Celebrating Dr. Carla Rotering’s Health Care Heroes 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award

Please join me in celebrating Dr. Carla Rotering’s Health Care Heroes 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award bestowed by the Phoenix Business Journal.  (Watch video here.)  Dr. Rotering practices Pulmonary Medicine at Banner Thunderbird Medical Center and White Mountains Regional Medical Center.  She has a long history of leadership and education positions including Director of Critical Care, Chair of Medicine and Chief of Staff.
At Thunderbird Leadership, we know Carla as a leader, mentor and coach who is deeply committed to people–to their growth, upliftment, resilience and purpose as they strive toward the best version of themselves in their professional and personal lives.
Her story is compelling and inspirational, but even more so, her way of being is a model of compassion, integrity and genuineness so it is no surprise that she has been recognized for lifetime achievement.
Carla’s story teaches us about opportunity and possibility. Her consulting company is named BoXcar International because she spent her first six years living in a boxcar on the prairie in North Dakota.  In her achievement award comments, Carla explained how that experience informed her perspectives.  First of all, she explained, she did not see anything unusual about living in a boxcar.  It was just the way it was.  Secondly, though, on reflection, she viewed the boxcar for a metaphor about repurposing.  When the boxcar was no longer needed by the railroad, it served a new purpose for people in need.
That metaphor of repurposing appears to have carried through Carla’s life.  She went from clerical roles to medical school in her 30s when she realized this was even a possibility, supporting and nurturing her children at the same time.  She engaged full-heartedly in her practice only to discover, after many years of dedicated work, that she was physically and emotionally depleted, a condition experienced by many medical providers.
Carla found another opportunity to repurpose, getting a degree in Spiritual Psychology, training in Crucial Conversations and Emotional Intelligence and two coaching certifications.  This study and work helped her regain her inner strength and gave her a new area of focus. While continuing her practice of pulmonary medicine, she founded BoXcar International, providing coaching and facilitation for people in the medical profession to help them take care of themselves so they can continue to care for others.
In the process of her work, she connected with kindred spirits, Amy Steinbinder and Dorothy Sisneros of Thunderbird Leadership.  Together, they conceived a Leadership Summit that is unique in design and application, promoting a philosophy of self-care, mindfulness and reflection.  Now, in its thirteenth year, the Summit continues to offer participants an opportunity to step back from the never ending demands of doing, to reorient themselves and listen to the deeper meaning of their work and their lives.
Carla’s influence on the Summit is profound.  Her poetic language defines the event and her teachings, meditations, poems and presentations create a tone that helps us all hold ourselves and each other more gently, more kindly. Carla’s way of being and seeing emanates from her heart and touches us all.
Lifetime Achievement! Doctor, coach, facilitator, poet, presenter, educator, parent, friend, mentor and guide.  All done with humility, compassion, intellect and wisdom.
Congratulations Carla! Once again, join me in celebrating her success and join us all at the thirteenth Leadership Summit on November 15th, 2019 at the Phoenix Art Museum.
Register before October 1 to avoid late registration fees.
For more information click here.

Tip of the Month, September 2019 – Tips on the How of Staying or Going

Do you have an emergency communication plan and a “go” bag? These are the things people should think through and pack for any number of situations that could happen in life. I live in wild-land fire country, and I know first hand what it is to need to escape with the most important and irreplaceable things for my life.
In a similar vein, do you have an emergency plan in case you need to leave your work/job in a hurry? Seriously, hopefully no one reading this will be met one day with a security guard, packing boxes and an order to exit your workplace within the hour. But we know these things do happen. Not my company, you think. But maybe, in your company, you are getting the impression that you should leave, for a variety of reasons.
In our latest blog post, Should I Stay or Should I Go?, Thunderbird author Rory Gilbert discussed reasons for staying, and leaving, a job or a workplace. Her focus was the decision-making process and what to consider. In this month’s Tips, we will address some of the practical issues once the staying or leaving has been decided.

  1. Develop the stamina to stay. You have decided it is better to stay, even though the situation has some negatives. The positives are stronger. Many of the following ideas come from the blogs of Natasha Stanley at CareerShifters.org and Darcy Eikenberg at RedCapeRevolution.com.

Rather than changing your work or job, plan to change your life at work.

  • View this agreement with yourself to stay as a decision “for the time being”. You can revisit it at any time. Set and calendar a date to review your decision, perhaps six months out.
  • Identify the positive elements of your workplace or job and focus on them rather than the negative aspects. Write them down. Post them in front of you.
  • Increase the excitement and engagement of your work by asking your manager or leader for new opportunities.
  • Step up or volunteer to take the leadership on a situation you would like to see changed.
  • Find people outside your workplace that you can share your frustrations with.
  • Make sure that you take care of yourself. Get adequate sleep, eat well, exercise, plan for social support. And strive to keep your life stress free.
  1. Decide to leave, believing that it’s time to move on. But before you go, there are many things you should consider. A great article from a Reddit post, cited in Rory’s blog, provides many useful suggestions. We have excerpted some of the more common ones here, and you can find a link to access the complete article in the references.
  • If it is your choice to go you should have a firm, written job offer in hand. Don’t leave without one. Know what you will do if your employer makes a counteroffer. How “good” would it have to be to make you change your decision? If you accept a counteroffer, make sure you have it in writing.
  • Copy performance reviews, certifications, other personal documents that you’ll want to keep (eg, awards, honors) as well as your salary and benefit information. Do not make copies of any work performed, without permission. This is considered the equivalent of stealing.
  • Don’t burn bridges. Maintain a professional demeanor throughout the process.
  • Do not share the fact of your leaving with coworkers and friends before informing your manager and Human Resources.
  1. If your leaving is a result of a forced termination, such as a layoff or firing, take these actions to help yourself through the process. And remember to take care of yourself.
  • Apply for unemployment benefits as soon as possible. The process can take weeks. Address other financial matters such as continuing life insurance, health insurance, and managing employer-sponsored retirement accounts.
  • Be super-frugal about every bit of unnecessary spending. You don’t know how long your financial resources will last.
  • Remind yourself that you do have a job; your job is finding a new job, and you need to devote the time and intensity you would spend at work on this effort.

No matter if you stay or go, you will find yourself in the process of change, and change is hard, even when we’re in the driver’s seat. Be patient with yourself. You probably have friends, family members and colleagues who have been through a similar situation. They may have great advice for YOU, because they know you. Reach out to them.
If an employee assistance program is available use it for support. An EAP is a confidential resource. Seeking out a mentor or a coach is another useful option during this process. Using all the resources you can and accepting help is not a weakness; it is a sign that you are determined to get through the process in the very best way you can. Isn’t that the advice you would give a friend? Why not be that friend to yourself. Good luck!
https://www.careershifters.org/expert-advice/how-to-survive-a-job-you-hate-but-cant-leave-yet, accessed online 8-23-19.
https://redcaperevolution.com/secrets-to-stay-or-leave-your-job/, accessed online 8-23-19.
https://www.reddit.com/r/personalfinance/comments/6g146m/be_prepared_if_youre_resigning_or_quitting_have/, accessed online 8-23-19.

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

I’ve got the Clash’s earworm stuck in my head.

Should I stay or should I go
If I go there will be trouble
And if I stay it will be double
So come on and let me know
This indecision’s bugging me
If you don’t want me, set me free
Exactly who am I’m supposed to be[1]

One of the hardest decisions we have to make is whether to stay in a job that is not satisfactory or whether to move on.  How do you decide?  What factors make a difference. Where do you begin?
There are a few core factors that must be considered:

  1. Financial security – this may determine when and how you leave, but should not determine if you leave (based on other factors below). We hear people talk about golden handcuffs – making so much, healthcare, pension, stock options, vacation time, standard of living, retirement benefits, etc. — that as miserable as the job is, it feels impossible to leave.
  2. Health – the job is making you sick physically or emotionally
    • If you are suffering from physical or emotional illnesses – stomach ulcers, migraines, depression, anxiety
    • If it is impacting your relationships with those closest to you
    • If you are not willing to address your health concerns because your job is too demanding…
    • You have tried to address the concerns but the cure is worse than the disease…
  3. Ethics – the position requires you to do things that are illegal, unethical and/or against your value system.

You do not want to end up in bankruptcy or out of your home or car.  However, staying in a job that causes you to compromise your values or your health is generally not recommended.  This is a case of how and when you leave, not if you leave.
In preparing for this article, I explored numerous quizzes about whether to stay or go and all of them reinforced that if your health and ethics are compromised, you need to get out! Ideally, you do so by finding a new job first. In the meantime, you can evaluate your life choices so that the financial consequences are manageable during the transition or if you find a better position that pays less.
What are other factors that suggest it is time to move on?
A number of years ago I participated in training to facilitate the Everything DiSCä  assessment.  At the time, I had a great team, was doing some exciting work and was very energized.  However, we had a new senior executive who was making some changes to what and how the division was working.  On page six of the report, I read about what motivates and stresses people with my DiSCä style[2].  It was amazingly accurate and told me a lot about my work situation.  With the new changes being implemented, I was losing all the things that motivated me and beginning to experience all the things that stressed me.  It wasn’t even close. Our new senior executive’s vision and mine were not aligned at all.  I sat down with my boss and asked him if there was light at the end of the tunnel, if he thought things would improve in the future.  He honestly told me that he did not.
If you are not feeling fulfilled it may be time to move on.
One of the recurring themes in positive psychology asserts that when we are able to employ those things we do best at work, we are more productive and effective. Clifton et. al.[3] explains it this way, “A talent is a naturally recurring pattern of thought, feeling, or behavior that can be productively applied…They are among the most real and most authentic aspects of your personhood…There is a direct connection between your talents and your achievements.  Your talents empower you.”  Using our talents, developed through skill and knowledge application, provide us with a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction in our work.
One of the 12 questions that Gallup[4] poses to quantify employee engagement is, “I get to do what I do best every day at work.” So, one of the critical aspects of whether you stay or go is are you doing not just what you are good at, but what fulfills you and empowers you; what gives you energy rather than draining you. Gallup research indicates that only one third of workers are engaged at work overall.  And yet, there are companies that seek to have 90%+ engaged workers…folks who truly care about what they are doing, provide discretionary effort and are committed to quality. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be in a work environment where everyone felt that way?
Most of us have to do mundane, routine or annoying tasks at work, but these should be counter-balanced by those that replenish us, provide us with meaning and satisfaction.  When I looked at my motivator/stressor dichotomy, I could see that my future with the company would restrict those behaviors and activities that energized me.
Are you experiencing an unhealthy amount of stress?
Some stress is considered good for us.  It keeps us on our toes, on edge, working a little harder, with a little more urgency.  However, if the stress you are experiencing is soul crushing, maybe it is time to go.
If your values are being compromised, if you are being asked to do something unethical or illegal, this is a no-brainer.
Additional stressors tend to come from the work environment, often shaped by your supervisor/manager/boss. We’ve read many places that people quit bosses not jobs.  Scott Mautz[5] identifies five indicators that it might be time to go.

  • Your boss makes you feel like you’re shrinking.
  • Your boss makes you feel like your values are being compromised.
  • Your boss gives oversight, not oxygen.
  • Your boss causes you to question yourself more than your situation.
  • Your boss’s own career isn’t exactly going well.

Can you see how disempowering these behaviors are?  What happens here is that as you buy in to your boss’s negativity, it may make it even harder for you to consider leaving.  Who would want you after all? It is important to know that you do not have to live in this type of work environment, although many of us believe this is just what bosses do.
Most people are not negatively impacted by working hard if the support and appreciation are there.  It is the emotional toll of negativity, lack of recognition, respect and trust that cause long-term stress and harm.  Employees who experience these behaviors try to stay under the radar, live in fear (stress, pain anxiety) and perform only adequately.
In my work in leadership and coaching, we spend a lot of time on effective people-management. The most successful companies understand that performance excellence comes from excellent management – supporting and growing people, not squelching them.  Find those people and be one!
Are there opportunities to grow in your current situation?
Another consideration is aspirational.  What do you want to be doing in a few years? Where do you want to be? Does your current environment provide you with opportunities to grow?  This doesn’t necessarily mean moving up.  Some people are seeking advancement and want to be sure there are promotion opportunities in the future.  Others find meaning and satisfaction where they are.  This does not mean that nothing should change.  Even in a situation where you do not want to change jobs, there should be opportunities to learn more, to dig deeper and to become more skilled at what you are doing.
Daniel Pink[6] identifies three elements that provide motivation and satisfaction for people: mastery, purpose and autonomy.  Are you given opportunities to develop and improve, to master the skills related to your work?  Learning new skills and/or having new projects and responsibilities are powerful energizers, even if your position hasn’t changed. Do you have the ability to make decisions within your area of expertise (autonomy)? Does your work have meaning (purpose)?
And of course, there is the desire to advance.  How possible is it? Is the organization providing you with the training opportunities you need?  Is there a track record of hiring from the inside?  Does your supervisor know you want to move up?  Is there a leadership program you can participate in? Can you find a mentor?  Have you applied for new positions and not succeeded?  What have you learned?
In some organizations, even when opportunities exist, they may not be available to you if your boss doesn’t support participation.  That is another indicator that something may need to change.
So how do you know when it is time to go?
We’ve all heard the fable/myth[7] about putting frogs in water and heating it up versus putting them in boiling water.  If the water is boiling we know to jump out.  But what about when the water is warm, warmer, etc., how do you know when it is too hot?  How do you know when the physical, emotional and career costs outweigh the benefits of stability and golden handcuffs?
At this point, you’ve considered your health, your engagement and your career potential where you are.  If it is still tolerable, what will let you know it is time to jump?  Chip and Dan Heath[8] suggest setting a trip wire, some kind of indicator that will let you stop and pause.  I’ve often recommended people set a date on the calendar – maybe six months from now – and invite them to rethink their decision based on the factors that are of concern.  Other trip wires would be: applying for advancement and not succeeding (repeatedly, with no helpful feedback), having projects taken away, being uninvited to meetings, a poor performance review, increased health issues or on the positive side, being asked to take on something new, getting good feedback or recognition, discovering you do feel happier and more satisfied at work.
And in the meantime, it never hurts to freshen up your resume and dip your toe in the water to see what else is out there.  Network, check the want-ads, apply for a few positions (good practice), and talk to trusted friends and colleagues. [9]
Our work takes up a huge amount of our lives and contributes to our sense of self-worth and identity.  No matter what we are doing, we can find meaning and satisfaction that adds value to our life.  As Rumi says,
Everyone has been made for some particular work, and the desire for that work has been put in every heart.
Don’t be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth.
[1] Downloaded 8/12/19 Source: LyricFind, Songwriters: Joe Strummer / Mick Jones, Should I Stay or Should I Go lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group
[2] For more information about DiSCä, contact us at Thunderbird Leadership Consulting.
[3] Clifton et. al. (2001) StrengthsQuest: Discover and Develop Your Strengths in Academics, Career, and Beyond. New York: Gallup Press.
[4] Forbringer, L. (2002) Overview of the Gallup Organization’s Q-12 Survey. O.E. Solutions, Inc.
[5] Mautz, Scott. (Aug. 3, 2019) If Your Boss Does these 5 Things, It’s Time to Quit, According to Science. The Inc. Life.
[6] Pink, Daniel. (2011) Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us. New York: Riverhead Books.
[7] James Fallows discredits this fable as pure myth when it comes to frogs…our challenge is, is it true for humans? Fallows, J. (Sept. 16, 2006) The Boiled Frog Myth: Stop the Lying Now! The Atlantic.
[8] Heath, C. and Heath, D. (2014) Decisive: How to Make Better Decisions.  The Crown Publishing Group, Kindle Edition
[9] Reddit has a helpful article about preparing if you are resigning or are asked to leave.

Tip of the Month, August 2019 – Take it Apart to Rebuild Something Better: Tips for Deconstruction

This year’s Summit theme, Reconstructing Leadership: Owning Our Power, really appeals to me. I enjoy the challenge of putting things together, solving puzzles and making sense of the world. As I read through the description, beginning with deconstruction, I find myself wondering why the organizers used the term deconstruction instead of destruction. So I dug a little deeper.
Destruction has no hope associated with it, other than the hope of a clean slate. Consider the purchase of a run-down property for the value of its location instead of the old house sitting on it. You could scrape the parcel for some future use, and it could be positive or negative for you. In the Summit’s context, deconstruction has a purposeful, forward-thinking and positive intent associated with it. It is the intentional dissection of elements from the past, to challenge beliefs that no longer work for us and to see what has been good and useful and must be brought forward. . .
In the deconstruction part of the Summit we will look at beliefs we have held to be true in the past and courageously question them. We will challenge ideas we have held on to or clung to or fiercely protected by boldly testing them against our own integrity. We will seek to accept the wisdom of prior ages, and not throw out the baby with the bathwater.
In the following scenarios, let’s see how we can use deconstruction to help arrive at a place of growth instead of accepting the status quo.
Scenario 1:
In this example, let’s apply the tool of ‘the five whys’. Use ‘why’ questions until an answer appears. . . and remember, the number may not always be five.
I am not going to apply for that job because I’m not really manager material.
Why do you think you are not manager material?
I don’t like supervising and disciplining people.
Why don’t you like that?
I can’t give feedback effectively.
Why can’t you give feedback effectively?
I get nervous when someone starts to cry or worse yet, when they start to challenge me.
Why do those situations make you nervous?
I don’t know how to respond. 
Why don’t you know how to respond?
I guess I’ve never planned for how to handle those situations. . . maybe I could figure out responses in advance, just in case.
Aha! Actionable development idea.
Scenario 2:
In this scenario, we will use some ideas from the Johari Window. The Johari Window helps to organize personal characteristics into four quadrants; the open window (information known to everyone), the blind spot (known to others, not oneself), the hidden area (known to oneself but not others), and the dark (information known to no one). Using the Johari Window positively seeks to increase the amount of information in the open window, more known to oneself and others. This can apply in many situations, especially when you are trying to increase openness and transparency.
My staff aren’t responding to me because they need a leader who is charismatic and visionary, like my colleague Mark. I’m not that guy.
Here are some possible responses you could make:

  • So you hold the belief that an effective leader is charismatic and visionary. Just how true is that? (Hidden area)
  • Is it possible that you are using that idea to avoid dealing with ‘real’ manager issues you may have? (Dark spot)
  • What leadership skills do you think you have? (Open window)
  • What do others say about your leadership skills? Are they the same as your list, or different? (Blind spot)
  • What have you done to get a response that you wanted? (Open window and blind spot)
  • What does a coach, your manager, or a trusted colleague, like Mark, tell you about the effectiveness of your approach? (Blind spot)
  • What can you learn here? Are there things you can stop doing, and things to start doing?

Scenario 3:
In this situation, we apply the ideas from the Summit deconstruction description – courageously questioning beliefs, challenging ideas, holding on to elements of wisdom from the past.
There’s so much happening in my civic club right now. It is not the right time for me to step up as a leader amidst all the chaos.

  • Do you believe there needs to be a ‘right time’? Is there ever a right time? (Challenging a belief)
  • Are you committed to the organization, really committed? (This takes courage to ask yourself, and to face if you discover that you are not fully committed.)
  • Would you rather be a member of the organization during this trying time, or a leader trying to help the organization get stable? (This question is designed to seek a match with your integrity.)
  • Chaos may be your view of things. . . how do others see this? Perhaps this could be a ‘shake up and growth’ opportunity? (Another challenge to one way of looking at things.)
  • What can you bring as a leader to this situation? What help would you need? (Using wisdom from prior leadership experiences.)

Stepping into a leadership role of any nature can be daunting for all of us at one time or another. Automatically saying ‘no’ to an invitation can be very limiting. . . We miss the possibility of really making a difference in something we care about. We miss the potential of growth and the development of skills we never knew we could master, learning things that worked, and things that didn’t. We miss opportunities to use our talents. Saying ‘yes’ may have a price, but it is almost always worth it if the ‘yes’ is a thoughtful and considered one.
We hope you will say YES to joining us at this year’s Summit, a day where we explore how we deconstruct the messages that limit us and embrace new ways of being and doing, reconstructing leadership. We look forward to meeting you on November 15 in Phoenix!
Click here to register for this year’s Summit.
Five Whys. https://leansixsigmabelgium.com/blog/5-whys-lean-root-cause-analysis/ Accessed via web on 7/27/19.
Johari Window. https://www.storyboardthat.com/articles/b/johari-window Accessed via web on 7/27/19.

About This Year’s Leadership Summit – Reconstructing Leadership: Owning Our Power

I first became connected to Thunderbird Leadership through the Annual Leadership Summit.  Unlike most leadership learning opportunities, it is not focused on developing skills, but rather developing our sense of leadership self. It is a unique leadership experience that asks us to consider who we are as leaders from wherever we sit in our organizations and our world. It is about leadership as a way of being.
I have to admit that I am much more at ease talking strategy and tactics and getting things done.  For me, the Summit is a day-long retreat from doing. I am required to reflect and look inside.  I know it is good for me and appreciate the sometimes-uncomfortable challenge to think and see differently.  Every Summit I learn new things about myself that allow me to be more effective in my work and life.
The Summit is designed by a volunteer planning group. After my second Summit I asked how I could be involved.  Members of the team talk about what they are seeing in their world and how it impacts leaders and leadership.  A theme emerges from local, national and international trends and the discussions give us a chance to hear from different disciplines, geographic regions and generations.
This year, our theme is Reconstructing Leadership: Owning our Power.  Our conversations touched on the teachings of Brene Brown, showing up, being enough and daring greatly, Peter Block who speaks about change not being about magicians but about us and the concept of Communityship, and Kevin Cashman who speaks of leading from the inside out.
We talked about research on effective leadership and why it is so hard to shake old paradigms and ultimately asked ourselves, why reconstructing leadership is so important. We believe that when we are not bound by old paradigms and constructs of leadership, we are free to contribute fully and freely to create a better world.   We move from a powerless question of “why don’t they…” to an empowering challenge of “what can we…” And this allows us to lead from wherever we are, to claim our power and influence.
At this year’s Summit, we will be exploring how we deconstruct the messages that limit us and embrace new ways of being and doing, reconstructing leadership.  In the process, we’ll meet a wonderful cadre of people from across the country and make new connections to inspire us to be our whole, capable and courageous selves.
The Summit was conceived thirteen years ago by a group of colleagues and friends who discovered the joy of being together, supporting each other and challenging each other to grow as leaders.  Each of this dynamic group knew a few more people who would enjoy the conversation, and a few more after that until the Summit grew to some 75 – 100 people annually through personal contacts and connections.
So, if you have found your way to this blog, you’ve made a connection to the Thunderbird Leadership world.  If you are interested in the Summit, please follow the link to the 13th Annual Leadership Summit and join us for a day that has been described as “a spa day for the soul.”
November 15, 2019  Phoenix Art Museum
Summit website link

Summer Professional Beach Read II – The Art of Gathering

What could be better for a Summer Professional Beach Read than The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why it Matters by Priya Parker?[1]  I was, in fact, on my way to the beach with my children, grandchildren and several other family and friends. We had carefully planned the type of house we needed to meet the needs of families and generations.  We assigned sleeping quarters based on waking and sleeping schedules as well as family needs. We had a spreadsheet for food, menu planning and activities. Plane tickets were purchased, vehicles and drivers allocated, luggage packed. I had even indicated that we needed to discuss expectations of each other to make the week a success, although that conversation slipped away from us in the hustle and bustle of getting ready. We had it all planned!
And then I began reading The Art of Gathering in which Priya Parker dissects what is really necessary for meaningful assemblies of all kinds, whether family, friends, colleagues, conferences or in fact total strangers.  She cautions us to rethink how we approach coming together and avoid getting so bogged down in the logistics that we forget to shape our gatherings around the people. And she counsels us to be clear on the purpose of our gatherings – that every time we plan to meet, we should know why and structure the meeting to address that purpose.
So, while madly dashing down the road to the beach[2], I told the people in my vehicle that we should have a clear purpose for coming together. (Note that this was the 11th time we had done this trip.)  Why were we coming together? What was our purpose? Did the structure of our time together, including the location and logistics, address the purpose?  Was it the best way to do this?
When we skip this step, we often let old or faulty assumptions about why we gather dictate the form of our gatherings. We end up gathering in ways that don’t serve us, or not connecting when we ought to.[3]
Parker cautions us not to confuse a category for a purpose…e.g. a category is a family vacation or a beach trip, or a staff meeting.  A purpose requires us to dig deeper – why are we going on vacation as a family? Why are we having this staff meeting?
Once we have identified our purpose, Parker has suggestions for how the event should unfold, from planning logistics (yes there is a place for that), invitations – the who, the how and the when, welcoming and setting the stage, hosting for purpose and closing the event.
I have been a facilitator for many years and some of her suggestions are strategies that I have implemented intuitively.  But Parker has provided a precise framework and rationale for how to create and manage the environment to accomplish our purpose.  She has made the implicit and intuitive explicit, to allow us to create meaning without missing necessary steps for success.
One of the most profound sections for me was chapter three entitled, “Don’t be a Chill Host.” Parker wants to empower us to host with “generous authority.”
In gatherings, once your guests have chosen to come into your kingdom, they want to be governed—gently, respectfully, and well.[4] 
The role of the host with generous authority begins by being clear on the purpose. It continues by:

  • Inviting those who should be there to meet the purpose of the gathering rather than for political ends or to avoid someone getting angry. As a host, it is my responsibility to manage the invitation list.
  • Sending an invitation that helps participants understand the purpose and expectations so they can choose wisely whether to attend.
  • Creating a powerful welcome that states the purpose clearly from the start. Parker emphasizes that our first few minutes together should not be given over to logistics or a word from our sponsors.
  • Developing a structure that meets the purpose – and adhering to it. This can be both about place, set-up and agenda.
  • Orchestrating closure so that it is both clear and compelling.

Parker provides wonderful examples of all the chronological steps in the process for both personal and professional gatherings from intimate dinner parties to international economic forums and gatherings of over a thousand strangers!
So here are my plans for our next beach trip. Wait! We may have to ask if a beach trip is the best way to do this – avoiding getting stuck in old rituals. So here are my plans for our next gathering.

  • We all need to be clear about our purpose, why are we getting together? We want to sustain and deepen our relationships as a family…and we want to relax.
  • I will have some welcoming activity the first night that gets us started in family-gathering mode. After a fun starting activity, we might want to co-create ground rules that our just for this trip.
  • I will take ownership of the host role – yes, I am the host – I will include some structured activities to allow people to connect across the extended family. This year, others put together a plan to share responsibility for menu planning and cooking.  It was a great idea! I want to try something like having people draw cards of people they have to do activities with during the week – a game, a walk, bowling. I’d also like to move people around at dinner time – table tents – so people talk with each other.
  • Discuss in person our expectations about the week and what we need from each other. I tried this through email – it was a major fail!!! (We all know the dangers of email – and yes, my communication was misunderstood.)
  • I will create official and sacrosanct check-in times to be sure everyone knows what is being planned. This will be one time during the day when all adults and interested children talk about what is working, clarify any misunderstandings, and talk about plans and needs for the next day.
  • We need to have a structured farewell before the wild and crazy clean-up morning. We need to close the week with a sense of appreciation for each other and for this important space in our lives.

Imagine what you could do for your next office retreat.  How could rethinking how you gather change your dreary staff meetings? What steps can you take to add meaning to your meetings? It has to be more than donuts!
Right now, I am working with our Thirteenth Annual Leadership Summit[5] Planning Team.  We describe it as “…not the usual offering of leadership skills and tools. We are devoted to expanding a deeper sense of self-honoring qualities that enhance our leadership.” 
Are we clear on our purpose?  Does it pique your interest? Do you expect to experience something different from lectures and panel discussions?
I can’t wait to apply Parker’s principles with the team to see how this year’s Summit can be even better than the twelve before.
[1] Parker, P. (2018) The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why it Matters. Riverhead Books: New York.
[2] Please note that we were madly dashing within legal speed limits – it just felt frenzied.
[3] Parker, Priya. The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters (pp. 1-2). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
[4] Parker, Priya. The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters (p. 74). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
[5] Thunderbird Leadership Summit, November 15, 2019 from 8:30 – 4:30 at Phoenix Art Museum.    Registration information will follow in our next blog post! For more information about participating contact info@thunderbirdleadership.com.

Tip of the Month, June 2019 – Tips on Passing the Torch

In this month’s blog (click here), Jill discussed how we pass on information, knowledge and wisdom when we are leaving a position and/or a role.  She also discussed commitment to one’s profession, where passing the torch is also about advancing one’s profession to new members of one’s discipline.
In Tips, this month, we will explore strategies to pass the torch across generations, to new members of our field of study and in succession planning.
The most important tip in this article is to be clear about your values and your way of being.  If your goal is to win at all costs, this column is probably not for you.  If you have a desire to improve yourself, develop others, advance your profession and contribute to bettering your organization and its outcomes, then be courageous; share what you know and be open to learn from others.
In The Career Handoff[1], Steinbinder and Ganann (our very own Thunderbird people!) identify six strategies to pass on information.  All of these strategies are relevant throughout your career life cycle.  Thank you to Steinbinder, Ganann, Malloch and Porter-O’Grady for providing the framework for our tips this month.
I: Mentoring is mentioned throughout the book.  It is usually perceived as a more experienced professional/leader imparting knowledge, wisdom and opportunity to a newer/lower ranked individual in the organization.  Mentoring has always been done informally where mentor and mentee self-select and develop a supportive relationship.
One of the challenges with self-selection is that it tends to exclude people of difference from mentorship.  Senior male leaders may be afraid to mentor incoming women for fear that they would look predatory.  People of different race/ethnicities may not self-select or be selected because of cultural barriers or discomfort.  This can result in inequities in advancement for people of difference.  So more formal mentoring programs have been designed to facilitate inclusive growth opportunities.
Effective formal mentoring programs provide clear expectations and role definition for the mentoring relationship and also recognize that both mentor and mentee benefit.  The official mentor offers institutional knowledge, professional wisdom and development opportunities to the mentee.  In a healthy relationship, the mentee also offers important knowledge and wisdom – perspectives from areas of difference (generation, gender, race/ethnicity, technology knowledge, etc.) to expand the mentor’s world view.  This notion of cross-mentoring honors what each member of the relationship contributes and enriches the outcomes for the individuals, the organization and the profession.
Mentoring can still be informal and can start from anywhere.  A college student can mentor high school students interested in the same career path.  A senior in college can mentor freshmen.  A new professional can mentor those in training.  As you can see, passing the torch can start very early.
What do you share?  The Career Handoff differentiates information, knowledge, wisdom and insights. Information is the data, content, how-to’s; knowledge includes application and context; wisdom describes the why’s of application, and insights are those amazing “aha!” moments we celebrate.  In a mentoring relationship there may be times when information and knowledge are shared, but the power of mentoring comes from wisdom sharing and moments of insight (for both the mentor and the mentee).  This often happens through the second handoff strategy, storytelling.
II: Storytelling is a way of transferring knowledge at a deeper level, including context, emotion and humility in the delivery. It humanizes the storyteller and allows for empathy, access and connection even across differences in role, status or personal identity.  Through empathy, we build bonds of understanding that strengthen the learning experience.  We remember stories, we remember the lessons and we care about the story teller.
It is a powerful way to share difficult and uncomfortable lessons, to learn more about individual perspectives as well as organizational culture. It is a way to keep organizational history alive without stifling growth and change.
III: Powerful Questions can be used in both formal mentoring sessions and informal “mentoring moments.”  Rather than “telling” others what to think or what to do, the mentor, the wise or experienced person, invites the other person to teach themselves through open-ended exploratory questions.  Tell me how you came to this conclusion? What was your thought process?  What would happen if? In your mentor role, ask from a position of curiosity, not with a single answer in mind.  (Don’t lead the witness.) You may be surprised and learn something new from your mentee about a different approach to the issue.
IV: Career Planning is another aspect of passing the torch.  What does an individual need to know or do to advance and/or grow in their career? What opportunities are available to them? Once again formal or informal mentoring plays a significant role.  Remember that the old way of advancing may no longer apply.  Generationally, we have different expectations for how we advance.  Boomers believe in “paying one’s dues,” whereas subsequent generations believe in earning one’s place based on abilities and knowledge, not time in the trenches.
One of the most powerful aspects of career planning is helping an individual see possibilities they did not even consider.  Recently a senior administrator I work with was describing a conversation with a newer member of his profession.  He asked her if she had considered applying for an open first-level management position. She responded that she had not because she is not a leader-type.  He pointed out to her that she was indeed a leader-type as he observed the way her colleagues sought out her opinions and advice.  In that 90 second conversation, there was a mentor-moment (a possible “aha!” as well) and a chance for the newer professional to rethink her career trajectory.
V: Collaboration is a practical application of sharing knowledge and wisdom across generations, life experience and expertise.  In successful collaborations, all participants contribute to a successful outcome from their areas of strength in an environment of mutual respect.  If you are the wise elder of the group, be careful not to impose your opinions early on.  Allow your collaborative team to find its voice and direction. Observe their way of problem solving.  Insert your wisdom and perspective in a way that adds strength and context to the team.
VI: Recognitions and Celebrations are ways to honor contributions while ensuring that the torch is passed. Storytelling as a strategy in recognition and celebration offers context, history and emphasizes organizational and professional values.
We always have the opportunity to “pass the torch,” to share what we know and understand with others no matter where we are in our career.  It requires us to be generous with our knowledge rather than fearful that what we share will be used against us or to best us.  Consider “passing the torch” as a way of being and a way of thinking and as Brene Brown might describe it, a whole-hearted practice.
[1] Malloch, K. And Porter O’Grady, T (eds). (2016). The career handoff: a healthcare leader’s guide to knowledge and wisdom transfer across generations. Sigma Theta Tau International.

Tip of the Month, May 2019 – Engagement Tips for the Individual

In our latest blog titled Engagement Survey, Oh My! read here, Rory (1) challenged the practice of ineffective annual engagement surveys (they are really disengagement surveys, often going nowhere) in favor of flexible and ongoing processes for creating an engaged workforce. Managers need to be really connected and involved with their people all the time in order to make the engaging workplace come alive. Since employee engagement from the organization’s perspective was addressed in the blog, let’s take a look at what fuels engagement from the individual’s perspective. Though these tips are written with the employee in mind, they apply equally to managers/leaders as employees themselves.
How do you show up daily as an engaged and engaging manager? Here are a few tips to consider.

  1. Take employees’ ideas seriously, having a conversation and giving feedback. It is not enough to simply listen and be a conduit. Or worse still, offer all the reasons their idea won’t work. If a staff member brings a suggestion to you, such as having an onsite daycare center, rather than pass it along channels, spend the time to find out more. How do they envision it working? What ideas do they have about location? How many staff members would use it? Are there other ways to provide a daycare benefit without a dedicated space and staff? This time spent in conversation with thoughtful questions shows your relationship with the employee; you have the perspective about some of the questions that need to be addressed in order for their idea to have a greater chance of success. And you are offering yourself as a thought partner, which is empowering.
  2. Ask employees about their goals, daily goals as well as longer term ones. “What are you hoping to accomplish today?” Having a goal for your time is one way for the individual to be more engaged at work. Model the way by having a plan for what you want to accomplish, and share those goals of yours. Help staff see the value of contingency planning for when your plans go awry, as they often do. What happens if you can’t get the new proposal finished today? Can you send just part of it? Does something else need to be taken off your task list?
  3. Collect stories about meaning and contribution at work to share with others, and ask your staff how they know they have made a difference in their work today. Or how would they like to make a difference? Share your personal stories to get the conversation started, but make the conversation about them. Find out what gives them a sense of value and purpose in the work they do with you. Then ask if there is something you can do to further their experience of meaning and purpose at work.
  4. Have regular conversations about their strengths, noting them when possible, and suggesting ways for them to apply and BUILD ON those strengths. Gallup research tells us that an important employee satisfier is the regular opportunity to use one’s strengths at work. Perhaps a staff member is naturally skilled in diffusing difficult customer situations . . . You could suggest they share their tips with newer staff members, and/or offer them the opportunity to to take a class on de-escalation techniques and bring back the information to share at a department meeting. If you have an employee who has a background in visual arts, and has won awards in local contests, you might invite them to submit (or take) photos for your department’s report, newsletter, or wall art.
  5. Surround yourself with engaged people at work and in your personal life, understanding that positive attitudes can rub off, creating an atmosphere of more positivity. Listen for their examples. Nothing succeeds like success, the old adage tells us. And having an environment where you interact with engaged people regularly can help spark your own enthusiasm for whatever you are doing.
  6. Understand the reality of what you can control. Nothing is more disengaging than viewing the “whole world’s problems” and being disheartened or discouraged about a lack of progress. Engaged people have the ability to reframe situations they have control over, even though it may be limited, and finding the lens that focuses on what they CAN influence.

We hope you find these tips useful, and that you are privileged to work every day with employees who say, “I want to work in this organization, for you!”

  1. Rory Gilbert is a Thunderbird Leadership consultant who is the primary author of TLC’s blog, and contributor, collaborator and partner in Blog and Tips posts.
  2. https://www.hr.com/portals/hrcom/events ShanklandHandout_Gallup%20Q12%20summary%20-%20what%20is%20engagement.pdf (accessed via web 5/2/19)
  3. https://blessingwhite.com/4-steps-to-improve-your/ (accessed via web 4/29/19)
  4. https://brain-smart.com/change-and-resilience/increase-personal-engagement-work/ (accessed via web 4/29/19)

Lessons Learned – 2018

By: Rory Gilbert with much input from Carla Rotering!

December is a wonderful time to reflect on how we have grown and what we have learned in the past year.  As a leader, time for reflection is critical to our overall effectiveness – it keeps us engaged, mindful and humble. I hope you take some time to consider what has changed and what you have learned this year.
What have I learned for myself?  The biggest learning for me has been very personal.  I’ve learned to accept the kindness and support from my friends and colleagues and to reach out in support as well.  My focus in the past has been on success and achievement. This year I’ve really seen how important my relationships are for my life.  In fact, after this year’s Summit I was inspired to write to a few of my colleagues in appreciation.
I’ve asked Carla Rotering’s permission to share what I captured from her Summit presentation on Belonging.
Carla’s premise requires a change of mindset from understanding belonging as something that comes from other people, to belonging as a way of being.  Belonging is about how we approach the world.  She shared her own story of feeling like an outsider, of “longing to belong.” Her childhood story resonated with my own story of feeling different, like an outsider, waiting and hoping to be included.  Somehow, we believe we are separated based on our “worth,” and our own beliefs: believing ourselves less than and too small banishes us to a solitary experience. She shared a poem by Creig Crippen (also known as Prodigy) to capture this mindset shift.

Do not chase love,
Choose love.
Do not need love,
Share love.
Do not fear love,
Embrace love.
Do not seek love,
Become love.

While we thirst for connection, to be part of something greater than ourselves, we assume that it comes from out there. Here’s one way I’ve come to think about it. Imagine you are at a party and you do not know anyone.  It is not your party and you see everyone else having fun, talking to each other.  You wait, hoping to catch someone’s eye, someone’s interest. And you wait.  Now, imagine the same party where you see yourself as a host – still don’t know anyone, and yet, now you feel a sense of responsibility to make connections, to introduce yourself to others, to introduce others to each other.  You see yourself as a necessary participant in the success of the party.
For some people, this experience of engaging is natural.  For others of us, it is a new and different way of being.  Think about how different this feels!
Carla states, “We are not exiled by divine design.  Our busy thinking and our formed beliefs create doubts and fears, insecurities and cautions meant to keep us safe. When we believe those thoughts, we live in the feeling of isolation and separation – a misunderstanding.  You are not required to believe those thoughts.  The door to belonging opens from the inside. Be liberated. Be free. WE ARE BORN INTO BELONGING.”

it was when I stopped searching for home within others
and lifted the foundations of home within myself
I found there were no roots more intimate
than those between a mind and body
that have decided to be whole
~ rupi kaur

This way of thinking, separating ourselves from the whole, may in fact be a product of our western culture that celebrates the individual.  Carla reminds us that other cultures and societies believe differently.  She shared the concept of Ubuntu, a Nguni Bantu term meaning “humanity.” It is often translated as “I am because we are.” It “is often used in a more philosophical sense to mean ‘the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity.’”
She shared Desmond Tutu’s view of Ubuntu, “A person with ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs to a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed.”
Ubuntu, a sense of belonging, a way of being, is a choice for us. It requires us to challenge our often unexplored beliefs about how we are and who we are in the world.  And then it challenges us to act from those beliefs, not in grand gestures, but in small invitations to bring others in.
As we approach the new year, it is a wonderful time for us to step back and think about what we value and how we live those values.  Carla asks,

What are the invitations you are extending to the world?

What invitations are being offered to you that you may not be seeing?

Greet the new year by embracing the gift of connectedness that each of us can orchestrate from where we sit in this world.
And finally, to my dear colleagues (Carla included), I think this captures how I feel and what I’ve learned.  I am printing it here to publicly profess how important my colleagues are to my professional life and my personal well-being.
Of all the wonderful parts of this year’s Summit, I was most touched by Carla’s work on Belonging.  I think I share that sense of being an outsider — lingering on the edge of a group. Carla’s description about Belonging coming from within really resonated with me — that I realize what is most important right now to me is my connection to others.  And you all are such important pieces of my world.  While we mostly connect through shared work experiences, we have also shared life experiences, support and care.  I am so grateful for the space you make for me in your lives. You are such extraordinary colleagues and I am honored to be with you in this world.

2018 Leadership Summit Summary – Being on Purpose

Wow! Where did the time go?  Isn’t that how we feel about this time of year?  Suddenly Halloween has come and gone, Thanksgiving is past and the days just count themselves to the end of the year.
On November 9th, Thunderbird Leadership Consulting and BoxCar International hosted its twelfth annual Leadership Summit.  Dorothy Sisneros, Carla Rotering and Amy Steinbinder had the vision to bring leaders together for a special day designed to strengthen and renew us. Unlike other leadership programs, it is about turning inward and honoring and learning about ourselves to make a difference in our personal and professional lives.
This year’s program, Being on Purpose: Small Enough to Manage, Big Enough to Matter, was an amazing exploration of what matters and how it matters.  We modeled the day on Emily Esfahani Smith’s work, The Power of Meaning[1]. Dorothy Sisneros welcomed everyone and shared the process used by the Planning Team each year to create these amazing programs.  We listen, we observe, we read and we sense throughout the year and then share our insights and ideas to build the program.  The Planning Team nailed it again this year.
Amy Johnson[2] was our first keynote speaker.  Her role was to set the stage for the day and to explore Purpose in our lives.  She challenged us to listen deeply to ourselves and not get caught up in what we should be doing.  She quoted Einstein and challenged us to differentiate “the intuitive mind which is a sacred gift, and the rational mind, a faithful servant. We honor the servant and forget the gift.” What we learned and heard from Amy was to trust our inner voice, our intuition, and not feel pressured to constantly do, to constantly force ourselves forward.  She said, “finding purpose is not about proving our worthiness, purpose has to find us, like finding love.”
What a way to start the day – to step back, to allow life to speak to us instead of feeling compelled to force our way through the dense forest.  She quoted people like this quote from Tony Bennett to Amy Winehouse, “life teaches you how to live it if you slow down long enough to listen.”  That is a powerful message especially at this time of the year.  Dustin Fennell lead the group through several activities to build on Amy’s messages.
Carla Rotering spoke next about Belonging.  In a concise and powerful presentation, Carla changed the way we think of Belonging.  It is not so much about others as it is about my “way of being in the world.”  She encouraged us not to wait for invitations for connections but to recognize that we have the capacity to reach out and connect because we already come from a greater whole.  Ruth Ballard took the group through activities to reinforce the messages.  Carla and Kevin Monaco teamed to offer a music meditation to set the stage for the rest of the day.
Then Sat Kartar Khalsa-Ramey spoke to us about Transcendence.  Sat Kartar is an ordained Sikh Dharma minister and a certified ACPE Educator Emeritus with the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education (ACPE). Her presentation was personal, current and moving as she shared her story and we sat rapt on her every word.  Transcendence was about how we deal with what life gives us, the choices we make, the connections we maintain as we travel difficult, unexplored highways.  We were privileged to share her yet-unfinished journey interwoven with Soul Collage[3] activities – that transported us from her journey to our own. Rory Gilbert helped us focus on the final pillar around Storytelling.  We found meaning and belonging and understanding of the power of Storytelling to make sense of our world.
So many people shaped the Summit.  Our wonderful planning team made everything possible.
We particularly want to thank three remarkable contributors to our day.

  • Kevin Monaco (composer and musician) – Kevin’s music wrapped meaning around the day, connected us to belonging and transcendence and created an atmosphere of significance to all that we did. Learn more about Kevin and his music at: https://kevinmonacomusic.com
  • Heather Marie Paslay (massage therapist) – Heather provided chair massages throughout the breaks in the day. For those who were able to benefit from Heather’s healing way, the day was that much more enjoyable and fulfilling.  Heather can be reached at paslaymaire@yahoo.com
  • Steph Martini (graphic artist) – Steph recorded the day as it enfolded. She captured the what, the why and the feel of our shared experience and walked us through her masterpiece as a summary to the day. To connect with Steph about her work, please connect with her at stephmartini63@gmail.com

In keeping with Summit tradition, we held a Silent Auction that raised over $3,000 for three deserving charities: Hospice of the Valley, Homicide Survivors and UMOM.
The Summit was an extraordinary day to connect with members of our Thunderbird Leadership and BoxCar community, to enjoy a deep and meaningful experience with new and old friends and colleagues.  More information about the day will appear on the Thunderbird Leadership Consulting website and we are already beginning to think about what will happen next year.  Tentatively hold November 15, 2019 on your calendar for “a spa day for the soul.”
[1] Smith, Emily Esfahani (2017) The Power of Meaning: Finding Fulfillment in a World Obsessed with Happiness. Broadway Books, New York.
[2] Johnson, Amy (2013) Being Human, Essays on Thoughtmares, Bouncing Back, and Your True Nature. Self-published.
[3]For more information:  https://www.creativepilgrimage.com/soulcollage/