas Universities
  • Perfection
  • East West freeway
  • Learning to count
  • Double digit birthday
  • This year
And other 10s also come to mind:
  • Decagon
  • 1979 Movie
  • Dimes
  • Hamilton bill
  • Organized Runs
  • Tension
  • Tenderloin
  • Birthdays of 3 special friends - 10/10/10
  • Anniversaries
  • Tent
What are your top 10s?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Father's Day

Yesterday was a designated day to honor our fathers.  The three fathers profoundly and positively impacting my family are each deserving of daily love, respect and appreciation (Daddy, my husband and my deceased father-in-law).  Each of these men has created unique, deep bonds of love with their children.  Words, cards and gifts one Sunday in June remind us to pause and reflect gratefully upon their lives and impact.  In reality, every day is a perfect day to show appreciation to those we love. Designated holidays days just help us focus our appreciation.

Happy Father's Day!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Vacation Ready

My work and home life are never in better condition that when I'm preparing for vacation.  I consciously handle everything that I can imagine needing attention.  I work harder, plan more carefully and anticipate more fully to ensure that everything will be well executed.  It's impossible to stay in "vacation ready" mode, but concluding each week with a sense of completion and preparation is the next best thing.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Do You Really Want to Walk a Mile in Someone Else's Stinky Shoes?

We don't have to do an in-depth analysis to readily discover that generally we'd much rather live our own lives than trade issues with others. We typically wish for media ready aspects of others' lives rather than considering the whole enchilada.  We used to refer to these opportunities as "walking a mile in your shoes".  

There are many reasons for re-choosing our own lives:
  • we love our lives
  • we like our lives better than we like change or uncertainty
  • we know what to expect
  • we consciously made the decisions to create our current environment
  • we know how to deal with our issues
  • we are afraid of the unknown
  • other people's shoes stink
In my many cherished years of volunteering at Texas Children's Hospital, I never left the premises without being profoundly grateful for my blessings and thankful that mine were the only issues I faced.  This sentiment is ever present as I currently spend countless joyful hours at DePelchin Children's Center.

I don't know about you, but I've never really wanted to walk in anyone else's stinky shoes.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Fully Present or Barely There

As we try to pack more and more into each day, we often find ourselves racing from meeting to meeting.  For most important meetings the agenda is shared ahead of time to allow us to be prepared to contribute when the meeting begins.  However, showing up is all that some attendees do.  Barely there, is better than absent.  But being fully present is the way to make meetings effective.  Allotting the scheduled meeting time is only part of the total commitment.  When we accept an appointment, we also have the responsibility to come prepared to actively engage.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

1 Year + 25 Days

A new milestone for me!  In 390 days, I've created 365 blog posts.  Not bad for someone who initially assumed that once per week was as much as I'd be willing and able to commit...

I would never have imagined all that I would gain from this experience including:
  • embracing the discipline and commitment to continue
  • reconnecting with friends and establishing new relationships
  • becoming a hyper-observer (my term for always looking for things to share from daily encounters)
  • boosting creativity
  • establishing credibility with Gen Y
  • challenging myself - okay, the first post was a known challenge; daily posts created a new bar
  • connecting experiences, learnings and relationships that might not ordinarily be connected
  • making as many new personal and business connections as I've made
I am most grateful to each of you who have read  and shared my posts!  And, I love the comments that are posted, or much more frequently, delivered individually to me.  And, I am thankful to those who have requested permission to use my posts in other publications.  I Lovett (love it) when you ask to share my posts.

Maybe in year 2, I'll revert to the initial once per week expectation...

Still thinking about next steps!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Everybody's (Not) Fine

Just as the movie "Everybody's Fine" revealed, a stock answer to "protect" others doesn't work when deep emotions, history and relationships are involved.  When we deliver the often expected "Everybody's Fine" answer to the query "How are you, and how is____?", we potentially fall victim to misleading others (and devaluing our position) as we relay the responses.   When we can honestly answer, "I am fine! and "He/she is fine!", we can expect acceptance and support.  Only when we answer honestly, to trusted parties, that "everything's not fine", can we open the door for caring confidantes to help us deal with our reality and challenges.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Parenting Skills Work

I've been informally polling parents for the past few days to determine if they agree with my theory that their parenting improves their managerial/leadership skills at work.  My unscientific sample yields 100% agreement that the lessons learned in parenting increase workplace effectiveness.

Some parenting lessons that apply to work:
  • Consistency in direction and expectations is required.
  • We learn from all those we treasure as individuals.
  • Delivering an appropriate "no" is as important as delivering a hoped for "yes".
  • "Because I said so" is not a sufficient explanation.
  • Friendship is ideal, but not mandatory.
  • Flexibility is a must.
  • Trust, discretion and confidentiality are essential.
  • No two individuals will think, act, respond or be motivated the same way.
  • Excessive hovering is as damaging as a hands-off approach.
  • A safe haven is necessary to foster differing points of view.
  • Value the person and correct the errant behavior.
  • Fresh perspectives help us stay current and grow.
  • When someone on the home or work team has a crisis, mini-crisis, or important event, we must adapt to accommodate, regardless of what else is going on in our own sphere.
  • The messiness and uncertainty of dealing with  individuals who are special to us provides spice to life.
  • Resistance gives us a chance to learn, query and adapt when we hear:  "I don't want to _________. I don't like ____________. He's/She's not being fair".
I know I'm a better leader because I've had the privilege to parent two amazing children.  How about you?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Chief Encourager

We all need people who spot and acknowledge our best attributes and accomplishments.  Our encouragement may come from loved ones, friends, colleagues or even strangers.  Knowing that encouragement can come from all fronts, we can all seek to be a Chief Encourager each day for someone in our daily encounters.  My days have often been brightened by those who are dear acknowledging something special.  And, I've gotten also gotten boosts from friendly strangers.  It only takes an instant to make someone's day. 

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Thank You!

One of the nicest ways to acknowledge another person is by simply thanking them specifically for something they have done. The method is not nearly as important as the actual execution.  A heartfelt thank you delivered in person, electronically or via handwritten note is far better than an intended communication that doesn't happen.  A privately spoken or publicly announced thank you  can be spontaneous or planned. In our electronically connected world email provides a quick and easy way to share appreciation and to simultaneously let other team members or managers know about the contribution.  And a hand-written note stands out since they are becoming more and more rare.

And while I'm on the subject of appreciation, I want to thank each of you who read, comment and share my blog.  I'm most grateful!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Why Me?

We usually think of "why me?" as a victim question.  Let's turn the tables and use it as a proactive positioning challenge.  "Unique value proposition" is the current way to categorize positive defining differences.  It's helpful to categorize skills, experiences and strengths to determine what we have to offer in a relationship with another.  It doesn't matter what we know or what we've done if it doesn't make a difference to the person we are trying to influence to take action.  Only by understanding the other person's position can we accurately address "why me?".

Friday, June 11, 2010


We have a lovely canopy of green on two sides of our pool.  I can't imagine how dramatically altered the view would be without all the trees.  Our trade-off for this enjoyment is an ongoing battle with leaves, berries and flowers in the pool. 

Trade-offs permeate all aspects of our lives.  We must always assess whether the benefit we derive is worth the price we pay. 
  • Is a wonderful job worth a long commute?
  • Is a promising career at a great organization worth the annoyances?
  • Is the promotion worth the increased time, responsibility and stress?
  • Is a few minutes more sleep worth the risk of being late?
  • Is the fabulous dessert worth the calories?
  • Is the stunning outfit worth the cost?
  • Is having the last word worth damaging a relationship?
Assessments change over time as our priorities and circumstances shift.  I'm always happiest when I realize that I have options and consciously choose my actions.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Just Perfect!

I love it when "just" is used in this manner, to indicate that something is exactly the way it should be.  It's also perfect when denoting a fair, correct action or position.  But the positive meanings have been largely overshadowed by the more commonplace usage, denoting "mere or only", as in I'm just a ______.  Each time I hear someone demean their position with the "just" qualifier, I challenge them to confidently proclaim that I'm a _______.  Every job has worth to the individual performing the task.  And many jobs that make our lives pleasant and easy are jobs that Mike Rowe would categorize as "Dirty Jobs".   Since everything's connected, we all benefit from the labors of so many others. 

When you hear anyone categorize their position as, "I'm just a ________", please join me in challenging them to embrace the difference they are making.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Mirror, Mirror

It would be grand if we could all query a magic mirror and receive the honest feedback that we're doing great.  Just as magic mirrors only exist in fairy tales, we often make honest feedback just as illusive.  We create the corporate equivalents of magic mirrors by setting the "fairest of all" expectations, rather than truly seeking actionable feedback.  We all need objective feedback.  We need to continually assess whether we are getting the programmed "Mirror, Mirror" feedback (Fairest of All) or informed options to improve.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Ideal Environments

Gardening in Houston is an amateur's dream come true.  It's marvelous to watch the incredible growth of our fall/winter pansies and spring/summer periwinkles.  Through trial and error, we've discovered the plants that seasonally thrive in our situation.  We've achieved an ideal environment. 

We aren't always as sensitive to timing and environment at work.  When we hire analytic associates and ask them to be customer-facing sales producers, it's as if we've planted pansies in Houston in the summer - they wither.  We've chosen a fabulous candidate at the wrong time for the wrong environment.

Everyone wins when we consciously consider appeal, timing and environment.

Monday, June 7, 2010

How We Measure Success

I enjoy Scrabble and have convinced myself that the mental exercise is good for me.  Because I'm achievement oriented, I started tracking my scores this year.  I've played and won 67 games since January.  By the pure win/loss measurement, I'm doing great at 100%.  However, I established a different threshold for my success.  I've been tracking the percentage of my scores that are 300 points or more.  When I made my goal tougher, my success rate fell to just over 80%.  But, I've become a better player by continually challenging myself.

When something becomes too easy for us, we sometimes need to raise our expectations.  Often, improved performance will result.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Leadership's in the Cards

I like unique and easy ways to categorize things.  Comparing leadership to a deck of cards is one way to focus on its important aspects. 

  • Ace - Ace areas of expertise.  When we focus on building our own strengths and those of team members everyone wins.
  • King and Queen - Treat others with the respect that one would demonstrate to a beloved queen or king. 
  • Jack - Be a Jack-of-all interpersonal skills.
  • 10 - There is no single Perfect 10. Prior to 2008, we were accustomed to seeing Olympic gymnasts rated on a 10 point scale.  Just as the Perfect 10 era has closed in gymnastics scoring, we must be ever vigilant about seeking the current right way to measure successes.
  • 8 - A stop sign has 8 sides.  Though the sign clearly tells us to stop, if one side were missing, the visual message wouldn't be complete or clear.  Stopping, at least briefly, to consider multiple available options gives us the opportunity to choose the best available path.
  • 7 - Focusing on our 7 Hs: Head, Heart, Hands, Health, Humor, History and Home (5/31/09 blog post) allows us to bring our best selves to every role.
  • 6 - Though there are 7 days in the week, we all need some downtime each week to recharge our batteries, get a fresh perspective and nurture meaningful relationships. 
  • 5 - There are five essential elements of wellbeing (5/30/10 blog post): career, social, financial, physical and community.  When we are thriving in all areas, we positively influence those around us.
  • 4 - Forthright communications are essential.  None of us are mind readers.  When we communicate directly, frankly and clearly, we are able to align expectations and eliminate a lot of second-guessing.
  • 3 - It takes three weeks to form a new habit.  When we introduce change we need to realize that the new way of doing things won't be instantly implemented with great skill.  It takes time.
  • 2 - Two-way communication is essential.  We need to consistently seek feedback so that we know how we are progressing toward goals and to understand what is and is not working.
  • 1 - Everyone is an individual.  We cannot expect others to view the world exactly the way that we do.  Understanding, embracing and engaging these different perspectives strengthens teams and organizations.
Look for what is missing, doesn't look or feel right, or is out of sequence.  Many of us hastily process things as presented with little analysis.  Number 9 was omitted above to emphasize this point.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Feeling Useful

I've discovered that one of the most important ways to remain vibrant is to continue to feel useful.  My precious 90 year old neighbor takes care of her next door neighbor's cats when she is away.  Regardless of the situation, when we are able to provide wanted and needed services, advice or resources to someone we care about, we both win.  Though we are frequently hesitant to ask for help, asking often provides as much benefit to the provider as to the beneficiary.

Friday, June 4, 2010


There are countless descriptions of leadership.  Mine is, "creatively inspiring others to work together to achieve a goal."

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Amazing Gift!

Yesterday, when I arrived home after a busy day, I had a most special gift waiting.  My precious daughter had prepared a printed, bound book of my first year of blogging articles.  I felt like a real author! 

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

In the Middle

My mother has always been an amazing cook.  My daughter has also become an inspired chef.  I've finally realized that though I will never create their amazing meals (I don't cook), my role in their creative food worlds is to encourage, applaud, set the table, enjoy and clean up. 

They are passionate, prepared and professional chefs.  I have appetite, appreciation and applause for their amazing meals.  Though I will never rise to their level, I am happily stuck in the middle as their publicist and fanatic foodie!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Success Mapping

Haven't we always been told that good things are worth waiting for?  We were looking forward to having Arlene Johnson, internationally known speaker, author and consultant as our February Sterling Bank Women's Business Initiative Dallas keynote speaker.  Mother Nature had a different plan.  Because of a snowstorm, we had to move Arlene's presentation to the fourth quarter.  We're now looking forward to November 19.

I've just finished Arlene's terrific book, success mapping: Achieve What You Want... Right Now! and am even more excited for her to share her proven plan for achieving all that we can.

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."  Arlene helps us to intentionally plan and achieve our goals.