shellsYesterday I watched a short video called Shells. This video told the story of a young family going to the beach to collect shells.

The mother and father and two young sons had been collecting shell fragments quite sometime when they noticed a perfectly intact starfish “shell” floating just off the shore line. The youngest boy looked expectantly at the dad and the dad nodded yes. Continue reading


Girl Friends

Courtesy Dreamstime

Who do you think of when you think of a “great” girlfriend? Is it the person who  you call when you want to go on a long walk? or who  you call when you want to go see a movie? or is it the person you call  when your dog has just passed away? or is it the friend that lets you incessantly complain about work? or is it the person who shares your passion and life’s mission? Continue reading


Mind The Gap

Recently I had the chance to present on the topic of  ”leading up” to a group of business women. After my presentation, we engaged in a lively dialogue about the difference between men and women. Most of the women in the room were energized by a particular point from my presentation:  When talking about career progression men are more likely to discuss title and women are more likely to talk about meaning and content of the work. The women who attended my presentation agreed whole heartedly with this assertion. Not only did they agree but they took it one step farther they felt men are wrong to talk about career progression in terms of title. These women were advancing the argument that what is important is the content of the work not the title. They wanted their male counterparts to talk about what matters to them rather than unimportant titles. Continue reading


Mean Girls

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



I am a novice horse back rider and my instructor pointed out that I was using the wrong paradigm for turning my horse. I was turning my horse Poppy like I turn my car. I was turning by moving both hands and literally steering my horse.  Instead of using the reins for "steering" the reigns should be used like the walls of a hallway. So the best way to lead a horse is by providing the parameters or boundaries of where they can going and where they are headed. Reins work by controlling the bit that is in the horses mouth. Bits work by exerting pressure inside the horse's mouth. The are assisted by the bridle that creates additional pressure around the horse's head—cheeks, chin or nose. The idea is that, by moving away from the discomfort of the pressing bit, the horse moves in the direction the rider wants to go. In a properly trained horse with the right tack and a knowledgeable rider, it all works together to create unity between the rider's wishes and the horse's performance.

The way you reward the horse is giving them more reign- taking the pressure off. You let them know they are going the right way and you want more of that way.

The Bridle and Reins

As my riding instructor explained all of this I couldn’t help but think horses like people don’t like to be steered. We like to know our boundaries- we like to know we are going the right way. As a mom, as a wife as a leader, I find it is easy to forget this important life lesson.

My Horse, Poppy


“Getting runs early continues to be a big part of the game for this team. It takes the pressure off the pitchers.”
 Dana Fiedler quotes



Make Time for You

You know how busy you get ascending that ladder of success – the constant swirl of activity focused on the business, your team, your department, results and outcomes. Time for yourself? Ah, we’ll try to work that in later. And that later never happens.

In the mid-1990’s I landed my first VP role, overseeing 2800 employees in two states. For the first several months after the promotion, it was a mad dash of 80 hour work weeks and frenetic scrambling to make everything happen. Then two firsts occurred in my life: my very first 360 assessment followed by a sick leave.

The 360 feedback from my direct report team was cosmic two-by-four whack number one: you are an amazing leader but you make us exhausted and frustrated in trying to keep up with you. Teach us what you know, show us the way and then let us make it happen. What an epiphany – I had been so busy doing, trying to make my post-promotion mark, that I had forgotten “to be” and to lead, not perpetually do.

The second cosmic two-by-four whack quickly followed. That neck pain I’d been ignoring for months became jack-hammer unbearable and produced a new problem – the inability to grasp anything in my hands. Using a keyboard wasn’t possible nor was feeding myself (not an unreasonable antidote, I figured, for failing to maintain a regular exercise program…who had time for that?!). The neurosurgeon declared my herniated disk the largest he had ever seen (always the over-achiever!). Surgery – and recovery time – was the only solution.

The gift of feedback from my team coupled with the sick leave were humbling yet liberating personal and professional events. I learned the value of setting the tone and direction for my team but then stepping aside so they had ownership, responsibility and accountability – as well as the glow of success and the insights from failure.

I learned the value of self-care. A Harvard Business Review article on the “corporate athlete” totally resonated with me and influenced my thinking about relaxing. The gist of the article was to train for work like an athlete trains for their sport, focusing on one’s mental, emotional, physical and spiritual health. To that end, I worked with both a nutritionist and a personal trainer to develop eating and exercise programs that worked for me. I adopted hobbies, reading, volunteering and other activities that enriched my mind and my soul.

At work, I created an engaging office environment with beautiful black-and-white photography on the walls, a desktop Zen sand garden, a small gurgling fountain and a small pile of toys close at hand. I learned to not ignore the early warning signs of stress. I took quick walks around the office, using that time to refocus and connect with others.

It took not one, but two, cosmic two-by-fours to capture my attention and get me focused on taking care of myself so I can more effectively nurture others. This quote from Ann Richards, former governor of Texas, keeps me on track: “If you think taking care of yourself is selfish, change your mind. If you don’t, you’re simply ducking your responsibilities.”

Schedule time for you…starting today!

This post initially appeared on Random Acts of Leadership. Art by C. Gregory



When “pretty” isn’t a compliment - a story of resilience

Rachel had made her dream of being a blogger come true. She added posts every day and was thrilled to have an outlet to share her views on networking. Soon she had subscribers and regular guest bloggers.

She’d long been a fan of and email correspondent with a fairly prominent male author in her genre. She thought it would be awesome to have him guest post. Rachel stepped into her courage and confidence and asked him to write. She figured the worst case scenario would be for him to say no, and she was mentally prepared for that.

Two months later, the daily email notifications of posts to Rachel’s blog stopped. Why? The author had declined her request, saying he had reviewed Rachel’s blog and found it to be pretty.

The word “pretty” was an arrow through Rachel’s heart and spirit. For someone of the author’s caliber to use “pretty” as a descriptor meant to Rachel she wasn’t fulfilling her mission to provide useful and meaningful advice. She believed she had failed, so she quit writing, unsure of how to reclaim her blog-writing mojo.

What Rachel needed was resilience, the ability to rebound after setbacks and look forward with optimism and hope.

Life is full of road blocks, adversity, loss, rejection and other obstacles. If you’re passionate about something, part of making that something a reality is the going over, under, around or through those obstacles; resiliently bouncing back and trying again whenever a new stumbling block appears in your path.

Nothing can sabotage winning, except for fear of losing. Success usually lies just beyond failure. ~Mario Cortes

To boost your RQ (resiliency quotient):

1) According to the Mayo Clinic, “being resilient doesn’t mean being stoic or going it alone. In fact, being able to reach out to others for support is a key component of being resilient.” Reach out to others, express what you’re thinking and feeling, seek their counsel, and devise a plan to get back in the saddle.

2) Psychologists say resilience is a learned skill. When things go wrong, try again. Then try again if need be, just like you’d practice any new skill until it becomes second nature. Creativity expert Ken Robinson points out, “If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.”

3) In situations like this, your inner critic is probably working overtime. Through 15 years of study, Martin E.P. Seligman, author and professor at the University of Pennsylvania, “discovered that people who don’t give up have a habit of interpreting setbacks as temporary, local, and changeable.” Heed what the inner voice is saying, yet exercise control of how much power you give to it. You control whether or not the inner critic halts you in your tracks.

4) Focus on learning. Look for the teachable moment. We’re quick to call ourselves failures when things don’t go right on the first try. Cut yourself some slack. You’re learning and probably developing strengths and abilities beyond what you initially imagined. Explore what worked well and what didn’t. Rachel began her blog to gain writing experience, and that’s where she needed to focus.

5) Look to the past to learn lessons, yet make sure you don’t get mentally and emotionally stuck there. Studies have shown that how one thinks about setbacks impacts their coping abilities. Rather than dwell on what went wrong (someone declining an opportunity to write a guest blog), look for the successes (starting a blog and rapidly gaining subscriber’s in Rachel’s case) .

The most important lesson to learn is to not give up entirely…for that’s when you truly do fail.

Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear. ~Mark Twain
What say you?

Photo courtesy of Whimsical Wednesday





From dreams to reality

Kym met Tessa two years ago at a networking event. Tessa ran a small flower design business and was considering becoming a personal trainer. Kym offered to introduce her to a friend who was a personal trainer so they could compare notes. Tessa told Kym she would let her know if she wanted the introduction to happen. She never did.

Six months ago, their paths crossed again at a community event. When asked to share what they did, Tessa said she was a floral designer who really wanted to be a personal trainer.

A week ago they were seated together at a luncheon. A table mate asked Tessa what she did. Tessa replied that she ran a very small and getting smaller floral design business but her dream was to work as a personal trainer.

Is your story similar to Tessa’s — thinking and hoping yet not doing?

“Vision without action is a dream. Action without vision is simply passing the time. Action with vision is making a positive difference.” ~Joel Barker

3 tips for moving from wishing and hoping to action

Without dreams our lives lose luster. Yet without action, dreams always remain dreams. If you see a little bit of Tessa in your situation:

Revisit your intentions. Is what you keep talking about something you still want to do, or has talking about it become a habit?

If the dream is still alive, do something. Today. Right now. Schedule an informational interview. Request a brochure. Make a phone call or send an email. Sign up for a class. Buy a book on the topic. Just do something about that dream right now:  make it real with action and outcomes you can see, touch, hear.

Find an accountability buddy. Share your dream with someone who also has a dream. Commit to each other what you’ll do to make the dream come alive. Make a pact to report to one another the concrete action you’ve both taken. Give each other the “danger zone signal” if/when you slip back into talking about what you plan to do instead of doing. Real friends don’t let friends live on pipe dreams.

What’s was one thing you did today to move your dream closer to reality? What other tips and pointers have worked for you in making your dream come true?

Photo from Spark & Hustle





Divine Secrets of the Supportive Sisterhood

“It’s a dirty little secret among women that we don’t support one another,” says Susan Shapiro Barash, author of Tripping the Prom Queen: The Truth About Women and Rivalry and professor of gender studies at Marymount Manhattan College.

The sweeping generality of Ms. Barash’s comment perturbed me (because the majority of my experiences with women have been positive), yet there’s a core of truth in her statement that unfortunately resonated based on stories many women have shared with me.

The statistics coming from her research troubled me even more:

- Over 90% of the women Ms. Barash interviewed admitted to envy and jealousy toward other women coloring their lives.

- 90% had observed competition in the workplace occurring primarily between women rather than between women and men.

- And, get this, 25% said that they had stolen a female friend’s husband, boyfriend or job!

Distressing for sure, but more to come…

Gail McGuire, chair of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Indiana University South Bend, authored an article “Intimate Work: A Typology of the Social Support That Workers Provide to Their Network Members.” This report contains the nasty little nugget: that once women are promoted, they aren’t likely to hire women to join them in the upper management ranks. This research puts quantitative data behind Ms. Barash’s claim about the dirty little secret. Yikes!

And more…

A 2007 Workplace Institute study found that of those who mistreat co-workers, women were more likely to target other women (71%), compared to men who bully other men (54%).

63% of 2,000 British women surveyed in 2009 reported that they preferred having a male boss.

Cue *the big sigh*

Bullying. Not helping. Competing. Under-cutting. Back-stabbing.

Disagree with me if you will, but, to me, these are behaviors of the chronically low-powered. Women who choose to make their mark, stake out their turf, and/or secure their standing by steam-rolling and/or belittling other women.

Cue *Kathryn and the Divine Secrets of the Supportive Sisterhood*

Kathryn, a woman who honors me with her friendship, has nailed the divine secrets of the supportive sisterhood. She gets what it takes to support her fellow women.

Secret #1 – Tell it straight-up: the good, the bad and the ugly.

Kathryn was a participant in a workshop I conducted late last year. Her post-session feedback was invaluable, both what I did well and where I could improve. Women supporting women want to see all women do well, so there’s no skipping over the constructive criticism to maintain “I-want-you-to-like-me” status or covering up an “I-secretly-want-to-see-you-fail” mindset.

Secret #2 – Open doors and make introductions.

Kathryn must have the longest speed dial and email lists around. She’s quick to facilitate connections or share a recommendation for where to go, what to see, who to meet. Relationships, alliances and coalitions are the new currency of the workplace. Building those bonds between and with other women can only help advance our general standing in business.

Secret #3 – Replace the cat suit with collaboration and recognition.

Having a little milk with your snarky cat chow comments serves no one well. Kathryn is known for her supportive remarks, notes and get-together suggestions. Cease with the catty comments which only fuel the image of Ms. Barash’s dirty little secret claim. Instead, learn the background stories of your female colleagues; be a safe harbor or a sounding board for them. We’re only as strong as our weakest link.

Secret #4 – Share freely what you know.

Kathryn is quick to share articles, access and/or information. Protecting your turf by hoarding knowledge or aggregating power doesn’t expand your sphere of influence…it limits it – with both the guys and the gals. Power with is the new starting point.

Secret #5 – Like yourself so you can like others.

For most of us, the inner critic is alive and well and oh-so-quick with the negative “you aren’t good enough, smart enough, thin enough, whatever enough” script. Embrace your own goodness…you’ve got lots of it. Be confident…look at all you’ve accomplished. Revel in your own uniqueness instead of wishing you were more like someone else.

Please do step into your positive power — and bring another woman along with you!

What other divine secrets will you add to the list?

 Image from US Women Connect



A letter to Zoe on International Women’s Day

One of the joys of my second act of life is watching my ten-year-old granddaughter, Zoe, grow into young womanhood and explore all the richness of life.

Another joy of my second act is helping leaders and women succeed in business. Amy and I call it helping people get their big on: think big rather than small, be the big person and do what’s right whether or not it’s popular, trade in the tiny dreams for big ones, forego the personal glory and pay it forward for the greater good. All those things we want to see in our young leaders, whether male or female.

Today, International Women’s Day, both of my joys intersect. This year’s International Women’s Day theme is connecting girls, inspiring futures. Hence my letter to Zoe, a confident young girl on her journey to becoming a confident young woman, a powerful leader, and anything else she chooses to be and do.

Dear Zoe,

Today is International Women’s Day. While there won’t be pizza, okra and apple pie to celebrate (perhaps there should be…), it’s a big day for you and other young girls across the globe. Why? Because you’re our future.

You frequently ask us to tell you a story. Today, I’m doing something different. I’m asking you to start living out a story, your story.

Twenty years from now I want to sit down with you and listen to your stories. I want to know where you’ve taken your life and how you found success, fulfillment and love.

I want to hear how:

- You never lost your belief in yourself and how it propelled you into new adventures because you were never afraid to take the leap

- The courage you displayed in fiercely pursuing your brown belt at age 9 never left you, and that you shared it with others to help them find their way because girls can do and be whatever they want to do and be

- Your compassion for saving stray animals and befriending the underdog has made you a beacon of light for family, friends, co-workers and colleagues and maybe even a broader stage

- Your boundless creativity and gift for storytelling have served you well, allowing you to chase innovation, not letting misguided beliefs and stereotypes limit your opportunities and experiences

- Your belief in inclusion never wavered and kept you from falling victim to short-sighted ideologies that shut out people with different viewpoints, and

- You kept being the boss and the ringleader, never doubting for a moment that you would always be liked and be powerful, too.

I know some of these concepts probably don’t make much sense to you today, but they will as you experience more of life. Trust your Mum-mum on this one.

There are days when I wonder if the gender gap will ever be closed. Then an image of your purpose-filled little face appears, and I know your generation of women is in good hands.

With love and hope for the future,



Image source: Late Night Snack