First Friday Favs 8.1.14

leadershipMy summer has been a bit wonky with an unexpected twist of fate or two, so it feels really good to be back at it and have some first Friday favorite leadership and personal development reading to share.

Enjoy and share!

A call to (put down) arms | Samir Mehta | CCL’s Leading Effectively

Samir’s piece challenges us to consider the language and frame of mind we use in approaching business and leadership. Why do we say we’re in the line of fire? Engage in a turf war? Function as warriors? Good food for thought!

Five Tips for Handling Conflict within Organizations | CPP Connect

Conflict is a fact of life, and some of us are better at handling it than others. If your inclination is to ignore the problem or hand it off to someone else, you’ll find insights here to improve your conflict resolution skills.

Gender Inequality in Deliberative Participation | C.Karpowitz, T. Mendelberg, and L.Shaker

Some fascinating research into the gender gap in voice and authority. I found one finding—that the gender gap in voice and authority is the largest when women are in the majority—at odds with my experience. Would love to know how their result syncs up with what you have seen.

Why good leaders make you feel safe | Simon Sinek | TED Talks

Management theorist Simon Sinek purports that great leaders make people feel safe by creating an environment of trust. I believe he’s right in principle but haven’t seen an abundance of corporate folks willing to make this so. What about you?

If you want trust, trust others. If you want respect, respect others. If you want help, help others. If you want love and peace in your life, give them away. If you want great friends, be one. That’s how it works. ~Dan Zadra


8 Tips for Women Who Want to Start a Business from Scratch

wisdom for women

Today’s guest contributor is Danielle Tate, CEO of  Wanting to save other brides countless hours of hassle, Danielle researched name-changing laws and rules in all 50 states to streamline and implemented her unique three-step, 30-minute online service. Danielle is also a partner in a non-profit organization that helps charities file tax exemption paperwork in multiple states.


Now more than ever, women are seeing the benefits of building their own businesses and are doing just that.  In a world full of complicated and contradicting start up information, consider my eight simple tips for launching a successful business as a woman—from a women who’s been there.

  1. Don’t quit your day job, at least not at first. 

While it may be tempting to jump feet first into building your business, it’s wise to map out your financial needs and obligations before giving your two weeks’ notice. Consider working part-time as a transition into entrepreneurship. I’m a big fan of bootstrapping a business instead of beginning with seed rounds because that allows you to truly focus on your product/idea instead of cap tables and keeping investors happy.

  1. Have an original idea.

So you’ve come up with an amazing solution to a problem.  Awesome.  Now take some time to research the problem and see if any other companies have come up with similar solutions and/or products. It’s rarely fruitful to create a copycat company, unless your concept is radically innovative.  Next step, talk to the people that experience the problem you’re solving and find out what they really need/want.  You’d be surprised at how much you can learn from your potential customer.

  1. Generate and act upon continuous good ideas. 

It isn’t the one good idea you had for your business that will make you successful:  it is the good ideas you have daily.  Continuous improvement and innovation create a thriving business that’s hard for competitors to copy.

  1. Play to your strengths.

Know what you do well and make sure that doing those things is your responsibility in the business.  If you lack a key component to running your business, consider finding a partner to handle that aspect. is a free service that matches entrepreneurs based on their strengths and personalities.  If you don’t want to bring in a partner, hire someone to fill in your “business gaps,” because it’s exhausting to try to do everything yourself. Plus, whatever you’re not comfortable doing won’t get done.

  1. Plug into a community. 

Building a startup is tough, but building a startup in a vacuum is virtually impossible.  There are amazing groups like Startup America and Lean Start Up that hold meet-ups for entrepreneurs.  Women rely on relationships for support and happiness in life, and it’s no different in business.  Finding a few female entrepreneur friends that you can talk business woes and successes with can make all the difference in your success.

  1. Make it strictly business.

Allow your friends and family to help you with research and any other aspects of your start up, but beware hiring them as employees.  As women, we want to keep our friends and family happy, which can make managing them a nightmare. The transition from friend-to-employee-to entitled can happen quickly and result in some tough decisions.  I personally had to fire two friends-turned employees, and we’re no longer friends.  Learn from my mistakes.

  1. Strive for balance.

It’s incredibly easy to get completely wrapped up in your start-up, but it can also be suffocating and lead to tremendous amounts of guilt.  Schedule time weekly to meet-up with friends and family to maintain your relationships.  Trust me; if you don’t schedule time, it won’t happen.  If you have children, earmark at least three evenings a week to hang out and simply enjoy them. (Then go back to work after you tuck them in).  I find that my best ideas happen when I take time out from work to relax.

  1. Find inspiration.

Be it music, art, exercise or hobbies—you know what inspires your mind and soul so don’t forget to feed that part of you so you can fuel your business and creativity.  Personally, I have an inspirational quote board on Pinterest that I look through when I’m feeling drained or need that extra edge for a big meeting.


So often people are working hard at the wrong thing. Working on the right thing is probably more important than working hard.

~Caterina Fake, Co-founder, Flickr




10 on the 10th: Focusing on Focus

Sadly, I’ve always been a better lesson learner after having been whacked by a cosmic two-by-four. A recent health scare prompted me to hit my personal “pause button” and rethink where I’m headed in this second act of mine.

It’s time to focus on getting focused! Want to join me?

In praise of downtime

in praise of downtimeA little after noon last Friday, I unplugged from technology (phone and PC) for the long holiday weekend. What bliss!

A refreshing and renewing interlude that would have been impossible in my first act of life where 24×7 connectivity and within-minutes response was expected.

One of my favorite dysfunctional stories that illustrates this zaniness:  I lived and worked on the West coast for a company whose headquarters were on the East coast. My normal Saturday morning routine involved getting up early, savoring coffee on my deck sans technology, and then meeting my personal trainer in the redwood state park for a workout.

Come Friday evening, I’d normally have clocked 60+ hours, so I really looked forward to those Saturday mornings doing push-ups on tree stumps, jumping across small babbling streams, and seeing the sun come up. Just us and nature. One exquisite morning a week I didn’t arise at 4 AM to do my “dastardly email” as I called it.

One Saturday morning I returned home at 8:45 AM. Hubby said I’d better check my email ASAP since my “crackberry” had been buzzing like mad.

In checking, I discovered that at 7 AM Eastern time (4 AM my time) the CEO had sent me an email. In it, he made a data request and demanded a response by noon ET.

At 8 AM his time, he forwarded his email to my matrix HQ boss, copying me, asking her to find out where I was. For the next two hours, she flooded my inbox with increasingly more frantic email messages about quickly getting the CEO what he wanted.

So at 8:51 AM my time (11:51 AM his) I answered the CEO’s email, giving him the data he wanted. Whew! Just nine minutes to spare! And all the good from my time in the redwoods wiped out.

In his message back, the CEO asked why it had taken so long for me to respond to his request. I politely reminded him of the time difference and told him about my Saturday morning exercise routine (he was a fitness nut). He had the grace to apologize for his impatience for information that he said was a curiosity not a crisis. Yikes.

My matrix boss (who had also forgotten about the time difference) told me later that afternoon the CEO had been ready to fire me at 8 AM his time for failing to comply with a work request! Double yikes.

The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration—it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done. ~Tim Kreider

3 questions for bosses about downtime

So, bosses everywhere:  if you recognize yourself in this story, this post is for you!

Ask yourself a few questions:

1.  Am I using weekend and late night email reading and response as an indicator of loyalty, dedication, and hard work?

If you are, why? What other data points are available to show an employee’s allegiance and quality of work? Why do you feel the need to test them? Are you aware of what this behavior does to trust levels?

2.  Am I being thoughtful about involving employees at all times of the day, night, and weekend?

Is what you are asking for really needed or simply satisfying a whim you have? Is the person you are asking the only source of the data, or are there other resources available? Why is it important that you know?

3.  Do you expect your employees to be on call 24×7?

Other than emergency or crisis situations that require immediate escalation and response regardless of the time, what drives this expectation? Is it realistic? Why do you believe 24×7 connection is necessary? Does your company have an escalation process for emergencies? If not, should it?

I pose these self-reflection questions directly to you. Why? Because your employees look to you for guidance and as an example for downtime. If you don’t take or value downtime, they won’t feel free to do so either.

Are you ready to take the leap and unplug…just a little?





Where do you stand on accountability?

While doing some leadership research, I ran across this observation in an article I was reading:  “Holding people accountable is fine and well, but it should only be used as a last resort.”

Fine and well? Last resort? What horrifying advice!

In teams that I’ve led or been a member of, accountability was an inescapable success factor for managing a function or responsibility and for leading people or one’s self—it was an expectation or parameter established and communicated upfront.

Are engaged people productive people?

engaged employees“That’s lovely, but in the end, it’s all about economics and the bottom line,” said the CEO of the $10M company.

The Power of Purposeful Discomfort™

For some, there’s a certain lure to consistency and continuity, knowing what to expect and when.

Others are addicted to the magic of uncertainty and perpetual newness.

Those standing firm in the control corner get surprised when their micromanagement leads to dissatisfaction, turnover, or stagnation.

Those who love to go with the flow can be disappointed by the lack of results, chaos, and total disorganization.

Too much of anything, be it stability or innovation, willfulness or humility, competition or collaboration, becomes a bad thing.

The trick for fulfillment and success in life, love, and leadership is accepting the purposeful discomfort™ that comes with learning to live with “both.”

Both stability and innovation. Both willfulness and humility. Both competition and collaboration. The list of “boths” goes on and on. Peter Drucker’s phrase of being “equally important but essentially different” is a perfect descriptor for how leaders need to think about these interdependent but contradictory elements.

That’s what I call purposeful discomfort.

I’m participating in Todd Nielsen’s 2014 International Leadership Blogathon. My post addresses how enlightened leaders make room for serendipity in managing the creative tension, the purposeful discomfort, between chaos and control.

Please take a look at the post and let me know what you think! And while you’re there, do check out all the other terrific posts in Todd’s leadership blogathon!

purposeful discomfort

 Image source before quote:




5 myths about kindness to retire

I’m on a mission to rehabilitate the connotations of several words—and kindness is one of them.

Tenderness and kindness are not signs of weakness and despair, but manifestations of strength and resolution. ~Kahlil Gibran

Kindness, which is ever-renewable and costs nothing, is in short supply.

Frantic schedules, demanding bosses, too much to do with too little time for doing it, and the technology impacts of interacting with others via a device instead of person-to-person all play a role in the disappearance of kind acts.

How to Recognize Danger in the Workplace

Today’s guest contributor is Mohinder Goomar, a former doctor and personality disorder sufferer. After experiencing mood swings and a distortion of judgment, Mohinder was diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder (DID) and lost his medical license during his two-year period of rehabilitation. Sadly, because of his DID experience, his medical license was not reinstated. His book, It’s Just My Opinion, details his experience and provides guidance to help others in recognizing danger signs in others in the workplace or schools.


do my bit to help othersAbout 2 million employees are affected by workplace violence every year, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. And shocking acts of public violence—a stabbing at a Pennsylvania high school, shootings at Fort Hood and the Washington Navy Yard—continue to dominate the news.

17 on the 17th: Quotes about Intention

intentionBecause of a unanticipated turn of financial fate, my friend has been forced to abandon her dream path and return to a full-time job.

Yesterday she asked me to help her not lose sight of her dream, to not let her get caught in the work-a-day business world vortex and disappear into a swirl of reports, bottom line analyses, and singular focus on climbing the corporate ladder. She wants me to help her remember that success carries many definitions.

Which got me to thinking about intentions.