When Work and Mothering Collide

This week has already been one of those weeks and it’s only Wednesday. Lots of activities for my kids – between the two of them, over twenty activities. Before you gasp and judge me for overscheduling, this is not normal. I seemed to not assess the calendar impact when I signed them up for said activities.

As the activities and entertainment director of this budget cruise-ship, I’m running point getting them where they need to be, when they need to be there. While I don’t work a crazy schedule like I used to work, I still need uninterrupted work time. To be completely honest, I’ve had more than one passing thought this week complaining to myself about how disruptive their schedule is to my work schedule. Before you judge me, know I love my children. I never want to think, even passively, that my kids are a disruption to my life. They are my life. And also, as parents, we need to provide for our children, and frankly their future. Occasionally, I’ll see passive-aggresive comments on social media directed specifically at mothers judging us for choosing to work. “Why would you have children, if you just devote your life to work?” “I wish I could have a break and go to work, I’ve just decided to dedicate this season to parenting.” Before I offend anyone, I also realize that these are the comments that I’m most sensitive to, there are also the aggressive comments coming from the working moms to the stay-at-home parents. The ironic thing, I never hear these comments directed at fathers. I’m a better mom because I work. I’m a better professional, because I’m a mom. I also totally respect that isn’t a one size fits all statement. I have the utmost respect for mothers who choose to be home.

For me, I love my work. Most jobs I’ve had, I have loved. They haven’t been perfect jobs at all, there’s no such thing. However, I have loved making money while making a difference in someone’s life. Whether it was at Morning Glory’s café in Rosemount serving coffee (there’s nothing quite like handing someone their first cup of coffee in the morning), working as a CNA at a local nursing home in Lacrosse serving residents at a very vulnerable time in their life (I still tell stories of my sweet and hilarious residents), leading and developing advisors at Thrivent, or coaching business owners and leaders to help them grow the business through effective leadership of people, I’ve loved all those jobs. The funny thing about meaningful work is that it serves others, but it serves us even more profoundly. I hhave heard people say “I’m just not a worker. I’ll never love work.” In a weird way, it actually makes me sad to hear that. I think of work as serving someone else. I think all work can be meaningful if you make the effort to seek meaning. My mom used to say, “working hard is its own reward.” I have found that to be true for me.

Motherhood is no different. It’s not a perfect job, there’s no such thing. I hope to make the biggest difference in the lives of my boys, every. single. day. And yet when I’m mothering, I’m thinking about how I’m losing productivity within my professional life. When I’m working, I’m thinking about how I’m losing opportunities to impact and love on my boys. On weeks like this week, not only is motherhood and career at tension, they are colliding. As I was driving home from picking the boys up at basketball camp, I asked myself “can’t one of them release?” And here’s where my mind went over the next twenty-four hours.

Things Held at Tension Grow

Things held at tension usually grow. When we stretch ourselves, we grow ourselves, sometimes it’s uncomfortable but the growth on the other side is always worth the short-term discomfort. However, if we stretch too far, too fast, things break. Instead of focusing on the discomfort of the stretch, I really want to focus on the potential in the growth. Will this tension help me to be more creative, delegate more effectively, say no more often, ask for help, or be more efficient? I just love the idea of focusing on the outcomes on the other side of growth versus the discomfort in the stretch. I also have to remind myself, it’s ok to stretch but it’s really painful to snap and it usually requires professional assistance. If I’m feeling like things could snap, it’s time to ask for help. Luckily this week, I had so many people offer to help. Thank you! It takes a village to raise a child. I can think of so many wonderful parents who have parented my own kiddos along the way. I can also think of so many kiddos that I freaking love and that I love to support. These boys in our “village” melt my heart. I love them and I’m happy to co-parent with other families when they need help.

Irresponsible Expectations Lead to Disappointment

My mind is always on. I’m sure yours is always on too. One of the things that is sort of amazing is that we are thinking things even when we aren’t always conscious of those thoughts. For example, when motherhood and work collide, when it feels like I’m at tension and not showing up well in either department, it’s usually because I’ve let myself create irresponsible expectations of myself without realizing. For example, going into this week, I let myself passively expect that it would be a normal work week. Because of that passive expectation I allowed myself to expect, I’m disappointed in how I’m showing up. It’s not been a normal work week – how can I expect the results that would come from a normal work week? I wish I had looked at the week ahead of time and changed my expectations so that I wouldn’t feel frustrated later. Instead, I let those passive, yet irresponsible, expectations float around causing unwanted stress and tension. We get to decide what to think and expect of ourselves. I think it’s ok to lower expectations from time to time so we can be happier and present in the moment. Some weeks have more work focus, some weeks have more family focus. It’s ok.

“As soon as you give it all up, you can have it all.”

Ram Dass

This quote was in my devotional this morning – of course it was. This quote reminded me to release my expectations. It also reminded me to dig deeper to understand why I put those expectations on myself. When I dig deeper, I realize those irresponsible expectations are rooted in fear. “If I’m not a great mom, my kids won’t need me. If my kids don’t need me, I’m irrelevant.” “If I’m not delivering on my goals at work, I won’t be able to serve as many people. If I’m not serving people, I’ll eventually be irrelevant.” If you’ve studied the Enneagram, and if you also are by chance an Enneagram 3 like me, you’ll know that one of our biggest internal fears is that we will be irrelevant or worthless. As soon as I give it all up, I can have it all. I have to give up those thoughts, fears and expectations. It’s not so easy though, you don’t just snap your fingers and release fear. You must be curious enough to understand it. When I do that, I have a much better chance to release the power and grip fear has on me. As a result, I have a much better chance to show up happy and healthy as the mom and the professional I want to be. It may not be balanced per se, but I can still be content and honor two of the values I hold dear, my family and meaningful work.

I see you. I love you. I’m cheering you on!


Photo Credit: Tasha Herrgott, Red Bird Hills Photography


Happy International Women’s day…Two Weeks Late

A love letter to my fellow humans on International Women’s Day, two weeks late.

Here’s the thing with International Women’s Day, I love it and I struggle with it – mostly because it’s just one day. One day is not enough. The other 364 days a year, it’s not International Women’s Day. My challenge to myself and you, what are you still doing to make a difference in the lives of women two weeks later? It’s only been two weeks and advocating for women’s rights and celebrating women feels like old news.

Major companies and entire industries work their hardest every other day of the year to make sure women don’t feel as good as they could. They don’t want to make us feel totally worthless, that would drive us to in-action which means we stop buying things. They want to make women feel inadequate enough to purchase whatever they are selling. Every other day of the year, the diet and fitness industry, the vitamin and supplement industry, the fashion industry, the hair, makeup and cosmetic industry, the cosmetic surgery industry (and others) are focused on making sure women don’t feel great about themselves – unless they buy their product. These are multi-billion-dollar industries that “celebrate” International Women’s Day on Wednesday, March 8th. Every other day of the year they benefit and profit from you not feeling as good as you could.

Here’s the unfortunate reality, companies and industries benefitting from making women feel like shit isn’t the worst-case scenario. At best our insecurities are monetized – at worst, we’re on the receiving end of patriarchal systems that ensure that there is a power imbalance between men and women. Not only are companies and industries benefitting from women, entire systems, communities, governments, religions, and organizations are benefiting from women staying small with less resources and ultimately power.

If you didn’t know, International Women’s Day is not just about celebrating women, it’s actually about advocating for women’s rights. It brings attention to power differentials across the globe. AND – we are not immune to it here in the US. Every single day women in our communities deal with gender inequality, pay differentials, threats to reproductive rights, threats to our healthcare, threats to our access to education, and violence and abuse. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. More so than ever before, women’s rights that we have benefitted from in the past are at risk. Don’t think I don’t see you Florida trying to take women’s sexual education out of your public curriculum (you should be ashamed of yourself). I used to think that Handmaid’s Tale was a figment of Margaret Atwood’s imagination. Florida is working hard to bring that nightmare to life.

On days like International Women’s Day, I wonder what would be the most revolutionary thing women could do to celebrate and empower each other? What would be a difference maker? The list is long. It can feel overwhelming. But there is something that costs no money that we can all do. It’s really quite simple but not easy.  It isn’t the only thing we should do. But it’s something that we all have within our control and influence.

What if on international women’s day we made a commitment to start a journey to sincerely love ourselves? Full Stop. What if we believed we were totally worthy of love and equity? What if we weren’t distracted by all the thoughts of what and who we aren’t and we were focused on all that we are and all we’re deserving of. What if we as women encouraged and challenged each other and ourselves to engage in totally reckless self-love?

Not a commitment to love myself only when conditions are met…

when I’m skinny

when I get promoted

when I deliver value

when I’m respected by someone with more “power”

when I achieve a certain balance in my bank account

when I meet my soul mate

when I control myself, my spending, my eating…(pick your poison)

when I’m more committed to self-care

when I’m accepted by my parents, community, church, system

when I stop drinking

when I deal with my trauma

when I look younger

when I feel worthy enough

No! You are worthy right now. You are worthy if none of those things ever happen. You are worthy of love. Can you imagine if women loved themselves completely and sincerely? Just think about that for a few minutes. Where would the world be if women were encouraged to love themselves exactly for who we were created to be. The economy would be shaken, that’s for sure. It has become the norm in our society for women to constantly berate themselves. Sometimes we do that in public, sometimes in the privacy of our own thoughts. How can we not, we literally get thousands of those messages every single day.

I know this is true because I am a product of that environment. I’ve had to take so much time and energy to re-train myself to think thoughts about my self that are positive. I knew it was a problem when I realized that I wasn’t even aware that I had negative self-talk on autopilot going on behind the scenes. I’ve talked to many, many women who’ve never even considered it was possible to truly love themselves – let alone actually loving themselves. It never even occurred to them to love themselves.

There is no earning self-love. You were created exactly by design. There is only one you. Your body, mind, soul/spirit should not have to perform to deserve love. If no one else loves you, know that the God that created you loves you exactly by design and that you are worthy of self-love.

Why does self-love matter? Because if you’re worthy of love, you also know you’re worthy of basic rights. You’re worthy of equity. You’re worthy of safety. You’re worthy of equality. You’re worthy of equal pay. When you feel like crap all the time, when you don’t love yourself, you stop fighting for what you’re worthy of.

For my male friends and colleagues, I also often wonder, what would be the most revolutionary thing you could do with the power you have to make a difference in the lives of your wife, your daughters, your sisters, or your female colleagues on International Women’s Day? The list is also long. What could you do that would make a difference – even just on this one day or week?

If you’re a man reading this and you’re feeling threatened, don’t worry about it. You don’t need to do anything because you don’t think there’s anything to do. You might even be wondering “what is she talking about? Why do we even have International Women’s Day? We don’t celebrate International Men’s Day???” This message may not be for you. It definitely isn’t if you aren’t willing to sacrifice your personal power to even explore someone else’s access to it. Also, don’t bother privately messaging me as to why this “line of thinking is problematic.” You believe that all of humanity is flourishing because you are flourishing. My perspective is that humanity will never flourish when a huge part of the population doesn’t get to participate in the flourishing.

There is also a small group of you (men and women) that will want to remind me (or at least will think about reminding me) of the “natural order of family, according to biblical principles” as some sort of reasoning for men having more access, platform, voice, and power (of course you won’t phrase it that way). If your religion is consistently in the center of trauma, abuse, and predatory sexual behavior towards women, you may want to explore why that power imbalance originated and continues to be perpetuated. You may actually be interpreting the bible in a very problematic way that is perpetuating abuse. My experience has shown me that organizations that propagate those beliefs systems seem to be coincidentally attached to sexual, verbal and physical abuse of women. This is shocking, I know. We also know that trauma, abuse, and predatory sexual behavior towards women ran rampant in biblical times (I’m talking to you King David). When we know better, we must do better. We must also realize that the bible was written during times when women literally had zero rights. It seems like common sense to me that we would understand that and interpret accordingly.

Rather, this post is for the men who feel hope and excitement for a future where their daughters, sisters, wife, mother, female colleagues, and friends are celebrated and empowered equally. What would it look like if just the men who weren’t threatened by loss of power did one more thing to empower the rights of more women in their sphere of influence? What could happen to impact the lives of your daughters or nieces?

For you amazing men out there excited about this cause, what would happen if you recklessly loved yourself? That’s what I want for my sons who will some day be grown up men. I want them to love themselves so much that they aren’t threatened by women who are seeking equality and rights. They are inspired by women who feel that way. They know that what makes people different from them is what makes them uniquely human. I want to raise sons that want to see all of humanity flourish. I want my sons to feel confident to celebrate people who are different from them because they are so secure in exactly who they are as amazing men. I want to raise sons that understand their power is only manipulation if it holds back another human being.

If you are threatened by this message, my hope for you is that you love yourself a little more too. If you felt sincere love, compassion and contentment for who you are, maybe you realize how much you want that for other people.

On this International Women’s Day, two weeks old, let’s actually do something. Let’s make a difference in the lives of women. Let’s not feel threatened by equality. Let’s not fear losing power. Let’s love ourselves…recklessly. I believe when we do that, we love others as well.

Two weeks have gone by, what are you doing as a result of International Women’s Day?

I see you. I love you. I’m cheering you on!


Photo Credit: Tasha Herrgott, Red Bird Hills Photography

Abundance Mindset

In 2022 I had a personal mantra. I’ve known people in the past who had a word of the year. I really haven’t felt called to a ‘word of the year’ before. 2022 felt different. It truly was my focus for the entire year. My mantra was claiming an abundance mindset.  

Abundance means a lot of things to different people. The likely association is abundance from a material standpoint. But as the year went on, claiming an abundance mindset continued to mean something more for me. I was pursuing a mantra that meant there will always be enough.

Abundance In Love

Abundance in Trust

Abundance in Faith and Hope

Abundance is Service to Others

Abundance in Generosity

Abundance in Play -Fun – Laughter

Abundance in Creativity

Abundance in Health

Abundance in Time, Rest and Energy

Abundance in Provision

I defined those things and put them on paper on December 21st, 2021 at 11:59 AM. I came back to those words time and time again last year. I came back to them when I felt like I was in alignment with an abundance mindset. I also came back to them when I didn’t feel so aligned.

If you didn’t catch the blog two weeks ago, I decided to use this blog as a reason to stay in a learning mindset as well as to capture what I’m learning on “paper.”

Here’s what I’ve learned when I pursued an abundance mindset… there is always enough. When I’m focused on abundance, I’m not focused on scarcity. When I’m focused on abundance, I’m not subscribing to chaotic hustle culture. When I’m focused on abundance, I know there is enough time, peace, trust, and rest. When I’m focused on abundance, I can be truly happy for people – I don’t have to engage this idea that someone else’s success diminishes my own. When I’m focused on abundance, I start to believe that not everything has to be so damn hard. I really need to say that again, not everything has to be so hard! In fact, an abundance mindset has almost convinced me of the opposite. If it feels too hard, it might not be for me. Which does not mean I don’t pursue my purpose even when things are challenging, not even close. However, I find this bears out more when I engage people whose energy isn’t a great match for my energy. It’s not good or bad. It’s just not the right fit. An abundance mindset helps me understand that there is an abundance of people, organizations, companies that are a good fit for me. It reiterates to me how important it is to continue to do the work and activity to find the people who are a good match.   

As I’ve been focused on abundance, I can really start to sense scarcity mentality when I feel it. Scarcity makes me feel sad. When things feel scarce, you’re afraid to enjoy, you can’t engage creatively, you limit trust and micromanage, you judge too quickly, and you have an underlying uneasiness that won’t go away. There is no outworking a scarcity mentality. It will never be enough.

“There is no outworking a scarcity mentality. It will never be enough.”

There’s a quote that surface again for me recently, I think it’s from the book The Secret, “your thoughts become things.” I believe our thoughts have more power than we’ll ever know. I know how much thinking I do, it’s a lot. I’m thinking things even when I don’t notice I’m thinking about things. Because of that, when I have an opportunity to remind myself to think from an abundance mindset, it makes sense to do that. It reminds me of the bible verse “take your thoughts captive.” We get to choose how to think, we were created with the capacity to be mindful of our thoughts. Let’s take advantage of that. If the quote holds true, what are you currently thinking into?

Another thing I’ve learned in this lane, there is both positive and negative abundance mindsets. There is absolutely abundance in negative thoughts if you allow yourself to think there. I’ve learned that it takes an incredible amount of energy to live with negativity. I wrote an entire blog about living and eventually fighting fear. https://encourageherelena.com/2021/09/08/punch-fear-right-in-the-face/ It also takes an incredible amount of energy to live with a positive abundance mindset. If you’re going to expend an incredible amount of energy anyway, expend it on creating abundance in goodness and light.

Where there is abundance, there is contentment. Where there is contentment, there is freedom. Where there is freedom, there is love and peace.

For me, choosing to have an abundance mindset isn’t a one-time decision. It’s one that I’ve had to continue to choose. I’m not sure I’ll have a mantra for 2023. Maybe it will still come to me. In the meantime, I’ll still be reaching and believing in abundance. I’ll be content in my pursuit of life knowing that there is enough, that I’m enough. You’re enough. There is enough to go around – enough love, trust, hope, service, generosity, play, laughter, creativity, time, energy, grace, and provision. There’s enough time for a nap. There’s enough room at the board table. There’s enough business to go around. There are enough ideas to share. There’s enough money to give. There’s enough time to learn new things. There’s enough grace to forgive yourself and others. There is enough love to recklessly throw around.

I see you. I love you. I’m cheering you on.


Unwind Identities and Return to Yourself

It has been eight months since I put “pen to paper” and wrote on this blog. I only wrote consistently on the blog in the first place for about eight months. It seemed so much longer than that. The blog was a tool that got me through a serious transition period in my life. At the time, I was unwinding some identities, habits and frankly some unhealthy relationships. My whole point in starting the blog was to serve women, right where they are, right where their feet are planted. When I look back on the first eight months of writing, I realize the blog served me as much as it served anyone else. It served me right where I was, right where my feet were planted. It gave me a tool to process how I was feeling. Luckily for all of you, I didn’t share publicly all of those feelings. That would have been a lot.  

It’s been about 18 months since I left my corporate leadership gig and restarted my life and around the same time, the blog. I’ve done a lot of work redefining myself personally, or maybe it’s more of a coming back to myself process. I’ve also redefined myself professionally, more on that later. For the most part, I have a new rhythm and routine. I have a new normal. My new normal energizes me and calms me down. That dichotomy is one that I cherish. My new normal is like a security blanket and a one-way ticket to adventure land. I’m so thankful. I’m able to show up to my life the way I wanted to, fully. I’m able to participate the way I wanted to, fully.

The thing that surprised me the most over these last 18 months is how much capacity I have right now to learn new things. The learning doesn’t come from one specific location, not just from my professional endeavors, although I learn a lot in that space. It’s not just new personal learnings or hobbies – although I’ve pretty much mastered homemade sourdough bread (if you’re a fan, let me know and I’ll make you a loaf). The learnings are not just from books, virtual classes or seminars, but I’ve treated myself to all of those types of learnings as well. I’m learning the most just from doing – I actually have time and bandwidth to do new thing. And the secret… because my brain isn’t stuck on a specific set of professional puzzles, I have more capacity to pay attention while I’m doing the new things. I hope that makes sense. Have you ever been in a season where you’re noticing this too?

As I was thinking about this blog, and how I want to use it this year, if at all. I realized that I just want a place to capture the things that I’m learning. Not because I think all of you need to learn these things too, you probably already learned these things. It’s definitely not because I think I have knowledge or wisdom that is unique, although that would be cool. I want to share my learnings simply because it puts me in a posture to keep paying attention to the gift that learning is. Meet me back here from time to time if you’re interested in my year of paying attention to what I’m doing and learning.

One of the things that I’ve learned and had to relearn over the course of the last 18 months could be one of the most profound lessons for me personally. I’ve already alluded to it above. Unwinding identities that no longer serve you is really important work. In the end, shedding these identities will always bring you closer to yourself. These identities might have been the right fit for a season. They may have never been the right fit.

The hard part is getting still enough to know or remember who you are. It’s also about knowing what was projected on you over time. This process is like paper mâché’. Do people still do paper mâché? I might be aging myself right now. For those of you who didn’t have a craft activity book in the 1980’s to help you fill your time, you just need to know that paper mâché was the “it” activity. Taking on identities that aren’t for you is a little like the paper mâché process. It’s the small, sticky sheets of wet plastered paper that stick to you. One piece of paper does not a paper mâché project make. But when you apply these small papers, one at a time, over and over, it eventually covers the original piece. Over time, the plaster creates a shell. You literally have to break through the shell to find the original piece of art. That’s how it feels when over time you take on an identity that wasn’t for you. You eventually have to do the work to break through the shell.  In the end, breaking through identities that no longer serve you will always bring you closer to yourself. It will always bring you closer to your values.

“In the end, breaking through identities that no longer serve you will always bring you closer to yourself.”

Elena Beckius, Encourageherelena.com

One of the things that was confusing was that some of the identities were things that made me feel good. They made me feel like I accomplished something. They stroked my ego. They made me feel important. They also made me tired. It’s tiring and eventually really awkward to walk around in the world with plastered identities all over you. You try to reconnect back to yourself when you have a moment, only to realize there isn’t enough time to break through the plaster – you surrender to do it later. In the end, these extraordinary identities took more from me than they offered in return. I craved the beauty and simplicity in the ordinary, original identities.

I think about the uncomfortable process of shedding identities, and then the equally uncomfortable process of rediscovering the original piece. It’s like reconnecting with an old friend. It feels so good. And, let’s be honest, it’s a little awkward. It won’t be too long before you’re right back to where you left off, but it takes some time. It also takes some trust. I think I needed to learn to trust that being myself was enough. I was always enough. You are too. No matter where you are, you are enough. If you need to break through the shell of identities that world gave you, do it. What you will find underneath is beautiful.

I see you. I love you. I’m cheering you on.


P.S. For my Twin Cities lady friends, are you in a season where you want to spend some time coming back to yourself with other like-minded women? On February 25th, The Hive Exchange has an amazing event just for you in Minneapolis. Check out the link below to learn more. https://www.eventbrite.com/e/self-love-saturday-tickets-519060723597

One simple way to reduce stress and feel better

Photo Credit: Tasha Herrgott at Red Bird Hills

The other day I was having a conversation with a client of mine. We were discussing their business and the progress towards the goals they were trying to achieve. They said to me “Elena, I haven’t gotten as far down the path towards my goal as I would have liked since we last spoke. I wasn’t even sure how to tell you. It’s hard for me to share this with you because you are one of the most disciplined people that I know.”

When I heard them say this it really surprised me – I almost wanted to laugh. While I’ve worked to prioritize the most important values in my life. I am not as disciplined as I would like to be.

It was brought up again in my conversation with my mentor Doug at Think2Perform. He said to me “Elena, the things that you do to drive results, others know they should also do. But, there is a big difference between knowing what to do to drive results and actually doing those things.”

My response to Doug and my client were very similar responses. For me, when I feel the most stressed, when I feel the most tension, it’s during the time and space between knowing I have to do something and actually doing the thing. Doing something hard is not the most stressful thing for me. The most stressful thing is the time between knowing I need to do something hard and when I actually go do the hard thing. It doesn’t matter if it’s a tough conversation letting an employee go, if it’s making sales calls for work, if it’s setting a new boundary with a friend, if it’s breaking up with a boyfriend (back in the day), if it’s going to do a tough workout, or if it’s waking up early to do my morning routine. These are all things that can be hard me to do. But, when I know these are things that must happen to live in alignment or drive a specific result that’s important to me, and I don’t do them, I feel like crap. It’s when I’m the hardest on myself. It’s when I feel the most stress.

I’m not the most disciplined person I know. I just don’t want to feel stress, anxiety, and shame. I will do the hard things to avoid those bad feelings. When I do those hard things sooner than later, I feel peace, calm and self-respect sooner than later. I’m a very simple person in one way – I want to feel good more than I want to feel bad. I wish I could say it’s discipline, it’s not.  

Several years ago, I had to let an employee go. It was an extremely stressful situation that was out of my wheelhouse. I needed to work with external partners outside of my team to get to the right way forward. It was an extremely hard season for everyone involved. For reasons that I could not control, that conversation had to be delayed for months. At the point I made the decision to let them go, the stress related to the situation increased. The time between knowing I needed to have that conversation and the time I had the conversation was one of the most stressful times for me professionally. The hardest part wasn’t the actual tough conversation. The hardest part was waiting to have the tough conversation. It was then when I realized the connection between stress that accumulates during the time between the knowing and the doing.

It was after that situation that I really started noticing more about my general feelings of discontent related to the hard things I needed to do. While the difficult situation I shared was the situation that made me notice this phenomenon, I started learning a lot more after that. Guess what? Most of the time I was feeling stress or discomfort, it typically wasn’t because someone was delaying me from doing the hard thing like in the example above. More often than not, it was ME that was delaying the hard thing, and avoiding the ‘doing.’ I learned that if I could reduce the amount of time between the “knowing and the doing,” I could reduce the stress, anxiety and potentially the shame that creeps in when I’m in a state of avoidance. While staying committed to sales calls, working out, or having tough conversations aren’t things that I always love doing, I like doing them more that the way I feel when I don’t do those things. I’m not the most disciplined person I know, I just like feeling content versus discontent. I will do the things to avoid feeling bad.

I told my client; you don’t have to be the most disciplined person you know. Just notice how you feel when you’re doing the work that aligns to what’s most important to you. Notice how you feel when you’re avoiding that work. Then reduce the time between the knowing and the doing, it’s a simple way to reduce stress and feel better about yourself. You’ll feel peace, calm and contentment more often.

I’d love to hear and learn from you. What are the things that you’re noticing about the space between the knowing and the doing? How might you feel if you reduce the time between the knowing and doing?

If this served you in any way, share it with a friend!

I see you. I love you. I’m cheering you on!


The most radical thing you can do.

The other day I joined my colleague Ryan Goulart on the Think 2 Perform podcast, Making the Ideal Real. If you haven’t checked it out, you should. Many of you know I aligned my coaching and consulting business with Think 2 Perform earlier this year (think2perform.com). I’m a little biased. But, I’ve been a fan of the podcast long before I worked with Think 2 Perform. Ryan’s podcast is short and smart – and it only comes out monthly which means it’s a podcast I can commit to. The first question that Ryan asks is always the same, “what does making the ideal real mean to you?” It’s a question that I’ve thought a lot about over the past years. I think it’s actually a similar question that changed the course of my professional life. It was the question that gave me permission to make major changes when I knew deep down I needed change desperately. It’s a question I encourage you to think about. 

When I was prepping for our podcast together, I knew he would ask me that question. AND, I knew I could give him some sort of safe ‘corporate leadership’ response. It would be a response that would resonate with other business leaders. It would even be a response that would serve people well. That type of response would be a safe response for me to offer. But – if I learned anything about safety the last four years, I’ve learned that safe can by synonymous with stuck.

I shared with Ryan that making the ideal real for me is the audacious idea and true belief that I’ve done the work to Know Myself and I’ve done the work to Love Myself. If I don’t know myself truly and I don’t sincerely love myself, I’ve come to learn that it’s damn near impossible for me to live ideally in any other area of my life.

It’s one thing to “know” yourself. I look back now and realize I knew myself at the surface level. I knew my gifts and abilities. I knew my accomplishments. I knew my bank accounts aligned with those accomplishments. I had taken every assessment under the sun. I knew everything about me “on paper.” I even took the time to identify my values. I tried to live my life according to those values. Here’s the problem though, knowing myself on paper and knowing my values on paper wasn’t enough. I was deeply tired and on the brink of burnout. I was living a life always waiting for the “other shoe to drop.” I used my values as some sort of crappy report card. In the privacy of my own thoughts, I was never measuring up.

Here’s what’s really frustrating to me now. At that time, I was doing so much to grow. Mike and I were being more intentional than ever to invest in our marriage. I was working hard to be a great mom. I was being intentional about my spiritual life. I was doing more to develop my skills as a leader. I was changing habits to invest in my health. I was working out more, I was drinking less alcohol and drinking more water. While it was all good activity, it would never be enough until I made the decision to truly know myself and love myself.

People talk about negative self-talk. People talk about Imposter Syndrome. No one talks about how to deal with it. But when you don’t deal with it, if you’re not self-aware of the thoughts you think about yourself, it has real impact, EVERY DAY. I believe more than ever that Lao-Tze was right. Thoughts become your reality and ultimatley your destiny. If you’re not living your ideal life, start with your thoughts.

“Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habits. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.”

Lao – Tze

If you’re not making the ideal real, start with your thoughts. My negative self-talk was impacting every area of my life. Knowing myself wasn’t just about my personality traits, my gifts, and my abilities. Knowing myself was actually about knowing and being self-aware of my emotions, how I was feeling about myself and how that translated to thoughts and actions. When I allowed myself the time and space to become aware of how I was thinking about myself, I realized I was approaching a crossroads – I was approaching ground zero. I could do nothing – I could stay safe/stuck and wait for an explosion at some point when I least expected it.  Or – I could make the decision to know and love myself.

I ran towards ground zero. Well, if I’m being honest, my therapist Justine held my hand and walked me towards ground zero. She very firmly and also gently helped me get clear about how I was thinking and talking to myself and as a result how I was loving myself. She put a mirror up to my thoughts. It was heart breaking. I would never talk to someone else the way I was talking and thinking about myself.

It was that day that I proactively pursued self-love and compassion. Truly loving myself wasn’t a one-and-done decision. I couldn’t just check that off the to-do list. It was a commitment daily to change the way I thought and trust that different thoughts would become different words, and words would become actions, and actions habits, and habits character. I trusted the science and the scripture that said I could renew my thoughts, that I could create new neuropathways. I trusted that if I did the work to change my thoughts about myself, I could and would love myself.

Do you know what happened? Something radical happened. I learned to know myself – not just on paper, but I learned to know my thoughts about myself. As I renewed my thoughts, as I created new neural pathways, my behavior and my decision making changed. As I changed my thoughts, I learned to love myself.

If you’ve ever heard me speak “on stage”, you know that I’m still on a journey some days to love myself. Some days I still need to remind myself exactly how to think about myself. I literally write down on paper how I want to think about myself in third person as if it already happened. I think it will be a journey I’m always on.

I shared all of this with Ryan on the podcast. I was vulnerable and honest. And, I share this with all of you now. I’m vulnerable and honest with you. Why? Because I believe knowing yourself and loving yourself is the most radical thing you can do for your family…faith…business…community…for yourself. It’s why friends Jocelyn and Jessie and I are creating a community of women that are on a journey to know and love themselves. We’ll be sharing more soon. I can’t wait to invite you to formally join us in this community called the Hive Exchange. If you’d like to learn more, let me know. I’ll make sure to invite you.

While I wish sometimes I didn’t have to do the messy work at ground zero, I’m so thankful I did. It was work that was worthy of my time and attention. The work had radical results that I’m still realizing. Every time I share my story, I hear directly from people that they are on the same journey. I hear they are challenged to know and love themselves in a different way. I hear this from men and from women. I hear sometimes that until hearing me share my story, they didn’t ever give themselves permission to think about themselves, not to mention love themselves. People tell me they weren’t sure that they believed self-love wasn’t even possible.

That’s why I share this with you today. That’s why I shared with Ryan on the podcast. I share because it might give at least one other person permission to share their own journey. Or it might encourage sone other person to start the work themselves, to know and love themselves. And that’s the most radical thing we can do.  

I see you. I love you. I’m cheering you on!


P.S. I want to publicly thank one of my mentors Ray Kelly who isn’t afraid to ask the tough questions. Ray asked me how the blog was going – knowing I wasn’t writing. When I shared I was taking a bit of a break this last quarter as my business was ramping up, Ray did as Ray does, he encouraged me to get back to my ideal self.

Today I Celebrate You: International Women’s Day

In 2005 I bought my first home, 4132. She has two bedrooms, one bathroom and one garage stall. At first glance, she was the most starter of all the starter homes. She had one thing that was unique about her, she had a custom wood built-in that stretches the length of the living room. In the sea of cookie cutter townhomes, that one thing made her stand out. When you walk in, the custom built-ins and electric fireplace create an unexpected warmth. As a 24 year old, recently out of college, I was in a sea of cookie cutter young professionals. I was aware of how much I didn’t stand out. I was desperate to find what was unique about me. It was the first time in my life that I realized I wasn’t quite as special as my parents said I was.

Looking back, that townhome was a companion to me when I had no companion. I didn’t go from my parent’s house to my husband’s house like ‘they’ used to say. 4132 gave me an opportunity to live alone as well as having roommates. It was during those alone stretches where I really got to know myself and make decisions as a young woman based on my own preferences. I know that doesn’t sound so profound anymore but I needed that time to be alone with myself. I needed to really get know myself. I needed to find the things that made me Elena. How did I stand out? Not in a prideful or narcissistic way – I needed to learn what unique gifts and abilities I was gifted in. I wanted to use those gifts to serve others. Also, I wanted to understand those gifts to not just serve others, to love myself. I needed to figure out how the artist created me as her custom piece.

Fast forward twelve years, I’ve decided to sell my 4132. Here’s the problem, since I moved out, I’ve rented her to strangers – strangers that didn’t see her as the gem in the sea of cookie-cutter homes. They didn’t see her as a companion. They didn’t grow up with her. She was a means to their end. And as a result, they didn’t treat her like I would have treated her. Over time, as she’s been lived in and worn down. As new renters have come and gone, they’ve taken their toll on her. Over the last month, I’ve spent more time with her than I have over the last decade. It takes time and money, but when I slow down to think about how I feel, I realize it’s been my personal pleasure to clean her and restore her back to life. She’s getting new paint, new flooring, new appliances, and new lighting. She’ll still have her one custom piece that makes her stand out from the rest. I will personally make sure she’s ready to take in the next young professional ready to learn who they are and step fully into exactly who they were created to be.

One afternoon a few weeks ago, I was ferociously cleaning the bathroom (I will spare you the details). I was disgusted with the way the last renters treated her. In a moment of being physically exhausted and totally grossed out, I started crying – not just because of my townhouse was treated. I cried because the townhouse was a metaphor for how I felt as a woman. I’m no longer the young, tight, shiny young woman I was when I moved into 4132. Our culture puts an exclamation mark on young, tight, photoshopped beauty – beauty that is fake and unattainable long term. When wrinkles set in, when our hair is graying, when the kids move out, when things are saggy, when youth has passed, women are no longer valued in the same way. Just like 4132, when women are no longer valued, they are treated with less value.

Here’s the crazy thing, it’s taken dang near twenty years to figure out who I am beyond the physical representation that the world values. It’s taken me this long to truly see what makes me unique. The world told me as a young person what would be valued. What would be valued was my body, my beauty and the results I produced. While I love my body and my beauty (which I do not define as the world does), and while I’m proud of my results, I’m so much more than those things. I will never sparkle again like I did in my youth but I have a clarity about me that only time and wisdom bring. I know now who I am – and I love the woman I have become and frankly who I’ve always been. It was just hard at first to remember her because the messaging I was getting from the world was so much louder than then my internal voice. I needed to get quiet and look inward and upward to remember how the artist created me.

I will never sparkle again like I did in my youth but I have a clarity about me that only time and wisdom bring.


On this international women’s day, I want to celebrate women. I want to encourage you to look inward and upward to remember exactly who you are. The things that make you uniquely you are the things that are meant to be shared and celebrated. Brené Brown’s work teaches us that true belonging can only happen when we share our authentic and imperfect self to the world. Our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance and self-love. You maybe feel awkward and alone, I want to encourage you to find and share what makes you uniquely you. You are maybe young and beautiful, share what makes you uniquely you. You are maybe middle-aged like me, share what makes you uniquely you. You are maybe an “old” woman by the world’s standards, share what makes you uniquely you. When you share, you give permission to another woman to do the same. I may not be as sparkly as I was in my youth, but I have a clarity about me that only time and wisdom brings. I wish it didn’t take me years to find her. Today, I celebrate every woman, every authentic and imperfectly perfect woman.

I see you. I love you. I’m cheering you on!


Feelings Follow Action

Photo Credit: Tasha Herrgott at Red Bird Hills, redbirdhills.com

This past week has been one of those weeks, the past month has been one of those months, and you guessed it, this winter has already been one of those winters. It doesn’t ‘feel’ good to be a Minnesotan right now. As a native, you’d think that I’d be used to the overcast, cold, God-forsaken January days. Yes, I am. And also, no I am not. I think I have said at least 1,700 times in the past day, like a broken record, “so, tough day with this weather, am I right?” Actually, the check-out clerk at the grocery store beat me to it so it was technically only 1,699 times. January in Minnesota is not good. We are not ok, send hot beverages, cozy blankets, portable heaters, or a hot tub.

But you know where you’ll find me next January? That’s right. It’s 99.99% likely that you’ll find me right here next January. You’ll probably hear me complain at least one hundred and twenty million, thousand plus nine times (my kids are too grown up to mess up their numbers anymore when they’re exaggerating so I do it myself to remember how cute they sounded). This weekend I accidentally relearned a lesson that I needed to relearn. The lesson is very simple but profound. Feelings follow action. If you want to change the way you feel, you need to change your behavior.

Feelings follow action. If you want to change the way you feel, you need to change your behavior.


Around here, you can complain about January (I’m obviously not above this strategy) or you can lean into January, which accidentally happened this weekend and retaught me this lesson. I wish I could say it was intentional, it wasn’t. Over the weekend, we literally wanted to change the way we felt, so we chose to change our actions. We chose to thoroughly embrace January. The boys went ice-fishing while I went for a long, wintery walk.  They played SO MUCH pond hockey. We met good friends to go sledding. We ate homemade chicken soup. We snuggled up with a movie. We went downhill skiing. At the end of the weekend, I seriously realized how much I have to be thankful for and how seriously fun it can be to live in Minnesota when you choose to live and not just pass the time.  I changed the way I was feeling by simply changing my actions.

When things get hard, when you don’t ‘feel’ good, you might need to ‘act’ differently until you feel the way you want to feel. You might need to be an actress/actor and play the role and do the things that someone who feels different would do, even if you don’t feel different yet. I’ve heard some people say “embrace the suck.” I don’t love that phrase. It’s so negative. Just because things are hard doesn’t mean they aren’t good for us. Most of the things we value most are hard to attain. Deep down you can find beauty and growth in every challenge if you look for it.  

Deep down you can find beauty and growth in every challenge if you look for it.


I needed to be reminded that I can change the way I feel by acting differently. When I started noticing over the weekend the changes in how I was feeling, I noticed that it wasn’t just any behavior change that made a difference. The actions that made a difference were the actions that were totally in my control. I didn’t need to rely or influence anyone else to move the behaviors or actions forward. You’ve probably heard of the three bucket theory. Make sure your actions are within bucket one (things that you can control) and not in bucket 2 (things you can only influence but not control) or bucket three (things you cannot control or influence). If I’m feeling unhealthy, I go drink a huge jug of water or slip in a quick 30-minute workout. Those behaviors are in my control.  I know I will immediately feel healthier. If I’m feeling anxious about my business, I start making calls to schedule new appointments. The behavior of making calls is in my control. While I can’t control if someone schedules an appointment, I have learned from past experience that the action of making calls reduces my anxiety. If I’m feeling disconnected, I immediately schedule a date night with Mike or 1:1 time with someone I love. Scheduling 1:1 time is in my control.

The actions that made a difference were the actions that were totally in my control. I didn’t need to rely or influence anyone else to move the behaviors or actions forward.


Is there something in your life that’s feeling off? Do you need to change it? OR, do you need to change the way you feel about it? First step is to make sure you slow down enough to understand how you feel. Don’t ignore it. If you’re feeling a negative feeling, anxiousness, shame, loneliness, discouragement, fatigue, indecisiveness, stress or overwhelm? Acknowledge it and name it. Do you need to flip the script? Do you want to change how you’re feeling?  Can you choose to act differently until you feel differently? Changing your mind is hard to do but it can be done. Changing your behavior is something you can do right now. You might be wondering if a certain action or behavior will change the way you feel. Try it, and pay attention. And you know what? If you’re like me, you might just feel better.

Here’s to February 1st.

I see you. I love you. I’m cheering you on!


True North: A New Years Checklist for Leaders and Business Owners

wind rose with maps on table
Photo by Monstera on Pexels.com

Happy New Year! When you read this it will be January 13th or later. You almost have the first two weeks of 2022 wrapped up? How is your year going? If you’re anything like me you’ve gone from zero to sixty quick! Are you doing what you said you would do? Is your team rowing in the same direction? Or did you actually get thrown into the year without getting grounded on what really matters? Its ok. There’s still time to get grounded and lead well. This is actually the last blog in a series we’ve been going through titled Finish Well. It was five part series we started at the beginning of December. Just to review where we’ve been and where we’re going, these are the five steps to Finish well.  

  1. Your plan to cross the Finish Line, SPRINT if you must. Read it here.
  2. Your plan to Reflect. What went well? What didn’t go as well that needs to be left in 2021? Read it here.
  3. Your plan to review your Systems to make sure you sustain your results and wellness into the new year. Or – adjust them. Read it here.
  4. Your plan for Celebration and Gratitude.
  5. Your Plan to Kick Off 2022 grounded in your Mission, Vision and Values (MVV) with clear goals.

The last step in finishing well is a plan to start the next year grounded in your company Mission, Vision and Values with clear goals. If you feel you haven’t done that yet, here are few ideas to get yourself and your team rowing towards the finish line of 2022. By the way, these same principles can be applied to any business, community or even family structure.

Dirty 30 ‘True North’ All Team Call

Schedule a 30 Minute All Team Call to review with your team what is really important for 2022, your “True North” for the year. The first 10 minutes is to review the Vision, Mission and Values of the organization or your team. This is where we’re going, this is how we’re getting there, and we’ll show up grounded in these values. You might think that people remember this stuff. They don’t unless you consistently remind them. In the first 17 years of being in business, I rarely saw this done. Get people excited and looking towards the True North. If where you’re going as an organization doesn’t excite you as a leader, you may have a bigger problem on your hands. I’ve never trusted my ability to bull shit my team. Meaning, I don’t ever do anything where I have to convince them of something that I don’t believe in. Don’t expect your team to buy what you’re selling if you don’t believe it 100%. I’m not good at faking it. Maybe your company vision doesn’t excite you, then you must have a team vision that gets you out of bed in the morning. Ideally, you get excited about both your company vision and mission as well as your team’s vision and mission. If you are the business owner or CEO, you’re your vision and mission must excite you enough to inspire your team to give you their absolute best. You are the gasoline that blows this thing up. If you’re not passionate, don’t expect them to be. Sometimes leaders and owners say to me, I feel like a broker record. I’m not sure I’m going to go through this again. Do not assume that your people know this, insure that they know it. Ask them to lead their team in the same discussion.

The second ten minutes is describing the big goals you’re going to achieve and the primary leading indicators that will help you drive results in the areas of those goals. This shouldn’t be a surprise if you’re team was along for the ride during business planning. However, if there are new goals or new leading indicators, you may need more time.

Take five minutes is to hear from the group any feedback or questions. Then close the meeting sharing how and when you’ll keep the scoreboard in front of them, so you know as a team how you are on or off track. Make sure you have a scorecard that shows whether or not you’re on track within the time frames that make sense for your business, weekly – monthly or quarterly. This does not need to be anything fancy. This can be a hand drawn thermometer showing progress toward goal by time frame.

1:1 Check Ins with Each Team Member

In one of your first 1:1’s with your team, check in with them about how their work aligns to Mission – Vision – Values. Do not tell them. Ask them to tell you. This give them an opportunity to create their own insight which is way more likely to impact behavior.

Ask them about how their work aligns to the business plan. Do their primary goals directly impact the company goals, and do they have a clear understanding of the leading indicators that impact their goals? And of course, every person on your team should have clear performance goals and leading indicators.

Check in on how will they keep track of their goals and leads so they know that they’re winning? For me personally, some of the most effective scorecards are the handwritten trackers that I must physically create and fill in. When recruiting was one of my top two goals, every quarter I would number by hand a sheet of lined paper how many recruiting assessments I would need to receive, how many interview one/two/three/final interviews/accepted offers and contracts I needed to complete. As I scheduled these activities, I would write the person’s name next to the line in pencil. Once the activity was completed, I highlighted the name or wrote over the pencil in pen. For me, I wanted to have a system of scheduling the activity and a system for making sure the activity was seen and completed. As I would progress through the quarter, I had a clear visual as to the areas where I needed to be more intentional about scheduling activities. This is not sophisticated. There are a million different and more complicated ways to track a recruiting pipeline or any goal for that matter. This is what worked for me. Do what works for you and make sure your people have something that works for them. But do not give yourself an excuse that you can’t have a scorecard because you lack expensive technology.

Will versus Skill

You might be asking your team member to do something this year that you’ve never asked them to do before. Or you may be asking your team to achieve something that you’ve asked them to achieve in years past but they for whatever reason they didn’t accomplish the goal. It is absolutely necessary to make sure you understand why that didn’t happen in the past? Is it a skill or a will issue? If it’s a skill issue, have you demonstrated the skills required? Have you observed them demonstrating the skills necessary enough to confirm they have the skill required to be successful? If you aren’t the right person to do this, can you connect them with someone that can coach them on the skill building? Do you need to invest in additional training, coaching or mentoring to help them? Now is a great time to have a candid conversation about their ability and willingness to achieve the goals you’ve agreed on. Apply Situational Leadership to each task you’re asking them to own.

Every once in a while, I have come across someone that has the will and the skill to achieve the goal but lacks belief in themselves. The level in which you believe you are capable of something is exactly the level that you will achieve something. I am keenly aware of this phenomenon as it impacted me in several areas of my work throughout my early leadership career that were absolutely necessary for me to be successful. I’m sure there is very scientific titles for this phenomenon, but I just simply call it a Belief Block. What I believed about myself was blocking my ability to be successful even though I had the will and skill to achieve the goal. As I learned more about neuroscience, I now know that these are deeply rooted beliefs that need to be replaced by new neuropathways. There are probably a lot of ways to deal with Belief Block, but for me, it was simply re-writing every day in my journal what I believed about myself. I have coached other team members about this as well. It’s not a quick fix. It takes time to literally change your mind, but it’s absolutely possible to change your mind. It takes a lot of work and repetition reminding yourself of who you are and what you can do. I reminded myself daily of who I was, I wrote statements about myself in past tense, assuming the result had already taken place. “Elena is a best in class recruiter, hiring 8 advisors” as an example. Your brain will work behind the scenes to change and make these statements true. Trust me on this one.

Recognize Early Wins

The sooner you can start seeing early wins and recognizing them with your team the more fun it will be to work on your team. People need to be encouraged. I know that I perform better when someone is watching and reinforcing what I’m doing well. Find opportunities to catch your team winning and they’ll win more often. It’s never too early to thank your team for their commitment to the vision and the mission. It’s never too early to thank your people for the commitment to their goals. As the leader of the team, the business, the family or practice, you cannot achieve your goals without their efforts. Thank them, it feels so good…for both of you!   

I see you. I love you. I’m cheering you on!


Don’t Forget to Celebrate

Hi Friend, on Thursday we spoke all about Systems, it’s the third step in our Finishing 2021 Well Series. Don’t let systems fool you. They aren’t overtly sexy but they make all the difference when it comes to driving results consistently. If you didn’t catch this yesterday (it was a long post!), I am offering a 30-minute Systems Success session in January. This is a courtesy, laser focused 30-minute session where you’ll walk away with feedback and insight on a system that will drive results more consistently or robustly in your business. Sign up by emailing me at encourageherelena@gmail.com.

Just to review where we’ve been and where we’re going, these are the five steps to Finish well.  

  1. Your plan to cross the Finish Line, SPRINT if you must. Read it here.
  2. Your plan to Reflect. What went well? What didn’t go as well that needs to be left in 2021? Read it here.
  3. Your plan to review your Systems to make sure you sustain your results and wellness into the new year. Or – adjust them. Read it here.
  4. Your plan for Celebration and Gratitude.
  5. Your Plan to Kick Off 2022 grounded in your Mission, Vision and Values (MVV) with clear goals.

I almost didn’t include Celebration and Gratitude in this series even though I know it’s such an important part of Finishing Well. People need to know how much their contribution matters and how their contribution aligns with the mission and vision of the organization. Not everyone is motivated by recognition as their primary motivator, but all of the people I’ve led appreciate when their work is recognized and celebrated.

I didn’t initially want to include it because if I’m being honest, this is an area where I don’t feel super confident. When it comes to celebrating people and showing sincere gratitude, I didn’t always take the time to do that well. That was a mistake. I know I could have been more intentional about it. The year would end, we’d take time off during the holidays and then by the time January 2nd would roll around, we were full steam ahead on the next year’s goals. In the last few years as a Regional Vice President in the financial services industry, I did a better job with this. However, it could have still been better and I could have been more intentional. Instead of just celebrating at year end, we had a shared group recognition every time we met as a team where I could offer recognition. Even more special, we opened it up so the team could also celebrate and recognize their peers. I had to create a system around it and then go figure, I did it consistently. We recognized results and we also took time to recognize when we say each other showing up in alignment with our regional values. Honestly, those opportunities reinforced the best behaviors and results more effectively than any other component of our team meetings.

For me, the first role of a leader is to care for the people they’re leading. It doesn’t matter if you’re leading a workforce of ten thousand or you’re leading your two kids. Your people need to know that their leader cares. Every night when I lay with my boys, I tell them that I like them, I love them, and that I’m proud of them. Every night I want the last words they hear from me to be a sentiment of love and care. Caring for the people you lead shows up in a lot of ways, it’s not always warm, fuzzy positive affirmation. Sometimes it looks like Celebrating them and showing them Gratitude. Sometimes it looks like creating clarity for them. Sometimes it looks like having a challenging accountability conversation with them because you care about their ability to get what they want for themselves. Sometimes it looks like helping them get promoted and move into another more challenging or fulfilling role. Sometimes it looks like helping them leave the organization into a role that’s a better fit. Sometimes it looks like giving them direct, real-time feedback so they can learn quickly. If you’re a people leader in the home, in business or in community, you need to care for the people you lead. It’s your actual job. If you lead people but you don’t care, you may gain compliance and drive short term results, but you won’t get the best efforts from your team. If you’re a leader and you feel like you’re not getting someone’s best efforts, you might find their perception is that you don’t care. I find this with parenting as well.

If you are a leader who cares for people, you need to recognize them for the work they are doing. People will stay in organizations when they have a leader that cares for them in all the ways I mentioned before. While it’s fun to have reward and recognition events, I’ve found that it’s not the most impactful way to celebrate people. People do not feel personally recognized or personally appreciated when you thank them and their one hundred closest colleagues. That’s a nice thing to do and you should probably do it if it’s the only thing you do. However, it’s not the one size fits all approach to making sure people actually know how much you appreciate them. The best way is to tell people in a one-on-one conversation or a personal note. You would be surprised how far a snail mail note goes to make sure people know you appreciate the work that they do. As a leader, it’s also a really good idea to give your team or family opportunities to recognize each other. You don’t need to be the author of all Celebrations or Gratitude. Consider creating opportunities where your people can celebrate each other.

In every one-on-one conversation I led with the people that worked with me, I started the conversation with “successes from last week.” While that isn’t unique, it became my nudge to make sure I personally recognized my team for the things they felt most proud of. When they would share, I would celebrate them sincerely. Even if they had a less than stellar week, there was still something to celebrate. When my kids get home from school, I ask them “what went well today?” It is an opportunity to hear directly from my boys what they’re most proud of. It also is a trigger for them to think positively on their day, even to find one thing that went well. After going back to school after Covid home schooling, they would often reply to the question “just being at school mom.” We would celebrate that. Now, fast forward 18 months, at night when we say our prayers, my 11-year old always thanks God for the ‘opportunity’ to go to school in person.

If you haven’t taken the opportunity yet, I encourage you to think about how you can celebrate your people this coming week and year. What systems do you need to incorporate to do this consistently? Your team completed another entire year. They likely achieved many important goals. They accomplished a lot in spite of a lot of headwinds. Show them that you care by recognizing what they accomplished. One year, one of my best leaders (in the history of leaders), Tom Young, celebrated our team with a really special lunch. He surprised us with a limo ride to a beautiful restaurant. He toasted our work and accomplishments as we shared a bottle of champagne on our way to the restaurant. It remains one of my favorite memories of celebrating our successes as a team. Maybe you don’t have the budget to do a team lunch with a limo ride (or the go ahead to meet in person yet) but you can have huge impact by sharing one piece of recognition for each of your team members. I’ve also worked with people that shared their appreciation with a gift. It would come in the mail. It was a fun surprise. But I often thought how much farther that appreciation would have gone if the leader would have also reached out personally. What if just four times a year, you started your team meeting sharing one thing that you love about each team member? From time to time, I would do that even for the teams that I didn’t lead. Your peers also appreciate feeling recognized for who they are and what they contribute to your organization. It might take you ten minutes to jot down one thing you really appreciate about each person, but you know what? They feel celebrated and truly recognized.

Life is hard right now for your people. Don’t let work be the hardest thing in their life. People can deal with a lot of shit when they work with a leader that knows that they’re number one job is to care for their people. Celebrating and Recognizing your people is just one way to show them that you care. If your truly interested in Finishing Well, make sure your people are sincerely celebrated for the work they do. Lead on!

I see you. I love you. I’m cheering you on!