Karen On the Job

A Measure of Sacrifice is Required

There is no decision we can make that doesn’t come with some sort of balance or sacrifice.    – Simon Sinek

What are you willing to give up in order to pursue what you really want? What are you willing to let go of for the sake of your dream? What might you have to leave behind because it’s not helping you get where you want to go?

A key ingredient to an entrepreneur’s success is to embrace those moments where your dream will require a measure of sacrifice.

True sacrifice is giving up something of current value to invest in something of greater value.

There are many areas of our lives that hinder us from chasing after our hopes because we don’t want to forfeit our comfort zone.

The most important decision about your goals is not what you are willing to do to achieve them, but what you are willing to give up. – Dave Ramsey

When we sincerely believe there’s a bigger picture awaiting us, sometimes we have to resign oneself to what is comfortably familiar because it no longer benefits the ultimate goal.

Q1:  What’s comfortable in your life but not beneficial to your ultimate goal?  

As Tony Robbins famously coined, “Anything you want that’s valuable requires you to break through short-term pain in order to gain long-term pleasure.

Are we willing to let go of our presuppositions that got us from where we were to where we are? They got us this far, but no farther. It served its purpose, and now it’s time to sacrifice them because what once nourished you is now hindering you from ultimate success. (A great book to read is Marshall Goldsmith’s, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful.)

When I listen to inspiring leaders, I hear a recurring theme. They share stories in their professional journeys where it was required of them to give something up for the sake of pursuing something greater. They chose to make their sacrifices because they knew they had to let go of their normal in return for their extraordinary.

Q2:  What might you have to relinquish today for the sake of your bright exuberant future? 

He who would accomplish little must sacrifice little; he who would achieve much must sacrifice much; he who would attain highly, must sacrifice greatly. – James Allen

A gentle reminder that sacrifice stems from a place of purpose, not self-gratification. Sacrifice comes with a cost, but always remember you’re choosing something of greater value.  You will know you’ve made a sacrifice because that choice will stretch you outside your comfort levels.

– Karen Thrall

*also published on

Inside My Head On the Job

Personal Leadership

I recently participated in a small team discussion about leadership. Now there’s a loaded word, especially when you start examining your own strengths and challenges. I think leadership is one of those nebulous terms we throw around a lot. We also tend to haphazardly add adjectives in front of it – good, weak, thoughtful, inspired. And we seem to spend a lot of time talking about leadership. A LOT of time in my world. But that said, I don’t necessarily remember the last time I did a self-assessment of my own strengths and challenges.

It’s easy to spot what we like in others and gossip about what we don’t. But turning the question on ourselves can be a bit daunting and I found I struggled with the questions – both on the strengths and challenges side. But through that struggle, I found the exercise valuable. It helped me understand what unique qualities I bring to the table and where I have a desire to behave differently. In the interest of helping you take a look at your own list, I thought I’d share mine. And I’d love to hear what you think makes you a strong leader, as well as areas you’d like to develop. Lead on, my friends!


  • I am confident in my own beliefs and opinions and I’m willing to share them. I think that’s a huge part of leadership.
  • I ask questions. I ask for clarification. I ask to ensure I understand. I ask to identify underlying feelings. I want to make sure I thoroughly understand what’s going on before I move ahead, whether in the conversation or with an action.
  • I like connecting with people and helping them feel heard. Being heard is a powerful feeling and limitless things can come from that space shared between people.
  • When something doesn’t go as expected, I first look to what I could have done differently. That helps me clarify what I expect and want moving forward. It also keeps me from starting with blame for others.
  • I believe life is more fun when you’re positive, and that goes for work and play. I work to see the positive and not be so focused on the negative.
  • I believe there is always something that can be done – there are always more options.



  • Delegating and sharing responsibility can be hard for me. Trusting that others are invested at a level that makes me comfortable is tough.
  • I have high expectations and I can take it personally when those expectations aren’t met. I think these high expectations can sometimes come off as high maintenance, which can be a challenge for me (I wrote a whole blog post on this one!).
  • I can get stuck in the details of something and get so focused on making it work that I can miss an easier and better solution because I’m too far down the path with the first option.
  • I can sometimes worry too much about how other people feel. It doesn’t always prevent me from taking action, but it can cause me to struggle in moving forward to letting something go.
  • I believe there is always something that can be done – there are always more options (yes, you read that right – I consider this both a strength and a challenge since it can sometimes drive me crazy).


On the Job

Stars, Snacks and Naps

A client I’ve been working with has been encouraging attendance at their monthly lunch and learns with some name plate swag afterwards. It’s nothing fancy – they started with putting gold stars on everyone’s name plate after the first lunch and learn. Then it was a smiley face ticket, a flower and so on. It’s been fun to watch the office fill up with bright colors and a little bit of fun as the year progresses.

It’s also been really fun to watch everyone get excited to receive their swag stickers after each event. As the swag is distributed after each lunch and learn, people are eager to see what they get this time. They love their owls, their festive fireworks and flags and it’s a reminder to me that we don’t change much from our early school days. We still love gold stars and stickers, and it’s nice to be recognized with a little fun.  It’s the same reason I never have a training session without snacks. Now if I could just figure out a way to work naps into the regular work routine, we’d complete the trifecta and I’d be a happy camper. Just one more way it seems we really did learn everything we need to know in kindergarten.

Libby On the Job

Temporarily Yours

I just finished up a three-month temporary work gig. I’ve temped at other times of my life, and while it’s a great way to fill in gaps when you need it, it can also be stressful: being new and unfamiliar with the organization, not getting enough work, not getting the right kind of work, being ignored and feeling awkward in the break room, etc.

Not this time – this experience was 100% awesome, and, while I’m glad to be moving on to something more substantive and permanent, I’m going to miss it. What made this time different?

  • Connections: I got the gig not through an agency, but through a friend I made in a professional capacity who needed the help due to a vacant position. As a result, there was already a level of trust and respect there that might not have been if I had come randomly through an agency.
  • Tasks: How many of us – as full or part-time professionals – have the luxury of getting a task and then working on it through to completion? Or how often do you have work that doesn’t have a real immediate and VERY IMPORTANT deadline? In my experience, those are both pretty rare things.
  • Brain Food: In addition, I was getting both ends of the task spectrum: data entry and strategic planning. That is also rare – too much of either one can make your brain hurt. As The Temp, I was given things that had piled up due to higher priority deadlines, or nice ideas that no one had the time to purse. What a bonus for me!
  • People: Folks at this organization were very friendly. One, it was made pretty clear that I was there for a very specific amount of time, so no one felt threatened that I was there to take their job, and two, they’re just nice people! They welcomed me, invited me to participate in staff activities, said hello every day and got my jokes. It was a very warm environment.
  • Thanks: People really were grateful for my help, and I was actually helping (which helps!), which made it that much better. But more than that, they made a point to tell me that – by not only giving more to do, but also verbally expressing thanks. That sounds a little silly, but you’d be surprised how many people forget to do that.

This opportunity came at a time of transition for me as well as for them: I helped parts of the organization grow while adding to my own professional development; I relieved some of their professional stress, and they offered me some financial stability; I provided some fresh ideas and perspectives on changes and opportunities and they offered support and friendship. I thank them for bringing me into their fold and remain forever temporarily and most sincerely theirs. Have you thanked your temp today?

– Libby Bingham

On the Job

The Battle Royale: Negative vs. Positive Comments

Ah, the good ol’ evaluation. It inspires excitement, fear and usually a little anxiety. In high school, my best friend and I were Red Cross HIV/AIDS Peer Educators and supplemented sex ed curriculum for junior high and high school students across the suburbs of St. Paul. It was a great experience and we loved every second of it. But our absolute favorite part was reading the evaluations. We would thank everyone for their time, collect the evaluations and patiently wait for everyone to clear the room. The second that happened, we were tearing through the evaluations. Fortunately (and perhaps surprisingly), the 14-18 year-olds were typically kind to us and provided us with both useful and feel-good feedback. But with each class, there were usually one or two negative comments, and of course, those were the ones we were drawn to and they were the comments that stuck with us.
What is it about the negative comments that so thoroughly stick with us? Out of a group of 30 people, we can get 28 positive comments, but the 2 comments that aren’t good are the two that stick out. The New York Times published an article about this several years ago, Praise is Fleeting, but Brickbats We Recall. According to Clifford Nass, a professor of communication at Stanford University, it’s a tendency we all have.

Negative emotions generally involve more thinking, and the information is processed more thoroughly than positive ones. Thus, we tend to ruminate more about unpleasant events — and use stronger words to describe them — than happy ones.

– Clifford Nass

I just got my latest round of evaluations from a recent event and they were overwhelmingly positive. In fact, they’re some of the highest scores across the board I’ve received. Yet (and you knew this was coming), one of the open comments said that I told too many stories at the end. This overshadowed the comments about how engaging the session was, how they wished it was longer and how much they loved the energy and specific examples. My brain went right to that comment and stayed there.

But here’s the thing about the negative comments I didn’t fully understand back in high school – they’re still just comments. It’s what you decide to do with them that counts. I DO tell a lot of stories – it’s how I make sense of the world. It’s how I relate to people and show empathy. And I think it’s also what makes my a good teacher – I consider it one of my strengths. So it was too much for one person at the end. I’m okay with that. This same person also left some comments about the insightful and helpful tools, so I’m going to chose to focus on that and tell my brain it can move on from the negative.

What are you going to tell your brain to move on from?

On the Job

Our Future Leaders: Girl Power

Earlier this month, I spoke about feedback at the American Association of University Women’s National Conference for College Women Student Leaders. Admittedly, that’s a whole lot of words and a long acronym (AAUW’s NCCWSL!), but to be fair, sometimes you need a lot of words to convey the power of what’s happening. The collection of young women at this conference was truly extraordinary. They were student leaders from all over the country who were making time for themselves and investing in their future. The conference had sessions focused on all aspects of life after college – professional advancement, relationships, wellness, empowerment and equity. The leadership had done a terrific job of putting together a well-rounded mix of topics to reflect what these young women were after.

And while the speakers and sessions were terrific, they were nothing compared to the energy these young women brought with them. One thing in particular stood out to me. As the attendees were trickling into our session room, I was so impressed with how quickly they greeted each other and got into conversation. It’s a stark contrast to what I typically see at professional conferences – most people are on their phones and leaving plenty of seats between them and their fellow attendees. These women recognized the opportunity they had in front of them and seized it. And their excitement didn’t end there. We had a wonderfully engaging discussion as opposed to just a presentation, which is way more fun for me and the attendees.

I left our session feeling energized and hopeful for our future. If these women are an indication of what’s coming, we’re in good shape. Though we can’t just sit back and watch their success – it’s up to us to help, encourage and support them in whatever way we can. Sharing our knowledge, answering questions and being open to what they have to share will help us all ensure we’re headed down a brighter path together.

On the Job

Times of Team Stress

Prepping last minute details for a big conference. Launching a new product. Gearing up for your annual sale. Anytime we take a detour from business as usual, we put ourselves in a stressful situation and one of two things seems to happen: we band together in our foxhole or, desperate to save ourselves, we turn on each other.

Much of this is human nature and we can’t help ourselves. It’s rooted in our adrenaline to either fight or take flight in times of stress. And since we can’t typically take flight from our jobs during these stressful times, we’re left with the option of fighting. Fighting isn’t always bad, especially if you can band together against a common enemy – fatigue, mediocrity or unanticipated problems. You can also fight for something together – your highest number of sales, fewest onsite issues or even just making it to the closing bell. Any team member from a successful fight will tell you how much they bonded with their teammates as a result of the battle. You have war stories to tell together, common experiences and inside jokes you had to be there to get.

So when you find yourself in the middle of a stressful team situation and you notice people frustrated with each other, getting shorter with their responses or complaining more, see what you can do to shift the fight and band together.

And for the record, baked goods are always a highly recommended battle tool. Or chocolate. 😉

On the Job

Knowing Your Time Goal

I was asked last week for a fun time-keeping tool to use in a meeting. Obviously the words time-keeping and fun aren’t usually used together, but I get what they were after and I can work with that. The real issue was that we didn’t know the concern we were trying to address, so the request prompted a deeper dive. It’s typical for a number of issues to get swept up into the “we need to keep better track of time during our meetings,” so it’s important to know what you’re trying to fix or avoid.

  1. One or two people monopolize the conversation. For these folks, I find the best solution usually isn’t a tool, but a one-on-one conversation outside the meeting to get these people on your side as your ally. “I could really use your help with our group. You’re so passionate about topic x, that when you share your ideas first, people tend to just go along with them because it’s easiest. In our next meeting, I would love if you could help me out by waiting until a few other group members have shared before you weigh in.”
  2. You’re trying to establish a new norm for conversation within the group. Ideally, this is something the group can set at the beginning, but if you’re trying to make a shift in conversational norms, a reverse brainstorming exercise can work wonders. Rather than brainstorming solutions for a problem, you brainstorm how to get the worst-case scenario. For instance, with conversational norms, you might want to brainstorm how to ensure nothing gets done and everyone leaves feeling miserable. Your brainstorm may then include things like everyone is on their phones, no one comes prepared and you have to review everything that happened last time, everyone interrupts each other and so on. Once you realize these are certain ways to ensure inefficiency and bad feelings, you can work together to avoid them.
  3. You’ve got an emotionally charged, high stakes conversation coming up and you want to make sure everyone gets to speak. If this is the case, I like to recruit one or two people to volunteer to go first, and then I like to use opening arguments (or opening statements, if you’re in political debate season). Everyone gets three minutes (or whatever time works for your group and agenda) to share their options and perspective. It’s not time for conversation or debating, but it ensures everyone starts with a chance to talk and you start by getting everything out on the table.
  4. Everyone participates equally and the conversation is good, but you’re always running out of time or running over the allotted time. This is where agenda setting is your friend. A timed agenda with clear chunks of time for each discussion topic can help you as the planner and as a participant. We often try to pack too much into our agendas, so thinking through how much time each conversation needs will help prioritize what needs to be discussed now and what can wait for next time.

Now, these are issues that typically come up within established teams who are working together. For new teams, I find it most helpful to establish the ground rules and norms at the beginning so that everyone is on the same page. One of the groups I worked with established a “no beating a dead horse” ground rule at the beginning and would frequently come back to that within their conversations. They would say to each other, “We hear you and that horse is dead.” It may sound harsh to someone coming in from outside, but because the group established it themselves at the onset, it was an effective way for them to let each other know they’d been heard and keep the conversation moving in a timely way.

What are some of your tips and tricks for managing time and keeping things moving?

On the Job

The Gift of Communications

I’ve had several conversations lately that have taken me back to my undergrad classroom. One of the most memorable lessons I have from college was from a communications course. Our professor talked about how we envision our own messages – wrapped up in beautiful packages and neatly presented to the other people in our conversation. We imagine they’ll open that box and see our message just as we intended. And more importantly, we imagine they’ll see it just as we see it, since that’s how we packed it and presented it.

But we all view what’s in the box differently. We can experience the same content, but we apply our own lenses of experience to that message. We assign intent and motive, and each message is colored by those that have come before it. Each message is received differently based on who’s opening that box. We may have similar lenses, but no two people will experience anything exactly the same.

It’s a powerful reminder that our words can carry a lot of weight, but the context of what’s around our words matters a great deal. How are you presenting your communication gifts?



Karen On the Job

When Companies Begin to Crumble

So, you want to grow your business?  Great! Whatever you do, pay attention to the internal workings of your company!

Overlooking your infrastructure is like biting into a rotten apple. Looks juicy and delicious on the outside, but on the inside, it’s decaying. This mustn’t happen.

Yes, I agree that cash flow is of utmost importance and keeps the neon ‘open for business’ sign left on, but why is it that very few companies ask on a regular basis: “Are we healthy?”

It doesn’t matter how much cash flow you’re experiencing right now – if you’re not a healthy business, you’re just like the rotten apple. The company eventually will not be sustainable, which means a time is coming where things will start falling through the cracks, sales will drop, problems will increase and you’ll start to worry about your profitability.

Then what?

Then reaction sets in: work harder, drive the team harder and push sales harder. You start to cut back on advertising or rewarding your employees or you cut corners on your product. Performance begins to wane and careless decision-making begins. What once was a place of celebration and an unstoppable energy is now a burden and a heavy yoke around your neck.

Two of the biggest problems I see effecting how a company operates are:  (1) neglect; and (2) dismissiveness.

I don’t mean dismiss as in ‘fire someone’.  The dismissiveness I’m referring to parallels neglect.

The New Oxford American Dictionary


  • treat as unworthy of serious consideration
  • deliberately cease to think about


  • fail to care for properly
  • to disregard

The biggest reason neglect and dismiss show up is because you don’t have time. Since you don’t have time, you convince yourself that everything is going well; and taking inventory of your organization’s health is soon not a priority.

Here are a few negative influencers that provoke dismissiveness and neglectfulness:

  1. YOU’RE OVERLY BUSY: You can’t shut your brain off, you have too much on your plate and stress levels are higher than usual
  2. YOU’RE PRE-OCCUPIED: You’re pre-occupied with ‘more important matters’ and, because you’re limited for time, you’re looking at the internal part of your company with ‘it’s fine the way it is’
  3. YOU’RE WORRIED ABOUT SALES: You’re worried about sales being down and trying to figure how to increase numbers and, not only that, there seems to be a lack of accountability on company spending
  4. YOU’RE FRUSTRATED: You’re frustrated with unnecessary errors and wonder why decisions aren’t being more thought through
  5. YOU’RE NOT STRATEGIZING: You’re spending less time on strategy; risk management is ignored and ‘duct tape’ solutions are being implemented
  6. YOU’RE DISAPPOINTED: You’re noticing a lack of enthusiasm within the team and people don’t seem to love coming to work like they used to

Can you see how these reasons are easily fixable? More importantly, can you see how these reasons could slowly erode your wonderful company? You worked hard for your accomplishments! You put in a lot of sweat hours to get it to where it is today.

Make sure you have a healthy ‘apple-core’ business. Be confident knowing that if anyone bit into your ‘apple’ they’ll think it’s delicious. If the insides of the company don’t match the brand you are conveying to the public, then you’ve got some serious problems awaiting you.

Take an infrastructural audit!

What does that look like? Here are a few examples:

  1. Is your company financially healthy and are you seeing profits increase every year?
  2. Payroll is your greatest cost. Are the right people doing the right job and executing your outcomes with excellent results and great success?
  3. Are your procedures and systems efficient and is follow through happening within your set timelines?
  4. Are you conducting 360 degree reviews to have full understanding of how the departments are functioning, and does your team love their job and love what they do?
  5. Is production and manufacturing performing at your desired caliber and above your expectations?
  6. Are you ensuring your brand has the premier exposure amidst your competitors and, not only that, are you in the lead?
  7. Are you maintaining a competitive advantage and do customers choose you not because they’re satisfied but because they love you?

Please find out!

– Karen Thrall

*also published on