Ramblings of a Creative Mind

Thoughts on Work and the World from an Executive Mom

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A Boy and A Blue Balloon

Close up of a blue balloonThis morning, I had the honor to be a small part of something special.

After rolling out of bed before the sun came up, I was pretty tired.  So were the hundred or so fellow travelers I shared Southwest Airlines Flight #150 with this morning on the way to Sacramento.   Engrossed in our smartphones, on auto pilot, we picked up our bags and began to exit the plane.  That’s where the magic began.

As I stepped out the door and onto the jetway, I glanced up and saw a blue balloon taped to the wall.  Odd, but not remarkable.   Then, there was another.  And another.  In fact, the jetway walls were lined with bright blue balloons – far too many to count.  Confused, I stopped.  So did everyone else. I heard our flight attendant bristling with excitement, lining up the pilots and prepping them for photos and the surprise.  And there, nestled amongst it all was a sign – “We’re honored to help!  Yay, Mason!”  As my dazed companions and I got moving again, I was struck by the bright smiles on the faces of the flight attendants, the crew, the passengers… and me.

I have no clue who Mason is.  I don’t know his story.  I overheard that he was headed to Orlando, so I think he is a child, but why is he going there? What made this trip so special that a team pulled together to create a thing of such joy for him, for themselves and for all of us who were brief witnesses to the moment?

The background of his story may be bright or perhaps tragic.  At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter.  What hit home for me is how someone on that flight crew cared deeply about someone they barely knew, had an idea and led others with love.

The notion of love in leadership may be controversial.  As we build our careers, we focus on learning the ropes, connecting the dots, generating the ROI and building a great strategic plan.  Those are all necessary components to any great business.  But where is the love?  Where is the emotional connection that is so fierce, so deep and so passionate that it leads you to chase dreams, move mountains and inspires others to follow?  Data, metrics and business plans provide a framework for any good enterprise.  Companies and leaders become great though when they inspire people to believe, to get uncomfortable, to go out on a limb and to give.  We have to take that risk and bring love into the equation.  It’s love for the company, it’s culture, it’s team and its customers.     It’s spending the time to get to know someone else’s dreams, what they want to achieve, and then committing full force… being there to help them achieve that dream.  It’s investing in what’s in it for someone else.  It reaps greater rewards for the giver than you can ever accrue for.  Even more, it reaps rewards for your team as they invest emotionally.  They go father, reach higher, work harder and smile wider.  They’ve shared the joy.

I still don’t know Mason and his story.  I think it’s better that way.  What I do know is that Mason was a king this morning, and whatever mountain he may need to climb, he is stronger today and has a hundred strangers cheering him on from the sidelines.  I’m among them.

Traveling on business has its perks.  Frequent flier programs can get you a window over an aisle, free wifi and sometimes, a front row seat to greatness.

How can you lead your life with love today?  Who will be your Mason?


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Finding Monday Motivation

Have you ever felt like this on Monday morning?

Have you ever felt like this on Monday morning?

When I am in the office, I follow a pretty strict structure in the morning.  I get in early so I can get started while things are still quiet.  I spend the first 15 minutes getting situated, writing out what I want/need to accomplish in my day, then ranking the projects in order of importance.  Who do I need to call back?  What deliverables are due today?  Then, I spend the next 30 minutes or so doing research about the automotive and credit union industries.  After all, my company serves both of those industries and, as its representative, it’s my job to be an expert.  I spend about 30 minutes looking ahead at the next few weeks – what do I need to do to achieve my goals?  Is there any prep work I need to do for my clients? Finally, I decompress for a few minutes, and then launch into the day, full steam ahead.  My days and weeks are very structured for a reason.  Why?  The structure provides the foundation I need to excel on great days and to make it through the tougher ones.

Sometimes, no matter how good your intentions, getting started on a Monday morning can be a rough go.  Perhaps it’s winding down from a busy weekend or winding up from a slow one.  Maybe you have a lot on your plate for that week, and the tasks seem overwhelming.  Today, I feel like I am wading through mud.  My desk is piled high with a million little items that need attention, and although I have gotten a lot done, it still feels like I have struggled today to accomplish anything.  Kind of a contradiction, to be sure.  So what do I have to fall back on when I just can’t get going?  Structure, plus a little inspiration.  I looked back over my notes from the morning, cranked up the deep, funky house (sorry to my teammates), and just started pushing things forward.

My days are not much different from yours.  You take stock of whatever you need to accomplish.  In sales, that’s probably your leads, marketing visits and scheduled presentations or more.  You research your product as you are the expert.  You research your prospects and plan your next few weeks – when can you go out marketing and who do you need to follow up with.  Although you may feel like you’re wading through mud too, you’re actually walking along a straight path to success when you structure your day.  And your phone starts ringing.

Even when life is good (and car sales sure are good right now), there are challenges – from the annoying to the earth-shattering.  Structuring your day provides a foundation for you to move things forward when the going gets a little rough – say for example, you have an unexpected complication at work or you’re feeling under the weather.  It is far too easy to let things derail you, especially if they are new, you are tired, you have a ton of leads or it’s a Monday.  Solid, consistent structure or processes give you something to fall back on, to help you get started.  But you may need more – you need inspiration.
Inspiration comes in many forms.  Perhaps you read motivational books, take a quick walk around the office or crank up the tunes like I do.  It doesn’t matter where you find inspiration; it just matters that you do.  We can’t expect that anyone else will find it for us.  We need to take charge of our day and our life, be accountable and crank up the volume.  This life is far too short to sit and wait for something to come our way.  Yes, some things are out of our control, but a lot of life is in our control.  Grab hold of the reins, go marketing (blast that beat) and get going.  You just might find that Monday Morning Motivation* along the way.
*A special thanks goes out to Seattle’s C89.5 for the techno wake up call today!  Again, sorry to everyone here at the office!

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Happy Hopping

CheeringToday, prior to coming in to work, I attended a Hop-a-Thon to raise funds for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.  Let me tell you, there are few things in this world that are cuter than a group of three to five year olds hopping their hearts out inside of hula hoops for charity.  Seriously, adorable.  So, my job as one of the volunteer “coaches” was to stand by one of the hoops and count how many times each child hopped in one minute.  One by one, they came up to accept their challenge – Rodney, Jake, Shae, Taeya.  One by one, each waited for the bell.  And when it rang, they began.  Now, for a four year old, a minute is an eternity.  So, “Coach Marci” counted and yelled.  “TEN!  TWENTY!  THIRTY!”  As the numbers got higher, they hopped faster – wanting to hit a hundred.  And when they passed one hundred and heard “ONE TEN!  ONE TWENTY!” they hopped even harder.  The crowd of parents and classmates cheered louder.  When the bell rang after the minute was up, our exhausted and elated athletes stepped out of the rings with huge smiles of achievement on their faces.  And many of them stepped up to try it again, hopping for a second or even a third time.  Even a few of us Moms joined them.  Go, Team Mom!

When the last hop had been hopped and the parents began to disperse, one of the members of Team Mom stopped me.  Out of the blue, she mentioned this blog.  She gave me such a wonderful compliment that I never expected and I walked away on air, my spirits lifted and creative juices flowing.  Truth be known, all week, I’ve been having a bit of writer’s block about this blog.  I haven’t felt very creative.  In fact, I’ve been in a bit of a funk in general – feeling undervalued, underappreciated etc.  Once that spiral of under-whatever starts, it’s easy to start seeing it everywhere you look: at work, at home, in life.  Everything seems to validate that negative thinking or emotion.

I was a “coach” this morning, and I’m a coach often at work and at home.  I’m a big believer in positive reinforcement as a primary motivational tool.  I consciously make it a point each and every day to speak words of appreciation to my husband, my kids, my coworkers and employees.  I specifically look for something to sincerely compliment when I’m out networking with strangers; it opens doors.   But it looks like I forgot this week that I need positive reinforcement too.  I also forgot to listen.  Good feedback was there from my husband at home, but I have been so busy having a mini-pity party this week, that I didn’t hear it.  I’ve been on the road a lot lately, so I haven’t really spent that much time with my boss.  But if I was feeling unappreciated at work, all I needed to do was pick up the phone and share what I was feeling professionally.  Mentoring and coaching was out there.  I just missed that opportunity.

I probably would have kept on missing it, kept stewing in my funk, if it had not been for one thoughtful, sincere compliment this morning.  It’s easy to get caught up in the business of work or life.  We dedicate blood, sweat and tears to whatever we are focused on and forget that we need a little nourishment ourselves.  As leaders, we constantly give.  It’s okay to receive too.  In fact, it’s mandatory if you want to stay sane and to grow.  And it spurs us on, giving us the energy to hop higher, work harder and accomplish great things.

If you’re feeling stifled, down or looking for motivation and it’s not coming to you, get up.  Go out and find it.  It’s waiting for you.  Seek out advice.  Ask questions.  And start listening.  TEN!  TWENTY!  YOU CAN DO IT!

Thanks, Jennifer, for helping me get my head on straight and reigniting that fire.