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Of Chefs, Clowns and Other Leadership Gurus

May 2008
In This Issue
Looking for Leaders in Unlikely Places
The Wisdom of a Clown
Gaps in Leadership
A Host of Thank You's
Quick Links...
Special thanks to Jeff James of Spire2 Communications for the new CHOICES Worldwide logo and to Matt Ferguson
for my new head shot!
CHOICES Worldwide logoVisit Jeff's Web site at to learn about their upcoming open house, "Maximize Your Marketing," on Wednesday, May 28, from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m. at Caponata's Ristorante in downtown Wheaton.  Jeff, Matt, Rick Tampier from the Sign Authority (
and LeVern Danley III of LAD 4 Creations (, four buddies from a local BNI group, have joined together to offer this afternoon of fresh marketing ideas for your company.  And Matt is offering professional portraits for a deep discount.  If you're in the area, don't miss this exciting event. 
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Looking for Leaders in Unlikely Places


Charlie TrotterIn March, Chef Charlie Trotter spoke to nearly 400 business and local chamber of commerce leaders in a large ballroom in Lisle, IL.  Chef Trotter has a rock-star reputation as a restaurateur, so I was surprised that in person, he's a buttoned-up business guy groomed to perfection who comes across as--well, kind of fussy (but in a good way).  He shared his tips for success, and they've been resonating with me ever since.


Mr. Trotter described one of his first jobs at a place called the "Ground Round," a local (now obsolete) restaurant chain.  The restaurant had peanut shells on the floor as part of its theme, and he confessed he found this repulsive.  More than once he was reprimanded by his manager for sweeping the floor.  Now one of the premier chefs in the nation, Mr. Trotter said his standard for cleanliness is consistent throughout the restaurant: "meticulous."  He assured us that if necessary, they could throw a white tablecloth on the dumpster and serve patrons there.  I believe him.


His tips on leadership?  "There is nobility in service," he said, whether you're the owner or the busboy.  Be generous when you can: Mr. Trotter hosts a busload of school kids at his restaurant every week to teach them not about cooking but about excellence.  When it comes to customers, he advised us to "Kill 'em with kindness," a recommendation he credits to his mother.  With an obsession for detail and a devotion to language, he left us with a new appreciation for what it takes to rise to the top of any profession.  "You work for yourself," Mr. Trotter assured us, whether you're a paper boy improving your aim, a waiter serving tables or a corporate executive.  The key is to exceed expectations for your own sake.  "Give 450%," he said, "or retire."  


High standards indeed.


The Wisdom of a Clown


Vickie & Patch AdamsThanks to Amy Jo Steinbruecker, public relations woman extraordinaire at Central DuPage Hospital (, I received an invitation to hear Patch Adams deliver "The Joy of Caring" celebrating the 50th anniversary of CNS Home & Health Hospice.  Patch Adams, physician, clown and peace activist, was the inspiration for the film starring Robin Williams.  He was also a friend of my father and I couldn't wait to meet him, so I bought two tickets for my friend Joy Meredith (who put the "joy" in Joy) and me.


While the presentation was really for clinical caregivers, Dr. Adams spoke to the heart of my own mission in business: Help people do what they love and love what they do.  "I've never been burned out!" he bellowed from the stage of a local high school.  "I'm disgustingly happy!"  As a leader of the Gesundheit Institute (, he travels the world as doctor, clown and healer.  He offered the following list for staying inspired:

  • Patch AdamsLove people.  While he doesn't profess to be religious per se, Patch said, "To me, a friend equals God."  He has 1600 people within his active network (I call it your "Golden Rolodex") with whom he corresponds on a regular basis.  "Write me," he challenged us.  "I'll write you back."
  • Have a profound concern for the future of humanity.  As someone who has visited orphanages in Russia and the dying in Kosovo, he knows the world needs hope.  "When you care," he said, "you are the answer."
  • Work for love.  "You can never, ever know the consequences of your kindness."
  • Believe in karma.  Ain't it the truth?
  • In caring, there's a chance to be creative.
  •   He referenced putting a man on the moon, the MRI, Beethoven--all great works of creativity and genius.  "Imagination," he said, "equals power."
  • Caring is a chance to be enthusiastic!  Even if you don't wear clown pants. 
  • Caring is good for you.  It increases endorphins and immunoglobulins. 

Trust him--he's a doctor.

(photo of Patch and me courtesy of Joy Meredith,
Gaps in Leadership

As a frequent flier on American Airlines, I was impressed when I received an e-mail from the company recently apologizing for their service (or lack thereof) during the cancellation of hundreds of flights.  While I hadn't been inconvenienced by this particular debacle, I have been the victim of their arbitrary cancellations.  Imagine my disappointment, then, to see that the letter was signed by some mid-level marketing executive.


American AirlinesNow, as a former mid-level marketing executive, I mean no disrespect.  But for something as important as this apology, wouldn't you expect it to be signed by the president of the company?  I read somewhere about the difference between American and Asian executives.  As a general rule, the president of an Asian company will take full responsibility for a crisis and often resign (or worse).  In the United States, we trot out our mid-level executives to take the heat.  In the meantime, I suspect the top-level executives are still getting their bonuses.  Shame on them.  Shame on us.


P.S.  I did write a thank-you note back to the marketing executive, thanking him for his letter and suggesting that for an issue this critical, his president ought to step up to the plate.  Think he passed it on?

A Host of Thanks

I am forever indebted to the people who invite me to speak--and especially to those who ask me back!  Among them is Wendy Sech, director of education for the Center for Corporate Financial  Leadership of the Illinois CPA Society

(  She and her delightful colleague Michele Haryasz have invited me to speak over the past few years.  Wendy invited me to give my leadership presentation, "Leadership & Legacies: Thriving & Surviving in Dangerous Times," in February to her peers from throughout the country at a conference in Charleston, South Carolina.  I was honored that she recommended me to her own professional network.


HandshakeThanks to Wendy-Jo Toyama, senior vice president at the American Dental Association (, I was introduced to Nancy Honeycutt, executive director of the American Student Dental Association (, and invited to present a workshop on leadership to that amazing group--students who in spite of their grueling schedule have taken the time to lead chapters all over the country.


And my deep appreciation to Amanda Perl and the folks at the Institute of Food Technologists (  for inviting me back to IFT for their strategic leadership forum.  What a remarkable group--people whose mission it is to keep the world food supply safe.  I presented "On the Grid: Positioning Yourself for Career Success" including a checklist for staying "on the grid."

I also send out a hearty thank-you to my friend, colleague and suite-mate Jeff James of Spire2 Communications ( who introduced me to the folks at IABC ( which resulted in an invitation to speak to the Society for Marketing Professional Services (, compliments of Midori Tajiri, director of marketing at YAS Architecture (  SMPS focuses on helping the marketing professionals at architectural, engineering and construction firms.   


Golden RolodexI'll be delivering "Your Golden Rolodex: How to Network for Results!" to the Empowering Women Network ( on Thursday, May 15; and on Tuesday, June 3, I'll be a guest speaker at the Tinley Park Chamber of Commerce (  I'm also speaking to the Wheaton Lions Club in June on "The Brand Called YOU."  In July, I'm addressing the Association for Accounting Marketing ( in Chicago on "Selling Your Ideas to Partners." 


If you're looking for a speaker, please let me know--I speak and conduct workshops throughout the country (and the world!) on leadership, networking, personal branding, negotiating and career success.  You can visit for my speaker profile.  I'm booking into 2009 and beyond and would be happy to talk with you about your needs.

Thanks to Judy Beaver, virtual assistant and owner of the OfficePro (, I have my first eBook in PDF format ready and waiting for those of you who want to read "Your Golden Rolodex: How to Network for Results!"  This 50+ page treatise on networking is based on my seminar, and it's my gift to you in exchange for your own networking story. 


Vickie AustinPlease write me at and tell me your best networking story--when did one of your own connections result in a new job, a new lead, a great connection?  In exchange I'll send you my new eBook, valued at $10 and soon to be offered on my Web site.  I'll keep this offer open until June 30 and look forward to hearing your story.  And feel free to pass this offer on to the people who are the gold in your own Golden Rolodex.



Golden Rolodex     Tell me your favorite "Golden Rolodex" networking story!
and receive a free copy of my eBook,
"Your Golden Rolodex: How to Network for Results!"
Offer Expires: June 30, 2008
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