Thursday, March 31, 2011

Role Models in the Halls

Yesterday I had the chance to spend 10 unexpected minutes with the CEO of a major publicly traded corporation.  He was gracious, engaged and seemingly unaware of his other back-to-back appointments.  While we were visiting, it was as if ours was one of the many important appointments he had scheduled during the day. 

I often feel that I am racing from one appointment to another, happy to arrive on time to each. This CEO, who took the time to totally engage in a meaningful conversation in the midst of a crazy, busy schedule, has unintentionally served as a role model.  The role model lesson I learned was when golden opportunities arise, don't rush past the potential experience.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

U-Turns in Life

Last night after Gar's winning lacrosse game, I chose to take him to his car at school rather than have him ride the bus back.  As we approached a burger joint that I'd never enjoyed, Gar remarked about how good it was, and asked if I'd been there.  We discussed stopping, but he wavered, partly because it was in such close proximity to the opponent school.  As we passed it, and he continued to remark about the yummy factor, I said that I wished that he'd committed sooner.  With the unencumbered wisdom of a high school student, he mentioned that we had a perfectly good U-Turn ahead. 

Our U-Turn yielded a delicious bison burger and delightful visit.  And the experience reminded me that even if we are on a good path, we may need to consider U-Turns that lead to even better experiences, or at least most enjoyable side trips.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Last Friday I received one of 1 million messages sent by Reid Hoffman, Co-Founder and Chairman of LinkedIn, to the first million LinkedIn subscribers.  He was announcing an amazing milestone: 100 million subscribers.  LinkedIn is a robust, useful business tool and I was delighted to learn from his message that I was among the first half million users. 

Monday, March 28, 2011

Proximity Matters

Standing in the security line at Hobby Airport this morning, I felt a tap on my shoulder.  A dear friend was just behind me in line.  We were both early for our flights and I got to hear about her fabulous trip to China that she'd recently completed, the trip to Denver for a special conference to share best practices that she was making today, and her daughter's new school record in the pole vault at Texas A&M. 

This afternoon, soon after I arrived at the gate for Southwest's 5:00 p.m. flight to Houston, another special friend sat beside me.  Our daughters have been friends since pre-K and our families have been friends forever.  This was the perfect chance to catch up on graduations (3), jobs (5), wedding (1),  half-marathons (2)...

Both of these friends are as busy as I am.  If we'd tried to schedule this priceless time together, we would have had to plan far in advance or face extreme difficulty.
But, since everything's connected, we benefited from being in the right place, at the right time, with many friends to see.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Influencer by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, David Maxfield, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler

In Influencer - The Power to Change Anything, the authors provide six sources of influence:
  1. Make the undesirable desirable -  Most people are not good at predicting their own likes and dislikes, so sometimes simply getting them to try a new behavior will lead to enjoyment.  Another option is to make it a game with clear, frequent feedback to lead to a sense of accomplishment.
  2. Surpass your limits - Relentlessly practice the essential elements of the skill.
  3. Harness peer pressure - the approval and disapproval of those in our network can make an enormous difference, particularly the influence of opinion leaders.
  4. Find strength in numbers - groups working together are often smarter than any extremely bright individual.
  5. Design rewards and demand accountability - the rewards need to be gratifying to the recipient, closely tied to the behavior desired and delivered timely.
  6. Change the environment - often this can be accomplished by making the invisible visible.  A hospital dramatically decreased the cost of the latex gloves being used, by highlighting for all to see, the cost of each glove option - $3 v. 25 cents.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Inspiring Women

It was delightful to see Women's Enterprise magazine positively portray our Sterling Bank Women's Business Initiative in an article by Suzanne Squyres.

Friday, March 25, 2011

No Exceptions

I saw a bumper sticker yesterday that really stuck with me:

God Bless the World
No Exceptions

It made me realize how insular we can become.  And it also reminded me that indeed, everything is connected.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Look for the Best

It's easy to find fault and complain, but it creates a downward spiral.  A better, more productive approach is to look for something positive, redeeming or unique about the situation, process or person.  This allows us to positively redirect our energy and possibly gain a new perspective.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Share Your Talents

We all have different skills and abilities.  Not only can we impart knowledge when we teach others to do something, we improve our own skills when we dissect the process.  Elite athletes never forget to practice doing the basics well.  We can apply this lesson from them to other important skills.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Break for Spring

A lot of southern U.S. schools have spring break this week.  Cheers for them! As of yesterday, we are 20% through the calendar year.  Seems like a good time for everyone who can to take at least a day to celebrate the ending of winter and the beginning of spring.  And this is another chance for a fresh start for those who haven't honored new year's resolutions as faithfully as anticipated.  Plus, it's a good time to clear our mental cobwebs as we tackle the physical ones.

I'm breaking for spring.  Back to blogging on Monday.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Helping Texans Prosper for 37 Years

Sterling Bank was founded in 1974 and has been helping Texans prosper for 37 years.  As the merger with Comerica progresses, I found 37 Sterling Bank lapel pins which will no longer be needed and used them to illustrate this chapter of our history.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Uncanny Timing

I placed a call this morning to a family friend and had to leave a message.  A few minutes later I received an email message from someone by the same name.  My first thought, as I previewed the message, was that I'd gotten an email response to my voice message. Not so -  I didn't actually know the sender of the email.  I just googled my friend's name and got 3.88 million hits, and another search revealed that his is the 17th most common surname.  Oddly enough, I've never called this friend nor received an email message from this stranger before.  Though there are a lot of folks by this name, I find it amazing that I initiated a call to one of them and received a call from another within minutes.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Reply to All?

We continually hear horror stories of friends and colleagues who have inadvertently hit "reply all" when the intended response was a reply to the sender.  When I am sending to a large group, I put my own email in the "to" line and put my recipients in the "bcc" line.  This is not only a courtesy to not reveal the recipients, but also an insurance policy against unfortunate replies to all recipients.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Great Shot!

Years ago, Edgar and one of our dear friends were hunting geese in a swamp.  They'd endured a long hunt with no action when a goose flew by.  Both hunters enthusiastically fired upon this creature, far away.  Ever competitive, it was the ultimate winning retort when Edgar proclaimed to our friend, "Great Shot!".

As this incident indicates winning is contextual.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Joy of Reading

I love to read!  Always have loved reading!  Vividly remember devouring Nancy Drew mysteries and loved the fact that Mama had also enjoyed these books.  Even during the frantic law school years, I'd make time to read Jeffrey Archer's or John Grisham's newest release.  Much of my reading is business related and I love the continuous learning aspect.  But it's always a joy, to find a great novel. 

I've just finished Peace Like a River by Leif Enger and loved it.  However, I must confess that it was an accidental selection.  This was a novel that Julia left behind.  I took it to the exercise room a couple of years ago.  After reading a few pages, I abandoned the book and inserted business books while exercising.  As luck and fate would have it, this novel found me this week. It is a delightful story of family, faith, love, miracles and loyalty.

Though life is always super busy, I've remembered that finding time to read is one of life's best stress relievers.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Is the Steak as Good as the Sizzle?

A foodie friend and I were comparing notes on great steaks and I highly recommended the truffled filet at Tony's.  When he told me that he and his wife had made reservations I couldn't wait to find out if his experience matched my recommendation.  Fortunately, it did.  When we put our reputations on the line to encourage others to buy a product or service, hire someone or endorse a candidate for a position, we need to remember that the steak needs to be as good as the sizzle. 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Stranger in our House

Okay, we don't really have a stranger in the house, because she quickly became a friend!  A friend and neighbor asked if their niece could stay with us for her spring break job shadowing trip.  We were delighted to accommodate this young woman we'd never met because she was part of a friend's family.  Of course if this same individual had approached us on her own, without the connection, we would have declined.  She's a delightful young woman and we're pleased that she's become a new friend.

I love this beautiful illustration of asking for what you want and need from those with whom you have a great relationship.  When we're open to possibilities, strangers become friends and relationships are strengthened by shared experiences.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Flash Foresight by Daniel Burrus with John David Mann

In Flash Foresight - How to See the Invisible and Do the Impossible by Daniel Burrus with John David Mann the authors provide terrific examples and describe in detail seven flash foresight triggers:
  • Start with certainty - analyze hard trends to know what is coming
  • Anticipate - base your strategies on what you know about the future
  • Transform - accept technology-driven change and use it to advantage
  • Take your biggest problem and skip it - focus clearly on your real v. perceived problem
  • Go opposite - carefully examine what everyone else is doing and do what no one else is doing
  • Redefine and reinvent - ask how can I redefine how we compete on various variables such as price, reputation, image, service, quality, design, speed, customer experience, innovation, knowledge
  • Direct your future - allocate time each week to unplug from the present and explore your visible future

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Make Me Look Good

A friend and I attended a business function last evening.  When the photographer asked to take our photo, my friend asked specifically that the photographer make her look smaller.  This astute photographer was eager to deliver great customer service and took 3 photographs staged differently to ensure that my friend was pleased. 

Not only do I love stories of great service, this story highlighted a universal need.  We all want to be positively perceived in our endeavors.  When we look for opportunities to make others look good, we all win.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Speak My Language

I'm email-centric.  It is a communications channel that has served me well for years.  I resisted texting for far too long because I could not see the difference between text and email messages. I saw it only from my point of view that both messages contain written content.  I benefit most from email messages because I receive them instantaneously at my desk top computer when I'm in the office and simultaneously on my Blackberry when I'm away.  Since I only receive text messages on my Blackberry (and not on my desk top), I miss the texting immediacy that the rest of my family experiences since their iPhones serve as their primary communications devices.  Once I realized that all that really matters is how I can most easily access my loved ones, I embraced texting. 

When we want to be heard by others, we must speak their language.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

How to Resolve an Impossible Dilemma

How can we resolve an impossible dilemma?  Both of our precious angel children are graduating the same weekend 1400 miles apart.  We know all of the typical resolutions.  Our family is very close and ideally all four of us would be at both graduations.  Short of flipping a coin, what is the best way to honor everyone's accomplishments?

Winners are Winners Regardless of the Score

There's nothing like high school sports to remind us that winning is about far more than the score.  Obviously, it's much more fun to win.  No matter what the scoreboard indicates, every player who gives his or her  personal best, while embracing true sportsmanship and supporting his or her team mates is a winner.  Learning to compete fairly and support our team with our best effort will serve us well throughout life.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Building a Business with Win-Win Dialogues

Patricia Adams,  President of Zeitgeist Wellness Group, has grown her business from a single San Antonio location to a national presence, operating in all 50 states and the U.S. territories.  This energetic woman is a licensed marriage and family therapist and the author of ABCs of Change - Three Building Blocks to Happy Relationships, who shared her advice and success at our March Sterling Bank Women's Business Initiative luncheon

The expansion of Patricia's business had an unlikely beginning.  The attorney she was leasing space from notified her that she'd have to move from the building to accommodate his expanding practice.  Negotiating her relocation created a win-win dialogue and caused her to change her business model from one of direct service to a network of providers and services.

She advises using an inverted triangle as an organizational building block.  Creating a large base of smart associates allows us to do things differently, including effectively balancing working "in" our businesses and "on" our businesses.  And to foster win-win dialogues we must take care of those who take care of us.

Patricia has taken mentoring extremely seriously, creating an incubation model which includes office space and funding in addition to providing business advice.

She reminds us that win-win dialogues result from the words we use and the stances that we take in helping others achieve their goals.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Two Negatives Make a Positive

Yesterday a lunch meeting that I'd scheduled a month ago canceled (first negative).  Rather than taking this found time to grab a salad from Grace's deli in the building and work through lunch, I sent a message to 3 colleagues asking if they were available for a spontaneous lunch.  They all responded instantaneously and two were available. 

Just after we'd ordered lunch, our previously unavailable colleague arrived because her lunch appointment also canceled (second negative).  The two of us, who had the canceled engagements, immediately caught up with a recent career change that a mutual friend outside the company had made.  This led to an admission from my friend that this was the kind of opportunity that she would love to have.  I mentioned a similiar opportunity that I knew about at another organization that my colleague considered perfect (positive). 

I had not mentioned the job to my friend because she had not previously expressed an interest in this area.  As a result of a lunch meeting that overcame multiple obstacles to occur, a talented friend and organization that I admire have the opportunity to connect.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Controlling the Controllables

As I've previously mentioned, Sterling Bank is being acquired by Comerica.  The merger is terrific for shareholders and customers.  Employees are understandably reacting to this major change in a variety of ways.  Many of us quickly embraced the change and others are struggling with the uncertainty. Even when there isn't a change as significant as this one, things are constantly changing in our personal and professional lives.  And there are always varying degrees of comfort in dealing with change.  Exercising higher degrees of flexibility and risk tolerance can smooth the transitions that change brings.  When we look beyond the comfort of our known environment we can begin to focus on controlling the controllables.

Things we can control include:
  • attitude
  • emotions
  • approach
  • reaction
  • sense of humor
  • patience
  • productivity
It's reassuring to remember that there are many elements of change that are totally within our control.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

There is No Practice Test in the Business World

It is a vivid wake-up call for many new hires to realize that the business world doesn't have practice tests.  Every day at work is a test of sorts. Once hired, it is expected that we will perform the job that we were hired to do.  Though there are no official retests in business, our best option, if we make a mistake, is to admit it to our boss, state what we've learned from the mistake and adapt steps/procedures to avoid future problems.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Games We Play

As parents we can become so engaged in the games our children play that we can lose sight of the games we play.  Adult games are great when we enjoy them, build skills, compete, create camaraderie, relieve stress, entertain ourselves and others, engage in new relationships and/or strengthen friendships.