Thursday, August 26, 2010

Build a bridge

So, yesterday I was driving back home from the Quad Cities and I noticed that the bridge near Iowa City that they've been working on (seemingly forever) is finally looking like a bridge.  Traffic has been re-routed in that area for quite some time.  The base structure is in and the deck (the part we drive on) looks to be almost completed.  It got my mind thinking about many things (especially because I still had some windshield time), but I kept coming back to the bridge.
I thought about how long it takes to put in the foundation structure for a bridge.  And how much of the base starts out under water.  I considered how traffic changes while work is being done.  And how great it will be when all lanes are open over the bridge.  I thought about how many times I've driven past the project, and didn't notice much progress.  I thought about how quickly it seems that the structure goes in, the farther to the top you are.
This bridge is so much like leadership.  When you start, it seems like everything takes longer and often feels like you're under water.  You have to work to get yourself above water.  Sometimes, activities in your life are re-routed or slowed down during the construction.  The "building" part often isn't noticeable to those around you.  But once you have your strong foundation, it sometimes seems that you become an overnight sensation (after weeks, or months or years in your field).
It pays to spend the time building a strong foundation.  When the floods come (and they will) you must be able to withstand the storms.  If not, all your hard work will wash down the river.  And then you've wasted your time & rerouted those around you for nothing.
Do you have confidence in your bridge?  Do you inspire people around you to help you build?  Do they feel that together you can build the biggest, strongest bridge?  Will they be willing to go over your bridge, because they are confident in its strength?
Build a bridge - you have places to go.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Robe & cheescake

Back to school time always seems to be the time of year where I look at my business and evaluate the good, the bad, and the ugly.  I suppose most people do this at the end of the calendar year, or at the end of the fiscal year, but for me with school age children, fall seems to work.  The oldest moves to college and the youngest is in high school all day after a summer of go-go-go.  Unfortunately, I do tend to spend the first few days of back-to-school in my robe, curled up, eating cheesecake (rather Miss Havisham!).
So once the cheesecake is gone (and I've had a shower) I sit down and look at my schedule for the past and upcoming year.  Working with lots of other busy people, I've learned that I get a better reponse when everyone is able to put the big events on their calendars as early as possible.  Calendars can get filled up so quickly these days!
I like to pull out my packets from the past year's events.  I look at the participation of consultants and customers.  I look at the budget.  I look at the notes and evaluations from after the event.  Did customers like the event?  Did consultants?  How much return on investment did we get?  Should we do it again?  What can we tweek to make it better?  Who is ready to step up and take on some additional responsibility?
I take some time to look through my team list.  Because I tend to see those who are actively involved on my team every month or 2, I have a good sense of who might be ready to take on additional leadership.  Their sales and recruiting numbers are not their complete story.  People can be good at selling and even recruiting, but not be ready, willing or able to be a leader.  Some people very naturally exhibit leadership skills, but they may not be in a season where sales & recruiting is a priority.  I look at their potential for the upcoming year.
I look at my personal goals.  Since this is only the middle of August, I still have time to meet my yearly goals (and fall tends to be an awesome time in my business).
I look at my personal motivation.  Do I still love what I do?  Can I change the things I don't love?  Am I willing to work through the things I don't like because I love the rest?  What do I need to learn?  What can I improve?
Take some time to re-evaluate your leadership.  If you wait until the end of the year, you may miss out on some opportunities this year.  You also won't be ready to hit the ground running on January 1st.  And, hopefully, you won't need your robe and cheesecake to get it done!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


I am not a hugger.
I don't know why.  Maybe it's my upbringing (just kidding, Mom!).  But I am not a hugger.
This may surprise some of you who have been the victim of a full-on, frontal assault hug.
Here's what I've learned:
When I worked in Connecticut for a New York-based company, we didn't hug.  We shook hands, we kissed on each cheek, but we didn't hug.
Now I live in the mid-west and lead a team of huggers.  So I am now a hugger.  Not because I like to hug, but because the people around me like to hug.
And you know the funny part?  I've even grown to like it!
Are you a hugger?  Do you have something that hangs you up in your interactions?  Something that keeps you separated from the people you lead?  Try to look at it from their perspective.  Will a "hug" go miles toward unity?  Will a "hug" boost someone's self-esteem.  Will a "hug" tell someone that you notice and appreciate them?
And you know the funny part?  You may even grow to like it!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Pink hair

I caught a few minutes of Debbie Travis' show "From the Ground Up" on HGTV the other day.  This reality show features a group of young people, with varying backgrounds, learning all areas of the construction industry.  I was somewhat amused to watch a pink-haired young woman wearing a sparkly belt lamenting that it was "unfair" for her to be judged on her appearance.  She felt that she was looked at differently because of her choice in hair and wardrobe.  Now, I may be in the over 30 crowd (ok, over 40 crowd), but isn't that why she chose bright pink hair, to be looked at differently?
Here's the challenge- she's a young woman in a male dominated field with enthusiasm but no technical skills and she thinks she should be able to look any way she wants.
In real life- you earn the right to stand out by being skillful in your craft.  If you are a computer programmer in a corporate setting that has saved and earned your company millions, and you want to walk around in bunny slippers, you probably can.  If you are a real estate magnate that has built an empire in New York and Atlantic City, and you want to wear a comb-over, you've earned it (but people may still talk).  If you're an awesome hair stylist, who's been in the business for almost 20 years, that clients (like me) will drive 180 miles to have their hair done, you go ahead and have pink (or purple or blue or...) hair.  You've proven that you have the chops to back up your "look at me" appearance.  When people look at you, they see your experience, substance, success, wisdom and skill.
But, until you can prove yourself in your industry, pink hair is probably just annoying your mother.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Have you ever met someone who has "been there, done that"?  Or bristles at new ideas because they had success another way before?  Now, if this person is still achieving and growing, great!  Talk with them and see what can be learned and translated for your situation.  If they're not growing, business is down, etc., run away!
Here's a tough question to ask yourself, "Have you stopped listening, stopped trying and stopped growing?"
When you get to the point of not listening, you have choices.
You can continue doing the same old thing, and get decreasing results.
You can stick your head in the sand, and get your butt run over.
Or, in the infinite wisdom of Cher's character in Moonstruck, you can "Snap out of it!".  Try something out-of-the-box (maybe it's just out-of-the-box for you - it's ok to copy what others are successfully doing).  Will you always hit it out of the park?  Of course not!  But at least you'll stop (or at least slow) your downward spiral.
Take a moment to consider what you can do to improve your leadership in your business, in your family, in your finances or in your community.  Seek out authorities in those areas who are experiencing continued success.  Are you listening?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Fear or Excitement?

Do you remember the first time you went on a rollercoaster?  Your heart raced, you felt butterflies in your stomach, your palms were sweaty?  How about your first date?  Or first kiss?  The first time you rode on an airplane?  The exhilaration you felt?  The excitement?
Now think about how you feel when you're afraid... Does your heart race?  Do you have butterflies in your stomach?  Do your palms sweat?
Your body reacts the same way to excitement and fear.  Your mind - your perception - is the only difference.
Now, there are a few people who laugh when I say this, but, I am painfully shy.  Meeting people makes my heart pound, walking into a party makes me want to throw up, and I sweat when I pick up the phone to make business calls.  I have learned that this condition is short-lived.  I tell myself that the sour stomach and flop sweat are really excitement.  And it really is.  Every time I meet new people, I make new connections, meet new customers and meet new friends.  Isn't that exciting?!
Could you use a little excitement?  Instead of starting drama in your life or looking for a bridge to bungee cord jump off of, conquer your everday fears and see how exciting that can be!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Excuse or reason?

This past weekend, I listened to Sue Rusch, who is a Strategic Consultant, Speaker, & Business Coach (and also very tall).  Of all the wonderful information she gave (and there was a lot), the one quote that really struck home for me was, "We can look at family as an excuse, or a reason."  Ouch!  It's so easy to avoid the work that I know I need to do, by saying "my family time is more important".  But what am I calling "family time"?  Sitting in a dance studio during lessons?  Watching tv while the rest of my family watches another tv?  Sitting on a field watching soccer practice?  Dinner together (but barely half the family is there)?  Choose what is important.  And be there.  Remember the reasons that you chose leadership.  And if your leadership is important, schedule your activities.  And be there.  No excuses.

Thanks to everyone who is regularly (or even occasionally) reading this blog. I've been covering a lot of situations that have hit me personally (and I still have plenty to pull from!). Are there areas of your leadership that could use a spark? Maybe a situation or recurring theme? I think most of us really do know the answers, we just need to hear it again (and again, and again).  Please leave a comment on areas that you would like some focus (I'm sure I've messed up some of the same things at some point!) and I'll try to bring you my perspective.  Thanks for hanging in there with me.  This blog is a joy to write!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Blank green canvas

This past year, our relocation to a new city prompted us to purchase a new home.  Although we have always wanted to find a property with character (maybe something historic or mid-century modern or a loft type space), we found our best choice to be new construction.  New homes have some great advantages (energy efficient, new mechanicals & appliances, up-to-date finishes, etc.), but they lack mature landscaping.
Now we have a huge blank green canvas.  What to do?  Hardscaping (patios, decks, fences) are the most expensive, but when they're in, they're done.  No waiting for them to mature.  Next come trees and shrubs.  Choose where to place them so that they will provide shade and beauty for years to come.  Perennials, for me, are the most fun.  I like that I can plant something that will come back year after year.  I can always count on them.  When they're happy and well-fed, they will grow to the point they need to be divided to thrive.  Annuals are the flashiest, but they require the most maintenance.  Planting them every year, getting them established, "dead-heading" them constantly so that they will continue to flower through the entire season.
As a leader, you are the gardener.  What are you going to put on your large blank green canvas?
Will you only have hardscapes?  You'll recruit those that already have experience and are self-starters.  They are few and far between.
Will you concentrate on trees and shrubs?  Choose carefully.  There is only room for so many and they can effect other plantings.  Once established, they can offer years of return.  They can stand on their own.
Will you fill your landscape with perennials?  These will offer a lot of variety and will come back year after year.  They work best in a large grouping.
Or will you choose the flashy, higher maintenance annuals?  These will require more of your time and offer a high return, but only for just one season.
A great garden will have a nice variety of all of these.  Everything works well together.  Those that have similar needs for water and sun are grouped together.  Colors and textures work together and enhance one another.
A great garden always needs a gardener.  Without attention, your garden gets overgrown, weeds find their way in, storms can damage...
How's your green thumb?