“Love is the precursor to contribution” and other wisdom from Marcus Buckingham

Last week I had the privilege of attending the annual International Spa Association (ISPA) conference at The Venetian in Las Vegas. There were many highlights, including reconnecting with spa friends, listening to Susan Cain speak about introverts, dinner at Morel’s, and more. Yet what I can’t stop thinking about is the presentation Marcus Buckingham gave on the topic of his latest book, Nine Lies About Work.

Here are the nine workplace misconceptions (aka lies):

  • People care which company they work for (they care which company they join).
  • The best (strategic) plan wins (forget about them, yet planning is a great activity to engage in)
  • The best companies cascade goals (yet alignment is a good thing)
  • The best people are well-rounded
  • People need feedback
  • People can reliably rate other people
  • People have potential (everyone can get better)
  • Work / life balance matters most (balance is stasis and we don’t want stasis)
  • Leadership is a “thing” (there is no such thing as leadership, if you look at great leaders, they are all different)

I am still wrapping my head around these misconceptions and can’t wait to dig deeper with Buckingham’s book. I also jotted down a few other amazing one-liners from his presentation:

  • Average is homogeneous; excellence looks weird quickly
  • Define a job by the outcome not the method
  • Your strengths are your key areas of development (your weaknesses are not)
  • Your future greatness is based on your current goodness
  • Strength replays (stop saying “stop that” but “keep doing that,” not to celebrate but to interrogate)
  • Good job is not the end of the sentence; good job is the start of a sentence (a sentence that includes these questions) what were you thinking? what was going on? what worked?)
  • Love is the precursor to contribution
  • Burnout is the absence of love
  • Don’t do what you love but find love in what you do – a little love goes a long way to fight against the feeling of burnout

Thank you Marcus Buckingham, and thank you ISPA!


Digital Detox and/or Botox?

For 13 years, I have been a member and supporter of the International Spa Association (ISPA) (it is, after all, where I met my husband). I was thrilled to be invited to attend the East Coast ISPA Media Event (I’m late to the party – this week’s was ISPA’s 22nd – but who’s counting?). This annual event showcases some of the most innovative brands and trends in the spa industry.

I looked forward to the train ride (DC-NYC) all morning. The Quiet Car is a luxury to me – one of the few public areas where silence reigns. The silence and the rhythm of the train relaxes me, quiets my mind.

I was still thinking about that when I walked into Gotham Hall and started making my way through the crowd. Somehow the Universe (or was it Lynne McNees?) guided me to the SolTec Lounge, where I experienced something strangely similar yet much more luxurious than the Amtrak Quiet Car. It is a lounge chair like many found in spas – except it is not. The fiber glass base looks like it belongs in a space ship. The feel of the vinyl is like velvet. The curvature of the chair fits my body perfectly. Nestled in the chair, I happily accepted earphones, and was told to close my eyes and let go of my thoughts, let go of my stress. As if (do you know me?). My thoughts stayed with me, but I could see how the vibrations (train, anyone?), synchronized to the monotonous and repetitive music that layers water sounds, chants, and a beat, could indeed help my brain chill out. Dan Cohen, the founder and neurologist, chuckled knowingly when I told him I wanted one in my home. I just hope a DC-area spa invests in these very promptly.  

Still thinking about the need for relaxation, for quiet, and how our brains are so wired that we need assistance (like that provided by the SolTec Lounge) to disconnect, I found myself in the Mandarin Oriental area. Osa Mallo, the Spa Director of Mandarin Oriental Miami invited me to take a Digital Wellness Health Quiz. A what? For the first time in my life, I got an F. Apparently, I am too plugged in and need to bring mindfulness to my technology use. She immediately made me feel better – “you are not the only one with a score above 10,” she said with kindness. This is why the Mandarin Oriental is launching their Digital Wellness Consultations and Digital Wellness Detox Treatments. Guests are asked to surrender their phones as they walk into the spa (Osa smiles at the look of panic in my eyes as she says this). They are invited to enjoy digital-free activities in the lounge, such as reading and coloring. Their phones are cleaned while the guest enjoys their spa treatment. I kind of want to try this, and I kind of don’t.

As I walk from Gotham Hall back to Penn Station, to take the train back to DC, once again looking forward to the Quiet Car, I wonder about the duality of my wishes and expectations. How do I combine my desire for constant connection and my fantasy of spending three hours in the SolTec Lounge? How do I reconcile my love of Botox and my attraction to the Digital Detox?


Pictured here with Lynne McNess (President of ISPA)

ISPA: highlights from the exhibit floor

ISPA day 2 is nearing the end, and I feel energized, inspired, and so glad to have seen so many of my spa friends. Wise Voices, the general sessions, and the professional development sessions have been amazing. And the show floor has impressed me… Here are some of my favorite booths. If you have not yet had the chance to walk the exhibit floor front to back and back to front, here are brands and people you will not want to miss.

COOLA Suncare (booth 613)

When my brother-in-law could not find a sunscreen that did not irritate his skin, I turned to COOLA upon the recommendation of a friend. And the brand lived up to its promise: “healthy sunscreen people want to wear.” I chatted with Michelle and learned more about the brand – and had my burning question answered: this is not organic sunscreen. Why? Because that is impossible, it is an oxymoron. The active ingredients (both in the physical and chemical blocks) are not organic. But the inactive ingredients are 70% certified organic. We had a great conversation on ingredients, marketing, and labeling, and agreed that “the best sunscreen is one that is worn.”

Dog Fashion Spa (booth 251)

If you know me, you know I am not a dog person. So seeing this booth was just so intriguing to me I had to stop by. Elena was wonderful, she explained the brand to me – which answers the needs of “how do you cater to a dog parent?” Apparently, 60% of our spagoers are dog parents. They take care of themselves, and of their pets. So expanding beyond the pet market made sense for this luxury pet brand – selling products and accessories for pets that have the best parents!

Hydrafacial (booth 1005)

I had a birthday during ISPA and so was looking for anything that would make me look fresher, younger, more glowing. Come in Greg and Mechele from Hydrafacial, with the best gift – a 20-minute treatment to accomplish all of the above. Mechele, one of the Hydrafacial therapists who has been with the brand for 12 years (and you won’t believe her age!) is technically perfect and a wealth of information on the device. It’s a facial with extra “oomph.” My skin confirms it. Stop by and get your treatment.

Magaschoni (booth 106)

I know this brand from my favorite clothing boutique in DC, Betsy Fisher, and did not realize it was so present in the spa world (this is their second ISPA). Known for its quality cashmere clothing, which comes in a rainbow of colors, Magaschoni is represented in the leading spas of the world, including Ritz-Carlton and Four Seasons. If nothing else, stop by to feel the merchandise… so soft and luxurious.

SalonBiz (booth 154)

I am biased as I think this company (you might know it as SpaBiz) has the best-looking CEO in the history of CEOs. But seriously, stop by and drop your business card to have a chance to win an Apple watch. While there, speak with Bradley about hotel integration, the mobile checkout system (for iPad), and learn more about the SalonBiz app, which therapists have embraced wholeheartedly. You might even meet your loved one at that booth…

Universal Companies (booth 1010)

There are many reasons to stop by this booth. The Universal catalogue is, and has been for 30 years, the “Spa Bible.” And Universal is always re-inventing themselves and growing. Case in point: their September acquisition of A La Mode Partners. In a sign that the Universe goes full circle, Tracie Wertz, who used to work for Universal Companies, left to launch her own retail company (A La Mode Partners), is now back with Universal. She will be expanding and managing the retail division at Universal. Stop by the booth to speak with her about the experience of selling her company – and to discover two new brands: Vita Jewel (water bottles with gemstones to purify and alkalize water) and Sparkle (ingestible collagen).

Enjoy the rest of ISPA, and explore the exhibit floor. And when you’re done with that, head over to the Relaxation area for more amazing brands including SpaRitual.

Great by Choice

The ISPA (International Spa Association) 2012 Conference has begun, at the Gaylord Palms in Orlando, Florida, and the theme is “Be Inspired.” This comes at a great time, I am feeling the need for some re-motivation and inspiration. Last time ISPA was at the Gaylord Palms was in 2007. Walking in to the lobby last night made me think about how long these past 5 years have been, and at the same time how quickly time passes by. Am I where I thought I would be five years ago? Probably not. Have things changed in the past five years? More than I could have imagined. Have some things stayed the same? Indeed…

Who better to inspire me than one of my favorite authors, Jim Collins. Five years ago at ISPA 2007, he spoke to our industry about the principles of Good to Great, he motivated us to be great, he told us that “good is the enemy of great.” Five years ago, after his talk, I started my “stop-doing” list. Today, looking not a day older, Collins spoke to our industry again. Today, he focused on sharing the lessons from his new book, Great by Choice, which looks at the best practices of those companies that have thrived over the last five years, those companies that have thrived in chaos.

Collins, who takes an extremely data driven approach to analysis, focused on three practices that have enabled companies with level five ambition to thrive in chaotic times, to grow during a recession, to get better during tough times.

1. Fanatic discipline

“Discipline is a 20 mile march, which enables consecutive, consistent performance.” Great companies are not about one fabulous quarter, about one peak performance year, but are rather about delivering consistent, consecutive results, over and over again. This takes discipline and commitment. This 20 mile march requires the discipline to march even in the worst weather, i.e. the discipline to move forward even when the market conditions are poor. This 20 mile march also requires the discipline to march, not run, when the weather is balmy and the market is soaring. Indeed, Collins tells us, “the signature of mediocrity is chronic inconsistency.” Fanatic discipline enables consecutive consistent performance.

But discipline alone is not enough… great companies must also create and innovate, even in chaotic times.

2. Empirical creativity

However, both great and not great companies innovate… how do they innovate differently? Great companies are more empirical in their innovation. Great companies test and are data driven. Great companies prove something small before making it big. Collins compares this to shooting bullets before bringing out the cannonball. Bullets are the test… once the test is successful, cannonballs come out.

The combination of fanatic discipline and empirical creativity, Collins muses, “gives you something to do when you get up in the morning, even if you are scared.” These have been scary times, and this system enables leaders to not be paralyzed by fear. Get up, do your 20 mile march, shoot your bullets. Indeed, asking the audience to raise their hands if they have feared for their business at some point in the last five years, most hands go up. At least we are honest!

3. Productive paranoia

Collins seems pleased at the hands shooting up in the air. Productive paranoia, he says, is another characteristic of the companies that have weathered the storm. “The only mistakes you can learn from are the ones you survive…” so it is essential to survive. To do that, you must worry about what can kill you, and channel this worry and knowledge into preparation, and training, and buffers. “Always worry about the facts that have not yet happened,” Collins encourages us. And remember that “bad decisions + good intentions = bad decisions.” Don’t let fear paralyze you. Use fear productively. Use fear to create a better company.

4. The twist: luck.

Collins ends by speaking about luck. Isn’t it true that a significant part of success is luck? Aren’t the successful companies “luckier” than those who don’t make it? Collins defines luck (good or bad) as an event that:

  1. I didn’t cause
  2. Had a potentially significant consequence (good or bad)
  3. Came as a surprise

Having identified events of luck or unluck, Collins studied the data. And the data shows that great companies are indeed not luckier than the average company. Average companies are not unluckier than great companies. Indeed, the explanation of success is not luck. Rather, the explanation of success is what you do with the luck or unluck that you get. Do you use lucky events as a defining moment? Do you use unlucky events to learn and become even better?

Collins’ conclusion: “Success is not a matter of circumstance; greatness is a matter of conscious choice and discipline.”

Today, I choose to be great. And I thank ISPA and Collins for the inspiration.

BeautyView: Debra Neill Baker, Chairman of Neill Corporation

I am writing this from Las Vegas, it is day 2 of the International Spa Association annual conference. The week of ISPA is always dear to me, not only for the industry learning, the visits with my favorite spa people, but also because ISPA has played such an important role in my relationship with my husband Edwin. After the BeautyView on Susie Ellis of SpaFinder (who is responsible for my meeting Edwin), it seems only fitting to interview my step-mother-in-law, Debra Neill Baker, Chairman of Neill Corporation, also referred to as Chief Energy Officer and self-declared Beauty Evangelist. I remember the first time I met her, at ISPA 2005 in Dallas, TX; I remember she was wearing a gorgeous white pant suit (she usually wears Aveda black on black); I have learned so much from her, still feel like I have so much to learn… starting with striking the word “favorite” from my vocabulary…

AP: What city were you born in? DN: I was born in Kansas, farm community…no city within 100 miles.

AP: What city do you live in? DN: I have lived the past 30 years in the country 50 miles outside of New Orleans.  Might sound similar and it’s nothing the same!

AP: What is your middle name? DN: June, after my Aunt Ava June.

AP: What is your astrological sign? DN: Taurus.

AP: What is your favorite thing about the beauty (and spa) industry? DN: it’s life-supporting and gives us the opportunity to truly “touch” others.

AP: Least favorite thing? DN: favorite is not a word I use much…”least favorite thing”…even less!

AP: What is your most prized possession? DN: My home.

AP: What is something about you most people don’t know? DN: That I freak out (inside) when I speak in public… I seldom appear to be nervous. I move right through the fear   and use it to create energy!

AP: Do you wear a watch? If yes, what model? DN: Yes. I wear a man’s Cartier that I have had for 18 years… I am practical and extravagant simultaneously, and I value quality and timelessness.

AP: Diamonds or pearls? DN: Definitely diamonds…although I have very few. Jewelry has never been that compelling to me.

AP: If you could have dinner with the person of your choice, who would it be? DN: My children, Garrison and Paris… my best work and best teachers.

AP: What is your secret to work/life balance? DN: I re-framed and re-defined balance years ago. I live a blurred life… work and life are intertwined intentionally. And balance is not a steady state; it’s a dynamic and energizing lifestyle that works for me.

AP: What are your three top tips for travel? DN: 1. Let home be wherever I am.  2. Carry my essential oils/botanical aromas for anointing my environment. 3. Be in the Flow: accept delays, cancellations, etc… breathe, hydrate, read…

AP: What is your favorite book? DN: There’s that favorite word again… books have been my primary self-development tool my entire life, including from Your Erroneous Zones to Think and Grow Rich to As A Man Thinketh to anything by Rumi or Thich Nhat Hanh.

AP: What is your cocktail of choice? DN: Vodka is my cocktail of choice…for the effect not the taste!

AP: What is your #1 beauty secret? DN:  No secrets, but rather purposeful decisions, a lifetime of taking care of this vehicle/temple/body, mind, and spirit. I have always had a whole-person approach…beauty/health/energy is an inside/outside process…breathing, moving, hydrating, conscious-eating, and sleeping!

AP: What fragrance do you wear? DN: I haven’t worn synthetic fragrance for over 30 years…Horst/Aveda created an awareness and sensitivity that has influenced my olfactory system forever! I wear Aveda aromas.

AP: Botox or not? DN: Why not?!

AP: Hair color: natural or not? DN: naturally, haircolor!

AP: 3 songs on your ipod right now. DN: Peter Gabriel/New Blood, my old stand-by Al Green, My Morning Jacket… I thrive on diversity.

AP: Quote to live by? DN: “Relationship is the key to the Universe … and the relationship with Self is at the source of it all.”

AP: Who is your mentor? DN: I have many… from my grandmother to my late husband Edwin to my present husband Michael to my children and too many in-between to list! When I was in my early teens I decided that I wanted to learn from everyone, from many teachers and Gurus…and ultimately be my own Guru! That may sound like a bit of arrogance… and truly, it’s about being a self-control freak!

AP: Words of advice for young women starting their careers today? DN: Be clear about your values, what is truly important and meaningful to you, what gives you a feeling of fulfillment… that will lead you to work that expresses who you are and who you want to be!