Her Place at the Table and Thanksgiving Treats

I’ve had Deborah Kolb on the brain since last spring.  I registered to attend a day long event last June that she was hosting at Simmons College.  It fell during one of the those  weeks when I got three days notice for an end-of-year event from my children’s school.  It still amazes me that such short notice exists.  The summary is that I missed the Kolb event… and missed her book on my summer book tour.  Not sure I can cite the school alone for being disorganized!

Kolb is a noted lecturer and educator on the topic of negotiating – particularly women & negotiation.   This week – I jumped on a pre-Thanksgiving TABLE twist and finally read her 2004 missive,  “Her Place at the Table.”  My one comment is that I wish I hadn’t waited so long to find this book.  The book is targeted at executive women who need to negotiate resources, politics, and the overall conditions for success.  She offers five simple but poignant categories of challenges that are common to negotiating anything….in-laws, jobs, children, volunteering, life.  You get the picture.

I thought you might find the below interesting:

  • Are you deliberate about where you spend your time? (Her Place at the Table, pg 179)  Kolb suggests that we naturally gravitate to the problem that sounds most pressing.  But are we strategic?
  • Kolb challenges readers to set clear objectives by asking “what will be considered an unqualified success?”   (Her Place at the Table, pg 93)  For the women featured, Kolb traipses through the myriad resources & conditions required to ensure success once it is defined.   All useful even if you switch the words “Board of Directors” with “volunteering at the local food bank” or “being self-employed”.
  • Here is one that got me, “make value visible.”  (Her Place at the Table, pg 190-191)  Kolb offers her own perspective of women’s discomfort in tooting their own horn.  She posits that women believe results “speak for themselves.”   Her thoughts are quite provocative on this topic and – for me – pretty right on.

I remember one incident.  My CEO boss turned to me excitedly and said, “that was excellent.”  We had both stepped out of a sub-committee meeting of the Board of Directors of our beloved S&P 500 company.  His remarks were in response to a presentation I had just given to the Board members regarding the state of our leadership ranks across the world.

Three years prior we had no intelligence about our leadership.  Ever the entrepreneur, I cajoled the organization to commit enormous resources to create a program whose highlight was a conversation between business presidents and the CEO regarding talent.  All very basic – but hugely valuable to such an organization.

The CEO had spent countless hours on the topic with me.  Was he really surprised?  His reaction screamed “I didn’t know.”   Really?  Up until that moment I hadn’t brought any visibility to the aggregate results of the program.   Politicking peers of mine would have sent around the “Annual Report of Leadership” to ALL regional and business-line presidents, board members, their grandmothers, etc., etc.   Not me.   Was he clueless or didn’t I toot my team’s horn enough?

Do you take credit?    Reluctance to call attention to what one does is one of the many pitfalls outlined in Ms. Kolb’s book.

Long before that day outside the Boardroom with my boss, in November 1986 to be exact, I took a one-day course at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education entitled, The Thanksgiving Feast.  I know this because every year I search for the crumpled, stained photocopied pages that proudly feature the course’s name and its date.  The host, a Michaelangelo’s Catering from West Somerville, MA, is long since gone.  The instructor/host didn’t include his name on the handouts.  Sadly I can’t give him attribution since my attempts at tracking him down have failed.

I love Thanksgiving.  Over the years our table has been as large as 28 and as few as 8.   The biggest crowd-pleaser bar none  is “Bourbon Sweet Potatoes” (recipe below).   Truth be told Mr. Michaelangelo used a pastry bag and made “Rosettes of pureed bourbon sweet potatoes and parsnips.”  I’ve never revisited the rosettes nor the parsnips since that afternoon long ago.  I have however cooked this dish more than twenty times in the intervening years.  Enjoy it!

Funny story.  I use bourbon exactly once per year.  Usually a fifth of bourbon last many years.  So, the remaining fifth sits at the bottom of a wicker basket in my kitchen along with all sorts of other spices and seasonings that get only slightly higher usage.   One day my new nanny found the fifth tucked away in the basket at the far end of the counter.   It gave her pause — and later some laughs.

This Thanksgiving…may you be deliberate about where you spend your time; may you be recognized for the value you bring;  may you have lots to be thankful for; and may you be smarter than me on so many fronts particularly with where you store the bourbon.

Bourbon Sweet Potatoes…serves 8

2 lb sweet potatoes

1/4 c sweet butter

1/2 c bourbon whiskey

1 t grated orange rind

2T brown sugar

cinnamon & nutmeg to taste

finely ground or whole pecans 1/2 cup (optional)

1. Peel sweet potatoes, slice into 1-inch rounds, and steam over boiling water until soft.  About 5-10 minutes.  Let cool.

2. Beat together potatoes with remaining ingredients in blender, processor or with hand-held mixer.

3. Bake in buttered casserole dish, 350 degrees for 30 minutes, or pass through a pastry bag to garnish a platter.  Garnish with whole pecans if desired.

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2 responses to “Her Place at the Table and Thanksgiving Treats

  1. Pingback: Transition Suspended? | NovoFemina

  2. Pingback: A Beginner’s Mind | NovoFemina

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