Honoring Women Mentors

They say you become the average of the five people you hang out with the most. While that may be true, I have noticed that a small handful of people have had an outsized influence on my growth and development as a leader – as a person – no matter how much time I have spent with them.  I want to tell you about some of the women mentors I’ve had in my life and how they have influenced me, and invite you to reflect and do the same. At the end of this blog, you’ll have the opportunity to participate in a public art project as a way of honoring your women mentors. We’ll share this on our facebook page after you’ve had a chance to add in yours. 


Mimi Finch

CPT Finch was my TAC officer for my company during my “cow” (junior) and “firstie” (senior) years at West Point. As I was coming to understand my own sexual orientation, in the homophobic environment of the United States Military Academy, Mimi Finch would speak openly about how stupid it was to fire gay people. She was the only person at West Point that I ever heard speak about treating gay people right. We have stayed in touch over the years. Recently I saw on my facebook feed that this retired Lieutenant Colonel knelt Colin-Kaepernick-style when her instructor – inexplicably, might I add, – had her Zumba class recite the pledge of allegiance. Mimi never spoke to me about how to be fearless, she just does it. FEARLESS.

Judy Bramlett 

I met Judy the first day of my firstie (senior) year at West Point. Her husband was the newly instated Commandant of Cadets. She jokingly referred to herself as the “Comtessa.” For those of you who are civilians, the Commandant is #2 in command of the entire post. A friend and I were walking past the Comm’s house on our way back from taking the cadet physical fitness test when Judy beckoned from her porch with a friendly, “Yoohoo, cadets….” We were in our gym clothes and we knew we should not be in the Comm’s house dressed like that, but we also knew that we should be polite to the Comm’s wife, so we obliged. Over a glass of lemonade, Judy initiated a friendship that would last until the day she died, way too early back in 2008. Everything you need to know about Judy – and what I learned from her – is captured in her invitation to lemonade. Every inch of her refrigerator was covered with photographs of friends near and far. On one visit many years later, she was excited to show me that I had “made the fridge!” And that was the day she pulled me aside and said, “I’ll never accomplish anything like David (her husband who was a four star general at the time). But here’s what I do contribute: presence. I am present with people. And that is more than enough.” Judy didn’t teach me how to be present. She just did it. I miss my friend. PRESENCE.

Jan Hicks

I had received so many messages at West Point that leadership required “military bearing” and hiding your true self. Enter LTC Jan Hicks. Jan was my Battalion Commander when I was a Lieutenant stationed at Helemano Military Reservation – part of Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. Jan defied everything I had been (mis)led to believe about what it takes to be a successful leader. Jan was authentic to the core. If Jan was angry, she’d let you know. If she was sad, she’d let you know that, too. And if she thought something was funny, she would howl with laughter. Jan was this larger-than-life figure in my young adulthood who had an extraordinarily successful career by being true to herself. She went on to attain the rank of Major General. Jan never sat me down for a conversation about authenticity. It’s just who she was – and who she is to this day. AUTHENTICITY

Rosanne Haggerty

I was minding my own business as a stock broker when my college professor, Jay Parker, called me. “Cease work on whatever it is you’re doing and call Rosanne Haggerty right away,” he said. So I did just that. I ended up working for Rosanne from 2003 – 2014. Rosanne is a relentless entrepreneur, single-minded in her determination to disrupt the systems that create homelessness. She and her team are finalists right now for the MacArthur $100 Million & Change award. If they win, they will get $100M to make their big dent in the Universe. What strikes me the most about Rosanne, though, is that there wasn’t anybody she wouldn’t meet for coffee. I’ll be honest – I thought some of those coffee meetings were a waste of her time. But years later, when faced with a new challenge, she’d say, “Remember so and so – I met him for coffee back in Camden? I think he’d be great for this project.” I was always like, “Who is so and so? And how on earth do you remember him and what he’d be great at doing?” But Rosanne never forgets anybody’s genius. She’s just waiting for the opening to appear and she makes the match. She’s never spoken about this with me – I just observed it over the years and benefited tremendously from her willingness to support me in finding my way into my genius, too. Rosanne is the embodiment of endless possibilities. POSSIBILITIES

Sue Fulton

Sue was in the first class of women to graduate from West Point – the famous class of 1980 – so you already know she has ovaries of steel. I was in the 11th year to graduate, so our paths never would have crossed had she not continued to remain involved in the community. Sue was one of the first people that I came out to as I was reckoning with my sexual orientation and we have remained friends for over 30 years. Along with a handful of other amazing people, Sue and I co-founded Knights Out, a nonprofit organization that advocated for the end of the discriminatory Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy in the military. In the early days of getting this organization up and running, we learned that West Point was holding a diversity conference. We looked at each other, said, “We’re diverse!” took the day off from work and crashed the conference. We thought FOR SURE that as out LGBT people we would be skunks at the party, but we were greeted with enthusiastic, open arms by many people all the way up to the highest ranking General Officers in attendance. Never in 100 years would I have done this alone. Sue has gone on to work on transdender rights and was appointed by President Obama to serve on the Board of Visitors of West Point. Sue didn’t sit me down and talk to me about showing up for one another, she lives it through her example. SOLIDARITY

This list is woefully incomplete. There are so many more women who deserve to be mentioned here – my mom (PRESENCE), my Aunt Sharon Kanis (COMMUNITY), Kathlyn Hendricks (LOVE- WITH-A-SPINE), Jane Holl Lute (HUMILITY), Marie Connor (JOY), and many more – not to mention the many fabulous men who have influenced my life for the better, too. I’d love to continue – and I want to turn my attention back to you, my reader friend. 

I’m hoping these stories get your gears going about the women who have mentored you and how they did it. Did you ask them to mentor you? I never asked these fabulous women to mentor me, I just kind of tagged along and they seemed to tolerate it. I’ve stayed in touch with them over several decades, sometimes going hundreds of miles out of my way to stop in for a visit whenever our paths might cross. Likewise – you might be considered a mentor to someone and not even know it. Our actions speak louder than words. And they’re watching! 

Parents, how are you doing?

The New York Times published an article a couple days ago that America’s mothers are in crisis. More than 1 million have left the workforce. For nearly a year now, most of our kids have not been in school so many of you have been simultaneously managing kids at home while struggling with pivoting your organizations and keeping them afloat. Are there enough hours in a day? In my family, we’ve got 4 kids: a high schooler, a middle schooler, a third grader and a newborn. I just returned to work last month. How do we maximize our presence with our kids in times like these? I’ve told Becky many times I never give parenting advice unless asked. She asked, so here I am! I have a lot I would love to share with you (even mapped to the Impact with Integrity course!), but for now I know you’re busy so I want to give you just 3 quick parenting tips that take under 15 minutes. I’m not saying your kids only need 15 minutes, but 15 great minutes is better than hours of broken promises.

1) Does your face light up?

First thing is, what do your kids see when they walk into the room. Do they see you wondering if they’ve done their homework? Or that they’ve interrupted your Zoom call? Or does your face light up? How someone responds to you when you first walk into a room can mean so much more than the care you think you’re giving when you’re asking what they need or staying on top of their schedules. Toni Morrison explains it so beautifully with Oprah. So the first thing is, show them you are glad to see them!



2) Instead of breaking hours of promised time, how about a 3 minute dance break?

I talk to many parents who feel guilty that they’ve promised their child an outing or several hours of play time that they end up having to cancel due to work emergencies. There were years when I was a 100% single parent supervising 3 programs (all in constant crisis mode) with no family nearby. Sometimes my toddler son would bat the phone out of my hands before he could talk. Then there was the time I was at a restaurant taking care of an emergency placement of a foster child when a stranger scolded me for being on the phone instead of enjoying dinner with my son. That stranger didn’t know what my work emergency was, but I felt terrible nonetheless. When I got home, my son and I took three minutes to dance to Sara Bareilles’ Brave.


I’ve got videos since I married in 2018, of me, my husband and stepkids and son dancing in the kitchen. Just one song at a time. Our newborn gets a 15 second song we made up sung to her whenever we’re taking a breather. It’s not a lot of time. But it is happy, makes memories and makes our kids feel we’re still here. Dance parties don’t have to be all night long. A few minutes at a time can do a world of good! Here’s an oldie but goodie of my son making up a laundry song and dance.



3) In the time you do have together, do something you actually enjoy!

We have a rule in our house. We don’t read books to our kids that we don’t like. If you actually can’t stand Barney or that game your child loves, don’t spend the precious 15 minutes you have on something you don’t enjoy! I know this may seem counter to loving your child by not entering the world they are in, but quality time is not quality when you hate it! My family gets a smiling mom when playing a card game or a few rounds of Connect Four vs frustrated mom who can’t figure out the controls or the ground from the sky in a video game. My mom never played board games. Some of my best memories with my mom were joining her to watch Dallas and Dynasty! Those hours of nighttime soaps for her were huge reliefs not only because she was teaching middle school all day but her commute was sometimes up to 2 hours through ice and snow each way. These breaks should feel like breaks for you too.
Perhaps some day in the future we’ll have more in depth tips on how to not spend your days nagging or reminding your kids and raising them up to take 100% responsibility as we at the Billions Institute teach in the work environment. But in the meantime, we hope your family is healthy and well and that these tips may have been helpful because we’ve still got a few months at least to go getting through this pandemic. If you’d find it helpful, maybe Becky and I can talk about these in an upcoming podcast!

Want More? Help us Help You!

We are cooking up season 4 of Unleashing Social Change. I have been fielding many concerns circling around burnout and balancing a work/life balance, which has been exasperated by the pandemic. Please fill out the survey we have created here for a sneak peak and a chance to contribute!

The Enemy Within

Hi Friends!

We would like to begin this blog, which posts on Martin Luther King Day, sharing an opportunity to sign up for SVP’s “Anti-Racism for White People” course. It is a year-long learning community for people interested in showing up as agents of racial justice.*** Registration closes January 20th, 2021. Enroll today to secure your place! ***

Last week,

We shared our self-assessment quiz with you, to help you face into what is holding you back from making your big dent in the Universe. Depending on your answers, you were prompted to consider one of the four most common toxic dynamics that we’ve encountered when working with change leaders: blame/criticism, overwork/overwhelm, indecision, or micromanagement. By the way, if you haven’t taken the quiz, we encourage you to take a minute and do so now. 

Regardless of which dynamics are holding you and your organization back, though, it is all too easy to come to the conclusion that the problem is “out there.” And you would be correct to do so. There are real problems that need to be solved. 

Today, we confront…

…that’s only part of the story. 

If there is anything toxic in our context – and we’re aware of it in any way – then we are also engaging with it – consciously or unconsciously. 

When we’re consciously engaged with our challenges, we have a much better chance of actually changing something. We are able to step into 100% responsibility for all our choices and actions. 

When we’re unconsciously engaged, despite our best intentions, our problems might morph and shift, but they will persist. The key is to notice when we’re unconsciously reacting and shift ourselves back into presence. 

Shifting from our unconscious reactive mind into conscious presence is easier said than done, and we will be going into more depth about this in our facebook live later today, (10:30 AM Pacific Time), but for now I want to give you a quick overview of the three primary ways leaders avoid responsibility on the Drama Triangle so you can get curious about how these patterns show up in your life. 

When you think about the biggest organizational challenge you’re facing right now – whether or not it was reflected in our quiz results – are any of these postures familiar to you? 

  • I’m at the effect of somebody or something else. 
  • I can’t believe all of this is happening to me.” 
  • This shouldn’t be happening. And it’s not my fault, it’s theirs. 
  • Or – equally problematic – it’s all my fault. 
  • I must do something about this right now. 
  • This isn’t fair! And it’s never going to change. 
  • I need to stick up for the people who can’t stick up for themselves! 

If any of these stances are familiar to you, what they have in common is they’re all coming from the Drama Triangle. And taking action from this place has zero likelihood of making things better. One of the most important things we can do as leaders is notice when we’re on the Drama Triangle and take steps to get back into full creative presence. We’ll be talking about some ways to do that on our facebook live later today, and if you can’t make it, you can catch the replay later. We hope you can join us there!

Want More?

We are also offering a free Webinar ‘The Five Secrets to Becoming a Happy and Effective Change Leaders: How you can do the most good with the least drama, during a global pandemic, and still find time for yourself and your loved ones, too.”

There will be two sessions, the first on Tuesday January 26th @ 10:00AM PT and the second on Wednesday, January 27th @ 8:00AM PT. When you register you can choose which time works best for you. 

I hope to see many of you there! 


What’s Holding You Back from Making Your Big Dent in the Universe?

Hi Friends!

Last week,

We invited you to join us in creating a dream board for 2021 – a visible reminder of your strongest values and your wildest aspirations for this new year. Dreaming and opening up to new possibilities is absolutely essential for creating a new world together. A lot of people don’t even give themselves permission to dream big, so I want to give a shout out to those of you who did just that. If you want to revisit our live session that helps guide you through this process you can check out “Creating A Dream Board That Works” on our Facebook page. 

But there’s a big difference between dreaming and doing. Today we shift gears and square off with our current reality. Today we face into the challenges or obstacles that will stop us from making our big dent in the Universe. 

I dedicated an entire section of my forthcoming book to this notion of facing your challenge because it’s that important. 

As James Baldwin wrote, “Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced.” 

We’ve learned from working with hundreds of social change leaders that it’s the seemingly small things that can add up to big things if they’re not addressed with our full attention and care. 


We invite you to bring your attention to those little corners of your world that aren’t quite in alignment with your intentions. Those little wobbles that veer you off course. Those energetic drains that if left unchecked will prevent you from making your big dent in the Universe. 

We encourage you to visit “Overview of the Four Most Common Dynamics Which Hold Teams Back” to get some actionable tips on how to get rid of these common types of toxicity.

Next week we will pick up where we left off and turn our attention from what’s wrong “out there” to what’s going on “in here” with you. You can register for our Facebook Live event here where we’ll be diving deep into the drama triangle and personas. This will be the last session of our series “Starting The New Year Right” so be sure to tune in! 

Lastly, if you take the quiz and come to the conclusion that you might need more help than originally thought, I’m offering a FREE MASTER CLASS: The Five Secrets to Being a Happy and Effective Change Leader which addresses organizational toxicity and MUCH more.

We hope you’re enjoying this exploration with us.

Most warmly,