I wrote a book. It’s still a little surreal, so I have to type it simply like that. It’s not a big book. It’s not being mega produced and distributed. But it’s a book. For working women. About leadership. And it has my name on the cover.
Butterflies. My dream, soon to be in my hot little hands. I hope it will be in your hot little hands too in August (give-aways coming upon release). So in the less than two months before its release date, I’m going to feature some leadership tips and techniques I learned over the months that I researched and interviewed and wrote and edited. Techniques that I applied and that led me to a new job. To a new board position. To make bold requests. And to take some risks. I hope it will resonate with you too.
Today is just an introduction about this new Tuesday series called Learning to Lead because the book is entitled Learning to Lead. I know, super original series title. The book is focused specifically on women in legal fields, regardless of whether corporate, private practice, government, or non-profit, but it features techniques applicable across any profession. Primarily because I studied all the leading research and collective wisdom about effective women leaders before applying it practically to legal fields. Additionally, I interviewed a number of women in the last segment of the book who, while they hold law degrees, no longer practice law – the CEO of a non-profit, an US Senator, a Vice Chair of a major financial house, an Executive Vice President of an energy company, and so forth. Their wisdom inspired me and really moved me from a state of inaction, where I had resided since having the babies, to a state of forward motion and clearer direction.
Every time I read the latest research or visited with an effective leader, the same concepts repeated in the storyline. Some of the leading techniques have been so frequently touted as to blunt their effectiveness. I hope to reinvigorate those. Other techniques I hadn’t given much thought to in the past. Personal skills and traits like authenticity, optimism, risk-taking, vision-setting, and speaking up appear as the leadership keys to the kingdom. So each Tuesday, I will tackle one of the topics and illustrate how it could be used effectively to either develop or improve your leadership quotient.
I would also love to hear back from you on what has worked, or not worked, as you have led and been led. I can learn as much from an ineffective leader as I can from an effective one at times. I’m looking forward to sharing more about Learning to Lead as the summer progresses and hope to live blog from the book release in San Francisco in early August. Stay tuned!
I live in Texas where we are always grateful for rain. So in the universal sense of appreciation to the heavens for the rain all day Sunday, I was grateful. In the short-sighted, mom solo with three three-year olds trapped inside all day staring out at the pool, I was less grateful. Everyone had attitude issues, including mom, though hopefully not as much as the restless three spinning in circles (literally and figuratively).
But it was fun too. The truth is, we generally don’t find ourselves trapped inside together with nowhere to go or nothing to do. At the end of the day, the baby said, “What a fun day, Mom! We did puzzles and played little people and watched a movie and played Simon Says and running and built a fort and did dance party….We did everything!” He’s right. We did do everything.
Not wanting to hurry Sunday morning with imminent weather, I opted for Sunday School in a circle in our play room. We sang three songs, we talked about the Bible, we learned a scripture and I told a story about sibling kindness and pleasing God. Then we basically followed that “structured time” with hours of unplanned free play. As you might guess, we don’t get much of that. I have two days a week with the kids and we often have haircuts or parties or errands. There’s downtime, but not hours of it. Today was all downtime. One of the things I marveled out was their imagination. Here you see them all playing with aspects of the “little people” related items, but they were each imagining their own scenarios and own story lines and they were relating them to no one in particular as I just sat back and watched. The eldest had an elaborate pirate story unfolding, little bit was enmeshed in some sort of zoo event, and the baby had a transportation theme.
I loved watching it all play out. They also largely stayed out of each other’s way even though playing so near one another. It made me want to channel my inner imaginative child. I think we could solve the world’s problems.
Oh, and I don’t know about you, but just after this action wrapped up, I had some major childhood memories: The Fort! Now, the baby said, “IT’S NOT A FORT!” But that’s only because he doesn’t know what a fort is so we called it a tent. But at the end of the night, they were calling it a fort. We tried all sorts of ways to create this fort/tent. I used to love making forts and filling them to the brim with my stuffed animals. We propped up kid chairs and draped different materials, but ultimately we settled on the beach towels I’d brought in from the patio when it started raining and that spot in between Bray’s chair and our crummy old playroom sofa. It worked perfectly and even allowed a spot for ole mom to crawl right in there with them. We’re already planning on surprising daddy when he arrives home from his fishing trip – I’m sure he’ll never guess where we are with all the towels draped over the chair. Don’t you just love this view from inside the fort – aren’t you jealous??
The rain was good for Houston. But it was also good for us. Even with cancelled play dates and stir-crazy trappings, the wild imaginations and uninterrupted time was worth it all.
The next several Fashion Fridays are going to feature a real life SWAP – SWAP stands for “Shopping With A Purpose!” A few of my darling friends gave me their current work wardrobe conundrums and I took them shopping at the Houston Galleria with the sole purpose of solving them. In the process, we had a blast.
So both this week’s and next week’s post will feature my friend Brandy since she had two conundrums: (1) looking like an executive for upcoming meetings on the East Coast with senior executives in the company and (2) polishing up her casual Friday. We’ll look at No. 2′s conundrum next week, but this week here is the issue: Brandy holds a managerial level position with even more potential and she needs her wardrobe to communicate the gravitas and confidence that she in fact possesses when she travels for a week of meetings with company executives. The third SWAP week will feature an entirely different issue that my friend Julie needed resolved. (And let me know if you have an issue that needs the SWAP treatment – I’d love to feature the resolution.)
Here’s the girls after a successful shopping excursion. The three of us spent four hours shopping at a handful of stores that I knew would have professional options: Nordstrom’s, Ann Taylor and Loft, Banana Republic, Talbots, and J. Crew. I asked Brandy a few questions to understand how to best focus our shopping efforts for that executive look. When I asked what her favorite feature(s) is she decided her overall feminine look because she is petite with curves and long hair. That means she also likes to dress in feminine clothes – skirts over pants, patterns over boring neutrals. Her least favorite feature(s) when shopping is her being right on the cusp of petite – things are either too short or too long but she can almost never find things that fit without needing tailoring. Plus, because of her curves, even work outfits can look racy if she’s not careful.
So you can see from these responses that the last thing she needed was masculine navy pinstripe pants suit for these executive meetings. Plus, she doubted the attendees would be very formally suited. Fortunately, she’s not scared of patterns or colors which gave us a lot of options to infuse confidence and luxury into her look while still keeping her feminine.
I didn’t get a great shot of this lovely modern navy skirt suit and floral blouse we found for the most formal meetings, but here are a few great blazers that she can throw on with neutral trousers and really look the part – effortless chic, not too matchy-matchy, and modern career woman (ignore pants/tees, she was just trying the blazers, from Nordstrom’s and Talbot’s, respectively):
So it may be difficult to tell from the first picture, but this blazer was really unique. It had interesting detailing around the collar and the shoulders, and a yellow color was sewn in alongside the white which made the jacket interesting and versatile. Brandy is already petite, but particularly short from shoulder to waist, so cropped jackets looked great on her. Because she has such curves, she didn’t have to worry about these jacket shapes making her look boxy. Each of these jackets had something interesting about it – an embellishment, a unique color, and interesting trim – that made it look sharper than a simple navy or tan blazer. Both could be paired with pencil skirts or modern fitted trousers and some simple accessories. She did get a simple one button taupe jacket that will be perfect with navy or black trousers or a patterned pencil skirt and a hot pink or blue shell.
Here’s a couple of looks she found for her office, which is business casual, but weren’t quite as executive as she needed for her meetings next week:
The first is a lovely navy peplum top from Banana Republic that accentuates her small waist with a lovely subdued patterned pencil skirt. The second is a simple floral sheath dress from Ann Taylor with a cropped black scalloped blazer she could throw on with this dress for work or with jeans to go out at night. This dress isn’t for all seasons, but it was on sale so it made sense to buy for Houston’s long summers.
The great thing about this shopping excursion is that while we were looking for specific stand out pieces, she was able to upgrade her entire work wardrobe on a pretty reasonable budget. You’ll hear more next week, but overall she got: six blazers (one with the suit, three pictured above, as well as the taupe and a tangerine patterned one), five blouses/shells, one pair of jeans, one pair of trousers, two skirts (one suit skirt) and one dress.
These were her closing remarks the day after the shopping spree, “I learned I look better in skirts and dresses. I look lousy in pants and oversized loose fitting stuff. I love colors and prints. I need to try lots of things on since I stink at guessing what might work for me. Gindi says I am a “spring!” Ha!” (Author note: She looks fine in trousers and she is a spring if you ever had your colors done by season.)
I heard two hard stories yesterday. This on a day when the City of Houston was mourning the most tragic loss it had experienced in its fire department – four firefighters lost and one more still in critical condition in the hospital.
One friend told me her high school friend was jumping on a trampoline with his kids when he fell on his head which paralyzed him from the neck down. He’s our age. Great shape, former Marine, just playing on a sunny afternoon with his daughter. Just hours later, a dear friend of mine told me about her 16 year friend on the verge of losing her battle with cancer. She fought until there was nothing left to fight. Now she readies herself. Again, a battle that should never be lost in one so young.
I do not know what they are going through. I cannot understand what they are thinking. I do not pretend to have the words. But I was asked to pray. And even asked to pray by one who isn’t sold on the whole faith proposition.
So, in lieu of having the right words for these monumental losses, for these unwarranted and unexplainable tragedies, can I share what I found in the Bible? To use as I pray and to send to those facing this, for some, final battle:
And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.”
John 14 (Jesus speaking):
“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also….Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
I don’t know if you or someone dear to you is facing loss right now. If so, can I tell you how sorry I am you are having to go through this season? Death, divorce, illness, abandonment, abuse, poverty, or whatever shape or size it comes in. I can not understand what you are going through, but I have a God who can. A God who lost his very own son in the most cruel of ways. He knows and will stand with you as you walk down this long road. The always wise Ann Voskamp says, “It’s the quantum physics of God: one broken heart always breaks God’s in two. We never cry alone. And our crying God, He catches every tear in His bottle — God catches every falling tear because He’s keeping us from falling apart.” You are not alone. And if you need a physical person to stand with you in prayer, just send me a note and I will pray alongside you.