Successful Exits

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Letting Go: Finding the Silver Lining

I find it difficult to realize that summer is coming to a close.  I also realized that It has been a while since I blogged.  The days, weeks and months have flown by since I sat down to write and so much has happened since then.  I’ve found my new chapter in life, and in it, the silver lining to closing another.

Unfortunately, for my friend whose husband suffered a stroke in May, and whom I wrote about in my last blog, her husband’s situation has not made the progress we all had hoped and prayed for.  After three months of intensive therapy he went back to surgery a few weeks ago so that they could replace the skull bone that they removed.  The worst happened for him, he suffered another stroke.  He is now facing another long road of rehabilitation before he can hopefully return home.  It seems so unfair.  He worked hard recovering from this insult to both his mind and body and had made decent progress in his functions both verbally and physically.  Now he is back to square one.

This whole incident has rocked the world of so many of us, both family and friends.  It has made me and many others realize in a big way how vulnerable we are.  We know we aren’t getting younger and time is ticking away.  The reasons for not doing haunt me as I live through my friends tragic circumstances.

As I roll back my thoughts to this summer’s memories and more specifically the celebration of a milestone birthday, I realize more today than a year ago that letting go of those things that do not serve me is the right thing to be doing.  A wise religious man said you know that you invested your time here on earth well when what you accomplished during your time on earth outlasts your lifetime here.  In a few words, you made a difference in the lives of others.

The last six decades have been the building blocks that made me the person I am today.  During this past summer I began to seriously consider what the next three decades will look like for me.  What is my life’s purpose and what do I do in order to continue making a difference and to stay engaged in meaningful work?  I’ve always known I wanted to be a player not an observer of what is happening around me.  I see the passing of my year has been positive and not full of regrets about what wasn’t.  I know that I have accumulated a lot of wisdom over the years, which has translated into a stronger sense of who I am.

My current situation has sparked a renewed sense of curiosity about doing new and different things especially since after 25 years I am entering unchartered waters.  This new thinking has been set in motion by the selling of my business.  For years I have been fond of saying, “I will do that once I am not so busy working on the business.”  Now, there are no more excuses and it is possible for me to do what I have put off.  So why the reluctance to launch?  Get going on that bucket list of must do’s?  Is it fear or something else?  I know that I feel a strong commitment to stay connected to people and friends who I have worked and played with for many years.  On the other hand, I know I also need to move on.

I compare the feeling to when our daughter went off to school and I wanted to stop the clock for just a little longer.  I knew it was the right time to let go and for her to be on her own.  As a parent we must realize that they can and will figure out their way and place.

Now, all of these years later, I too am facing another personal transition a new launch of sorts–a new decade, a new way of work and play.  All this is happening at a time when I have the freedom to do just that with no strings attached.  So letting go of the things that no longer serve me is what I know I must start to do in earnest.  With that being known I have come to realize that, ”letting go,” is not any easier now than it was in the past when it was time for me to let my child leap from the nest.

I think it might be easy for me to fall into a trap of excuses of why I can’t make the changes and shifts now.  I see too that an excuse like, “I will do that when the time is right,” and never finding that right time is a trap that I could easily fall into.  That’s why I am thinking, for me; it’s in the exchanging of the many years of known for today’s and tomorrow’s unknowns that can become the hold back.

I also believe it is hard to seriously consider what happens when life takes a turn for the worse.  I think it is because we think that bad luck and unforeseen events always happen to the other guy.  I know this is foolish thinking on my part and as I noted earlier in this blog, our good friends thought that too and are now living an unthinkable reality.  For me, it will be about living life more fully and taking advantage of my current circumstances, which allows me to open doors to new possibilities.  This is both exciting and a little scary.

No matter, I am committed to embrace the changes that I need to make in my life.  I need to be productive and do meaningful things in this new life cycle/phase of my life and in order for me to do these things; I have to change my routines and expectations.  I have to set goals that align with what fits best for me now–find new ways to have inner peace and contentment.

I have decided to blog about this journey this next phase in my life.  Leadership takes all shapes in one’s life and how I choose to shape and share this part of my journey will be just another piece to my puzzle.  I know for certain that “caring” for and about others will always be at the forefront of what drives what I do each and every day.  Letting go of the old ways and picking up new ways is where I am headed.  My silver lining? Learning that while letting go may be difficult, it makes me a better leader and person and ultimately allows me to make a lasting difference.

Stay tuned!

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The Value of Setting Your Priorities

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ver the past several weeks, I have had the opportunity to consider what it means to set priorities. What is so relevant that it has touched every part of my life, personally, professionally, spiritually and physically. This journey confirmed what I always felt to be true. Several different experiences at different times over the past weeks have provided a perspective that will stay with me and help guide me as I set my priorities each and every day.

The story begins with a gathering among long time friends, celebrating the passing of another decade of life. It was another BIG birthday with close girlfriends who have known one another since junior high school and share a history that spans many decades.  We spent four fun-filled days reminiscing and laughing about the past.  We discussed the present and we each reflected on our own future.  We came to the realization that as the years have passed, we have all experienced opportunities, both won and lost and have never lost sight of how grateful we all were for our many blessings and our special friendship.

We also found ourselves thinking about time–how quickly it was all going and that staying connected was a good thing that we didn’t want to lose. We made a pact to keep this tradition going year after year because we cared for one another, and in our hearts we knew that time was not on our side, like it was in years past.  We all acknowledged that in a moment, life can change for us and agreed that regrets were not what we wanted to feel when those changes happened. As fate would have it, four days later one of us faced a life-changing event. While she was traveling for business, my dear friend’s husband suffered a massive stroke and was unattended for many hours before he was found. The resulting consequences have been significant to them.  As he undergoes intensive rehab today to regain use of his left side and to become more independent, again those words came back to us all, “In a MOMENT life can change.” That life-changing moment came all too soon for my friends…and also for me.

Our conversations are frequent but the message is always the same–what can I do to help and how are you doing my friend? The strain of the situation is showing when she thinks of what is ahead over the next many months.  To go from active, fun-loving, busy, working adults living the dream to not really knowing what is possible at this point in his recovery.  Recently, I made a trip to see the two of them to help think through care options and determine how we could adapt their home, so that when the time was right, he could come back to a functional home. It was then that I was thankful that a few years ago my husband and I launched LifeWise Renovations (www.lifewiserenovations.com), a new business division, in conjunction with his construction business, that addresses the challenges of remaining at home with someone facing long term with functional disabilities. We made this decision during one of the worst recessions in decades and on the heels of the coming of age of baby boomers, as 10,000 per day for the next 20 years will celebrate their 65th birthday.

As a practicing home care nurse for many years, and now an out spoken home care and hospice advocate, it was early in my career that I recognized the benefits of having ones home remodeled to adapt to a person’s functional needs if they had chronic conditions or disabilities that required changes from usual and customary to what was required to be safe in one’s home.  The research has supported for years, that over 98% of the persons when asked, would want to stay in their own homes for as long as possible as they age.

We don’t think about this much as we age, let alone when we are younger. It just isn’t in our consciousness to remodel for the future, or even downsize once we become empty nesters. These considerations are not obtrusive or ugly but rather practical considerations for avoiding a crisis situation that requires quick change. The industry is emerging and people are addressing these facts in a way that allows boomers to have it their way.

My reality was that I needed to help my friend think through her options. Our objective: determine how best to return her husband back to their home.  Questions keeping her up at night, and another hurdle, centered on concerns like, could his hospital equipment fit into the room? How would he get safely into the house? How could he shower and move around in the house? With the help of my husband, who is a design build expert in this area, our occupational therapist and their remodeler, we mapped out a plan.  And what a relief this was to her and her husband.

Families often feel a sense of relief when the team at LifeWise Renovations goes to work to make these big changes.  The importance of our mission and work was never clearer to me than in that moment when I saw the look on her face as my husband said, “We can make this work!”

The priority was to help make her husband’s life as normal as possible by bringing him home with the least amount of disruption to their living space. and ensure that he would be close to where the family was most of the day and to be a part of what was happening each day.   The ultimate goal was to make his life as normal as possible.  We hope that this will be the case as the time passes and we get closer to getting him home.  We all wish the stroke never happened, but it did, and I’ am grateful that we could provide the assistance they needed and the necessary information to address the functional piece of making his transition back home be the best it possibly could be.

When bad things happen we realize quickly what our priorities are and act on them in doing the right thing. The story for my friends is far from complete.  My heart aches for them and I pray daily that he does recover to the extent that he is able to be self-reliant again. The road will be long and there will be more bumps along the way, but as he works toward this goal he will not be alone. The love and support of his family and friends will be essential–one of the many sources of his desire to get better.

As he said to me when we sat side by side, “Kathy, retirement was not supposed to look like this for us. It sure isn’t fun to feel like a sack of potatoes either.”  In a MOMENT their priorities changed. I was happy that we could help. It was gratifying to be in a position to help and to also keep my priorities straight. I’m glad we can step in and create a solution for patients in similar situations.  We have a long way to go in providing access to many others who yearn to be home but aren’t because their homes won’t accommodate their functional needs and they don’t have the access, ways or means to make it happen. This is something that we in the caring community need to work on fixing sooner than later.

In a MOMENT life does change and being ready…as best we can, will make a difference on the day that it does.

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Understanding the Value of Invisibility

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have come to appreciate the value of being ‘invisible.”  Not in the real sense, but theoretically speaking. Invisibility requires a true test of self-control and patience waiting for the right time to ‘reappear.’

What does this mean? Perspectives change when you are not immersed in the details of an operation and you can step back and see things from many angles and viewpoints. Your eyes become open to many new angles and viewpoints. To become invisible, the key is to be silent, observant, talk less and listen more.

I have heard this advice from the time I was a little girl. In fact, I can remember spending many recesses at a blackboard writing, “I will not talk in class,” instead of playing with the other kids. Fast forward a few years and I can now say with certainty that there is wisdom in this logic. When practiced, it shows just how important this attribute is to people in leadership roles. This is not to say others can’t benefit from practicing invisibility, but I would say that it is non-negotiable for those who decide to take the lead seat.

To be effective ‘being invisible’ you have to be okay with saying little and listening a lot–to what is and isn’t said by those around you. We have to become acutely aware of the non-verbal cues that are given to us every second of the day. This isn’t easy to do when you have so much coming at you, but in my humble opinion it is vital to getting it right in the end. What I mean by this is to understand what a person means in the context of what they say or don’t say and do or don’t do.

Over time, I have seen that invisibility provides a different lens for evaluating what is real or what is true when deciding the best way to go about providing the right level of transparency. This practice is necessary in order to be trusted and to gain loyalty from those who you need on your side to accomplish goals and dreams. I have learned, through a lot of trial and error over the years, that in order to be seen as an effective leader you must first earn it. You have to demonstrate, on a consistent basis, that you can be trusted to make big, important decisions and that you will stick to your word.

Most importantly is the ability to have positive regard for others. This fact was noted in Steven Smith’s book, “Egonomics.” One of my favorite lines in Smith’s book reminds us how important it is to have, “unconditional positive regard for others.” This was a critical factor in identifying sustainable companies. To me it’s about making sure as a leader you foster a culture that respects and encourages everyone in the room to be heard and to have a voice.

The beauty of this truth is that it follows you every step of every day and it matters both in your professional life and your personal life. Leadership is not just required by those who are hired to lead but by all of us no matter the title.  Every day we are in positions to lead and doing it right requires that we are willing to become invisible and to reappear when the time is right. Try it, you might find that you like it too.

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A Late Winter Wonderland

The TCG corporate office in Overland Park, KS is enjoying a beautiful late winter snowfall! The snow does add challenges for commuting so many of the staff worked from the comfort of their homes. Nothing better than taking a quick break in the action to build a snowman with my grandson! Best wishes to all of those caught in the late winter snow storm across the US. Stay safe and warm! – Kathy Dodd

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Going Full Circle

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t has been a few months since I had a chance to write a blog post. Where I am today versus where I was a year ago has been life changing for me and those that I have worked closely with for the last 20 plus years.  As I consider the passing of time, both in the short and long term, it is interesting how hard it is for me to separate my feelings as it relates to the recent changes in my life.  As a business owner who spent the past 24 years providing the leadership and vision for our company in ways that a CEO does “Doing the Right Things Right,” including playing a role in doing what needs to be done to keep our customers happy and the phone ringing, I have come full circle!  As of December 31, 2012, I stepped down as the CEO and majority owner of The Corridor Group and handed the reins over to very competent people ¾ new investors and my business partner of 18 years who has now taken on the role of CEO.  It was both a great day and sad day for me. I was thrilled we had found the right match to take the business to the next level both in service and delivery.  Their expertise in doing this combined with the talent and brand we have built over the past 2-½ decades will serve as a great launching pad as we consider all the new possibilities for the business.  We are facing an ever-changing landscape in our industry and the opportunities to be a part of this change in a much bigger way is very exciting.  I think it is rather like raising a child and knowing at some point in their maturation which most of us would say is after college you must be prepared to launch to the next stage of their life.  It is best for them and you, but those of us with children know it is easier said than done.

 

It is with this thought in mind that I feel a bittersweet tug, that I know is necessary and yet it has made me both sad and happy through the transition.  Importantly for me and those impacted by this event, this was not a quick decision, but rather a well thought out and executed plan.  I have said to many of my colleagues over the years,  “ isn’t it our duty as the leader and, in my case the Founder, to have a succession plan.”  Why would you ever let your people down by not having a plan?  You would not if we make decisions not based on ourselves but on the better good

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A Year of Changes

Since I last wrote many things have come and gone.  Fall has come, days are shorter and winter is on the horizon.  Halloween, the presidential election and Thanksgiving have passed and Christmas is just a few weeks away.  Along with all of these endings were all of the other business meetings, conferences, travel, planning and visioning that you do as a business owner with the official closing of 2012 in less than 30 days.  It’s the endings not the beginnings that I personally find more challenging.  I have been asking myself “why” recently and I believe it has to do with change.  In reality when something ends change follows.  For some this stirs up feelings of helplessness or loss of control and for others, like me, it is anticipation.

There are many opportunities during a year to change a plan or a direction in your life.  Some are thought out and others not so much. There are “in a moment changes” that can be both good and bad.  This last week in our city there were two perfect examples of this.  First, a Missouri resident was one of the two lucky winners of the biggest lottery in U.S. history, which will forever change his life.  Second, was the recent murder-suicide of a Kansas City Chiefs football player and his young girlfriend.  This event was tragic and again life changing for so many.

In life, it is how we respond to change that defines our path as we live our lives day in and day out.  Two extremes of emotion played out by different families, yet each will deal with change and endings in totally different ways.  In both situations choices will be made that will frame the endings of those impacted.  We can hope that they will be ones that have positive outcomes.  We know that it takes more than wishing for this to happen.

Jim Collins notes in his newest book, Great by Choice, that there are key attributes present for those who understand the importance of following a path and sticking to a plan.  A plan must be systematic, consistent and methodical in order to deliver positive results that will benefit all stakeholders.  Leading requires this understanding and the application of these principles will keep us on the path to success and profitable growth.

As we plan for 2013 we intend to follow our 20-mile march as noted in the book.  Why reinvent the wheel when someone much smarter than me has researched and provided us with the understanding of “how.”  Funny though how many read Collins’ teachings, yet never execute them and later when their ending isn’t what they planned or hoped for they wonder, “If I would have just done this or that might I be in business today?”  I believe that Leaders who care about the end won’t let this be their story.  However, those who are about “themselves” and not about the “us” won’t be as lucky.  Their ending will say it all.  Time does tell the story and our endings are the full circle of what we did and didn’t do.

Like each year, we will end this year with uncertainty and it will be up to each of us to decide how we want to see the endings as it relates to our futures.  I wish for peace and good will toward others and know that with the collective intelligence of many around the world we can get to this ending.  I pray it won’t be just the ending to a dream.  I’d like to wish everyone happy holidays and extend hopes for a prosperous New Year!

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