Nose to the grindstone is so 20th century!

Colleen Walker, CEO of Girl Scouts Northeast Texas

Reflecting on 4th Annual Dallas Business Journal Women in Business Awards, where they recognized 25 women who are making a difference in their companies, industries and communities. All of the women were impressive, but one stood out in particular for me: Ms. Shama Kabani, founder of the Zen Marketing Group. Originally from India, she moved to the U.S. at age 9 and went on to earn her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from UT. Three things stood out for me. First, she’s still in her 20’s; second, she recognized the power of social media when Twitter only had 2,000 members (it now has 65 million) and started her own company, which now has more than 20 employees; and third, she understands that 21st century isn’t about balance, but rather about joy.

Her personal advice: “Balance is overrated. Aim for joy.”

I couldn’t agree more.

As the CEO of the Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas, the largest girl-serving organization in North Texas, I have a pretty big job. We have 35,000 girl members, 17,000 adult members, 8 service centers and 6 camps. We are far more than cookies, camping and crafts. We are entirely about building girls of courage, confidence and character, who make the world a better place. We are the largest female leadership pipeline in the country. Approximately 10% of girls and young women are Girl Scouts at any one time, but a full 80% of women business owners are former Girl Scouts.

I travel often for my position, both within my territory and nationally for Girl Scouts. I seek joy in my daily activities, even when my nose is to the grindstone. I try to laugh (a lot) at myself, at the idiosyncrasies and the absurdities that creep up during the day. One of the misnomers about balance is that there is some elusive way to keep “balance” by simply shuffling priorities. I think that falls short of the equation.

As leaders in the 21st century, we don’t “have” to choose, we “get” to choose. What I mean is that we get the opportunity to choose where and how we will spend our time. Given the volume of work that we must manage, we can choose where we are going to do “A” and “B” work and where we choose to let go or delegate anything that might end up as “C” work, or worse, if we try to keep it all on our proverbial plate. Do the most important things brilliantly and let the rest fall away.

When we “aim for joy” in our lives, we get to do this at home, too. I ask myself, where am I going to do “A” work at home? I have been married to Felipe Gumucio, an international attorney, for 17 years (Executive Platinum – lifetime member) and we have two amazing kids, Isabella – age 9, and Jacob – age 4; so given the time we are apart, I put all of my “A” work into building and maintaining my relationships as a wife and mother.

I don’t cook. I’m not good at it and it takes too much time at the end of the day; but, when I am home, you can count on a few rounds of playing chase through the house, bedtime stories, and the requested lullaby. On the weekends (still not cooking), we are very active – bikes, the pool, volleyball, and more chase (will they ever tire of this game?).

Felipe and I have a rule that we must reserve at least two Saturdays a month for a date. This approach has helped our family and me personally bring more joy into our lives.

I wonder if Ms. Kabani was a Girl Guide in India or a Girl Scout in the U.S. I am going to call her to find out … after I go home to love on my kids and husband, kiss the dog (she demands it) and make sure that each day, at work and at home, is filled with joy rather than trying to figure out a mathematical equivalent to balance.

Nose to the grindstone is so 20th century!

Editor’s Note: Colleen Walker is Chief Executive Officer of Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas. In 2000, Colleen graduated from Harvard University with a Master’s degree in Business Administration. While there, she was awarded the Horace W. Goldsmith Fellowship for outstanding contributions to a nonprofit organization for services to Engineers of Dreams. Colleen has held positions with the Neiman Marcus Group, first as a National Marketing Manager, and subsequently as a Buyer for the Neiman Marcus Clearance Division. Through her leadership, the buying office grew into the largest, non-cosmetic volume buying office at Neiman Marcus, selling in excess of 1.5 million units for a total of $78 million for the fiscal year 2004 on a sales plan of $66 million.

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