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I Am My Mother’s, Grandmother’s, Aunt’s, Stepmom’s, Mother-in-Law’s Daughter

This is a post six years in the making. It seems fitting to finally write it on ‘Women’s Equality Day’ (aka the 93rd anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment.)

Six years ago, I was working for someone else but had just-below-the-surface drive and ambition for something more.

Today I am a CEO, founder and owner of my own company.

I am driven, ambitious, competitive, direct, outspoken and full of opinions I am completely happy to share with those who want to hear them. (And sometimes, those who do not.)

Because I believe in my voice, have confidence (still growing, admittedly) in my expertise and a desire to make a dent in the universe.

But until recently, the mantle of ‘female business owner’ and feminist was not one I felt comfortable taking on.

Blame it on my good fortune to grow up middle-class, raised by a working mother, supported by parents who emphasized higher education and in the era where Title IX gave me the opportunity to compete on sports fields so I grew to understand and embrace competition in other fields.

I never felt that I had to overcome anything or right any injustice because I was able to achieve whatever I set my sights on. The only obstacles I saw were ones I put in front of myself through self-doubt or not working hard enough.

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So when I became a business owner and my stepmom proudly sent me this poster, it didn’t resonate. The Art Nouveau painting by Evelyn Rumsey Cary is an iconic woman’s suffrage poster from the early 1900′s. I hung it on my office wall and appreciated its beauty, but not its message nor history. My mother-in-law and aunt-in-law were equally supportive and effusive in their praise of my business ownership, sharing their pride in what I had accomplished, reflecting on how rare it would have been to do so in their time in the professional world at my age.

I felt like a fraud. Here I was being held up as a woman business owner and yet I felt that being a woman had nothing to do with what I had accomplished. I started feeling a debt, a responsibility that I couldn’t quite verbalize.

Then I started seeing that I, and the other strong, vibrant, intelligent women I work and collaborate with weren’t always the equals I thought we were.

Yes, we could vote.

Yes, we could work.

Yes, we could buy our own houses and get our own bank accounts and loans.

But it also became very obvious that we still fell far below equality when it came to elected and appointed leadership at the local, state and national level; that the experts called on in the media and showcased as thought-leaders were way out of balance male; and that subconsciously, a disrespect of women as leaders still permeated our society.

This was brought home recently when a male peer that I admired referred to a group of women leaders – CEOs, Executive Directors, state Senators and Representatives – as ‘girls’.

So today I say I am a feminist, because I do support equal political, economic, and social rights for women. And I believe with all my heart, soul and brain that adding women to any conversation is vitally important. It is not that a woman’s voice is better than a man’s – it is that it brings a different perspective. And that matters.

My pledge moving forward

  • Never apologize for ambition
  • Embrace strong adjectives
  • Be visible and vocal
  • Demand respect if its not freely given
  • Live up to the legacy of those who went before me
  • Pay it forward and support those who come behind me
  • Lean the hell in every. damn. day.

 

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My Ode to Making Sausage

Whoever said that no one likes to see sausage made is wrong.

Well, at least in my Maker Mind.

Thanks to Ignite Boise for giving me the platform and opportunity to share why I think every business manager needs to take a little time to make some sausage.

Here is the original overview of the Ignite talk:

I believe passionately that it’s imperative for every desk jockey, managerial ‘buck-stops-here’er’ to get their hands dirty and make sausage…literally.

A world of meetings, strategic exercises, emails and conference calls have blunted our senses and neutered our ability to truly create something. Without the joy of creation, our ability to think creatively is stunted.

Every business founder, owner, leader or manager needs to commit to creating, crafting, producing, building or cranking out something physical weekly.

This is my call to pull out the meat grinders and canvases, knitting needles and shovels and get your hands dirty.

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If you have to say you are, you aren’t

Being powerful is like being a lady.

If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.

That Margaret Thatcher quote has been roiling around in my brain for the past few weeks. In particular, in relationship to leadership.

imgresIn a chicken-or-the-egg type of quandary - does someone become a leader because their title and responsibilities deem it so, or is one considered a leader based on the actions they take?

My belief is in the latter, with a small dose of the former.

Responsibilities force individuals to rise to the occasion. To realize that their actions – or lack thereof – impact more than themselves. Responsibility for others and their welfare is weighty. And it can make or break those put into leadership positions.

Regardless of your leadership style, I believe the actions you take determine how you are seen by your peers, colleagues and those you hope to lead. Leadership is more about them than you.

You can call yourself whatever you want. But if no one wants to follow you, what kind of leader are you?

In my book, the best leaders I’ve had the honor to spend time with all had elements of the following:

  • An explainable vision 
  • Up, down and sideways respect for those around them
  • A get-in-the-trenches work mentality
  • Approachability
  • Consistency, consistency, consistency
  • And at the end of the day, whether it be good, bad or Armageddon, they showed up.
    Oftentimes, physically being there and providing value and input is one of the quietest yet most effective forms of leading.

 

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Falling in Love with your Hometown

What is it about a community that makes you swell with pride, tweet incessantly, brag obnoxiously and share effusively?

Courtesy: Morgan Wolf

It is harder to capture in words than it is in a moment. It’s that mojo that we all search for. By we, I mean economic development specialists, entrepreneurial community advocates, travel and tourism pros and communicators enamored with promotion of place – our place.

Call it the it factor. That special something that makes a city pop. Makes it memorable.

Richard Florida touts who inspires the it factor while describing the rise of the Creative Class:

self-motivated, creative people are challenging the traditional structures of society … the emergence of this new social class is profoundly transforming work, leisure, community and everyday life. Success in the future, says Florida, is not just about technology, government, management or even power, but about people and their dynamic and emergent patterns of relationships.

Roger Brooks of DDI tackles what they’re searching for:

People are looking for that “Third Place” – a place to gather with friends and neighbors during their leisure time; to socialize, relax, shop, dine, and play together. According to Ray Oldenburg (The Great Good Place), the “First Place” is where you live, your home. The “Second” is where you work. The “Third Place” is where you go to hang out, spend your leisure time.

This past weekend Boise encapsulated all those elements and more. Our Third Place came alive.

Give credit to the creative chaos and beauty that was Treefort Music Fest - 4 days, 12 venues,  260 bands. But, it wasn’t just about the music or the hundreds of emerging artists who descended on Boise.

It was about convergence…. of musical, culinary and creative expression. Visual artists, dancers, crafters, brewers, mobile chefs and dance troupes blended together with a city commemorating its sesquicentennial, to create our own distinct celebration.

It was about co-mingling… the casual melding of all walks of life that tends to happen in Boise so easily that we often forget how unique it can be. Six degrees of separation does not exist in our city or state. The streets and sidewalks surrounding Treefort vividly brought this to life in real-time, in moments that will be indelible to those who experienced them.

It was about honoring our city’s past…. (tip of the fez to the El Korah Shriners) through brick and mortar icons and local music legends, while pushing the envelope on how a city’s personality can be showcased through the intangible nature of an event. Life and vibrancy after hours. Sidewalks as gathering places. Crosswalks as conversation hubs. Strangers connecting digitally, then sharing an analog moment.

But most of all, amidst the ongoing discussion in our city about creating an entrepreneurial ecosystem (ala Brad Feld’s Startup Communities), we saw what it looks like when the masses get behind and support a startup. Treefort was a celebration of success, where passion overcame any bumps and growing pains (or delightful spring weather.) It was a collaboration of efforts to create something cohesive. An experience that transcended the official event itinerary.

Boise’s been put on the map by many a Top Ten list and national publication. Who we truly are, how we define ourselves, what we choose to tout and share and celebrate is our own.

Let’s keep this conversation going and continue to celebrate the vibrant third place we call home.

 

(First published 3.26.13 on Red Sky’s Blog)

 

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Commit. Create. Content.

I love the natural times in a year for a reset.

Thanksgiving, New Year’s, Birthdays, Anniversaries, unplugged vacations.

Those calendar prompts to reassess where your life is, and where you’d like it to go. To purge the unnecessary from your life; to open up to possibility; to identify the important; to free space up for serendipity.

A nod once again to Chris Brogan, whose post on his 3 Words a few years ago inspired a tradition for me.

It’s about boiling down the things I want to focus on to three words. Often you’ll find that they have a natural synergy with that long list of resolutions you may be writing up. And they are pretty dang handy for a mantra to keep within eyesight.

My 3 Words for 2013 | Commit. Create. Content.
(Can you tell I’m a sucker for alliteration?)

Commit I’m a master at passionately discussing a point, a side, an idea, an argument. But where I often fall short is committing to seeing it through. Yes, I’m a CEO and entrepreneur – so I must have followed through at one point! But nowadays my focus has been a bit off. My commitment to projects I believe in has waned. I want it back. Getting fit. Getting that book written. Taking that nugget of an idea beyond the brainstorm phase. I’m going to commit to them and more. Which leads me to my second word of the year…

Create I’ve been noodling over this idea for another IgniteBoise presentation – Why Every Business Owner Needs to Make Sausage. I do mean literally, make sausage (see photo evidence to the left.) It’s about the need for us desk jockeys and business owners to move beyond the email, the conference call, the office meetup and the strategy meeting. While all are important, many of us (author included) have moved away from the joy and satisfaction that comes in creating something tangible on a regular basis. At the end of every day, have you created something that will live beyond that day? That will live outside of you? That can be passed along and shared? Be it a poem, a meal, a painting, a sweater, a video, a photograph, a home improvement project or a blog post. And that takes me to the third word…

Content I’ve been fighting against this word in various ways for sometime. It sounds unsexy to me, uninspiring, unimportant. I much prefer ‘storytelling’. But I’ve come to realize it is not all about a story. Sometimes, it is about facts visualized, or a turn of a phrase, or complexity explained in common language, or an experience shared or a question answered… More than anything – this word encompasses what is most important to me and to my profession, and to where innovation is taking us. Beyond the channels, beyond the ‘social xyz’, beyond the technology… It’s about what we put out into the world – through images, video, audio, written word. It’s about the content. Come to think of it, it always has been. But we often stray away it – lured by the shiny object dangling in the distance.

So my mantra for 2013, my 3 words that will be my touchstone this year – Commit. Create. Content.

What are yours?