Mother’s Day Series – Life Rule #5 – You are who you hang out with.

In honor of Mother’s Day, I will be doing a series of posts this week about the two wonderful woman in my life that I have had the privilege to call. “Mom”, and the wisdom they have passed on to me. ~Rule 5 - You are who you hang out with

My Mom, (Grandmother Whitmore), was a very caring and strong person who was focused on raising the five of us to be good, kind and successful people.  She worked hard to ensure that we had every opportunity open to us and she believed a key part of that was the friends we had surrounded ourselves with.

Mom’s mantras was, “You are who you hang out with.”

As a kid, it would drive me crazy how much attention she paid to who were in my circle of friends and the constant questions she had for them.  “Are you going to college?”, “What are you going to study?”, “Do you have a backup plan?”, “How is school going?” and on, and on, and on. In addition, if she felt someone was going to pull me the wrong direction she would find ways to intervene.  As a teenager, this was maddening! I thought she was being unfair, and I fought her on every turn.

And then I grew up……. and I began to understand why she was so focused on who surrounded me.  The people around you are so very key to who you develop into as a person. In many ways, more than your parents, teachers and family.  They can lift you up or pull you down.

Your friends are the ones you look to in defining your worth and value, as well as being your models for who you should be. Your friends are the ones who will tell you when you hair cut looks stupid, that a boy is wrong for you, push you to live your dreams and pick you up when you fall. They accept you at your worst and celebrate you at your best.

Living Aunt Harriet’s Life rule #1 –“ Do it because it is who you want to be.” is so much easier when you are surrounded by friends who not only support your vision for yourself, but push you to fulfill it. The only reason I have accomplished what I have is because of the friends and family that surround me.

Mom was right.  You are who you hang out with.



Thank you for being a pain.  I am a better person because of you.




By the way, Grandmother is not alone in this opinion. Some great quotes on Friends –

“You can be the best artist or the best business person, but if you have bad friends you are not going to do anything.  You have to have good friends so they give you a different perspective.  Perspective is why we are successful.” – WILL.I.AM

“Set your world on fire. Seek those who fan your flames.” – RUMI

“Surround yourself with people who make you hungry for life, touch your heart, and nourish your soul.” – Unknown

“I really do appreciate people who stimulate my creativity and make me think on a deeper level.”  – Unknown

“Associate yourself with people of good quality, for it is better to be alone than in bad company.” – Booker T. Washington

“Be with those who help your being.” – RUMI

“Surround yourself with the dreamers and the doers, the believers and thinkers, but most of all, surround yourself with those who see greatness within you, even when you don’t see it yourself.” – Edmund Lee

“Throw them in a room……”

Throw them in a room....... (1)Several years ago, we received a call from a friend.  His family was moving into a new house that came with a cat and since they already had a cat, they wanted to make sure that they knew the best way to introduce the animals as to minimize the trauma.  He and his wife had done their research by reading two different cat psychology books hoping to find the right method.  They were calling us for advice because we have had several cats and the books had differing theories on how to handle the situation.

As you  know, Uncle Casey grew up on a cattle ranch in Idaho and has a pretty pragmatic approach to life. His answer was short and to the point, “Hell, we just throw them in a room and let them figure it out.”

At this same time I had been dealing with a number of personality conflicts in my new team of sr. technical engineers.  I had spent a good month trying different team building methods pulled from industry books and my graduate notes in the hopes of finding a resolution.  I was sitting in my office listening to two of my most senior engineers argue when it dawned on me, I just needed to throw them in a room and let them figure it out. So I assigned them both to a shared workspace and told them I did not want to hear any more about it.  Six months later they were upset when we were moving locations because it might mean they would not be working in the same area.

As a leader, it is easy to feel like you need to solve all of the problems your people bring to you. You do not! I have learned through experience that my interference in interpersonal problems often prolongs the issue. In addition, part of developing a high performing team is allowing them to, “Storm” and showing them how to solve problems on their own.

For the sake of your team and their personal development, don’t be afraid to, “…just throw them in a room and let them figure it out.”




Centerfolds and Life

The summer after high school graduation, I landed a job working as a slusher operator at the local paper mill.  This job was a very big deal, not only because it was a high paying job for a college student, but because I was selected as one of the first five women allowed to work on the mill production floor. Until then women were only allowed to work in the offices and as lab support.  A few years before, your Aunt Jacie worked in the lab making minimum wage, ($3.25 per hour), where I started at $8.50 an hour as a student laborer.

I arrived an hour early on the first day and waited for the shift supervisor to arrive on some steps, lunch bucket and steel toe boots in hand.  When he arrived, he introduced himself, gave me a tour of the plant, showed me how to clock in and took me to the small space that had been converted into the women’s locker room and bathroom.  After putting my stuff away in my locker, my supervisor showed me where I would be working.  In hindsight, I should have known something was up because he was smiling way too much during my induction.

As we walked up to the slusher I was assigned to, I could see Playboy centerfolds hung up over all of the equipment and the guys on the crew looking at me with big grins on their faces.  I am sure they were expecting me to get upset, have a hissy fit, or perhaps cry.  But all I said was, “Nice pictures” and moved the centerfold that was hanging over the controls of my slusher to another location.  They all looked a bit dumbfounded.

The supervisor assigned one of the crew to train me on operating the slusher and the rest of the evening went off without a hitch.  Everyone kept watching me, but they were polite and helped me learn my job.  The pinups remained up at the end of the shift.

After work that night, I picked up my girlfriend and we proceeded to purchase every Playgirl magazine we could find within a 20 mile radius.  For your parents who were around in 1981, this was the infamous Playgirl edition with the very naked Burt Reynolds as the centerfold.  We pulled out all of the centerfolds and I put them in my lunch bucket with a roll of tape for the next day.  Two could play at this game!

The next shift, I walked to my assigned equipment and proceeded to hang a copy of Burt next to every Playboy centerfold as the guys on the crew watched me.  They were smiling and so was I.  The shift went smoothly and some of the guys actually started conversations with me.

On my third shift, I came in to find someone one had taken a black marker and drawn a swim suit on all of my “Burts”, and the crew was standing there laughing so hard I think they were crying.  Clever boys. With a smile on my face, I picked up a black marker and drew bikinis on all of the centerfolds.  During my lunch break that night the guys bought me a soda and started calling me, “Kid”.

By my fourth shift, all of the pictures were removed and we were all good.

I have worked and played in male dominated fields all of my life, and while much of the blatant harassment is now generally understood to be unacceptable, inequality still exists for all minorities. Know who you are and what you are worth, accept nothing less.  By applying persistent pressure with a pinch of humor, you will see change occur in a manner that builds new more equal relationships.


Aunt Harriet


Live and Design Based on the 99% Rule – Life Rule #3

Rule 3 - 99 rule 4x6I had accepted a position as VP of Customer Delivery with a software company and knew that I was there to address major service delivery and employee satisfaction issues.  In the process of completing round tables with the staff, I learned that one of the key “itches” was a general feeling that management felt everyone was out to stiff the company.  There was no trust between the employees and management.

Their specific example of this was that recent changes had been made to the time tracking and reporting system where the employee was automatically logged in and out of the system based on when they logged in and out of the phone system.  In addition, if they made a mistake in logging in and out of the phone system, they were not allowed to make appropriate corrections to their timecard, only the managers could make changes.

So let’s look at how this works for the average technical support engineer.  I come into work in the morning and log into the phone system to start work.  So far so good.  At lunch I have to log out of the system before going to lunch and because I have a meeting immediately following lunch, I forget to log back in and immediately go to the meeting.  I get back to my desk and realize my very honest mistake, but I am not allowed to make the correction, nor is my immediate supervisor. I have to go up two layers and request that my supervisor’s manager makes the correction. The message is very clear, management does not trust you or your supervisor to be honest, in fact my employees felt as if they were being called, “Liar, Liar!”

When I followed up with HR and the time system administration team, I learned that there had been 2 employees, out of 850 US employees, who had been padding their time cards and had been caught by their supervisors in the audit process.  So the team decided they could keep that from happening again by locking all employees and supervisors out of the system and only give managers the authority to make time card changes. Take note of, “…the road to hell is paved my good intentions…”

The result was that the employees and supervisors felt they were being called, “Liar!”, every time an honest mistake was made and the amount of time the managers spent on honest time card corrections increased to 10% of their work time.  No one was happy.

This is where I developed my “99% rule”.  It is based on my belief and experience that 99% of the world’s population tries to do the right thing and are not intentionally trying to screw anybody over. But that there is the 1% that is acting purposely.  To focus only on the 1% and put rules in process in place as if all people act with intentional harm is insulting to the honest people out there and costly to the business.  This does not mean I have become, “wussy” in my response to bad behavior.  I have developed a stronger sense of tolerance for the, “honest”, mistake and NO tolerance for purposeful deceit.

Fire immediately if it is purposeful and train them if it is not.  Lack of ethics is un-coachable, but the rest is worth your trust and investment. You will be amazed at the loyalty you get in return.


Aunt Harriet

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