Making Change Happen in Utah

Last night at the Oscars, Patricia Arquette used the stage to speak about an incredibly important issue to me – equality for women. Unfortunately, her memorable Oscar speech was followed with backstage words that didn’t help the cause. You can agree or disagree with her backstage follow up, but I hope that it is hard for any of us to disagree with what she said behind the microphone.

“To every woman who gave birth to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America.”             – Patricia Arquette

The issue of equal rights, and equal pay for women has been on my mind a lot lately. Since last fall, I have been spending a lot of thinking time about how I can help the women in my life succeed professionally. Whether it be giving my time to them, or clearing the path for their success, I have become more aware that I have a key role in helping the people around me succeed.   Last nights speech from Patricia renewed my energy, and I decided to write tonight about an experience I had last December. I had intended to blog about it then, but lost momentum. Thank you Patricia for helping me to get pissed off again (the most productive time to channel my inner feminist!).

In December, Jon and I were watching television after our kids were in bed.  He was on his iPad browsing Facebook, and ran across an article from the NY Post that caught his attention.  The headline….”5 places women shouldn’t spend their travel dollars.”  He asked me to guess to see if I could come up with the list of places before reading me the article.  I rattled off Saudi Arabia (on the list), Iran (not on the list), a few countries in Africa (not on the list), and he continued to say no until I couldn’t come up with any more ideas.  Finally, he just started reading me the article.  My jaw dropped with the mention of Utah as #5.  And Turkey for that matter, which when visiting I found a wonderful open place.

The article leads with:

 “It’s a sad fact that in the 21st century, women around the globe continue to encounter rampant discrimination, harassment and inequality. Sad — though not necessarily surprising. Here are five places where women’s rights are being exploited and sexism reaches into the highest echelons of government — reason enough to take your travel dollars elsewhere.”

The state I love to live and work in meets this description?  That sucks.  I found myself a combination of pissed off at the state of affairs for women in Utah, and frustrated with the quality of journalism demonstrated by the NY Post.

Part 1:  As I mentioned in my previous post, we do need to make progress in Utah.  We need to raise young men and women who think about many options for a woman’s career – both going to work and being a mom.  We need to close the pay gap between men and women which is ranked 49th in the United States for equality.  We need more females in our state government.  We need more women in company leadership.  We need more young women to complete post-secondary education.  And, we need companies to lead the way to make this change happen.

Part 2:  Good journalism is dead.  This may be extreme, but so is calling Utah one of the top 5 worse spots for women to put their travel dollars based on discrimination, inequality, sexual exploitation, etc.  There are countries around the world where women cannot show their face, where over half of new brides are under 16, where over 80% of women report domestic abuse, and you put Utah as #5 on this list?  I appreciate the journalist bringing attention to women’s issues, and even the women’s issues of Utah, but do your research.  This article was simply inflammatory (which of course I fell for hook, line and sinker).

I feel lucky to have a support network in my husband, family and friends that help support my desires professionally and personally.  I am grateful for my upbringing where my parents taught me to only see what is possible for me, never the barriers in front of me, and to work hard to achieve what is possible.  I feel proud of my company, CHG Healthcare Services, for creating a culture to work where women in Utah (and around the country) can have the career that they want, while balancing a family at home if they choose.  Our leading brand, CompHealth, has an executive leadership team with 50% women leaders.

This recent speech by Patricia Arquette and the preceding NY Post article has elevated my commitment and my desire to utilize my experiences, and the experiences at CHG Healthcare to lead Utah out of inequality, to show other companies, and women living in our state, that change can happen if we all put our energy, our money and our time towards making it happen.  In doing so, we will not only create a better culture in Utah for females, but equality for others who are underrepresented.

So what, you may ask, am I going to do about it?  No answers yet, but stay tuned.  Today it begins with telling you that change can happen.  We are doing it at CHG Healthcare….why aren’t you?

The Art of Prioritization: One Small Choice At A Time

On the quest to find time for brain space at work, I have been ridiculously focused on prioritization. And, practice makes perfect….or at least makes things better. There is no easy way to become great at this overnight, but I am commited to continuously improving my skills.

The attempt this week is visualization.  As a former gymnast, one of the techniques that I would use prior to competing in a meet, literally right before I would be up for my routine, was visualization.  This is a simple step…closing my eyes, and picturing myself completing the perfect routine.  As a teenager, I thought this was a stupid task.  My coaches would insist on it, and half the time, I would close my eyes and start thinking about what I was going to do the next Saturday night.  Now, looking back on this training activity, it was a brilliant way to calm my mind and to focus on the outcome that I wanted to achieve.  Maybe if I would have realized this then, my gymnastics career woudn’t have been so average!  Nevermind on that, most of the average came from my athletic capability…nothing a visualization could change.

So, over the last week or so, I have been visualizing the things that I will dedicate my time and brain space to on my way to work.  A simple five minutes of quiet time in my car (don’t worry, no eyes closed), provides me a window to visualize what I want to accomplish with my day.  I find myself sorting through priorities, thinking about the problems I am trying to solve, and focusing on what I want to accomplish.  So far so good as I feel not only more relaxed as I head into the day, but also more focused on the tasks at hand, and willing to focus my calendar time towards the most important things for the day.

Is it sustainable?  We shall see.  Let’s hope it works better than it did for my gymnastics career.

Commitments: Leading Change Within My Organization

So often in my career, I have seen the best ideas get sidelined, smart risks not taken, and current organizational inertia stop the momentum of truly important business initiatives.  I sit here wondering what makes this happen, in hopes to prevent it in my current organization.

A story tells way more than me pontificating on the philosophy of change.  When I worked at Procter & Gamble, in our Cosmetics division, being a brand manager required a heavy dose of analytics and core business strength.  I had recently moved over from a finance background, so this played to my strengths.  Several months into the job, as I was learning more about the business, and felt more comfortable about understanding my new job, I realized that the sales trend in one of our product lines was dismal.  Given the complexity of our business, this wasn’t an obvious conclusion.  We had been shipping in product to our retailers, and sell-thru was horrible.  The product had been on the market for about a year, and we needed an intervention, and quickly.  The great thing about being a marketer is that it is my job was to figure out and recommend how to fix it, in partnership with my sales peers.  I knew it would be an uphill battle to invest more behind the product, but despite that we came up with a strong marketing plan with general advertising, retail promotion and a sampling plan.  And, after proposing a relative affordable and conservative plan to our executive leadership, we got the fastest no that I had ever experienced.

Why?  I am sure there was a lot to the “no” that I couldn’t see, but as I reflect on it, much of it had to do with organizational inertia.  We did not make investment decisions lightly as a company.  The degree of analytical rigor needed to gain alignment, and proof in return-on-investment, made most initiatives get stopped in their tracks.  Our then president, had built a number of systems and process stage-gates that decisions must move through.  In the process, needed change didn’t often happen.  The organization was brilliant at change management, but in an effort to “manage” the change, great decisions were getting left behind.

It is so easy to fall in this trap as a leader.  Sometimes we want to control things versus empowering ideas.  The more I am in my current job, the more I find myself spending my free time thinking about how to unleash ideas.  My organization is built to deliver results, and sometimes we hold ourselves a little too accountable, with a little too much rigor, and thus miss the creativity and the idea flow needed to drive future success.

At this stage in my career and my job, I recognize both the strength in the “change management” skill but also the need for “change leadership.”  John Kotter, the resident expert in the topic, describes the difference in these two skills in an article that i read years ago.  One of my favorite quotes in the article is about change leadership as an engine.

“Change leadership is much more associated with putting an engine on the whole change process, and making it go faster, smarter, more efficiently.”   – John Kotter

As leaders, if we think of our role in change leadership as finding the right change, and adding the engine through our people, we will accomplish so much for our teams and our companies.  With this will come failure, and lots of learning, but hopefully a lot more success.  So, my commitment for this evening is to lead change within my organization.

Our Parenting Philosophy

The other day one of my friends asked me about our parenting philosophy, and why our kids are so well adjusted.  I was flattered, and didn’t quite know what to say.  I don’t think that Jon or I have ever explicitly spoken about our parenting philosophy.  Is that strange?  Maybe others of you out there have a philosophy, or a way you do things.  We feel so often that we are just learning as we go, and our kids are a part of that journey with us.

After the moment, I reflected on this, the more I believe that we probably, although unplanned, do have a parenting philosophy.  We talk with our kids about a few things consistently that I hope are lessons that they could keep in their life for a long time:  1)  being healthy and happy; and 2) making good choices.

1.  Helping our kids be healthy.  One of the most important things that Jon and I want to teach our kids is about making healthy choices.  We tell them often about the choices we are making (at least the good ones!), and how they make us “healthy and happy.”  Most notably, this is how we talk about going to the gym, heading on a bike ride, eating salads and getting good sleep.  I am hopeful that by them hearing and seeing these things from us, they will pick them up in their life.  I had a proud parental moment last week when Katharine was telling me that she shared a few of her favorite things with her teacher Miss Cournti….going to the gym, skiing and biking.  Win!!!  I can only hope that this continues.

2.  Helping our kids be happy.  In reflecting on this one, I think the way that we are helping our kids learn to be happy is by showing them how.  This is not to say life is happy-go-lucky in every moment, but I am hopeful by celebrating what is happy, they will see so many ways that they can make their own life this way.

3.  Helping our kids make good choices.  If there is one thing that I have learned as a marketing professional, it is that language is everything.  Early on with our kids, Jon and I decided to use the language of “choices” within our parenting.  If something goes wrong, a tantrum, one of them hitting the other, we talk to them about how that isn’t a “good choice.”  I love what these words stand for.  We all make choices about how to act and live our life, and those choices have consequences both good and bad.  By helping our kids to understand this early, we hope that they can learn to be in charge of their own destiny.

Sounds prettty philosophical to me!

Being Grateful: Celebrate the Moments

Sometimes during the tantrums, the sibling fights over toys, and during the crazy schedule I try to run, I can forget the joy of what I have in front of me.  This weekend when we were out to brunch with Matthew, I captured Matthew at his finest.  He is kind, energetic, inquisitive (what’s that mom?), and loving.  His eyes tell stories and he makes me smile.


This last week at work I had the opportunity to hear Chris Williams speak of his personal story of letting go.  He lost his wife and two children to a drunk driving accident almost ten years ago.  He spoke of forgiveness and moving forward with his life.  It was an unforgettable moment for me to listen to his story.  His humbleness, quiet power and gratefulness for the life he has lived helped me to take a deep breath.   How many times do I harbor anger for something that has happened to me?  How many times have I carried this frustration throughout my days, letting it inadvertently control me?  Chris framed forgiveness as a selfish act, saying that the act of letting go helped him to move forward.  Wow.  What a powerful thing to remember when things don’t go as I want them to go.  Here is to hoping that I never have to face something as tragic as Chris to learn this.

For now, I am grateful for the moments.  This weekend we enjoyed so much fun together…skiing together, playing pretend together, building castles and jails for Matthew’s infamous “mean guy” together, and snuggling as a family of four squeezed into our queen-sized bed.  Sometimes life seems hard, sometimes I have no energy, but always I feel lucky.  Lucky to have this little Matthew in my life, lucky that Katharine is his big sister, and incredibly blessed to have Jon to share it with me.