Should you get the Mac and Cheese?

Having Mac and cheese as a kid is a treat.  Having Mac and cheese as an adult is borderline sinful.  So when I took my daughter and her fiancé out for dinner at the Waverly Inn in the West Village and we saw Mac and cheese on the menu we went nuts.  The 3 of us read the menu, each of us explaining the virtues of eating healthy fish and veggies.  We then went into a diatribe of rationalizing eating the burger and the French fries, including explaining to each other why eating meat might be healthy for us.  We finally landed on the Mac and cheese with white truffle. To help us decide, we called the waiter over and asked him for his opinion.  He told us it was out of this world.  ‘It’s an amazing experience.  It’s made with four cheeses and generously sprinkled with white truffle for the price of $165/person.’  Oh my’, we responded.  It would be silly not to get the Mac and cheese even at that price.’ My oldest daughter was mortified.  ‘Mom’,no one in their right mind would pay that kind of money for Mac and cheese.’   ‘We totally should’, her fiancé and I responded. And we kept it up.

For a moment, we both gave in and agreed that Mac and cheese couldn’t possibly be good for your health or your wallet, but we quickly gave into our previous conviction that it was.  We firmly committed ourselves to how good the Mac and cheese tasted when we were kids and that if the Waverly Inn served it, it had to be the best Mac and cheese in the world.  The more the three of us argued, the more committed her fiancé and I became.  So we got the Mac and cheese and we split it between the 2 of us.  We explained to my daughter, ‘it is out of this world’ and convinced her to try it.  It was so rich, we were both completely full by our 5th bite but we kept eating, and eating, and eating.

After all, we had convinced ourselves to get it and it was to die for, so who wouldn’t want to eat every last Mac?  We walked back to their apartment that night in Chelsea and somewhere between the first and second block we both confessed that we in fact had stomach pain.  We had had our fill of the Mac and cheese.   Why didn’t we stop eating it when we knew we had enough? Why did we have to eat every last Mac and truffle?  Why did we not show some sense of self-control?   We came to several conclusions.  Firstly, we had to eat all of it because we had to be consistent with what we had to committed to.  Not to eat every last drop would have conflicted with what we said.   Sometimes we continue to do something that isn’t good for us simply because we committed that we would do it.  Even when deep inside of us we know we should stop – we don’t, because we want to ‘save face’ or we don’t want to hear anyone say ‘l told you so.’

Secondly, there are certain circumstances when too much of a really good thing isn’t good for you.  That’s when having self-control and having the courage to say ‘I’ve had enough’ – it’s time to stop doing this’ is important. Lastly, remember that life experiences are priceless.  So when you ask yourself, who in their right mind would pay $165 for a plate of Mac and cheese? We did– and we learned a valuable lesson that we’re still talking about it.

Choose Wisely

Dealing with the unexpected isn’t easy, especially for some people. It can compound anxiety and make you say and do things you may later regret. Some people choose to complain, get angry, and carry on.There’s nothing wrong with that – but there’s a time limit on how long that can be productive. If the driver in front of you doesn’t move fast enough or you get your food cold – complaining and whining will make you feel better and like you got it out of your system for a finite period of time. But then you have to choose when to let it go. That’s the secret – choosing when to let it be and accepting it for what it is.Particularly, when you can’t change whatever is bothering you immediately or when in the big scheme of things, it really isn’t such a big deal. Ignoring the signals that your complaining is no longer productive, can have bad effects on you and those around you.

What we fail to see is that most of life is about how we handle the unexpected, the things we didn’t see coming, the things outside of our control. It can define us. And if we aren’t careful, we may miss the hidden good things any unexpected situation may bring.

So the next time something happens that you didn’t expect, take a deep breath, ask yourself if you can change the situation immediately or not, think hard to see if there may be something good that comes out of it, and then choose your reaction (and how long to react) wisely.

It’s the Little Things That Matter

When someone asked me recently how I was doing, I quickly answered great! I opened my eyes today,I got dressed, I had a cup of coffee with mom and I drove to work. We spend a lot of time working hard to savor the big moments of life – the big vacation, getting the big house, getting a promotion and the next big thing. In our pursuit of these, we often dismiss the little moments – the ones that we have more of in life. Getting a cup of coffee for your partner in the morning, putting your kids on the school bus, going food shopping, cleaning the house. Collectively, the mundane things in life add up to what constitutes most of it – the day the day. Dismissing the little things and taking them for granted is a mistake. It can make us feel like we are constantly chasing something, as if whatever we have today isn’t enough. The happiest people I know, are happy for everything but mostly the little things. The wonderful little moments that occur every day.

So try something new – celebrate what you have today, no matter how small or insignificant it may appear. Take a deep breath the next time you feel you aren’t getting to the next big thing fast enough and be thankful you have what you have. Big or small.

Top Five Things Highly Successful Women Should Remember

These tips are for successful women on the importance on presence, presenting and the perception others may have of you.

1. Be prepared.  Most sophisticated people can tell if you are using a ‘cookie-cutter’ presentation that you’ve used over and over.  Do a little homework about the audience – sense of where they are, what they expect, what the issues are, what will they be inspired by.  Inspiring, motivational, charismatic – AND knowledgeable, capable, skilled, experienced is the winning combination.  Most of these can be learned and you can do this in a way that matches your own personality and sense of who you are.

2. Be observant.  You need only to LOOK at the non-verbal language of those you are addressing to guess what they are thinking about.  An audience will give a lot of context cues particularly when you are not connecting.  You will note that they aren’t listening (like answering calls, texting, sitting away or slouching from the table, looking away, etc.)  This should tell you how engaged they are and if they are interested in what you have to offer. Much of what we communicate, we do through body language.  If you suspect they aren’t ‘present’ – regroup and rethink what you are talking about.   Ask a question to try to reengage and then follow that thread of conversation to see where it leads you.  Call on someone that looks engaged or ready to say something and ask them to share their thoughts.  Be ready to ‘bag’ whatever you were presenting, slides, talking points, etc. in favor of what they want to talk about.

3. Be genuine.  People like it when a leader shares what they care about (including them) and admits what they know a lot about and what they don’t.  Using humor is okay without being self-deprecating.  Some may not know your ‘story’ – so share some of it when appropriate (where you’re from, where you’ve been, etc.) in a succinct and sincere manner.  Remember, under stress you will be tempted or simply forget, to acknowledge others around you.  Make it a point to connect with your staff/ leadership team regularly and with others in the organization when able.

4. Listen carefully.  You may be surprised how much you learn from what you hear AND (equally important) what you didn’t hear about (or from).  The ‘silent’ group can be very influential and the informal leaders for the larger group.  They will be the ones that walk out of a meeting and head directly for someone else that was in the room to ‘regurgitate’ what they heard and give their opinion on the issue.  You can demonstrate that you are listening in real-time by using ‘check-back’ – repeat and confirm what you think you heard.  Top leadership is sometime accused of being dis-connected from the real world issues.  Active listening and follow-through on key or ‘no-brainer’ issues addresses that.

 

 

  • Remember, take advice gracefully.  It isn’t easy to ‘take’ it from the rank and file or others that are in lower ranks of the organization.  You may be surprised at the wisdom that others have/will share when they feel safe/comfortable and believe you are humble enough to accept it.  When needed, circle back at a later time to check in with them/ask about something they said.  People will be grateful that you cared enough to ask.

 

 

7 Tips for Women Managers and Leaders

These tips are straightforward, common sense things women managers and leaders should remember for the workplace.

1. The less you confide in others in the organization, the better. What you intend as harmless chatter with someone that is not trustworthy can do serious harm.

2. Keep your speculations and worries to yourself.  Don’t let your guard down and know when you are being ‘baited’ to give your opinion ‘off the record.’  Nothing is ever ‘off the record’ in leadership.

3. Leadership is a full-time job and the duty clock is never off. Every little sign is being read and your impatience, disappointment or insecurity will be magnified by others.  There is no time for casual and unplanned candor, and messages must be sent only when carefully thought out. Be especially careful about what you put in writing, especially emails—they never disappear.

4. Keep listening to and for advice. If someone wants to speak to you, there is every reason to listen. If criticism is offered, take time to respond with care even if you don’t agree with it.

5. The important thing is to be sure that the important thing remains the important thing. Explain your strategy frequently and then rephrase it and repeat it.

6. Expect the best from others but don’t be surprised if you get the worst.  Be ready for disagreement and sabotaging strategies by colleagues.  If this happens, be careful of your public reaction.  Better to be silent than to speak out abruptly and do damage.

7. Remember – take a deep breath, relax, be yourself, and accept what you cannot change.

 

 

4 Tips for Women Who Want to Get Promoted in Healthcare

We need more women in healthcare organizations in senior level positions.  Opportunities abound and we have many women who are qualified.  These 4 Tips are not often talked about but are important to remember if you want that promotion.

  1. Be Respected: You must understand how clinicians think, you should have gained credibility/respect from others in the organization, and you should have a track record for having achieved great outcomes.  This is seen as a ‘must-have’ for success in healthcare.  This can be done by staying clinically active, working closely in those areas in the organization that are most challenging, and volunteering to take on the tough jobs no one else wants.  You must also be known for doing things with integrity and in the best interests of the organization.
  2. Emotional Intelligence:  Being smart, having the right degrees, and having great business acumen does not in of itself guarantee success if the individual is unable to inspire and create great relationships with others.  Those with higher EQ’s are more likely to get the top jobs because they are generally more collaborative, easier to engage, open/listen to new and innovative ideas, and have stronger communication skills – a must-have for top leaders.  Be open to feedback, get a mentor, and be honest about the likelihood that you can get promoted. Make sure you’ve assessed the credentials at the top levels in the organization in the case that you may need added qualifications to be considered a strong candidate.
  3. Be An Innovator:  The best leaders are innovators with a good healthcare business experience and acumen, visionary, strategic thinkers that understand the long term goal of population health/care continuum and can balance it with current financial realities, capable of aligning other partners (including private industry and payers) to position the organization for success, can move between/beyond cost containment into revenue growth, engaging/inspiring leadership skills, capable of appointing a ‘winning’ team.
  4. Be the Best Internal Candidate:  When the time comes and you find a position you may be interested in pursuing – you must decide if you are the best candidate in the organization.  Sometimes the answer is NO or you may not be interested.  Recruiting an internal versus external candidate for a senior position, is a very important decision for an organization.  An internal candidate already understands the organization, is a known entity to key stakeholders, and there is no time wasted on a learning curve allowing the organization to keep and/or accelerate the momentum for current and future projects.   That said, the individual must be well-regarded by others in the organization and they must demonstrate the ability to put together a winning team that is complementary in terms of skills/talent.  Some organizations pride themselves in succession planning and if they have the ‘bench’, they will give internal candidates serious consideration.  This is also less disruptive to the organization, less expensive and has a higher success rates (the failure rate for external candidates in top leadership positions are 3:1 in the healthcare industry).  That said, even when there is an obvious internal choice, the organization may choose to do a national search for 2 reasons: 1) to vet the internal candidate against national competitors and 2) to see if there is someone better for the position.  This is where the ‘acting’ position can be of help (see my 7 tips if you become an acting leader blog) if you are asked to be the interim leader. If you’re not chosen, get back to work.  Another opportunity may be around the corner.  If you don’t feel like you’ve gotten a fair shake, take a look at your choices. If you choose to leave, leave graciously.  If you choose to stay, stay graciously.

Enough is Enough: Making that Big Decision

I was asked to give someone advice about leaving their job.  Here’s what I said:

Giving someone advice about life decisions isn’t easy.  The mood, the place, the company – all affect what you may say or not say when you are asked.  More importantly, we often think about things we should have said after the moment is gone.  So here’s some advice I once gave someone who was in the midst of making a big life decision.  In this case, it was easier said in writing than in person:

1.  Life is about choices.  All choices and actions have consequences.  Being able to live with whatever the consequences are, is the secret to overcoming the inertia of doing nothing.  The first step is always the hardest.  Pursuing what you are passionate begins with knowing what makes you tick.  Is it something creative, something you want to build, something that will give you purpose, or even something that you believe may change the world?  Start there.

2. Give yourself the space and time you need to think things through.  But don’t over plan or try to predict all the permutations of what could happen.  That is paralyzing.

3. Start slowly.  Sampling the different options you believe you would like can be quite fun.  The first step can a ‘baby’ step. That’s ok because it gives you some time to do some homework.

4. At some point, you have to be willing to take a chance.  Life-changing decisions are never without risks.  Being willing to take that risk takes courage.  People that don’t take risks in life, risk looking back wishing they had.  They also risk resenting the things and the people they perceive to have held them back.

5. You are very smart.  Take a hard look at where you are now and what you’ve accomplished.  In the very unlikely event that things don’t work out – you have something you can go back to doing.

6. In the end, you may choose to stay put.  That doesn’t mean you can’t pursue other interests too.  Push yourself to pursue them in your spare/off time.  It can act as a coping strategy for high stress/high stakes jobs.  And sometimes it can lead to something bigger.

I wish you insight, courage, and peace of mind and heart, whatever you decide to do.

Deb

 

Dear July Part 3: Life Lessons Learned This Month

Don’t Blink.

Do you remember the last time someone pushed your buttons and you lost it?  Most people do.  You remember where you were and what you were doing.  Recalling that has to do with a short circuit track in the brain that goes through something we call the amygdala.  It’s a very small part of the brain but one that plays a big part in emotional self-control.  It has the ability to highjack you and disconnect what your mouth is saying from your brain.  Some people can feel it coming.  It’s like a tea kettle when it starts to sing.   The ‘tracks’ in the brain that account for that are well-oiled and once that train gets rolling, there’s no turning back.  At least that’s how it feels.  But if you think about it, there is something you can do.  You can predict where that button is, who can push it, and when the short circuit is about to get triggered.  Like anything else, if you can predict it, you can probably prevent it.  Try not blinking.  It focuses the brain on doing something completely different to disengage and distract it from triggering that reaction with your mouth.  It’s also less obvious, requires less effort, and keeps your face from showing what you’re really thinking.  Next time someone or something pushes your buttons – don’t blink.

Dear July Part 2: Life Lessons Learned This Month

Be your own herd.

Trying to fit in or be part of a group is human nature.   We like going along and getting along with others.  Research has shown that in a group setting even when we know for certain that someone has answered a question wrong, we tend not to challenge it because we want to be part of the group – part of the herd.   One of the best places to watch this dynamic is in an elevator, especially when it’s packed.  Everyone is facing the same way, looking up or down, or watching the buttons light up as it goes from one floor to the next.   It’s very rare that someone talks and even rarer that someone stands with their back to the door.  It’s not considered elevator-protocol.  The same is true at meetings.  Someone makes a decision and everyone tends to agree especially when it’s a strong personality or a senior person. But sometimes the most creative ideas come from looking at things from a completely different angle.  Not what the herd would do.  The next time you’re in a meeting, think about the decision being made and try to think about it under different circumstances.  And when you’re in that packed elevator, start singing that song that’s been in your head all day or say hello to the person standing next to you and ask them where they’re from.  Watch where the herd is going and try going in a different direction.  You may be surprised at what happens.

 

 

Dear July Part I: Life Lessons Learned This Month

Know your share of the nuts.

Have you ever been a cocktail party when they put out a bowl of nuts for the guests? I’m not
sure why we do this. Nuts before dinner isn’t very fulfilling. Everybody knows that and yet
when they come out, we all reach in to eat them. It’s actually a test for two things – self-control and self-awareness. We can choose to have a few, just enough to quench our hunger and make us thirsty for more wine. We can choose not to have any at all, save ourselves for dinner. Or we can choose to eat as many as we can without paying any attention to how many other guests are in the room and what our share is. The first two choices don’t need explaining as they are a pretty good proxy for someone with self-control and self-awareness but the last one does. Being the person that eats all the nuts probably has its roots in our childhood. That was the kid that always had their hand up, the one that always cried out pick me, pick me. It was also the kid that rushed to the cafeteria to be the first to get the biggest slice of pizza on pizza day in school. These individuals grow up and become the person at work that takes up all the time in the meeting. The one that asks all the questions, takes the soap box and gives dissertations, and doesn’t let anyone else get a word in edgewise. I’ve often wondered if they could hear themselves talking or watched themselves on video if they would pick up on how this affects others in the room. Next time this happens, look around at the body language in the room. You’ll see people rolling their eyes, shifting in their seats, or turning on their smart phones to text someone. The sad part is that no one ever tells the individual – ‘stop eating all the nuts. It’s annoying.’ The next time you’re at a cocktail party or a meeting – check yourself. Make sure you only take your share. Not anyone else’s.