Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween

This great site allows you to be enormously creative in carving pumpkins, with absolutely no mess.
Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Too Much To Do

I'm trying to cram another year's worth of activities into the 4th quarter, including making plans for 2011.  The first month of the quarter zoomed by, filled to the brim.  The process is made more challenging as new opportunities arise daily to be added to my already overflowing schedule. 

When I have too much to do, it is essential to take time to capture all the projects in one visible document.  This eliminates one source of anxiety, the fear that I've forgotten about a smaller but important project.  Mental milestones allow me to realize that the overly frantic pace is temporary.  And taking a few moments to relish successes keeps my energy flowing.

Friday, October 29, 2010

When Tragedy Strikes

When tragedy strikes, follow your instincts. No one has a script.  If you think you should visit or call...DO!  We received the unthinkable call last night that dear friends' precious son had been murdered in a home invasion.  We could have waited to give them family privacy, but we followed our hearts and instincts and appeared spontaneously to provide hugs.  Absolutely right decision!  

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Out of Our Element

One of our new, unique Sterling Bank "fun"draising projects for March of Dimes was "Dress an Executive for Halloween".  I had 10 other willing senior executives who agreed with me to be bid upon for dressing rights. Our teams were tame, and only three chose to bid.  Each of these teams chose to dress their own senior executive.  Since I was not an executive to be dressed, I rallied my other "non-chosen" colleagues to donate to dress our willing CEO. 

We "mummified" our CEO, discovered that our Operations EVP is a "hot dog", realized from our HR "flapper" EVP that there's a lighter side to work and ascertained that our Specialty Banking and Investments EVP will step way out of his comfort zone to make a great impression.

When we're willing to be vulnerable, we often make great connections and memories.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Why Aren't You Smiling?

I've had the opportunity to stand in many airport security lines and have become puzzled by the fact that very few people are smiling.  Most travelers are visiting loved ones, taking care of business or returning home after a trip.  Anticipation of a great visit, successful business meeting and homecoming are all reasons to smile.  Gratitude for love in my life and an exciting job brings a smile to my face.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

What's in Your Glass?

My attitude is generally very positive because my glass is overflowing with gratitude. I recently did a gratitude exercise with a negative friend whose glass has barely anything in it.  We set a timer for the exercise, and reset it each time something negative was said.  After a few timer resets, my friend struggled to list a few important reasons to be grateful.  My assistance was then requested to propose items to add to the list.  Though many obvious areas of gratitude were rejected, several additional important ones were added.

Our thinking, positive and negative, directs our actions, attitudes, interactions and impacts.  A gratitude list provides a tangible way to focus on possibilities rather than problems. 

Monday, October 25, 2010

Most Frequently Mispronounced Words and Phrases has compiled a list of the 100 most commonly mispronounced words and phrases in the English language.  A review of the list reveals incorrectly added and missing syllables, common misspellings, transposition of letters, and substitution of familiar words to form humorous phrases.  In the case of the phrases, it appears that the mispronunciations are the result of hearing but not seeing them written.  I still vividly remember as I was growing up thinking what an odd name "Hollow Notes" was for a pop duo.  It made much more sense to me when I learned that the group was actually "Hall & Oates".

Sunday, October 24, 2010


We are all hunting for the best, whether it is happiness, a date, mate, friend, meal, deal, acquisition, kill (traditional hunting), gift, vacation, job, school, service provider, entertainment, book, opening line or meaning.

People generally like to provide advice.  When we are able to articulate what we are hunting, we'll usually find others who are willing to help us identify what they think is the best available. Everything's connected in the search for the best.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Self Awareness

Wouldn't it be great if we could observe ourselves as others see us?  We are often unaware of things that we routinely do that negatively impact our image including:
  • Failing to make eye contact
  • Fidgeting
  • Slumping
  • Frowning
  • Sighing
  • Talking too much
  • Allowing technology to interrupt live conversations
  • Closed body language
These tendencies are easy to address when we become aware that they are barriers to achieving our highest effectiveness.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Two Speeds

It's not easy to admit that we're not good at something. I'm not good at just sitting idly.  Obviously I can sit and visit, participate in a meeting, work on the computer, drive or read.  Perhaps it's because I only have two speeds: on and asleep.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Funding Classroom Projects

For anyone with a desire to help fund projects in individual public school classrooms, provides an easy way to select from thousands of teacher requests. is an award-winning online charity that presents public school teachers' classroom project funding requests from across the U.S.  Small gifts really make a difference because the site pools donor funds to make individual classroom dreams a reality.   It's easy to search for projects by location. And the projects are incredibly diverse, allowing incredible donor flexibility.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I'm Not in Charge

I'm accustomed to being in charge.  Julia planned a fabulous D.C. weekend chocked full of wonderful activities.  My only role was to show up and enjoy the fun of being with Julia.  I was not in charge and I loved it! 

Our ordinary way of being is not our only way of being.  Flexibly adopting appropriate varying roles is a good thing.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Keep the Wheels Turning

Our guess is that it had been 10 years since I'd been on a non-stationery bike, but it never dawned on me that riding through D.C. would pose any challenge.  After the first 3 challenging minutes, when I wobbled on my bike and nearly caused a traffic jam, riding a bike was as natural, though not as easy, as it had been in my youth. 

When I was young, I remember riding 100 bike laps around our home.  It was no exercise or health challenge, but another personal test that I concocted. 

Fortunately, Julia didn't reveal to me that we'd be riding off and on for 6 hours when we began our adventure.  I didn't ask, and she didn't tell what route we'd complete.  My wheels kept turning, enjoying each precious moment with my dear child. 

Life beautifully unfolds when we seize special opportunities to keep literal and figurative wheels turning.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Stress Buster

It is easy to focus on what is missing from our lives. Stress is often the result of too much to do with too little time or too few resources.   When I recognize how thankful I am for abundant opportunities my attitude of gratitude is an instant stress buster.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


Ideally spending time with family and friends provides threefold enjoyment - anticipation, experiences and memories. Such was the case with my wonderful trip to D.C. this weekend to visit Julia. We short-change ourselves when we fail to savor all three aspects.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Charity Fundraising Ideas for Companies

Sterling Bank supports many deserving non-profits in our focus areas through direct contributions and volunteer hours.  Much of our employee fundraising involvement in Houston and Dallas is committed to March of Dimes.  In San Antonio, our bankers raise funds for United Way. 
Employee fundraising ideas that we've successfully implemented include:
  • Meals and snacks of every variety
  • Bake Sales
  • Chocolate Sales
  • Sending Singing Pink Flamingos Office-to-Office
  • FunFests with Children's Activities, Camel Rides and Music
  • Water Balloon Toss to Douse Your Favorite Managers
  • Rent-a-Manager for a Day
  • Rent-a-Team for a Half-Day
  • Silent Auctions
  • Children's Art Calendar
  • Selling March of Dims Labeled Products including bears and bracelets
  • Jeans for Babies
  • Pumpkins or Booties for Babies
  • Garage Sale
  • Change Wars
  • Cutest Pet Contest
  • Extra Vacation Day Auction
We would love to know of other office friendly, low cost and easily executed charity fundraising ideas.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

No Hassle Driver License Renewal

Friends recently shared horror stories of waiting 4 hours to renew their driver licenses.  My notice arrived this past weekend alerting me that no online or mail-in option (truly no hassle) was available for this renewal.  I wasn't looking forward to spending a big chunk of time on this necessary chore. After discovering that early renewals are available, I checked to see if the Department of Public Safety offices were open on Columbus Day.  Yes!  Everything worked perfectly.  I walked into the DPS office at 3:00 p.m. and exited with my temporary license just 40 minutes later. 

Pending deadlines typically drive my actions.  Seizing the first available block of time after receiving my notice, to tackle this dreaded task, saved me time and eliminated weeks of negative anticipatory stress. 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Destination Walking

The health benefits of walking should be motivation enough to get me moving now that it is too cold to swim.  Even though I know what I should do, executing an alternate exercise program isn't as easy for me as I'd like.  It struck me yesterday that destination walking fills my need to multi-task and allows me to be a little greener.  Day one worked well with my trip to the post office.  Fortunately our neighborhood has many places that I need to frequent within walking distance. 

Monday, October 11, 2010

24 Hours

I have 24 hours before I need to get ready for work tomorrow.  My list of things to accomplish is long, but somehow visualizing this concrete time line motivates me.  We use appointments and deadlines every day at work.  By creating a schedule for today's tasks, I'm feeling more hopeful already.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Life-Size Greetings

There's nothing like spending time with loved ones on special occasions.  College schedules interfere with Julia's late August birthday.  It caused me great angst her freshman year that we wouldn't get to be with her on her actual birthday.  We traced our outlines to make and decorate life-size cutouts of ourselves.  When she opened her one-of-a-kind birthday greeting she was instantly surrounded by those who love her dearly.

Saturday, October 9, 2010


I've received so many lovely acknowledgements for my recent promotion.  It's always meaningful to the recipient when others take the time and effort to recognize our special moments or milestones.  It's easy to get caught up in all the tasks that we're juggling, but it only takes a couple of minutes to pen a congratulatory email message.  Because we're all so busy, many paths are littered with well-intended, but unsent affirming notes.  Taking positive action to recognize others helps strengthen relationships.  I've never regretted sending an encouraging note.  The only notes I've ever regretted are those that I didn't take time to pen and send.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Hot Potamus Pickles

Twenty years ago we made and packaged spicy pickles as Christmas goodies.  Our cute purple hippopotamus labels alerted the recipients that these were "Hot Potamus Pickles".  A special friend made my day by sharing that her family still enjoys that recipe.  Her younger sister just requested the recipe so that she, too, can make them as holiday treats for her friends.

It's always a day brightener when we are able to share a nicety from years past that continues to send positive ripples into our ever widening networks.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Oops! Did I Say That?

There's nothing like having a young child to make you vividly aware of what you say.  I'll admit that I have a tendency to communicate with and comment about other drivers when I'm behind the wheel.  My communications are generally gestures to allow them to enter my lane, ask them if I may enter theirs or thank them for allowing me to move to their lane  My comments, which they never hear, are not always as friendly, generally questioning their motive or intellect, when they've cut me off or nearly caused an accident.  I was not conscious of my venting comments until I heard them repeated from Julia's car seat behind me, "Idiot! Jerk!" 

We don't always have a feedback mechanism that's as direct as Julia provided me, so we need to be self-aware of the messages we are conveying.  Positive, supportive, helpful, instructive, motivating and empathetic are the patterns I choose to find in my communications.  Julia's backseat color commentary from so many years ago provides my reminder that others are listening.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

2 in 24 Million

The reality that everything's connected continues.  I was a guest at a luncheon yesterday, assigned a seat by my host, next to someone I'd not previously met.  In the course of conversation, we determined that he and my husband both attended the same prestigious prep school in New Hampshire - Phillips Exeter Academy.  And, as he relayed to my seatmate how he'd met his wife, we discovered that my seatmate and I both knew the two families he mentioned in San Antonio.  There are nearly 24 million Texans, with 6 million in Houston and 2 million in San Antonio.  Two hundred miles separate these major metropolitan areas.  It amazes me with these odds that 2 attendees in 800 would have a strong connection to a northeast school 1900 miles from Houston and know the same 2 families among 2 million residents 200 miles away.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Rules to Break & Laws to Follow by Don Peppers and Martha Rogers, PhD

In their instructive book,  Rules to Break & Laws to FollowHow Your Business Can Beat the Crisis of Short-Termism,  Don Peppers and Martha Rogers, PhD share their helpful research.

Many predictions are based upon totally false assumptions – use of cars worldwide would be limited to number of chauffeurs; telephones limited by human operators making connections – blinded by current business model

Rules to Break:
  1. Best measure of success is current sales and profit
  2. With right sales and marketing effort, you can always get more customers
  3. Company value is created by offering differentiated products and services
12 Laws to Follow:
  1. Long-term value is as important as current sales and profit. (Examine most resented fees. A $100 customer who has been with the company for 10 years has generated $12,000 in revenue and is likely to generate twice that much if loyal for another 20 years.)
  2. Create the most possible value from the customers and prospects available to you. (Not all associates sell the organizations whole range of products to their assigned customer.)
  3. Earn and keep the trust of your customers. (Treat the customer the way you would want to be treated.)
  4. Treat each customer with the fairness you would want if you were that customer. (Respect customer’s interest; don’t just sell the product being promoted.)
  5. To earn your customers’ trust, first earn your employees’ trust.
  6. With no customer equity you will have no future earnings. (Create a good enough experience that customers keep buying.)
  7. Culture will drive value or drag value. (Front-line employee is the company to the customer. Culture is what employees do when no one is looking.)
  8. If being fair to customers conflicts with company’s financial goals, fix the business model.
  9. Always use technology to create more trust. (Use technology to improve the customer’s life and you’ll probably sell more products.)
  10. Customers may forgive honest mistakes but they will never forgive dishonesty. (Customer trust can be destroyed all at once or with a thousand small demonstrations of incompetence.)
  11. Success requires constant innovation. (Encourage creativity.)
  12. Dissent and diversity drive creativity and innovation. (A group of only experts tend not to make best decisions because they are less likely to investigate alternatives. Don’t succumb to groupthink.)

Monday, October 4, 2010

It Takes Practice

It took a lot of practice to hone important skills that we use daily - reading, writing, math and interpersonal interactions.  It takes consistency to hone our interpersonal skills.  And continually absorbing new information and creating additional levels of expertise differentiates true leaders. 

We didn't learn to read Shakespeare in pre-k.

We didn't learn how to lead a company in our first corporate years.

When we were developing basic skills as a child, parents and teachers emphasized the importance and held us accountable.  As adults it is up to us to stretch ourselves for continued growth and relevancy. 

Sunday, October 3, 2010

$3000 Pen

After signing our luncheon check, my friend gave me the $3000 pen she'd just used.  It looked like a 99 cent retractable promotional pen to me.  However, she'd received it from her health challenged dog's vet. 

Though this is an extreme example of a value mismatch, there are many examples of items with sentimental value or those received as special recognition objects that are far more meaningful than the cost originally paid.  And think about what we are willing to pay for services rendered for skills that we don't possess, but are easy for an expert in a particular field to provide. 

In any successful negotiation we need to understand the value each party attributes to various aspects of the deal.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Speak Like a CEO by Suzanne Bates

I read Speak Like a CEO by Suzanne Bates and wanted to share some of her excellent advice.

Bates Communications received 293 responses to a 2004 survey on ten dimensions of leadership.  The leadership value system articulated by the respondents included:
  1. Honesty/Integrity in business and personal interactions.
  2. Vision – have it, articulate it and inspire action.
  3. Listening – approachable, open to suggestions, and flexible
  4. Giving feedback – give credit publicly for jobs well done; regular constructive feedback, not once a year.
  5. Emotional intelligence – communicate empathy and compassion, treat people well, and relate to them on a human level. Have a positive attitude, remain calm under pressure and demonstrate passion and commitment for the work.  Show appreciation for those who make things happen.
  6. Clarity
  7. Knowledge and Intelligence – smart in every sense of the word.
  8. Managerial skills – delegate and allocate resources for greatest effectiveness and efficiency.
  9. Follow-through
  10. Humility – willing to seek information, ask for advice, take appropriate risks and admit mistakes.

Eight secrets for speaking well:
  1. Talk about big ideas (Gettysburg address, Kennedy’s vision for going to the moon)
  2. Speak in the moment (face questions head on)
  3. Keep it Simple (explain the steps)
  4. Be a Straight Shooter
  5. Be an Optimist
  6. Focus on the Future (In difficult times, we look to leaders for hope.)
  7. Be Real
  8. Stand for Something

Friday, October 1, 2010

Rock to the Top with Dayna Steele

I had the opportunity to hear Dayna Steele and read her book, Rock to the Top – What I Learned about Success from the World’s Greatest Rock Stars.

Tips that she shares include:

Passion + Hard Work = Success
Confidence - Look and act confident, the actual confidence will follow (many rock stars only appear confident)
Quality - Your quality will define your long term reputation (a band is a perfect example of teamwork)
Organization - Organization helps you manage the unexpected (guitar strings break and tour buses break down)
Technology - Embrace and learn new technologies (rock shows would be pretty boring without technology)
Branding - Have a one sentence description for what you do (rock bands names say it all)
Networking - Friends and family are your most valuable assets (almost every band started this way)
Knowledge – Know a little bit about everything (you create more fans when you have broad interests)
Health – Take care of yourself first (not everyone can be Keith Richards)
Appreciation – Write thank you notes (no one can do it alone)

Even if we are only subject matter "rock stars" in limited realms, we can all adapt Dayna's tips improve our abilities to Rock to the Top.