10 Leadership Traits that Work in Motherhood

Today, my best friend’s daughter passed her driver’s license test and within minutes I got a text from my BFF saying, “I stood in the parking lot at the DMV and sobbed like a baby.

This is a very big parent moment.” And, as every good best friend does, I sobbed right alongside her. In that moment, years of memories flooded in from our crazy college parties, to the weddings, baby showers, and birthdays we’ve celebrated together, and sadly, to the difficult health battles of our loved ones – some won and some lost. In a nano-second it hit me like a ton of bricks: Life is ever-changing – our children, who have grown up together, are becoming competent, responsible, hard-working, young adults. They need us less, they want and deserve more autonomy, and they are “ready” to show us what they can do without us. And, we’ve worked hard for this too, yet why is to so tough to let go and give them the room to succeed and soar without us?   

With Mother’s Day around the corner, this morning’s good cry has prompted me to reflect on motherhood and make a connection to my other “job” – not the one of mom to teenage boys, but my work as a leadership consultant, thought-leader, and executive coach. Here’s the connection: In the world of work, this driver’s license accomplishment is like earning a gigantic promotion.

So, whether it’s being the “boss” of a newly promoted teen driver or a business leader, there is typically a paradigm shift required. These new drivers and leaders need enough room to successfully do their new job, step into their new accountabilities, build new skills, including messing up, learning and growing; but ultimately a good “boss” supports, teaches, and coaches to ensure success. We should expect challenges and setbacks, as well as surprise and delight when they show us what they’re truly capable of.

When I work with business leaders to prepare for and take on bigger jobs, we often spend time understanding (and avoiding) the typical leadership transition traps. In business, here’s some of the classic things that trip up leaders:  

• They fail to trust and empower the leaders who work for them (they feel they can do it better or they aren’t sure of capabilities, so they keep it for themselves).

• They hold on too tight to what they did before and how they did it (even though the new job requires something very different from them).

• They aren’t sure how to “create value” in their new role; if they aren’t “doing the work” anymore, they aren’t sure how to spend their time.

In truth, for many of us, these are the exact same things that trip us up as parents of teens. As our kids become teenagers they force us to adjust our role and purpose. They insist on more independence, freedom, and autonomy – and for the most part they are highly capable. As parents of teens we are now “leading leaders” and just like business leaders, it requires an adjustment. In the context of work, this seems obvious, yet as parents, this transition can be so much harder and less apparent.

Most days, I feel like I’m a much better leadership consultant than mother, but I do know there are some extremely important leadership learnings that apply to parenting. In the spirit of Mother’s Day, I plan to renew my commitment to being the best mother and “leader of little leaders” I can be.

These are 10 leadership traits I’ve adapted to motherhood.  know they work in business, so I’m giving them a try with my teenagers:

• If you can and should be doing it, I’m not doing it for you; when I do it for you I’m holding you back.

• It’s okay for you to have setbacks and make mistakes. When you do, the only thing I expect from you is that you openly and honestly explore why it happened, think about what you could have done differently, and make the shifts necessary to avoid the same mistake.

• You’re smarter and more capable than both of us even know. I will help you explore what you’re best at and help create opportunities for you to learn, grow, and be your best; your potential to achieve greatness is unlimited.

• I will be clear about my expectations and then trust you to live up to them.  know you want to do the right thing (even though sometimes you won’t – see #2).

• When you tell me you’ve “got it covered” I will give you the space to follow-through. I won’t ask you ten times if you’ve done it yet (see #4).

* I’m here to help you expand your self-awareness, learn what you’re capable of, help you see your own potential, and build your confidence. I realize this won’t happen without honesty, candor, transparency and positive intent.

* I care about your opinion. I want to hear your views and understand how you think about things; when I’m asking you questions it is because I care and want to learn more about you, not to interrogate and fault find.

• I will work to create positive energy and optimism. I know you’ll be your best if that’s what our home feels like.

• I will recognize and celebrate your milestones, successes and accomplishments – small and large.

* I’m on your team, always. You never have to question my intentions or commitment to you.

The truly great business leaders I know exemplify the value that “true leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders.” As parents, we have one true purpose: prepare our children to go out into the world independently and responsibly, with confidence and kindness, to do great things. Happy Mother’s Day – we’ve got this, Moms!

Abby Curnow-Chavez is a mother, leadership development expert and co-founder of the Trispective Group. She is the co-author of The Loyalist Team: How Trust, Candor and Authenticity Create Great Organizations. For more information, or to take a free team snapshot assessment, please visit,

Taryn Sims' career highlighted by opportunities to learn

Taryn Sims has been in commercial real estate at Wulfe & Co. for 21 years, and still, she finds she’s constantly learning.

“There’s never a day I don’t come across something new. I’m in the property management side of it, and we're always solving issues for tenants or for client owners,” Sims said.

The work she does for her retail clients is challenging, but rewarding, and that’s probably what kepts her engaged for so long and not tempted to go off and do something different.
A native Houstonian who graduated from Eisenhower High School, Sims went to community college for just a couple of semesters, then realized she was eager to get her career started.

“I thought I was smarter than I was,” she joked. “Instead of earning a college degree, I graduated from the College of Hard Knocks.”

Sims started at Trammell Crow as an accounting clerk, then moved up the ranks into property management, working at Parkway Investments and the Highland Village Shopping Center before joining Wulfe.

Along the way, she obtained several certifications that helped propel her career forward, including Certified Property Manager, Certified Shopping Center Manager and Certified Retail Property Executive.  She is now president of Wulfe Management Services, which manages more than five million square feet of commercial space.

Sims has been a volunteer at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo since 1998, serving on the Paint Horse Committee, where she served as chair for three years. The Paint Horse Committee hosts a walk/trot event where children under seven years can showcase their skills with their paint horses.

She also serves on the Trailblazer Committee, which hosts the annual Trailblazer Honoree Luncheon and Fashion Show. The Trailblazer Committee also promotes literacy through  Rodeo ROPES (Reading Opens the Path to Education Success). It collects and distributes books to low-income school children.

For others interested in a building a career in commercial real estate, Sims has plenty of good advice. Number One: Don’t follow her lead, but go ahead and get a college degree, even if the curriculum is not specifically targeted to real estate.

“Ed Wulfe has been a great mentor, and I’ve been with him this long for a good reason,” Sims said. “I’ve learned so much from him.”

Deborah Quinn Hensel is a freelance journalist and staff reporter for Houston Woman Magazine.

Betty Bezemer believes in celebrating life each day!

Find the celebration of life in each day! That’s the motto of Betty Bezemer, a top real estate agent at Keller Williams Memorial. She has been working there since 1992, when she was recruited by the firm.

Bezemer credits her philosophy and appreciation for living each day to the fullest to her journey as a breast cancer survivor.

“I realized that each morning, I could wake up and say, ‘I want to go back to bed; suck my thumb and pull the covers over my head,’ or I could live the day with as much love and joy as possible,” she said. “Even in the worst of times, there is something to be celebrated; we grow from adversity.”

As busy as her real estate career keeps her, she still finds time to give back to the community by  serving on the Houston board of the Susan G. Komen organization and by mentoring other young real estate agents.

“By helping them find the best in themselves, they can do the best for their clients,” she explained.

“When I became a licensed agent, I had the privilege of being mentored by established agents,” she said. “I always       acknowledge my jump start in the business by following the examples they set.”

A Dallas native who attended Southern Methodist University, Bezemer came to Houston with her husband, Willem, in 1990. Before joining Keller Williams, she had already established herself as a powerhouse in the real estate industry.

In 1973, she co-founded the first real estate research firm in Texas. During the late 1970s, she also worked undercover to help the FBI expose financing fraud in the savings and loan  industry.

By working as an agent, she realized hydrostatic testing –– checking pipes and plumbing for leaks — was not covered under home  inspections; thereby, creating potential problems for homebuyers. To remedy this, she helped her Keller Williams colleagues and legal team convince the Texas Real Estate Commission the test needed to be required and written into real estate contracts.

“When I see a need, I say let’s not just sit around and gripe about it,” she said. “Let’s be as proactive as possible and get   the right people to legislate change.”

Like anything else, being successful in real estate is all about communication, mainly listening and understanding a client’s needs and the other agent in a transaction, she said, which is what she does as a Master Certified Negotiations Expert. Being certified as a Luxury Specialist gives her the opportunity to close higher-end properties.

“I go out and hunt and drag the prize back, and my team takes it and runs with it,” she said, explaining her Rain Maker status. “These are all examples of my  taking my career to the next level,” she added.

Bezemer and her husband have seven children and 17 grandchildren between them. Besides family, one of her passions is snorkeling and scuba diving. Her most memorable –– and metaphysical –– experiences have been underwater, swimming with sea turtles in Hawaii and scuba diving at night with giant manta rays.

Deborah Quinn Hensel is a freelancer journalist and staff reporter for Houston Woman Magazine.

Bayou Land Conservancy renews accreditation

Since 1996, Bayou Land Conservancy (BLC), has been saving open spaces for the Houston region. Now, BLC has renewed its land trust accreditation – proving once again that, as part of a network of 398 accredited land trusts across the nation, it is committed to professional excellence and to maintaining the public’s trust in its conservation work.

“Renewing our accreditation shows BLC’s ongoing commitment to permanent land conservation in the Houston region,” said Jill Boullion, executive   director. “We are a stronger organization than ever for having gone through the rigorous accreditation renewal process. Our strength means special places – such as The Spring Creek Greenway – will be protected forever, making the Houston region an even greater place for us and our children.”

Accredited land trusts must renew every five years, confirming their compliance with national quality standards and providing continued assurance to donors and landowners of their commitment to forever steward their land and easements. Almost 20 million acres of farms, forests and natural areas are now conserved by an accredited land trust.
Bayou Land Conservancy protects land along streams for flood control, water quality and wildlife. BLC is an accredited, community-sponsored land preservation organization working to permanently protect land, with a focus on the 13 watersheds that feed Lake Houston, the primary source of drinking water for millions in the region. Its vision is a protected network of green spaces that connect people to nature.

BLC has protected nearly 12,500 acres at 59 preserves in the Houston region, including about 2,500 acres on the Spring Creek Greenway. The greenway is the longest, contiguous, urban, forested greenway in the country and welcomes thousands of visitors each year on its scenic trails. BLC is currently constructing the 13-mile Spring Creek Nature Trail, which is  expected to be complete later in 2018.

BLC is one of 1,363 land trusts across the United States, according to the most recent National Land Trust Census,  released December 1, 2016 by the Land Trust Alliance. This comprehensive report also shows that accredited land trusts have made significant achievements.

• Accredited land trusts have steadily grown and now steward almost 80 percent of conservation lands and easements held by all land trusts.
• Accredited land trusts protected five times more land from 2010 to 2015 than land trusts that were not accredited.

• Furthermore, accreditation has increased the public’s trust in land conservation, which has helped win support for federal, state and local conservation funding measures.

A complete list of accredited land trusts and more information about the process and benefits are detailed online at
Founded in 1982, the Land Trust Alliance is based in Washington, D.C. and operates several regional offices.

Tenacity of persistent women led way for women leaders of today

Thanks to the dogged tenacity of generations of persistent women, the future is bright for business women in the 21st century; generations of women who shaped my journey as an entrepreneur in the present, and who inspire my dreams for the future.  

I was born and raised some 8,500 miles away from the bright lights of Time Square, in the Philippines.  I was named after my grandmother, Salud, a Spanish word meaning, “good health.”

Good health seems to have been her only advantage in life.  Salud was orphaned at age six and never finished high school. To survive, she worked as a maid making the princely sum of $1 per day. She dreamt of a better life and woke up each dawn, driven to work hard and save every peso in order to eventually build her own rice milling business.
She became an entrepreneur and a working mom with seven children. Through the money earned from her business, she was able to pay for her kids’ college and graduate school educations.

I remember eating dinner with my grandmother and being harshly reprimanded when I left grains of rice uneaten on my plate.  

She said, “Every minuscule grain of rice is the product of my blood, sweat and tears; don’t ever waste it.”

Growing up, I ate the rice from my grandmother’s mill.  In doing so, I was being fed the lessons from her drive, hard work, grit and determination to build a business and a family.  These seeds were the beginning of my journey as an entrepreneur.

When I was three years old, our house burned down from a terrible gas explosion. At the time, I was helping my mom bake a cake when our gas stove exploded. Thankfully, my mom and I suffered only third-degree burns on both legs and arms, but sadly my grandfather succumbed from complications of the burns.  I don’t have memories of the accident itself, but I vividly remember being made fun of in school because my legs were scarred. I cried the first time kids pointed and laughed at me.

When I got home, my mother taught me to tell those kids “I can walk, run and dance like everybody else.”

The scars are still on my legs and, every day, I am reminded of two things: I survived that fire, and I am different, but no less than anyone else. I would persist.

My mother was a fierce single mother who worked full-time while attending graduate school at night. To earn extra money, my mother always had a side hustle selling all sorts of things — from Tupperware to underwear — and, as her sidekick, selling became my after-school activity.  My mother also taught me the value of education. She believed if I could go to school in the United States, I would have a brighter future than our family before me.  So, I did just that.

I immigrated to the United States as a teenager, leaving my friends and my familiar, albeit humble, beginnings to start a new life. Again, I stuck out like a sore thumb. At first, I wore all the wrong clothes and had an awkward way of speaking to my new American classmates.  Yet, even as an outsider trying to find my way in a whole new world, I worked hard to graduate at the top of my class in college and went on to an Ivy League business school.  I was given an opportunity that none of my family before me had, and I dared not waste it.

My grandmother and mother were both breadwinners. They tirelessly hustled, working day and night; they made the most of whatever talents they had and overcame whatever obstacles were in their way — through sheer grit and unstoppable persistence. As a young girl, that was all I knew.
Then, it was my turn.

My first job out of college, at the age of 21, was managing my family’s home healthcare business.  I faced the pressure and sobering responsibility of making payroll for employees who had families and who were more than twice my age. I knew those people were depending on me, like my grandmother once depended on her employers.
Later, I worked at several other healthcare startups where my role was limited only by how fast I could learn, so I learned quickly. I did not always meet success. There were layoffs and failures but, undeterred, I kept moving forward.

Wanting to understand how health care is paid for, I joined one of the largest insurance companies in the country. I spent eight years building everything I could. I built insurance products for millions of people, I built my expertise. I built my network, and I built my passion for the people the healthcare system serves.  It was a great job. I loved the work. I had a nice office. I had an even nicer paycheck.

At age 40, I gave birth to my second daughter. Not long afterwards, I had a crystal-clear moment and heard my calling; it was the time for my next act, it was time to start a new company. As a product person, I know that one should never, ever launch two big products at the same time; in this case, my new daughter and a new startup. It was time to persevere. 
Now at home, I am the mother of two daughters; a teenager and kindergartener.   It is a challenge to balance family and business, but I believe I am a better entrepreneur because I’m a parent, because I’m a mom.  I have earned a Ph.D. in multi-tasking, managing chaos and improvising — all critical skills in successful entrepreneurship.
Now, it is my turn to instill in my daughters and the future what was instilled in me. Our adventures in the playground are the first steps towards business and life success. Kids fall down, so that they can pick themselves up and dust themselves off. I encourage them to climb a taller slide than they are used to and remind them it is okay to color outside the lines.  My children learn it is okay to take chances, try new things and to push the envelope.

These are also my daily reminders in leadership.

Learning can also be a two-way-street. From my teenage daughter, I am learning the humbling lessons that, apparently, moms don’t know very much. I get giddy when she teaches me a thing or two about technology in the same way my youngest team members at work come up with bright new ideas for very old problems.
Clearly, in an ever-changing world, I must change. I must embrace the new. I must persist.

Most days, I still eat rice.  When I do, I remember that I am from a lineage of women made of steel at their core, that only I have control over how hard I hustle with the gifts I have been given. I am passing on the legacy of the older women before me to the young daughters at home, and colleagues at work. I naturally get asked “What’s it like to be a       female entrepreneur?” as there are so few of us in my field of digital health. The numbers speak for themselves. There simply are not enough women CEOs in healthcare, technology, business and government. The bias, discrimination, and harassment that women face is real and is painful. I have encountered my share of bias in my life. I’m the kid with burn scars on her legs, the immigrant teen who talked funny, and the minority woman health founder and CEO. None of that even slowed me down, much less stopped me.  I persisted.

Sally Poblete, CEO of Wellthie, is an Asian immigrant, mother of two and successful entrepreneur.

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