Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Furniture Shuffle

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

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

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

Monday, August 30, 2010

What's He/She Like?

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

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

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Santa Claus Leadership

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

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Thinking Like Entrepreneurs

Three fascinating women with three completely different paths to entrepreneurial success encouraged our Sterling Bank Women's Business Initiative attendees in San Antonio to "Think Like Entrepreneurs". These inspiring women are:

Kathy Acock - President - Alpha Building
Kay Chiodo - President - Deaf Link and Services by Vital Signs
Ofie Garza - President - Consolidated Office Systems

Their motivations to become entrepreneurs are as varied as their businesses. Kathy Acock was working in her family's construction business. Though her father had always stated that this male dominated firm would be led by a man, when her father died, Kathy had to decide if she wanted to become a second generation business owner or close the business. Her decision to continue has led her son to choose to become a third generation owner when Kathy chooses to relinquish her current role. Kay Chiodo became a child entrepreneur, selling food from the orphanage where she lived. Deaf children in the orphanage accepted her as a friend and taught her to sign. This skill instilled her passion for serving deaf persons and provided the foundation for her businesses. Ofie Garza was also a child entrepreneur, selling Jello cubes to neighborhood children. She was a clerk in a small store and overheard the owner of the store across the street, where she bought office supplies, tell an employee that he wanted to get rid of his office supply business. She offered him $1500 for the inventory, thus launching her business that is in its 38th year.

Kathy, Kay and Ofie learned many of the skills they’ve needed to thrive, the hard way. Important abilities they highlighted that have propelled their success include:
  • Counseling, teaching, coaching, mentoring and role modeling the behavior they expect
  • Negotiating
  • Carefully and consistently watching finances and conducting audits
  • Recognizing the ability of others, respecting the value of every team member’s contribution and sharing credit for successes
  • Vision
  • Being true to self
  • Belief and passion
  • Doing what you say you will do  
Quotes from these accomplished women provide memorable insight for “Thinking Like Entrepreneurs”:

Every relationship and every business needs TLC. (Ofie)
If you know where you are financially, you know how bold you can be. (Kathy)
Each barrier is someone who hasn’t said yes yet. (Kay)

As these three leaders have demonstrated, entrepreneurial thinking positively impacts our businesses and careers.


Friday, August 27, 2010

Beauty is So(ul) Deep

Beautiful hearts, minds, souls, acts, actions and impacts are the beauty elements that really matter. 

Thursday, August 26, 2010

No Voice?

There are countless instances when we feel like we have no voice in what is happening in the economy, politics, bureaucracy and weather.  Realistically, our small voice matters in everything previously listed, except the weather. 

Though we lament our lack of voice, when we're actually silenced we truly appreciate our voice.  My friend, and former boss, relied extensively on verbal communications until his vocal chord was nicked during heart surgery.  His lengthy recovery was challenging, but provided different ways for him to express himself, and opportunities for his direct reports to fill the gap.

For years I was plagued with an annual bout of laryngitis.  As frustrating as this was, since my life and livelihood involve communication, I found other ways to be heard. 

We have no voice only when we choose not to exercise our many ways to be heard.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Reality of Excuses

There are so many excuses, including:
  • I'm too______
  • I'm not ______ enough
  • _____ is better at that
  • My participation won't matter
The reality may be:
  • I have other plans
  • I don't want to
  • I don't think that I can
  • I want to be convinced
When others don't have time or interest, accepting their excuse is the best option.  However, many other excuses leave the door open for further discussion.  Opening that door can be as simple as asking, "Is there anything that I could say or do to change your mind?".

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Life is Like a Mighty Oak

A tiny acorn with proper conditions in fertile soil, over time becomes a magnificent oak tree. Other acorns become victims of squirrels, gardeners and inclimate weather. The mighty oak tree has a strong core, hardy branches, beautiful leaves and bountiful acorn production.  Each tree is unique.

Just like the oak tree, a strong core determines our overall health and well-being. We need the proper conditions - nutrition, exercise, safety, encouragement, education and opportunity. The limbs are illustrative of our many beliefs, values, skills and abilities.  The leaves represent our countless decisions, choices, thoughts and actions.  And the acorns are indicative of our impact - giving new life, making life better for others and making a positive difference. Each individual is unique.

We each have the opportunity to make a unique and mighty impact.

Monday, August 23, 2010


Think of several people you know well. My guess is that there are differing degrees of decisiveness among your list, as is the case with mine.  I have a friend who wants to evaluate all possibilities before making a choice. By contrast, when I find something I like, I am happy to make that choice and move on. 

Sheena Iyengar, a professor at Columbia Business School, has written a book, The Art of Choosing.  I enjoyed her findings about choosing from a presentation that she made:
  • Some decisions are easier when choices are narrowed.
  • We assume that we know what we want, but don't always recognize our preferences.
  • Happiness comes from wanting what we get.
  • We sometimes make choices contrary to our preferences in order to express our individuality. 
  • When we are seduced by too many possibilities, we may avoid making a decision.
I've often said that everyone wants options.  The ability to choose is energizing and liberating.  However, unlimited choice can be paralyzing.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Celebrate Everything!

Our family loves to celebrate.  This motivated me to design and create a multi-faceted counted cross stitch project for Julia. 

Saturday, August 21, 2010


We all filter information based upon our knowledge and experiences.  When we are relaying information from a presentation to others, we often cull the information that we already know and only share new findings or current status.  Because we all view the world so differently, this filtered information may or may not be helpful to others.  Our view of the world can prevent us from seeing the world as others do.  Just as we check the lint filter in the dryer with each use, we should check our own information filters frequently.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Last First

Wednesday morning was quite emotional (for me, not him), as I photographed Gar for the 14th and final first day of school picture at Kinkaid.  He's naturally excited about this amazing year. And, we're excited for him.  I've loved each age and stage of Julia's and Gar's lives, so my heart says that a Southfork experience of continuing to benefit from their daily presence would be fabulous.  My brain knows that our job as parents is to love and guide our children to independence. 

My heart and brain are in agreement that as much as I cherish the present, the future will also be fabulous. Here's to a year of cheers and tears!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

1 in 500

At a small Sterling Bank luncheon yesterday, I was visiting with a young banker and his guest, who is his good friend.  When I asked how they met, they revealed that they had become friends through the singles ministry at First Baptist Church of Houston.  I shared with them that my parents had visited us this past weekend, and as we were driving past First Baptist, Mama mentioned that the granddaughter of one of her dear friends had joined that church because of the large, active singles ministry.  They confirmed that 500 singles participate. When Greg asked for the granddaughter's name, I could only remember her last name and where in Houston she grew up.  He immediately provided her first name.  I'm continually amazed at how connected our small world really is.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Walk, Talk and Negotiate Like a CEO

Linda Swindling's tremendously beneficial presentation, "Walk, Talk and Negotiate Like a CEO" at Sterling Bank’s Women’s Business Initiative Luncheon in Dallas last week provided tips to help increase executive presence, power and position. Linda’s high energy, action-oriented recommendations were augmented with her special Passport to Success gift for each attendee.

Knowledge is the common denominator. And knowledge is expanded by asking great questions. We must know:

· how we are perceived
· what both parties to a negotiation consider success
· that continuous learning and shared information are essential

One of the keys to achieving executive presence is to know how we appear to others. Linda challenged everyone to note two words that describe how others see us. The next step is to ask others to describe us in two words. When we are surprised by the way that others view us, we have the choice to adopt that description or adapt our behavior to warrant a different descriptor.

Masterful negotiating requires understanding not only what we want, but also what the other party wants. When we can offer things that cost us little but are valued greatly by the other party, we both win. Differentiating between items that are essential and optional and investing more people in the deal can lead to improved negotiation outcomes.

Our position is improved when we become a “potted plant”. Contrary to the passive image the words convey, healthy, human potted plants continually absorb information and grow. Time is a CEO’s most precious resource. Ready access to valuable information maximizes productivity.

In addition to demonstrating executive presence, power and position, we need to ask for what we want. Others are not mind readers, but many are quite willing to be helpful when approached graciously and professionally with a request. We’re so fortunate that Linda said, “Yes” when we asked her to help us “Walk, Talk and Negotiate Like a CEO”.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Monday, August 16, 2010

What Time is It?

I had intended to set my alarm clock for 5:20 a.m. to be able to leave for the airport by 6:30.  I hopped out of bed as the alarm rang, expecting plenty of time for my morning routine.  Things had to accelerate when I realized it was actually 6:00 a.m. Though I made the necessary adjustments to make the flight, I puzzled all day how I could have mis-set my alarm clock for the first time ever. 

The mystery was finally solved as I was setting the alarm for the next day's activities.  The alarm had been properly set.  However the actual time displayed on the clock was off by 40 minutes.  That clock is only used as an alarm, not for checking time. 

My near miss of an important business obligation reminded me that when tackling anything important, making assumptions is risky.  Accurately assessing the starting point is critical in order to take the necessary steps to smoothly proceed.  And, this was another vivid reminder that by allowing more time than expected to complete a task, unexpected contingencies can be accommodated.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Mentors and Mentees

Sterling Bank recently hosted our 2nd annual Mentor/Mentee Celebration.  It was exciting to see the mentor's and mentee's eager anticipation as the pairings were announced.  The beauty of this program is that both parties benefit.  Mentors get to share their knowledge, experience, successes and advise with those who are anxious to learn what they have to impart.  Who doesn't like the opportunity to be a helpful expert?  And the mentees get to share their fresh perspectives and technological expertise with those who are appreciative of a different point of view. It's great to have innovative initiatives that yield personal and professional benefits to all who are involved.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Mimi's Sporty Car

My dear mother-in-law drove a delightful, sporty baby blue 1967 Mercedes 230SL.  She died nearly 18 years ago.  Imagine the surprise when Mimi's car arrived at our niece's garage sale this past weekend.  It still appropriately bears its Rice sticker, as the current owner is a recent Rice graduate.  Shared photos of this classic vehicle brought much joy and remembrance.  Everything truly is connected.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Shared Sense of Urgency

Delivery companies and many retail establishments are willing to act on our sense of urgency when we are willing to pay a quick delivery premium or expedite charge. Each party has clearly defined expectations. In order to get others to share our sense of urgency, we need to give them a reason, financial or other, to want to meet our expected timeline. In our personal relationships, it often only takes clearly communicating when we want or need something done.

In other cases, we must realize that our time-sensitivity doesn’t necessarily mean a lot to others who have no way to benefit from our desire to be served quickly. Hospital emergency rooms share our sense of urgency only when we present a true medical emergency. Because so many patients present non-medically urgent conditions, appropriate care is delivered based upon the hospital’s timeline. And, it doesn’t matter to the other passengers in the airport security line that we’re cutting it close to make our flight. They all have planes to catch as well.

When time is of the essence to us, we must create a shared sense of urgency with others.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

When Fine Isn't

In many contexts, “fine” is an indication of a superior product: fine food, wine, linens, china, crystal and jewelry. How odd that this word gets so badly distorted in conversation. This one word answer, to the question, “How are you doing?”, often means the person responding is far from fine. When curtly or unenthusiastically delivered, it can be evasive, meaning “I’m upset” or “I just don’t want to talk about it” or “I don’t think you really want to know”.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Deadlines Drive Completion

There's nothing like a due date to motivate action.  Vague time frames for any project provide the opportunity for other time sensitive, or more exciting activities, to push the project without a deadline further and further into the future.  Structure is necessary to prioritize activities leading to completion.  It's easy to respect externally imposed deadlines.  Where many of us falter is setting our own expected deadlines for important projects that don't have outside accountability.  For anything we consider important, setting a deadline is critical.  When we know our expected completion date, it motivates us to activate a timeline. Deadlines keep days from turning into weeks, months or years without completion.  

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Ultimate Control

We can choose to be victims or take control of many elements of our destiny.  I'd written in an earlier post that I can control my thoughts, actions, attitude and reactions.  I've expanded my list to include appearance, approachability, demeanor, energy level, gratitude, outlook, behavior and outreach.  Everyone likes options.  When things aren't progressing as we'd like, we can get bogged down in focusing on the things that we can't control.  Remembering that there are a dozen things that we can control can change the dynamics of the situation.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Under One Roof

It is always exciting when our family is together, even if it is briefly.  Julia's flight arrived in the wee hours just in time to be among the first to wish Edgar a very happy birthday.  Gar's flight is scheduled to depart less than 36 hours later.  The clock is ticking so I'm anxious for everyone to rise and shine.  Short windows of opportunity remind us to seize and treasure special moments.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

How Many Ways Can We Get Around?

We often limit our views.  Typically when we think of mobility, our list is pretty sparse. When I challenged myself to consider 50 ways to get around, I quickly assembled the following list.  What are other ways to get where we want or need to be?

1. Car
2. Truck
3. SUV
4. Airplane
5. Bus
6. Subway
7. Train
8. Horse
9. Motorcycle
10. Bicycle
11. Tricycle
12. Dune Buggy
13. ATV
14. Sailboat
15. Powerboat
16. Hot air balloon
17. Snow Mobile
18. Wagon
19. Rollerblades
20. Feet
21. Wheelchair
22. Escalator
23. Elevator
24. Shoulders
25. Arms
26. Rolling sidewalk
27. Corporate ladder
28. Rollercoaster
29. Tractor
30. 18-wheeler
31. Tanker
32. Tank
33. Scooter
34. Grocery cart
35. Glider
36. Space rocket
37. Memories
38. Books
39. Dinghy
40. Lifeboat
41. Cruise liner
42. Helicopter
43. Skate board
44. Camel
45. Monorail
46. Swimming
47. Taxi
48. Vanpool
49. Submarine
50. Dogsled

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Social Media Portfolio

Social media is a wonderful way to connect, reconnect and stay connected.  These platforms allow us amazing tools to critically assess, analyze and categorize our connections.  I embrace social media tools, platforms and advantages.  But, I'm a SM moderate.  I don't connect with everyone who knows someone I know.  Though I'm blessed to have many friends, associates and acquaintances, my lists will pale when compared to uber or open networkers.  That's by design.  I hope that my networks will self-sustain.  I want to stay connected with the folks with whom I've chosen to link or friend.   And I love to make other fruitful connections.

As with any asset, we need to review our SM portfolio and make necessary additions, changes and modifications.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Last Word

It's so tempting to offer the last word in a discussion.  We want to be right.  We want to be smart.  We want to be in control. 

Often, just as in church, the last word, should be amen.  When the conversation has yielded a result that all can comfortably accept, we should shake hands and happily walk away with a resolution to our project or issue. 

Sometimes being right, smart and in control is knowing when to say amen.

Thursday, August 5, 2010


"Why? is the favorite question of young children.  They are information sponges. By continuously asking, they gain incredible knowledge.  When we're stuck, we need to once again become childlike, querying ourselves and all those around us.  Children are naturally continuous learners.  As adults, we need to regress to childhood curiosity in order to progress in our thinking, outlook, perspectives and possibilities.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

No Boots on the Dock

Individuality is definitely a proud Texas characteristic.  I observed an extreme example of misplaced individuality last weekend.  We were fueling at a popular marina and watched two people shed their cowboy boots to enter a high dollar, air conditioned salon sport fishing boat.

Appropriate boat footwear includes:
  • Barefoot
  • Boat shoes
  • Non Black Sole Marking Sandals
The boots came off as they entered and were quickly reclaimed at the dock. 

Boating, much like the corporate climate, requires dressing for the occasion.  When boats are involved, don't even bring boots to the dock.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Close only Counts in Horseshoes

Whether we're selling, traveling, fishing or sewing, close isn't good enough. Close only counts in horseshoes.  The fish that we don't land never make it to a photo or dinner plate.  Regardless of how hard we try to make it to the airport on time, the plane will leave as scheduled whether we're on it or not.  And when we're selling, negotiations that fall apart won't benefit our paycheck.  Regardless of the thousands of stitches completed in a needlework project, if we're missing the final 12" of thread needed to complete the project, it remains a work in progress. When something matters to us, we must commit to do what it takes to get what we want.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Being Nominated is Winning

A friend made my day last week, when she told me that she wanted to nominate me for an award.  Regardless of the outcome of the nomination, she made me feel like a winner because she saw me as deserving of this recognition.  Each time we nominate a deserving candidate, we have bestowed valuable recognition to the recipient.  Winning is great, but being considered a winner by someone you respect is pretty awesome too.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Annual Exams

Annual anxiety-laden exams are part of life at every education level.  Many business professionals would contend that annual performance appraisals continue this exam tradition.  And we need an annual health exam to maintain optimal health.

Each annual exam provides a chance to assess how we are doing.  When we are feeling extremely confident about our performance, we are eager to be assessed.  However, we most need this constructive feedback when we are not meeting expectations.

Annual exams are a minimum frequency expectation.  We need to continually assess how we are doing.