Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Willpower and Won't Power

Willpower is an oft valued component for achieving our goals.  It is important, helpful and high impact.  However, each of us is motivated somewhat differently.  It struck me, as a dear friend mentioned the limits of willpower, that it might be beneficial to also incorporate won't power.  For instance:

  • Losing weight - willpower - stick to a prescribed diet; won't power - allow the dieter to indicate that she/he won't deviate from the diet more than 2 times per week
  • Increasing Exercise - willpower - implement a well-crafted exercise regimen; won't power- allow the exerciser to indicate that no more that 3 consecutive inactive days will be allowed
Pairing willpower and won't power strikes me as a way to recognize the realities of life's best intentions.  Incremental winning may result rather than giving up because of an unmet goal. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Diversity Dimensions

I became intrigued by Comerica’s Master of Diversity Awareness program as soon as I discovered it, but fully realized its potential when everyone in the Business Bank was asked to engage.  It is encouraging that nine elements of diversity are included in the curriculum, the widely expected areas: age, gender, sexual orientation and culture/ethnicity plus other oft included topics: religion and disability but broadened to also encompass: work/life balance, thinking/personality styles and leveraging diversity for performance enhancement. 
The curriculum is ever expanding and positively evolving with opportunities for all colleagues to recommend options for inclusion.  This ensures that the program will remain fresh and relevant and interestingly, creates the possibility that no two colleagues will experience the same content as different levels of completion are recognized – bronze, silver, gold and platinum. 
In addition to the corporate expectation of program participation, I knew there was an opportunity for continuous learning, which I’ve always embraced, plus the chance to be a role model and advocate for our Houston Comerica colleagues.  There have already been chances to educate colleagues about the importance of including broad experiences, perspectives and points of view.  And I’ve been able to share the variety of elements available, including Academy Award nominated films that provide entertainment value to share with family or friends.
My official diversity training began early in my career and initially focused only on ethnic/cultural differences.  Though the first class was likely over 25 years ago, I vividly remember learning from an African American colleague that diversity is not about color blindness.  Rather it is about actively recognizing, acknowledging and accepting differences.
Thankfully, a gay friend told me early in my career, how difficult it is to fit into a predominantly straight workplace.  Photos of their partners weren’t expected to be displayed in the office, invitations were often extended only to spouses and with so little information available with early cases of AIDS, unfounded fears of exposure existed.   I became sensitive and supportive of these challenges and universally began extending invitations to spouses or significant others.
Though various tools (Myers Briggs, Birkman, DISC, Social Styles Selling Skills) to understand and enhance individual and team performance weren’t then categorized as diversity initiatives, it is clear to me now, that these were critical early efforts to recognize diversity’s ultimate promise.  By best understanding ourselves and others, we have the chance to utilize the skills, strengths, preferred ways of working and new ways of approaching projects to improve individual, team and company performance. 
Years ago, I realized that diversity is like a multi-faceted diamond.  It is far broader than even the nine elements included in our MDA program.  Our family composition and dynamics, education, where we were raised, skills, abilities, experiences, physical traits, emotional well-being, attitudes and outlooks all influence how we present ourselves, interact with others and perform the roles we play.
Some discoveries from the different program elements and suggestions include:
  • Micro-inequities can play a huge part in discouraging, disengaging or losing valuable perspectives.  Thus exercising the Platinum Rule has huge importance.  The Platinum Rule indicates that we should treat others as they expect to be treated.  This has far greater potential than the more broadly advocated Golden Rule.
  • Gender issues must be taken seriously by men as well as women.  Unless we are all committed to using the entire workforce, we will fail to realize the gains available when females are more broadly represented in board and leadership positions.  New books like Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In and Bonnie St. John’s How Great Women Lead expand the dialogue and raise awareness of the opportunities that exist.
  • Religious speech in the workplace is allowed, even if controversial, just as other nonreligious speech is allowed.  Speculation of negative feelings or impact is not sufficient to thwart religious expression.
  • “Overqualified” is a seemingly politically correct way to address a prospective employer’s concerns that an older worker might be less committed to a job.  Until we understand a person’s true interest in a job, we risk unintentionally failing to hire the best, most experienced candidate.
  • “Looksism” is another diversity element not included in traditional diversity programs.  It is easy to discriminate against another because of appearance with or without consciously acknowledging these biases.

The MDA program has great potential to broaden our expectations of gains to be realized when we choose to be truly inclusive of the differences that make each of us unique and special individuals.   As more colleagues tackle the curriculum, we have the chance to overcome biases, increase respectfulness and improve performance.   And we add another common language for achievement - bronze, silver, gold and platinum. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Little Things Make a Great Day

Early this week, I reflected on another great day.  Though nothing spectacular happened, I realized a number of small things combined to create a remarkable day:

  • lovely, even if only brief, connection with those I love most
  • meaningful interactions with treasured work colleagues
  • important incremental advances on work projects
  • special, planned time with long-time friends
  • time committed to advancing the mission of a marvelous nonprofit organization
  • yummy food, lovingly prepared
We can get so caught up in expectations for significant events, milestones and plans that we can lose sight of the many, many small occurrences that create great days.  

Great moments lead to great hours, then days, then weeks, then months, then years and thus lifetimes.  

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Make a Day

My day started with a 7:00 a.m. conference call  At my second meeting, a stranger complimented my attire, and late in the day, colleagues I rarely see mentioned how put together I always am.  Though I make it a point to find positive comments for family, friends and colleagues; as the recipient of these unexpected positive observations, when I didn't think I was necessarily at my best, I fully realized that a little positive and sincere attention to others can really make a day.

Thursday, June 6, 2013


A Comerica Bank computer based training course, that is an option for achieving various levels in our Diversity Awareness program, effectively addresses micro-inequities.  These are small gestures, actions, comments and lack of acknowledgement that can disengage team members.  It's not always the big affronts that cause the biggest damage. Eye rolls, arriving late, leaving early, crediting a friend/insider (rather than the first to propose) with a great idea, exclusive pre-meetings and post-meetings, side conversations, checking electronic devices and failure to listen are a few ways that valuable inputs are thwarted and valued colleagues   may choose to seek other employers who value their perspectives.

Every day we have multiple opportunities, big and small, to gain insight from those whom we encounter.  It doesn't take a lot to make someone feel special, nor does it take much to make someone feel insignificant.  Special wins every time!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Respectful and Respected

Being respectful of others can lead to being respected by others.  Everyone deserves to be treated respectfully for who they are. Treating others well is a sign of respect - being respectful.   However being respected is only earned when we consistently do and say the things we say we will with an interest in outcomes that benefit others, not only ourselves.  We can earn respect for character, actions and accomplishments.  But we can show respect to all we meet.  Thankfully, respectful behavior is often reciprocated.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Top and Bottom Performers May Look Alike

We just saw and immensely enjoyed a movie that our local film critic had rated 1 on a 5 star scale.  We found the entertainment value to be close to 5 stars.  If you average our ratings you get 3 stars.  This is a prime example of how meaningless average ratings can be when there are only two raters, and the absolute ratings are at the top and bottom of the scale.

It would be far more meaningful to know that two raters gave absolutely different assessments, and understand why.