The Power Of One

changtheworldMargaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.”  I would add, “Never underestimate the power of one.”  It only takes one to make a difference—a hero—an every-day person who gives a part of his life to something bigger than himself.

To be a hero one must ask the question: “What can I give?” The answer lives in the difference between what is and what can be.  People rise up by lifting up others.  The truth—the world needs more of you and your unique gifts.  People ask, “How and what can I give?” People tap into their “power of one” by answering the following questions:

  1. Who am I?
  2. What can I do for others?

Heroism is unveiled in action. Where can you mentor, teach, help, encourage, and inspire? Heroism is like a boomerang.  The boomerang flies across the horizon only to return to its sender.  Heroes are motivated to give but find they get even more in return. In the process of giving, you may just create your best life ever—one that can be described as:

  1. A life worth living
  2. One with purpose
  3. One with love and laughter
  4. With significance

What will you do 1 year, 5 years, or 10 years from today?


 

Shine: Everyone Has Something to Offer

shine 2I believe everyone has something to contribute to this world—a light within them just trying to get out.  That light may be a creation, an innovation, a word of encouragement, a helping hand, or a quiet presence.  I lovingly refer to these gifts as Shine moments where people are at their best.  Some of my favorite Shine quotes include:

The Purpose of Light Is to Create More Light (Paulo Coelho)

Live to Let Your Brilliance Show

We Are All Meant to Shine

Sometimes More Sparkle Is Called For

The World Is Far Brighter Because You’re in It

Never Pass Up a Chance to Glow

Shine With All You Have

I Want a Brighter World Than Bright (John Keats)

Your Shine is Not Simply Seen—It should be felt

Always Keep Your Fire Lit

Be Brilliant—the World Needs You

Your Light Touches Hearts and Minds—It Changes the World

What are your Shine gifts?  When have you been most blessed by someone’s Shine moment?  “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you” (Isaiah 60:1, NIV).  I encourage you to continue to search within yourself for those gifts that need to shine out into the world and fill it with more light!

 

A Father’s Gift to His Children

father-daughter-son2

When TV cameras pan a sports field, how many times have you noticed players mouthing “Love you, Mom.” How often have you noticed dads getting credit when sportscasters are interviewing athletes after a big win? My recollection is that moms are receiving most of the public praise. Why do fathers seem to be forgotten or avoided?

As a child growing up in a single-working-mother family without any father contact, some of the discrepancy can be chalked up to the single-parent family structure.  I believe another portion can be explained by the lack of emotional bonding between fathers and their children.  Although I do not have all the answers, I do know that dads play a vital role in the lives of their children, and what boys need from their fathers differ from what girls need.

Eldredge (2004) proposes that every boy wants to be a hero and continually asks himself the question, “Do I have what it takes?”  Boys want to impress others and are often doing things that allow them to say, “Look at me!”  Since every boy is seeking validation that he has what it takes to be a man, boys often look to their fathers to help them answer that question. Even God said of his Son, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17, NKJV).

On the other hand, Eldredge (2004) suggests that a girl has a different question she is looking to her father to answer.  Girls try to capture their father’s attention to answer the question of whether she is lovely and worth pursuing?  A father answers that question by letting her know that he is thinking of her and delights in her.

When fathers do not validate the core needs of their children, Eldredge (2004) proposes boys feel like a failure and girls feel abandoned.  Boys will forever try to prove they are a man and shy away from anything that might reveal otherwise.  A father’s silence can wound a son.  Since a father cannot give what he does not have, it is not uncommon for generations of fathers/sons to struggle.

Girls, whose worth is not validated by their fathers, may seek male attention outside of the family.  Children who are emotionally starved by their biological fathers, should seek a spiritual father.  Many wonderful fathers can step in to provide that need to non-biological daughters.  I am one of those girls, whose stepfather became my spiritual father. These needs cannot be fulfilled by a mother, only a father.  Mothers, on the other hand, give unconditional love, teach about mercy, and provide comfort (Eldredge, 2004).

If you are a father, consider looking for those authentic opportunities to say the words that convey to your son that you are proud of him and has what it takes to be a man.  For a daughter, make sure she knows that she is delightful and worth fighting for. Fathers are the most powerful men in their children’s lives.

Reference

Eldredge, J. (2004). You Have What It Takes: What Every Father Needs to Know. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.


144-2 - CopyAbout the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional leadership coach with an extensive background in premarital and marriage coaching, education, and mentoring.  She coaches individuals, and couples, as well as facilitates relationship workshops.  She has a passion to help people experience outstanding marriages and relationships.  You can learn more about Sandra by visiting her website www.shinecrossings.com

Relationships: Have You Discussed Your Non-Negotiables?

List 1

What’s on your non-negotiable list?

Have you fallen “in love” and much further into the relationship found a few flaws in your partner’s character or behaviors that you judged to be show-stoppers?  Did the person you thought you would likely spend the rest of your life become the person with whom you could not imagine spending another night?  An answer of “yes” is not uncommon, and for some feels like a regular response as they jump from relationship to relationship hoping to find the right one for them.

Why the common pattern?  In most cases, I would wager that the relationship demise is not attributable to any one person changing, but instead the inevitable collide of non-negotiables.  For those not familiar with the terminology, non-negotiables are those attitudes, personal characteristics, and behaviors that are incompatible with a person’s expectations in how their partner should conduct themselves within and outside the relationship.

Many people do not take the time to define their relationship non-negotiables; therefore, they cannot evaluate their dating partner against them early in the dating process.  Without an understanding of objective non-negotiables, the “love” chemicals will dominate a person’s thinking and rationalization.  As the chemicals fade, the issue of non-negotiables will come to the forefront. I encourage everyone, regardless of age, to have a list of non-negotiables even if it changes over time, which most likely it will based on accumulated learnings and experiences.

You may be sold on the concept but unsure of what qualifies as non-negotiables.  First, there are no right or wrong, better or worse answers.  Second, the list should be rooted in core values and deep-seated preferences.  My husband had only two for the woman he would marry: (1) high self-confidence, and (2) a shared faith and love for the God he served.  He felt he could work with anything else.  On the other hand, my list was much longer and included: (1) never lay a hand on me, (2) be a financial provider for the family, and (3) maintain a family life where no one walks on eggs.  Although the list is short, the conversations are long with regards to unpacking what each of these looks and feels like in daily life.

As you may suspect, many of our non-negotiables were derived from prior experiences that left a prominent mark in how we expected to live our lives in the future. The list encompassed what we determined was intolerable or a “must-have.” If you have not yet written your list, I encourage you to carve out the time to create one on paper. Although there is no minimum number, if you find yourself with a grocery list of non-negotiables, you may be describing wants and not just non-negotiables.


144-2 - CopyAbout the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional leadership coach with an extensive background in premarital and marriage coaching, education, and mentoring. She coaches individuals, and couples, as well as facilitates relationship workshops.  She has a passion to help people experience outstanding marriages and relationships.  You can learn more about Sandra by visiting her website www.shinecrossings.com

A Tale of Three Trees: It’s Not What You Think!

Have you ever bawled like a baby when reading a children’s fable?  I have!  Several years ago, as I was browsing the small bookstore at The Homestead Heritage in Waco, Texas, I picked up The Tale of Three Trees: A Traditional Folktale.  I guarantee you that this was no ordinary children’s story.   The tale tells of the dreams of three trees in the forest, who all long to grow into something that the world would value.  One wanted to be the most beautiful, the other the strongest, and the third the tallest.   After many years the woodcutters came to harvest these trees on the mountain.

Christ with CrossWhat these three trees wished themselves to be instead became how they were used to serve.   The purpose of each tree brought me to tears.  Can you guess how the tallest tree was used?  The third tree wanted to be the tallest tree in the land, and by some accounts this tree got what it wished for as it stood tall at Calvary with Jesus nailed to it.   This tree had one idea of its future, but God had another purpose and plan.  Despite the ugliness it endured as it co-labored with Jesus, the third tree had the opportunity to help bring Salvation to the world.  Now that’s worth both living and dying for!

We all have dreams, and the question we should ask ourselves is whether we are dreaming the right dream.  Are you pursuing your own dream or seeking to know God’s dream for your life?  Sometimes God’s dream for your life will take you through ugliness, harshness, and cruelty such as what Jesus experienced on the cross?  Much of the time you will never be made aware of the impact you are making and must maintain faith that God is using each faithful word and action for Kingdom impact.  On those seemingly rare occasions when I do get feedback, I find those are the fuel that keep me seeking the Lord’s will for my life.

Reclaim Your Life by Creating Healthy Boundaries

Create Healthy BoundariesDo you feel less joy these days?  Does it feel like everyone else owns a piece of you and there is nothing left?  Do you dream to have 15 minutes of uninterrupted time so you can reconnect with yourself?  Is your life a harried record of accomplishments and yet never-ending to-do lists? Would your personal profile be listed in the dictionary under the word “busyness”?  You may sadly chuckle and infer these questions are tongue-in-cheek, but the reality is that an answer of “yes” to any of these questions is a sobering reminder of how stressed and anxiety-ridden many are as they run, not walk, on the treadmill of American life.  Unfortunately, the solution is not as easy as advertised by the late 1980’s commercial “Calgon, take me away!” in which a woman, surrounded by a chaotic home, says these four words and is then transported to a relaxing bath in a quiet room.  If only the solution could be solved so simply by the purchase of a few bath products and an evening soaking in the tub.

What’s the solution?

The solution is within your power to implement.  Personal boundaries!  They are the critical component in designing the life you want.  “Boundaries provide the structure to your character that will make everything else work” (Cloud, 2008).  Boundaries affect how we relate to others, how we feel emotionally, and how we perform at work.  When you understand the impact of boundaries and choose to define them for your life, you will reconnect with your identity, find more joy, and create a healthier and more satisfying life.  The necessity of personal boundaries has emerged as a counter force to the crisis that has developed from an increasingly structureless society that values the integration of work-life, despite the rhetoric that we need to have more of a work-life balance.  American culture and work have eroded the time and space boundaries we need to focus on the priorities we value most.

How did we get here?

So how did we get to this place of exhaustion and dissatisfaction?  Work structure has changed from the typical 9 to 5 hours of operation to one in which we are to be available 24-7, where working in the evenings is just an extension of the normal work day.  Work has penetrated our home space by either design or creep.  Bortolot (2015) states that the home office is now one of the most important residential amenities.  Even if one can physically separate his work environment within the home, he may not be able to mentally escape work.  How many of you have tried to relax in the evening, only to feel the nag of work penetrating your thoughts?  Do you compromise by opening up your laptop while watching your favorite TV sitcom?  Although society praises the multi-tasker, they are usually pulled in so many directions, they struggle to enjoy anything other than the satisfaction that comes from crossing off more items on their to-do list.  Keim (2012) showed that high multi-taskers performed poorly at filtering irrelevant from relevant information, had diminished ability to mentally organize, and experienced difficulty in switching between tasks.  Keim (2012) concluded if you do two things simultaneously, you will not do any of them at full capacity.

Although our lives have all benefited from technology, the tragedy is that it has also enabled the violation of our time and space boundaries.  Personal cell phones allow access to you at all times.  iPhones and computers give instant access to data and connectivity to work.  Email has expanded our network so strangers can now reach into our personal world.  Although email was initially described as a productivity enhancement, anyone with an email address is now accessible at any time by any one.  Email and voicemail can be blessings, but without personal boundaries, you may feel email is a curse because of the pressure to respond to communication, even if unsolicited.  By definition most people are losing control over their most precious resource—their time.  Money can be earned, won, spent and lost, but time is a finite resource.

TolerateBoundaries help us define who we are and form a structure in our lives that allows us to regain control (Cloud, 2008).  Boundaries protect your time, space, and relationships so that you can positively influence your world. Our society does not naturally provide the support that helps us to create and live out healthy boundaries.   Cloud (2008) asserts that “the irony is that most people are so caught up in trying to control the things they cannot control—other people, circumstances, or outcomes—that in the process they lose control of themselves” (p. 21).  The only thing you can control is yourself, so consider the decision to take control of you.

How do I reclaim my life?

  • Understand what a boundary is and what it does

A boundary is a demarcation of where you end and where someone or something else begins.  Boundaries define ownership and who controls what does and does not go on in that space.  More importantly boundaries define who is responsible for and accountable to protect that space.

  • Understand what boundaries provide and how they serve your needs

Boundaries provide the structure that helps to define our character and personality, because they describe who we are, what we want, and how we feel and think.  Clear boundaries provide security and benefit self and others, because they are not ambiguous, are predictable, and signal what we will and will not tolerate. They help to contain chaos, because one who is clear on boundaries will step in to make sure chaos is effectively dealt with.

  • Define what you feel, think, and desire

Boundaries differentiate us from others and teach us how we are unique individuals in feelings, attitudes, behaviors, limits, thoughts, and choices.  What are the things that you value most in life?  How would you ideally want to live your life?  What do you want to make a priority?  What are your vision, mission, and goals?

  • Identify the holes in your boundaries

Rebuilding boundaries is about reclaiming your power.  Power drains have numerous sources as described by Cloud (2008): need for security, need for approval, need to be perfect, need to have others see you as ideal, need to overidentify with other people’s problems, need to rescue, fear of being alone, fear of conflict, need for harmony, fear of differing opinions, fear of anger, fear of feeling inferior, fear of someone’s power, inability to say no, inability to hear no or accept limits, inability to tolerate failure of others, hero worship, lack of internal structure, and dependency to name a few.  You should identify the holes in your boundaries and address them.

  • Communicate who you are to others

Set limits consistent with your vision, mission, values, and goals and communicate them to others.  You empower others by allowing them to decide and live with the consequences defined by your boundaries.  By default, you will no longer try to control others’ decisions and actions, because you can live with the outcome of whatever decision they make. Communicating and living within your boundaries is a form of respecting others and also provides a healthy model for them to emulate.

  • Act on your boundaries

Live each day in accordance with your boundaries.  When you are in control of your boundaries, you become a more integrated person, gain greater respect for yourself, and become more respectful of other people’s boundaries.  Boundaries allow you to influence others’ behaviors toward you, which by default makes you feel whole and more in control.

What is the cost of boundaries?

Having boundaries comes comes with a personal cost.  In order to have full control, you need to have the freedom to control those aspects of your life where you have boundaries. You can only leverage them if you are not dependent on any single person or entity for survival, because the one to whom you are dependent may decide to invoke their boundaries and put you in an untenable position.  As you work on defining your personal boundaries and areas of weakness, you should also take inventory of your life to understand where you have weak capital.  Has poor financial stewardship put you in a position that you could not weather a job lose for several months should you decide to invoke your boundaries?  Would a work dismissal cause you undue hardship?  If so, you may need to save for an emergency fund to build that capital.  What about the young adult, still living rent-free with his parents, who does not like his imposed curfew?  He is not free to come and go as he pleases as a fully functioning adult, because he may be asked to pack up his belongings and move out.  His first step should be to build his financial capital so he can either re-negotiate rent for more freedom or secure other living arrangements.  Before invoking boundaries, you must end any dependency and be able to live with the boundaries that any other individual may choose to impose on you.

CAUTION:  Establishing boundaries for the first time may come with some emotionally charged responses from others in your life.  You may likely find that those people who have boundaries respect you more, and those people who do not live with boundaries will resort to behaviors that will test the strength of yours.  Think of the parent who has told his toddler no.  Toddlers use the word no to try to establish their boundaries.  When they do not get their way, they step up with more emotional persuasion.  Next may come yelling, screaming, and possibly throwing things to get their way.  They may fall on the floor in a full-blown tantrum.  They may say, “I hate you,” as a means of hurting you into giving in.  When you are firm on your boundaries for long enough, a toddler will eventually wear themselves out and move on.   You may have to repeat this cycle a few times; however, when a toddler knows his parent is firm on a boundary, compliance prevails in the long run.  This same principle also holds true for family, friends, or work relationships.

References

Bortolot, L. (2015). Four trends in home office design. Entrepreneur. Retrieved from https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/248061

Cloud, H. (2008). The one-life solution: Reclaim your personal life while achieving greater professional success. New York, NY: HarperCollins.

Keim, B. (2012).  Is multitasking bad for us? Nova Science. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/body/is-multitasking-bad.html


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a life, premarital/marriage, and business coach with an extensive background in business development and leadership.  She coaches others in how to develop and execute life plans, develop successful businesses, and build better relationships by identifying and living their personal values, enhancing skills and competencies, and being held accountable for executing their defined goals.

A Female Engineer Coming of Age in the 1980’s

What is it like to be a female engineer forging a career in a male-dominated profession?  I would expect the answers to be wildly different depending on the decade when a woman engineer first enters the workforce.  My career as a chemical engineer has spanned four decades, and as I reflect on those early years in the 1980’s, my stories would probably have many of today’s young female engineers question the peg on my honesty-meter.  With a spirit of humor, I share some of my more interesting, coming of age stories and lessons learned of what it was like to be a woman chemical engineer in a sea of male colleagues.

sandi-marvin-mobilBefore I begin, you may wonder what prompted me to now share these personal stories after almost 40 years of a long and successful career.  Well, as I was rummaging through some personal files buried deep in boxes stored in the spare bedroom closet, I stumbled upon this photo of me and Marvin, another young engineer, circa 1988. What is odd about this photo? I immediately chuckle at the silliness of me, a process engineer, in the control room of the Mobil Chemical plant in Edison, New Jersey, wearing a hardhat, white blouse, gray pleated skirt, black pumps, and a string of pearls.   In truth, this was a staged photo, taken by the Mobil media team who wanted stock photos of various Mobil engineers to use at job fair booths where teams recruited young engineers.  However, this was a standard photo of the day.  Women were a fraction of the engineering profession relative to the long history of the chemical industry, and neither females or males had yet figured out how to acclimate this gender blending.  Females struggled with how to act, interact, and dress for success within this male-dominated society.  Most males were uncomfortable working with us—this was especially true of those who were older, who in most cases were our superiors making decisions about our promotability, raises, and job opportunities.

In my opinion, most male engineers related to women as mother, wife, or daughter, but not colleague.   Even if they were comfortable working side-by-side with their female counterparts and accepted them as equals, women engineers still made the male engineers’ environment slightly uncomfortable, because it disrupted their relaxed and established behaviors of swearing and telling of sexually based jokes. Now, male engineers were forced to think before speaking so they did not offend any woman colleague in the room.  Note, I said woman colleague, not women colleagues.  I cannot count the number of times in a meeting, when a male engineer would get passionate about a topic, say “sh*t,” “fu*k,” or some variant expression of such, and the room would go silent.  He would then turn towards me and say “Sorry,” or “Pardon my French.”  Personally, I can swear with the best of them and was not offended in the least, but what did offend me was the fact that these men were uncomfortable swearing in front me.

The painful reality is that any time someone is on guard in your presence, you may be allowed in the group, but you are never fully accepted.  I knew in my heart that my opportunities at Exxon Chemical would be limited, because people are only willing to invite others into their ranks when they are comfortable with and trust them.  Field studies of company organizations by Jackall (1988) indicated that employees have little chance of being promoted into higher levels of management without “…mirroring the kind of image that top bosses have of themselves [and making] the people [who are] most responsible for [one’s] fate comfortable” (p. 58).  Women were only advancing into lower-level management positions, mostly because of affirmative action and political and societal pressure.   Although women might be able to gain trust through hard work and performance, I knew many of the male decision-makers would never feel comfortable with women engineers in their higher management circles.

Statistics show that in 1999 women accounted for 25% of all engineers under 25, but only 5% of engineers over 49 (Wikipedia, 2016).   In 1999 I was 37 years old, and my best estimate was women accounted for less than 10% of the total engineering workforce.  But I am getting ahead of myself.  Going back to the early 1980’s, my story begins as a newly graduated chemical engineering recruited into Exxon Chemical. In 1984 the oil/chemical industries were crawling out of an economic trough.   Despite Lafayette College’s reputation as a prestigious engineering school, only half of my chemical engineering class received job offers.  I was one of the lucky ones, hired by Paramins, a division of Exxon Chemical.  I was surprised to receive their offer, because I used Exxon as my first practice interview when they visited the campus.

In the early 1980’s women engineers struggled with how to dress for an interview.  The prevailing trend was to dress as much like a man to fit in and subjugate your female gender. So, we donned either blue pin-striped or gray suits with shoulder pads for that masculine look, white collared blouses, and a paisley ascot or necktie fashioned into a bow.  We had matching kerchiefs in our breast pocket.   Our only differentiation was the skirt versus slacks with low heeled pumps.  Did I win Exxon over with my academic and work accomplishments or my ability to visually fit in with the rest of the male engineers?  Was I the chosen candidate because of affirmative action?  Regardless, I was grateful for the job offer as a contact engineer, working in a chemical plant making lubricant additives.

Despite all these facts and figures, what are some of my most interesting personal stories as a young, female engineer starting her career at Paramins in July 1984.  I soon learned that this division normally hired 25 graduating engineers per year, but with the economic turn down, they had not hired any during the previous 3 years.   Myself and another woman, Joan, were the first new hires in several years.  I quickly learned that the rules which I believed governed success did not apply here.  For 22 years of life, I was conditioned that if you did the work well, you got rewarded, which represented how the typical academic world operated.   Learn the material, apply the material, earn an A.  These rules did not apply at Exxon.

Let us start with the uniform?  What is the appropriate Exxon dress code? As contact engineers, we were expected to dress in a way that balanced our need to spend time in both the plant and office.  As I looked around, there were two women role models.  What were they wearing?  The standard female dress for Exxon was to look like a man, which meant khaki pants such as Dockers, a long-sleeve buttoned-down shirt, and penny loafers or boat shoes.  I owned none of those outfits but soon invested in a few.  Afterall, I wanted to make a good impression.  The women did not wear make-up or jewelry, except on occasion Diana wore a pair of small gold hoop earrings.   Initially, I played the dress game, even though these outfits contrasted with my personality.  I felt suffocated in this Exxon uniform.  Over time, I started to add color to my wardrobe with jeans and print tops/sweaters.  I wore make-up and jewelry.  Although closed-toed safety shoes were always worn in the plant, I traded my penny loafers for clogs when around the office.  No one said anything, including my boss, but the repercussions came during my first salary action.  I had a glowing performance appraisal, but when I got a relatively poor raise, I asked a lot of questions that my boss was uncomfortable answering.

I then found out about Exxon’s forced ranking system, which means that everyone within a band of job classifications must be ranked “1 through last” by a committee of supervisors.  This exercise is completely independent of performance reviews and used to allocate merit increases.   Although no one is privy to their ranking, I did find out I was in the bottom third.   The typical Exxon employee response would be to accept your ranking without question, but I needed answers.   I felt badly for my administrative boss, Paul, who was left to answer my probing questions.   Uncomfortably, Paul, shared that my ranking was based on the way I dressed.  The other supervisors in the room who do not know my work performance judged me on my appearance in the office hallways.  I do not remember his exact words, but Paul implied that I was flashy and not conservative enough.  I agree that visually I did stand out from the other few women engineers, but seriously, my salary increase was partially a reflection of me being too female?

For argument’s sake, I asked Paul for an example among my peers who was considered a top performer and why.  Paul referenced Doug because of his dedication to the job; he typically arrived at 7 am and left at 7 pm.   Although I did respect Doug’s abilities and contribution, I knew that at the witching-hour of 5 pm, Doug closed his office door so he could take care of personal work such as writing checks and paying bills, all the while leaving the impression he was hard at work for Mother Exxon.  Frustrated, aware, yet unwavering, I decided I was not going to dress like a man or make false appearances of working longer.  I still held out hope and a worldview that the same rules which applied in academia would eventually win out at Exxon.  I had not yet figured out lesson one which is as an individual you cannot fight culture and win.   You either chose to adapt or you need to get out and find “your people.”  However, this was my first real job, and I was learning the hard way about the real world on many levels.

My job as a contact engineer required me to work with many different people and levels within the organization.  I worked alongside unit operators, providing technical support on production, quality, turnaround, safety, and environmental issues.  I worked with the operators’ first line supervisors.  I had dual supervisory reporting structures, which for a first job can be very stressful.  I had my administrative boss, Paul, who provided general direction and did my performance appraisals, and had a dotted-line boss to the operations manager, Alan, because I supported his production units.  Paul was a young chemical engineer, who was very comfortable with female colleagues.  Alan was an older chemical engineer, near retirement, and known to be a “male chauvinist pig” which was a common term used in the 1980’s.  I learned there was a long-standing lawsuit filed by one of my operators, Kurt, who was suing Alan and Exxon for making him crazy.  Yes, crazy!  Kurt claimed that Alan would intentionally assign him jobs/activities that were frivolous and designed as inappropriate busy work to retaliate against Kurt because he did not like him. After knowing and loving Crazy Kurt, as he was affectionately called, I would agree that Kurt was “off”, but the question that loomed was whether Kurt’s craziness was a chicken-or-egg-first with Alan.  We will never know, but with the pending lawsuit, Alan was especially cordial to Kurt on those rare occasions when both would be in the control room.

I developed outstanding relationships with my four operators (Kurt, Victor, Eddy, and Angelo), but not before some trials and tribulations.  I first met Victor a few weeks after starting my job when he finally came on day shift.   My first stop of the day was to visit the control room to inventory the previous night’s events.  I walked over to the NP/NPS/DDP desk, where Victor sat reading a magazine, and I introduced myself.  After a long pause, Victor slowly turned his head towards me, lifted and shook his finger at me and said in a low, measured voice, “You better not get snotty on me.”  After the shock of his introduction, I responded, “I won’t get snotty on you, if you don’t get snotty on me.”  Then a big cheesy smile broke out over Victor’s face, and he said, “I like you.  We’re going to get along just fine.”  Victor and I became fast friends, with him warning me of all the embarrassing pranks the operators liked to pull on the new engineers who did not have any practical experience.  These pranks included asking the engineer to get them a nitrogen blanket or to pull a sample from a vacuum tower.  An experienced engineer will get a chuckle and know why that’s impossible, but the young engineer will try to accommodate the request without success.

Working at the plant also came with its challenges in handling sexual advances.  Despite all the policy and rhetoric about respecting women, many men paid no heed, because there were no repercussions for bad behavior that went against announced policies. Angelo, a short Italian fellow, had the nickname of Goose.  I never gave much thought as to why, because I always called him Angelo.  Well, one day Angelo and I were walking up the alley to unplug some vacuum jets, when I felt him pitch my butt.  I was shocked, turned towards him, and with disbelief asked him whether he just pinched my butt.  He gave me a big smirk and said, “Yeah!”.  I then slapped him across the face and said, “Don’t ever do that again.”  I then turned and kept walking towards the unit.  I never said another word about it, and we picked up right where we left off.  I did not hold it against him, but I firmly established my personal boundaries.   Overall, I had close relationships with all of my operators—partners who troubleshot the units for quality and production rates.  As we were fighting a quality issue one day, I asked Eddy, “What do you think is going on?”  He responded, “Why are you asking me, I’m just the operator?”  I replied, “Because you know these units like the back of your hand.  Why wouldn’t I want to know what you think?”  He said that most of the young engineers think they know better so the operators choose not to share.  Working with the operators provided many valuable lessons.  I learned and reaped the rewards in treating every one as an equal at the table as we worked together, which built a strong foundation of trust.  I loved working in the plant, because I could be my authentic self in relationships and utilize my engineering skills.  Then I had to remove my steel-toed boots and return to the office environment.

My office struggles mainly focused on my relationship with Alan.  How does the youngest female engineer handle an older male chauvinistic pig who is her boss?  Not sure where or who started the reference to Joan, Diana, and me as Bogie’s Angels, but I did hear Alan gloat about it when we were brought up in conversation as his angels. You see, three of the four women engineers reported through Alan Bogard’s operations chain of command.  With Charlie’s Angels one of the most popular TV shows at the time, Alan enjoyed his label of having three female engineers under his direction.  It gave me some comfort that I was not the only person, male or female, who did not like this overweight, cigar-smoking, and arrogant man.   My beloved Crazy Kurt had his lawsuit against Alan, and no one else talked favorably about him.  My “Alan story,” which changed our relationship, started with a product quality issue on the NP unit.  For several days, this continuous manufacturing process was not converting the raw materials into product. With all hands on deck and through a process of elimination, the team suspected that some contaminant was interfering with the catalyst but could not determine the root source.  Water was a known killer of this catalyst, because it reacted with the BF3 to form HF.  Prior to my hire, it was a well-known belief, that you could not measure water content in the reactor.  If you had a water leak in the coil, the only way to determine such was to shut down the unit, clean out the reactor, and pressure test the coil.  The cost and lost production was significant and a choice of last resort.  Against specific protocol, I had an operator take a reactor sample to the lab for water analysis.  As Alan, the supervisors, an operator, and I all discussed the problem in the control room before making the decision to inspect the coil, I volunteered that I had a water analysis running in the lab which would be available within a half hour.  Well, did I get a reprimanding up and down by Alan, in front of all my colleagues.  He publicly humiliated me, telling me I was stupid for wasting time on a foolish approach, basically implying that I was incompetent, because everyone knows water will be reacted into HF and not delectable.  I bit my tongue and held back the tears of anger, frustration, and humiliation.   With no further ideas from the group-think, the team disbanded.  With tail between my legs, I left the control room for the lab.   Surprise, the gas chromatograph revealed several percentage points of water in the reactor.  I was vindicated.  Oh, how I dreamed of what I wanted to do next, all of which were not constructive.

What I did do was walk into Alan’s office and close the door so no one would hear our conversation.  I told him in no uncertain terms that how he addressed me in the control room in front of my coworkers was uncalled for, unprofessional, inappropriate, and embarrassing.  I put him on notice that I would never tolerate him treating me that way again.  I continued by saying that if he wanted to reprimand me in the future, he had every right to do so, but he would do it behind closed doors.  After I finished defining my boundaries, Alan just stared at me.  I truly believe he was speechless.  Before he could say anything else, I then informed him of the high-water analysis that could only be from a leak in the reactor coil and that we needed to shut down the unit immediately for a repair.  He was dumbfounded.  I never remembered getting any apology for his bad behavior, but I do know that he tip-toed around me moving forward, treated me politely, but he got me on my next performance appraisal.

The lesson learned is you can embarrass someone into compliance and better behavior, but you cannot change their attitude or heart.  I may have won some battles, but I certainly did not win the war.  I was proud in how I handled Alan by standing up to him behind closed doors, but realized I was just treading water where I worked.  This company was a great training ground but would never embrace diversity enough to accommodate my style that builds success.  They were operating on a different model, which rewarded conformity in all areas, including having the right sexual anatomy.   A woman could have modest advancement within Exxon, but to do so, it required her to morph hersesandi-exxon-going-away-lunchlf more into a man and his behaviors.  I’m flexible, but not that flexible.  After three years of lessons learned, I decided to take my experience to another company called Mobil Chemical. My good friends Henry, Jofran, and Joan hosted a going-away lunch, with an invitation that suggested I would be climbing the corporate ladder at Mobil.  What’s wrong with this photo, which was pulled from a trade magazine?  In the 1980’s women engineers were stereo-typed climbing storage tank ladders, wearing 3-inch heels and slit skirts?  At least we have on hard hats for our personal safety.  Believe me, I cannot make this stuff up and am thankful to have a paper relic from the past to prove what I say is true.  I do not know what this photo was originally trying to advertise, but I cannot think of one appropriate product or service where this image would be practically appropriate.  Remember, this was the 1980’s, when women’s roles as engineers were still being shaped, and men, who were in decision-making positions affecting their careers, did not quite know how to assimilate them.  The engineering road for women was not yet paved, at best most of the timber was cleared so you could see the path.  Both men and women engineers were uncomfortable with some aspects of their workplace as genders mixed.  I cannot speak for men, but I do know that many women chose not to speak out for fear of being pigeon-holed or labelled a troublemaker.  Better to suck it up, play nice, and hope for a reward.

Regardless of the black comedy stories I am privileged to share as a female engineer of the times, I would not trade one of them or this career path I chose.   Chemical engineering has served me well in how it trained me to think strategically and solve problems, and as well it has afforded me job opportunities that were stimulating and rewarding.  I have traveled the road less-traveled and for that I am grateful.  If you think all my interesting stories have been told, they have not.  Stay tuned for more adventure stories of this female engineer as she navigates Mobil Chemical next….

References

Jackall, R. (1988).  Moral mazes: The world of corporate managers. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. ISBN: 0-19-503825-8.

Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_women_in_engineering#Statistics


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a business, life, and marital coach with an extensive background in business development and leadership.  She coaches others in how to develop and execute life plans, develop successful businesses, and build better relationships by identifying and living their personal values, enhancing skills and competencies, and being held accountable for executing their defined goals.

 Leaders are Servants, Part 2

The Art of Working Together


Many artful leaders spoke words of wisdom at Global Leadership Summit 2016 (GLS-2016).  Bill Hybels kicked off the conference with “The Lenses of Leadership” (https://shinecrossingsblog.wordpress.com/2016/08/19/leaders-are-servants-part-1/) and passed the baton to Alan Mulally, who has accumulated many accolades with his name appearing on several lists including world’s most influential people and world’s greatest leaders.   Who knew that this humble man, who has served as Executive Vice President of Boeing and CEO of Ford Motor Company, wAlan Mulallyould deliver his personal stories of crushing stereotypes and taking the fear out of failure.   He headlined his session as “The Art of Working Together,” which sounded more like an adult title for “Playing Nice in the Sandbox.”  Below is GLS’s second key message (Part 2) shared by what I thought was one of the most heart-warming and soft- spoken leaders, Alan Mulally, along with my entwined commentary.

Alan Mulally stood on stage in his khaki slacks and blue blazer looking rather like a typical corporate executive, a bit nerdy in appearance, and giving a balanced impression of professional approach-ability.  He then proceeded to quickly move through some prepared overhead slides, as if he was a professor in a classroom who was chuckling under his breath to see whether the classroom full of students could take notes fast enough before the slide would disappear forever.  At the pace Alan was moving through his list of principles and practices, within ten minutes I thought he would be done sharing everything he knew about working with teams.  My initial impression was far from the truth.  Alan was speeding through the slides, so that he could get to the good stuff—the stories from which powerful messages are communicated.  Those stories were black comedy ridiculous, but so true in how many organizations work today.

In case you missed it, below are the bullet points Alan shared, otherwise known as, those principles and practices needed to effectively work together as a team:

  • People first
  • Everyone included
  • Compelling visions, comprehensive strategy, and relentless implementation
  • Clear performance goals
  • One plan
  • Facts and data
  • Everyone knows the plan, the status, and areas that need special attention
  • Propose a plan, positive, “find-away” attitude
  • Respect, listen, help and appreciate one another
  • Emotional resilience; trust the process
  • Have fun; enjoy the journey and each other

So that was the simple and concise list—pretty much corporate motherhood and apple pie descriptions.  No one would disagree that the list was good, but the phrases had no life.  Alan then proceeded to breathe energy into leadership when he told of his story in moving from Boeing to Ford and the conversation he had with a news reporter after the announcement he would be CEO of one of the top U.S. auto manufacturers.  Although hesitant, but encouraged by Alan, the news reporter asked the question that held the doubt in many people’s minds.  How could Alan Mulally turn Ford Company around when he knew nothing about the automotive industry?  Afterall, car manufacturing was complicated.  Alan’s paraphrased response was, “And airplanes aren’t?  There are ~ 4 million parts in an airplane, and only ~ 10,000 in an average car?  And you have to keep a plane from falling out of the sky.”  His words brought a huge laugh from the audience, and emphasized the stereotypes that we have about people, their capabilities, and abilities to lead.  I have always been one to believe that personal competencies are worth more than technical skills, except in the case of designing a car or airplane or when arguing a criminal case in front of a jury.  Then, I want the best engineer or lawyer that money can buy.  For the most part, I truly believe you can teach people technical skills, but you can’t teach initiative, concern for accuracy, effective communication, enthusiasm for work, concern for effectiveness, and analytical thinking to name just a few.  These competencies are cross-cultural and transcend industry, yet how many times do we want to label or put people in a box based on our own stereotypes and prejudices?  Great leaders know that leadership has no boundaries and that what it takes to lead people from HERE to THERE is applicable in all organizations and communities.

Did you know that 58% of employees come to work only for the paycheck?  Did you know that only 42% of employees have a positive feeling for the company that they work for?  Those statistics are disheartening.  Did you know that Alan moved Ford’s average from 42% to 89%?  Impressive!  As Alan unpacked his stories, there were no magic bullets, just color surrounding the journey in defining vision/mission, developing meaningful goals, including and leveraging people, and most importantly dealing with reality.  Dealing with reality?  Yes, Alan inherited a culture where even the senior leadership did not dare share the truth with each other for fear of being “excused.”  The culture operated in a state of fear and cover-up.  When Alan asked his direct reports to provide a goal status in their respective areas using a general color coding of green (good), yellow (caution), or red (trouble), all he got were full pages of green dots.  Not one red circle despite the company being on track to lose $17 billion.  As you can accurately surmise, the culture embraced a “shoot the messenger” mentality.   Alan’s value as a leader was to change Ford’s culture—one of the most difficult tasks because of the momentum and number of people that needed to be moved from HERE to THERE.  Culture can be changed, and it starts with a decision and commitment from the top.  His philosophy was to always deal with and reward the truth, which was humorously told through his consistent behavior in his staff meetings.  The first senior leader to step out and put a red dot on his paper was not only rewarded with a “thank you” but eventually worked his way down the table to a seat next to Alan despite the others’ assumptions of a kick out the door. Alan subtly showcased the reward for transparency and truth-telling, so that others would feel comfortable following suit.

As I like to say, the truth is your friend.  You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge.  Alan’s next step in the recipe for creating a winning performance culture was to inherently trust that people will help solve the problem.  If you can remove the fear that drives cover-up, you can engage people to work together to solve the problems.  I believe fear is one of the most powerful human emotions, and if leaders can penetrate and breakdown the walls that fear has built, they can allow people to move towards each other in more collaborative and innovative ways.  Daily business operations are fundamentally about solving problems whether that is how to grow more customers, how to get a plant running again, or secure financing to build a new facility.   Attack the fear in your organization and you will have employees who want to work on your team.

The Scarlet Letter “F”


In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s fictional setting of Boston in 1642, a woman named Hester Prynne must stand for three hours on a public scaffold wearing the scarlet “A” on her dress.  For what purpose?  So that she could be publicly shamed and humiliated for adultery!  For those not familiar with the classic novel The Scarlet Letter, adultery was against the law of the land and church but also an unforgivable sin whose sentence lived on until death.  Fast forward 375 years when adultery does not carry the same legal or societal stigma and where most surveys reveal that it is more common for husbands and wives to cheat than not over the course of their marriages.

Perhaps because adultery is so common, we have put the Scarlet “A” back into our pocket and now sew on a Scarlet “F”, as in felony, on every shirt lapel leaving prison.  Oh, we may not be as obvious about it in this politically sensitive world, but how we treat ex-felons, who have served time for their crime, speaks volume in what we think of these men and women.  Through our laws, community policies/practices and personal actions we have labeled these released prisoners (a.k.a. felons) with “F” as in “Failure.”   Did you know that when a prisoner is released from prison he gets the clothes on his back, $50, and a bus ticket to anywhere?  What is he supposed to do with those resources for his first night’s lodging and food?  Let’s get real.  What do you think happens next?  With no support he will likely connect with old friends who will help him back into illegal activity to put food in his mouth and a roof over his head.  And so the cycle begins again!  Statistics show that 50% of felons return to prison after 3 years and 75% after 5 years.  These are just the felons who get caught.  Why are these statistics so surprising?  They shouldn’t be.

What are the hurdles for felons who want to legally re-integrate into community?  Well, he has difficulty finding a place to live, because he doesn’t own a home.  He can’t live in an apartment complex, because management discriminates against all felons regardless of the crime, and probably, he can’t stay with relatives where he has worn out his welcome long before his prison sentence.  He can’t get a job, because he doesn’t have any decent clothes for an interview, but if he Sandi 1 Class 27did, when he checked the felony box on the application he is immediately disqualified.  What would you do?  I expect you are saying to yourself, “Well, he shouldn’t have gotten himself involved in crime to begin with?” Honestly, there is a part of me that wants to sympathize with that statement, but the other part of me knows a different story.  My other half will suggest that the difference between you and an ex-felon can be the simple fact of just getting caught.  How many times have you had one too many drinks, been legally intoxicated, and yet chose to drive home?  For those who made it home safely, we breathe a sigh of relief—no one was hurt or killed.  If you didn’t make it home, you might be in prison for intoxicated manslaughter.

So, you may think, “I see your point; it could have been me, but it wasn’t. Felons are not my problem.”  My reply is, “If you live in this country, it is your problem, because incarceration affects each and every one of us.”  Did you know the average annual cost to hold an inmate exceeds $30,000?  Did you know the real cost to the taxpayer is multiples of that when you factor in lost tax revenue on wages, welfare and aid given to families of incarcerated men, and damages from crime.  For those who are killed or harmed during a criminal act, I cannot put an estimate to the value of life and limb, but at a minimum, lost wages, funeral expenses, and medical bills could be tallied in the total cost.

So what can be done about this problem?  Well, the solution is not by any means easy or short-lived, but we can start by building awareness of the issue, investing in effective transformational programs, and crushing the felon stereotype.   The Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP, http://www.pep.org) is giving prisoners the opportunity to change their lives for the betterment of their families and communities.  PEP sees the value of these incarcerated men, and along with other business volunteers, they all come along side those prisoners who are doing the hard work to transform themselves.  This program initially focuses on building authentic manhood and servant leadership and follows with building skills and training in business entrepreneurship.  When program graduates are released from prison, they have access to transitional living and support to help integrate back into society.  Over the past 3 years I have been an executive PEP volunteer and have seen transformed lives and returned dignity in the men we serve.

On April 1, 2016 I honorably participated in a kickoff session for another PEP class who were entering the authentic manhood segment of the program.  Today I received a batch of photos with thank you cards from those men with whom I had the privilege of spending the day in prison.  Yes, they teach these men how to write handwritten thank you cards, a much appreciated and overlook form of business etiquette.  When you see how hard these men work for their future, you can’t help but be inspired to partner with them in their walk.  If yoThank you cardu were wondering whether this program works, recidivism is < 7% after 3 years for those graduating from this program. For the fifth consecutive year 100% of the graduates secured their first job within 90 days.  Since PEP’s launch in 2010, 211 businesses have been started with 6 now generating over $1 million/year revenue.  That’s not failure—that spells S-U-C-C-E-S-S!

PEP is a non-profit organization operating only through donations and no government financial assistance.  The local Texas state correctional facilities welcome this program, because it works!  We can only hope that one day, the federal and state governments will fund and incorporate these concepts into the prison system as a whole.  You may not be in a position to volunteer your time or talents or to donate to this worthwhile program, but you can change the way you think about a felon.  You can start to break the felony stigma. Don’t rush to pin the “F” letter on a felon’s collar.  Ask questions.  Learn his story.  Offer support in a meaningful way.  Even the act of listening and empathizing shows compassion and can make one feel valued as a human being.  Like every one of us who has made a mistake, we hope to be judged not for who we were but for who we are actively working to be!  Embrace the PEP Revolution!


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a business, life, and marital coach with an extensive background in business development and leadership.  She now coaches others in how to develop and execute their life plans, develop successful businesses, and build better relationships by identifying and living their personal values, enhancing skills and competencies, and being held accountable for executing their defined goals.