The Great Handshake Challenge…

The Great Handshake with Andrew Matthews

I am just getting back from AHR Expo where I shook hands with some of the most successful women and men in the business!  I always look forward to this event because it is unique to our industry as we get to see companies like Armstrong Fluid Technologies, WATTS, Schneider Electric, ABB, Danfoss, and WEG exhibiting innovative technologies that will help building owners save energy and run their pump systems efficiently. You can see all our fun here.

Shaking hands with these amazing leaders, I learned the most in the 5 hours after I left GWCC.  Here’s what happened…

After all the “Connected” talk at the show, I decided to connect to my new Jeep’s hands-free and get a few things accomplished while driving home. Suddenly, I got a text message on my CarPlay screen and was able to have Siri read it to me. So cool! Especially because the text had the monkey emoji in it. Too Funny… Go ahead… say monkey emoji out loud… You’re welcome!  LOL. As I drove from Atlanta back to Tuscaloosa, I made several hands-free calls, and I was thankful for the productivity on my drive home with a full inbox. Thank you, Technology!

I was almost home when I received a call from Carter saying they (my family) was on their way to eat and then off to my son’s basketball game.  I was so tired but decided to drive straight to the game.  When my family arrived, I was greeted differently from each of my three children.  Jackson (13) was in game mode, so I only got a fist bump. My middle child, Andrew (10), welcomed me with a hug, and Karli (8) yelled “Mommy!” loudly, running in for a big hug. Then I walked over and gave Carter a thankful kiss.

As I sat on the bleacher, I could feel my entire body.  I was officially all out of charm.  I had talked, walked, and danced so much I had worn the nail polish off my freshly painted toenails!  I try not to let people know when I’m tired, but I barely talked to anyone outside of my family that night.  All I wanted to do was be there for my son. I sat and spoke with Carter and Andrew about the Great Handshake while Karli played games on my phone.  Andrew was excited about his day.  He had shadowed a teacher and when they asked him if he would like that career, his answer was ‘yes’ and ‘no’.  “Yes, because I could work on a team,” Andrew explained. “No, because I am going to be an engineer at MIT.” My eyes got big and I smiled from ear to ear because I know so many brilliant engineers, and his declaration just blew me away.

My mind quickly flashed back to a few days earlier, when I had received a call from home. I was focused on the event, seeing our clients, meeting new people, and not at all ready to get a call from home to talk about Andrew’s missing blazer! When I’m traveling, Carter usually has everything under control, but this time, I got a call asking where Andrew’s blazer was. He had the final round of “The Great Handshake” competition the next day. He had been practicing and was really excited about it. I had been having dinner with a client, but I stepped into the next booth and took the Facetime call. Andrew was visibly upset. I was then visibly upset – at myself for not laying out the outfit before I left, and at Carter for not just handling that while I was away.  We had just been discussing this very topic in our Empowering Women’s group about how to be better organized at home when traveling for work. I let a couple tears flow, cleaned up in the bathroom, then went back to work… Sound familiar to my fellow working moms?

So, back to being with Andrew in the bleachers…I asked how it went… They had not picked the winner yet. The basketball game ended, and Jackson made me proud by being a team player, hustling, and scoring 17 points.

Jackson playing basketball

After the game, Karli wanted to ride home with me, so I rearranged the vehicle containing our booth display and materials so she could get in and ride safely – a sheer test of positivity in parenting when you’re already exhausted.

Once in the house, I just wanted to go to bed, but I try to spend a moment with each of my children.  So, I listened to Jackson tell me about his game. Karli wanted me to wash her hair, so I did and the water felt so good!  I decided I must run a bath! Then, I went to Andrew’s room.  He was laying in his bed writing in his journal.  I asked what he was writing about, and while he was initially hesitant to show me, he answered, “the great handshake”.  I was so proud!

He asked me to lay beside him and then he read me this line: “How to be a leader is good in life because you can help people, you can be trusted, and you can…” he paused, giving me a window to shout, “inspire others!” Andrew smiled and said, “Yes- that’s good!” He was writing about Round 1 and told me how he plans to write about the other rounds too. Having practiced his “handshake” with him, I knew how important this is to him. I wanted to know more, so I asked if he would read his journal entry to me from the beginning.  The next moment changed my perspective…

“The Great Handshake is an opportunity to greet new people and give yourself to the other person’s perspective or part of life.” WOW!! I almost cried tears of joy at this little man’s perspective! It was a good reminder that when we shake hands (which I had been doing all week), we should also open up and learn from the other person. I often think hugs (especially when hugging non-huggers) and photos can also be a great way to see into the lives of others.

After this precious moment with my son, I went to run my bath. My daughter was in “my spot” in the bed, and lovingly said she would warm it up for me. This surprised me. I told her I just heard a story about a husband that always warmed his wife’s spot before bed.  She said, “I know! I heard you tell daddy about it!” This girl listens to everything!  She is also very thoughtful!  #Proudmommy Thinking of the way we lean in to others, when I climbed into bed and snuggled up to my daughter, I took a couple pictures to remember this ‘Charli/Karli magic’ moment.  Karli looked at the photos and said, “Post that one! You have a sparkle in your eye!”


The next day, when someone commented on the “glad to be home” photo, I thought… Yes, my work/life balance captured in a photo, a hug, and a great handshake!

How do you “lean in” to other people’s perspectives?

How does “the wife” de-stress?

Charli K Matthews in St Lucia

After being diagnosed with hypertension / high blood pressure, I decided I needed to de-stress.  Laughing, my brother told me I needed to take a 6-month vacation, but we both knew that was not possible! Shortly after this conversation, I emailed a travel agent friend and told her I wanted to go somewhere warm right after Christmas with my husband, Carter. I booked a trip to St. Lucia. I felt I needed to relax, and it would be great to connect with Carter outside our business conversations and taking care of the children.

If you know me, I must be removed from civilization to stop thinking about work.  Mostly because I love to work, or better said, think about work. To be honest, I have discovered that relaxing does not come easy to me. I am bored sitting, doing nothing. I like an adventure!  Discovering the great unknown, the new…  This is why I told my friend that even though I wanted to go to an all-inclusive resort, I needed a mountain or waterfall or something to go explore. I can’t just drink and sit. Having said that, it was also ‘doctor’s orders’ to relax. So, I set the out-of-office response in my email and turned my phone services off.  It is great to have a team you can trust in your absence!

On the way to the island thinking about how to relax, I remembered a conversation with a lady from my church.  She had asked me if I ever just sat and watched TV. I answered ‘rarely’ and she was clearly shocked.  On the plane, I decided to look through the in-flight movies.  Carter always sleeps on planes, so I was solo. The featured movie was “The Wife”. I was intrigued but told myself “no girl power” movies.  I picked “Colette” thinking I had made a romantic pick to inspire the awe of a couples’ trip. I finished the movie, and with two hours to go, I decided to also watch “The Wife”. Not to spoil the movies, but they were both full of girl power! Both movies were about beautiful writers where the leading ladies began writing for their loves… to them even. But life happens and they realize the cards are stacked against them. The men both had affairs and published their writings under their name. They began to feel used and undervalued. They have great talents that are pushed to the background. The stories were tragic, but when I got home and heard Glenn Close’s speech at the Golden Globes. I thought, now that lady just made a difference! I loved this quote:

“And I feel what I’ve learned from this whole experience is that women, you know, we’re nurturers, that’s what’s expected of us. We have our children, we have our husbands if we’re lucky enough and our partners, whoever. But we have to find personal fulfillment. We have to follow our dreams. We have to say, I can do that and I should be allowed to do that.”

It spoke to me in many ways!  But… I am jumping ahead.
Carter and I had a wonderful trip, truly unplugged, and had a great time! You can see our silly pictures in a Facebook album. I had a wonderful, relaxing, exciting, fun time. But even in my “I’m not working mode”, I saw my work everywhere.  From water treatment to infrastructure to women entrepreneurs in the market…even the book I read mentioned men often see  women’s success as their failure.  This needs to change…today!

We have often heard great men are supported by great women.  But shouldn’t this be just as true:  “Great women are supported by great men!”  Think about it!  What needs to change for this to be true?!

“Men and Women are Different but Equally Valuable.”   This quote from breaking boundaries says it best: “The notion of different but equally valuable requires insight and time to learn.”

I found it fascinating that on a couples’ trip to a tropical island, I was seeing the importance of Empowering Women.  It is almost like the confirmation you need to continue your work.  The inner voice in my head was leading me back to what is important.  All things leading back to building a great Empowering Women in Industry event.

Stay tuned… and check out: