Last night I took my seven year old daughter to a Boy Band Concert. The opening act was Rachel Crow. I had not heard of Rachel but enjoyed her soul-filled voice. One of Rachel’s songs in particular caught my attention. It is called Mean Girls. The song talks about a young girl being left out by other young girls. It details the pain of not fitting in and being left out at the school lunch table. Continue reading
Capability is daring yourself to stretch and see that you don’t have a limit to your potential. A former boss used to say, whether you think you can or you think you can’t you’re right. When she would say this I would roll my eyes and think, oh what a Pollyanna! However if you examine how the brain are brain works, she’s actually right. Our brain is designed to filter out information that does not fit with our self image or capability.
This phenomenon has been documented throughout history. I was first exposed to the concept when I attended Lou Tice’s workshop Investment in Excellence. He cited explained how the brain works and illustrated with the example of the four-minute mile. Once the record was broken, multiple people broke it within 30 days. That ability to see that you can achieve something is sometimes the thing that actually allows it to happen.
There is another great story that Lou tells to illustrate this point. A potato farmer in Australia entered a long grueling race that typically took five days to run. The farmer was dressed in his normal attire - overalls and work boots. To the local media the farmer was a joke, he was older than the rest of the runners; he was ill-equipped. The farmer who was a joke at the start of the race ended the race a winner. Not only did he win but he won the race by a day and a half! How did he pull off such a huge win? He did so because he really didn’t believe or didn’t even know about the common race methodology suggested by the experts to run for 14 hours, then sleep for six. He just kept running, like the age-old story of the tortoise and the hare. I think by not focusing on what the world sees as limitations but looking past to what we want allows us to reach our own inner potential.
What do you see as your potential? What belief could be holding you back?
“Sometimes what holds us back is not who we think we are but who we think we are not.” ~Anonymous
“Why not?” I inquired.
“Because you write about behaviors, relationships and understanding yourself. Those aren’t business topics,” he explained.
Goodness, how insightful!
And how true, given that men and women approach the world from different perspectives (both of which are equally valuable and necessary). These differences are thoughtfully explored in The Female Vision by Sally Helgesen and Julie Johnson. Their book opens with a story describing how Jim and Jill respond to a meeting in which the sales reps receive information about new sales quotas:
•Jim goes right into action, assessing how the targets can be met.
•Jill shares her observation that a key team member appeared disconnected, even depressed, by the topic. She’s concerned by his reaction since his support is vital to meeting the new targets.
•Jim thinks Jill’s comment is irrelevant. Jill senses his disinterest and backs off.
Dr. Mary O’Malley, a neuroscientist and psychiatrist who works with executive women, notes “women often have difficulty defending the value of what they see in part because the traditional workplace is not necessarily structured to recognize subjective observation.” Hence, when our male colleagues raise their eye brows or chuckle derisively at what we’ve offered, we drop the topic. Rightly or wrongly, I know I used to. Task completion gets the top power billing, compassion and relationship fall somewhere further down the list of priorities.
In both my 25-year corporate career and current entrepreneurial role, I’ve seen countless business situations and/or business careers go awry because feelings, relationships, behaviors or whatever else one wants to call weren’t taken into consideration in how the circumstances are handled. I bet you’ve seen it, too.
I’m older, wiser, plumper, and have my corporate battle scars proudly won in learning it takes two to tango: logic and emotion, quantitative and qualitative, masculine and feminine power, head and heart, subjective and objective, power and compassion, chocolate and peanut butter. It isn’t an either/or situation, because both parts of these pairs are needed for true success in life, love and leadership. Thanks to the battle scars, I don’t back down any more, tactfully staying the course to bring inclusive thinking to leadership.
So despite what that gentleman shared with me about how he views my blog, I’ll continue to write (and teach and coach and speak) about relationships, behaviors, self-awareness and power at work…and maybe, some day, the traditional workplace will have become non-traditional, dancing that delightful tango.
What’s your view? Is there room for both power and compassion at work?
Art by Olaf Breuning
She had been impossible to miss – tall, impeccably groomed and stylishly dressed – flitting from table to table, rarely spending more than a minute before moving on. Movement out of sync with the 20-minute table rotations at the networking event.
Her ending perch was our table. She joined us in the last few minutes of the final table rotation. Not looking directly at anyone, she announced the event a waste of time.
“Why do you say that?” inquired a young professional who had just moved to town. “I had a great time.”
“There was no one here worth meeting.”
“You didn’t sit through the full round on our table, so how could you know that?”
“Just by looking. It’s obvious no one has a background comparable to mine.”
“What have you…?”
Cutting off the newly relocated young professional, chic woman declared, “And I’m sure you don’t either.”
With that, “chic woman” left our table with a disgusted toss of her perfect head, leaving all of us speechless.
I confess that for most of my life I’ve wanted to look like that woman looked: tall, willowy, graceful, not a hair out of place, flawless make-up, mannequin perfect posture, size six clothing.
But all of a sudden it hit me that while she may be striking on the outside, she certainly came across as shallow on the inside. I’m trying not to be too judgmental since our encounter was so brief. Yet she declared that she had been sizing people up (no pun intended) by how they looked. Sheesh, it doesn’t get much shallower than that in my book.
I met some extraordinary women that evening – a writer, a secretary, a college professor, a dream interpreter, a single mom. Women who had contributed to the greater good. Women who were tall, short, round, thin, young, old. Women who had made something of themselves after starting out with very little. Women with resilience who had overcome adversity.
None of those rich stories were obvious in their faces or in the way they were dressed. Their light came from within, not from designer clothes or expensive face creams. I felt bad for the chic woman who missed out on all that inner radiance just because the outer package didn’t meet some lofty personal standard.
I still want to be tall and willowy but if the trade-off for that is being superficial, I think I’ll stick with short and round.
Shark Marketing Co. CEO Shari Stauch has been involved in publishing, marketing and PR for 33 years. In 2004 she retired from the Women’s Pro Billiard Tour after a 20-year career as a touring pro player and marketer/co-creator of the tour to pursue development of Shark Marketing Co., serving authors and aspiring authors using their words to promote greater issues. She is a 5-time President’s Award recipient and was inducted into the Women’s Pro Billiard Association Hall of Fame in 2007. Shari is currently serving her second term as president of Charleston’s Center for Women, where she moderates the Women Writers Forum, and is co-director of programming for New Orleans’s Words & Music literary festival. She is a certified executive coach; an award-winning essayist and fiction writer; editor; and author of four non-fiction books. She is now completing a novel set in her hometown of Chicago.
When I first decided to narrow my marketing focus to work with clients with whom I shared a passion – authors – I had no idea what that would look like as a business model. It turned out to be the best decision I could have ever made. I enjoyed the work; and clients enjoyed learning how to promote their words.
Business grew and as it did, the majority of my clientele happened to be women. As it grew more, this clientele further defined itself into a dynamic group of savvy women who, unbeknownst to each other, were exposing deeper issues in their writing, issues that would resonate with the masses…
One author began blogging about animal rights, another about parents dealing with the loss of a child. Another is completing a novel that shines a light on the darkness of male-on-male sexual harassment in the workplace. One is working on a memoir about coming into her own freedom of expression through dance, something that had been denied her in childhood. Yet another is aiding in the charge to end sex trafficking. And the list goes on… Not only was I loving my job, I was learning about so many important issues, and the influence these women were having, each in their own way striving to make our world better, just by speaking and writing and putting themselves out there.
Another of my long-standing clients, an amazing female author, Rosemary James, is co-founder of the Pirate’s Alley Faulkner Society in New Orleans. Attending her conference one year (the fabulous Words & Music: A Literary Feast in New Orleans), I was hooked. I’ve been to every conference since, soaking up the infused energy of the world’s greatest authors, editors and agents. Words & Music has become my shared passion, and so naturally I wanted to shout it from the rooftops, and encourage everyone who has an interest in words to attend.
And so I did. I suggested to several clients, including writers in Florida, California, Tennessee, New York and South Carolina, that they make the trip to New Orleans, both to support the great work Rosemary was doing for authors and to avail themselves of the opportunity to meet agents, editors, and some of the best writers producing work in this century. It would be a chance for them to network, but also to be inspired, so important for writers when writing is such a solitary art form.
When seven of them readily agreed to give it a go, I was excited for them. But that excitement quickly turned to anxiety. Would they have a good time? Would I be held accountable to make sure they had a good time? I had a lot to do there; would they feel less than cared for if I weren’t paying each enough attention? In short, what was I thinking?
Well, despite all my great experiences working with women through Charleston’s Center for Women and all these special clients, I greatly underestimated the power of women supporting women. By the end of the first day, I’d introduced each to the others. By the end of the second day they were sharing schedules and drinks and comparing critiques. On the third day we had dinner together and the women dubbed themselves “Seven Strong” with a hearty toast… each vowing to connect through their writing in the days and weeks to come.
Since that November conference, those proud members of the “Seven Strong” have forged bonds of steel. They’re planning a retreat at one’s vacation home in Folly Beach, and another at one’s cabin in Tahoe. In between they spend time on the phone and by email, through lunches and road trips, to connect with each other, critique each other’s work, brainstorm their marketing efforts, and encourage and nurture each other as writers and as women.
I’m as proud as any mother hen could be, but I can’t take the credit… It’s really all about that power that surges through women when we’re helping each other. Women supporting women isn’t just a concept; it’s a FORCE… and one to be reckoned with!
Today’s thought-provoking and compassionate guest article is by Deborah Costello. She’s a teacher, Math department chair at Trinity Prep School in Winter Park, FL and a consultant for the College Board. Connect with her on Twitter as @costelloland. Deb is passionate about human rights, peace, education, leadership, triathlon training, and most importantly family and friends. She believes that in the end all you need is love.
Are you a leader? Maybe you are a manager at work, an usher for your church, or the president of your bridge club. Hopefully you are the leader in your own home. Certainly you lead yourself. Many people struggle with the idea of leadership and conclude they just cannot do it. It’s too difficult or no one will want to follow them. I would suggest that this is not true. In fact there are leaders everywhere we look, people changing lives and making progress. They are neighborhood watch captains and Girl Scout leaders, community treasurers, and PTA presidents. But even if you don’t have a named position or a title, there are ways you can lead in your community that are meaningful and exciting, ways that enrich lives. Let me tell the story of a pair of such leaders.
On Valentine’s Day I showed up in a field outside an art museum with a couple hundred people I didn’t know. I had been invited by two women that I had met a few weeks earlier. The event was called, “The Human Heart: An OUTright Love-In.” Envisioned by Nicki Drumb four years ago, she and her wife, Rachel Gardiner sponsor this yearly Love-In to celebrate the strides that have been made over the past year toward marriage equality.
As I walked toward the field, I was greeted by a friendly stranger handing out red necklaces made of hearts. Another gave me a glow stick to combat the gathering darkness. A third came forward saying, “Your face looks familiar.” As we talked, she walked me down into the crowd. I eventually saw a few people I knew, but mostly it was strangers — men, women, couples, children, families — gathering together to celebrate a simple idea. Love. That’s all it was about. Celebrating the beauty, the wonder, the joy of love.
On the ground there was a giant heart, formed with candles, and we gathered there. A few people spoke, detailing the year’s events, sharing their own stories. Nicki and Rachel’s story helped me understand why people had come. That afternoon they had made their annual pilgrimage to the county clerk’s office. In the past they had tried to apply for a marriage license. This year they were hoping to have their existing license recognized, for they had recently married in New York City. They brought the pastor of their church and stood before the same clerk again this year, but her answer was the same. No. The state of Florida does not recognize same-sex marriages. This year the clerk mentioned that she would retire in five years. Rachel hopes they won’t still be visiting the county clerk in five years. Despite four years of rejection, she is hopeful. You can see it in her eyes.
As we lit the candles, one from another, and stood together forming a heart, I looked at the faces around me. There were no protestors shouting, no anger or frustration at what had not been accomplished. There was only a feeling of gathering strength, of bearing witness to love and knowing that the year to come would bring progress and setbacks, good news and bad. But no matter what, we would withstand it all and there was great cause for hope. These two women had led us all to this place and for a moment we stilled our stress and our sorrow, our too much and not enough. For a few moments we stood together, in love.
Rachel and Nicki are committed to each other and to helping others find the love that they so generously share. So they keep on. Each year the event grows a little bigger and more complicated. This year they included art submissions from local artists on the subject of love. We met afterward to support a local bar and a food truck outside that had provided a delicious feast. It seemed so simple from the outside, but I know there were a thousand details. Maybe this event doesn’t seem all that amazing. If so, then here’s your challenge. See if you can inspire a couple hundred people to show up in a field on Valentine’s Day and listen to you speak.
In the end, that’s all leadership really is, a little idea, a little commitment, a little hard work, a little time. There are so many ways that we could lead in our communities, our neighborhoods, our businesses. Everyday people do amazing things. Every day we all could do amazing things. And yet we don’t. Too busy. Too tired. Just too.
So if you are in that “too” camp and just can’t imagine a way to lead, start thinking. A good leader is a combination of three simple things; ability, integrity, and compassion. In some areas of our lives, each of us is all of these things. I’m asking you to dig into your heart, where your love lies, where your passions lie, and ask some simple questions.
What can I do? Can you share your ability and make a difference for someone else? Do you see a problem in your community that you could help solve? Are there needs in your neighborhood that are not being met? I find it impossible to believe that you do not see these things in the world.
Do I believe in my idea with all my heart? Can you support it and stand by it with honor? Do you know that by leading in this way you are making a difference? Can you stand up for what you believe and stick with it even in tough times? Are you true to your word? There’s your integrity.
Am I making things better? Will other people’s lives get better? Will you improve your community, raise awareness, offer opportunity, bring people together, or promote understanding? By leading with compassion, others will want to join you. We all long for a better place.
Nicki and Rachel have this incredible capacity to love and by sharing it in this way, have led others to a better day, a positive place where they can peacefully share a moment of compassion and love. Their community leadership inspired others to join them on Valentine’s Day. They were able to support local artists and businesses. Their event inspired me to tell their story. Perhaps it will inspire you to do a little leading for the Girl Scouts, to share your abilities with the neighborhood watch, to offer your compassion at the PTA meeting, to show your integrity as the community treasurer.
In the end, we are all surrounded by leadership. The best leaders have the ability to turn a difficult any day into an amazing every day. Just get up and lead.