An Invitation…



Hey you! I have some questions for you! Can we grab a cup of coffee? Here’s what I want to know:  What is your highest point of contribution, your purpose? Do you know? What are you doing when you lose track of time and feel the most fulfilled? Do you feel like you have glimpsed but can’t quite put your finger on how to integrate this THING into your life? And what about the various forms of fear that hold you back? And how do you carve the time out of your already busy life? How the hell will you finance it? What will your family or your significant other say?

I realize I can’t hit people with these questions right out of the gate, but I want to, because we often get lost or off track in our lives and don’t make the most of our beautiful, creative brains and the ideas that need to be shared. My goal? Find a way to dig in and excavate the leader within each of us and be a source of inspiration for the journey towards that fulfillment. It is often a bumpy ride, and collaboration and outside perspective help immensely. I know this because I had help on my own very rocky journey, and couldn’t have done it without my people and sources of inspiration. The poet Mary Oliver has been one of those sources of strength and inspiration, and the poem below has made a huge impact on me and in helping me hear my own voice.

 The Journey, by Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice–
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.

I am interested in collaborating and sharing ideas and stories with those experiencing their own journey and development. Please reach out and share yours.



Mary Oliver
Greg McKeown for the idea of highest point of contribution.
Photo credit:



Question The Authority

Hello friend,

As always, I adore our time together and our conversation got me thinking about some of the things that helped me during my own transition/journey. It prompted me to re-read Lean In, and I found some ideas that apply to us ladies at the table.  I’ve encapsulated some of them below.

“From a very early age, boys are encouraged to take charge and offer their opinions. Teachers interact more with boys, call on them more frequently, and ask them more questions.  Boys are also more likely to call out answers, and when they do, teachers usually listen to them.  When girls call out, teachers often scold them for breaking the rules and remind them to raise their hands if they want to speak.”

I adore our friend “The Authority”, and he truly is a champion for hungry souls. At the same time, he has a male, foreign- based world view; and he may not be aware of how his bias can affect others. His advice is like any other advice – if it applies, follow it; if it doesn’t, leave it behind, without guilt.  It struck me that his advice to you was limiting.  Here is someone who is successful and whom we all admire, essentially telling you to be satisfied with what you’ve achieved.  Part of his point was to say:   recognize what you HAVE accomplished.  But I hear you consistently saying you can do more, and have an urgent need to realize that aspiration.  Listen to that too.

My thoughts: if you want more, go and get it.  Honor that need, that ambition, that drive – while at the same time, realizing the impact you do have.  Be grateful…AND aspire to more.

2 Questions:

  • Where do you make your highest point of contribution?
  • What do you want to say you have accomplished when you are looking back on your life?

You may not have answers to these right now, but if you work on this, it will inform your next steps.

“Fear is at the root of so many of the barriers that women (and men) face. Fear of not being liked.  Fear of making the wrong choice.  Fear of drawing negative attention.  Fear of failure.

Your situation is challenging – when you’ve been part of a team for a long time, it can seem so hard to leave to move on to something else. Emotionally, you have a lot invested, as do they.  And it is really hard to move into a new position when you aren’t sure what the team is like or what you will be able to accomplish.  There are no guarantees and it is often easier to stay with the status quo.  Once you make the move though, the path becomes clearer, and you begin to build something new.

We talked about gut on Friday night, and I wanted to point out that you have your own highly developed emotional intelligence. Leverage that.

Sheryl Sandberg talks about the leadership ambition gap and asks: “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?  And then go do it.”  This is great advice, and we all should follow it in the way that makes the most sense to each of us. In closing, I invite you to question the authority, take the good advice, leverage your emotional intelligence…and let yourself soar!



  • Quotes from Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg
  • Highest point of contribution concept was introduced to me by Greg McKeown’s book:  Essentialism



3 Small Things That Improve Quality of Life

Dilbert jpeg 2

One of my favorite people is working way more than they should right now, and has no idea when things will settle down. Perhaps sometime next year.  I know how easy it is to get so busy that you feel you can’t step back and take care of yourself and relax enough to experience the other things in life that can bring real joy.

“You have to put yourself first.”

“Get comfortable that not everything is going to get done.”

It is so easy to give advice, and so difficult to take it. I could say this, but it wouldn’t be really helpful, because I’m wearing different shoes.  And to tell the truth, I have an appointment on my calendar at noon each day to take my walk, and I’m only honoring that commitment about 30% of the time. It’s not that I can’t get out at lunch; it’s that I get in work mode and I love my work.  And there is more to do than I can reasonably expect to get done.

In an attempt to avoid dousing this favorite with too much unsolicited “coaching” advice, (because even when solicited, advice is best in very small doses), I thought I would write down a few things are non-negotiable, no matter what.  Trial and error has shown that these things I can’t do without.  Most of the time, these things allow me to have joy throughout each day, and also allow me to enjoy my family and work.

  1. Sleep when I’m tired.
  2. Take time daily to reflect.
  3. Devices off at least one hour before bed.

About sleep – more and more people are realizing that their productivity, patience, clarity and overall health is directly tied to being well rested.  Arianna Huffington experienced her own “wake-up” call (pun intended) when she experienced a fall that was a direct result of exhaustion:

“The biggest first change that I made was sleep. At the end of each section of the book, I have three little baby steps that I recommend. They mirror the baby steps that I took. The first one was I began getting 30 minutes more sleep a night than I was getting before, until gradually I got from four to five hours, which is what I was getting before I collapsed, to seven to eight hours, which is what I’m getting now. The result has been transformational. All the science now demonstrates unequivocally that when we get enough sleep, everything is better: our health; our mental capacity and clarity; our joy at life and our ability to live life without reacting to every bad thing that happens. In everybody’s life, there are things that happen every day that we wish had not happened. How we react to them very much determines the quality of our life.”

On reflection – one of the pieces of advice I wanted to bestow on this unlucky favorite of mine is about reflecting. The recommendation would be this:  Take the time during the commute each day to reflect and spend time thinking about big picture goals, or just meditating and journaling. Phone Off. Seriously, it’s just for 30 minutes.  Reflecting has become a regular part of my life; otherwise, I am up at 3:00 am processing all the stuff I should have been reflecting on during my commute.  Now it is an essential part of each day.  I now can tell when I need a few minutes to regroup, and I take them.  This allows for a more effective, gracious, relaxed, and calm presence and most importantly, better decision making. It takes some reprogramming, and it is essential that there isn’t another distraction pulling at you.  But really – phone off, so the beeps, bells, alarms, swooshes etc. don’t tease your addicted brain.

Before Bed – devices off. Yes, more about sleep.  There has been a lot of scientific research documenting the effect our flat things have on our sleep patterns. “Careful studies have shown that even small electronic devices emit sufficient light to miscue the brain and promote wakefulness.”  (National Sleep Foundation, URL below)  So for those who read on e-readers before bed, or check email one last time, it might help your sleep patterns to read an old-school book to prepare your brain for rest.  I read something light every night before bed because I love to read, and it is part of makes up what I consider “the good life.”

So… these three things I can say I adhere to with regularity, and would invite everyone to consider. Sleep allows for greater overall health and productivity, reflection slows down our too-quick lives and allows some spaciousness in our thinking, and a break from our devices allows our overtasked brains a break, which leads to better sleep.

#Slowdown #Sleepisgood #Choosehealth


Creating a Life Purpose Statement



Much of our Executive Leadership coursework revolved around the idea of self-leadership as being step one in the leadership readiness arsenal.   To this end, we did a lot of work on our personal and professional leadership point of view.

An excerpt from my journal, July 2014:

Life Purpose Statement

I have spent a lot of time over the past few years learning from a variety of difficult and painful life lessons as well as experiencing many joyous, inspiring and beautiful moments. From these experiences I believe my life purpose to be this:

  • Love deeply and fully and without fear
  • Lead an interesting life with rich experiences
  • Be clear in my purpose and encourage others to define theirs as well
  • Advance my expertise in Culture, Leadership and Organizational Development
  • Write about what matters most to me
  • Develop and build skills in myself and others
  • Create calm and peace in our busy world
  • Teach my child well
  • Continuously learn and have fun in the process
  • Advance the understanding of what is enough for a satisfying life
  • Celebrate what I already have and have achieved

This didn’t just roll out of my head on to the paper. This took thought, reflection, courage, patience, and an iterative mindset.  It takes many months and a willingness to refine and revise.  One question to jumpstart your thinking:  When you are at the end of your life, what do you want to not have regrets about?  What will you want to say you’ve achieved? You can start crafting yours today…you will know when you’ve gotten to the essence of what your life purpose is. At that time, you are done…until your perspective changes and you decide to edit further.  Keep it handy to review regularly.  This creates a life-long practice of staying clear on what matters most to you, at whatever stage of life you are in. Enjoy!


Service Failure

I recently had a conversation with a colleague who was talking about his experience at a respected hotel in Beverly Hills. He was there for an auction and upon arrival, wasn’t able to check in even though he had a reservation and it was well after 3:00.  The hotel management was appropriately apologetic and was offering drinks, dinner, etc., but that wasn’t what he needed.   He was experiencing a service failure.   What he needed was the room.  My colleague expressed this to them and explained the reasons why and after a time, eventually got into his room.  That was all he wanted.  Not a huge crisis, but still.

There is a mentality today in our culture that when there is a service failure, be it a hair in your salad or your room not ready, that management will throw freebies at the problem. This started out as a kindness that was offered a customer, a way of saying “I’m sorry.”  I respect the sentiment behind these hospitable gestures.  What has evolved, however, is an unintended cultural consequence in which consumers now feel entitled to something free every time a mistake occurs.  Now, I understand that compensation for a serious problem is a way of proving that you recognize an error, but I think it should be used more judiciously than it is, and customers shouldn’t be “working” the system just because they ordered their steak wrong.

So what constitutes true hospitality?

I have been thinking about this a lot over the course of my career. Restaurants and hotels and other service providers teach it, and they often teach it in a way that can miss the mark.  In my opinion, hospitality must be individualized to be authentic, but if there is one common denominator it would be to truly LISTEN to what your customer is saying with their words, their tone, and their body language and find the solution that best suits them.  You can hear it when you ask a customer how they like their food, and they say “fine” in a way that makes you probe a little more because the verbal response doesn’t match the tone or physical statement.  You can feel the unsaid “but” when you present an idea to co-workers that they don’t respond to.  It is harder to uncover the nuances with those you don’t know, but I find that that people who are tuned into to the social cues AND truly want to be hospitable are able to discern the less obvious dissatisfaction, and can then identify a problem and find a solution.    So hospitality…requires the willingness to read and respond to social cues in addition to understanding what solutions are possible; a graceful temerity in the face of potential conflict, and a true and authentic desire to help.

And leadership?

I have often hesitated at a restaurant in telling a server or manager about a problem because I know they are going to try to “fix” it by giving me something free. It can be so difficult to make a profit at a restaurant, and most people working in restaurants are hard workers in an often unrewarding environment.  I don’t want or need free.  What I really want is to let them know of the problem so that they can fix it and tell the chef, clean the restroom, take the chipped glass.   I don’t need a free dessert or drink.  I am not trying to get anything and what concerns me the most is that often, “hospitality” training gets in the way of true hospitality.  So, when this happens next time, I have vowed to try to lead by quietly explaining this and not shying away from expressing what it is I really want.  I know these are small issues in the grand scope of things, but we live in this world, and can contribute to more kindness, quiet leadership, and authentic hospitality.

On Culture…SOB, Facebook and PC guilt


Friday night and I’m completely riled up from this amazing, foot stomping, hand clapping tune that will likely result in my getting a speeding ticket. When it played on KPRI this evening I was stuck on the 5, heading north after the merge, and it was killing me that I couldn’t floor it. Even Mookie (the DJ) wanted to play it again, it’s that good. SOB by Nathaniel Rateliff and The Night Sweats has me jacked up. So I decided to post it on Facebook. As I did, I struggled a bit, because the song is about a guy trying to kick alcohol, and decides not to. Like most people, there are people in my life that struggle with alcohol and substance abuse, and they may take offense. The struggle: share for others enjoyment or not share to avoid rocking anyone’s boat? And while the bigger worry is that somehow I am hurting someone, there is also a piece of me that doesn’t want to be exposed to negative comments on my post.

Big deal, right? Why even bother worrying? Well, aside from the fact that one of my values is to be kind and respectful of others, I am interested in this problem as it manifests across our broader culture. We are very quick to judge and take offense. We also tend to believe that our opinions carry more weight than those of others, and this is simply not true. When we are offended, we ask others to pull back from their opinions and quite often we are very mean about it. Is this really for the best?

Apparently I am not the only person to feel this way. While searching for an image to complement this post, I searched the term politically correct, and retrieved a ridiculous number of images that demonstrate the range of emotion that the PC movement has generated. Where do we draw the line between free speech and discrimination?   I don’t have the answer, but it lies somewhere in the gray area of live and let live, don’t sweat the small stuff, and be your own advocate.

So, in the spirit of Friday night, a great tune, sensitivity and balance…listen to SOB, or not.

It’s Like Quitting Smoking: Discipline’s Impact on Success


A blog I follow, Let’s Reach Success, inspired me with a great post on the importance of having a good routine, consciously creating it and then being disciplined in staying with it. So, once again, I am motivated to craft a different morning routine. I am hoping that, like quitting smoking, this time it will stick. So what I have come up with is this:

      • 6:30 – 7:30 Family time
      • 7:30 – 7:45 Meditate
      • 7:45 – 8:00 Plan the day
      • 8:00 – 8:45 Walk/Exercise – 45 minutes
      • 8: 45 – 9:30 Write

Then on to the other important work I need to do during the day. So here I am, day 5, at the writing phase. So grateful.

I was reading some of my father’s journal that I rediscovered last weekend. In 1992 he started keeping a journal on the computer to both capture his thoughts and to learn how to become more computer savvy. He talks a few times about his “high energy state” and also trying to stay disciplined. This passage resonated with me:

“Sunday morning and about 10 below zero. My initial feeling this morning was that this was a waste of time, but on seeing my previous day’s work scroll by I realized that I have already gained a lot from the time I have spent. I have always had this problem, losing sight of the long range goal, becoming paralyzed by questioning, blocked by feelings of the futility of it all. Only when I have forced myself into a discipline that is focused on a consistent, repetitious process that to a large extent ignores any questioning have I been successful.”

—-From the journal of Fred Baker; February 27, 1994

It seems I share some of his tendencies – the high energy state, the flow of ideas, as well as the difficulty in sorting and prioritizing the ideas in order to execute. It is why Jim Collins’ Good to Great concept of a culture of discipline has occupied center stage on my whiteboard for the past 2 months. The idea: “sustained great results depend upon building a culture full of self-disciplined people who take disciplined action, fanatically consistent with the three circles of:

      • That which you are deeply passionate about,
      • That which you can be the best in the world at, and
      • That which drives your economic engine.

So what needs to happen to sustain a new routine, make a necessary life change, or to push on with a project that can at times seem futile?

Idea and Opportunity Selection
Ideas and opportunities can be plentiful and many can be good, if not great. It can be difficult understanding where to prioritize and commit your resources. In the article The Opportunity Paradox, the authors discuss how capturing new growth opportunities is fundamental to strategy, innovation and entrepreneurship. The authors also recognize that opportunities have a complexity that few people recognize in that there are two parts of the process: opportunity selection and opportunity execution.

There are many good nuggets of information in this article, but one of the most relevant is that often “innovation efforts move so quickly to identify a solution that they have to cycle back to figure out what problem they are actually solving. (page 30).”

In my work, I have often found that there is this reluctance to spend the time defining the larger problem or challenge being faced. The importance of the discussion phase and discovery period isn’t fully recognized or seen as being part of the real work.

We need to ask: what is the desired result? What is the greater goal? Is it in alignment with the strategic plan? Is there a plan? This process can be applied to both the personal and professional spheres. Don’t march diligently toward the wrong goal.

We as Americans (humans?) don’t do this very well. Our culture of action, of get it done! goes against what our brains find satisfying, what our shareholders think they want, of feeling productive by checking things off the big list. Discussing and refining can feel like wasted time. If you are going full speed down the wrong road, well…you’ll reach a destination, but not the one you intend. So it is important to build in the time to sort out what it is you are trying to achieve, your intended results and how they align with the greater goal. This is an important piece of the work. It always takes longer than expected.

Marshall Goldsmith, a well-known executive coach and thought leader understands how difficult it is to adhere to and sustain changes we want to make in our lives. At a recent lecture, he shared with the audience one of his tools for keeping himself accountable to his goals. He pays someone to call him every night and ask him a series of questions that he developed, for the things that he finds important in his life. They include questions about exercise, care-taking his relationships, among other items. 33 questions in all.

He knows himself, and has built this method of staying accountable to his goals. Deciding what’s important, determining how to measure it, and then following up by reporting on this regularly – it keeps the priorities top-of-mind and forces you to answer to what you say you are going to do.

Another example of the importance of accountability and discipline: “What I got from Abbott was the idea that when you set your objectives for the year, you record them in concrete. You can change your plans through the year, but you never change what you measure yourself against. You are rigorous at the end of the year, adhering exactly to what you said was going to happen. You don’t get a chance to editorialize. You don’t get a chance to adjust and finagle, and decide you really didn’t intend to do that anyway, and readjust your objectives to make yourself look better. You never focus on what you’ve accomplished for the year; your focus on what you’ve accomplished relative to exactly what you said you were going to accomplish – no matter how tough the measure.”

                                                                                                              —George Rathman, in Good to Great (p 122) 

Reflect and Appreciate
Ok, that’s done… on to the next task. Wait! Take a moment. While it’s great to always look at the horizon, take a moment to look back at the shore. A project completed – that’s worthy of a moment of savoring and reflection. Enjoy having completed something, and if applicable, what would you do differently next time? Use this as positive momentum to continue learning while living the value of excellence (not perfection). Now…on to the next thing.

I read somewhere once, that an antidote to this feeling of our lives moving so quickly is to meditate. The point: mindfulness. Taking moments during the day to appreciate a success or a special moment fuels a feeling of satisfaction and contentment with our lives and balances out the other influences: stress, dissatisfaction, chaos, negativity.

These ideas can be applied in both the business and personal arenas, for large and small scale projects, for families, long and short term.

      • Start with one thing. Do you have a clear vision or strategy? If not – start the process.
      • From the strategy, what are the action items, who’s responsible, when are the due dates, and who is checking? Have you built in measurement and accountability measures that make sense and support the company strategy? If not – have the necessary conversations and communicate.
      • Build in a process of after action review. Include both what you would do better or differently next time and what you did well. Communicate this to those that were part of the project. Make it a part of your culture to both celebrate and continually improve.

A word about perfection and excellence
Life, business, strategy, building – it’s all messy. It’s necessarily iterative, and this can be uncomfortable, confusing and exciting. And, like quitting smoking, it can take some time to sustain the change of habit but the long term payoff makes it worth the effort. I’m a big proponent of focusing on excellence rather than perfection. So – how to make sense of it all? Be disciplined in your thought and action, hold yourself and others accountable, reflect, adjust, and celebrate!

Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit. Aristotle