Hey, Michele! Write About This!


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You know me. I aim to please and I want to give you something to read that will help. So I asked for writing topic suggestions on Facebook.

Renee asked me to write about myself, so here’s: What I Believe.

Beth asked me to write about knowing the value of what you do. My answer: If you can solve a billion dollar problem with one phone call, do you charge for the ten minutes it took you to make the call, or do you charge on the value of the solution? Always, always, always price on the value of the solution you bring – not what you’d value it at, but the value to the person you’re serving.

Mary Lou asked about encore careers – so here you go: Find what you’re curious about and follow that. Your encore career may be about money or it may be about meaning – but following your curiosity will always be engaging. And that’s where happiness, contentment and meaning derives. Jobs After 50

Sam asked about virtues that shape the way we live, so I say: When in doubt, be kind. That’s really all any of us have to remember.

Susan asked how to be a champion for American society in a divisive time: See my answer to Sam.

Laura asked for ideas about navigating transitions, and Beth agreed on that topic: The Way Of Transition

Then Laura brought up transcendent leadership and Nancy thought that was fascinating. It is fascinating – I’m going to write about that in the future.

Dixie suggested I take the Hunger Games: Mockingjay movie as a starting point: The Heroine’s Journey

Bill asked for a haiku:

Fear or confidence?

The difference lies between

this here and that there

Tom asked about working with Millennials. I say – you were once 28 years old, weren’t you? And you knew you had skills, and ideas, and strengths to bring to the table. So do Millennials. Let them grow and flourish. Treat them the way you would have liked to be treated when you were 28 (PS I was 28 and working in The White House. I certainly didn’t think I knew nothing and had nothing to offer –  food for thought).

Andrea suggested something about The White House: Ronald Reagan and Me

Beth said she’d like to read about how women do really have to give up something to achieve in the workplace. How about this? What Do We Tell Our Daughters?

Laura piped in again and asked for a recipe:

Recipe for the Easiest, Tastiest Salad Ever

Get yourself a ripe avocado. Test for ripeness by smooshing your thumb into the skin – if it gives a lot and squirts green goo all over your hand: overripe. If you press and sprain your thumb: not yet ripe. “Ripe” is right there in between those, and only lasts for 27 minutes, so act fast. Get yourself a ripe tomato just about the same size as your avocado (which is now 1 minute less ripe). I prefer the gnarly heirloom tomatoes over any other type but you go ahead and choose. Cherry tomatoes will work, beefsteak tomatoes are fine, but Roma tomatoes? No bueno – too dry. Romas are figurative tomatoes, best used only in winter to jog the memory of what real tomatoes are like.Get yourself one green onion and chop up about a tablespoon or one stalk. We call this “stalking”. OK, chop up your tomato and put it in a bowl. Dice up your avocado. I do this by halving the ‘cado and then cutting lines in each half crisscross then scooping into the bowl. Kind of McGyver-ish. Throw in your chopped green onion. Salt, cracked pepper to taste. Then, the piece de la resistance, toss with vinaigrette – a tablespoon or more, depending on votre desir. You can use bottled vinaigrette (I like the La Martinique True French Vinaigrette) but you can also make your own or choose another dressing. Or scotch. Scotch might work in a pinch. Toss, toss, toss, like a starlet after a night at the Chateau Marmont. Let it sit for 10 minutes if you can wait that long, then eat. Eat with joy! Eat with abandon! Eat with a spoon! Bon appetit!

And then the very same Laura mentioned pay equity. That Laura has a million ideas!

Ann asked about workaholism as a way of life. And, for the record, I am against it. You miss too many beautiful sunrises and baby steps if all you do is work.

Bonnie brought up being thankful. Which I am, especially at 3 a.m.

Debbie offered a reminder about how to Go Big. And I’ve got this: The Perils of Thinking Big

Daniela, who lives in Europe, asked about dealing with the threat of terrorist attacks. I offer: Don’t give up hope that good will ultimately win, people are basically good, and more people run toward a crisis to give help than run away.

Rose asked about how to keep your mind, body and spirit open to new ideas and experiences. Which, if you know Rose, you know she’s doing every day. And her question made me think about this: An Ocean of Possibility

John suggests connectedness. I suggest: How Are You Connected…To Yourself?

Maureen offers how to be truly happy. OK, I got that: Change One Thing To Be Really Happy

Bruce, who observed me wielding a Toro blower, suggests managing autumn leaves. He’s a pistol. And a great next door neighbor.

Gretchen asks about the best advice I was given as a young woman. It was: Be nice to the support staff.

Sarah asks about how job interviews have changed and what to remember when you’re walking into an interview. How about: The Best Job Interview Question Ever

Thanks to everyone for playing. See you next time on “Hey, Michele! Write About This!”




Outside Eyes


Warrior woman. Fantasy fashion idea.I remember showing up at a coaching conference where I was a featured speaker. Milling with the crowd before the event, I fell into conversation with a small group. One of the women leaned forward with a puzzled look on her face and said, “I’m sorry – I didn’t get your name”.

I smiled, extended my hand and introduced myself, “Michele Woodward.”

She looked even more puzzled. “Michele Woodward?” She cocked her head curiously and said, “You sound…taller on the phone.”

I had no snappy response to that one, believe me.

Turns out she’d participated in several webinars and teleclasses I’d led and had decided I was a towering, formidable glamazon.

I’m certain my friendly, curvy, five-foot-six self was an eensy-weensy bit of a surprise.

If I had been her coach, I would have asked her to explore why she needed to make me into a mythical character. What thoughts did she have about what it takes to be successful as a coach? How were those ideas perhaps holding her back?

Sometimes we simply can’t ask ourselves those questions because we’re so caught up in our anxiety and pre-conceived notions.

That’s when a coach can be helpful.

People ask me all the time, “Why do you do what you do?” Why all this “coaching”, this writing, this speaking? Why are you not taller?

(OK, I’ve only been asked that last one once.)

When I think about my “why”, it comes down to this: People are often so close to their situation that they can’t get any perspective. They’re so close that they can’t see context and go on to create a lot of angst and worry which then saps their energy and keeps them stuck in the same endless, grinding loop – making no progress.

I know how to fix this. 

I provide objective feedback, an outside eye, which breaks up the frustration of being stuck. And creates forward movement.

It works because I have no dog in your fight – I don’t care where you work, how much money you make, who reports to you, where you buy your shoes – I just want you to be fully yourself and do whatever you’re here to do.

And you can bet I’m a fierce warrior for you on that point.

A friendly, curvy, five-foot-six warrior, that is. 



Like No One’s Watching


Sing Concept Clipped Cards And Lights

My daughter leaned over to whisper in my ear, “See that girl? Third from the right?” I nodded. “She’s awesome.”

We were watching a showcase of performing arts talent on my daughter’s college campus. Seated outside on a glorious fall day, we’d seen students doing modern dance and step. We’d heard a capella renditions of songs by Swift and Sinatra. And now we were getting ready to hear a gospel group sing.

The young woman my daughter pointed out was bespectacled with long, swaying braids. In the second song of the set, she took the microphone and moved one step in front of the group. The leader raised his hands and the keyboardist began to play.

I was ready for something astounding – hadn’t my daughter said this girl was awesome?

When the young woman opened her mouth to sing, I was a little mystified. You see, it was a traditional call-and-response piece and she was taking the lead.

But her vocal range was probably just about four notes, and two of those gave her some trouble.

She was not the most tonally gifted singer I’ve ever heard.

The audience began to fidget in their seats.

But she kept going. And her group kept following her, clapping and swaying in time with the beat.

She’d sing out her line, the rest of the singers harmonized along. She sang with passion, with attention, and with joy.

And she was totally in the moment.

Pretty soon a huge grin took up all the space on my face. Because I finally knew what I was seeing.

I was witnessing a raw display of powerful courage.

This young woman, pushing her glasses up on her nose, was singing her heart out in front of five hundred people.

In front of many of her classmates. Their parents. Their grandparents.

She was even being filmed.

Doing something many of us would shrink from doing if we couldn’t do it absolutely perfectly.

Yep, there she was, standing up in front of her entire community, doing something she loved.

Doing it as if no one was watching.

Doing it for the sheer joy of doing it.

I leaned over to my daughter and said, “She’s the bravest person I’ve seen in a long time.”

My daughter replied, “See? I told you she was awesome.”



Men, Pizza and Opportunity


PizzaLet’s say you’re sitting there in front of a lovely, hot, cheesy, delicious pizza.

It’s gorgeous. And you’re the only person in the room. It’s all yours!

Wait, what’s that? Someone you don’t know comes to the table and stands there. In your head, warning bells are going off – are you going to have to share? If you give that person a slice of pizza, how much will be left for you?

For the sake of argument, let’s say your office rules mandate that you have to give a slice of pizza to anyone who asks. So you grudgingly give a slice to the newcomer and sulk a little bit now that you’re left with one less piece of that gorgeous pie.

Your pal George comes in and of course you give George a slice – ha, ha! you have to! it’s the office rule! – and he takes the seat next to you.

You and George eat two slices each. It’s a great day.

But, the pie has gotten pretty small. It’s more than halfway gone, in fact.

You start to panic, and think about hiding the pizza. It’s against the rules to hide it, but it’s a really great pizza and you’ll no doubt be hungry some day - who knows if there’s ever going to be any pizza in your future? You and George begin to talk about ways you might lock the door, off-shore the pizza, or use metrics and analytics to make the pizza impossible for anyone else to understand, and, therefore, beyond the reach of their grubby little hands.

Just then, the person you gave the first slice to comes back into the room.

You tense up. Who is this woman!? She can’t possibly want more pizza!!

Wait, what’s that she’s carrying? It smells fantastic. Why, it’s a NEW pizza, one she made after having tasted yours!

Yes, having tasted that great, cheesy slice of pizza - she’d never been invited into that room before - she began to think, “What if we could make a pizza with sausage, mushroom and onions? I wonder what that would be like?”

Her pizza looks amazing. You have a slice of hers, and so does George.

Heads nod in agreement – this is one swell pizza. It was so smart of you to give her that first slice!

Through the door come three other people who had met the woman earlier. She taught them how to make pizzas, too, and this new group have invented a pizza with ham and pineapple, and another with chickpeas for gluten-free people, and one with – get ready for it – melty cheese in the crust!

You are astounded, and have one slice of each. Now, you’ve eaten two slices of your original pizza, and one of each of the new pizzas. Beyond your obvious bloat and need for a Tums, what are you left with?

A very satisfying experience. See, by giving up one slice at the beginning, you’ve received back four slices. Plus, you still have three slices of the original pie.

You have a pizza surplus.

And this is precisely how we’re going to get more women and people of color in leadership roles in organizations around the world.

Hang with me for a minute. Since 85% of US executive officers are men, it’s the guys already in the room who can make the biggest difference. They are the ones who can make sure everyone gets a slice of the pie on the table - by being aware of what happens in terms of growth and innovation when everyone is included and exposed to opportunities.

It’s totally counter-intuitive: Giving an opportunity takes nothing away from your own experience – rather, being generous actually creates multi-fold and plentiful rewards.

Remember the pizza surplus.

So, does it matter if there are more women in the C-suite? More people of color? More inclusion? Isn’t what I’m talking about just a grabby redistribution of power?

To my mind, it’s not about a power grab. It’s about this: Today’s fast-paced, highly changing world requires all-hands-on-deck solutions. All hands. Male hands, female hands, people of all hues, beliefs, backgrounds and experiences.

We’re all a part of the solution.

Which, come to think of it, simply means more a lot more pizza for everyone.


(thanks to the Washington Post’s Max Ehrenfreud for the pizza analogy in his piece here.)

One Fact And One Idea



HarperThe CEO said to me last week: “If people are so unhappy, why don’t they leave?”

I shrugged. Because I don’t know why people stay in jobs that are wrong for them. In work environments that are toxic. In places they don’t grow.

(For that matter, I don’t know why people stay in neighborhoods they hate married to people they loathe driving a car that makes them crazy, either.)

I am here to tell you - in general, people tolerate way too much.

And it’s weird.

Maybe we tolerate way too much every single damn day because down deep we think we’re not powerful enough to change things.

Or we’re not sure we’re really so unhappy. We worry that maybe we’re misinterpreting things. Or maybe we’re the whining and complaining crybabies our big brothers always said we were.

And then there’s “this economy”, which always seems to be spoken of in an anchorman’s voice, like some gigantic warning of looming danger.

But maybe it’s really because we’re terrified of change. What if we do go through all the trouble to do something different and… it’s worse!

These are the big fears people share with me.

I’d like to give you one fact and one idea to consider if there’s something you’re putting up with day after grueling day, and can’t seem to find the heart to do anything about.

Fact: The economy has changed. Where in 2009, US unemployment stood at a staggering ten percent, it’s even more amazing that right now in my home state it’s at 4.5%.

That means now is the best time in years to find a new job.

(It also means that now is the best time in years to ask for a raise because brass will have to pay more to retain the best talent.)

(If they haven’t gotten this message yet, they will as soon as they can’t fill a key position.)

(Just sayin’.)

Now for that idea I was telling you about.

Idea: Professional baseball players suit up for a game in the uniform of the team they play for. Whether they’re a National or a Diamondback or a Mariner, they wear the colors and play for the team – knowing full well that even in the middle of the game they can get a call saying they’ve been traded to another team.

And the next day, even though it might be hard, they suit up in an entirely new uniform and play for the new team.

For these professionals, it’s less about the team and more about the position they play. They know they can – and will – be a great first baseman for any team.

This is what you need to understand. 

Rather than consider your employment as a lifetime commitment you cannot break, think about it as a baseball team. As long as you play for them, you’re going to hustle and do a good job. But you can – and will – do an equally good job for any other team.

Because you are a very good first baseman.

When you need a change, make a change.

There is no need to tolerate a sick workplace. There is no need to fear something new.

There is only opportunity in the economy right now.

It’s time to get in the game.