For the second year in a row, I've been asked to be a mentor for a class for a local university's MBA program. Every time I get the opportunity to be part of a more structured mentoring program, I get pretty jazzed. I love learning new things and sharing what I know -- and one thing I've learned again and again through my career is that when you mentor someone, you only know it's working if YOU learn things, too.
I've been part of formal, informal, and totally nonstructured mentoring engagements since I was a pup. Mostly, the formal ones don't tend to work as well, because if there's no spark there -- it doesn't go that far. But in other situations, it's been one of the best and most rewarding experiences I've known. I think this is going to be a good group -- even though it's structured, and is set as an eight-week program, I got a good read off many of the participants at a recent meeting.
Lately I've been thinking a lot about a small group of people I know who are all in their 70's. They're all celebrities of one sort or another, many of them authors or musicians or actors, but a lot who were at one point really well-known business stars. Now they're all at varying stages of being retired,and are mostly giving away their time. I'm thankful I know these people! Sharing your wisdom is critical, especially as you get older.
And for those folks who've helped me get smarter over the years -- thank you a million times. It's meant the world to me.
I had a Sunday to kill, so after swimming I found myself at iHOP for breakfast. I'm sitting there reading the UK Daily Mail on my tablet when I overheard an older couple behind me ask the waiter if he had a newspaper.
"Um, like, a real paper-paper?" the young guy says.
"Well, yes, we want to look up the movie listings, and we forgot our paper at home. Don't you have a paper?" said the old gent.
"Um, well, let me go check -- maybe somebody has one in the kitchen, but I'm honestly not sure -- I don't think I've ever seen anyone with a, a... news-paper." (He said the word so carefully, like it was a foreign phrase.)
This nice couple is sitting there, stressing out because they don't know how they're going to find their movie.
I pull up Fandango.com and grab the showtimes for the nearest theater. I asked the couple what they wanted to see -- they were AMAZED that I had that "right handy". I gave them their showtime, which made them happy. They told me they didn't have a cell phone or a computer at home -- "We just don't understand all that stuff."
It was... amazing. I have not run into a couple like that in years! Have you?
A real BITCH: Brave, Intelligent, Tenacious, Creative & Honest
TABATHA Coffey’s Tabatha Takes Over
premiers tomorrow on Bravo. This woman is in my pantheon of modern-day gods and goddesses; she is the Mars aspect of business in a female-dominated industry, and she is one tough boss. Tabatha goes into underperforming hair salons and whips them into shape, a reality TV model perfected by Gordon Ramsay with Kitchen Nightmares and other shows. She’s steelier in the salon than Gordon Ramsay in the kitchen!
Hair salons and spas have a lot in common. Although I haven't worked directly with hair salons, I was fortunate to partner with the esteemed spa industry expert, Nancy Griffin
, for a few years before she sold industry insider site SpaTrade.com
to American Spa Magazine
. Nancy has a lot of the same toughness and practicality that Coffey exhibits; one thing I adored about working with Nancy was that she was ruthlessly matter-of-fact about the foibles and follies of spa owners -- who, like hair salon owners, tend to still be more mom-and-pop operations than major chains.
The biggest point Nancy Griffin made to me, along with her colleague and friend, Peggy Wynne Borgman
(president of Wynne Business Sps Consulting, whose company provides the best Spa Director management training courses available anywhere) is that when you ask spa owners what sets their business apart from the competition, the answer is most commonly "our customer service is the best". No, it's not. You cannot use customer service as your key differentiator if (a) every competitor also claims it as what makes them better, and (b) if it's a baseline expectation of your customers! Can you imagine Sprint's CEO saying "what sets Sprint apart from other carriers is that we really do connect your phone calls" -- ???
That's why I love watching Tabitha, and Ramsay as well: they don't let small business owners give them any BS about "what makes them special" -- and they call the owners on very fundamental issues of mismanagement, like demanding basic hygiene.
Tabatha has a new book out, and I grabbed a few excerpts from her Web site -- how can you not admire this sort of honesty? Talk about knowing who you are and being comfortable in your skin!
Excerpted from http://tabathacoffey.com/book: I always made it a point to say what I needed to say in order to accomplish what I needed to accomplish. Anyone who has worked with me knows that I don’t suffer fools easily and that I won’t hesitate to speak my mind. The irony of people’s reaction to my candor is that I just say what most people want to say but don’t have the balls to say. I tell the truth.
If, along the way, I’ve been called a bitch for being honest, I haven’t taken this personally. I developed a thick skin very early in life.
So I reclaimed the word “BITCH” as someone who is Brave, Intelligent, Tenacious, Creative, and Honest. And because I am all of these things, I now proudly own the title…
Bravery—Mine is derived from being a risk taker, personally and professionally, and from always being willing to face my demons head-on.
Intelligence—I’m no idiot. Despite having left school early to pursue my career, I’m well read, well traveled, street savvy, and I’m a successful businesswoman with a strong gut instinct. What’s more, unlike many women who don’t want to appear intimidating, I never downplay my intelligence. I believe women can be both smart and beautiful.
Tenacity—If I’m really passionate about something, I never give up. I’m like a pit bull with a bone. I have always battled for what I want and what I believe in, and if I have to dig deeper for the energy to keep going, then that’s what I do to achieve my goals.
Creativity—If I didn’t have this quality, I certainly wouldn’t be writing this book! I thoroughly enjoy expressing my creativ- ity in all aspects of life, whether I’m experimenting with a new haircut, sporting a new couture outfit, or adapting to a new challenge. Creativity keeps me engaged and makes my life that much more interesting while I am coping with whatever comes my way.
Honesty—I think I’ve already covered that, haven’t I? It is the key trait that makes people perceive a woman as a bitch—it intimidates people and rubs them the wrong way. Although this reaction is often due to sexism, women are more than capable of being intimidated, too. For me, honesty is saying what I think to the people around me, but it’s also about being honest with myself. If I can’t do that, then I can’t be honest with anyone.
The more I thought about my own positive spin on the term “bitch,” the more I realized that, on some level, everyone would like to be a little braver, or exercise a little more intelligence, or be a little more creative, or tenacious or honest. The truth is, all of us, women and men, have an inner bitch. We just have to choose how much of it to let out and when.
I've noticed that occasionally someone comes across my online self (whether on Facebook, LinkedIn, or one of my blogs) looking for one other Laura Higgins. My name's not that uncommon: there are Laura Higginses who are doctors, lawyers, Realtors, professors... and one who is a singer/songwriter.
Her work is pretty good -- check her out at http://www.myspace.com/laurahiggins