Mentoring Mondays

Articles

Permanent link for Mentoring Mondays - April 26, 2021 on April 26, 2021

During the pandemic when most of us are working from home, I don’t know about you, but I have spent a great deal of time purging files. I don’t have space to store all of the paperwork that I generate in the course of my work day. Of course, during the purging process, I tend to read everything before I toss it in the shredder. This past week, I came upon this article written by Joe Caruso, founder of the Caruso Leadership Institute in Grosse Ile, Michigan, who has done professional development training for the college. It’s an old article but his story is relevant today. It’s a great story and I hope you enjoy it.

'Little Miracles’ Happen When We Affect Others

We all affect each other. This connectivity is one of the best parts of the human experience. Once in a while, if we’re really fortunate, we have the opportunity to affect another life in a way that has a dramatic and positive impact. Sometimes, it’s with a person we’ve never even met. I call these moments “little miracles.”

I recently had the honor of speaking to a high powered group of business owners in Washington, D.C. The subject of the speech was my upcoming book, “The Power of Losing Control.” I talked at great length about how much pain is created in the workplace, in relationships and in our individual lives when we choose to spend our time and energy trying to control that which we can’t. I pointed out that while we can’t control our spouses, our children, our employees, or even our health (try to stop breathing or give yourself a heart attack), we can control our approach, our response and our behavior.

In all other areas of our lives, we may find that we have influence but no control. Some of the greatest damage to our emotional well-being happens when we believe the myth that we actually can control that which we can’t. I went on to explain to the group that most times, in any situation, we have power in it, but no control over it.

I then shared with the group how and when I first learned this fact and how it helped me through the most trying experience of my life. They sat attentively as I told them of the incurable cancer I was diagnosed with at 17 years old. Thanks to my participation in an experimental chemotherapy and surgical protocol, I lived through the experience. I shared with them how the experience forced me to accept what I couldn’t control and only focus on what I could.

It was during the question and answer period following my speech when the little miracle happened. And, I was caught completely unaware. One of the first questions came from a welldressed gentleman in the back of the room. “Joe,” he began, “was your cancer a gift or a curse?” I candidly responded by telling him it was an excellent question because, while it was the worst and most difficult time of my life, it was also the impetus for me to commit to a life’s work of learning all I can about the human experience. And during my treatment I dedicated whatever may be left of my short life to do all I could to help others by sharing what I learned. “In short,” I said, “cancer was a curse that I decided would be the biggest gift of my life.”

Following the program, I noticed that the gentleman was waiting around while I was signing some books and audio CDs. Finally, when he and I were the only two left in the room, he approached me. He was tense and obviously doing all he could to stay in control of all the emotion bubbling up inside of him. He stood directly in front of me and looked right into my eyes. His voice trembled as he began to speak. “My cancer . . .,” was, at first, all he could get out. Immediately I began to think that perhaps he had been diagnosed with an incurable cancer, but that, for him, there would be no miracle, no experimental cure.

I soon learned how wrong I was. “My cancer,” he repeated after he was able to speak again, “was . . . my son’s disability. And today you taught me that it is my gift.” We were both crying as he gave me a brief hug and quickly left the room.

I stood alone in the big empty room thanking God for the life he’s given me – for the words he gave me when I answered the gentleman’s question. And for the little miracle of helping me touch a handicapped boy I will never meet.

_________

Joe Caruso is an expert in the psychology that drives people’s thoughts and behaviors. For more information visit www.caruso.


Permanent link for Mentoring Mondays - April 19, 2021 on April 19, 2021

Creating a Success Culture

The idea of a success culture is the result of a world-wide survey conducted in the early 2000s that included 139 offices in 29 professional service firms in 15 countries in 15 different lines of business. The basic question in this particular survey was “Are employees’ attitudes correlated with financial success?” The answer to the question varied, but in most cases it was yes. And in those “yes” cases, it was found that there were high levels of commitment, dedication and enthusiasm toward organizational goals.

Where there is less commitment, dedication and enthusiasm, how can a leader or manager create a culture that promotes growth and/or measurable returns?  These are some concepts that come to mind: 

Teamwork;

High institutional standards; and

Strong employee development programs.

But the real key is the character of the individual leaders and managers.

The success culture is about creating a community. It is not about just teamwork. It is much more. It is about a community where people feel a mutual sense of responsibility and obligation to support each other. Each accepts her/his share of the responsibility – as well as challenges – that face the organization. It is not a random collection of people who happen to work in the same firm or who happen to be members of the same organization, but individuals who feel a sense of “being in this together.”

According to some of the most effective leaders or managers, here are some ways to achieve this kind of community.

As you grow, help people grow – invest in professional development programs;

As you grow, work to build loyalty to the organization;

Give regular updates to ensure that everyone is informed and knows why a decision was made;

Earn trust by supporting and encouraging discussion;

Enforce the rule that people don’t leave until they ask if anyone needs help;

Face success and failures as a group – don’t be so quick to point the finger;

Good communication ranks high in every successful endeavor. Create formal and informal means of information sharing. Here, it is important for employees and members to always be ready with the one-minute “elevator speech.”

And the list goes on. But these are not arbitrary rules of good people management. These are the practices of the most successful and profitable offices throughout the world. The message is clear. Accept the challenge. Have the courage to believe that the message from your leadership is clear and that the strategy is not to wait until tomorrow, or until someone else implements the plan. Remember, you reap the benefits of what you do, not what you hope to get done someday, if it is convenient and you are not too busy.


Permanent link for Mentoring Mondays - April 12, 2021 on April 12, 2021

The One Question You Need to Ask Yourself before You Say Anything

Reprint of Marshall Goldsmith article, March 23, 2021

Conflict is an unavoidable part of our lives, whether we’re CEO’s, entrepreneurs, parents, spouses, engineers or ditch diggers. In some cases, conflict stimulates us to accomplish great things. It can also drag us off course, eroding our relationships, stalling our careers and keeping us from becoming the people we want to become.

So which conflicts are useful and which are counter-productive? As an executive coach, I’ve been helping successful leaders achieve positive, lasting change in behavior for more than 35 years. My experience with great leaders has led me to develop a simple formulation, one that can help you avoid pointless skirmishes and help you take on the challenges that really matter. Follow it, and you will dramatically shrink your daily volume of stress, unpleasant debate and wasted time.

I phrase it as a question:

AM I WILLING AT THIS TIME TO MAKE THE INVESTMENT REQUIRED TO MAKE A POSITIVE DIFFERENCE ON THIS TOPIC?

It pops into my head so often each day that I’ve turned the first five words into an acronym, AIWATT (which I find appropriately rhymes with “Say What?”). AIWATT doesn’t require you to do anything, it merely helps you avoid doing something you’ll regret.

Perhaps you’re thinking, ‘I don’t need to repeat a simple question to know which battles are worth fighting.’ But I believe that all of us – even the most brilliant and successful – need exactly this kind of help. In my book Triggers (Crown, May 2015), I make the case that relying on structure – even something as simple as the AIWATT question – is key to changing our behavior.

Why? Because in every waking hour we are bombarded by people, events, and circumstances that have the potential to change us – the triggers in the title of my book. We often fail to appreciate just how much these triggers affect us, and how difficult it is to fend them off without some kind of support.

AIWATT is just one of the tactics I suggest. Of course, it isn’t a universal panacea for all our interpersonal problems, but it has a specific utility. It’s a reminder that our environment tempts us many times a day to engage in pointless arguments. And, it creates a split-second delay in our potentially prideful, cynical, judgmental, argumentative, and selfish responses to our environment. This delay gives us time to consider a more positive response.

Let’s look at the question a little more closely.

“Am I willing” implies that we are exercising volition – taking responsibility – rather than surfing along the waves of inertia that otherwise rule our day. We are asking, “Do I really want to do this?”

“At this time” reminds us that we’re operating in the present. Circumstances will differ later on, demanding a different response. The only issue is what we’re facing now.

“To make the investment required” reminds us that responding to others is work, an expenditure of time, energy and opportunity. And, like any investment, our resources are finite. We are asking, “Is this really the best use of my time?”

“To make a positive difference” places the emphasis on the kinder, gentler side of our nature. It’s a reminder that we can either help create a better us or a better world. If we’re not accomplishing one or the other, why are we getting involved?

“On this topic” focuses us on the matter at hand. We can’t solve every problem. The time we spend on topics where we can’t make a positive difference is stolen from topics where we can.

Like closing our office door so people hesitate before they knock, asking ourselves, “Am I willing, at this time, to make the investment required to make a positive difference on this topic?” gives us a thin barrier of breathing room, time enough to inhale, exhale, and reflect before we engage or move on. In doing so, we block out the chatter and noise – we make peace with what we are not going to change – freeing ourselves to tackle the changes that really matter in our lives.

Thank you for reading! I hope this is helpful to you and those around you.  Life is good.   Marshall.


Permanent link for Mentoring Mondays - March 29, 2021 on March 29, 2021

As we close out Women’s History Month, let us do so with a brief look back on the history of women’s suffrage in Michigan. Below are a few excerpts from the archives of the Library of Michigan and a link to an extensive resource detailing events and timelines of the Michigan movement. I encourage you to view the full story:

https://www.michigan.gov/libraryofmichigan/0,9327,7-381-88854_89996-518343--,00.html

Women's suffrage didn’t happen suddenly in 1920, when the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified. It was a difficult, fraught, and frustrating process that played out in states and state capitol buildings across the country. In Michigan, several generations of women and men devoted over seventy-five years and untold resources to the movement. Along the way, they organized multiple campaigns, celebrated some important incremental victories, and mourned many defeats.

The drive for women’s suffrage grew with and from the large involvement of women in the reform movements dating from the 1840s. Seen first as a means to effect reform and then as an end in itself, full voting citizenship was attained by stages.

There is an interesting timeline of events that occurred from 1835, when Michigan declares itself a state and writes its first state constitution, through June 10, 1919, when Michigan became the third state in the nation to officially ratify the 19th Amendment to the U.S. constitution. In a show of overwhelming support, the all-male legislature voted unanimously for its ratification. Note the following excerpt from a Michigan publication:

“State Ratifies Equal Suffrage” read a front-page headline in The State Journal the next day.

“Few women present as measure passes.”

In fact, the ratification was taken up in such haste that the only women present in the Chamber to bear witness were a few female House committee clerks, sitting quietly on the divans that bordered the chamber floor. No doubt they were smiling and thinking about who they would be voting for when the Legislature was next up for election in 1920.

The last sentence in that paragraph has been underlined for emphasis. As women, we should be asking the question during this day and time, “Who’s smiling now when we are still fighting for our rights – for equal pay and for equal advancement in leadership positions?” The struggle goes on and these words on the side of a float during a 1915 women’s suffrage parade in New York, “Woman’s Cause is Man’s – They Rise or Fall Together” should resonate loud and clear today.


Permanent link for Mentoring Mondays - March 22, 2021 on March 22, 2021

While celebrating Women’s History Month, what better place to look for outstanding Michigan women who have contributed significantly to society than the records of the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame.

Please enjoy reading about the accomplishments of three 2020 inductees:  Gilda Z. Jacobs, Martha Teichner, and Atlas Ruth Westbrook.

Gilda Z. Jacobs is the current President & CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy, directing its policy-oriented research and advocacy work. After receiving Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from the University of Michigan, Gilda worked with special needs students in the Madison Heights School District for 4 years. Her storied career in public service includes elected office at the city, county and state level. She was the first woman elected to the Huntington Woods City Commission in 1981 and later served as Mayor Pro Tem from 1993-1994. She served as Oakland County Commissioner (1995-1998), in the Michigan House of Representatives (1999-2002), and the State Senate (2003-2010).

In the Michigan Legislature, Gilda championed the rights of women, children and people with disabilities. She established and facilitated a bipartisan bicameral Talent Caucus to develop strategies to encourage Michigan entrepreneurship and discourage college graduate flight and participated in a bipartisan bicameral workgroup to study and recommend solutions for tax restructuring in Michigan. Gilda is involved in numerous organizations including the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, United Way for Southeastern Michigan, and New Detroit.

Martha Teichner has been a correspondent for CBS Sunday Morning since December 1993 and is the winner of 11 Emmy Awards and 5 James Beard Foundation Awards.  Furthermore, Teichner was given the Alfred duPont-Columbia University Award for her reporting on the Newtown, Connecticut elementary school shooting, the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award for reporting on the exodus of Cuban refugees to the United States, and she received the Breakthrough Award for her war reporting. She was the first female reporter CBS News sent to cover a war, the assignment taking her to Beirut in 1983. Furthermore, she was one of the few women journalists embedded with US field troops during the Gulf War in 1990-91, as she reported from Iraq, Kuwait, Israel, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia.

Teichner was the first newswoman employed by radio station WJEF/WJFM in Grand Rapids.  For nearly 50 years since then she has covered several poignant stories including the Apartheid in South Africa, the life and death of Nelson Mandela, the Mozambique civil war, the fall of communism in Central and Eastern Europe, the fighting in Bosnia, Croatia and Slovenia after the collapse of Yugoslavia, the Maze Prison hunger strike in Northern Ireland, the Romanian revolution, the first Intifada in Israel and the Occupied Territories, the first Iraq War, the war in Lebanon, any many other major events in North and South America. On November 1, 1996, Teichner donated her family’s 20 acres to the Leelanau Conservancy which she says is her most proud achievement.  She was born in Traverse City and now resides in New York City.

Atlas Ruth Westbrook (1941-2017) was a middle and high school math teacher and counselor in Southeast Michigan. Before her career in education she was a computer programmer at NASA during the Mercury and Apollo programs, working as a computer programmer (a human computer as depicted in the movie Hidden Figures) and developed calculations that were used during the Apollo 11 and Apollo 13 missions. In 1985, she achieved a lifelong dream when she earned her Juris Doctorate degree from The Detroit College of Law. With her Juris Doctorate degree, Ruth chose not to pursue a career in law, but rather assisted low-income individuals in Pontiac, Detroit, and Las Vegas. 

Ruth and her husband, Dr. Scott Charles Westbrook III, were pillars in the Pontiac community serving on many charitable, philanthropic, scholarship and educational boards – her favorite being the Girl Scouts of America. Ruth had a deep love of education. She grew up in a small town in Texas and neither of her parents attended high school. They were determined that Ruth had a college education. She graduated from Texas A & M Prairie View College with a degree in mathematics and library science. Ruth used her degree in counseling to be an inspiration to girls and to encourage them in education and in family situations as well as being a role model to minority girls to strive in math and education.


Permanent link for Mentoring Mondays - March 15, 2021 on March 15, 2021

Does your career goal include becoming a college or university president? Do you ever wonder what drives the women who lead our college and universities? Do you think their core values and principles are higher; and their view of this imperfect world is one where anything is possible and all doors are open? Do they envision a better world, a better life, or a better future simply because they believe that it is possible? Sometimes we just need to ask the questions and then take a stand.

I believe that the fearless women leaders of our colleges and universities deserve our thanks for what they do to enhance the lives of so many. As a collective of women following the leadership of women, we believe they deserve our recognition and blessings from time to time. During the month of March – considered women’s history month – the MI-ACE Women’s Network would like to say thank you to the women who lead our institutions with the following blessing.

Leaders Blessing

  Blessed are they who believe in the institutions they serve, for their work will have dedication;

  Blessed are they who guide and mentor rather than dictate, for they shall have cooperation;

  Blessed are they who respect the opinions of others, for they shall be admired;

  Blessed are they who search out the facts and ignore the gossip, for they shall be respected;

  Blessed are they who seek to be humble, for they have a due share of recognition without looking for it;

  Blessed are they who can take orders as well as give them, for therein lies true leadership;

  Blessed are they who in spite of criticism, have the strength of purpose to continue and the stamina to carry on, for they shall be real leaders;

  Blessed are they who have faith in all their fellowmen, for they themselves are justified.

~ Author Unknown

 

We salute you, our women presidents!

Dr. Andrea Luxton, Andrews University

Dr. Kelly Smith, Baker College of Cadillac

Dr. Laura Coleman, Bay de Noc Community College

Dr. Jean Goodnow, Delta College

Dr. Philomena V. Mantella, Grand Valley State University

Dr. Adrien Bennings, Kellogg Community College

Dr. Stacy Young, Montcalm Community College

Dr. Beverly Walker-Griffea, Mott Community College

Dr. Ora Hirsch Pescovitz, Oakland University

Dr. Deborah Snyder, St. Clair County Community College

Dr. Rose Bellanca, Washtenaw Community College

 

Believe that together, we are better!


Permanent link for Mentoring Mondays - March 8, 2021 on March 8, 2021

Our Mentoring Mondays focus is three-fold: first, recognizing today as International Women’s Day; second, recognizing March as “reading month”; and third, recognizing Michigan women who have made a significant impact on issues facing our state.

Appropriately, let’s begin with -- Happy International Women’s Day!

A few days ago, Governor Whitmer issued a proclamation declaring the month of March as “Reading Month in Michigan.” In her press release, Governor Whitmer encouraged everyone to find time to read. This sparked an idea! Let’s recognize Michigan women authors to coincide with reading month and provide a reading list, which you will find at the end of this article. Our feature story is about Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, author of What the Eyes Don’t See, one of The New York Times 100 most notable books of 2018. You will recall that Dr. Hanna-Attisha was a speaker at our MI-ACE Annual Conference in 2018.

Mona Hanna-Attisha is a pediatrician, professor, and public health advocate whose research exposed the Flint water crisis. Her research revealed children were exposed to dangerous levels of lead in Flint’s water supply. Commonly referred to as “Dr. Mona,” she is now the director of an initiative to mitigate the impact of the crisis.

Born Mona Hanna in Sheffield, England, Dr. Mona grew up in Royal Oak, Michigan and graduated from Kimball High School. Mona Hanna received her Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability, her Master of Public Health degree in Health Management and Policy from the University of Michigan School of Public Health, and her medical degree from Michigan State University College of Human Medicine. She completed her residency and chief residency at Wayne State University Children’s Hospital of Michigan. Dr. Mona is an associate professor at the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine. Her husband, Elliott Attisha, is a pediatrician in Detroit, Michigan. They have two daughters.

On 24 September 2015, in a press conference at Flint’s Hurley Medical Center, Dr. Hanna-Attisha revealed that the blood lead levels of children living in Flint had doubled after the water was switched from the Detroit River to the Flint River in April 2014. It was later determined that the mean blood level of Flint children increased from 1.19 to 1.30 micrograms per deciliter in the calendar years before and during the switch to the Flint River for city water supply.

Dr. Hanna-Attisha conducted her research after talking to a high-school friend, Elin Warn Betanzo, a former Environmental Protection Agency Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water employee and water engineer. Betanzo told Hanna-Attisha that Marc Edwards, a water engineer and professor from Virginia Tech and his team of Flint Water Study researchers, found high levels of lead in Flint residents’ homes. Even though Hanna-Attisha was not provided the data she sought from the State of Michigan, she used hospital electronic medical records as data for her study.

At a risk to her career, Hanna-Attisha revealed her findings at the 24 September 2015 press conference before her research was scientifically peer reviewed, because of the public health implications. Hanna-Attisha’s findings were later published in the American Journal of Public Health. Her findings were confirmed in a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report published by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in July 2016, and is recognized as an underestimate of exposure.

At Dr. Hanna-Attisha’s 24 September 2015 press conference she urged residents, particularly children, to stop drinking the water, to end Flint River as a water source as soon as possible and urged the City of Flint to issue a health advisory. A day after Dr. Hanna-Attisha released her study, Flint issued a health advisory advising residents, particularly children, to minimize exposure to Flint tap water. The water source was switched back to the Detroit River on 16 October 2015. Later, the City of Flint, the State of Michigan and the United States made emergency declarations. There is more to Dr. Hanna-Attisha’s story at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mona_Hanna-Attisha.

March Reading List

  • What the Eyes Don’t See: A Story of Crisis, Resistance, and Hope in an American City, by Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha
  • The Summer Cottage, by Viola Shipman
  • Once Upon a River, by Bonnie Jo Campbell
  • The Goddess Test (series #1), by Aimee Carter
  • Goddess Interrupted (series #2), by Aimee Carter
  • Murder in the Margins, by Margaret Louden
  • Secret Detroit: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure, by Karen Dybis
  • Know the Mother, by Desiree Cooper
  • Lighthouse Paradox, by D. Ann Kelley
  • In Shock: My Journey from Death to Recovery and the Redemptive Power of Hope, by Rana Awdish
  • Last Turn Home, by Lara Alspaugh
  • We Hope for Better Things, by Erin Bartels
  • Detroit Hustle: A Memoir of Love, Life & Home, by Amy Haimerl
  • The Orphan Daughter, by Cari Noga
  • Mid-Michigan Modern: From Frank Lloyd Wright to Googie, by Susan J. Bandes
  • A Place to Land: A Story of Longing and Belonging, by Kate Motaung
  • Once on This Island, by Gloria Whelan
  • A Wedding in Truhart, by Cynthia Tennent

Permanent link for Mentoring Mondays - March 1, 2021 on March 1, 2021

23 Powerful Tips to Help Women Leaders Succeed

Every year on March 8, thousands of events are traditionally held across the globe in recognition of International Women's Day . The history of International Women's Day (IWD) runs deep. Its roots go back to the early 1900s as a day created to inspire and honor women and celebrate their accomplishments.

Today, IWD continues to deliver an important message about many of the equality issues that affect women worldwide. It's a call for significant changes in all facets of life--such as increased financial independence for women, the need for more women in leadership roles, growth of women-owned businesses, and support for women in science, engineering and technology--just to name a few.

 

"Choose to Challenge” is this year's International Women's Day theme, which is particularly inspiring and representative of the times. A challenged world is an alert world and from challenge comes change. So let us all choose to challenge.

How will you help forge a gender equal world?

Celebrate women's achievement. Raise awareness against bias. Take action for equality.

 

Following are 23 tips from business owners and leaders over the past two decades:

1)  Find a trusted adviser and ask to be mentored. Whether it is an individual or an advisory peer group, never stop seeking input from others.

2)  Focus on what you are grateful for--take notes, journal, make lists. This is important to help you remain positive.

3)  Keep an open mind. Come to understand a situation by asking better questions. Judgment and assumptions will only impede your progress and alienate you from others.

4)  Where there is a will--there is always a way. Set personal and business goals often. Dream big and visualize your success.

5)  Follow the Golden Rule: Take care of your employees and your employees will take care of your business (which in turn, will take care of your bottom line).

6)  Always do your best work; you never know who is watching.

7)  Do what it takes to "know thyself." Understand your strengths and vulnerabilities. A large majority of leaders fail or derail in their career because they lack interpersonal skills.

8)  Always go for the win-win in any situation. Collaboration over competition.

9)  Show Appreciation. "Face to face" words of encouragement for a job well done costs nothing to give, yet the ROI is invaluable.

10)  Observe what is going on outside of your industry. An awareness of business and cultural trends can help spark creativity and innovation.

11)  Your most challenging relationships--be it clients, employees, colleagues, friends or family--are an invitation for personal growth.

12)  People operate from 90 percent emotion and 10 percent logic. [Note: see #7--Interpersonal skills and a strong sense of emotional intelligence are important keys to success].

13)  Surround yourself with people who have skills, talents and styles differing from your own.

14)  Always look at the big picture first, then the details.

15)  Do not take work that does not resonate with your core beliefs just for the money, it is never worth it.

16)  As long as there is a victim or a villain there is no peace.

17)  Meditate or practice the art of mindfulness. In today's 24/7 plugged-in culture, it is more important than ever to seek moments of stillness and introspection.

18)  Continually educate yourself, personally and professionally. Make time to follow your creative passions outside of your work.

19) Trust your intuition—it is most often right.

20)  Be aware of your beliefs and be open to shifting your perspective in order to view the world in a new light.

21)  Never underestimate the power of networking.

22)  Cash flow is king--got to have it.

23)  Take responsibility no matter what is happening. Do not shift the blame or play the victim.

 

Next week, we will begin our monthly segment focusing on “Women in Leadership in Michigan.” 

_________ 

Resource: Excerpts from Inc.com post (23 tips from Susan Steinbrecher, March 2015) 


Permanent link for Mentoring Mondays - February 22, 2021 on February 22, 2021

As we close out Black History month and our salute to Black women history makers, this week’s focus is on Michigan Women’s Hall of Famer, Dr. Alexa Irene Canady. Many of us know her story but it is always an inspiration to read and reflect on the challenges she faced and her determined efforts to fulfill her goals and dreams.

 Alexa Irene Canady was born in Lansing, Michigan, to Elizabeth Hortense (Golden) Canady and Dr. Clinton Canady, Jr. Her mother was an educator and former national president of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. She spent years being active in civic affairs within the city of Lansing and was the first African American to be elected to the Lansing Board of Education. Alexa’s father was a dentist. Her parents attended Fisk University, where they met and later married on her mother's 19th birthday right before her father's deployment during World War II.

Canady and her younger brother were raised outside of Lansing and were the only two African American students in their school. She faced prejudice in school; in one instance, a family member who was training in psychology tested her at a young age for intelligence, and when she scored highly on the exam, her family was surprised because her performance in school was only average. They later discovered that her teacher had been switching her test scores with a white student to cover up her intelligence. Despite the many obstacles throughout her school years Alexa stood out among her peers academically, both in the classroom and by earning high scores on her tests in school.

Alexa attended the University of Michigan where she received her B.S. degree in zoology in 1971. Her time at the University of Michigan was not without its struggles; she almost dropped out of college at one point due to a "crisis of confidence." She had originally chosen to major in mathematics but she soon realized that math was not her passion. Then she learned of a minority health careers program at her university and decided to pursue it. This program helped her realize that her passion was in the medical field. She would then go on to receive her M.D. with cum laude honors from the University of Michigan Medical School in 1975, where she joined the Alpha Omega Alpha Honorary Medical Society. While in medical school, she was also recognized by the American Medical Women's Association.

Although she initially had an interest in internal medicine, Dr. Canady decided on neurosurgery after falling in love with neurology during her first two years of medical school. She settled on this specialty against the recommendations of her advisors. Knowing that gaining a residency as a Black student would be difficult, Canady began building her résumé, reading many articles and attending every conference and seminar she could, sometimes asking questions just to get known in the small field. Her appreciation for the fluidity of human anatomy would serve her well in her competitive field.

Dr. Canady then became a surgical intern at the Yale-New Haven Hospital from 1975–1976, rotating under Dr. William F. Collins. Although an exceptional student, she still faced prejudice and discriminatory comments as she was both the first Black and female intern in the program.  On her first day as an intern, she was told, "you must be our new equal-opportunity package."  Despite these prejudices, she was voted one of the top residents by her fellow physicians.

After completing her internship, Alexa went to the University of Minnesota for her residency, becoming the first female African-American neurosurgery resident in the United States. She has stated that she was not focused on the history she was making, but the significance of her accomplishments and what it meant for other African-Americans and women in medicine.

Dr. Canady specialized in pediatric neurosurgery and was the chief of neurosurgery at the Children's Hospital in Michigan from 1987 until her partial retirement in 2001. She became the first African-American woman to be a board-certified Neurosurgeon in 1984. She also conducted research and was a professor of neurosurgery at Wayne State University. After her retirement, Dr. Canady moved to Florida and maintained a part-time practice at Pensacola's Sacred Heart Hospital until her full retirement in January 2012. 

dr alexa irene canady

Dr. Alexa Irene Canady


Permanent link for Mentoring Mondays - February 15, 2021 on February 15, 2021

We often hear of the great and courageous African American pioneers of history. However, this week, we want to share the story of a young contemporary “history maker.” In keeping with the IDEALS of the MI-ACE Women’s Network, we want to instill in our young women that they too can be history makers. This week, our story is about Vernice Armour.

Known simply as “Fly Girl,” Vernice Armour went from beat cop to combat pilot in three years.  Within months of earning her wings, she found herself flying over the deserts of Iraq, supporting the men and women on the ground. In March of 2003, she became the first African American female combat pilot. Vernice completed two combat tours in the Gulf. Afterwards, she was assigned to the Manpower and Reserve Affairs Equal Opportunity Branch as program liaison officer.

This is how it all started: In 1993, while still a student at Middle Tennessee State University, Vernice enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve and later entered into the U.S. Army’s ROTC.  In 1966, she took time off from college to become a Nashville police officer – her childhood dream.  She became the first female African-American officer on the motorcycle squad.

After graduating from Middle Tennessee State University in 1997, Vernice moved to Arizona and served as a police officer on the force in Tempe. Shortly thereafter, she joined the U.S. Marines as an Officer Candidate and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant on December 12, 1998. She went on to flight school at the Naval Air Station in Corpus Christi, Texas. After graduating from flight school number one in her class of twelve, Vernice went on to become the Marine Corps’ first African American pilot.

Following her combat tours, Vernice left the Marine Corps in 2007 and began a new career as a professional speaker and expert on creating “breakthroughs” in life. This bold and fierce woman is now an inspiration to thousands of individuals and corporate leaders. Learn more about her extraordinary story and the principles that she outlines in her book “Zero to Breakthrough:  The 7-Step Battle-Tested Method of Accomplishing Goals that Matter” –  an incredible success plan.

Through her keynotes, executive and group coaching, seminars and executive retreats, Vernice conveys her message of Zero to Breakthrough utilizing her unique insight and life strategy:  “You have permission to engage!” What an amazing story of service and leadership.



Page last modified April 26, 2021