Hamilton, Healthcare and Having Enough

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For awhile now I've been reflecting on the idea of abundance and how it connects to the way that we lead ourselves, our teams, and our businesses.  I've been listening.  Listening to my friends and clients, to the news and to my own inner voice and what I hear is a fairly consistent message.  That message...for someone to "win" someone has to lose.  

Now it's not surprising that we see things this way.  Think about it.  From the time we're learning how to play games, participate in sports, or achieve academically we learn that there's a winner and a loser.  Granted we might also learn about winning gracefully or not being a sore loser but seldom is there a focus on an outcome where everyone wins.

There's joy in winning.  We celebrate winning teams, big wins at work, earning more, or getting promoted.  I love nothing more than having the opportunity to share in the happiness of a friend, client or family member who has just experienced success and would guess you feel the same.  That's all good stuff.  But what I'm noticing is that we value winning over the value of working together.

Here's how this might sound in your workplace:

"Our department owns this project and I don't understand why finance/technology/sales/marketing/(insert department here) keeps getting in our way."

And here's how it definitely sounds in our newsfeed:

"The republicans/democrats were able to successfully pass/block this piece of legislation."

These talk tracks are all about one team, one department, or one side coming out on top. It's about winning for the sake of achievement rather than focusing on the broader goals. When we make it about which side wins, we forget who we're doing the work for...the client, the constituent, or the individual that we're serving.  When winning is our focus we are operating from a scarcity mindset.  A belief that there is only so much to go around, and so in order to bring value and be valued we must achieve...be productive...win.  

But what if we shifted our thinking to a mindset of abundance? Having enough for every one.  What if we worked collaboratively, shared our best ideas, challenged one another candidly and kindly, remembering throughout the process who it is that we're serving?  What if it didn't matter who got the credit or whose way it got done, but rather that we collectively moved forward in service to the goal?

I think we'd have a healthcare discussion that was focused on how to serve the greatest number of people in the most effective way.  I know we'd have workplaces that hummed with creativity and collaboration on behalf of clients.  I believe we'd have less worry about failing and more reasons to celebrate our collective success. 

I'm challenging all of us to look through the lens of abundance. To recognize that there is more than enough. I've created a tool with some prompts to help guide you in this process.  Check out the latest SHINE resource that can get you moving in a new direction.  And remember...

The world was wide enough for both Hamilton and me.
— Aaron Burr

Throwing Away Should

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Do you ever "should" yourself?  You know, I should have done more, said less, spoken up, done it differently.  I should work out, eat better, spend less, give more.  I should (insert your own phrase here).

I had an experience a couple of weeks ago that reminded me that "shoulding" is a lot like worrying.  It gives me something to do but it doesn't actually get me anywhere.  In fact it doesn't change the outcome or situation and it drains my energy.  It takes my focus off the possibilities ahead of me and keeps me looking backwards.

Here's the story:

I was leaving the house to visit a friend and her new baby.  As I was walking to the car the voice inside my head sounded something like this; "You should have cooked a meal to bring to them.  You should have at least baked some bread.  You had plenty of time yesterday to prepare for this visit and you didn't do anything.  How thoughtless."  Yep, pretty harsh, right?  I know.

This friend that I was visiting is a close one.  So close that I was showing up in my "only in my own home" look.  No frills.  No makeup.  Snow boots, comfy pants, sweatshirt.   And when I got to her front door guess what opportunity presented itself to me?  The chance to shovel her front walk and sidewalk.  We had gotten one of our few snow falls the night before and the shovel was sitting right outside the door.  I guessed that getting two boys off to school and a new baby didn't leave a lot of time for this new mom to get the shoveling done, but it did present a great opportunity for a visiting friend who just happened to be dressed for some outdoor work. 

When I finished and went inside, here's what she said, "I was watching you out the window and feeling such gratitude for your help.  You took care of the thing that felt overwhelming to me today."  She didn't say, I wish you would have brought a meal or baked some bread.  Nope..not even a mention of the things I had spent time worrying about.  The things I thought I should do.

I've been reflecting on that day.  All I needed to do was be open to what the day presented to me.  I could do something when I was paying attention.  That time shoveling was time well spent...productive, energizing, fulfilling.  And that time I spent "shoulding" on my drive over was quite the opposite...draining, wasted.  The difference between could and should is a pretty powerful one.  

Try out the phrases below.  How does each one make you feel?  What comes up when you say them out loud?

  • I should be working on that budget that my boss wants from me on Friday.
  • I could use this open time on my calendar to dig into that budget project.
  • I should call that friend who I haven't talked to in a month.
  • I could call my friend tonight on the way home from work.  It will be great to catch up.
  • I should be going to the gym more often.
  • I could start taking the stairs up to my office to get a few more steps into my day.

For me the could statements are inspiring.  I feel excited about the opportunity in front of me.  I see possibilities opening up.  

I notice that my clients use should a lot in the beginning.  They've taken the bold step to engage in coaching and they have a focus on moving forward.  Not surprisingly, the place where they feel stuck comes with some self judgement and "shoulding".  Here's what I suggest to them and to you: Throw should away.  That's right.  Stop using it.  When you are talking to yourself internally or to others find another word or way to express what you want.  Replace it with could, want to, get to.  

It will take some time.  For awhile you'll probably say something and then need to ask for permission to rephrase it.  And sometimes you'll forget and let it back in like I did when visiting my friend.  But I know from experience that after some time it will become a habit and you'll start to see the world in a more positive light.  Full of opportunities waiting for you to grab ahold of them.

I'd love to hear from you when you experiment with this and discover how it changes your outlook or approach to situations.  Send me and email at kari@shineleadership.com and tell me your story.  If you discover a great technique for throwing out should I'll be sure to share it with the SHINE community.  We're in this together so let's all do some throwing away today!

Worry is a misuse of the imagination.
— Dan Zadra



We celebrated the end of a season at our house last weekend and our tradition is to mark the occasion with a meal.  Homemade waffles are our annual breakfast to celebrate this day and we kicked it up a notch this year and added fried chicken because...well, why not?  

You see our year is divided into two seasons.  Either we are "in season" or it is the "off season".  My husband is a basketball coach and that means that for six months of the year there are evening practices, games on weekends, recruiting calls after dinner, anxiety about the team's record and whether or not they will make the tournament...and then suddenly there's not. Of course the "off season" has responsibilities and a rhythm of its own but it is vastly different from what it feels like when we are "in season".

The patterns that our year is divided into have become familiar to me and I now love each season for what it offers.  But the passage between the two wasn't always easy.  In earlier years I focused on what I was losing with each transition.  During the season, I spent dinners and weekends on my own.  Loss of companionship. Then basketball season ended and suddenly my husband wanted to make plans. Loss of independence.  Quite simply, I didn't like the change.  I wanted it to be the same routine all the time, not just half of the time.

Perhaps you are in a transition or experiencing something new right now. It may be related to choices you've made or it could be something that took you by surprise.  You might be in one of these situations:

  • You've started a new job or a taken on a new position within your current company
  • You're winding down a career and transitioning to retirement
  • You've just returned to work after a maternity leave and are juggling work and parenthood
  • You were recently exited from an organization

Or any number of other scenarios that involve change from what was to what is.  

These changes can often be difficult for us to embrace.  We fear the unknown and focus on what we're losing.  We move from a routine that makes sense and has order, to something new.  And often times we tell ourselves that we are now stuck there forever.  Because we struggle to recognize that it is a season.  That our life is full of them and much like our weather this year, sometimes they aren't orderly and don't happen in the timeframes we expect them to.  Instead they're jumbled up, inconvenient and set our plans on end. 

When I view life as a series of seasons I do several things differently.  

  • I look at the lessons that the previous season taught me and express gratitude for them
  • I anticipate that this season is going to present me with opportunities to grow and I am on the lookout for them
  • I let go of anxiety about things that are causing me discomfort because I know that change will continue to happen

And rather than missing the adrenaline rush of a Friday night nail biter, I relish quiet movie nights at home instead.

Perhaps it will benefit you to spend some time reflecting on the season that you're in right now.   I put together this worksheet to guide you through the process.  Feel free to download it, use it, and share it.

Life is a series of seasons. Each season brings with it precious gifts to the one with the eyes to notice them.
— Robin Sharma

Love in leadership

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If the title of this post is making you squirm a bit, I understand.  

Love is not often talked about in the business world.  To many if feels too soft, too squishy, too romantic.  It's something reserved for our families, friends, kids, spouses.  It's what we celebrate on Valentine's Day and at weddings.  Definitely not in business meetings and boardrooms.  

A couple of years ago, I was part of a cross-functional team in the midst of defining core values for our organization and the idea of calling out love as one of those values was raised.  Within the group there was a deep sense of agreement that regardless of challenges, mistakes, business issues or conflicts, the caring at the core of the organization was unshakable.  This intangible, unnamed thing had been at the center of sustaining and cultivating internal and external relationships for decades.  The truth was that we loved people.  Our employees and our clients.  There was great discussion and debate about the use of the word love in a corporate context but in the end it ended up on the discard pile for some of the reasons I mentioned above...too soft, romantic, uncomfortable.  We found another word that worked and that captured the concept because calling it love was a bit too scary.

You may have already guessed it, but I argued on behalf of love.  You see, I believe that love is actually one of the core elements of leadership and if we want to lead well we must  be willing to love.  The kind of love that Merriam-Webster defines as "unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another".  The other in this case might just happen to be someone on your team or in your organization that you have the opportunity to impact by the way that you show up and love them.  

Here are five ways you might consider demonstrating love as a leader.

  1. Be clear about your expectations.  As in any relationship, letting the other person know what you need is a key to success.  Lack of clarity or communication simply leaves people guessing about how to make things work.
  2. Give positive feedback.  When things are going well be sure to recognize people.  At its core, being loved it being seen.  When you see someone doing great work let them know you've noticed.
  3. Be honest.  Avoiding difficult conversations under the guise of kindness is actually hurting more than helping.  Loving means leaning in...even when its hard.
  4. Understand and celebrate differences.  Not everyone will take the same approach, find the same solutions or communicate in the same way.  Understand each person's unique way of working so that you are maximizing individual strengths and combining them in powerful ways.
  5. Love yourself.  Take some time to recharge, unplug, and do something for yourself that fills up your bucket.  If you are leading well you are most likely giving a lot to others. You can only give what you have, so be sure to take care of you, too.

If you're looking for an easy way to remember these ideas, I put together this handy printable for you to use.   Feel free to print it, use it, and share the love.

The first job of leadership is to love people. Leadership without love is manipulation.
— Rick Warren

Resolutions OR Revelations

You say you made a resolution.  

This phrase has been running through my head over the past couple of weeks...(to the tune of the Beatles song Revolution, of course)  The start of a new year with bold plans for change and self-improvement is upon us.  A ritual that may happen annually for some and may seem like a waste of time to others.  In the past, my resolutions have leaned towards the complex (with bullet points included under the main goals) and have often ended up on the “cutting room floor” within the first quarter of the year.  Abandoned for a multitude of reasons which may sound familiar to some of you.

BUSY...No time to add new things to my routine
COMFORTABLE...My old habits are fine and I forgot why I thought it was a good idea to change them
ON OWN...Friends, job, spouse all fit nicely with the old way of doing things so I don’t have the needed support system to help facilitate the changes
STRESSED...I have a lot of stress because of (insert reason) and I need to this coffee, wine, chocolate, potato chip, etc. to make me feel better

So this year I’m focused on a different way of starting the year.  It’s about revelations instead of resolutions.  You see, I’ve learned that what is more important than improving ourselves is remembering ourselves. Our best selves.  The person we show up as when we have the time, patience, and compassion for people and situations that present themselves in our lives.  

We sometimes lose sight of this “self” as we react to the stress in our lives.  When we focus on 1) what we don’t have, 2) what we think we need more of or 3) what might happen that is beyond our ability to control, we make repeated choices that don’t leave us feeling great. We buy things, eat things, drink things, say things that aren't fueling us and we end the year feeling discouraged or depleted.

And so when the new year begins we make resolutions. 

Maybe that's working for you this year.  Maybe this second week of January finds you killin' it.  If so, that's great and you should keep doing what you're doing.  Rock on!

But if you're looking for a new way, then you're invited to join me in focusing on revelations. This isn't about making big, overwhelming, sweeping changes that are focused on what you need to do and how you’re going to do it.  But rather in knowing who you are, wanting to show up at your best and feeling inspired by this deeper sense of self. Revelation not resolution.

If you want to dive into this I've got a tool that can help you do just that. I've used it myself and find it's useful not only at the new year but anytime you want to change the way you're leading.  Use it now.  Use it later.  Just try it.

An idea, to be suggestive, must come to the individual with the force of revelation.
— William James, philosopher