How many tape measures do you really need?

Like many other Americans, this past year I took advantage of a wild real estate market to sell high, and luckily buy low. Of course, my new home needs a lot of maintenance since by all counts it’s been decades since the work needed has been done on this place. But the price reflected the neglect and I love a project. And I love the view. The house really didn’t matter. I can always fix a house. I can’t fix a view.

Last weekend I decided to build out the shelves in my two small linen closets. They are both located within bathrooms, and I figured I could knock out that project in a few hours since I had the materials in my garage and my chop saw was already set up. I had some work to do initially to square up the side panels since one of the closets had a footprint more closely resembling a rhombus than a rectangle, but with the right tools and a few shims, that was quickly taken care of.

So I made some measurements and proceeded to cut shelves, fitting them and measuring for the next when my productivity came to a screeching halt. Where was my tape measure?

I looked around the work area. Since I was cutting white melamine coated MDR planks and the tape is a bright yellow Stanley Leverlock, it wasn’t likely to get lost against a busy background. I looked under the work area. I stopped to think where I had been and retraced my steps. No tape measure.

I went outside on the off chance that some creature had taken advantage of the open garage door, seen my tape measure and decided to build a nest with it. No tape measure.

I looked in my purse. I looked in the refrigerator. I checked the bathroom. Still no tape measure.

By then I had come to the obvious conclusion that my tape measure made the jump to another dimension. It would be found when it wanted to be found. And it would be best to just get a replacement.

On my way to the store, I passed by the house of a carpenter who has been helping me remake this new house into my version of home. He was out in the yard, so I stopped to chat. During the conversation I mentioned that I was on the way to the hardware store because I had misplaced my tape measure.

Now, my carpenter friend is a master craftsman, he reuses everything, and his workshop is a marvel to behold. From the antique wooden airplane propeller hung above his workbench to the hundreds of jars holding every size and type of screw, nail, and fitting, I stand in awe every time I’m honored with an invitation to the inner sanctum.

Hearing that I needed a replacement tape measure, he started laughing and invited me in. And there, on a shelf below the window that looked like it had been specially made for the purpose, sat a rainbow of measuring tapes. He selected one of the 10 or so he had, and handed it to me with the comment, “one is never enough.”

Knowing he had just depleted his stock of tape measures by one, I knew that it was true. One is never enough.

As I have relayed this observation to others, I have had the opportunity to hear some interesting perspectives.

One man told me that he keeps one on his work bench, one in the toolbox and there is always one in the kitchen drawer with all the other junk. That one he considers his wife’s. Oh, and then there are the tape measures in the glove boxes of both of his cars.

Another man just grinned and said, you need enough so the project gets finished. How many you need depends on how big the project is.

I finished my project with my gifted tape measure. And when I was at the hardware store, I decided that a backup to my gifted one would be good until my Leverlock came home. So, I picked up a self-locking Kobalt because it was made of heavy-duty stainless steel, and they offer a 90 day satisfaction guarantee. I am assuming that satisfaction includes not losing it.

I also bought a Craftsman one that advertised “high visibility”. If I had seen that on the packaging before this incident, I would not have known how important “high visibility” is in a tape measure. I would have put more importance on readability and how well the self-locking mechanism works. But now I know that if you can’t find it, it doesn’t matter how readable the tape is or how strong the self-locking mechanism is.

So, I now have my own little fleet of tape measures and have dreams of a special shelf under the window in my tool shop. My errant one, who is still my favorite, my yellow Stanley Leverlock, did come back from the fourth dimension and allowed itself to be found. It was hiding behind a stack of wood that had cleverly blocked my sight path to my little friend.

The closets are done and I’m on to my next project, installing a new door to my laundry room. I think on this next trip to the hardware store I’m going to buy a tool belt with a special place for the tape measure since the pockets in women’s clothing are not made for tape measures. Perhaps I can get an adapter for my phone, too?



At a staff meeting this morning, we were speaking about generations. I asked one of my staff members if she was a Gen Z. She hesitated. So, I asked her what generation she identified with. Her response: Zillennial. She went on to explain that she was born on the Millennial/Gen Z boundary year. She didn’t feel like she identified with either generation, and that this was the case with many in the few years either side of the border year between Millennials and Gen Z.

Zillennial. That was my new word for the day today. I learned it from one of my staff who was born on the Millennial/Gen Z boundary year.

So “Zillennial” is a “thing”. Urban Dictionary1 already has a definition for this term: A micro generation of those born from 1993-1998, graduated high school from 2012-2016.

An article2 by  Alicia Lansom in Refiner29 relates that the determining factor defining a Zillennial from a Gen Z is a memory of 9/11. In her opinion, it solidifies Zillennial as a generation of their own.

Lansom talks about the pressure from the internet of finding and belonging to a generational tribe. Because of that, finding her collective identity, as associated with generations, was important to her.

Zillennials embrace many defining moments, like waiting in long lines for the release of the next Harry Potter book according to Urban Dictionary. Zillennial listened to music on their MP3 players, while Gen Zs were iPhone charged. They opened the door to the social first focus of Gen Zs.

We all like to know where we belong. Being a mid-generational person, I never had identity issues with my generation. My generation is the baby boomers. As boomers, our tech changes were a little less dramatic than they are now. Airplanes got faster, cars had muscle, and phone cords would stretch for a private conversation in the closet.

I would define my generational tribe very specifically as my high school class. I can understand the value of identifying with a tribe that now that I have become more engaged with my high school class. Our class is fortunate, we have classmate who make a huge effort to draw us all back to the mothership, to reconnect, relive our glories, revive relationships, and revisit the past. I don’t so much identify as a Boomer as I do with the events that defined my junior and high school years: the first day girls were allowed to wear slacks to school; the first earth day, reading the names of the dead and MIA from Vietnam in front of the flag in front of school; the senior prank that put a poor cow on the roof of the high school; the dog, Schlitz, that was loved by everyone; calling one of the neighborhood kids “Shifter Brains” because he drove a manual shift Camaro (first meaning) and then painted it with black Rustoleum (second meaning—swap the ‘f’ and ‘t’).

I understand the sense of belonging that comes from having a tribe thanks to these high school connections. I didn’t connect much until our 40th anniversary, but now I consider myself very lucky to know everyone of my classmates, even if I don’t remember them from back then. They were there during my formative years, and what formed me, formed them.

I recall a mini-local reunion with about 20 of us who live near St Petersburg. We met for ice cream one afternoon, and we got around to the topic of fitting in at high school. Not one of the others at the table felt that they ‘fit in’ at that age. We were all just our little orbiting selves, bumping into other little orbiting selves without much long-term effect. That discussion was an “AHA!” moment for me. All these years I thought I was the only one who felt isolated. Boy, was I wrong.

Things are different now. At this point, everyone is accepted. We are happy to see one another and know we made it through. We survived our teens and our early adulthood. And we are now transitioning from middle age to whatever comes after that.  It’s wonderful. It’s my tribe.

So I embrace the term “Zillennial”, not as a separate generation, but because it provides a sense of identity to a micro-generation that needs to be part of a shared experience. I get it.

1Urban Dictionary: Zillenial

2Am I A Millennial Or Gen Z? What Are Zillennials? (

The Benefits of a Different Perspective

New perspective

A colleague shared with me today a transcript from a Harvard Business School podcast1 that shared an example of how “thinking out of the box” improved an outcome.

Georgia State University had traditionally experienced low graduation rates. One faculty implemented a suggestion from a colleague he knew from their MBA program that was very innovative. The suggestion was to let the students, in a operations research class, investigate the issues with retention and suggest ways to improve.

The faculty member at GSU is Professor Mike Toffel and his colleague is Harvard Advanced Leadership Initiative fellow Robin Mendelson. The students identified a number of areas that were roadblocks to student success, from having to produce vaccine records to students being dropped from GSA’s rolls if they owed money to the university. The university was able to address these roadblocks in creative ways which has significantly improved retention and graduation rates.

The concept of “out of the box” thought is thinking about an issue from a new perspective. Toffel and Mendelson leveraged Mendelson’s experience working with Amazon to improve customer satisfaction rates. Amazon has a culture of customer focus. They focus on operational excellence and base their decisions on data. Their culture is also highly innovative.

Mendelson took the Amazon perspective towards customer satisfaction and recognized that the issues with student retention and success at Georgia State could be addressed from an operational excellence and process approach. Through collaboration with Toffel, they launched the student project in Toffel’s “Technology and Operations Management” class. Through the findings of the students in that class, Georgia State was able to identify and address those processes that were impeding student success.

We don’t all have the opportunity regularly to make groundbreaking changes like Mendelson and Toffel did, however, we can make changes that help us in our day-to-day work environment.

Remember, we are just talking about changing perspective.

Have you ever gotten stuck on an assignment, and found that you were filling your time doing the less important small tasks because you didn’t know how to go forward on the one you had to complete? I know it has happened to me. So, how do you change your perspective? It’s easier that you would expect. Try these approaches:

  1. Change your environment. Sometimes just a physical change of location will be what is needed to get a different thought process happening. Take your laptop and go sit outside and see what happens!
  2. Engage another person. Seek out an opportunity to further develop a work relationship by approaching some you respect that has time to help you get unstuck. Don’t waste their time by complaining, leverage their time by asking how they would approach the task and LISTEN TO THEM! This doesn’t commit you to doing it their way, but it might just give you a different enough way of thinking about the problem to remove your roadblock.
  3. Take a walk. Engaging in exercise increases creative thought. A recent study2 verified this by testing subjects in their usual routines, not just in a laboratory setting.

So, when you are stuck, recognize that you are stuck and then take an active approach for getting unstuck. Remember that completing a task brings its own reward of a feeling of satisfaction.

1 How Georgia State University Increased Graduation Rates – HBS Working Knowledge

2Everyday bodily movement is associated with creativity independently from active positive affect: a Bayesian mediation analysis approach | Scientific Reports (

Are Difficult Conversations a Mindset Challenge?

Difficult conversations

As the CEO of a small business, I found last year full of opportunities for difficult conversations, those you put off because you just don’t want to face the immediate discomfort and short term fallout from the conversation. In 2020, like many other CEOs, I faced a downturn of business. This required downsizing my staff, and asking existing staff to work outside their comfort zones. A further consequence of COVID was moving out of our office space to work remotely. Each of those situations generated conversations that I either started or was on the receiving end of and fell into the ‘difficult’ category.

Now, on this side of 2020, my company is moving ahead in a different configuration with different perspectives. We have partners who have grown with us, we are very lean and mean which means a much very different vision for the future. We have new products and a revised path to profitability. All in all, those difficult conversations likely put us in a much better place in our growth plan.

So, why do we call them “Difficult Conversations” if having them improves our company’s chances of survival and positions the company to thrive?

Calling them “difficult” sets up an expectation that they will be difficult. Why do we do that to ourselves? Why is delivering or receiving ‘bad news’ at the time so hard, when in the long run, usually it results in arriving in a stronger place?

I propose that for 2021, we change our mindset regarding these conversations.

As leaders, we know that avoidance of difficult issues only amplifies the issue. The issue grows to be the elephant in the room. So, why do we avoid them?

There is probably a unique answer to this question for everyone who poses it to them self. For me, I feel ownership for the success of my staff and my business partners. When someone quits or I have to terminate them, I feel a sense of disappointment. I don’t like that feeling.

Speaking with others, and reading the research, many other people don’t want to create a feeling of discomfort, either in themselves or in the person who is going to have to deal with the consequences of their decision.

Pam Bower, writing for the Huffington Post1, suggests that in situations like these we learn to get comfortable with uncomfortable situations. I think that’s a great suggestion.

Other professionals have to adapt to this concept in order to do their jobs. As I write this I remember the phlebotomist who had to take blood from my newborn’s purple heel at the hospital. Her heel was purple from having been squeezed so many times for blood samples. That poor phlebotomist knew she was going to make that baby cry and upset the new mom. If she avoided difficult situations and conversations, she would not have been effective at her job. I spoke to her about this, and she said that in her mind what she was doing was giving the baby a better chance at life.

It’s a mindset. We all do difficult things to achieve a better outcome. So why not take the same approach to a difficult conversation at work? The objective is to achieve a better outcome.

So, let’s chose to approach these conversations differently in 2021. Stay focused on the longer term outcome, the long term health of our ‘babies’, in this case our businesses.

1 Why You Avoid Difficult Conversations | HuffPost Life

Keeping Vigilant: One CEO’s perspective

People in masks

This week marked the arrival of the first COVID vaccines into our country, and I want to share some thoughts. We are not through this yet and, in Bill Gate’s words1, the next four to six months could be the worst of the epidemic.  

An article New Scientist2 provided a quote by Allison Schrager, an economist at the Manhattan Institute in New York, “Getting through this pandemic is essentially an exercise in risk management.” I’m an engineer as well as an entrepreneur and considering risk versus the value proposition is a way of thought in which I am well practiced. 

I have a number of stakeholders associated with my company. I have my investors who expect me to do what is necessary to make my company profitable. I have my clients, who expect me to provide them with effective and viable products that allow them to expand their reach and reputation with their clientele and also provide them with excellent client support. And I have my employees, who expect me to provide them with meaningful work, an opportunity for growth, and a safe workplace. 

My risk budget for my staff was defined by my need to provide my staff a safe work environment. Continuing to work in an open office format, with up to 10 people in 1500 square feet was no longer an option. 

To stay safe during this time of COVID, we started planning for remote work in early February. My staff, at the time, thought I was being extreme to talk of shutting the office down. But in early February, we had the data to extrapolate the worst case, and I wasn’t going to take a risk with my staffs’ lives.  

We had an all hands meeting at that time to discuss what work should look like in the pandemic. When the shutdown happened during the week of March 16, we were ready. We left the office on March 20 and never returned to work there. We subsequently gave up the space since virtual collaboration works for us. 

My risk budget for my clients was defined by client safety needs. We converted all our training to a virtual classroom and cancelled all in-person training.  

My risk budget for my investors was defined by the economics of the time. I went from a strong growth period to full stop for two quarters. That necessitated downsizing the company significantly.  

The good news from this is that as of this date, we have not had a case of COVID within my staff, and we are starting to see the benefits of our hard work over the summer repositioning our products and working with our client partners.  

Now, keeping my employees safe is out of my hands and into their own. 

I have been a bit extreme in my social isolation. This is because I am comfortable with being alone. My nature is very hermit like. My bubble has collapsed in recent months to just my boyfriend and a few friends I will see very infrequently outside on my front porch, separated by 8 feet and not talking towards one another. Am I paranoid? No, I am cautious. I have a healthy respect for the power of this virus to wreak destruction in lives, my own and the others who depend on me. 

This past weekend I received the news from one of my friends in town, a local family practitioner, that COVID-19 was running rampant here. He also indicated that the hospital units here are full and it was his belief that there are many asymptomatic spreaders. He urged us to be even more cautious than usual over the next few weeks.  

This came on top of the news that Alabama state Sen. Larry Dixon recently passed away from the virus after letting his guard down and enjoying a meal with friends at an outdoor dining venue. His last words, shared with his wife, were “please tell everybody to be careful.” 3 

In a June New York Times article4, Tara Parker-Pope wrote of establishing a personal risk budget. She noted that risk is cumulative and outlined several actions recommended to understand your risk based on your activities. These actions included knowing the exposure rate in your community and determining how much exposure you are subjecting yourself to.  

The New Scientist published an article in October 20205 providing guidance in how to determine how to evaluate the amount of social contact you have and how that relates to risk tolerance. They provided four guidelines for determining a personal contact budget.  

Define your risk tolerance. The start by asking you how much risk you can tolerate. The ability to categorize tolerance into low, medium or high is probably sufficient for this exercise. And keep in mind, all of this is subjective and relative. If you are healthy and everyone you know is healthy, you likely will have a tolerance that is higher than someone who has a senior person in their household or one with a medical condition.  

Consider the guilt effect. This one requires some introspection. How much remorse would you feel should you be responsible for transmitting the infection?  

Contact requirements for employment. Some have jobs that require contact. We are grateful for all the essential workers who have made it possible to receive medical care, shop for groceries, and function during the pandemic. If you are one of these workers, I hope you have access to appropriate personal protection gear from your employers. 

Contact requirements for mental wellbeing. For some this means continuing to have salon appointments, massages, and housekeepers. For others, it means a run with friends, coffee with a sibling, and arranging limited social engagement with children. You have to do what you have to do to stay sane.  

The bottom line here is to BE AWARE of your contacts and how you can impact others in your sphere of influence/transmission. The current CDC guidelines6 help with defining the exposure risk.  

My personal COVID-19 risk budget is defined by more than the growth numbers in my community. It’s defined by more than how much time I’ve spent in the company of others. It’s defined by more than my personal risk likelihood of a poor outcome from contracting the disease.  

I define personal COVID-19 risk budget also by how many people I could potentially infect if I was exposed and had it and spread it before I was aware of having it. 

I define personal COVID-19 risk budget by how I would feel if someone I knew got the disease because of me. And how I would never forgive myself if that person died. 

I define personal COVID-19 risk budget by my personal view of leadership.  

In the case of COVID, the risks are too high. While I could deal with accepting the consequences of putting myself in harms way, I will do what I can to avoid contributing to someone else’s dance with this virus. 

So, I stay isolated. 

I have watched social and volunteer groups, whose membership includes many retired folks, return to meeting in person under ‘socially distanced and mask wearing protocols.’ For small gatherings, the CDC qualifies this as lower risk, however it requires masks to continually be worn. What is apparent, though, via social media postings of these gatherings, is that not everyone is masked, and speakers are often unmasked.  

In the words of John Wooden, the UCLA coach, “The most powerful leadership tool you have is your own personal example.”  

Personal responsibility is what guides us when we have confusing and/or lax direction from government. As published in the Boston Globe last week7, there are actions that individuals “can take to make their communities safter— wear masks, maintain social distancing, avoid gathering indoors for any amount of time with people outside your own household.” 

So, borrowing from ‘Hill Street Blues’ Sgt. Esterhaus’ closing to his morning precinct roll-call meetings, “Let’s be careful out there!”  

Let’s Be Careful Out There | ‘Hill Street Blues’ Supercut – Bing video 

1 Bill Gates says US entering worse phase of COVID pandemic and predicts lockdowns will last into 2022 | Daily Mail Online 

2 Your covid-19 risk: How to navigate this new world of uncertainty | New Scientist 

3 Ex-Alabama Lawmaker Warns ‘Be Careful’ Before Dying of COVID-19 | 

4 5 Rules to Live By During a Pandemic – The New York Times ( 

5 You can manage your covid-19 risk by setting your own ‘contact budget’ | New Scientist 

6 Considerations for Events and Gatherings | CDC 

7 With few COVID-19 restrictions, personal responsibility takes center stage in the pandemic response – The Boston Globe 

Attitude and showing up for life

To all you entrepreneurs and small business CEOs: Are you having a hard time getting your arms around gratitude during this month of Thanksgiving?

I’m sure you all, like me, have been struggling as the fears of the virus lead to lockdowns, then cancellation of conferences, loss of business, and the challenges of finding your relevance in this new world. It’s been a tough year. And it’s not over yet. We still have the uncertainty of the transition of our elected leaders, the promise of a vaccine, the lasting challenges of the economy and our own exhaustion. And as we get closer to the holidays, we are feeling the stress of our families and friends as our traditions are challenged, we see the stress of our employees as they face the same, and we are all pretty tired.

When I’m down, I think of a quote my college roommate once shared with me that has had a significant bearing on my life. It was said by Charles R. Swindoll.

The remarkable thing is I have a choice every day of what my attitude will be. I cannot change my past. I cannot change the actions of others. I cannot change the inevitable. The only thing I can change is attitude. Life is ten percent what happens to me and ninety percent how I react to it.”

My social media person is a recent graduate. She did not have a traditional graduation, since she graduated with the class of 2020. But she managed a long weekend get away with her closest friends to celebrate their achievement.

My daughters both got engaged in the past couple of months. They are having to delay plans to see how the next year shapes up to have a gathering of their close family and friends to celebrate, but they are moving ahead with their lives, finding the joy in committing to a new life together, and looking beyond Covid.

My company has faced challenges, but we have come through. We have redefined our direction, shrunk staffing, and taken our programs all online, and are seeing support from past clients and have even managed to find a few new ones.

When I think back across this year, I might have gotten stuck on how hard it has been, how we were finally starting to grow, and how I’m now having to start all over again. But when I think back to that message—that my attitude is what I have control over, there are many things I am thankful for. I’m thankful for wonderful clients who have encouraged us to grow beyond what I would have expected in this short period of time. I am thankful those employees who have stepped up to the challenge of doing what ever was needed to stay afloat and get products out. I’m thankful to supportive family and friends who have been there with encouragement and support when I needed it the most.

As leaders of our companies, we need to look ahead. What’s past is past. What challenges us, we need to leap over. The future is the horizon and if we spend much time looking over our shoulders, doing the woulda-coulda-shoulda game, we are not respecting ourselves, our companies, or our investors.

Next up is another strong wave of Covid that is bearing down on us. What that will bring in terms of more economic down sliding is anyone’s guess. But I’m thankful for knowing now which employees are the out of the box thinkers that can take us where we need to go. Because they are the leaders of the future, and the ones who I want working closely with me as we brace for the wave.

L admit that I have days where it’s a challenge to muster up the energy for the endurance race I’m in. And when Charles R. Swindoll’s words can’t get me there, I go to my other inspiration: Angles Arrien and her Four Rules for Life: Show up. Pay attention. Tell the truth. Don’t be attached to the results.

That one gets me going. I show up for life.

To-Do Lists

This afternoon, while checking my LinkedIn account, I saw an article that required a response. The article1 was titled “Why to-do lists kill productivity” and authored by Emily Spaven, an Editor at LinkedIn News. The premise of the article is that the list serves as a feel-good tool so you can cross stuff off, and it focuses the list maker on smaller, less important tasks while the hard ones languish.

I am a list maker, but I write these lists to focus on the important things I need to do TODAY. My list is short, just the most important topics are on it. It’s not a ‘feel good’ tool so I can cross things off. I use it to stay focused.

 I am one of the worlds’ supertaskers. I did not know this was a ‘thing’ until reviewing the script for our Time Management workshop in 5G Power Skills. My curriculum developer had written about how multi-tasking was a significant productivity killer. Her script was returned with lots of red (based on personal experience, not research). I reacted to what she said in her scripts.

I do not know a world without multi-tasking. Yes, I get frustrated with people who are extremely linear, having to fully complete one task before picking up the next. I do my best not to interact with them. It is one reason I am a hermit and prefer working off by myself. I come out to give gentle guidance and course corrections to my team, and appropriate gratitude and recognitions, but then I am back in my corner, tuning the world out.

When my curriculum developer saw my response to her carefully researched work, she came and sat down with me and explained that I am a super tasker. In fact, the development team, when working on this, took significant note of my characteristics and behaviors. She also shared that is exhausting to watch me work. I am very productive, however, the speed at which I change topics and want to work with my team wears them out.

So, how does this relate to lists?

There is a downside to being a super tasker. We tend to be very easily distracted. This can kill productivity for a super tasker like multi-tasking kills productivity for non-supertaskers. Having a tool to stay on topic, to keep the focus, allows for my extreme productivity. That tool, for me, is the daily list.

I confess, I also have a longer-term list. This list allows me to take an urgent task and ‘park it’ so I am not tempted to drop what I’m doing to get it done. It allows me control and choice in where my focus is, without having stress about forgetting something. And it also gives time for what seem to be urgent tasks to ‘mellow out’ and become things that while they seemed critically urgent in the moment, really do not need to be done.

Of course, when one writes an article aimed at a broad population, one should expect responses from those who do not fall within the 1-sigma curve. In this case, I’m one outside your bell curve.

The bottom line is that I am a big fan of using lists. It is a focus tool. It enables me to achieve a focus and resulting productivity that would be elusive if I didn’t have this tool.

One more thing to note. I do not cross things off my lists. I know that they are done.


Seizing opportunity in these times…..

We all have been challenged in unique ways over the months since COVID-19 made its appearance in the US. Some are handling it well, others not as well.

I am one of the lucky ones. I like solitude. I am an introvert who relishes time by myself. While it has been challenging to my business and my staff, we made the transition to remote work early, we had planned for it in February, and while revenue fell off the cliff, we have been slowly building a stronger product set that will work in these times and beyond.

I am an older entrepreneur and with that comes a bit of wisdom. When I see parents struggling with managing both work and daycare, I want to remind them that they are getting precious time with their children they would not have had and will never have again. When I hear of people who don’t know what to do with themselves, I want to tell them it’s a great time to learn something new, or master something they already know and love. For grandparents who lament not seeing their grandchildren, I want to recommend they spend time recording themselves reading a favorite book that will be cherished long into the future.

In June, I trekked up to a little cabin I own in remote Tennessee. It was to be a quick trip to check on the state of things here and prepare it for summer visitors. When I arrived, I found it in great shape since my niece had come three weeks prior and invited the spiders to leave. Since the cabin didn’t need extensive housekeeping, I spent my time hiking to my favorite spots and seeking out internet so I could continue working.

Five days later, when it was time for me to head home, I didn’t. I have always wanted to spend the summer here. Once I started my company that dream became very distant. But with COVID-19, with the office set up for remote work, with my phone actually able to receive calls at the cabin, with wonderful folks in town who let me use their internet, and with multiple product lines that needed to be converted to a virtual classroom format, it was the perfect time to seize an opportunity.

It’s not been without some headaches, but overall, it has been a great experience. I’ve been able to work at a high rate of productivity. The infection rates are much less here in TN than where I live in FL. I have gotten to know my neighbors, the hummingbirds that visit my feeder, what wildflowers are out in June versus September, and the pure joy of solitude in a remote area.

This summer we pivoted the company hard. Our products are updated and able to be given in a new format. My staff has taken the opportunity provided by the local university to take new professional development training.

According to Harvard Business Review1, in an article published online last month, the authors indicated that this current crisis has caused leaders to jettison an attitude of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” in favor of developing growth mindsets within themselves and their organizations. It has provided the catalyst to emerge stronger on the other side of COVID-19. 

In a second article by HBR2, “crises present us with unique conditions that allow innovators to think and move more freely to create rapid, impactful change”. This has led me to consider agility and resilience as “Essential Skills” during crisis and crisis recovery.

The changes my company has made will make us stronger as we rebuild our business. I believe the opportunity I seized of experiencing a Tennessee summer will make me more resilient and give me the ability to think above the fray as we face what’s next.

I hope you have recognized an opportunity in your life. If you are still hating the disruption COVID-19 has brought, maybe it’s time to change your perspective.

1Ashford, S., Sytch, M. and Greer, L. 2020. 6 Ways a Crisis Can Help You Cultivate a Growth Mindset. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from:

2Clark, L. 2020. Innovation in a Time of Crisis. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from:

Sometimes a shout out is required…

Sometimes a shout out is required….

Those who know me know my suitcase is always packed, and usually with me somewhere other than home. Even in these COVID times, I find myself checking into hotels.

Last evening, I checked into the brand-new Spring Hill Suites in Alpharetta, GA. Kea was the gracious person at the front desk. Since the hotel was new, so was Kea. When I offered my method of payment, my Bonvoy e-gift card, she did not know what to do with it. After calling for help without success to several folks in her management chain, I got out my sell phone and called the front desk of the Residence Inn in Lexington KY (South/Hamburg Place—if you would like a great hotel experience in Lexington). Sidney answered the phone, and while answering other calls and checking folks into his hotel, he patiently walked Kea through the steps to accept my form of payment.

I was grateful to Sidney, for showing his patience, and for helping someone he likely will never meet (Kea).

Someone else may have railed at Kea for not knowing this aspect of her job. But I have been new in a job and in the same position and know how frustrating it is to be alone and without an answer. I commend Kea for remaining calm as she tried to address the problem. I was also incredibly happy to provide a solution to her problem so I could get into my room.

I am a loyal Marriott rewards member, and this is the kind of service I have come to expect and respect from Marriott. I hope my clients feel the same way towards the customer service we offer at Alpha UMi.

A 2018 article in Forbes pointed out that excellent customer service does not have to be expensive, and in many cases is free1. That was proven out by my experience. And face it, great customer experiences positively impact the bottom line. I am a lifetime Titanium member because of Marriott’s continuing culture of service, and presence where I frequent.

A 2019 Forbes post mentioned that “60% of millennials state loyalty to brands they currently purchase from if treated well through customer-centric experience. To ensure allegiance, companies include loyalty programs with custom discounts as well as active courtship.”2 If this is Marriott’s motivation, I certainly have been a beneficiary over the past 15 years!

At this point in her career, my network at Marriott is stronger than hers, grown from being the friendly kind of customer that encourages staff to remember my name and help me out when I need it. I hope she sees the value of the network and takes time to get to know folks at other properties. Maybe someday they will see an e-gift card, not know how to accept it for payment and call her!

And in the meantime, Sidney, KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK!



Take off what you don’t need

While this article is about working in an office setting versus a remote work environment, I am starting it with a story from my father. The 1960s were known for their hard partying, when a DUI was no a badge of shame and unlikely to get you fired, when many social norms were in the midst of dramatic change. Cocktail parties were very popular then, the alcohol flowed and entertainment too many forms including games. One game in particular that I remember from the stories involved asking someone to lie down on the floor. They were then covered from toes to chin with a blanket and instructed to take off what they didn’t need. Of course, this was a later-in-the-evening game, when thought was clouded due to the gin, whiskey and vodka consumed, and everyone would giggle as watches, bracelets, socks and shoes would appear from under the blanket. But the point of the game was that the one thing none of them needed was the blanket

I’ve shared this story because I’ve often thought back to it as my workforce has transitioned successfully to a remote work environment and our lovely office, that once was bursting with ideas, became expensive storage space.

I was advised by a wise man back in April to shed the space. I had considered it since then, but at that point was concerned that an abrupt decision so early into COVID-19 might signal the wrong message to my employees. So I waited, figuring that the right time would appear.

My landlord was great. She offered me, without asking, two months of half priced rent, after I shared the news of conference and job cancellations. That bought some time. Then, in June, I started the open discussion with my team regarding a return to the office. We had adapted well to a remote work environment. Progress was being made, we had adopted a schedule of meetings that met our needs, we met socially on a weekly basis to fill in that part that makes working fun—knowing your co-workers. We saw kids on Zoom, we heard dogs and occasionally watched cats parade across laptops. We shared stories, plans for staycations, and reminisced about past vacation experiences that we longed for again. And we shared funny videos and other things we had received over the web that week.

My team let me know that they were not comfortable working in close quarters, even if we required masks, stayed six feet apart and had all the extras for sanitization. They did not want to return to that environment until we were safe—which mean an effective vaccine was available and distributed.

Coincidentally, the Harvard Business Review in July posted a seven-part series titled The New Reality of WFH1 (Working From Home). This series provided data into what other organizations are seeing which bolstered my decision to say goodbye to our office.

Microsoft2, using software tools, found employees adapted to remote work well. 22% increase in meetings under 30 minutes and 11% decrease in longer meetings were seen. While they found employees adapted well, their management teams bore the brunt of dealing with the stress of the change, fostering resilience in their employees and staying connected.

Nancy Rothbard’s article3 highlighted that while the transition to remote work was facilitated by technology, the challenge has been managing work-life boundaries. She defines “integrators” as workers who were comfortable blurring work-family boundaries and “segmentors” who established clear boundaries between work and family. Her research addressed the challenges for integrators who now needed to establish clearer boundaries in the remote work environment, and segmentors whose boundaries are under constant challenge in a WFH environment. She suggests that segmentors dress for work and establish a workspace with a door. She also suggests that managers be accepting of an integrator’s need to address family needs during worktime.

Gretchen Gavett’s4 article lets us know that WFJ has been growing for years among knowledge workers. This is supported by Derek Thompson’s work5 where he references the Federal Reserve finding that that WFH tripled in the last 15 years.

There were other articles that addressed the benefit of office space.

Gianpiero Getriglieri6 identifies that an office imposes routine and provides a boundary between work and home life that technology has been eroding.

Scott Berinato’s article7 talks about the paradigm shift of office space, where the future office will incorporate physical space as well as technology space. The change of office space definition is lagging due to the timeline of leases but will catch up in the coming year or two.

 These viewpoints have given me confidence in our decision to vacate our office. Our current lease was coming up for renewal, and rather than letting it roll into another year, we gave our notice to leave. The past two weeks has been spent pouring over the documentation amassed over the past 5 years to determine what should be kept as we downsize into our own individual spaces. As we watched donated items leave to their new owners, and the dumpster fill with documentation from the start of the first idea through to all of our copyrighted intellectual property, I didn’t have feelings of sadness. It felt incredibly good to ‘lighten up’. My young company will be stronger for this. We have shed the “how we did it before” for our new way of work.

We will again embrace space, but it will likely be temporary space, or use of shared space. We have yet to address how to add staff in a remote work environment, and that may force some change, but until then, we are pivoting and growing, and it is a new world for us.

I have taken off the blanket.

1The New Reality of WFH.Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from:

2Singer-Velush, N., Sherman, K., Anderson, E. 2020. Microsoft Analyzed Data on Its Newly Remote Workforce. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from:

3Rothbard, N. 2020. Building Work-Life Boundaries in the WFH Era. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from:

4Gavett, G. 2020. Do We Really Need the Office? Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from:

5Thompson, D. 2020. The Coronavirus Is Creating a Huge, Stressful Experiment in Working From Home. The Atlantic. Retrieved from:

6Petriglieri, G. 2020. In Praise Of The Office. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from:  

7Berinato, S. 2020. What Is An Office For? Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from: