Honoring women can improve your company's bottom line, make happier families and stronger neighborhoods. So says Sandy Tokach, board chair of Honoring Women Worldwide, an organization founded here 18 months ago. Its mission is to teach, promote and demonstrate the importance of women relying on one another to further their causes. We asked her five questions in advance of a speech she is to give Wednesday at 3M Co.

Q What does it mean to honor other women?

A As women, we've made progress in society, but at times we still maybe are more inward-looking and not as externally focused as to the differences we can make in the world. We don't tap into all the strengths that we have. It's something we just don't think about. We have to be very intentional.

Q How does honoring make us more innovative?

A Innovation is the practical application and use of creativity and discovery, so when you think about being creative, you have to have certain conditions that allow that to occur. You need to create a safe environment where people can let creativity flow and energize each other -- a place where, I like to say, we can watch the popcorn pop.

Q How does this philosophy fare in cost-cutting times?

A I think it goes to reminding ourselves what we really stand for, asking what our customers need, then what our employees need to make that connection. If we get too internally focused, we get trapped in the view about what we don't have, rather than what we do have. Economic challenges are times when innovation can make the greatest contribution. It makes you think about solving your problems differently.

Q How can you persuade employees that this effort is sincere?

A It's about having leaders who think about their role as one of service, of being authentic about who they are. One thing we've done is describe the attributes that we expect our leaders to live up to. (See www.honoringwomenworldwide.org.)

Q How did you choose the word honor?

A It was highly intuitive. In my experience, women have no self-esteem across the board. Many women look in the mirror and put themselves down. So how do we show that profound respect for ourselves? It felt like the only word that said it.

Kim Ode • 612-673-7185