Lead: Challenge Your Status Quo

Our brains are not a large part of our bodies, yet they use up considerable resources when they work (like oxygen and glucose); resources that the body also needs. So, to lesson that demand, our bodies evolved to rely on habitual responses and the clustering of data so that the brain had less work to do – and therefore consume fewer resources.

This tendency of our brains makes incorporating change challenging, and so, the status quo is “easier”.

This is not to excuse anyone from doing the work we’re called upon to do to confront systemic racism in our lives. Instead, it’s important to acknowledge the challenges we’ll have as individuals and a nation to fully embrace change.

It’s important that we consider
how we’ll each step into our leadership,
despite a brain that wants stability.

Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve been talking about our definition of leadership, “the willingness to influence your world and be influenced by your world regardless of role or title.”

We believe deeply that leadership from all of us
is needed now more than ever.

To influence the world, we’ll need to challenge our brain’s tendency to be comfortable with habit and old patterns and we’ll need to remember that our brains cluster things and people who seem the same – and therefore, we assume that they are the same.

Take for example our current political climate and the way we’ve characterized Democrats as one way and Republicans as another. Yet we all know individuals who identify as one party or the other (or somewhere in between) who have much more complex and nuanced thoughts about the world than our brains can always comprehend.

We’re hearing from our clients that this is in play as we work to confront systemic racism as well. We’re hearing from our white colleagues that they can get caught in one perspective on race rather than understanding that that perspective is just that – a single perspective.

There are as many actual experiences and perspectives
as there are people.

We’re also hearing from our clients who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color that they’re being asked to speak for all BIPOC people and that they feel uncomfortable with that ask.

This week, we’re inviting you
to challenge your brain.

Pay attention to the habitual ways of thinking and acting that keep you from influencing and being influenced by the world in a positive way.

Pay attention to the tendency to think that when you understand one person’s perspective, you understand them all.

Our brains are here to help us survive, they’re doing their best and we need to work with them to overcome tendencies that prevent us from creating a new and better future.


We’re here for you.

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Resources to Support Your Leadership

Tomorrow is June 19th. On June 19, 1865, the news of President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, officially instituted on January 1, 1863, reached the last enslaved people in America.

Each year the 19th of June, also known as Juneteenth and Emancipation Day, celebrates the first true step toward freedom from slavery.

In honor of Juneteenth, we want to share some books you can read to understand and join in the celebration:
For Children

  • Juneteenth Jamboree by Carole Boston Weatherford
  • Juneteenth by Rachel Koestler-Grack
For Young Adults
  • Black Angels by Linda Beatrice Brown
  • Juneteenth: A Celebration of Freedom by Charles A. Taylor
For Adults
  • Juneteenth by Ralph Ellison
  • Envisioning Emancipation: Black Americans and the End of Slavery by Deborah Willis
Many of us grew up believing the Fourth of July was the only holiday celebrating freedom for Americans, when in fact it was not. We encourage you to educate yourself about this important day in our history.
Together, we can right the wrong of exclusion by educating ourselves and our children.
We’re here for you,

~ Linda, Stephanie, and Heather

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Lead: Being Influenced by Others

As we mentioned last week, our definition of leadership is influencing others and being influenced by others regardless of your role or title. It’s a way of being in the world that can change lives and elevate justice.

We will continue to come back to this definition in order to encourage people to open up and listen to one another’s experiences deeply enough that they are, in fact, changed by the interaction.

Leadership is the willingness to influence
your world and be influenced by your world,
regardless of your role or title.

In order to challenge the systemic bias in our country, we’ll all need to step into our leadership. As a leader, standing on the sidelines hoping others will fix things is not an option, but neither is bulldozing over others believing that your way is the only way.

Therefore, you have to learn how to engage in dialogues that allow for people to share their fears, hopes, and experiences. Genuine leaders can empathize with others and are moved by their experiences whether or not they have witnessed them personally.

When you choose to live as a leader, you’re choosing to initiate dialogue with others with the intention of creating the greatest success.

Last week, we described the importance of influencing others. This week, we want to talk about being influenced by others and suggest some things you can do today to open yourself to the experiences of the Black, Indigenous, and People of Color in your community and the world.

Being influenced by your world requires:

Staying curious rather than being certain. 
Pause and reflect on the events going on in our country and the world today.
  • Are you open to seeing how People of Color are treated?
  • Are you willing to consider the range of experiences people in our nation have as they go through their lives?
  • Are you open to understanding how you may have unwittingly contributed to the problems in the world today?
Learning how to manage your feelings without closing down or lashing out.
  • Practice recognizing that there is not just one truth—there are many truths.
  • Get skilled at listening without judgement—especially when your beliefs are being called into question.
Be Open to Changing Your Mind.
  • In the spiral of influencing and being influenced by, it’s likely that you—if you are genuinely influenced by—will change your thoughts and mind in ways you may not have thought possible.
  • Remind yourself that changing your mind is not a sign of weakness but a sign of growth and competence. The most powerful leaders are genuinely influenced and changed by the wisdom and perspectives of others.

    This week, consider how you can be influenced by the stories and experiences of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color in your community and your world. When you can, step into conversations about how you can be an ally in this change.

    If you find you’re still working on the steps above and don’t feel confident in a conversation, then consider watching some or all of the following:

    Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man:
    A wonderful conversation with Emmanuel Acho, former football player and now ESPN analyst

    A profoundly important documentary on the experience of being Black in the United States after the “end” of slavery

    We’re here for you.

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    Resources for Being Influenced by Your World

    “Leadership is the willingness to influence your world
    and be influenced by your world
    regardless of role or title.”
    ~ Carpenter Smith Consulting

    When we share our definition of leadership, we’re sometimes asked if we’re suggesting that leaders should give up their power and beliefs. Our answer to that is that being influenced by others doesn’t mean you must give up your power and beliefs; it means that you’re smart and powerful enough to know that your history limits what you even know to believe.

    For the next few weeks, we’re going to invite you to be influenced in your thinking about racism and the inequalities that challenge our nation. Each Thursday we’re going to share resources that we’ve found to be important and powerful perspectives that have influenced the use of our power and are reshaping many of our beliefs.

    This week, we’re attaching three resources—putting them all in one place so it’s easy to access this incredible wisdom.

    Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man

    Black People Need Stronger White Allies – Here’s How You Can Be One

    Obama Foundation: Anguish and Action

    As you find resources that speak to you and influence your thinking, please share them with us as we all learn to lead ourselves, our communities, and our nation into a better tomorrow.

    We’re here for you.

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    Lead: Influencing Others

    At Carpenter Smith Consulting, we’ve come to define leadership as the willingness to influence others and be influenced by others, regardless of your role or title. It’s a way of being in the world that can change lives and elevate justice.

    We’ll be coming back to this definition over the next few weeks and months to encourage you to step in and influence, and to listen to one another’s experiences deeply enough that you’re, in fact, influenced and changed by the interaction.

    The death of George Floyd has again confronted us all with the deep inequalities throughout our nation. As we face these truths there is sadness, grief, and anger over the culture and systems that have held these inequalities in place.

    During times like these we’re reminded of a powerful quote from Elie Wiesel:

    What hurts most is not
    the cruelty of the oppressor
    but the silence of the bystander.

    We would make the case that all of us who are not directly affected by racism and bigotry are bystanders—and the world needs our leadership now.

    We know that many Americans feel the pain of the nation and don’t want to be the silent bystander but don’t know what they can do to contribute to change. Many worry about saying something or doing something that is insensitive or offensive. Many care deeply, then freeze.

    Influencing your world
    and stepping in with leadership can be difficult,
    yet your leadership is needed.

    There is no right way to do this. There is your way. As you grapple with your way, you need to expect that as others are figuring out how to take action, you may get challenged, you may be unintentionally insensitive, but your commitment to influencing the world in ways that make it better for all requires you take the risk, apologize for missteps, and continue to lead.

    There are many ways that you can challenge and speak out against injustice. There are many ways to influence your world. To get you started we’re including a link to an article that shares steps you can take—big and small—entitled, 75 Things White People Can Do For Racial Justice. Pick one today and take action.

    Raise your voice
    and influence your world.
    Don’t stand silent.

    In our next post, we’re going to talk about some keys to being influenced by others during this important time in our nation’s history.

    Remember, leadership is a way of being in the world. When you influence, you don’t stand off to the side with arms crossed waiting for someone else to step forward; and when you’re influenced by others, you remain open to learning and hearing and being truly changed by the experiences, hope, and pain of others.

    We’re here for you.

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    Like you, we’ve been reeling from the events of the last week and looking for solid footing from which to take the next step. As white women, we work to understand our contributions to racism and the ways our expertise can support challenging the culture that keeps it alive.

    Our expertise is leadership, and so we’re looking at the events unfolding in our country through the lens of genuine leadership.

    Genuine leadership means influencing others and being influenced by others regardless of your role or title. Genuine leadership is a way of being in the world that can change lives and elevate justice, whereas disingenuous leadership threatens violence to maintain order and abuses power to control others.

    In the next few posts, we will be outlining how to take action as a leader in your corner of the world on those things that matter to you most during this painful time. 

    We’re stunned, angry, sad, and outraged by the deaths of so many men, women, and children. George Floyd is the latest in a long list of people whose life was deemed unimportant by our society.

    The question we keep hearing is, “What can I do?” Our answer is simple, but not easy.

    In your life, your family’s life, and with your friends.
    In your community and in your work.
    Influence your world and be influenced by your world.


    This week, we’d like you to start to lead with yourself.

    Take a beat to breathe, pause,
    and allow yourself to know the pain of others.

    This is an important aspect of leadership, as empathy is required for genuine leadership.

    Choose something to read from the following list of resources that will build your empathy to the experience of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color in our nation.  

    Take a breath, pause, and commit to responding in ways that will help to change what is into that which should be.

    Genuine leadership is called for
    now more than ever.

    Leadership as an answer is simple, but it’s not easy. It requires knowing yourself, learning how to understand others, and finding ways to take action that moves everyone toward a life in which they feel they are valued and invited to participate in the opportunities and experiences that are important to them.

    Today, take a moment to dig into one (or all) of the resources below and start to become intimately familiar with the racism that is in our midst.

    Anguish and Action
    Dr. Phillip Atiba Goff | Fighting racism and improving policing

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    Living Thoughtfully: Coming Back to Grief

    Photo by yanalya / www.freepik.com

    We’ve been hearing from a lot of our clients, colleagues, families, and friends that coming off of the Memorial Day weekend, people are heavy with grief, exhaustion, and frustration. We’re writing this week to let you know that if that’s your experience you’re not alone, and you’re not crazy.

    For most of the USA, Memorial Day is the kickoff to summer—schools are winding down, vacations are visible in the upcoming months, picnics and outdoor concerts are added to our calendars, and visits with friends and family increase. Yet, this year we return to ongoing social distancing, increased expectations of wearing a mask when we’re out in the world, and the realization that this isn’t done.

    We won’t have summer in the way many of us have come to count on it for most of our lives.

    As you bump into this grief, exhaustion, and frustration we suggest you do some or all of the following to honor what a disruptive, disappointing, and disconnecting time this is:

    NAME IT.
    • Really. To yourself and others, name that you’re grieving, cranky, and worn down. This doesn’t have to be done in a complaining way (and you don’t need to act cranky with others), but saying it out loud often helps to diffuse the feelings in you and creates a shared sense of how crazy-making this time feels.
    • If you find yourself feeling more and more sad, depressed, or anxious reach out to your primary care provider or to a therapist for support. This is not a statement of weakness but of you claiming your power to take action on your own behalf because you matter!
    • Connect with people you love.
      • Do whatever you can to connect safely with people who matter to you. Don’t wait until this is over. Get it on your schedule today.
      • There are now a ton of ways to spend time with people you love safely face-to-face-ish. In our worlds, we’ve seen families playing cards using Trickster.com and others playing Scattergories by sending out the prompts to use for the game. We’ve heard of talent shows and Jeopardy-like questions to get people talking about themselves in new ways. And, we’ve heard of shared lunches, dinners, and happy hours.
      • Is it the same? No, it’s not, but it helps nurture and support loving connections, and they matter.
    • Get outside safely and mingle with the grass and trees.
      • We know that’s harder in cities or for those of you dependent on public transportation, but we encourage you to look for ways to do so. If you don’t want to have to wear a mask, walk in the mornings or early evenings, meet in parks or yards where you can easily maintain 6 – 10 feet of distance, or take a bike ride being very thoughtful as you pass people.
      • There’s more and more evidence that being outside mitigates the passage of the virus.
    • Move your body.
      • We’re hearing from so many of you that you’re sitting more as you talk with people virtually. Losing all of the steps we used to experience just walking through the office adds up. Reduced steps and not working out can lead to gaining weight, feeling sluggish, and dampening your mood.
      • Look for small ways to move throughout your day and 30-minute-plus time blocks for more sustained exercise. For those of you who have no room or resources to add workout equipment, consider other ways to move.
      • Try the dance group from Seattle called DanceChurch. It’s not a religious dance, but because it takes place on Sunday mornings and honors the body, it was named DanceChurch. Or, simply put on some music that helps you move for 4 – 5 minutes a day at different times of the day.
      • It will make a difference!
    • Everything that we’re dealing with is taxing our brains and our energies. Period.
    • Give yourself permission to nap, go to bed a little earlier or sleep a little later, or to take breaks in the workday to stare off into space—even for a few minutes.
    • Many people find meditation helpful. Some people find the word ‘meditation’ intimidating, but really it means taking time to breathe and open to yourself and to the wisdom of the universe. There are a host of free apps that can support you with teaching you the “how to’s” of meditation. While meditation isn’t hard and can be done anywhere, to not judge your meditation skills can be the biggest challenge. Remember, there isn’t a right way to meditate, there is just your way.
    As we enter June, see if you can add some of these ideas to your routine so that you can move through the grief of losing your planned summer and open to the one that is here.
      We’re here if you need our support.

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      Developing Your Team Remotely

      One of the more challenging aspects of working remotely, whether due to an emergency or as a regular part of business, is figuring out how to develop the skills of your team.

      The managers and leaders who are wading into remote management due to COVID-19 are finding it a struggle to keep their team growing while working away from the office.

      Here are some suggestions we’ve found helpful in developing remote staff:

      1. Be intentional about identifying new opportunities for your team members. It’s important to influence them with your thoughts and encourage them to influence you with their thoughts about the kind of work they’d find fulfilling.
        • As their manager, it’s important for you to identify the necessary opportunities for them to grow with the business (you’re influencing them) and then ask them to look for opportunities where they feel they could be a solution in helping the company reach their goals (they’re influencing you).
        • You should always be on the lookout for opportunities for the people on your team to grow. You may find things on your to-do list that you can hand off that will be good for their development. See our recent post on Virtual Delegation for some specific steps you can take. (Think win-win!)

      2. Together, with your employee, create a development plan. Even creating a basic plan can be a big support.
        • Where would they like to be in one year and how does this support the overall company goals?
        • What skills do they currently have and what skills (or experience) do they need to develop?
        • What actions will they take to get more experience and develop their skills?

      3. Spend regular 1:1 time walking through the skills/experience they’ll need to develop or use in a new way.
        • If it’s a new skill, it might mean that you’ll either need to teach them the actual doing of the task, or you’ll need to invest in external training.
        • If the development requires them to apply an existing skill to a new circumstance, be sure to check in and ask them to share with you any issues they bump into as they repurpose their skills.
        • Remember, the goal is for them to learn to think in a new way and grow in their skills and experience. Resist “telling them” what to do; instead, encourage them to think aloud so that you can help them dissect the issue into actionable chunks.

      This week, think about those employees who need to continue their growth so that you don’t lose them to boredom. Or, if you’re an employee and you know you’re capable of a bigger challenge, ask your manager what you can do to expand your skillset.

      If you’d like support in developing
      your team, contact us today
      about our Executive Coaching.

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      Memorial Day

      “Our nation owes a debt to its fallen heroes
      that we can never fully repay.
      But we can honor their sacrifice, and we must.”

      ~ Barack Obama

      We were recently asked, “What’s the difference between Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day?” We all paused for a moment, and then sighed, as we thought of the difference. Veteran’s Day honors all who have served our military, while Memorial Day honors those women and men who died while serving in the military. (Hence the sigh.)

      As so eloquently stated by former President Obama, we do indeed owe a debt to our fallen heroes.

      We encourage you to take a moment this Memorial Day to pause and remember with gratitude the individuals who lost their lives in service to our country, and the families who have lost loved ones.

      As Howard Osterkamp, a Korean war veteran and purple heart recipient, stated when reflecting on his service, “All gave some; some gave all.”

      Let’s remember those who gave all.

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      Living Thoughtfully: From Black and White to Gray

      As we support individuals, teams, and organizational leaders on this wild ride that is COVID-19, we’re observing the many challenges and opportunities in this crazy time. This week we want to address a significant challenge that’s emerging as we—as a country and a world—move from black and white to gray.

      By black and white, in this instance, we’re describing the experience for many leaders over the past few months. That is, many expectations in response to the pandemic were clear and crisp; in many ways they were black and white.

      Specifically, non-essential services were told to close their face-to-face workplaces, to one of working virtually, and to social distance. Individual leaders didn’t need to make this call but were guided or directed to do so from federal, state, and local government leaders. While hard, it was clear, and leaders got about the business of helping their employees navigate working from home or, if laid off, navigate unemployment.

      As we’ve moved through
      the initial stages of the pandemic,
      leaders are exploring when and how to reopen.

      While the mandate is still clear and crisp for some businesses, for many others the decisions about how to move forward are back on the shoulders of leaders. These leaders report feeling anxious about making sure their employees, customers, and clients are safe while balancing the need to earn as much money as possible and as soon as possible so that their businesses can stay afloat.

      This week, we want to support you as you’re making these decisions and working to interpret the sometimes nuanced and evolving messages. We understand if they make you anxious. And we want you to remember that they make your employees anxious as well. Gray can do that.

      The first thing we want to encourage you to do is to acknowledge how stressful and uncertain these next few months feel.  

      • Acknowledge this to yourself and increase your focus on taking care of yourself.

        This level of uncertainty is extremely hard on you.

        It takes a toll on your brain, making it hard to think, to process new information, and to learn. It takes a toll on your body as your body interprets your anxiety and stress as threat and keeps you on high alert. It takes a toll on your relationships with family, friends, and coworkers as you feel increasingly stretched and, perhaps, near breaking.

      • Acknowledge this to your employees and commit to remaining in dialogue with them as you make decisions.

        Your staff will feel much more confidence if they know you’re taking this seriously, they feel they matter to you, and they understand how you’re thinking about and making decisions.

      The second thing we’d recommend is to err on the side of people while committing to increasing revenue and profitability

      • While you need to ensure financial viability, if you lose your best talent you’ll be in real trouble.

        Consider what you must do to increase revenue and profitability and what it takes from your employees. Then, with that in mind, begin to create a plan that takes into account the safety and success of your people.

        At the end of the day, you can’t earn revenue or become profitable if your best people have either literally left the job or have emotionally given up because they don’t have confidence in you as a leader.

      • Share your thinking with your leaders first to refine your approach and clarify your rationale. Then share with the entire organization.

        Remember, you’ll be more credible as a leader when your employees know that you’ll share your thinking, your rationale for decisions, and your plan for their safety while creating business success. Let them know you’re open to considering their recommendations and to hearing their concerns.

        We’re working with some incredible leaders who are doing townhall webinars weekly, others who do email updates daily, and many who have an open-door policy to anyone who has questions, suggestions or concerns. In this case, of course, it’s not literally an open door but you get the idea.

      This week, spend some time considering how you’re navigating the movement in our world from black and white to gray, acknowledging your own and your employees’ stress and committing to creating solutions that navigate the important line of safety and financial success.

      While the following article doesn’t quite reflect black and white, it comes close as leaders consider safe ways to move forward.

      CSC Video: From Black and White to Gray

      We’re here if you need our support.

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