Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A Little Inspiration for Your Work Week

I am warning you now that I collect quotes. Like “Life is not one big to do list" (from a Dove chocolate bar) and “Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go” (T.S. Eliot).  I have a patchwork quilt of them posted behind my computer.

But what is wrong with a little inspiration? Doesn't the wisdom of others remind us how much we can be, and that we are not alone on this journey?

I used to threaten to write an article called Death to Superwoman.  The premise is this: growing up many of us strongly believed that we could have it all. We could reach the height of our careers and the summit of perfect, cookie baking motherhood, all without missing a beat. This is much more challenging in real life.  I adopted shortcuts early, like putting my suit coat on the very moment I walked out the door, to ensure that it was clean and would hide any potential baby spit-up on my shoulder.  Maybe you can have your cake and eat it too, but you may end up with a little frosting on your cheek!

Today, I like this quote from a July/August 2010 Atlantic article by Hanna Rosin:

Researchers at Columbia Business School and the University of Maryland analyzed data on the top 1,500 U.S. companies from 1992 to 2006 to determine the relationship between firm performance and female participation in senior management. Firms that had women in top positions performed better, and this was especially true if the firm pursued what the researchers called an “innovation intensive strategy,” in which, they argued, “creativity and collaboration may be especially important”—an apt description of the future economy.

It could be that women boost corporate performance, or it could be that better-performing firms have the luxury of recruiting and keeping high-potential women. But the association is clear: innovative, successful firms are the ones that promote women.

Why is that?  I have read that women in leadership and women in law may add a key dimension by virtue of biology. Neuroscience researchers have observed that women generally show more activation across both the left and right hemispheres of their brains than men generally do. They posit that, because of this wiring, women may have improved language skills and an increased ability to access reason and emotion at the same time.  This is unique to women. I would argue that this gives women lawyers a competitive advantage in the skills needed in leadership and in law.

Here is one final quote I like: "A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely." (Roald Dahl).  This one is good for ignoring the wrinkles and dark circles that really evidence some darned good years of walking shoulder to shoulder with wonderful clients and kneecap, hip or (way too soon) shoulder to shoulder with lovely little people at home.  Maybe it applies to a law firm, too.  Dickinson Wright is a beautiful mosaic of strong and talented lawyers, both men and women, with darned impressive credentials (and maybe some wonky noses and actual lives). The firm is made better by its deeply-held values and mighty thoughts, including the belief that the hiring and promotion of women lawyers, and inclusion of women in firm leadership, is important to the firm’s vitality and survival.

Leslee M. Lewis is the Practice Department Manager for Dickinson Wright’s Real Estate, Environmental, Energy & Sustainability practice, encompassing more than 50 lawyers across the US and in Toronto, Canada.