Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Marvelous Moments from 2016

A few years ago, I risked my livelihood and took a gigantic, scary leap from my successful sales career with one of the world’s largest companies. Having climbed to the pinnacle of Toastmasters by earning my DTM designation, I was passionate about communications and leadership development. My dream was to be a speaker and writer. Using my highly influential magnetic personality and excellent communication skills, I wanted to positively impact lives. I aspired to work for an inspiring leader who would allow me to maximize my personality, strengths, and talents. My mission was to live vibrantly today … because tomorrow is not guaranteed.

After floating in mid-air for some time, having no idea where I’d land, Paul McMurray approached me to help him with sales initiatives at his small leadership development firm. Even though I loved the communication and leadership development programs he represented, I had deep reservations about venturing on with him. Spending my resources and limited time left on this earth sitting at a desk, working a phone that seemingly leads to a big black hole, wasn’t the vibrant quest I was seeking.
Reluctantly, I accepted Paul’s offer, and found my footing on new territory. As I began to apprehensively follow Paul, I discovered he was not only an inspiring leader, but also a genuinely great guide who had my best interest at heart. He provided a safe environment, consistent encouragement and freedom for me to test my talents, strengths and passions. Nurturing me with plenty of positive feedback, he gave me assignments that aligned with my interests. Viewing me as his peer, he valued and trusted my ability to make decisions, only intervening when absolutely necessary, which was rare.
Under his exceptional tutelage, I am on an incredible expedition, exploring many exciting new places; places I’d have never gone had I not risked it all and leaped from a secure perch in sales.
Today, I count my job as a Senior Consultant with Insight Management Consulting as one of my greatest sources of fulfillment and happiness! Here’s a recap of some of my marvelous moments from 2016, a year I consider to be one of the most rewarding of my life.  
In early January, when I was submitting speaking proposals for Paul to speak at MD SHRM State Conference he encouraged me to submit a proposal for myself too. Cautiously, because I had no “real” experience or professional references, I followed his advice. My topic was: Charting the Course to Greater Fulfillment and Happiness at Work.
Later in the month, I had mis-scheduled his calendar for a speaking engagement. The organization was expecting Paul, the Master Trainer and International Speaker, and he was not available. With a knot in my stomach and a lump in my throat, I pondered how I would unravel the embarrassing mess I had made.
The topic was Listening, and Paul had complete confidence that I could deliver it. I knew I could too, but was afraid they would be disappointed to not have him and his superior talent. To my surprise, they were excited to hear me speak, and see my talent.
A few days prior to the engagement there had been a crippling snow storm in the region. It didn’t cancel the meeting, but made getting there tricky for me. Allowing myself plenty of time, I ended up in a huge traffic jam and wasn’t sure I’d make it to the meeting on time. Luckily, I arrived 10 minutes before I was to start speaking. The committee whisked into action, connecting my computer and dispersing my handouts. In the midst of chaos, I was calm, composed and collected. Completely comfortable with my content, I had the time of my life doing what I was made to do: rousing 80 professionals to discover the golden key to effective communication and leadership – Listening.
After the presentation, a gal came to me and said, “I’m on the speaker selection committee for MD SHRM State Conference, I can’t promise you a slot, but I will recommend you, and think you have a really good chance at speaking there.”
A couple weeks later, we were beyond ecstatic when we found out that I was selected to present two workshops at the MD SHRM State Conference in October!
In February I booked Paul to speak at another organization. As his booking agent and secret sales rep (because I was never going to sell again), I accompanied him to the event. Standing around at the end, talking to the leaders, he offered, “Beth speaks on Listening. She could speak at one of your meetings.” Before I knew it, I was on their calendar for March.
A payroll organization contacted me in February 2016 requesting a speaker for their 2016 conference. Paul was unavailable, and suddenly, I was booked for another presentation on Listening.
After that presentation, the CEO of a small payroll company approached me. “My employees need to hear this,” she said. “Would you be able to come to my company and present it during an all-hands meeting?” Enthusiastically, I said, “YES!!”
In early May, I inspired her 50 employees to become more effective listeners. Listening is the secret to opening doors and securing relationships.
After sharing with me some of the challenges of her organization, she contracted with Insight for a substantial consulting project. Paul led the initiative, and invited me to participate in every step of it. It was a tremendous learning experience in measuring culture vitality, strategic planning, and organizational change. I loved it!
By mid-May, I was becoming braver and bolder. A government HR organization, reached out to us to sponsor their spring conference. We agreed to sponsor, if we were given the opportunity to present a program. They agreed and I again found myself in front of another audience! “Marvel at the Possibilities” was the theme for their event. All speakers were encouraged to choose a marvel character and weave it into their presentation. My presentation was wrapped around Wonder Woman and her powerful arsenal: a lasso of truth, indestructible bracelets, and a projectile tiara. Challenging the audience to first believe in themselves, hold toxic people at arm’s length, and deflect negative thoughts with positive ones; and, then to do the same for others, was incredibly invigorating to both them and me!
To my surprise, a Deputy Director to a Senior Executive Officer at a large government agency was in the audience. Having enjoyed my presentation, he wanted to know how he could bring a workshop to his organization. After a conference call with him to understand his challenges and needs, he awarded us a sizable contract to train his staff of 40 in August.
May ended with the International ATD Conference in Denver, CO. Paul offered me the opportunity to attend this conference with more than 20,000 training and development experts from all over the world. The icing on the cake was that I traveled to Denver early with my best friend, Ann. Together, we laughed until our liver wiggled and made a mountain of memories that will last a lifetime.

In June, Insight Management Consulting exhibited at the International SHRM Conference in Washington DC. It was attended by more than 17,000 HR professionals. Paul allowed me to unleash my full cache of creativity. At our booth, we had a large treasure chest full of foam rubber body parts representing the modules of Personify Leadership, a program we represent. Attendees were encouraged to pick a body part and solve a riddle (written by me) about a valuable leadership principle. For “Finding Insight” and playing with us, we awarded them body parts, books and bling; a few of my favorite things.

In August, it was a privilege to train What Motivates Me at the large government agency, with Paul. As we were interacting with the employees during the class, I discovered an employee who was only 20% engaged at work. She asked me to help her get unstuck. Finally realizing my value, I told her my hourly coaching fee was $200/hour. Without batting an eye, she paid me for several sessions. It was sheer pleasure helping her develop a career transition plan, and GET PAID for my expertise.
Meanwhile, in mid-August, Paul and I went back to consult with the payroll executive. Entering the conference room, she closed the door behind her. With tear glazed eyes she said, “There’s something I have to tell you. Since we began this project, I’ve been approached by a big company that wants to acquire us. We’re in negotiations and may seal the deal on August 31. I don’t know if I’ll be around on September 1. My people have no idea what’s coming. What can you do to take care of them?”
Paul immediately offered me as a resource. I quickly put together a program, offered her people the motivator assessment, and prepared and presented two webinars. The goal was to help them discover their passions, understand the value of their contribution to the organization, and equip them to be engaged when she was no longer there.
Because I had been through three mergers and acquisitions myself, she asked me to provide her senior leaders with Crucial Skills for Navigating Change. Under Paul’s direction, I prepared a presentation on the importance of trust, persuasive communication, and listening in the workplace. I delivered it alone.
Since this executive, and Paul, believed in me and trusted me with her people, I gained confidence as a consultant, speaker, and trainer.
In September, the Deputy Director at the large government agency wanted a 2-hour program for the senior leaders in his division. The topic was Creating a Culture of Openness. Paul wasn’t available on the date required, and the deputy inquired, “Why can’t Beth do it?” Paul believed in me, but wasn’t quite ready to put me in front of senior leaders at a large government agency. The deputy pressed on, and Paul agreed that I could do it. And, I did … and it was an amazing experience. Because the Deputy Director believed in me and trusted me with his people, and Paul allowed me to accept the challenge, I realized my impact as a speaker, trainer and coach. I was on the adventure of a lifetime; doing what I love; living my dream.
In September, I was invited to present a webinar on employee engagement and motivation for the Society of American Military Engineers. It was one of their highest attended webinars.
Later in the month, I traveled to Salt Lake City, UT to exhibit at a large state conference where I met hundreds of people. Traveling a few days early, I celebrated my birthday with Paul’s brother, David, in some of the prettiest mountains and canyons in America. We even ventured to Idaho, another first for me.

In October, I met two bestselling authors and international leadership gurus – Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton, and presented two programs for MD SHRM in Ocean City MD. I also presented a full-day solo What Motivates Me class at the US Army Research Lab; and was invited to present a program on Becoming a Trustworthy Leader to another community organization.
At the end of October, Craig and I spent nine lovely days vacationing on the breathtaking Emerald Coast of Destin, FL. A gift from beloved friends, everything about the trip was exquisite, including our excursions to Rosemary Beach, Pensacola, and Mobile, AL.
In five weeks, I had been to UT, ID, MD, VA, FL and AL. I was traveling, meeting interesting people, and influencing lives all around the nation. It was exhilarating! I was not sitting behind a desk, dialing into an endless black hole. I was living vibrantly among people!
In November, I met another bestselling author. Epic story builder and international speaker, Steve Donahue, happened to sit next to me at lunch in room of 150 people. Drawn to my energy, creativity, and passion, he inspired me to write a book containing stories and principles for living vibrantly today. He graciously offered to be a champion on the journey forward.

A few weeks later, I presented a solo full-day What Motivates Me class for another division of the large government agency, touching the lives of 30 more public servants. Additionally, I offered another webinar on motivation to the Society of American Military Engineers.
Finally, in December, I presented a one hour program for the US Army Research Lab Admin Consortium on Charting the Course to Greater Fulfillment and Happiness at Work. At that event, I met and chatted with a Colonel and Major Sargent who are promising prospects for future business.
As I reflect on this past year, I marvel at the magnificent moments I’ve had because I risked my livelihood and took a gigantic, scary leap from my successful sales career. The time I spent floating mid-air between jobs, uncertain of where I’d land, was a time of quiet reflection that helped me discover WHO I really am, and WHAT I really wanted to pursue for the rest of my life. Landing with Insight Management Consulting was a pleasant surprise. Paul has been an amazing and trustworthy guide. This year has been one spectacular adventure after another as I aim to live vibrantly today!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Skyscrapers, Friendship, & Marvelous Mentors

The Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia are the tallest twin structures in the world.Flickr/Hadi Zaher

Do you ever stop, crane your neck back, and look up, marveling at how far you’ve come because of someone’s influence?
I’ll always fondly remember one of my first professional friends and mentors. I was fresh out of college and clueless about corporate culture when Deb swept into my life. She was a Buyer for a large international defense contractor. I was an Accounts Payable Clerk. Our paths intersected because I reconciled invoices for the products and services she procured.
A constant stream of encouragement to me, we became fast friends.
I’ll always remember shoe shopping with her at lunch. At least 6’ tall and thin as a rail, Deb wore high heels with the poise and confidence of a dramatic skyscraper. T.J. Gottesdiener, a designer of numerous tall buildings including the Sears Tower in Chicago would say, of a skyscraper, “It has attitude, and is anything that makes you stop, stand, crane your neck back, and look up." That's my friend, Deb! Not only was she physically attractive; but much more, she was driven, strong, and connected; competitive, accountable and accomplished; competent, credible, and conversational; approachable, empathetic and appreciative. Deb stood head and shoulders above everyone else; and, everyone looked up to her, especially me.
She was my trustworthy, loyal companion, believing in me when I didn’t believe in myself. Recognizing my potential, she used her dynamic influence and connectivity to help promote me to a Purchasing Agent. From her, I learned the art of persuasion and negotiation, two skills that I mastered over time and used to elevate my career, and achieve my dreams.
Outside of work, we shared many endearing moments. Weekends we often hung out with our spouses, eating tasty tacos, yellow rice, and pinto beans while sipping sweet red wine at her beautiful home in the rural Welsh Mountains of South Central Pennsylvania.
Cross-stitching was my hobby and labor of love. When her daughter, Jennifer was born, I threaded my silver needle and stitched a simple sampler to commemorate the occasion. For Christmas one year, I patiently wove my needle up and down, crisscrossing stitches to create a cute little bear and candy cane keepsake. Gifts from my heart to hers.
When her second daughter was born, she named her Kristen “Elizabeth” after me.
Shortly after Kristen was born, Deb’s husband accepted a job transfer to Arkansas. When the moving truck pulled out of the driveway that warm summer day carrying my best friend and mentor far away, my heart was completely crushed. As though it were driving through a gigantic puddle on a rainy day, tears splashed my face smearing my makeup like mud.
Later Deb moved to Texas, and we moved on with our lives, losing touch. However, I never forgot this special lady who stood head and shoulders above the crowd leaving a legacy of love on my life.
You can only imagine my ecstasy when I found her on Facebook a few years ago.  Jennifer is grown and married with a daughter of her own. She named her daughter, Lilah “Elizabeth” after Aunt Kristen, and me. Jennifer wasn’t more than five years old when she moved away from Pennsylvania with her parents, but memories of her “Rudy” – that’s the name she affectionately called me – lived on in her heart. Today, she lives in Georgia.
Kristen, my namesake, is grown and married too. She and her husband live in Washington.
They are two beautiful young women who stand tall and dramatic like their mother, influencing lives through their chosen careers.
This week, Deb posted a photo and status update on Facebook: “Friends gifts keep giving every year. Thank you to Beth Rudy for this cross-stitch bear and candy cane. This traveled from PA to TX.”
She continued, “Over this Thanksgiving I gave Jenn the red heart framed cross-stitch you did with her birth date. Friends gifts are the best. 30 years is right, Beth. Your name is Kristen and Lilah's middle name. I think this makes you very special!!! God bless.”
Like a skyscraper, the gift of lasting friendship may make you stop, stand, crane your neck back, and
look up marveling at the distance of time and space; wondering at its solidity to stand through the storms of life; pondering the generations who passed through its prestigious doors.
Little did I know that a friendship that began more than 30-years ago, would stand firm through the test of separation and time. I didn’t remember the handiwork from my heart, but I’m tickled to know that it was treasured and traveled through states and years and generations.
The lesson in this story is to stand head and shoulders above everyone else. Be a good friend. Encourage those who are younger than you. Give gifts from the heart. Live vibrantly, and you will be like a skyscraper - everyone will look up to you!

Tell me in the comments about the person who causes you to stop, crane your neck back, and look up, marveling at how far you’ve come because of that person’s influence.

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