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Archive for October, 2008

In March of this year, I was sitting around a table with some of the most successful people in the world. We had three days together and on the last day, someone brought up the (then) presidential hopeful Mitt Romney. Another lady in the group boldly said, “Yeah… he’s part of that Mormon cult, right?”

Well, the leader of the group’s son is a Mormon and there was also a Mormon missionary in the small group as well. Talk about putting your foot in your mouth. Of course, the room went silent. The leader looked at the missionary and asked him directly if he was “offended”. He didn’t answer the question. Instead, he asked the leader if HE was offended since his son was of the Mormon faith. His response was eye-opening.

He remembered when Tiger Woods’ father was on Good Morning America responding to some derogatory comment about his race. They asked him, “Aren’t you offended”. His reply was that he was NOT offended. He said (and I am paraphrasing), “That comment was offensive. But my people are not offended. The black race is no worse off after that comment than before it was spoken. It has more power to affect the person who said it, than me.” What a brilliant distinction.

You see, you can be offensive all day long. BUT, offending ME, causing me to waste MY time on resentment, anger, and holding a grudge is not an option. Be offensive all day long. But, offending ME is not offered as an option to you.
I can’t lie and say that I ALWAYS maintain this mindset. (Hopefully you wouldn’t believe me anyway!) But what if we did? Could you imagine the implications this distinction could have in our businesses, our careers, and even our homes? What would it look like for you to maintain total ownership of your emotions, your responses, your energy? What if other people’s actions didn’t have the power to affect your day, your mood, your sales, your business meeting, etc.?

When I look back to how many times I have allowed a comment or argument to literally ROB me of productive time for work, romantic time with my husband, joyful times with my kids… UGG.. It is literally sickening.

I don’t know that any of us will ever get this “right” all of the time. But, when I looked at how much time and energy and productivity “being offended” has cost me, I came up with a little ‘trick’ that has helped me dramatically. When I am tempted to allow someone else’s actions or words to ruin my mood… when I find myself running over an argument in my mind, thinking of what I SHOULD have said… when I am unfocused in my work because of something “offensive”, this is what I say to myself:

I CAN NOT AFFORD TO BE ROBBED RIGHT NOW. THAT PERSON WAS OFFENSIVE, BUT I CAN NOT ALLOW THEM TO STEAL FROM ME… MY TIME, MY ENERGY, MY FOCUS, MY DAY. I CAN NOT AFFORD TO BE ROBBED RIGHT NOW. If I am really “offended” I will add, “ESPECIALLY BY THE LIKES OF THEM.” ūüôā

The more I do this, the more successful I am. The more I produce. The more I achieve. But, most importantly, I am more peaceful, reasonable, loving. I am more engaged in the here and now. I am less distracted and more effective. I am happier. Try it next time you are “offended”. (And if you need ME to say something REALLY offensive to get you going, just let me know!! ) ūüėČ To US!!

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Since my first child was born, I was a ‚Äúwork at home‚ÄĚ Mom. What that meant for me was that I didn‚Äôt TRULY ‚Äúfit‚ÄĚ anywhere!! The female executive looked at me as another Mary Kay representative. The ‚Äústay at home‚ÄĚ crowd looked at me as less than fully committed to my children. (To set the record straight, I have never sold makeup and my commitment to my children is sacrificial, steadfast, and defines me as a mother.)

So, there I was – right smack dab in the middle of the ‚ÄúMommy Wars‚ÄĚ debate. Not clearly on one side or the other, and criticized by both. However, one comment I have heard many times from successful women is this, ‚ÄúWorking Makes Me a Better Mom‚ÄĚ.

I am not sure why this comment stuck out in my mind, but as I venture out of my ‚Äúentrepreneurial circle‚ÄĚ and begin to coach women executives, I have heard it more and more. For the purpose of conversation, let‚Äôs accept that working DOES, in fact, make you a better Mom. If so, is the opposite also true?

Does being a Mom make you a better executive or entrepreneur? I have to say that I believe it does. Being a mother has stretched me, challenged me, and ‚Äúgrown‚ÄĚ me in a way that even my $50K per year coach can not. As a mother and as a professional, I pursue excellence.

So, what do YOU think? Please, share your thoughts about how being a Mom has positively impacted your career or business! To US!

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Posted by Laurie Baggett on October 16, 2008

This day and age it seems to be that¬†exceptional¬†service gets overlooked. ¬†We have become accustomed to¬†connivence¬†over quality and¬†recordings over people. ¬†As a whole people are more likely to acknowledge and voice a complaint but overlook an opportunity to share a sincere praise. ¬†Well, I have stepped on a¬†‚Äúdiamond star‚Ä̬†when it comes to customer service.. so much so that I can not allow it to go overlooked. ¬†

Marriott Logo

For the past few weeks I have been organizing a speaking event at two¬†Marriott¬†hotels, one in¬†Philadelphiaand one inTysons Corner.¬†¬†This was my first time to ever act as an ‚Äúevent coordinator‚ÄĚ from negotiating contracts, selecting menus, ordering AV equipment, establishing room set-up and booking sleeping rooms‚Ķ it was details galore.. and lets not forget keeping ourselves within budget. My Event Managers at both hotels,¬†Lisa Cirello and Trevell Williams were top notch!¬†¬†They saved my tail in many instances, not allowing anything to go over-looked.. they made me look like a pro. ¬†

So what did they do that was so exceptional?:

  1. Treated our event as if it was their own.
  2. Took care of every small detail.
  3. Went above and beyond from cradle to grave.
  4. Responded quickly with solutions and action.
  5. Provided a great nights rest in unbelievably comfortable beds.
  6. They valued us as their guest!

Lisa was working miracles the day before our event while Trevell was overcoming all obstacles to ensure our guests had a pleasant experience.  The entire event staff delivered exceptional service.  

Here are a few specific examples of exceptional service the Marriott way:

Tyson’s Corner:

  1. Gladis Martinez¬†– Banquet Captain.¬†She and her assistant¬†Doris Diaz¬†(Banquet Lead) were so helpful and accommodating. Example: ‚ÄúTim HATES nuts!!!! I asked Doris if she could offer something chocolate without the nuts. She came back with a plate of chocolate truffles. She was so nice and helpful.‚ÄĚ Dayna Taylor, Today‚Äôs Dentist Event Manager¬†¬†
  2. Osama Marrero¬†–¬†AV Tech. He was great!! He went out of his way to make sure the speakers were good to go throughout the event. Very professional!!‚ÄĚ – Dayna Taylor, Today‚Äôs Dentist Event¬†
  3. Lisa Cirello – Senior Events Manager ‚ÄúWhile our event was going on in Philadelphia, Lisa was on the phone with me making last minute changes to the menu, confirming our new AV needs ¬†and ensuring me our event would be exceptional!‚Ä̬†¬†Laurie Baggett, Event Coordinator
Renaissance Philadelphia:
  1. ¬†Shaun Williams¬†– AV Tech –¬†‚ÄúEven though, he had to overcome some obstacles, he never complained or blamed someone else for the mistake.¬†He just worked with a smile and was very helpful in making sure that the AV person in Tyson corner ¬†would have what they needed when we arrived. He made me a list of¬†equipment that he used and explained it to me so¬†I¬†could understand. Great addition to their team!‚ÄĚ Dayna Taylor – Today‚Äôs Dentist Event Manager
  2. Trevell Williams –¬†Catering¬†Manager – ‚ÄúDuring our event Trevell ran interference and did everything needed in order to ensure the seminar would run smoothly. ¬†She overcame obstacles and was quick to respond to requests.‚ÄĚ – Dayna Taylor – Today‚Äôs Dentist Events Manager

So… if you are ever looking to book an event and you just happen to be in search of  great hotel don’t overlook the Marriott.  I give them my highest level of recommendation and praise!  Thank you again Trevell Williams & Lisa Cirello, I hope to work with you in the near future!  As for our future engagements… well lets just say we are Marriott all the way! РLaurie Baggett, Business Consultant

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“…creating great relationships is how careers are built, how businesses are built, and how great teams are built…”¬† – Steve Chandler

Today, I have renewed my love for networking… and renewed my commitment to offering more organic networking opportunities for women in my “neck of the woods”.¬† So, women¬†of Hampton Roads… the Great Women’s Gathering is BACK…¬†but this time we are¬†doing it Success¬†in the City style.. With the HEAD DIVA at SITC’s blessing, of course.¬† ¬†Stay tuned for more details.

But, while I hate “traditional”, “business card toss” networking events, I truly LOVE growing my own business through more authentic¬†networking.¬† These “other events” are often annoying and unprofitable… In fact,¬†most people use them as “Drive By” networking… spraying their business cards about without aim, almost without stopping, and certainly without LISTENING.¬†¬†There is no strategy, no relationship building, nothing truly authentic going on¬†at all…

Before I go on, ¬†I want to reiterate what¬†most of us¬†already accept as true:¬† Whether we are an executive or entrepreneur, our success is largely (if not entirely) built upon relationships.¬† I¬†actually think¬†that networking can be our LARGEST fuel for success… if it is done right.¬† So, how do we get it right?¬† Here are some quick tips:

  • Come as you are… Put your best “foot” forward, of course, but come as YOU… Authenticity is SOOOO¬†lacking in our society, that people are literally- almost magnetically- DRAWN to it.
  • Don’t try to SELL anyone.¬† Get to know people instead.¬† Listen for ways in which your product or service could be of use to them.¬† But, be a problem solver, not a “salesperson”.
  • Don’t ONLY call people (or email people, or attend networking events) when you NEED or WANT something.¬† Effective networks and relationships are built¬†consistently, authentically and over time.¬† There is no short cut, so start now.
  • Know what you want…. and what you offer.¬† Be able to speak clearly and directly about your business, your goals, your ideal client, and HOW you serve them.
  • LISTEN more than you TALK.¬† Go DEEP with people.¬† Get to know them, their business, their¬†position, their challenges.¬† Ask questions and create dialogue.¬†¬†My personal marketing plan can be summed up in one word:¬† CONVERSATIONS.¬† The more conversations I create, the more my business grows.¬† Period.¬†

I am sure I will post more information about networking for business and career success – ¬†in the next few weeks… But, just in case, make sure you are on my e-zine list to get one of my WOW Factor articles each week.¬† www.womenwhowow.com

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When I was working for Child Protective Services, one part of my job was going to court on behalf of abused and neglected children. I had to prepare a written report of my findings and be prepared to defend them against some of the most vicious (i.e. GOOD!) attorneys around. I don’t mind saying that the Judges loved my detailed (and passionate) reports … and appreciated my ability to “hold my own” under the pressure of direct and cross-examination.

BUT, my direct supervisor was far LESS a “Michelle-fan” than the Judges. One reason was the way I dressed. (Keep in mind… I was the youngest worker ever hired by the City for my position.. younger by at least 15 years than anyone else in my department.) She once called me in to discuss the “Ally McBeal – style” suits I wore in the Courtroom.

However, there was another woman in my department who had the opposite situation. She blatantly dressed like a man. In fact, people would have entire conversations with her and never know if she was a man or woman. Of course, my boss would never have approached this woman about her “dress”. So, my response to my boss was this, “As long as my co-worker is free to express her feigned masculinity, I will continue to freely express my authentic femininity.”

Now, we have the pleasure of watching Gov. Sarah Palin run for Vice President. I love that she has stayed true to her feminine ‚Äústyle‚ÄĚ… and am curious about the amount of media dedicated to debating this. Should she have cut her hair or changed her glasses? What about the outfits she is wearing? Do they ‚Äúspeak‚ÄĚ power? Seriously, America‚Ķ I love to see a woman in power flaunt her authentic femininity.

I have to wonder, though. Why is there this push for women to downplay their beauty or feminine traits in order to be taken seriously? If only more companies (and more countries?) realized that it is the characteristically feminine qualities we possess that make us PHENOMENAL LEADERS.

So, why are women TODAY still questioned about remaining authentically female when vying for positions of power? I don’t know… but I REFUSE to believe that to be a great leader, I have to be ‚Äúmore male‚ÄĚ. I applaud women who are climbing the corporate, or government, or self-employment ladder in their fancy Jimmy Choos. To US….

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A Client of mine has a GREAT keynote address title: “Tougher than the Times”… perfect for today as businesses, solopreneurs, and organizations are enduring consistent change and transition. Sure, we are all experiencing a NEW economy. It is different. It is more challenging.

The agile, resourceful and committed business owners will grow, expand and capitalize on our new economy. These owners will emerge stronger than before. The others? Well, put it this way: we will all continue to see the “herd” of business, corporate, and sales competition thinned dramatically as people conclude that they “can’t make it in THIS economy.” (Even while others in their same industry or same location continue to profit…)

So, how do some leverage and capitalize on these changing times and others fold? What is the secret of those that prosper – no matter WHAT the economy is doing?

** I think the first key comes in recognizing that the economic changes we are all experiencing are just CHANGES. We need to FIRST recognize that the only constant we have in life is CHANGE. We might as well EMBRACE it. We can embrace economic change the same way we embrace any other change in life. Are you willing?

** We must be willing to CHANGE WITH THE TIMES. Many, many people are resisting change. Looking backwards… Complaining… Whining… Looking for a quick fix… Guys, change is a constant for business owners and executives alike. Change is necessary for innovation. Change is necessary to success. Peter Drucker said, “Every organization must be prepared to abandon everything it does to survive in the future.” Are you willing to change? To do things differently to see a different result?

** Those that prosper DECIDE to prosper. I love Ali Brown’s quote that you “can DECIDE to be a Rock Star in your industry.” DECIDE to win. DECIDE to more than “survive” this economic downturn. How can you emerge stronger? More profitable?

** Lastly, we need to ask questions. Steve Chandler says that great leaders ask great questions. Questions will lead to innovation, creativity, sales, partnerships and profit. ASSUMPTIONS do the opposite. Those that are prospering right now are asking the right questions, such as,

“How can we re-package our product to appeal to a more affluent market? How can we make our sales department stand out dramatically from the very first call? How can we reward our people for making our customers feel like family? How can I better serve my market? How can I recreate the buying experience for my customers to make it second to none?”

Those that are closing their doors are making assumptions, such as:

“No one is buying right now because of the economy. Everyone is tight-fisted these days until the market picks up. The price of gas is keeping people home.”

Do you see the difference? Those that are CHANGING WITH THE TIMES are CREATING while those that are struggling dramatically are simply REACTING. I choose to CREATE.

As a business owner, as a parent, and as a wife I know that success in EVERY area of my life depends on my willingness to gracefully navigate the sometimes turbulent waters of change. This temporary economic downturn is just one more change. One more opportunity for me to create something truly phenomenal. One more challenge demanding that I rise up to my potential. To rising up!! To YOU!

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Yep… I was contacted by Wife Swap and subsequently REJECTED! Well, not officially… I kind of eliminated myself! Let me tell you what happened.

A while back, on a “whim”, I sent a five line email to Wife Swap expressing my interest in being on the show. My reasoning? Simple. I could show them that there are some hip, cool homeschooling Mommas out there… nothing like the homeschoolers they portray on their show. (This was before I decided that my kids would go to private school this year!) I could show them that women could be successful in their careers or businesses AND nurturing and invested at home. Not like the EXTREME examples of “career women” and “home makers” they portray.

Anyway, much to my surprise, they called me several weeks ago and I had my first “interview”. I think the producer was “sizing me up” as the “free to be you and me” type of homeschooler, whose kids had rather lenient guidelines regarding personal choices including what they eat, watch, etc. She kept “honing in” on the fact that my home seemed to have no “structure”, “budget” or “schedule”, so I was imagining the show sending over a very structured, very detailed home-maker who would give my hubby a break from his house-cleaning duties… HIS DREAM COME TRUE. =) I was getting nervous. This executive producer loved me. This may really happen.

THEN, she sent me the follow up and detailed application as well as “release” for them to to detailed background checks, criminal checks. As I looked it over, I realized that they would be checking with my high school friends, college friends regarding my past… and that of my husband.. doing criminal background checks on myself and members of my immediate and extended family. We would have to submit to FBI screening and drug tests, among other invasions of privacy! =) NOW… to be fair, I recognize that they need to provide for the safety of the children in these shows. I get that.. and I respect it.

But, seriously….where do you find families in which NO ONE has been arrested, charged or convicted of a felony? =) Do families like that really exist, or do I simply come from an unfortunate gene pool? =)

As I looked at this application, I began to consider all the juicy details their background check on MY family was likely to uncover:

** One family member in prison (wrongfully convicted and hopefully soon to be released via Governor pardon, but still….) ** One family member currently “wanted” by the law in two states ** felony drug trafficking ** Mob contacts and affiliations ** Countless male cousins who are UNgainfully UNemployed ** Countless family members with arrests… thankfully most without actual convictions, many with jail time ** Domestic Violence ** Illicit affairs ** Murder ** Suicide **

I’m thinking they would just stop right there. And this is just what would show up on “paper” research… leaving out all they could find by digging around high school and college buddies! =)

As I pondered all that was likely to be exposed in this application process, I was reminded of something I said to a friend once about regret. It was this, “Everything that I have done…good and bad… they all make me who I am today. And I like me. So, no. I don’t regret a thing.”

But what about my family? Of course the sheer, unable- to- hide fascination I get from people who are willing to sit and listen to some of these stories is rewarding… as is the COMMON comment, “Michelle, you have got to write a book about all of this”.

But, my family is, well, my family. I love each and every one of them. Truthfully, my extended family could keep Oprah AND Dr. Phil busy for a year. Colorful? Yes. Supportive? We are thicker than theives- literally. =) A liability if I ever run for office? Most Definitely. But, my family is my family. They are my roots.. They are a part of me. No, they don’t all color “inside the lines”… and YES.. they kept me out of the Wife Swap Hall of Shame… But, I wouldn’t change a thing.

And besides… Chris would have fallen head over heels for the “other wife” who came over here… organized, cooking, cleaning, keeping a tight schedule and a tidy house… So, thanks anyway, Wife Swap!! This time, I am happy to be rejected! This time….

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