Monday, September 29, 2014

Do You Measure Up?

...depends on whose measurements you're using...

Some of the greatest "ah-hahs" that I get these days come from conversations with my daughter. I'm grateful that I take the time to engage and listen. She makes me a better person with each passing day.
This week she had questions about the perceptions that people have of each other and how those perceptions develop. I explained that views of ourselves and of others develop through family teachings, cultural norms, stereotypes, education, peer associations, and experience. I emphasized that it's important for her to keep her mind open so she can see things for who or what they are rather than for who or what she thinks they ought to be. There's no need to measure or judge - only to wait.
She said my explanation was too complicated so I tried another...

When someone shows you who they are believe them - the first time

Dr. Maya Angelou
She got it...
Continuing with the lesson du jour, I went on to explain that the way we define and measure ourselves internally is far more important than any thoughts or views that come from outside of us. She piped up right away with "What about my grades?" Smart kid.
I said "Grades are very important, but they are the minimum. Continue to make excellent grades but don't stop there. You have to decide how you will use what you've learned to create something in the world. Don't wait for someone else to define for you what that something should be. You decide."
I let that thought hang in the air as she got out of the car to go into school. I received similar guidance from my dad as I was growing up.
When I picked her up I could tell that she had already begun to make a shift in her thinking about herself. She was very excited and talked about several projects that she intends to take on that aren't related to her school studies. Why? Because she decided to...

How Do You Measure Success?

I believe that the most powerful voice we will ever hear is our own. That's not to say that we're always right about everything, but it is to say that our perspective of how successful we are is the one that matters most.
I'm grateful for a dad who instilled in us that we were "special"... I can hear sighs and see eyes rolling as reflections about kids getting trophies just for showing up come to mind. That's not what I'm talking about. I'm referring to the type of "special" reinforcement that prevents other people's thoughts (O.P.T.) from taking over our own.
With this type of "special" reinforcement in place, fitting in becomes the low bar and self-determination becomes the high bar. Why fit in when we're made to stand out with unique and countless dreams, talents, skills, faults, goals, and pathways? We're all special and we should be proud of our nuances in a "special" kind of way.
How do I measure success? From the inside out. I decide.

I demand more of myself than anyone else could ever expect

Julius Irving


External validation is part of the feedback loop that allows for the integration of lessons, observations, comparisons, and realignments where necessary. I too must keep my mind open...

Success means different things to different people based on family teachings, cultural norms, stereotypes, education, peer associations, and experience. It ultimately depends on our own measurement criteria.

How do you measure success?

Drop in, like, share, and add your comments and insights below.
If you like this article, check out some of these:

These Heels Were Made For Climbin'

...and that's just what they'll do...

If you're like me you're hearing a familiar tune in your head These Boots Were Made for Walkin' by Nancy Sinatra. Oh forget it - I'm not that old! I just remember that catchy tune.
Maybe you have no idea about the song, but I'll bet you do have an idea of what it feels like to climb your career ladder while balancing precariously on thin things - thin ice, high heels, glass ceilings. Those experiences similar to your favorite shoes are likely familiar and well-worn, but it takes skill to climb in snazzy heels - or boots - or flats. The climb takes skill...

I was asked and graciously accepted an invitation to the 6th Annual Texas Diversity Council's Women in Leadership Symposium hosted by TCU's Neely School of Business on Friday, September 19, 2014. The line-up of panelists was (wow!) impressive and awe inspiring.
Each leader relayed tremendous insights that resonated with me and a sold out crowd. They talked about competence, stamina, proving grounds, your personal "Board of Directors", mistakes they've made, being underestimated, networking, and much more. Overwhelmingly they've earned their seats at the table - any table.
Here are a few (very few) insights that I captured during the symposium.
►►►A Woman's Secret to Success: Developing and Balancing Self-Confidence

What got you here won't get you there. Be humble and open. Know what you don't know.

Be willing to take risks. Don't hesitate!

Before it's your favorite place, it's somewhere you've never been.

Captain Kathi Durst - Chief Pilot-DFW, American Airlines
►►►Gendered Leadership: How Talented Women Thrive

Make competence your priority. Make it about contribution not about gender. You must be really good at what you do.

Bloom where you're planted. Don't limit yourself!

Remember that you are women, you don't need to be men

Lisa Firmin - MHRM, Colonel, USAF, Retired, Associate Provost for Diversity and Recruitment for The University of Texas at San Antonio
►►►Great Leadership: Creating Change For The Better

Be the game-changer. Go forth with winning in mind. Remember layers of change. Don't short cut process.

Continuously communicate in different voices. Be concise. Check-in frequently. Celebrate along the way.

It's your world, change it!

Cynthia Odom - Chief Financial and Administration Officer, Girl Scouts of Texas Oklahoma Plains
►►►The New Workplace: Leading Successfully Across Generations

Understand the culture that you're working in

Listen - a lot...

Build your own "Board of Directors" of trusted people. Choose people who won't give you a free pass.

Sharon M. Leite - Executive Vice President-Sales and Customer Experience, Pier I Imports
►►►Leadership Beyond Survivor: Using The Power of Alliances

Dress the part, play the part, be the part.

Always take feedback in, say "Thank You". Vent later.

Lisa Keglowitz - Vice President, Store Operations and Strategic Initiatives, GameStop, Inc.
►►►Purposeful Life: Living and Following Your Dreams

Transitioning to higher role may be uncomfortable - and lonely.

Embrace diversity (all things different).

Your life depends on relationships.

Greer Christian - Vice President, Community Development Officer, Wells Fargo
As each leader presented topics on Women of Vision: Leading Transformation in the Workplace, I couldn't help but wonder who would fill their shoes as they move on from their powerful positions.
Just as quickly I reminded myself that there are millions of new pathways to build and countless new contributions to make. The insights provided above help to clear away some of the underbrush along new pathways and allows new climbing skills to emerge.

What new pathways will you build and what new shoes will you fill?

Add your comments and insights below.

If you like this article, check out some of these:

Dis-Comfort Zone Exit Strategy - Let Go!

You've heard the story about the frog in warm water versus boiling water, right?

What about the story of the frog hanging onto the edge of an alligator's mouth?! Okay - that's a new one.
Do you think this frog is aware of the danger of hanging out on the edge of the alligator's mouth? I suppose it depends on the frog's perception about what's in the water below and how afraid it is to move.
This to me is what's known as a "dis-comfort zone" - where it's too painful to move forward and it's excruciating to move backward. This little guy is just stuck.

When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on!

Franklin D. Roosevelt

The Comfort of the "Dis-Comfort Zone"

Getting out of one's "dis-comfort zone" can be uncomfortable at best and down right terrifying at worst. When the pain of hanging on outweighs the pain of letting go, typically we let go, right? Sometimes we would rather stay in terrible situations before we risk the unknown.
So what do you suppose it takes to get unstuck?

To get out of an old situation or pattern requires the creation or insertion of something new - a new habit, a new situation, a new location, a new perception. Phillipa Lally et. al. (2010) performed a systematic study of how new habits form in the real world.
Researchers found that it takes on average 66 days to create a new habit - ranging from 18 to 254 days until the new habit becomes 95% automatic. For some people new habits form quickly. For others not so much.
Three stages - if repeated over and over - will install a new habit:

  • Que (Trigger) - a que or trigger may be a goal, a lesson, or a "dis-comfort zone" which prompts one to take action

  • Behavior - a range of actions in response to a situation or stimulus which alters one's interaction with the external environment

  • Reward - something special given to oneself or to others in recognition of worthy behavior


What you're supposed to do when you don't like a thing is change it. If you can't change it, change the way you think about it. Don't complain.

Dr. Maya Angelou
Navigating change bring up lots of emotions that have to be dealt with. The familiar Kubler-Ross change curve still works even though it's been modified over time. Take notice of the stages but don't dwell too long on any of them except perhaps acceptance and integration.

Dis-Comfort Zone Exit Strategy - Let Go!

I suppose the frog's instincts will tell it to let go and try again. At least if it gets back in the water there's a chance that it can swim fast enough to get away from the alligator and dodge any other dangers. There's at least a chance...
However, if the frog continues to hang on it will certainly get eaten alive. When my proverbial alligators have me hanging on, my instincts tell me to Let Go! and do the following:

(1) DECIDE ON A NEW DIRECTION - determine what's necessary to get from here to there as quickly as possible. Remind yourself that there will be stages of change and varying emotions along the way but the next stage is over there not right here.

(2) LEARN SOMETHING NEW - a lack of competence or information about anything new can lead to extreme discomfort especially if a change is unwanted or forced. Break through by learning something new about the new area.

(3) CHANGE YOUR PERCEPTION - trying to hang on to an old way when it's clear that something new is already in its place doesn't help. Give yourself room to grow and time to develop new habits, but by all means change your perception and direction as quickly as possible.

(4) CREATE NEW HABITS - accelerate change by looking ahead and planning next steps. Set yourself up for success in the new area by defining new empowering behaviors. Reward yourself for making progress along the way. A cup of spiced coffee works for me.

(5) MEASURE YOUR PROGRESS - are you there yet? Take notice of the small steps and keep your eyes on the prize. Remember that the next stage is over there not right here. Continue to measure progress until you're there.

If you're in the mouth of an alligator, let go and think fast!...

What are some steps you'd recommend for navigating "dis-comfort zones?" Add your comments below.
Check out some of my other articles as well:

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Mommy, Do Entrepreneurs Have To Go To Work?

An innocent and profound question from my amazing daughter...

Here she is at 3 years old sitting at my desk being brilliant, typing her first paragraphs of random alphabets. Today several years later, she reads and writes lengthy and creative stories. She wants to become a writer - and a psychologist - and a world-renowned violinist - and an Olympic gymnast - and possibly a World Peacemaker - and an entrepreneur.
Who am I to tell her that she can't do all of these things? There are too many examples in history and in action today to ignore the power of possibilities and potential. My job as I see it is to open doors, to show her examples of what happens when (not if), and to help her to go through any door that she chooses. She's free to imagine and build her own future the same way entrepreneurs do.
Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life's coming attractions.
Albert Einstein
I was just slightly older than she is in the picture when I recall my dad creating, organizing, building, buying, and selling things. Weekends were when his business machine would crank full speed and everyone had a role to play. During the week, preparations were being made. I had no idea about the concept of an entrepreneur. All I knew was that everyone was busy - really busy. However, I did have a sense that when I grew up I would become one of those "really busy" people.

Who Are Those "Really Busy" People?

Dreamers, innovators, game-changers, thinkers, tinkerers, and folks who have just had enough of the way it is... These are examples of the "really busy" people who help to alter the trajectory of any product, service, culture, organization, or industry. They're sometimes given labels like entrepreneur or intrapreneur. Their imagination and passion may be ignited by an idea, by an opportunity, or by a problem that needs to be solved.
Entrepreneurs work their magic with or within entities that they create, purchase, or organize. Intrapreneurs work their magic inside of entities that have been created, purchased, or organized by others. These general definitions will do for now. Either way these "really busy" people are driven to move the markers from where they are to some place better. No one has to tell them to do it. They just do it because they must. They're hard wired to make progress.
So how much time do entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs actually spend at work? The answers aren't surprising.
While I was examining data on working hours, a pattern emerged between roles, risks, and working hours. I've captured what I learned in the diagram above. It shows an increase in responsibilities and risks as roles change over time. This interaction leads to an increase in the number of working hours.
Is this true? It certainly has been for me. What about for you? Even so an interesting factoid emerged about entrepreneurs who are shown at maximum risk and maximum working hours in the diagram. I'll unpack the assumptions, definitions, and additional conclusions at a later time.
...[in 77% of tracked economies]
It is interesting that...entrepreneurs exhibit more work-life balance satisfaction than people not involved in entrepreneurial activities

Intrapreneurs Work Way More Than 40 Hours Per Week

"Really busy" intrapreneurs (or full-time employees) work on average 47 hours per week according to recent Gallup Work and Education Surveys. Standard working time in the US has been defined as 40 hours per week for purposes of calculating regular pay, benefits, holidays, and special circumstances like overtime pay.
Someone should tell intrapreneurs that they're working way too much! The red flags are waving on the idea that working an excessive amount of hours is good for business. Proof is quite to the contrary.
...Being busy doesn’t work, because most people produce 80 percent of their results in 20 percent of their time

Entrepreneurs Work Even More Than Intrapreneurs!

The paper chase is great, but it means little in the end if we're not able to enjoy the rewards. Entrepreneurs are often the busiest of the "really busy" people, but they don't have to be. Some stats show as much as 63% more working hours for entrepreneurs compared with intrapreneurs. Why so much?
Perhaps the excessive hours are due to the increased risk associated with managing complex organizations - or perhaps it's because entrepreneurs enjoy and indulge in the control that they have over their work. Regardless there's a need for systematic time management the old fashioned way because none of us are getting any more hours in our days no matter how hard we try.

Time Management Action Plan

The "really busy" people are typically proactive, passionate, driven, visionary, persistent, and determined to make a difference. These amazing traits don't mean that we have to spend all of our time at work. Here's how I escape.
  • (1) TAKE TASK NOTES - Keep a note pad or device handy for capturing tasks as they come up.
  • (2) CREATE ACTION CATEGORIES - Establish a short list of action categories that will make it easier to sort, reference, and schedule tasks later.
  • (3) SCHEDULE "YOU" TIME - Make yourself a priority. Block off time slots for meals, snacks, relaxation, exercise, and spending time with family, friends, and co-workers.
  • (4) PRIORITIZE AND SCHEDULE WORK ITEMS - Shake off your task list to see what’s really necessary to handle and by when.
  • (5) LEVERAGE YOUR SUPPORT TEAM - Delegate, delegate, delegate! Put a support team in place and leverage them.
  • (6) REVIEW EOD or EOP PERFORMANCE - Review end-of-day or end-of-period performance and celebrate your accomplishments.
  • (7) OPTIMIZE ACTION PLAN & REPEAT - Implement controls and barriers to ensure that you accomplish your goals better next time around. Repeat steps.
With an effective Time Management Action Plan in place, an Apple Watch just might become a fun way to spend time.

I've gone quite a distance to answer a simple question from a curious child. The complexity of the answer got the best of me.
Do entrepreneurs have to go to work? Yes - but not for nearly as much time as they think they have to...

What are some ways that you optimize your time? I'd like to know. Add your comments below.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Corporate Beauty Contest? Now That's Just Taking It Too Far!

Sometimes when you see something that stuns you a bit you try to shake it off...

That's how I felt when I read an article about a corporate beauty contest at Duke University. That's right - a beauty contest!
This funny lady shaking her finger at the business world adds some comic relief to this disturbing and intriguing topic (for me at least). It's like a train wreck - can't look away.
At first it was the headline that caught my eye. Then I quick-skimmed the details. I couldn't believe what I was reading. A lot of choice words came to mind so I put the article down and went on to something else for a few days. Of course I had to explore it further.
Not only are professionals already competing for leadership slots based on an array of known challenges, now they're unknowingly competing in beauty contests too?

Now that's just taking it too far!

Let's be real. Everyone knows that the way a person presents herself or himself makes an impression. What we may not be aware of is how much an impression may cost us. Also, if we are in positions of leadership and decision-making, we may not be aware of how our appearance-based decisions impact the earnings of others.
Duke University researchers set out to discover whether "looking the part" made a difference at the executive level in terms of pay and perks. Their findings?
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- standard deviation increase in the competence facial trait is associated with an 11% to 14% increase in total compensation
...The economic magnitude of this effect is large; in 2012 the average CEO pay in S&P 500 firms is $12.25 million and 14% represents $1.72 million...

Say What?

Duke's Finance Professors structured a 3-part study whereby photos with similar facial features, hairstyles, and clothing were evaluated for CEOs and non-CEOs in large and small companies. The test scenarios requested feedback from 2000 participants on the beauty (attractiveness), competence, trustworthiness, and likability of CEO faces. Also, facial features were assigned numerical scores to assess the impact on compensation and company performance. Guess What?

...CEOs who appear competent earn more money than less competent-looking CEOs, even though appearance is not associated with measurable differences in company profitability

If "looks" don't impact company profitability, then why are CEOs being judged on whether they "look" competent? Duke's professors were astonished by the results and so am I. There are studies, findings, and correlations which suggest that winners of political races can be determined by looks alone, but corporate leaders too?
Ladies we can sit this one out but not for long.

Women are 60% of college students and 40% of MBA students; research predicts 30% women CEOs by 2040

Duke's study results are about male CEOs. Women CEOs were removed from the final analysis because there were too few making them identifiable thus introducing additional factors into the results. That's a different challenge altogether.

What's This About A "Beauty Premium"?

Think this applies only to CEOs and corporate executives? Think again. There's an economic theory called pulchronomics (the study of the economics of physical attractiveness) which suggests that a "beauty premium" is attached to workers' earnings as well. The findings? Attractive workers earn more than workers with below average looks.

...below-average-looking men earn 17% less than those considered good-looking, while below-average-looking females earn 12% less than their attractive counterparts...

[over a career span] good-looking workers earn a total of $230,000 more than those with below-average looks

Harvard, Yale, UT Austin, and many others have also studied the phenomenon. None of the results make it right to judge someone based on appearance, but they do confirm and quantify what we already know. We're being judged and it's costing us big time.
I believe that beauty may get someone in the door, but it's talent, knowledge, skills, and attributes that will keep them there - or the lack of it will get them gone!
Now that we know, now what?

Shake It Off

If you haven't heard Taylor Swift's new song maybe now is a good time to hear it. I'm not a fan of parts of her new video, but I love the song (thanks to my daughter). "Shake It Off" is a great anthem that carries a ton of energy to help one to stay focused while eliminating noise.

Know Your Destination

Continue on your journey armed with facts and greater awareness. If you're like me, the shock is wearing off. Know where you want to go and go there with all due haste, but stop and smell the roses along the way.

Leverage Your Support Team

If you don't have a coach or mentor or support network, get one. Going it alone can be challenging and it's unnecessary. Even the greatest people in business, sports, medicine, politics, you name it - have a support team.

Execute Your Plan

There are no guarantees except that hard work makes it so. Roll up your sleeves, work hard, make adjustments along the way, and continue doing what you love and want to do. If you're not doing that yet, then develop a plan to get there.

Let each NO, CAN'T, SHOULDN'T be like drops of water to a thirsty plant. Be REVIVED by them!


Bottom line - looks can be deceiving so don't judge a person by their appearance alone.

Deep breath... What do you think of the "beauty premium"? In anticipation of charged responses I'll say please be kind when you post comments ;-)

Sunday, September 7, 2014

10,000 Failures and Other Magnificent Lessons

What do you do when you want something so bad that you can taste it?...

I'll bet your mouth waters at the thought of having juicy ripe cherries even though you know they have pits - depending on whether you like cherries in the first place. That's how it usually works, right? Practically everything that we want comes with pits as part of the package.
Whether it's that shiny new job (time clock) or that shiny new car (payments) or that bustling new city (traffic) or that beautiful new baby (sleepless nights) or that great big house (mortgage) or... The list goes on and on.
If we're lucky then we learn very early that life is a series of challenges - (1) either we're coming out of a challenge(2) in the middle of a challenge, or (3) preparing to go into a challenge. This may seem like a bleak view of things, but it's quite the opposite.
If we're even luckier then we also learn that challenges arrive to help us build the strength that's necessary for our journey. Challenges make us dig deep down inside to find the promise that we were born with. Either we unlock that promise and grow or we allow challenges to us beat down.

I often think of people that I admire and what they've taught me. I try to model their examples to make myself better and to make a greater contribution. This summer I had quite an adventure all over the U.S. visiting places where many timeless leaders have been cast in stone. From the Lincoln Memorial to the King Memorial and all the way to the Statue of Liberty, I revisited the past and opened myself up to even greater possibilities for the future.

From museum to museum and book store to book store, I picked up bits and pieces of classic parchment as reminders of how far we've come and how far we have yet to go. I was awe struck by how many people there were who etched their blood, sweat, and signatures on my future and how many times things didn't work out as they had planned. Yet they just kept going. When one door closed, they didn't just open another door. They built altogether new structures!
That's because they knew something... They knew that there is no such thing as failure as long as one learns from their experiences. Even the act of refusing to learn is a lesson. Thus there is no such thing as failure. There are only challenges to be learned from.


I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.

Thomas A. Edison


Voila! After 10,000 tries there was light.

The number 10,000 comes up often when talking about success or failure. Malcolm Gladwell reviews it in his book OutliersScientists have done metadata studies to dispute how Gladwell talks about it. Gladwell says that folks are oversimplifying when they talk about it. What all of them do agree on is that deliberate practice makes you better. Not perfect - just better. You've got to go deeper to go from Good To Great.

How do you get from good to great?

Listen to Jennifer Bricker's amazing story.

When someone tells you NO or you CAN'T or you SHOULDN'T - be grateful for it because they're helping you to build your muscles for whatever's next. Let each NO, CAN'T, SHOULDN'T be like a drop of water on a thirsty plant and let it REVIVE you.

What is failure? It's your choice. Choose well.

I'm looking forward to hearing from you on this topic. Join the conversation by adding your comments below.