Good works lead to good work.

In T&D:

The following story was told by Bill John, president of Odyssey Teams, and Jennifer Colosimo, vice president of DaVita HealthCare Partners.


DaVita HealthCare Partners


DaVita Healthcare, one of the largest kidney care companies in the United States, holds an annual conference with 3,000 of its employees to recognize their accomplishments for the year and revisit how the company’s mission and values fit in with its strategic goals. This also is an opportunity for employees to come together to make a difference in a global community, and serves as a powerful reminder of the value of their work in the DaVita community—affecting patients, teammates, and partners.


In April 2013, DaVita held its largest Village Service Day ever in Denver, Colorado. DaVita’s leaders enlisted Odyssey Teams, a training solutions company, to help them host a Village Service Day that would involve employees in citizen leadership-building activities. Odyssey Teams has a signature philanthropic program called Helping Hands, which builds participants’ leadership and teamwork skills as they work together to assemble prosthetic hands.


The Helping Hands program was shaped and delivered as a three-hour session in which attendees could witness the effects of their efforts and time. It was tailored to reinforce the DaVita values of teamwork, fulfillment, and fun through collaboration and working with a sense of purpose.



The three-hour session kicked off with a discussion about being more deliberate while communicating and collaborating on the job. The attendees were then formed into teams of three and set about the task of building prosthetic hands, which would then be donated to organizations serving amputees around the world.

When they convened for the three-hour session, participants were unaware that they would be building prosthetic devices. The activity is well-aligned with the goals of the program—to reconnect with the why of work, how teammates relate to patients and fellow teammates, and how they address challenges. All of this is taught during the process of assembling prostheses.

The session concluded with a discussion of concrete ways to apply the concepts taught in the training to participants’ jobs.


DaVita employees assembled 1,433 prostheses during the three-hour session, the largest single assembly of prosthetic hands Odyssey Teams has ever facilitated. Feedback from participants was overwhelmingly positive and one of the highest scored portions of the Village Service Day.

Lessons learned

Combining expert corporate training with charitable giving is a powerful way to reinforce company values and remind employees of the greater good they accomplish in their day-to-day work.




I’ll be talking about DaVita’s focus on Creating a Culture of Community through our Trilogy of Care:  caring for our patients, our teammates, and our world.  Register for the conference taking place January 9-10 in Denver, CO here:  Employee Engagement Conference registration.


“When you are the new leader of a team, how do you get your team to buy-in to your strategy?” (subtext:  I’ve tried demanding buy-in, and it doesn’t work)

“How do you have difficult performance conversations with people having challenges in their personal life?” (subtext: without seeming like a jerk)

“How do you know if you are balancing your time correctly between building relationships and getting results?” (subtext:  I just graduated from a top MBA program and I’m more comfortable with formulas)

These are some of the questions to me during a recent conversation with 25 new hires at my workplace.  Questions I’ve worked on via deep introspection regarding my values and my hoped-for contribution to the world as well as training and study and practice in management and leadership–for 30 years!  I started at Taco Bell, then checker at a grocery store, retail sales in a department store, new student orientation at my university, marketing in a health care organization, TA during graduate school, waiting tables at a Mexican restaurant, clerical work in two different manufacturing facilities, management consulting, and 18 years in learning, development, operations, technology, and strategy.  And so what was my answer to the questions?

I have some guiding principles that help me make decisions, but people are unpredictable, life is messy, and you can’t control other people’s reactions–so nothing works all the time.  Here are some guiding principles to the overarching question around balancing relationships with results:

1.  No involvement, no commitment.  Some things are non-negotiable, so state what they are.  If you have freedom regarding HOW to accomplish something or decisions to be made in the face of the non-negotiable, involve people as much as you can.

2.  Be mindful and conscious.  Were expectations communicated?  Repeatedly?  With feedback?  Have I listened as much as I’ve talked?  Is this fair?  If our entire working relationship were broadcast on TV, would I feel good about what I’ve said and done?  Have I offered resources within the organization?

3.  Being “nice” isn’t nice.  I learned this from @jack_welch.  If you go a few years (which sometimes turns into 10 years, or 20) thinking, “Mary isn’t really that good.  She doesn’t meet my expectations.  But it wouldn’t be ‘nice’ to talk to her about performance right now” (because her kids are sick, her husband is out of work, she has been struggling).  And then one day, maybe for financial reasons or you being called on the carpet for Mary’s lack of performance, you need to tell her she no longer has a job.  Is that nice?  When you say, “Mary, you weren’t really very good,” shouldn’t she say, “Why didn’t you tell me?”  Of course, treat people with respect, develop the skills to provide feedback appropriately, but being “nice” isn’t the goal.

4.  Ask for feedback from your team.  If you’re a jerk, you’ll hear about it, even if it is masked in political correctness.






“With the pace of our work and our lives increasing at lightning speed, we are not only losing our effectiveness, but ourselves.”

Is the quote above from a meditating monk?  A stereotypical senior citizen longing for a simpler time?  No.  The quote is from Melissa Daimler, the Head of Organizational Effectiveness & Learning at Twitter in her endorsement of the book Wisdom 2.0: The New Movement Toward Purposeful Engagement in Business and in Life, by Soren Gordhamer.  So if someone who WORKS FOR TWITTER can lose herself in the midst of the Tweets and the e-mail and the scrolling bylines, then maybe I’m not crazy, maybe I’m normal.  As further justification of my predicament, I read an HP study that concluded that constant interruptions (mainly e-mail) frag your brain at the same rate as smoking marijuana.

I have poly e-mail phobia.  I literally feel my heart rate go faster as the e-mails pop up, one after the other, most requiring a response.  I don’t get any junk mail at work, my friends use another address; I still get 200+ work e-mails a day.  My boss likely gets triple that, and he does just fine. On the other hand, I have a colleague that, from my view anyway, considers e-mail “done” if she responds–even if it seems to me like she didn’t read the e-mail because the response isn’t germane to the topic or sometimes even understandable.

If I’m not going to magically turn into my boss nor am I going to respond without putting some brain power behind it, how do I stop the crazy?

I read the article in Fast Company about the movement to #unplug.  And took a vacation where I had no connectivity for a week.  I came back smarter.  And made better decisions, faster, after the break.  I was more patient and listened more effectively.  Me, on fire, my old self.

For 10 days.

Now I’m crazy again.  I know all the day-to-day strategies–come on, I’ve TAUGHT all the strategies to others– (turn off your instant notification of new e-mail, use David Allen’s folder system, allocate time to respond and otherwise don’t look, don’t do e-mail on the weekend).  But none of those save me from the volume.

I ordered Gordhamer’s book.  I’ll buckle down and try the strategies again.  And, if nothing else, the title of this blog is a good bumper sticker . . .


Work can be a great source of fulfillment and contribution.  Or it can be a source of continual irritation, frustration, and the bane of your existence.  And if we could attribute causation for which it will be, only a tiny sliver is your manager/the organization itself/your peers.

75% of you at work, in life, is how you see the world.

Teams are made up of individuals, each individual with a different belief system.  The most effective individuals, and therefore teams, recognize that the results we get (relationships and outcomes) are driven by what we do (our behaviors).  What we do depends on how we see the world (beliefs).  Everyone usually wants a positive result, they just don’t check in with their mind, their thoughts.

I want fulfillment and contribution out of my work; I want to feel valued on the team; I want to make a difference.  However, let’s assume for a minute that I believe my boss is an egomaniac, the other people on my team are naïve idiots, and this is a hard place to work and it takes a hard person to be successful.  How am I going to behave?  With what Stephen Covey calls the six cancers that spread throughout my body, mind, heard, and spirit: criticizing, complaining, comparing, competing, contending, and cynicism.

Will I get my desired result?  Heck no.  And then I’ll use the fact that I don’t feel valued and fulfilled to justify my belief system.  It is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

What I’m suggesting is that the next time you think about building an effective team, think about how to influence individual effectiveness before you dive into common purpose and management processes and expectations and accountability.  Start with yourself:

  •  What are you believing about the people around you?
  •  About what you can achieve?
  • About how things get done in addition to what gets done?

And then ask your teammates–what is important to them about work?  What drives their fulfillment?  And finally, how does that link to what it is important for the team to achieve?


“There is no use trying,” said Alice; “one can’t believe impossible things.”  “I dare say you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen.  “When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day.  Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”–Lewis Carroll

It was 1989, and Paris was celebrating the bicentennial of the French Revolution in two days.  I was traveling in Europe with friends, camped out at a hostel three hours from Paris by train.  None of them wanted to face the crowds in Paris, not to mention the generally accepted fact that we would never find somewhere to sleep.

So I got on the train alone.  No idea what I was going to do when I got there, no idea where I’d sleep (if at all), no idea how I’d get back.  That’s daring.  Now I worry about moving across town (in the same school district of course, geesh, let’s not get crazy!) in case the neighbors aren’t as nice.

It is natural to grow more risk-averse, more resistant to change, as we age and have more to lose . . .we may even become unable to see the possibility of change.

And that natural tendency is  the death knell at work.  Especially if you work for a for-profit company.

  • What didn’t work a couple of years ago might work now that the technology has evolved.
  • The politics that stopped the good idea the last time you brought it up may have loosened.
  • And if you don’t know of a new and better way to do things, read more, attend an industry event, ask your contacts on LinkedIn.

Not changing, not daring, doesn’t protect you, it leads to entropy.  As you stand still, the industry/your area of expertise/what is required to keep the company great moves forward.  And leaves you behind . . .

So my friends, here is to daring.  Not putting your entire retirement on an obscure Brazilian stock kind of daring (or hopping the train to Paris), but a thoughtful, continual seeking out of the impossible.  Both for the company’s sake and your own.



In a recent article in The Atlantic, Anne-Marie Slaughter describes her own experience of stepping down from a high-level State Department position to teach at Princeton and spend more time with her children. In the process, she came to an uncomfortable realization: No matter what well-meaning feminists might say, women really can’t have it all. “Not today,” she writes, “not with the way America’s economy and society are currently structured.”

Here is the thing:  I agree, particularly when you put in the important caveat of “high-level.”  I fully realize that this makes the entire conversation a bit elitist, a conversation only had by women that, to put it simply, have a job, and one that is high-level to boot.  Which is an indulgent conversation when so many in our country struggle to find a job.  Did you see the Saturday Night Live skit when Americans were complaining about the new iPhone to the Chinese workforce that manufactured the phone?  The juxtaposition of the inconvenience of the workings of the mapping function when the Chinese workers live in a dorm in a country that is pretty much shutting down the internet and arresting anyone with an opinion as the Communist Party prepares for the 18th National Congress got some laughs.  I get that this conversation is sort of like that.

So with that acknowledgement, I also want to state that the number one question I am asked by any woman I mentor is “how do you do it?”  Ah, well, while he works full-time as well, my husband does more than his fair share.  He does all of the grocery shopping and cooking and takes care of anything car-related.  We alternate kid-related tasks (carpooling, doctor).  We all do our own laundry.  We have a house cleaning service.  But after I work my 60 hours a week (minimum), pay the bills, drop off my dry cleaning, deliver on my community commitments (after advocating for women’s leadership all the time, I joined some non-profit boards and volunteer for some causes important to me), try to keep my roots dyed and my arms from getting saggier, schedule the family like a military operation every single week except Christmas—“If I land by 5, I can get from the airport to carpool by 6”—I’m exhausted.  That’s how I do it.

I’m not whining, I’m just saying—that is my answer to the question.  I get by and it isn’t pretty.  But I’m one of the lucky ones.  I have choices.  When Stephen Colbert asked Ms. Slaughter why she thinks it is any different for him than it is for her, she explained that research shows that women still do more on the home front . . .that they are socially expected to do more, particularly with children.  He said, “Don’t do that.  I don’t.”

Which leads to my agreement with Ms. Slaughter AND with Mr. Colbert:  you can’t really do it all, but you can choose what you do.  And if you have a high level job and a rich personal life including community and family, then prepare to be exhausted.


Don’t kid yourself – work retreats are not really “retreats.”  They are work events.  A work event that permits your boss and your boss’s boss to assess if you are emotionally intelligent enough to mingle, not get drunk, to wear appropriately conservative clothes, and to represent the company with key clients or the Board—what I call the BBQ factor.  And while a work retreat may have more relaxed dress and allows time for you to get to know your team as people and you may actually have moments of fun, the BBQ factor is always at play.

I once knew a woman who earned the company’s Presidents Club trip to Hawaii.  She didn’t show up at most of the group events because she had “earned this” and wasn’t going to spend her earned vacation with the yahoos from work.  She came to one dinner, visibly intoxicated, in a low-cut dress.  She was fired within six month, ostensibly for performance reasons, but they were performance reasons others could have overcome.  It was the BBQ factor.

Some advice about work retreats/conferences:

  • Mingle.  While it is perfectly acceptable on a personal retreat to cocoon with your partner or best friend at a private table, or stay in your room and meditate, it is a “no-no” at work retreats to act like junior high students and move around in packs or sit at the table by yourself texting.  It goes without saying that you should show up, right?
  •  Dress appropriately.  Think Jack Welch or Meg Whitman.  You can’t envision Jack in an unbuttoned shirt with gold chains nor Meg needing to use double-sided tape to keep her dress in place.
  • Eat and drink less than you normally would.  You might say to yourself, “but my company is more creative, less corporate” or “it’s acceptable here.”  Maybe.  But note that there are separate rules for the SVPs and the C levels; separate rules for the men and the women; and until you’re a “C” (sorry women, doesn’t matter your organizational level . . .I know, it’s 2012, I don’t make the rules), best to not join in the shots of Jack.
  • The point isn’t fun.  Like I said, you might have fun, but it isn’t the point.  Have fun at your 4th of July BBQ with your family, on your Mexican vacation with your college roommates, on your mountain getaway.  At the company retreat, you’re working.

Despite all advice that says you should avoid topics like children and finances and “have fun with each other,” when you’re out with your husband, you spend most of the time talking about:

  • Which elementary/middle/high school would provide the best education, tap into the child’s talents, and would be a safeplace with no (ok, fewer than the others)bullies and drugs
  • The benefits of organic food and which sunscreens are listed on the “not likely to cause cancer list”
  • Your thoughts on: immunizations, orthodontists, piano teachers, summer camps, ACT prep courses, car safety ratings, curfews, bedtime, grades
  • And then your thoughts on: teaching values, religion, civic engagement, how to treat people, how to resolve conflict, the importance of writing thank you notes– especially to grandparents
  • The logical outcome of behaviors:  is the reward/punishment equal to the behavior?  Does good grades=riding lessons?  Twisting the truth=taking away cell phone?
  • How to maximize the overlap of inviting friends we like and friends the child likes to play date/birthday party/ski vacation/graduation party
  • What to say during a parent-teacher conference to the math teacher who is allegedly “not explaining derivatives at all” so that the teacher doesn’t feel attacked but you get to the bottom of the derivatives issue
  • Whether it is better to forbid the relationship with the weird, won’t-make-eye-contact, boyfriend or if forbidding it would just make it last longer.  (The answer changes between 14 and 18, as does the boyfriend.)
  • How to help the child uncover their light inside and let it shine
  • Whether we are helping or hindering the shining of said light
  • What to do to be better parents so the child becomes a courageous, confident, person of high character, responsible for their choices and able to support themselves without moving back into our basement at 32

And then . . .The child goes to college.

And gets a tattoo, and pierces their nose, and dyes their hair, but who really cares about
surface stuff like that (as long as they avoid tattooing their neck . . .very difficult to get a job with a tattooed neck); the challenge you’re facing is:  You’re an Executive Mama.  Executive: Decision-making, policymaking, supervisory.  Mama.

And you have no access to health records, grades, friends, boyfriends, what is in the refrigerator, when the adult (!) goes to bed or does their homework or how they treat people or if their behavior aligns with their values, unless said access is granted by said adult.  Who, now that you think about it, does seem happy and is expanding their horizons and learning new things and busting into adulthood with energy and excitement and stories of great adventures and discovery. . .

You’re still the Mama. Channel that “Executive” energy back into the community, your workplace, and letting go of what you’ve thought and talked about for 18 years.  And one day not so far off, the child/adult will most likely emerge as an Executive Mama themselves.


Be a Solution, Not a Problem

There will never be a lack of problems to solve or challenges to address at work.  True contributors acknowledge the problem and invest most of their energy on what they can do to influence a solution.  Very little positive change occurs from whining/complaining and pointing out what others should be doing.


Engagement Starts With You

You are responsible for being present and engaged in your work and in your life.  Yes, some leaders/families are better at creating the conditions for engagement, but in the end, you are responsible.  At work, tap into your head, heart, and hands.  Head: Are you bringing thoughtfulness, creativity, and intelligence to your day?  Heart: Can you remind yourself how your work brings you meaning?  Hands: Are you getting stuff done?  In a sustainable way (e.g., building relationships, staying physically and mentally healthy)?


Action Trumps Words

It is one thing to talk about what you value, it is another thing to behave in alignment with those values, particularly in difficult or stressful situations.  If you say that Integrity is your most important value but talk about people behind their backs instead of addressing conflicts effectively, I would suggest that your behavior says that you don’t really value Integrity.  Or at least not enough to do something about it.  We judge ourselves based on our intentions, but others can only know us based on our behaviors.


Define Your Unique Contribution

Every human being has a unique light to shine in the world.  Our life’s work is to discover that light and unleash it, both personally and professionally.  What unique talents do you have?  What are you passionate about?  And what does your conscience tell you that you must contribute?  Link that desired contribution up to a need that exists in the Village, and your fire within will sustain you through the inevitable challenges we all face at work.

"I urge you to read this remarkable book! It offers the push you need to transform yourself, prosper, and get the career satisfaction you crave."
~ Robin Ryan, author of 60 Seconds & You're Hired!