June 2012

Thursday Waldo Fire personal update

We’re way out of harms’ way in Erie Colorado. near cascadeThe lines around Cascade are holding, and while there are fires in the area, (see pic), we have good reason to believe we’ll have a home to return to. We are beginning to hear about people we know and love who have lost their homes. With 300 homes burned, we expect reports of more. 

The Cascade Volunteer Fire Department is amazing. They’re holding the line. Local restaurants are donating meals for them. Our neighbor is coordinating that, and sending updates out to residents.

In case we were lonely, Bob’s granddaughter (below) in our home away from home offered us our choice of animals to sleep with. Just one more example of everyone pitching in to help. 😉

somi small

Thursday Waldo Fire personal update Read More »

Waldo canyon fire update: emergency communication theme

catThe Waldo Canyon Fire rages on. Fortunately for us (and them), the friends we’re staying with have not been evacuated, so we’re sitting comfortably as we await the fate of our home, community and city. 

When we got our first evacuation warning, it didn’t seem real. We felt pretty sure we’d be back home in a day or two. Now we know we were overly optimistic, and it is likely to be several more days before we can return, if our home survives. 

Yesterday, when the family we’re staying with faced the possibility of being evacuated, the best theme for thinking, communicating and preparing came to mind. Prepare for the worst. Anticipate the best. The husband wasn’t being negative to consider the worst case scenario. I wish we had that mindset when we packed. There are some things we would have brought if we had. Anticipate the best. It’s not denial to maintain a positive attitude. 

That mindset guided the conversations during preparation. Framing the choices as preparing for the worst case scenario while we anticipated the best case created a practical focus without stirring up an emotional frenzy. 

Having a practical focus is key. My friends and I find that our husbands in particular need to take action in crisis times. Once they knew they had done all they could to prepare, they were able to wait with relative calm. 

One of our family members adjusted perfectly. Sorry for the poor photo lighting. Cindi, the cat, felt at home in a micro-second. She staked out this shelf in the closet as one of her favored sleeping spots. Such ease! Maybe she knows something we don’t!

Waldo canyon fire update: emergency communication theme Read More »

This fire is not a drill

This is the last phote I took of our house before we left due to mandatory fire evacuation. It was a cloudless day – that’s smoke.

We went to stay with friends in Woodland Park. House fire2Now the southern part of Woodland Park is on pre-evacuation notice. We’re not packing to leave again yet, but we are watching and discussing where to go next. The pass to Colorado Springs is closed, so we’ll have to go deeper into the mountains.

It felt surreal to leave as sherrifs went from house to house. But it’s not a drill. It’s real. 

Okay this makes it even more surreal. I first became aware of the fire as I picked a book from the Cascade library. I’m pasting the cover for you. Kind of makes you shiver, doesn’t it?  


This fire is not a drill Read More »

Watch our for “I’m proud of you”

peacock2Arther was the CEO where Brain worked as a high level manager close to 15 years ago. Although Arther was clearly in the leadership role and Brain reported to him, Brian related to him personally on an equal footing as a friend.

They got together this week and caught up on events. It was a good and heartwarming time. But one thing didn’t feel quite right to Brian. Arther told him,

“I’m proud of you”.

The remark was no doubt well intended, but came across as parental approval, not the appreciation of a friend. 

There is an interesting distinction between roles and importance. Leaders do have a different role than their managers. They often need to use a firm deciding voice and set the direction. But exercising a role doesn’t indicate rank. or value. In a leadership role I might make a decision for a group because that’s my job – not because I’m the most important person there. The phrase “I’m proud of you” has a hint of self-importance. By saying he was proud of Brian, Arther cast him in a child’s role. 

I’m not a word tyrant. I consider context. Penny will tell me she’s proud of me times, and I don’t feel like a child when she does.  

But I often hear that phrase as a “tell” that reveals a rankist attitude. If you don’t want to turn others into children, watch out for parental kinds of expressions. If you’re impressed or in awe, say that instead. It doesn’t make the conversation about you. 

Watch our for “I’m proud of you” Read More »

Words can detract from great visuals

My husband and my son both own and wear a Curious George T-shirt with this image.


Can you think of a caption that I craft phrases. Does adding an adjective, a qualifier, clarification etc. add or diminish?

A PowerPhrase is as long as it needs to be – and no longer. And when your visuals do your heavy lifting for you, you just might find that no words are the best words of all. 

Words can detract from great visuals Read More »

A great way for a 9-year-old to SpeakStrong – lunch photos

never secondsHave you read about the 9-year-old who takes pictures of her school lunches every day and posts them on her blog? The title of her blog is “Never Seconds” and when you see the pictures you suspect even one helping is too much. 

Speaking Strong isn’t just about words. Sometimes the strongest messages are sent in non-verbal ways—for examples—by pictures. Like this one. 

Message received!

A great way for a 9-year-old to SpeakStrong – lunch photos Read More »

Ages and Stages

It’s important to know what stage you’e in. It’s also important to know what stage someone else is in.


  • As a comprehensive alternative health care practitioner, my husband talks to people who try to address disease at a level that is inappropriate to the stage they’re in. For example, they might want to choose a lightweight approach for Stage 4 Cancer. The measures they favor are appropriate for at-risk and early stages, but not for the severity of their condition. Treatment needs to be stage specific.
  • A retired CEO from a muti-national corporation that you would recognize, “Fred”, shifted from being a power dude to a service-oriented citizen. He commented that no one says on their death bed that wish they had spent more time at the office. While that’s true, I see his new orientation as stage specific, and while he might have been wise to moderate his drive a bit in his prime, his focus then and now are age appropriate.
  • Two dear friends of mine are intensely studying business practices and success skills in their early 60’s. They have been service-oriented all their lives and now want to hone their skills. While they’re building their power base at an age most of us are dialing it back, I applaud them. They went through the stages in a different order than “Fred” did.

Ages and stages matter

  • That’s why “Sherry”, an improvement specialist at a major drug company, got excited at the University of Michigan Lean Office Training about a chart that coordinates indicators of what lean learning stage a company is in with what lean and six sigma tools and approaches would benefit them. For example, a company that fights fires isn’t ready for more of the advanced tools.

Communication is the same way. I’ll applaud a recovering passive who speaks up in an overly direct way. it’s a huge step forward for that person, and I won’t risk confusing them with the subtleties until they’ve fully integrated the step they just took. 

Ages and stages. Just because we change doesn’t mean where we came from was wrong. Life is a process, and each age and stage has it’s own realities, requirements and challenges. So the next time someone says something that doesn’t compute, consider the words from an age and stage perspective. We all speak out of our own paradigms.

I like the Crucial Conversations PowerPhrase:

  • Why would a reasonable person say what they just said?

It’s a great filter for age and stage. 

Ages and Stages Read More »

Singing your own song – Taylor Swift

TaylorSwift60 Minutes did a special on recording artist Taylor Swift this week, and it would be hard not to be impressed. At the Billboard awards, Kris Kristofferson introduced her by saying “It’s hard to find something to say about Taylor Swift that she hasn’t already said in one of her songs.” Speaking her truth works for her—plus she knows how to turn a mean situation into a positive by writing yet another hit song about it. She gets what it means to see all criticism as a source of creativity. 

I wonder how different my generation would be if we had grown up listening to Taylor’s music. She models authenticity in a way one rarely sees or hears.

One hesitation. Her music is finely crafted and her shows are extravagantly produced. After watching Taylor Swift in action—at age 22—it’s easy to discount your own song. 

I recently dreamed that I was creating a rap song in front of a live audience. It wasn’t amazing, but it was pretty darn good. And it was mine. And yours is yours. So enjoy Taylor and then sing your own song.

And recruit your friends to help you. My friend told me today that a friend is someone who knows your song, and sings it back to you when you forget it. I have a few of those. Do you?

Singing your own song – Taylor Swift Read More »

It’s the little things that stand out – Menlo Software

I toured Menlo Software in Ann Arbor yesterday. While I like how their rapid prototyping allows them to “fail faster” (meaning they find their errors before they get deeper into the projects), what really caught my attention was how they laid out sticky notes with arrows from the door to the conference table where the tour began. It set the tone for the tour without a word.

It was creative and fun, and sparked all kinds of ideas in me. It’s the little things.

It’s the little things that stand out – Menlo Software Read More »