Square Peg in a Round Hole…or How to Fit a Nontraditional Workforce into a Traditional Workplace

Last week, I was at the UPSTART LIVE Spring Summit New Strategies & Solutions in the Global War for Talent as the opening second-day keynote speaker of the conference. This event had a unique focus—it was highlighting HR recruiting in the Oil and Gas industry.  Since I was keynoting the opening on the second day, I decided to make good use of my time and attend some of the first-day presentations.

The conference had a sweeping range of topics and interactive sessions along with peer-to-peer round tables. (Jeff Hurt, you would have been pleased.) Because my subject matter for my address was around the generations succeeding together in the workplace, I was very interested in some of the generational success stories shared by several of the corporate participants.

It was like adding fuel to my tank … a lot of my long-held concepts were confirmed as I continued to listen, learn, and grow.  Now I want to shout from the mountaintop because I am so excited to share what I have learned. For years, I have been saying that in our world today when we talk about the generations in the workplace, we have to realize that the core conflict arises from trying to fit an increasing nontraditional workforce into a traditional work environment.

Here are a few things I discovered at the conference:

1. LinkedIn is where the future of recruiting lies. Attending this session was so amazing and informative. Chris Kelleher, senior sales manager at LinkedIn shared the power of LinkedIn sourcing tools and employment branding services.  He mentioned  that companies and organizations must have a strong brand presence on LinkedIn and candidates need to get active in using key words and updating profiles.

2. There was a lot of emphasis placed on the knowledge gap. Back 30 to 40 years ago, there was a tremendous hiring of engineers who stayed in the oil and gas industry. These Boomers have gained a huge amount of knowledge and experience in that industry, and they need to share the knowledge before they retire. Some people have suggested mentoring programs, but I was excited to hear David Kent speak. David is the founder of Houston’s Oilpro.com, which is an oil and gas social network launched to bridge the industry’s generation gap. David said that Oilpro is an online community of oil and gas professionals interested in connecting with colleagues, advancing their skills, building credibility around their expertise, staying current, and exploring exciting new opportunities.

3. I got excited as I heard about all the innovative things that oil and gas companies are doing to KEEP the talent.  Here are some of the findings and solutions:

Meyerland Harris HR at HEB grocery stores, which hires many Gen Ys and Gen Zs, shared these suggestions when managing the younger workforce:

1. Explain your company’s vision

2. Prioritize community service

3. Develop in-between steps and titles

4. Give encouragement and regular feedback

5. Be flexible with schedules

6. Provide educational and personal development


Laura Ramey, VP of HR at Crestwood Midstream, shared her experiences working with Boomers. She said that the most important thing to remember when engaging Boomers is to remember to give them attention and recognition. Boomers like to know that they are still in the loop, and that they are motivated by being valued and needed. (How about that for switching perspectives?)

Edda Tinis, the Learning and Development Director for Air Liquide, has worked on programs that successfully increased retention rates for both Gen X and Y employees for more than 10 years.In 2000, Air Liquide created a two-year rotation for all new college  hires. The programs consist of four different rotations each lasting six months.  In addition to the tech/operations/rotations, new hires have training in really interesting and necessary subjects such as networking, career development, the FISH Philosophy, negotiating skills, teamwork, CPR, safety and risk management, volunteer opportunities, and my favorite business—etiquette.

After hearing all this great information, I decided to shift my keynote address and put the focus on Gen X.  I challenged Gen X to take on the leadership role by understanding that the conflict arises from trying to fit an increasingly nontraditional workforce into a largely traditional workplace. Gen X can be the leaders of creating the new work environment by using their knowledge, creativity, and skill to lead, manage, and guide both the Boomers and the Gen Ys. (Thank you, Edda, for giving me the fuel.)

So, I appeal to you, Gen X. It’s up to you to help all of us understand and value the strengths and differences of each generational group—leverage the strengths of each and create a work environment that values differences.

When You Snooze, Do You Lose? Is waking up early a generational thing?


Maybe it’s a generational thing, but my internal clock gets me up and out of bed each day on or before 5:30 AM.  I am up, with coffee in hand, and at my computer creating and writing long before the sun comes up.  I guess it’s my boomer generation’s work ethic showing. Although I have read many stories that correlate waking up early with success, I do it because it’s the only time in my day when I can carve out precious time to write and be productive.  In addition, I have discovered that my early morning “creative time” starts my day with a positive and even inspirational tone …I get more stuff done and I feel happy about myself.

So before you hit that snooze button remember this…


The Secret to Giving a Great Presentation – Focus on the Audience

I started teaching professionals how to transition from their current position or career in professional speaking, November of 2012.  At the time, I never dreamed that this workshop would become a part of my business model.  But, after the first session a core of about 15 people asked me if I could provide monthly workshops and continue giving them the tools, education and the inspiration to succeed in the arena of professional speaking.

So  in addition to my keynoting,  I have been doing a series of speaker trainings (Killer Keynote)  and I love it. I have watched people grow as their confidence soars.  We are now working on a stage with cool lighting and the use of a hand held microphone. I can’t tell you what a huge difference that has made in the quality of their presentations.  Our group keeps evolving as some leave and others join.

They say that teaching/coaching is a two way street and that a good teacher can also learn a great deal from her students.  The thing that keeps coming up for me as I watch and listen to these emerging speakers, is how important it is today for a speaker to be focused on the audience- audience-centric. Many of us (keynote speakers) are presenting new ideas that involve our audiences having to make a change – and in some cases a BIG change.  For most, change is not an easy task.   When we speakers get wrapped up in  content and perspectives we can  lose sight of the struggle that audience members may be feeling. We need to practice empathy.

I first heard the concept of empathy and vulnerability listening to Dr. Brene’ Brown speak here in Houston way back in 2008.  I have been a big fan ever since. After reading Brene’ s Book The Gifts of Imperfection, and doing her online workshop with Oprah, I have come to the conclusion that  be successful a speaker today, you must have to have empathy for your audience. They have to walk in the listener’s shoes so to speak.  You have to let our audience know that you too have been there and you know what it’s like to be stuck,or challenged, or what’s it’s like working with a difficult customer.  Speakers need to make a connection with their audiences.

My advice to speakers and presenters  is to stop being the star of your stories. Imagine how great it would be if speakers  put the spotlight on their audience. As Nancy Duarte has said, the speaker need to shift from being the hero of their presentation to the guide and mentor of the presentation giving the audience a magical gift or special helping them get unstuck.

You have to think of it as, “The speaker needs the audience more than the audience needs the speaker.” (Nancy Duarte) Then you’ll start to approach a material with your audience in mind.

Don’t Overcommit! Overcommitting Is Blindsiding Your Success


What’s that one thing that if you completed, it, the results would bring you more happiness, satisfaction, money, or fame? Maybe, it’s getting that project management accreditation, realtor license, taking Spanish 4, or signing up for Keynote Speaker, Crystal Washington’s webinar course on marketing through social media?

Honestly, we all know what we should be doing in our free time, but many of us have filled our plates with so many other obligations that we don’t have the time to do what is necessary to get ourselves ahead. We simply overcommit.




Overcommitment can get in between you and your dreams. (Check out my Why We Overcommit video)

Last week, I heard  National Keynote Speaker, Ron Karr from the National Speaker’s Association (not to be confused with the other NSA) speak on attaining our goals, and he mentioned distractions and time wasters that get in our way and our success. Ron shared that he has two questions on his office wall, and he lives by these each day:

Question #1: What does success look like to me—right here, right now?

Question #2: Do my actions support it?

The reality is that, when we say yes to too many things, we run the risk of not having time for those things that matter most to us.

Here are a few things to think about before saying YES to that next volunteer situation or project:

  • Is this activity in alignment with my vision of success?
  • Will it get me to my goal or take me away from it?
  • If I say YES to this, what will I be saying NO to? (Think: will it take time away from my family, exercise time, study time, writing time, etc.)
  • Do I realistically have time to fulfill this commitment properly and on time? (You don’t want to overcommit and run the risk of disappointing people [for instance, your boss], damaging trust, or hurting your reputation.)

It’s when we get really clear and focused about what it is that we most desire in our lives that we will be able to find the clarity, courage, and guilt-free confidence to say no to the requests, invitations, and even the opportunities that come our way.

If you find yourself rushing around all the time, stressed out, and overcommitted, it’s time to purge some of those obligations. It’s time as they sing in Frozen to “Let it Go!”

Authenticity – Just Be YOU!

“Be Yourself – Everyone else is taken” Oscar Wilde

Over the past few years I have been coaching many talented individuals who are working towards becoming professional keynote speakers. One of the most challenging parts of the speaker-puzzle is the authenticity piece. The ability to be you on the stage, and bring the parts of you that are uniquely you into your presentation will differentiate you from the pack and make a real difference. Authenticity is the secret ingredient and it  has become an important presentation attribute. When speakers have it, they can inspire their audiences to make positive changes, keep learning, and change the world. That said, it’s hard to teach someone how to be authentic.

Jimmy Fallon can help!

Last week Jimmy Fallon took the reins of the Tonight Show and brought his authentic self along.  Jimmy does not play it cool! He plays it like Jimmy Fallon – He’s appears a little nervous, giggling, gushing and saying a lot of, So great! So great.” He talks about his childhood, wife Nancy, their new baby girl Winnie, and on the opening night of the show, he waved to his parents in the audience and told them that he loved them. The viewers seem to love him not to mention he has the most impish grin and exudes tons of infectious energy.

Besides authenticity there are other lessons we can learn from Jimmy.

Authenticity happens when we give ourselves the freedom to see our strengths and our value. When we are truly authentic we are comfortable in our own skin, giving us the ability connect with others in a meaningful way.

Thanks for the lessons, Jimmy and here’s to seeing you for the next 22 years on late night.

And we love how you collaborated with JT.

Women, It’s Our Time to Speak!

It’s really great when women speakers are showcased, honored, and praised.  I have presented at many conferences where I am the only female speaker and I am excited to see that Kelly Swanson put the time into sharing 12 diverse and successful FEMALE motivational and business speakers journey’s to success.Women, it’s our time! It’s time for us to bring our spirit, energy,wisdom and new perspective onto the stage and change the world!

Take the time to read Kelly’s blog post and get some great advice.


If you are looking for a truly gifted speaker, comedian, storyteller, and motivational speaker be sure and look at Kelly’s website.



Pushing Yourself to the Edge

Being a motivational speaker makes me more introspective than most. I spend a great deal of time analyzing my behavior and then naming it (the branding expert in me takes over!)

This has been my year to live on the EDGE! Every November (I’m a Scorpio) I go into a contemplative mood. I spend the month looking back over what I have discovered, achieved, and changed over the past year. This year was my year to get PHYSICAL (Yoga, Zumba, Body Pump) and I pushed myself to the edge! The Edge is a lot more fun than the middle and if I keep it up I’ll be getting Younger Next Year!

Gen X Needs a Rebranding – It’s Your Time to Lead

Gen X Needs a Rebranding – It’s Time for  Generation X to Lead

I clearly remember the downfall of Arthur Anderson. I remember it so well because I was working with them when Enron went down (November 2011) and brought Anderson along for the ride. Then, in early 2002 Anderson Consulting was reborn as Accenture. In response to the negative publicity, they came out from under the rubble and they rebranded.

A successful rebranding effort demands a new vision that inspires others to see a person, company, product or service in a new light. But it doesn’t end there. Once clear on the message, the word must get out and spread out through savvy marketing.

Today there is a lot of hype in the media about baby boomers. We are constantly bombarded with news about the boomers retiring, boomers and social security, boomers downsizing and even boomers exercising. And when we are not reading about the boomers, we’re reading about the Millennials /Gen Y and how they are changing the world. What we are not reading about is our next generation of leaders … Gen X

 Gen X. Remember Gen X? The generation born between 1965 -1979? The generation that has given us Jeff Bezos, Sergey Brin, Larry Page, Jack Dorsey, Brene’Brown, Corey Booker, Paul Ryan, Cheryl Sandberg, Marrisa Mayer, Salman Kahn, and Robert Downey Junior (now that’s a brand make-over!)

Gen X, the generation that is sandwiched in between the boomers and millennials.

You might remember them as the “Slacker Generation.” When Gen X entered the workplace in late 80’s and early 90’s, the media (who were boomers) painted a very negative picture: they dubbed them the slackers. Other words used to describe Gen X were grungers, negative, cynical, apathetic, challengers of authority, latchkey-kids, and losers. wah waaah.


Back then, Time Magazine described them as “cautious” in this oft-cited article:

“They have trouble making decisions. They would rather hike in the Himalayas than climb a corporate ladder. They have few heroes, no anthems, no style to call their own. They crave entertainment, but their attention span is as short as one zap of a TV dial. They hate yuppies, hippies and druggies. They postpone marriage because they dread divorce. They sneer at Range Rovers, Rolexes and red suspenders. What they hold dear are family life, local activism, national parks, penny loafers and mountain bikes.” (Time, 1990)


As many of us know … Time Magazine was wrong! They took back some of the snarky remarks  in  2000, But many still remember the Brand. So, Gen X, you need a rebranding plan.


As Gen X has aged and blossomed the negative sterotype have mellowed, but the brand is still a little dull and needs a little polish. My intention is to be part of a campaign to help them speak their truth and shine a more honest and more honestly positive light on the real Gen X. You are the generations that was raised with real-world experiences, you are comfortable with technology, you have the awareness of global issues, you are sensible, reasonable and logical, you have a strong entrepreneurial spirit, AND you are in the middle of your career and your life.


Here’s a little more that we have learned about you Gen X:                                 

  • Gen X brought work life balance into the forefront. The quote “Never confuse having a career with having a life” was printed on the Eddie Bauer shopping bags.
  • The divorce rate in the U.S. is now the lowest it’s been in 40 years and many credit this change to Generation X. Since a large percentage of  Gen Xers come from divorced families, many of them vowed they would not divorce when they were adults. Gen Xers are a family focused generation as they have moved into middle adulthood.
  • Gen Xers are actively involved parents demonstrating that they are a generation who values education and encourage and support their children in attaining educational goals.
  • Generation X is a generation of independence. Because parents left Gen X to themselves (the Latchkey-kids) they are a generation that learned how to be independent early in their lives.
  • This creative generation defined the do-it-yourself DIY cultural ethos, and many turned entrepreneurial when they entered the job market in a down economy in the early 90s.
  • A big thank you goes out to Gen X women for the ban panty hose!
  • Gen X is highly productive and knows how to “Get Stuff Done.”
  • Left alone (no hovering parents) and allowed to fail, this generation is the most innovative and creative of all the generations and have lead the way in technology and music. (Garage Technology/Garage Bands)
  • Generation X’s sullenness has softened into a sensibility has been driving openness and transparency in business. Gen X has helped change cultures and policies of corporate America and they have done it from the inside out.
  •  Generation X members had the most casualties and were also the major heroes on September 11th. They were the police and firefighters. They were the passengers who crashed the plane rather than having it go on to Washington, DC. They were the workers in the World Trade Center Towers. Gen X members responded to the terrorist attacks with bursts of patriotism and national fervor that surprised even themselves.


Today we are facing a world with finite limits,  a place where there are no easy answers, and the sobering realization that we are encountering significant, intractable problems on multiple fronts. Gen X, this is your time. It’s interesting that the most negative elements of your childhood and early adult life may well be those that will provide you with the strongest capabilities today. Your courage, guts, determination, pragmatism, and values are what we need in our politics, our businesses and our communities.

Gen X, it’s your time –

A time for a new generation of leadership.

Taking a Risk Paid Off – Playing it safe is the most dangerous place to be!

Sometimes motivational speakers have to take a risk on stage by using all of themselves-by tapping into their own passion, their humor, knowledge, energy, style and making unconventional choices.  All it takes is courage, and a great audience.  Here’s what happened to me.

A few weeks ago I opened the 2013 Connect Marketplace Sports conference in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with my keynote, Change is Good-YOU Go First. In this keynote I touch on  how conferences are using social media to engage and interact with their attendees. Many of those attending work in sports related industries and because I always try and customize my programs, I wanted to add a sports reference to the keynote…

which was a challenge, because I’m just not that into sports.

Several weeks before the event in Milwaukee, I was home watching The Twitter Revolution on CNBC.  And as luck would have it, the program had on a segment “How Twitter has changed the way NBA fans watch basketball.”  I learned a lot including, two-thirds of the NBA players are on Twitter making the NBA the No. 1 sports league on social media.

Was I lucky or what?

Immediately a light bulb went off… and I remembered a Jimmy Kimmel show about Tweets and the NBA… I Googled it, watched the video, got a little scared, took a risk, and put the piece in my keynote.

I was so nervous that they wouldn’t get it… They got it! They were the best audience! They were in it! They were laughing so hard and I felt the energy  in the room go  higher  and higher. We speakers dream of moments like this one!

Energy is an amazing thing when it spreads and becomes contagious.  We started having fun together. By the time I got to the closing ( Name that Generation game) we were in the zone-together.

It’s amazing how even after 12 years of professional speaking I continue to learn, grow and push myself to try new things and take some risks.  Not everyone is going to like you, but today staying in the middle and playing it safe is the most dangerous place to be.

If you are a speaker or you are giving a presentation, remember tap into your own passion, your strengths, knowledge and content, your style, and even your quirkiness. The more aspects you show of yourself, the easier the audience will connect with you and your message.

5 Steps to Mastering Your Pitch – Rachel Parker’s Pitch that Won!

Last November  I created a workshop called Killer Keynote and miraculously it filled itself with some pretty talented emerging speakers.  Each month many of the “Killers” gather for a group coaching day. Watching them grow into speakers/thought leaders has become the highlight of my year. It is a joy when students graciously take in what you give them, do the work, and reap the rewards!

Let me give you an example.  A few sessions back we had a full day of learning how to do “The Pitch”.  The Killers were working on and completing their presentation and now they had to sell it or PITCH it!   I gave them the 5 steps in pitching (above) gave some examples, and had them do a little role playing. Then it was up to them…

Here’s what Rachel Parker created

She created this and sent the video pitch to the speaker selection at the Houston AMA 2013 EDGE conference.  She is now speaking at the conference! Rachel Rocks!!

Let’s examine what she did:

1. She got their attention with the statistic that blew her mind…that you are more likely to complete a Navy Seal training than you re to click on a banner ad. OUCH!!!!

2.  They felt the need to listen when she said that the Mad Men Marketing approach doesn’t work today. We don’t trust advertising and we go out of our way to avoid it. Sorry Don Draper, you still are very handsome.

3. Her solution is that there is a better way… stop talking at the customer and start talking with them.

4.  Great visualization when she said the magic word IMAGINE having customers look forward to hearing from you.

5.  Then she throws you into action telling you that you are going to get her 6-step process… WE want more! We want her… she got the gig!

You can hear Rachel Parker along with the other great speakers at the AMA Houston Marketing Edge – Read all About it and go see Rachel!

BTW the next Killer Keynote Workshop will have a guest appearance from Houston’s very own comic and master of thinking on her feet… Rice University’s  Kim McGaw… the entire day will focus on Humor. Wanna get funnier??? then save the date – Sat. November 23 and send me an email – I’ll get you on the LIST!