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).


Inside My Head Karen

Hey, you – the leader! Know your guiding values!

I came across a document I wrote on January 1, 2008, expounding on my three guiding values. I was immediately curious to read it, wondering if it still resonated within me.

The answer? YES!!!

Isn’t it incredible that guiding values live inside us regardless of the changes of life, new chapters, same chapters, good times, hard times, in seasons of plenty and in seasons of need?

Business is exactly the same. In business, it’s referred to as the mission statement – why we do what we do. What do you want your company to be known for? And please do not say money!

Check out what a seasoned mission statement looks like:

NIKE: “To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete* in the world. *If you have a body, you are an athlete.”

STARBUCKS: “To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighbourhood at a time.”

WHOLE FOODS: “With great courage, integrity and love – we embrace our responsibility to co-create a world where each of us, our communities, and our planet can flourish. All the while, celebrating the sheer love and joy of food.”

Pay attention to this next phrase: A leader’s guiding values carry more influence than a company’s mission statement.

As a leader, as the decision-maker, as the company’s burden bearer – before you incorporate a mission statement for your business – please formulate your personal guiding values. The DNA of your company depends on it. The more you live out your guiding values, the healthier your mission statement will be.

A mission statement is the non-negotiable reputation, the first impression, and the legacy a company leaves behind. The mission statement is the connecting point where everyone who signs up to play on your team identifies, relates and resonates with the company’s declaration.

Before you ask anyone to sign up to a company’s mission statement, do you know your own guiding values?

Know why you do what you do; why you’re unwavering in core principles and why you won’t allow circumstances to compromise who you are. That’s powerful stuff!

After re-reading my guiding values, I found myself coming into alignment again in a fresh way. I also realized I need to be reading these guiding values on a consistent basis. It’s like giving myself my very own pep talk!

Here’s the bottom line: the reason I need guiding values to remain in the forefront of my life is because I know that when I walk these out great things happen…to those around me. Guiding values are principles you live that positively impact others.

Commit to your guiding values regularly, intentionally and confidently. Remain steadfast in how you live your life and impact the people around you.

– Karen Thrall

*also published on

Career Karen

The Winter of Business

“I write probably 80 percent of my stuff over the winter.” -Bob Seger

Using the metaphor of seasons, every business – no matter what type – goes through a winter season.

Spring is fresh and new.

Summer is vibrant and steady.

Fall is transition and change.

Winter… oh winter… winter is stillness.

In winter, the leaves aren’t flourishing on the trees. The ground is covered with snow. The wind is cold.The lakes are frozen over. The land is sleeping.

Business is similar. One of the important reality checks for any business is preparing and planning for winter seasons.

Before winter, pioneers would prepare for the barren months. They’d store up food, stack up firewood and winterize their homes. They prepared for winter.

Why would business be any different?

Don’t fret the winter season. Rather, prepare for it. Add it to your projections. Calculate it into your budgets. The ‘what if’ of business.  Some call it Risk Management.

After all, the winter of business isn’t so bad.

Ok, sales are down. Profits are waning. Payroll just got a little tougher. Spending is lean. And it’s part of running a business.

I’ve always believed that when times get tough, it’s our chance to re-create, re-think, re-strategize and re-maximize our opportunities.  

Winter is the preparation for new growth and your business is like a tree. It’s in those times when you strengthen your roots to handle more, not less.

What can you do to strengthen your roots? What new thinking can you activate? What areas have you not yet explored? Look for the new.

There’s always room for improvement.  Here are a few examples:

  1. Is the company running smoothly? Are there any areas internally that need adjusted?
  2. Have you done an outstanding job expressing value, recognition and reward for your staff’s contribution and do you have plans to improve your already impressive customer service?
  3. Are employees being re-trained to empower them to be a great winning team? Is your leadership unified and building the same vision, together?
  4. Is your message relevant and attracting new customers? Is your marketing campaign looking tired and ineffective?
  5. Is your product of superior standards? Are your procedures consistent across the boards?
  6. Are you setting and implementing new goals to keep you moving forward? Are you maximizing your resources and opportunities?

See what I mean?  Winter isn’t so bad. Strengthen your roots. You need strong roots to grow strong trees and produce a fruitful grove.

Embrace your winter.

– Karen Thrall

*also published on


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

Awesomeness in the World

Passionate People are Contagious

It’s been a busy week for me with projects, training and introductory meetings. And now that Friday has arrived, I’m feeling the downside of being so productive – I’m pooped. But there’s still a whole day left to go until I can call it a day and begin the weekend (which isn’t shaping up to be less hectic, but that’s another story). As I started my Friday, I had an introductory meeting with a new potential partner for a project. We had been in touch via email, but this was the first we’d spoken on the phone. And despite how tired I am from the craziness of this week, her positive energy was contagious and the thirty minutes we spent on the phone was just the boost I needed. My contact was passionate about her business and couldn’t wait to share it with me. The more she talked and the more we engaged the better I felt.

I’m drawn to the energy of people who are passionate about what they do, whether it’s their profession or in their personal life. I guess that’s where my true extrovert comes out – getting my energy from being around others. There’s just something contagious about that spark in their eyes or the joy in their voice when they’re talking about what makes them tick – you can’t help but be drawn in and get excited yourself. For me, that sharing of passionate energy is better than any caffeine boost, adrenaline rush or runner’s high. It’s a unique energy you can only get from a connection with someone else, and it’s truly special.

What are you passionate about?



Inside My Head

On Time vs. Timely

Everyone has a different relationship with time. For some, it’s an absolute and for others, it’s more of a guideline. And in many cases, it can be very dependent on who else is involved, or may be different between personal and professional lives. I’ve been thinking about time lately and how my approach to time shapes my brand. When it comes to work, I have a very strict approach that has developed over the years: I am not just on time – I am timely. This means more than being on time for meetings (which is important!). Being timely means I meet deadlines, early if possible. I respond as quickly as I can because I know someone is waiting on me. I try to respect other people’s time by given them enough notice for things rather than dropping in at the last minute. I only accept meetings I plan to attend. I try to avoid cancelling at the last minute at all costs. These are all things I take seriously because they are part of my reputation. There are lots of things people could say about me, but I don’t ever want one of them to be that you can’t count on me to be responsive.

I had a staff member tell me once that being on time was “my thing.” That was curious to me because I hadn’t ever considered it my thing. I had always considered my relationship to be driven by the situation. In this case, we had published hours of operation and people could show up at any time during those hours, so yeah, being on time was important for all of us – not just me and “my thing.” And being on time meant being there 15 minutes before we officially opened so we were ready for guests right when we said we would be, even if most often, our guests wandered in later.

Time is a funny thing in the fact that we’ve managed to all get on the same page about the 24 hour day, but past that, it all seems relative. What’s your relationship with time?


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?

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