Monthly Archives: April 2007

The Answer to My Dreams Exists

Betty BrigadeI just found the answer to my dreams.

Have you ever felt like you just have too much stuff on your plate – and some of it is the stuff you really don’t like to do?  For me, it’s the detail type work. Or planning an event when I’m already on overdrive.

Well, today, I began a year-long volunteer commitment to the ATHENA PowerLink® program  in Ann Arbor. 

With this program, a fast-tracking small business is identified by the sponsoring body. An advisory panel team is pulled together to mentor the owner for a year. Our panel has a banker, an HR person, a CPA and several successful business owners. I bring the marketing expertise to the table.

Our featured business is The Betty Brigrade which is owned by Sharon McRill. Sharon’s company offers a personal concierge-type service that does everything from walk the dog to plan weddings! (Sharon must have tapped into my dreams!)

Today was our kick-off meeting. Sharon presented information about her business and we asked questions.

I was fascinated with the variety of questions asked by panel members – often reflecting a person’s background. We bounced all over the board – from cash flow to marketing issues.

Made me think about chapters… It is quite common for chapter members to be similar in backgrounds or passions or interests.

Does anyone have an advisory panel of community members or people of different professions? I wonder what opportunities those outside your normal chapter membership might see for you?

Properly Minding One’s Ps and Qs

Marci RaverHow well do you mind your Ps and Qs?  According to my parents, this means using good manners.

Last night, I attended a program featuring Marci Raver, CEO and Chief Etiquette Officer for Contemporary Etiquette who lead us through an interesting hour-long discussion about how to properly give thank to others.

Did you know you should only say “thanks” once in a thank you note? “Thanks again” as a close isn’t proper – nor is asking for a favor in your note. (Feeling in your element? Test your knowledge with Marci’s Etiquette Quiz.)

We talked about the best and worst thanks we had received.

A lack of thanks was easily cited as the worst thanks given. One person mentioned she had been waiting 14 years for a thank you for a wedding gift! Shame, shame!

Receiving unexpected thanks was easily the room’s favorite type of thanks.

Growing up, my dad was a stickler about manners so much of what I heard was a review of sorts. Marci’s talk did give me an important reminder about the gift one gives when sending a note of thanks – especially a handwritten note.

Made me think of being involved in a chapter… There are so many people who give in order to make a chapter work. How do you thank those who help you?

My Computer Showed Who’s the Boss Today!

Computer Error miniAt 12:45 PM today, I discovered my laptop locked in The Twilight Zone – AUGHHH!!! I felt like I was on the show!

My computer would not turn off – or allow me to access any programs. All I could see was a lovely photo of Raindrop, our dog – and none of my desktop files!

I knew if I could restart the computer, the problem would be probably solved.

The biggest cause of my intense stress in the moment? At 1 PM, I was to facilitate a phone call of about 20 people.

My call in and password numbers were on my calendar – in my frozen computer!

James and I scrambled to find an alternative route to get me on the call. He worked on his computer while I cheered on my computer’s reboot efforts – and tried to keep my lunch down!

At 1:05 PM, I finally (luckily) had access to the information I needed and was able to join the call in session. Thankfully another team mate had started the discussion so everything was running smoothly.

Whew!  Only a few people knew I was supposed to be the volunteer facilitator. (Ironically, just yesterday, I had spoken to a friend about being my back up.)

I believe I received a warning from the universe today about needing to be rigorous about backing up my information. We always have client commitments saved in multiple ways. Today drove home the point I need to do more.

As a chapter leader, how do you ensure smooth sailing in the face of potential downed computers? Do you back up your important work?  Do you make sure that your leaders who are running important events for you always have a “Plan B”?

Toddler Art Fuels New Ideas

Toddler artHave you ever had a writer’s block – but for a problem you needed to solve?

I’ve been having a thinking block for the last few days. I hate when it happens. I wondered if part of the cause was plain old information overload…

According to a white paper on The Expanding Digital Universe, the amount of digital information created, captured and replicated in 2006 was equal to 161 billion gigabytes. Whew!

Okay, most of the digital information is in the form of music, pictures and video – it doesn’t quite fit the bill for the volume of what’s been in front of me.

This weekend, James and I decided to have a late lunch at a place that caters to thinking.

The walls are brightly colored. The room has lots of windows and children’s artwork on the walls intermixed with company news. The tables could be found in an old-fashioned study hall.

Lots of space to spread out – and think!

We sat there and talked for more than two hours. 

The location combined with conversation was almost as good as massage for loosening up my mind – and starting the brain cells flowing.

As I relaxed into the environment, that which had been eluding me for the last few days suddenly fell into place. I could identify the next steps I needed to take. Everything seemed much clearer – and easy.

Moving forward, James and I plan to find a few places where we can regularly go to in order to get the fresh perspective I needed this weekend – sort of a preventative medicine for thought blockage.

Made me think of chapter leaders. Has your regular meeting place become mind-numbing for members? What about your board meetings? Does the environment support creative thinking for your strategic issues?

Dreamy Raindrop Creates Space for Review

sleeping-raindrop-mini.pngLast night, around 3:47 AM, Raindrop was such a noisy dreamer she woke me up.

Yes, I’ll confess. She sleeps in our bedroom. Usually the noise is not too bad – James always wins any snoring competition between the two of them.

Anyhow, last night she was so loud with a snort we wondered if someone had broken into our house – that awful noise couldn’t have come from our sweet Raindrop, could it?  (It did.) UGH. There went my sleep!

According to the 40 amazing facts from the Australian National Sleep Research Project, scientists are not sure if other species dream. (Perhaps I should send a video of Raindrop in REM to them!) The research did note interruptions two hours before normal rising are the most disturbing – and I can vouch for that!

I guess the good thing about Raindrop’s early morning antics is that I could not go back to sleep – and thus laid in bed with more than an hour on my hands to review the day before.

I’m often running at such a fast pace, I don’t give my actions and accomplishments the reflection needed to really grow from them.

For example, the Fireside Chat I wrote about yesterday…

Part of the reason it was so fun for me (I realized this morning in quiet contemplation) was because as someone who has been consulting for more than ten years, I tend to get wrapped up in the strategic work I do for clients – and don’t tend to look back to business-building basics for my firm.

It was exciting to share some of the strategies I used to build momentum for my business. This morning I decided to get back into a more aggressive PR campaign mode. I used to be interviewed for print, radio and TV all the time. I had forgotten how much fun it was.

I’m looking forward to creating the space to tap into one of the business basics – which probably help me take my business to the next level in the future. (Thanks Raindrop!)

As a chapter leader, it is very easy to be focused on just getting work done. How do you make sure your team takes time to reflect upon lessons learned in the process of doing chapter business?

Eat, Drink – and Create Committed Members?

nsam-mini.pngHave you ever noticed how sometimes a simple idea can generate a lot of positive impact – perhaps more than you expected?

I spent a few hours this morning at a “Fireside Chat” with certified speaking professional Joyce Weiss. The ten of us gathered at Joyce’s home as part of a community-building program sponsored by the National Speakers Association - Michigan.

Joyce, a long time professional speaker, offered the opportunity to ask her anything we wanted to know about her speaking career. The group around the table ranged from those new to speaking to well-established professional speakers – such as myself.

The Q&A lasted for two hours and culminated with a tour of Joyce’s office.

Half of us went out to lunch at the end of the event. With two board members present, we talked about the event – and what we would like from the chapter moving forward.

There was no charge for attending the chat at Joyce’s. Light snacks and coffee were offered to fuel the conversation. Some of the people who came out for the event had not been to a chapter meeting in months. We all learned from each other – and left feeling more connected to the chapter.

The Fireside Chat was an easy and inexpensive way to provide creative value to some members – and perhaps inspire a few to be more committed to the chapter.

How do you help your members get to know each other better – and build their commitment to your chapter?

Lesson from Michigan’s First Gentleman

dan-mulhern-mini.pngJennifer Granholm is the first woman serving as Michigan’s Governor. Her husband, Dan Mulhern, is Jennifer’s number one fan, a consultant – and a new author of a book on leadership.

Last night, James and I had the pleasure of hearing Dan speak about his book Everyday Leadership: Getting Results in Business, Politics and Life at Nicola’s – an independent bookstore in Ann Arbor. Dan told stories about his life to drive home the point that everyday people can achieve great results.

In one story, Dan shared how a friend had helped him to understand that being a role model is not something that you can do just some of the time.

As a leader, you have the “role model spotlight” on you all the time. People are always watching to see how you react and what you say.

This made me think about being a chapter leader…

Your members watch you when you are in front of the room speaking – as well as how you interact with others before the meeting starts – and in the parking lot after the meeting as well.

If members run into you at the grocery store on a non-meeting night, they still expect you to be the leader you appear to be at chapter events.

Leadership and being a strong role model is not something you can turn on and off at a whim.

How do you keep the “you in front of the room” congruent with the “you” everyplace else?

Cold Reply Blew Hot Opportunity

Cold experienceWhen I first moved to Ann Arbor, I didn’t know anyone besides James. I joined a local chapter and was very active for a few years. Then my life changed quite a bit – and I moved away from the group.

That was about 10 years ago.

I’ve always had a warm place in my heart for the chapter – and even toyed recently with attending a meeting.

(I felt a bit awkward because it had been so long.)

Today I received an email from a person I knew in the chapter. The message read, “I hope I can count on you as a former member to spread the word about this fabulous event.” The email immediately moved to how I could bring multiple people with me – and even advertise in the program!

I wasn’t sure whether to be touched by the invitation – or hurt that they had my email address and felt only like inviting me when they wanted my money…

I decided to assume the best and wrote a very warm and personal regret email back – I had a conflicting event to attend.

Within moments, I got a response. I was excited at the quick turnaround – perhaps they did care about me after all these years…

And was disappointed with the cold response saying if I couldn’t attend would I at least pass out flyers on their behalf?

It sort of hurt. I guess I expected at least a “How are you?” or “Great to hear from you!” type of comment. After all, if nothing else, I had been a big recruiter for them – and this person was around then. Most chapters can use strong recruiters.

Here’s my take on it…

If there had been some nice response, I probably would have attended a later meeting – and possibly gotten involved again. Having finished my MBA, I’ve got a little extra time in my life – and this chapter was fun to hang out with.

Yes, it would have taken 10 extra seconds to add a warm sentence to that e-mail – but the pay off could have been a returning member.

Do you think I was expecting too much looking for a more personal reply? Would you have expected it?

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