Watch the key messages from Kim Box’s ground breaking book about the true power of diversity for any organization. This is not the same message you hear about with affirmative action but the competitive advantage of bringing together people with different backgrounds, personalities, culture, professional experiences, and many other attributes that make each of us unique. It is the differences of the individuals in a group that make the organization more innovative and creative in leading strategies that win in the marketplace!
Each year the PBWC, Professional Business Women of California, puts on an event that brings amazing women together. This year the theme of the conference was to Connect-Innovate-Inspire those coming to hear the speakers and connect with others who would take time out of their busy schedules to reflect and learn. The keynote speakers were great as were the break out groups. My favorite session was ‘Trailblazing Women Driving Innovation: Women in Venture Capital.’ This session brought together three incredibly accomplished women who shared their wisdom and experience. The session was full of interesting stories and information but I am going to focus on one particular topic that really resonated with me around the concept of ‘like’.
One of the panelists was Maha Ibrahim, General Partner, Canaan Partners. Maha is not only an extremely successful venture capitalist she also is raising a family. Having been an executive in a very demanding global job along with raising a family I understand how intense this can be, and I can also understand the joys of managing both. Maha understands what it means to juggle and make choices in every facet of her life. While there were many interesting comments I found the one she said about ‘Like likes like’ to be particularly interesting. The discussion was around the importance of being inclusive in an organization or team and also about the challenge of being inclusive to different people and styles. The panel touched on why there aren’t more women VC’s in the industry. While we can all come up with several reasons Maha made the point that ‘like likes like’ which means that when you are looking to include someone new on your team it is natural to find those that are ‘like you’ and that you ‘like’. It is a human tendency that we want instant camaraderie with others. While it always feels good to be with folks you have an instant affinity with, at the same time it can limit you to the full view outside of your own opinions and experiences.
Maha challenged the group to examine ‘how much unlikeness are the people around you?’ Take a critical look at who you have brought together on your team. Are they all similar; same life experiences, personalities, gender, culture? Or are they diverse in what they have to bring to the team? Maha told a story of how there was an opening and several people had applied. A couple of the top candidates were women. These women weren’t like the majority of the group which was men and it would have been easier for the group to choose men who were ‘like’ them. But she saw the value in bringing in diversity of these top talented women to broaden the team. Maha knew the true competitive advantage of diversity in the firm and took a leadership role in hiring those that were not ‘like’ the others.
I know that crafting a diverse team of talent will take any organization much further than bringing together people who are all alike. It is a true multiplier of creative solutions that will come to bear on the organization. It was very refreshing to hear the perspective of Maha in the venture capital world which is extremely male dominated. With leadership like Maha it helps to open the possibilities for diverse candidates, as well as, improve the creative outcomes and success of any organization.
Push Girl Mia Schaikewitz – Leadership Lessons from an extraordinary woman who is breaking through stereotypes of people with disabilities and challenges
In my quest to be on the lookout for inspiring people, places and things I was fortunate to meet the most extraordinary person! I had first caught a glimpse of Mia Schaikewitz on a video about an upcoming series called Push Girls. Push Girls is a reality show that follows the lives of four girls who are in wheelchairs due to accident or illness. They are amazing women living incredibly full lives that just happen to be in wheelchairs. Just watching the clip of the girls and their perspectives on the show and their lives is inspirational and interesting.
I had the privilege of meeting Mia while at the Abilities Expo in Los Angeles, California. I was at this event as an Advisory Board member of Wijit, Inc., a company that makes a unique lever and braking mechanism for wheelchairs. I first saw the dance workshop that Mia and her friends were putting on at the convention. It was amazing! They asked for volunteers to come join them to learn some hip hop moves and have some fun. I was so moved when Auti Angel was leading the charge from her blinged out wheelchair and told the crowd, ‘You think if you don’t have the use of your legs or possibly your arms that you can’t dance, well, let me tell you, if you can move your eyes, you can dance!’ And she proceeded to blink to the beat.
I had an opportunity to meet Mia and spend a little time getting to know her and fellow Push Girl Chelsie Hill. The following is a series of questions and answers with Mia.
Kim: I am a firm believer that it is important to be adaptable – at work, family, life in general – how did you adapt to your life using a wheelchair?
Mia: I’ve always been an independent person and embraced challenges, when I’ve had difficult situations in my life I’ve always found a way to problem solve and take everything as a learning experience. That philosophy has allowed me to adapt in any situation I find myself in. Just knowing there is always a way to make something work or find a new solution keeps me adaptable to anything – whether it be related to physical or emotional circumstances, or when dealing with the important relationships in my life.
Kim: You mentioned that you felt the visibility from Push Girls is important regarding gaining understanding of people with disabilities – could you elaborate?
Mia: I feel so fortunate to be a part of a show that is focused on breaking stereotypes and pulling down a wall that has existed between fear and acceptance. All of us girls on the show have felt compelled to help make life easier for people that have all types of disabilities or challenges by helping society accept us in a natural way. We feel it’s important to enlighten those unfamiliar with the situations to accept us with a positive attitude rather than pity. I believe that if society is more positively educated and accepting it will help those with disabilities accept themselves on the same level. We’ve been doing it for so long in our individual lives, but for it to finally be embraced in the mainstream media it just means that the other side is finally catching up! Now we can reach more people and make more of an impact. It’s a great feeling knowing that positive changes are happening for our community.
Kim: Your work in inspiring people to live their life on their terms is so important, especially to women and young girls striving to live their lives – what have you learned that could help others find what’s important to them?
Mia: I think if you feel unhappy in life it’s sometimes because of something existing in your current situation and what you feel is important to you are out of sync. It’s in those difficult moments when you can really find out what’s important to you and what you want to accomplish beyond unforeseen obstacles. A lot of people use negative situations in their life as excuses for not doing or accomplishing what they want. It’s important to live your life with no excuses. Find out what makes you happy and do it no matter what ostensible obstacle comes your way.
Kim: What has been the greatest challenge in your life?
Mia: The greatest challenge in my life has been what feels like the greatest challenge in the moment something very difficult is occurring. The degree of challenge is all relative to my perspective. For instance, at one point I thought getting paralyzed was the greatest challenge for me, now I feel like it’s the best thing that has happened to me. My viewpoint now doesn’t see it as a challenge; it feels like a great experience in life leading to the ultimate self-growth.
Kim: What gives you the most joy in your life?
Mia: So many things are tied for the “greatest joy in my life” title. Those include:
Swimming, dancing, drawing, learning from others, family, friends, spreading positivity, whatever inspires me in the moment
On the scale of inspiration, I find Mia and her fellow Push Girls rising to the top. They are talented, smart, beautiful women who are not defined by their wheelchairs but by their leadership, spirit, actions and desire to make the world a better place by sharing their stories.
“You deserve to live the life you were meant to live, and you have the energy to do it. It’s time to focus that energy instead of wasting it. And by energy I mean your money, time, physical vitality, creativity, enjoyment, and relationships.” -Dr. Maria Nemeth Mastering Life’s Energies
Every now and then we meet someone who comes into our life’s journey that has a profound message. This past January I heard that Dr. Maria Nemeth was speaking on the topic of Clarity, Focus, Ease and Grace at the January Sacramento Speakers Network event. I found this very intriguing, so I registered and ventured out to listen and learn. I was mesmerized from the very start of Dr. Nemeths’ talk. She began with a few questions and one of them reeled me in hook, line and sinker! She asked, ‘Would it be okay if life got easier? I mean really, would you be willing to explore living your life with clarity, focus, ease and grace?’ Okay, I’m listening…
Dr. Nemeth went on to describe what she meant:
Clarity – Be clear about what’s really important to you, what resonates with you. She describes that in order to have a luminous life we must engage in a game worth playing with goals worth playing for. The secret to this is that when we do what we enjoy (the ‘game’) and we have goals for the game that are meaningful to us, then we have clarity about how we want to live our life.
Focus – Learning to focus your attention and interest on that which you find to be important. Dr. Nemeth describes doing a ‘life’s intentions’ inventory’ to understand what to focus on. Focusing your attention will take your mind off of the worries and distractions in your life and also keep you engaged in what you find interesting and what you are truly intended to be doing with your life
Ease –One of the key elements of bringing ease into our lives is to ‘bring our everyday actions into alignment with what is important to us.’ When we are not aligned life becomes difficult as we try to engage with activities that we do not find interesting or that are in conflict with our life’s intentions. When we are aligned our energy can be fully present with all aspects of our life; money, time, physical vitality, creativity, enjoyment and relationships.
Grace – Put very simply ‘the way to grace is through gratitude.’ Dr. Nemeth goes on to say to be grateful is to be openhearted and vulnerable. She describes vulnerable as allowing the winds of life to blow freely over your heart and soul. It is to be free of defensiveness by realizing that there is nothing to defend. All of this gives you the energy to be fully present with grace.
I enjoyed Dr. Nemeth’s talk so much that I bought her book Managing Life’s Energies and I signed up for her 3 day course on this topic. I wanted to hear more about how to live my life with Clarity, Focus, Ease and Grace. I’ve given a very brief summary but the book and course are so much more. The wisdom that is imparted truly gives you an understanding and tools to journey through life in a different way. I believe we could all use a little more clarity, focus, ease and grace and Dr. Nemeth has a set of practices to help with that quest!
Have you ever wanted to just stop what you are doing and take off on an adventure around the world? Leaving all of your cares behind and just enjoying other cultures, people and places that you’ve always wanted to experience? While recently on vacation backpacking in New Zealand’s south island Fiordland we met a couple who had done just that. We were tramping (aka backpacking lingo for New Zealand) the Routeburn Track which is 24 miles of spectacular scenery. Along the track they have huts where you can reserve a bed (along with 39 other backpackers!) that is usually a bunk bed or even mattresses in a row, very cozy! The huts have a kitchen house equipped with gas stoves, sinks with running water and tables and chairs. They also have flush toilets and sinks – a luxury while backpacking for sure! It is a great way to see beautiful areas of a country that you cannot access by car. We would hike all day then come to our hut and settle in for the afternoon. It was a routine that I grew to love each day. We would go into the bunk house and find a bed to secure for the night and begin unpacking our sleeping bags and necessary equipment and food to cook our dinner.
On the first day of our hike we got settled then went into the kitchen hut to make some tea and get ready for dinner. While we were preparing our dehydrated meals we couldn’t help but notice a young couple across the room. They brought their meal in and staged it on the table. What we saw made us drool with envy…they had pasta – real pasta tortellini and pasta sauce – in a glass jar no less! There was a moment of trekking judgment taking place; why would they carry the extra weight of glass jar? While we assembled our dry meal with boiling water and ate with a serious lack of enthusiasm for our cuisine, we no longer wondered why they trekked in the glass jar! We could smell their food and knew if they broke out garlic bread to go with it we would seriously have to consider a hostile takeover. I knew then that they were interesting and smart and I must get to know them.
The next evening we asked them to join us for dinner, I’m sure partially because we wanted to be closer to their delicious smelling food! We decided that on our next trek, which followed Routeburn, we would make a stop to the grocery store and pick up a few luxuries regardless of the extra weight! We were so delighted to meet Helen and Hedd who were from the UK. We discovered that they were on an around the world trip that would last 6 months – WOW how cool is that? Very cool, I thought. They started in South America and then made their way to New Zealand, next they were going to Australia then on to Africa. Helen is a writer and blogs about their trip which you can read at ‘a curious optimist’. So we ventured into our interrogation of this intriguing, inspiring and adventurous couple. How long have you been gone? Where have you been? What’s been your favorite place so far? I have to say they weathered it quite well – we were endless with our interests in their whereabouts. I asked how it was that they could leave for 6 months. Helen answered that she was at the end of a contract, she had met Hedd and he said he was going on this trip. They talked about doing this together although Hedd would be going with or without Helen. She decided it was a great time to go on an extended trip so why not? When I asked Hedd how it was that he could leave for 6 months, he simply said, ‘I decided to take a career break.’ He wanted to leave his demanding profession for a while and see some sights in the world. Work could wait while he went on this adventure.
I was completely intrigued by this young couple who both had very interesting and successful careers in motion. It takes a lot of courage and confidence to step out of your life at that moment to do something that most people would consider impossible for many layers of reasons. I thought about how taking a 2 or 3 week vacation has felt during my career. It always felt so good to separate from the workplace and relax and rejuvenate. I always felt better when I returned, ready to face the challenges at hand. Taking a 6 month leave and traveling around the world would be a whole new level of relax and rejuvenate. I truly admired the tenacity of these two; they were forging through foreign countries, languages and environments. This journey would be a life changing experience for them in their future work and life.
The last day in New Zealand before heading home we went river surfing. As we were floating on the river I talked to one of our guides about where he was from. He and his wife were teachers from Colorado in the US. They decided to take a one year leave of absence to travel around the world. They stayed in New Zealand a little longer and work for a while. They were having an amazing adventure seeing various parts of the world and truly experiencing the cultures. I imagined that as teachers this experience would richly add to their classroom in so many ways.
Taking a break whether it’s for a week, month or longer is very healthy to gain perspective. It is also important to learn how to incorporate breathing room along the course of your day or week. Taking a walk at lunch or hiking on the weekend. Even smaller activities like these can help to keep your life in perspective and give you clarity amongst the busy lives that we all seem to have. It was such a pleasure to meet Helen and Hedd and to hear about their adventures along their self-imposed sabbatical. They are a true inspiration!
The Power of Diversity to Transform your Organization
"Woven Leadership is one of the freshest concepts in the field of building a vibrant organization that will empower the reader to a new standard of excellence and performance. A must-read for all managers desiring to be their best!"- Todd Duncan, New York Times best-selling author
"Kim Box's Woven Leadership shows how much stronger you and your team will be when different types of people and talents are woven together." - Jennifer Basye Sander, New York Times best-selling author and speaker
Introduction to Woven Leadership
"It's time to start recognizing that leadership comes in all shapes and sizes, demographics and life experiences. We must see diversity as a secret weapon to be exploited in order to build the most successful organization. And we must also acknowledge that acting based on our own authenticity is imperative to weaving together the strength of the very fabric of the organization. We will explore why diversity and authenticity are now requirements for any organization that wants to succeed." - Chapter 1-Woven Leadership