Shifting from a Scarcity Mindset

Pas de place pour deux -- Not enough space for two

Last week, I met someone who talked about how Philadelphia wasn’t a great city. When I asked her why, her answer was that the lack of money was the root of its problems. Most people I have met talk about what a wonderful city it is and how the community has worked together to make it better. I have been thinking about that for much of this week as I dealt with budgets and allocated resources to various projects and initiatives.

My thoughts have been around how the core belief that resources are scarce is at the root of so much of what we do and think. The quote from Lynne Twist. In her book The Soul of Money, defines the mindset of scarcity really well.

“For me, and for many of us, our first waking thought of the day is “I didn’t get enough sleep.” The next one is “I don’t have enough time.” Whether true or not, that thought of not enough occurs to us automatically before we even think to question or examine it. We spend most of the hours and the days of our lives hearing, explaining, complaining, or worrying about what we don’t have enough of.… Before we even sit up in bed, before our feet touch the floor, we’re already inadequate, already behind, already losing, already lacking something. And by the time we go to bed at night, our minds are racing with a litany of what we didn’t get, or didn’t get done, that day. We go to sleep burdened by those thoughts and wake up to that reverie of lack.… This internal condition of scarcity, this mind-set of scarcity, lives at the very heart of our jealousies, our greed, our prejudice, and our arguments with life.…”

As I have been mulling this over this week, I thought about the concept of abundance that I read and learned about in my MBA program. The idea that we just need to be creative to make the pie bigger so that there is more to divide is still rooted in the idea of scarcity and focused on getting MY share of the limited quantities of stuff that are available.

Brene Brown defines scarcity as the “never enough” problem and proposes that to move away from a scarcity mindset, we need to develop a belief that we are enough that is satisfied internally rather than externally. This core belief gives us the courage and confidence to share our ideas and ask for what we need without being dependent on external praise or deflated by criticism from others. It also opens us up to incorporate different ideas and truly partner with others. The real magic happens when we feel as much joy in others’ success and good fortune as we feel in our own.

This rings very true for me and my experience. I spent years doing what I call the ego hustle. Constantly feeling inadequate and focused on what I didn’t have. I struggled to drive my agenda and get through my long list of to-dos, believing that if I just worked hard enough, I would be successful and feel better about myself.

I have learned to recognize the thoughts of “never _____ enough” that consume my energy and divert my focus. When I can redirect my energy and focus on being a positive leader, then I am able to discern the most important things I need to accomplish, have the focused attention to get them done, and find others very willing and able to help. How I work now is so different than how I have worked in the past and it is so much more fun and effective.

My challenge to you this week is to notice whether you have a scarcity mindset. How much time and energy do you spend worrying about “never ____ enough?” The first step toward changing is always awareness.


Photo credit: Gilles Gonthier –

The Shiny Factor


One of the great things about starting a new job and moving to a new place is the “shiny” factor.  When things are new, they are shiny and exciting and give a sense of wonder and possibility. As you can imagine, I have experienced many new things as I have made this transition. Here is my short list.

The people
The last two weeks have been a whirlwind of meeting new people. I don’t have history with any of the people that I am meeting, so we are “shiny” to each other. Every new interaction is an opportunity. It gives me a chance to hear stories and learn about the individuals, and thus about the place since culture is formed by the shared stories. I am approaching these interactions with freedom and authenticity and curiosity. Instead of being worried if the other person likes me, I am focused on understanding and learning about them. I have been very conscious of even my small actions when meeting others because every interaction is a chance for me to define myself as a positive leader to the other person.

The mass transit system
As I was leaving work yesterday, I casually mentioned to an out-of-town friend on the phone that I was going to catch the subway. Her reaction was, “That is so cool!” That has been my reaction as well.  I love the easy access to transportation and have found that taking the subway is a non-stressful way for me to get quickly to and from work. I was also able to take the train into New York this past week. It was so easy and fast. I was nervous, so I got to the train station early, but didn’t need to. It reminded me of how air travel used to be with quick boarding and the ability to show up just before you are scheduled to leave. I was in New York in just an hour and twenty minutes.

The food
Philadelphia is a foodie town and I am loving it. The variety and excellence of the food choices is wonderful. Because there are so many options, I expect the shininess of this to last a long time.

The biking
The Schuylkill River trail is only a couple of blocks from my house and it is beautiful. I can easily get a 30-40 minutes workout in the morning before work. There is also an active biking community with lots of organized rides and events. And there are serious hills here to challenge me and improve my biking!

The museums
Philadelphia has many high quality museums and most are within walking distance from my house. My husband and I went to the Barnes Foundation on Sunday afternoon. The first Sunday of every month is free to the public and we took advantage of the offer. It is such an amazing collection of impressionist and post-impressionist artwork that rivals any Paris museum.

What I have noticed is that the shiny mindset happens because I am open to a new experience and curious about what is going to happen and usually quite hopeful and optimistic about the possibilities. When I am familiar with things, I think I already know what is going to happen and stop being open and curious. I also have noticed that I tend to focus on what I don’t like when things become routine. So the key to sustaining a shiny mindset even when things are not new is to remain open, curious, and optimistic.

My challenge to you this week would be to try to approach one relationship or activity as if it were shiny and new to introduce some wonder into your world.


Photo Credit: Amtrak 30th Street Station – Von I, Mtruch, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Crowdsourcing Culture Change

My first week at Temple has been great. Everyone has been very welcoming and I loved getting to meet individual team members and hearing their ideas. Many of the ideas that I heard this week, and also in the weeks before I started, were about changing the culture.

Establishing a supportive and innovative culture is my most important job as a leader.  It is also one of the most challenging things to do. This is not something any one person can do alone. Each group defines its culture together, either intentionally or unintentionally.

This week, we started to intentionally create a new culture together by crowd sourcing ideas from the entire Computer Services team. I invited everyone to come to a meeting and we did two liberating structure exercises to identify the top things that the team would like to change.

The first exercise was to identify what we should STOP doing. We did this by having each person in the room design the most demotivating work environment that could imagine. The power of asking the opposite of what you want to achieve is that it is unexpected and opens the thinking of the group. The second step of this exercise was to identify which demotivating things we were currently doing as a team. The final step was to prioritize the top two things we would like to stop, with a concrete first step on moving forward. Each step of the exercise is done by having each individual do their own thinking, then share their thoughts with one other person at their table, then discuss the ideas as a table before sharing their ideas with the entire group.

The report out from the tables was fun and it was very clear immediately that the team wanted  to stop requiring salaried employees to clock in and out each day,

The second half of our all team meeting was to generate bold ideas of what we could do. This exercise is done by having each person generate one bold idea of how to make the culture of the team better with the first step that they would take to make their idea happen.  The ideas are written on one side of an index card. Then everyone in the room stands up, exchanges cards and rates others’ ideas on a scale from 1-5, with 5 representing a terrific idea that they could fully support.

This exercise turned out to be a little chaotic with so many people in the room. While not perfect, the exercise did work and the group generated several ideas that got top ratings.

Like the first exercise, the majority of the ideas centered around one theme. The team really wanted to establish flexible work schedule options, including telecommuting. This is something that is important to me as well and we will work together to define guidelines for the team in the coming month.

I have already taken concrete steps based on the suggestions from the meeting. Eliminating clocking in and out for salaried employees was an easy thing to accomplish which I did by sending out an email at the end of the week. One team member tweeted about clocking out for the last time, which made me smile.

We will all meet again next month and will assess the progress that we have made on the creating more flexible schedules for the team. We will also work together on other aspects of the culture.

My challenge for you this week is to think about the culture that you are either intentionally or unintentionally creating in your team and identify if it is the culture you want. If it isn’t, think about how you can involve the entire team to start to shape your culture more intentionally together.

Photo taken by ITU pictures –


I am in the middle of the transition to my new role.  For me, the middle is the least comfortable part of any transition. I think this is because I want to be constantly moving forward and instead of being in limbo, want to move quickly to decision and action.

In his book, Transitions, William Bridges outlines three steps of transition that every individual go through when change happens. The first is an ending, the second is a neutral zone, between the old and the new, and finally, the third step is a new beginning. He argues that every successful transition has all of these phases that need to be fully experienced and that most of us are not comfortable making transitions even though we are constantly changing.

One piece of advice that Bridges gives is to not try to rush the neutral zone, but to take time to be alone in order to make the mental and emotional transition from the old to the new. This includes understanding what you want to leave behind and what you want to create and who you want to be as you move forward.

I thought I was following that advice when I scheduled almost a month between my old and new job. However, in retrospect, I filled that time with many activities and didn’t really take much time to be alone and introspect.

My final full week in Ann Arbor has been a time for connections with several walks with dear friends through the Arboretum and cherished meals with wonderful colleagues. I have been busy packing and sorting getting ready for my new life in Philadelphia. I also have been sick all week with a summer cold.

I have noticed that often when I am in transition, I get sick. The first time I noticed this was at the end of each semester in college, when I would literally collapse into bed after completing my last final. And, often after completing a major project, I would come down with something after all of the stress had dissipated. This week as I have been forced to slow down to let my body heal, I have come to the conclusion that this is a mechanism that I personally use to slow down and give myself space away from activity and time to recover.

I am excited and curious about this next step in my transition to a leader at Temple University and recognize that this transition feels better than previous job changes. I am not anxious and have continued to use the tools that I have learned to stay at peace. Understanding that I don’t need to have all the answers, I haven’t made a 90-day plan of things I want to make sure will happen as I start my new job.  Instead, I have written a positive intention to listen, understand, and work collaboratively with my new colleagues to create a shared culture and vision. I am eager to see what we create together.

My challenge to you this week is to notice where you are in the transitions in your life and give yourself the time, space, and permission to experience all of the different steps in your own personal transitions.


Achieving Ambitious Goals

IMG_0908This week I have been on vacation with my extended family in Breckenridge, Colorado. When we got to Colorado, we made an ambitious goal of hiking one of the mountains that is higher than 14,000 feet. Colorado natives refer to these peaks at 14ers. We chose Quandary Peak. At 14,265 feet, it is the tallest mountain in the 10 mile range that includes Breckenridge. It was categorized as “difficult” on the Top ten hikes around Breckenridge web page that we found. The hike is long and very steep, gaining 3450 ft in around 3 ½ miles. We had just come from sea level and knew we were going to need to acclimate to the high altitude before we made the attempt.

In order to get ready, we planned a couple of warm-up hikes that were marked “moderate.” We realized that a mid-westerner view of moderate and a western view of moderate are different on the first hike that we made to Mohawk Lakes. It may have been the extra two miles from the parking lot to the trailhead that are not included in the distance quoted for the hike. Or that we wandered off the trail and ended up scaling large rocks next to a waterfall. The waterfall ascent was too much for our youngest daughter and niece, who both opted to wait for the rest of us to return. Impressively, my niece’s husband completed the climb with his 7-month daughter strapped to him in a front pack. Luckily we found the trail on the way back down and didn’t have to try to climb down the same way.


Our daughters opted out of our second warm up hike, so Mark and I went with my brother and his wife. It was a beautiful and rewarding hike to McCullough Gulch. It gave me confidence that we could do the Quandary Peak hike the next day.

The only takers for the Quandary Peak hike were Mark, me and our two daughters. We were on the trail by 6:10 in the morning wanting to be off the mountain before any afternoon thunder showers rolled in. Most of the hike is above the tree line and on loose, granite rocks. It was difficult, steep, and long. We encountered our first of a family of mountain goats on the first ridge which was unexpected and interesting.

IMG_0982As we started the long final ascent, it was necessary for me to change my focus and goal setting. Instead of focusing at the top of the peak, I started focusing on walking fifty steps before needing to stop and catch my breath. Hikers who were on their way down were encouraging and motivating by telling us we were close and that the view was well worth the climb.

They were right. The view from the top was spectacular and it felt great to have accomplished such a challenging feat. It was also very satisfying to see the excitement and sense of accomplishment in my husband and daughters.

The most difficult mental part of the hike was the descent. I probably should have anticipated this, but it surprised me. We endlessly picked a path through the rocks, trying to minimize the jarring and not sprain any ankles or knees. We all ended up coming down at our own pace and spread out down the mountain. After the hike we were all tired and very satisfied that we had accomplished such a hard and rewarding goal.

Growth happens when we push outside of our comfort zone and try to achieve something that is worthwhile and hard. Do you have any goals that are stretching you out of your comfort zone? If not, think of how you might challenge yourself in the coming week.


Leadership Lessons Riding in a Peloton

I participated in One Helluva Ride last Saturday and had an amazing time riding 66 miles in a peloton with my husband and a couple of our good friends. For those of you who are not familiar with cycling, a peloton is when a team of riders forms a line and works together so they can all go faster and longer than any of them could individually. Below are a few valuable leadership principles that I have learned from riding in a peloton that I would like to share.

Safety is the most important priority. Riding a bicycle is dangerous and riding fast and closely behind another cyclist increases the risks. It is very important to know and abide by the safety guidelines when you are riding in a peloton and to know and trust your team members. At work, mental and emotional safety are critical so that people are willing to take risks, be creative, and work as a team to solve complex problems. As a leader, this means that you foster a safe environment that builds trust among all team members. A big part of that is establishing clear guidelines and boundaries.

Leadership is shared, roles are clear, and constant communication is vital. In a peloton, the position in the line determines the role of the rider. The line is shifting every few minutes when the leader of the line moves to the back of the line after their shift is done. Communication happens with a combination of hand signals and verbal signals that are clearly understood by each rider. The first person in the peloton is responsible for scanning the horizon, communicating back to others in the line, and setting the pace and direction. The last person is line is responsible for monitoring what is behind the group and communicating forward. Each rider in the middle passes every communication along and also communicates anything they notice, like a slowdown in front of them or someone in the line falling behind.

A peloton team works best when the members together establish shared goals for the ride, including the destination or length of the ride, the expected pace, and the duration of the pulls. At work, when I have had the pleasure of being on a team where everyone is aligned, willing to adjust their roles, and openly communicating, it has been effective and fun.

Managing energy is the key to optimal performance. The main advantage of riding in a peloton is that drafting behind someone takes about 30% less energy than riding alone or at the front of the peloton. Optimal performance happens when each person in a peloton is going at a pace that pushes them when they are leading and allows them to recover when they are not. Each rider has to be conscious that they will hit their limit (aka bonking) if they take the lead for too long or are traveling at a stressful pace when they are not in the lead. If this is happening, they need to communicate that the peloton should slow down or choose a group that is going at a pace that is more appropriate for their fitness level.

Acceleration requires a tremendous amount of energy, so riding at a steady and sustainable pace and avoiding frequent stops and starts conserves energy for the entire team. One of the things that is hardest for me is not accelerating when I get to the front of the peloton because there is a natural feeling of freedom that happens when you are looking up instead of at the tire in front of you. Jumping ahead of the team wastes energy and exhausts the rest of the team.

This translates directly to what it takes to be a leader. If you are constantly stretching and end up stressed with no recovery time, you will become exhausted and burned out. Make sure you and your team have recovery time, are working at a sustainable pace, and are not constantly starting and stopping projects. And make sure that you are not getting too far ahead of the rest of the team, so that they don’t waste energy trying to chase you down.

My challenge for you this week is to look at your current work teams and see how well they are working together. Hopefully, some of these peloton principles can help make your teams even better.  Good luck!

Power Cycling Bloomington Training Camp Photo taken by Jeremy Zeigler

Joyful Interviewing

Before I went through the interview process at Temple University, I would not have thought that interviewing could be joyful. However, that is how I would describe my experience as I went through the many months of interviewing at Temple.

A recruiter reached out to me about the job at Temple last November. I didn’t know much about Temple. My niece had attended there for a couple of years so I knew where it was, that it was a public university, and that they had a good basketball program. The job description, written with the emphasis on the mission of accessibility, affordability, service and excellence, caught my attention. I was intrigued and my conversations with the recruiter and head of the search committee deepened my interest.

At the time I felt that it didn’t make sense to pursue the opportunity because our youngest daughter has two more years of high school and we are tied to Ann Arbor until she graduates. Before I officially applied for the position, my husband, Mark, and I talked about whether we could make it work if I got the position. For me, it was a matter of integrity that I would not pursue the position unless I would be willing to accept the job. Mark was supportive and encouraged me to throw my hat into the ring. We decided together that we would figure out how to make it work if I got the offer and that I needed to pursue the opportunity.

My first interview was a videoconference with the search committee. A couple of the committee members had U-M connections and they were genuinely enthusiastic about my experience and leadership. I met the committee in person when I was invited back to campus a couple of months later for two marathon days of back-to-back interviews.

When I saw the interview schedule for my visit, I knew they were serious. I met with the President, Provost, Deans, Vice Presidents and key faculty and staff members. In preparation for the interview, I talked with my executive coach and wrote my intention to leave everyone that I met with feeling peaceful and energized and that I would get enough information to determine whether this was a place where I could be the positive leader and help in the development of a virtuous organization.

My two days on campus were amazing. My affection for Temple started with my first interaction with a charming student who offered to help as I examined the campus map the night I arrived on campus. It continued to grow during the two days of interviews as I asked each person I met why they chose to work at Temple. Their passion around the mission and the possibilities at the university was inspiring and infectious.

I came home energized and excited but Mark was worried. His concern increased when I was notified that I was one of two finalists and Mark and I were invited for the final day of interviews and a tour of Philadelphia in April. This is when we started serious discussions of how we really could make this work while preserving our marriage and family life.

The final day of interviews had the same energy as my first visit to campus. My favorite interaction of the day was a town hall meeting where all of computing services were invited to attend and ask me questions. That town hall was so much fun with a lots of laughter and great questions. I surprised the group by asking them a couple of questions. The first question I asked was “What are you most proud of that you have accomplished at your time at Temple?” The second question was “What do you want the incoming CIO at Temple to know? For the first question, I asked people to share their responses openly. For the second, I asked them to just write down their response and turn it in so that I could know what was important to them. Those responses gave me valuable information that was crucial to my eventually accepting the job.

While I was interviewing, Mark was investigating. He took the subway to the Temple campus, walked around, struck up conversations with students and parents, tried to attend a class (it was the day of the final exam so he decided not to stay), and went to the bookstore to buy Temple gear. Mark summed up the visit by saying that Temple had fallen in love with me and I had fallen in love with Temple. This was definitely true.

Trying to figure out how this could work with our family was the hardest part of the entire process. Reality dashed my fantasy of having all of us relocate to Philadelphia immediately. Mark can work from anywhere, which is helpful, but children and pets are not easily transportable between locations. We explored many different scenarios through various bouts of stubbornness and hard conversations. The option that we could both live with was to have me work Monday-Thursday at Temple and work remotely on Fridays from Ann Arbor until our youngest graduates in a couple of years.

I was thrilled when I got the call that Temple had selected me as their next CIO. The final barrier to me accepting the job came down to whether it would be feasible for me to telecommute one day a week for two years. While I had been transparent during the entire interview process about our youngest needing to stay in Ann Arbor, the possibility of regular telecommuting had not been discussed as a way for me to balance my work and family obligations. The initial answer was a partial yes with time restrictions that wouldn’t work for my family.

For me, it was a practical and well as a philosophical question. Telecommuting is expected for high tech professionals and I have had flexibility in my work schedule for decades. Also, I had data from the computing services staff that telecommuting was important to them from the question that I asked at the town hall meeting. More broadly, it raised concerns for me about how much autonomy I would have to lead and make changes. Even after talking with the head of the search committee and the provost, the reluctance for me to telecommute remained.

So I turned down the offer.

I did this in complete freedom and peace. As much as I loved Temple and wanted the opportunity, I knew that I couldn’t be the positive leader that I aspire to be if it wasn’t possible to make this change. A friend, who is a positive business consultant, encouraged me to give Temple the opportunity to fire me before they hired me to see if they were really capable of and interested in creating to a more positive work culture and whether they would be open to other changes that I would want to promote.

Happily, Temple demonstrated that they were interested in changing and offered to have me work with HR on a telecommuting policy for all of computing services. This satisfied my practical need to telecommute while advancing my ability to create a more positive and trusted work environment. And it gave me a very positive signal about what a good fit we would be for each other.

I start at Temple in August.

My challenge for you this week is to approach your current job and your next job with integrity and freedom. You should always be looking for a good fit. Remain curious and approach interviews as conversations where both sides are learning about each other.

The Power of Written Positive Intentions


One of the most valuable tools I have in getting clarity about what I want to achieve, removing apprehension about moving forward, and achieving the results I want is writing a positive intention.

The goal of a positive intention is to move from fear to freedom. Writing an intention allows you to imagine an exceptional outcome and experience the positive emotions of achieving that outcome.

A written positive intention has very specific rules:

  • It is written in past tense (as if it has already happened).
  • It is written in all positive terms.
  • It should be hand-written, not typed, if possible.
  • It identifies the most exceptional outcome you can imagine.
  • It focuses on how you and others feel about the outcome and the impact you can have if you achieve your positive outcome.
  • It is always a draft. Modify it over time. Write several versions to identify when your intention is based of fear, which may mean it is self-focused or your ego is showing up.

I use intentions all the time at work. Before I go into a difficult meeting. When I am setting goals for the year or defining success for a project or initiative. An intention is can be used to communicate with your team or it can be used as a personal tool. When I can go into a meeting with a clear intention and my ego in check, I am more aware and calm and grounded and the results are amazing and I feel energized.

The most powerful experience I had using a positive intention is a very personal one. A couple of years ago, my oldest son was really depressed and I was worried and scared. Our family has a long history with mental illness including three generations of suicides and I have directly experienced the devastating effect when a family member commits suicide. I didn’t want that for my son.

I shared my deep fear with my executive coach and she encouraged me to write an intention about my son. A couple of months later, he came home for a visit and I was confronted directly with the extent of his illness and self-medication. It came to a head one day and as we sat down to talk, the atmosphere was sad, defeated and heavy. We were both crying until I shared my intention with him.

As I shared my intention describing how I could picture him at the end of a successful semester and our family skiing and snowboarding together, the energy in the room shifted and we both felt lighter and hopeful. He took me up on the offer to meet with my coach to learn how to move from fear to freedom and to develop his own intentions. The most amazing part of the story is that six months later, our family was gathered in Park City skiing and snowboarding, and my son had just completed a successful semester at college.

My intention had come true.

Of course, there are many details to the story that I have not shared. My son has worked hard with lots of ups and downs and I have not always been able to keep from worrying. We now have a shared language about intentions and fear to freedom that has been helpful. I talked to him the other day and he told me that he was doing better than ever, which makes me very happy and hopeful.

From Fear to Freedom

ballon launch
DSC03116, by littlemoresunshine, is licensed CC BY 2.0.

My most common fear is failing and looking bad to others. It goes across all parts of my life, from work to family to church to community. I have tried to manage and suppress these fears by being super competent and working really hard. For years, I over functioned as a manager, wife, and mother, which meant that I would fill any gaps that I saw, which devalued other’s contributions and left me exhausted. I have worked hard to change and know I have made significant progress. However, I was unaware how ingrained these thought patterns were in my life, until I started working to improve my skills through a coaching program I developed with Kim Knapp called “Fear to Freedom.”

As I became more curious about my reactions and emotions, I realized that many things each day were triggers for my fear. It could be someone not showing up for a meeting, which I interpreted as disrespectful. It could be my kids ignoring my text and phone calls, which left me worried about their safety or annoyed that they were ignoring me. It could be selecting whether I attended a meeting not based on the content, but whether it would be good politically to be seen there. The inputs were constant and each time I felt knots in my stomach, I knew I was draining my energy and diluting my focus.

The “Fear to Freedom” model has been helpful to me in disrupting my long held patterns. Kim Knapp developed the “Fear to Freedom” model when she was working as a turnaround consultant who would come in when a company was failing. She now works as an executive coach, and has been working within Medical School Information Services for many years.

So how do you get an entire organization to change when they know that if they don’t do something different, they will go out of business?  Kim focused on shifting everyone to a place of creativity and collaboration so they could do their best thinking.

When we start a new coaching cohort in our group, we use a simple exercise to describe the “Fear to Freedom” model.  We have completed five coaching cohorts and the responses have been similar in each group.

We start by asking, “What do you do when you are afraid?” or “What behaviors have you observed in others when they afraid?” The brainstormed list will include many of the following: avoid, procrastinate, blame, bully, push ideas, defend, or exert control.

The next question is “Think of a time at work when you loved what you were doing at work. What did you love about it?” These answers will probably include: engaged, focused, authentic, creative, fun, or amazing team.

We then talk about where the focus is when someone is fearful.  When someone is in fear, they are focused on themselves. For me, it is often about ego and looking good. When we are operating in fear, we are usually focused on losing something like a job, status, promotion, esteem, love, etc.

fearfreedommodelIn contrast, when someone is operating in freedom, they are focused on something other than themselves. Much has been written about being purpose driven, either as an individual or organization. Clear purpose brings clarity and energy that enables excellence. This is true for individuals as well as organizations.

The first step for me has been awareness. I use the scale from 1 to 10 to help me assess where I am, with 1 being completely in fear and 10 being in complete freedom. It was uncomfortable to let myself feel fear rather than suppressing it, and then ultimately dealing with deep sadness that comes with loss. The loss is giving up the idea that I can control what happens.

The hardest work we do in on ourselves. It takes courage to be willing to be curious and allow ourselves to question why we are afraid. Our emotions come from the stories that we tell ourselves. It is our interpretation of events, not the events themselves that cause most of our suffering. It takes practice to be mindful of where you are on the spectrum and to identify ways that you can move toward freedom.

I hope you find this model useful. It has become a tool for me to become more of the person that I want to be.

Building a Virtuous Organization

Hand reaching out

When I joined the U-M Medical School Information Services (MSIS),  I was excited about the opportunity to create an effective and service-oriented IT organization knowing that we would contribute to healing patients, training the next generation of physicians and enabling life-changing research.  I believe the  most important part of my job has been to create a culture of collaboration, innovation and learning.

We branded our culture as “One MSIS” and tried to create an environment where:

  • Every person is empowered and engaged;
  • We work in teams;
  • We learn from mistakes;
  • We celebrate success;
  • We embrace change;
  • Believe we can make a difference;
  • We are supportive of each other; and
  • Progressively evolve through “relentless incrementalism”

We have launched a number of initiatives over the last four years to create this culture in MSIS.  We invested in training, knocked down (literally and figuratively)  walls to bring teams together in open office workspaces, supported employee ideas through events like “Hack Days”, made our work visible across the University (and beyond), and brought in professional coaching.

The most transformational experiment for me  was the Fear to Freedom coaching program Kim Knapp, our executive coach, and I developed to help our leaders learn how to hold others accountable in a supportive way.  Through the program, I was mentored by Kim and she helped me see how many of my own actions were inconsistent with the culture that I was promoting.  It wasn’t just transformational for me.  Several participants have told me how valuable it was for them and it has changed the way we interact as a team across MSIS.

Over the course of several months, I met several amazing thought leaders that continued to challenge my thinking.  Steffani Webb shared the “Jayhawk Way” program that she created that has fundamentally changed the culture at the University of Kansas Medical Center (KUMC).  Kim Cameron described his research on the benefits of being a virtuous organization, Jane Dutton talked about how to infuse positivity to accelerate change and create high quality connections.  Jim Loehr spoke about the need to manage energy and change our stories in order to excel and Billy Taylor demonstrated the power of storytelling.

Word Map of One MSIS Vision StatmentAfter these interactions, I took a long hard look at the “One MSIS” vision and created a word map of the “One MSIS” vision statement. It helped confirm in my mind that the vision itself was flawed because it was self-focused.  If we want to accelerate our culture change, we need to infuse positivity and virtuous behaviors throughout the organization, and focus on others rather than on ourselves.

In the last year, I have learned and grown more as a person and leader than I thought was possible.  I am fully committed to becoming a virtuous leader who practices what she preaches.   It has not been comfortable or easy, but it has been rewarding and energy infusing.  I have learned that the most difficult work I have to do is on myself and that it helps to surround myself with others who are also on the journey to being virtuous leaders.

I invite you to start your own journey to becoming a virtuous leader and join me as a fellow traveler.