The Hiring Irony

A good team player.  A leader that gets along with others.  A motivator.  A positive encourager.  A kind compassionate human.  A generally good person.

These are all things that I look for in a strong leader.  Someone that I want to be a part of my team.

Yet, when we put someone through the hiring process, what do we do?  We sift the pool of candidates with a couple of rounds of interviews and eliminate the very best.  We are often left with the downright arrogant and the ones that simply know how to play the game.  The genuine, sincere and best leaders rarely make it through the process.

When leading teams, I rarely use the word I.  I don’t say “my” team.  I don’t say “I”.  I try to always say “our” and “we”. Why?  It is important that everyone feels a part of the team and contributes to the process.

Leaders hire the brightest folks and create environments conducive for greatness, allowing the best work to get done.  Leaders run effective meetings, so the best ideas can percolate and be developed.  Leaders need to be trusted and that must be earned.

I was once being interviewed and I was using the words “we” and “I led a team”.  The recruiter kept asking me, “what did you do specifically”. I didn’t know how to answer her.  I didn’t do anything by myself.  I either hired smarter people, rallied our team to produce the best product, encouraged our team to write grants to fund an expert contractor, or surrounded myself with people that could teach me what I didn’t know.  There wasn’t anything I could personally take credit for alone.  If I did do things on my own, why in the world would you want to hire me?

The people I know that personally take credit for things, aren’t the people I want to work with.  They take all the credit when things go well and place all the blame on others when things go south, leaving team members trying to validate their worth constantly.  It feels awful.

Whoever paid that recruiter and all recruiters that look for the words I and me, you are truly wasting your money.  You will end up with someone unable to lead a team, unable to motivate people to greatness and unable to bring out the best in others because they can’t see past validating themselves.

Hiring managers, recruiters and leaders looking to find and develop future leaders – look for those that are humble, who don’t take credit and don’t use the word I often.  Look for those that believe in the value of teamwork, finding strengths in others and encouraging others to be their very best.  That simply can’t happen from a person that talks at great lengths about their own accomplishments.  Listen.

Structure and Boundaries – The Stages of Raising Kids

I’ve spent a lot of years working with parents and I’m deep in the throes of raising four adolescents, ranging from 15 to 22 years of age.  These lessons come from hands on experience, not all of them positive if I am being completely honest.  This post isn’t about parenting the perfect children.  I made plenty of mistakes and my kids are definitely not perfect.

Parenting is unique.  Every parent/child relationship is different and these are only my thoughts.  Please no judgement, as I won’t judge you.  Parents have enough to worry with, let’s not add lack of support from one another.

Here’s how I see it.

Structure and Boundaries in the Beginning

Few expectations, minimum responsibilities and limited conversations…

When my kids were little, I was structured.  I had elaborate schedules. My babies ate, played and napped and that repeated until it was time for bed.  Conversations mostly consisted of adults talking and reading to them.  As they grew older, they were expected to rest, even if they didn’t want to sleep.  Reading and workbook time was a part of our daily routine.   You get the idea, the expectations grew and I provided structure for them to be successful.  Conversations grew and “why” became an ever popular question, which I tried to always entertain.

I didn’t use a lot of child locks or gates.  I kept them close by – exhausting at times. But, when we went places, I had a level of comfort because they weren’t use to complete freedom.  They had lots of boundaries and structure.  My kids checked them often and dad and I were right there to make sure they knew where the lines were drawn.  When they were ready, their boundaries expanded.

I was crazy about maintaining a regular schedule and providing boundaries during this time in their life. It worked for our family.

Structure and Boundaries Begin to Change

Increased expectations, more responsibilities, and developing conversations…

As they got older, the boundaries expanded and more of the structure was turned over to them to set or not set.  I began to expect more from them.  They had responsibilities that increased with age and conversations were expected to go two ways and to be meaningful.  I expected pleasant, respectful, helpful and kind beings in my home.  I didn’t always get that, but I kept expecting it.

I believed that talking to them about healthy choices while they were little was important and I tried to provide the foundation for more difficult conversations that were to come.  We discussed things like sleeping and eating habits at first and then the conversations turned to relationships, substances and consequences of their choices as they grew.  As they aged, the conversations did get more intense, deeper and tougher.  They didn’t always enjoy the conversations, but I just kept talking – providing the structure and the expectation.

Oversight of Structure and Boundaries – Adolescents and Learning to Adult 

They begin to set their schedule and boundaries with our oversight and approval and conversations became critical…

This is a tough stage, not going to lie.  Some years are a challenge.

With cell phones came a freedom that was impossible for me to put a boundary around.  Many parents try, but they often end up teaching their child to work a system, a system parents simply can’t keep up with – technology.  I could never keep up with the apps, video games, music, TV shows, etc.  I felt by giving kids strict phone use restrictions and non-negotiable curfews, instead of encouraging deep conversations, I was only pushing them away.

I decided to try something different.  I expected them to learn to use their phone in a responsible mature manner, instead of trying to monitor and restrict.  I placed reminders and appointments on their calendar and communicated with them through their phone, often using the many apps that I had them teach me how to use.  I “friended/followed” them and many of their friends on social media, much to their friends encouragement.

I talked to them, all the time.  The structure and expectations had been set.  I asked all kinds of questions about their friends, feelings, classes, relationships, and current events.  I was now the one asking all the “why’s” and I expected them to at least try to entertain my questions.  I didn’t keep up with their homework, but I expected them to let me know if there was a problem.  I let go of more and more.  They controlled their curfew and other privileges by how respectful and mature they were, within reason and with my oversight.  Of course things happened and of course there were consequences.

Hopefully, if we do it right…

Final Stage – An Independent Life with Us by Their Side

They are living on their own and we are a healthy part of their life…

Final Thoughts

I think we get it backwards.

Structure was learned from an early age, boundaries grew as they grew, and conversations deepened as they became more complex thinkers.   A trust was established; a relationship and foundation were built.  They learned that privileges and expectations grew together.

Kids need to learn how to structure and schedule their busy lives.  We see extremes.  We see kids stressed and burned out from overachieving and/or spaced out in front of the screen playing video games for hours. They need help learning what a normal schedule looks like and how to set one.

Us nagging them, or continuing to set limits for them doesn’t help them long term.  Us teaching them along the way to set their own limits definitely does.

I learned things by making mistakes – believe me!  Again, this is not a post about how I did it right.  There is no such thing; I have four kids.  My oldest and I laugh all the time about how she had to experience all my bad parenting, while I learned.  I made mistakes and learned along the way, it’s okay for kids to see that too.

With Purpose,


Priorities with Purpose

I struggled with my priority list, my task list.  It always seemed to be a long list of what others needed from me.  After years of trying to please everyone and years of being a perfectionist – I was left exhausted, burned out and not knowing where to begin each day.

I’ve tried just about every system out there.  I planned my year, my months, my week, my day.  I stated my values, my vision, my roles.  I am a wife, a mother with four kids and have a whole lot that needs to get done.  The programs that tell me to pick one item for each role or three items each week and three each day are also the programs that tell me if I don’t take care of myself I will burn out.  But at the end of it all, I was running from one obligation to another, with no real passion, direction or purpose.  I may have made a dent in what others needed of me or pleased people temporarily, but I was always left with unmet goals and a very neglected ME.

What was a busy woman, who knew she was meant for more, to do?

Here is how I now start each day – Priorities with Purpose.

Spend 15 minutes each day.  Set a timer.  Do it daily, either the night before or first thing in the morning 

  • The Coming Day will be a Success If…
    • Complete the sentence and write it down – “the coming day will be a success if…”
    • Call it meditation, daily planning, intention setting, visioning, it doesn’t matter – just set aside time and do it.
    • The purpose is to begin thinking about how you would like the coming day to go.  We have so much internal strength when we are intentional, very little when we operate from an emotional, “out of control” place.
  • Gratitude
    • List three things in which you are grateful.
    • Start paying attention to the patterns that emerge, a little data analysis.  Things you are grateful for are also the things that are important to you and bring you joy and purpose.
    • These are the things that you want to make sure you continue to make time for in your life, prioritize them.
  • Activity Buckets.
    • I no longer list my roles (wife, mother, friend, employee, student, volunteer, family member, etc), there are simply too many.
    • I list main activity buckets.
      • Money Generating, Volunteering, Adventuring/Fun (Self-Care falls here, but it sounds better listed as adventure and fun), Home and Space Decluttering (one of my main goals this year).
    • I quickly run through my activity buckets and identify tasks that should get done and add them to my task list, see next bullet.
    • I keep a running list of on-going tasks that have to get done when I can, that may or may not belong to an activity bucket. I use an app for task management that syncs with all my devices. Reoccurring tasks are set up on the app to repeat, so I don’t have to think about them.
      • Example – every month my app tells me to give the dog her Sentinel.
    • Remember, you’ve already intentionally stated and written what success will look like for the day!  Don’t be tempted to change it because your tasks overwhelm you here!
  • Schedule It
    • Take a look at what you wrote for “the coming day will be a success if”.  What do you need to do to make it happen?
      • Schedule time in your calendar NOW to make this happen.
    • Now review your task list.  It will have all your tasks (tasks from your activity buckets and running task list, which also includes your reoccurring task list).  What can be done today?  What needs to be scheduled?  What can be removed or delegated?  Update your task list for the day.
    • Be mindful, but not insane, that your top few tasks on your updated task list are ones you want to get done today and then do your best.
  • Set a Schedule
    • You won’t need to do this every day.  Just review and adjust as needed.
    • Bill paying, laundry, weekly reports all those tasks that have to get done repeatedly – create a schedule for the same time every week/month, post them where the family/team members can see them and make them part of your routine. 
    • Whether work or home, tasks that need to get done repeatedly – automate them!  Let the team know, this saves everyone time, confusion and frustration.  Once you determine how long these tasks take, put them on your calendar as reoccurring appointments. 
    • Example – my kids know to bring their laundry down on Sunday and Wednesdays.  They also know when to come get it and fold it.  If not, it is subject to long delays of wrinkling causing piles or being placed in the wrong pile never to be found again.  Having the schedule posted, gives them a way to contribute to a smoothly run system without any discussion, nagging or confusion.
  • Review often
    • Review your gratitude list and make sure you are including things you love into your everyday list of things to do.

And there you have it!  I never finish my task list.  But, I am learning that continuing to complete the easy tasks or the tasks everyone else wants/needs done – will only cause me huge amounts of resentment and extreme dissatisfaction.  Find your purpose.  Live it, every day.

With Purpose,