The Kind Leader Newsletter #4

Welcome to The Kind Leader Newsletter #4!

Tip #4: Let others go first. 

As a team member, have you ever been excited to go to your one-on-one meeting with your manager, only to find that fifty-five out of the sixty minutes are taken up by them telling you all about their work instead of listening to you? Even when the stated purpose of the meeting is to hear how you are doing and what YOU want to talk about? As a team member, you probably felt disappointed and that you weren’t treated kindly. Plus, your questions and concerns may not have been addressed.

Those in leadership roles often develop the habit of speaking first. However, letting others speak first gives leaders both the opportunity to hear what people have to say, and also to make them feel cared for and important.

As a leader, letting others go first also applies to situations where people are entering and exiting the room, getting seated and lining up for meals. Although people may defer to your title and usher you to the front of the line, letting others go first role shows the respect that you have for your team members.

Letting others go first doesn’t diminish your leadership, it models caring, respect and kindness.

What do you think?

How often do you let others speak first?

What other situations could you let others go first in?

Please share your ideas in the comments!


This week’s Kind Leader Tip was inspired by IT Leader Craig Delmage.

Here are some other suggestions from Craig for kind ways to meet with team members:

When I have my regular one on one meetings with my team members, I always let them go first – discuss anything that is on their mind or that they want to discuss with me. It can be business or personal. By letting them go first, it sends a signal that what they have to say is important to me. I may prompt them with some initial open-ended questions such as “How are things going for you?” or “How is your new baby?” or “Are you managing work/life balance ok?”

At the end of their items I will check in with them with questions such as “Have I made any decisions lately that you have disagreed with?” to make sure that we are in synch.

If there is time left in our meeting, then I may bring up any items that I wish to cover. Overall, I find that this approach works very well, and I have become closer to my team members – both on a work and personal front – as a result.


Thanks, Craig, for sending your Kind Leader tip!

And thank you all for reading the Kind Leader Newsletter! Please send me your thoughts and experiences practicing kind leadership so I can use them in The Kind Leader book and pass them on to others in the Newsletter!

2020 KRC “Acts of Kindness” Auction!

Would you like to win a dress that I designed and sewed myself?! I’ve had so many requests for KRC dresses, that I’ve decided to auction some of the ones that I created in 2019! The auction starts on Monday, January 6, 2020…and winners will be announced on Monday, January 27, 2020!

But the auction I’m holding isn’t a regular auction!

It’s an “Acts of Kindness” Auction!

What does that mean? It means that to ‘win’ one of the KRC dresses shown below, you won’t be ‘bidding’ with money…you’ll be committing to “Acts of Kindness” that you will be doing if you win the dress! Why aren’t I auctioning off my dresses for money? Because that would be exclusive! Those with more money would have a better chance of winning! But here’s the great thing! Kindness is a wonderful equalizer! Because it doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from, what you believe, or what your financial situation is…there is ALWAYS something kind you can do for someone else!

So, here’s how to enter the KRC “Acts of Kindness” Auction!

For each dress that you want to bid on, comment on this post with:

  1. Your name
  2. Number and name of the dress you are bidding on
  3. What Act of Kindness will you do to win the dress? (And the ‘Act of Kindness’ needs to actually be something you will do…like set up a stand to hand out sandwiches to homeless people…or walk dogs at your local animal shelter for 6 six weekends in a row…or help a new immigrant practice the language of your country!)

You can ‘bid’ on as many dresses as you would like…each just has to have a different Act of Kindness in your entry!

All dresses are hand-made, and (just like me!) imperfect! All will fit American women’s dress sizes Medium and Large.

Dress #1: Big Heart Dress

This is the first dress I ever designed and sewed! Made of linen, it has appliqued pockets with hand-embroidery that wraps around the back of the dress! I wore this dress to speak in Vilnius, Lithuania, and to the St. Petersburg Opera in Russia! It’s made of linen and a fabulous fuzzy material for the sleeves!

Dress #2: Big Pockets Dress

The hand-appliqued panels on this dress are actually huge pockets! The applique wraps around the back of the dress! Sleeveless, this dress can be wore on it’s own, or with a short or long-sleeved shirt underneath! I wore this dress at a Creativity Lab in Brazil! It’s made of linen and also has buttons sewn onto the pockets.

Dress #3: Red and Black

This dress is double-layered, with the lining serving as the longer part of the skirt! The hand-embroidered heart applique is actually a pocket! Fun! I wore this dress to speak in Brazil and in Colombia! It’s made of linen and is the most fitted of the dresses!

Dress #4: Heart-felt Poncho (A Poncho…not really a dress!)

This poncho is made out of the left-over material I had from making the sleeves on the Big Heart dress! I don’t like to waste…so I decided to make this free-form poncho! There’s also a hand-embroidered heart applique on the back! This is perfect to wear outside on a cool day…or inside as a top over a pair of jeans! One size fits everyone!

Dress #5: It’s Reversible!

The reason that this dress (really a skirt and top) is named It’s Reversible…is because the skirt actually is totally reversible! It can be worn on either side! The pocket on the skirt is hand-embroidered, and the heart on the top is hand-printed by me! I wore this skirt in many different places and to speak in Brazil! This is made out of cotton and can be machine-washed. Hang dry please! Don’t put it into the dryer!

Dress #6: Leafy Tunic!

I made this dress out of a remnant of fabric that I fell in love with at the store! The leaves go sideways because there wasn’t enough fabric to have them go up and down! So, I pinned the fabric to the dress-form and created a dress by wrapping and pinning. I used the little excess material there was to make the neck draping! This dress is made out of some kind of upholstery fabric, so it has a very sculptural look and feel when worn! I wore it in may places…and to teach a wonderful workshop in Antwerp, Belgium!

And…guess what?!

Although that is the end of the dresses…it’s not actually the end of the Acts of Kindness auction items! My friend – and very kind person – Ronak Shah, donated three beautiful paintings to the auction! Same rules to enter and win apply!

Painting 1: Koi

This beautiful enamel piece is 8 inches x 10 inches and is finished on all sides. Perfect and ready to hang anywhere in your house or apartment!

Painting 2: LKPF 1

This fun acrylic on canvas abstract creation is 12 inches x 12 inches and has finished edges! Ready to hang and enjoy immediately!

Painting 3: LKPF 2

Fun, funky and colorful, this 12 inch x 12 inch acrylic on canvas will brighten up any space you hang it in!

So, that is it for the auction items!

I can’t wait to see what kind of Acts of Kindness all of you come up with! And remember, all of your Acts of Kindness will benefit those receiving the kindness…will make you feel fabulous…and will support my Love and Kindness Project Foundation (

(And…even if you don’t win a dress or a painting, you can still do your Act of Kindness…because of that will simply create a better, kinder world for every single one of us!)

With lots of love and kindness!


How Do You Show People You Care?

The branch manager at one of the first jobs I ever had used to quote the John Maxwell saying “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” all the time. Seems simple. For me, though, the question is how do people ‘know you care’? If you’re a leader, is just saying “I care about you” really enough for people to know – and believe – that you care? I don’t think so. For people to really ‘know that you care’, you have to ‘show’ them. And, the best way that I know to ‘show’ someone that you care is to spend time with them. Focused time. Time listening to what they have to say (without constantly looking down to check your phone or watch)…time watching how they do the work they are doing and seeing where the work is difficult for them (without constantly pointing out what they are doing wrong or how you would do it instead)…time with them in their space, and not just in your office. Often, in business, we think that monetary rewards or other material incentives ‘show’ people that we care, and overlook the simple, powerful and human message of caring we share when we spend time truly focused on others. In my experience, if we want the people who work for us to truly care about our customers, and our organization, the only way to get them to care, is to spend our time with them to SHOW that we truly care about them. What do you think? How do you ‘show’ people you care?

It’s 2019. What will YOU create this year?

It’s 2019! As we start the New Year, I have a few questions for you:

  • What will YOU create?
  • Who will YOU help?
  • How will YOU make the world better?

Why am I asking? Because 2019 is the year to turn YOUR ideas into reality. To speak in YOUR voice. To share YOUR ideas with the world. Why? Because YOU, your ideas, your experiences, your skills and your point of view are unique. Often, we get so caught up in taking in what others put out into the world, that we forget that we are just as creative.

So, this year, I’m challenging you to CREATE.

  • CREATE a balance of reading what others write and post with sharing your ideas, experience and insights on social media, podcasts, books and
  • CREATE a balance between taking courses and certificates and ‘learning-by-doing’ to create solutions that haven’t been thought of yet
  • CREATE time to spend on the things that YOU are passionate about. Whether that’s knitting hats for cancer patients, playing piano for your local children’s choir, or creating Kindness Kards with children at your local elementary school.

Because, when you practice your creativity, you find out that you can be more than you ever thought you could be  and do more than you ever thought you could do. At home, at work, in your community, your country and the world. There are seven billion people in this world, a host of problems, and we – and our creativity – are the only ones here to solve them.

So…I’m going to ask you again…

  • What will YOU create?
  • Who will YOU help?
  • How will YOU make the world better?

I can’t wait to read your posts and books, see your drawings and hear about the creative solutions you come up with! Happy New Year…and keep me posted!

Go Kindly! And Ask TO Help!

Day 4 of the KRC Random Acts of Kindness Challenge

Today’s Reflection – and Challenge – is about asking TO help!

How often do you think about asking TO help someone? Not asking for help you need, but proactively asking someone else what help they need?

In our twenty-four-seven-three-hundred-sixty-five-days-a-year-non-stop-world it’s easy to get focused on ourselves and our needs…and forget to look outwards and see that other people are just as busy and overwhelmed as we are. And that they need our help just as much as we need theirs.

So, today, for the KRC Random Acts of Kindness Challenge…

Ask someone how you can help them! And then give them the help they need! Helping others is a great way to practice kindness, and, you’ll feel great too!

Go Kindly! The KRC Random Acts of Kindness Challenge!

Did you know that February 11 – 17th is Random Acts of Kindness Week? To celebrate, and to help people improve the world, I’ve decided to create a Random Acts of Kindness Challenge. Just like the KRC Creativity Challenge, I’ll be uploading a post a day challenging you to participate by doing your own acts of kindness. The Challenge prizes?…Well, that’s easy: happiness for others, good feelings for you, and a better world…one random act of kindness at a time!

So, here goes…Day 1 of the KRC Random Acts of Kindness Challenge:

How We Get There is as Important as Where we are Going! Last week, I was reminded of the importance of treating people who are learning new behaviors and ways of thinking, kindly. A number of the people I was coaching were frustrated and disappointed that they didn’t hit the targets they had set for themselves. Although they made good progress, they didn’t quite reach the goal. “That’s okay,” I said. “A target is simply that. A target. Sometimes we hit it and sometimes we don’t. When we don’t, we reflect on the gap and ask ourselves ‘why’? Then we take what we’ve learned and continue working. And besides, you’ve made great progress! Think about all the practice you’ve had and the experience you’ve gained! You should feel good about your efforts this week, not bad!” As coaches and leaders, it’s important to treat people kindly, and help them see the value of their efforts. if we’re focused only on ‘hitting the target’ as the measure of success, we might forget that the way we reach those targets, is just as important.

Here’s today’s Random Acts of Kindness Challenge:

Find a way to help someone who struggling to reach a target or goal feel good about the effort they’re putting into learning! Whether it’s lending an ear to listen, or a reminder of how much they’ve progressed, your random act of kindness will help them think more kindly of themselves as well!

1/25/18 – The KRC Creativity Challenge Day 4: Picture This

One of the things that always surprises me is the preference of words over pictures that most of us seem to develop as adults. Although understanding the world through images and pictures comes before words (think of the picture books you enjoyed as a child) as we get older it’s as if we somehow forget the power that images have to convey meaning. Today’s creativity exercise is designed to help you build a bridge b tween words and images.

For today’s practice write the first word that comes into your mind on a piece of paper. Then add lines, shapes, and colors to turn it into a picture of what the word says. (You might remember doing this spontaneously as a child! While you’re doing the exercise to day, remember the joy you had creating when you did it!)

Why Your Manufacturing Company Needs Lean in Services – Interview with Noah Goellner

In this interview, Noah Goellner, Global Director of Continuous Improvement for Goellner Inc discusses how using lean in services has helped Hennig and AME focus on their vision of excellence: To Make Our Customers Successful.

Karyn: Noah, can you tell us a little about AME and Hennig, your role, and what Goellner’s approach to continuous improvement is?

Noah: Hennig and AME are sister companies in the manufacturing industry, and are both part of the holding company Goellner Inc. AME does a lot of high precision machining, and is segmented into 6 strategic operating units. Hennig has been the leading manufacturer of machine tool protection, chip conveyors, and coolant filtration systems for over 55 years.  My role at Goellner Inc. is Global Director of Continuous Improvement. Our approach to continuous improvement is to focus on developing our people with problem solving skills through a “learn by doing” approach through rapid experimentation. Through Hoshin Kanri, we align all our efforts to our vision statement “To make our customers successful”.

Karyn: I know that many manufacturing companies don’t think they need to use lean in services. Why do Hennig and AME?

Noah: What happens on the manufacturing floor is only a part of the overall customer experience.  We strive to make each of our customers successful, and to do so we need to look at improving all aspects of the customer experience.  It is not enough to have exceptional quality, a good price, and some of the fastest lead times in the industry.  These things are all very important, but the fastest manufacturing lead times in the world mean very little, if we take too long to quote, or are unresponsive to providing help or support.  Creating the best overall customer experience from start to finish, in everything we do, is the best way to help our customers be successful, not just manufacturing product.

Karyn:  How do you think you will be able to make your customers more successful by using lean in both manufacturing and services?

Noah: To make our customers more successful, we are re-engineering our organization around the needs of the customer and our vision statement.  We have restructured our sales, engineering, and manufacturing groups and collocated them into QROC’s (Quick Response Office Cells), in order to provide the quickest responses to our customers needs.  We also created a new role in our company called our “Customer Success Specialist”.  Through this initiative we are creating a continuous flow of the “Voice of the Customer” through real conversations and relationships in order to truly understand the needs of our customers through their own voice.  Then we will be aligning our organizational efforts to fulfilling these needs on a continuous basis, including Continuous Improvement, and innovation in product, process, and customer experience.

Karyn: What are some of the challenges you’ve had in introducing lean in services to a manufacturing company?

Noah: Some challenges in doing this are that it can be more difficult to find good resources on lean in services.  There are not too many great books like “The Toyota Way to Service Excellence” out there.  So the fun/challenge becomes to focus on applying the concepts of lean into area’s outside the manufacturing floor and into all processes of the organization.  Often many of the people are not used to these concepts at the beginning, but I have realized that when we work together towards a common goal, the creativity of our people can accomplish anything.  Perhaps the biggest challenge is that we need to reset our thinking to stop assuming we know what to do, and what our customers want, and really take the time to communicate and listen to what our customers have to say.

Karyn: What do you think that the biggest benefit of having coaching on an ongoing basis is?

Noah: The benefits of having Karyn’s help with coaching on an ongoing basis have been huge.  She has been crucial in providing a fresh customer-centric perspective, to not only get on the right course, but also providing the discipline and know-how to stay on the right course.  Karyn’s help in the creation and use of visual management systems and Kata coaching has helped us learn to see the issues we face on a daily basis in a way so that we can better use our creativity to solve them.  Her positive attitude and encouragement turns difficult problems into fun challenges, and her experience and knowledge in lean, and especially lean in services has been a massive factor in helping us bring out our own creativity to help continually improve our ability to make our customers successful.

For further information, please contact Noah at
And, if you’d like to learn more about how KRC is partnering with Hennig and AME, please visit Hennig’s Commitment to Excellence website page.

Don’t Pass Defects On! Interview with Joe Pellicano from PrimePay

In this interview, Joe Pellicano, Director of Strategic Initiatives for PrimePay, discusses how focusing on flow has helped PrimePay satisfy customers!

Karyn: Joe, can you tell us a little bit about PrimePay, your role and what you are currently working on?

Joe: PrimePay is a company of 500 employees headquartered in West Chester, PA.  We offer payroll, time and attendance, HR services, and employee benefits services and serve companies of all sizes, but have found a sweet spot in the 1-100 employee space.  In my role as the Director of Strategic Initiatives, my primary responsibility is overseeing the implementation of and I am currently managing the build and deployment of a new billing system.  My real passion is blending lean processes and thinking with technology (although Karyn will tell me that a white board, tick sheet, and a pencil are all you need!).

Karyn: I know how passionate you are about “Do It Right the First Time” and not passing defects on to the next customer. Can you tell us about how focusing on this has helped PrimePay’s customers and team members?
Joe: When we started implementing lean practices within the organization, I spent a lot of time going to gemba with different client support teams as I was very interested in ‘why’ our clients were contacting us.  We have a comprehensive knowledge base online and I often joke with people that in a perfect world no client ever needs to get in contact with us for support because the answer to all of their questions are available online.  As I found out though, a fair majority of the support requests we received were not related to product knowledge or training, but because of mistakes that PrimePay made.

As with most service processes, in payroll there are many steps involved and information changes hands several times along the way.  As it related to defects, I found there were two main scenarios:
(1) A mistake was made, but captured before it manifested itself as a support issue.  At face value this seemed like an acceptable path because the external client didn’t get to see any of our “dirty laundry”.  However, after digging deeper, I saw how mistakes, or more importantly, correcting mistakes was usually the responsibility of the person receiving the defect resulting in delays and rework.  More troubling, the person who made the mistake was hardly even aware that it was made because there was no feedback loop.
(2) A mistake was made and went unnoticed for all except the client.  Even process steps that take a few seconds to complete can result in a support issue that takes several hours to resolve, i.e. filing taxes for a client under the wrong FEIN, or direct depositing an employees pay into the wrong bank account.  Again, the person who made the mistake was unaware of the resulting client issues and support requests because of the lack of a feedback loop.

In short, the team members were not being held individually accountable for their work and they were not empowered to act as their own process step gatekeeper, per se.  As a result, we implemented three simple rules:

  1. I don’t make defects.
  2. I don’t pass on defects.
  3. I don’t accept defects

All three are important, but #3 had the desired effect of empowering the team and providing a necessary feedback loop.  Notice an error?  Reject it; send it back to the previous step owner for rework.  This simple idea, that I can ‘reject’ work provided to me because of defects was a monumental shift for team members as they were no longer responsible for correcting the errors from the previous step.  The previous step owner also could see the error in their ways and adjust accordingly.

The other 2 rules focused on a team member’s ability to consistently deliver quality work and recognize what quality looks like.  To aid the team, we deployed checklists, updated process documentation, changed training procedures, and developed new or improved existing systems and tools to ensure a degree of quality.

Focusing on doing it right the first time has reduced rework, reduced cycle times, empowered team members, lowered support requests (and costs), and raised customer satisfaction.

Karyn: What have been some of the challenges in helping people understand flow?

Joe: A concept that I think people are familiar with, or at least understand, but struggle to improve is value-add time.  When I talk about flow I am sure to always express it in terms of cycle time (total time from beginning to end) and processing time (total time piece was actually worked on).  “This item takes 7 days to produce but we actually do only about 15 minutes of work on it.”  In this example, the value-add time is 15 minutes.  The rest of the time it is in a constant state of waste.  It’s sitting in a big pile of other things, it’s being transported from one station to the next, or it’s being reworked.  Asking someone to improve the value-add time, and hence the flow, really requires you to think outside-the-box and I often see people struggle to break-free of this barrier.

Karyn: In services, it’s often hard to ‘see’ how our services are flowing to our customers. What has helped your team the most?

Joe: Through no fault of their own, people tend to live in their own little process bubble.  They have little knowledge of the steps an item took to get to their desk, and they have little knowledge of what other steps the item will take after it leaves.  Visual management and implementing a feedback loop are two critical areas for ensuring the team and each team member has insight into their performance.  Visual management has taken many forms over the last couple of years but it always has highlighted leading indicators.  They provide a short-term window for how work is flowing to their customers and are useful in being able to make tactical changes on the fly.

Karyn: What have been the biggest benefits of working with a coach over the long-term?

Joe: Validation.  I have been working with Karyn for as long as I have been learning about lean thinking.  Having a consistent resource to validate (or entertain) my thoughts and ideas about process improvement, and to act as my true north has been incredibly valuable.  She’s truly become a member of the team and her coaching and leadership has left an indelible mark on PrimePay and myself.

For further information about PrimePay, you can visit their website or reach out to Joe at

(And as you can see from the picture above, Joe and his wife Meghan have just had their second son! Congrats to all!)

Does Your Dog Go Out For Breakfast? And What Does That Have To Do With Creativity?

Last Saturday, my dog, Karma, went out for breakfast. Yes, you read that correctly – my dog went out for breakfast! How did a dog go out for breakfast? And what could that possibly have to do with creativity?

Let me tell you…

First thing you need to know is that Karma loves two things more than anything. One is his breakfast: mashed organic pumpkin mixed with glucosamine and probiotics! (He’s basically allergic to almost every food a dog can eat). The second is our next door neighbor, Michael. Since Michael’s family’s dog passed away a few years ago, Michael often comes over to play with Karma and take him on extra walks; over the years Michael and Karma have developed a special bond.

This past Saturday morning, Karma patrolled the backyard as usual, while I prepared his breakfast. When I opened the sliding door to call him in, though, something unusual happened. Instead of barreling in like a shot, Karma just stood there and looked at me and his dish of food, with what I can best describe as a ‘conflicted’ look on his face. Then he looked to the side…and that’s when I saw Michael heading towards our yard.

As Michael came around the fence he saw me – and Karma’s dish full of breakfast – too. “I was hoping to take Karma over to my house for a while this morning, but I see he hasn’t had breakfast yet.” Looking crestfallen, Michael added, “Maybe I can come back and get him later.” As he turned to leave, I saw how sad Karma looked too.

And then it occurred to me! Michael could take Karma AND his breakfast over to his house. “What a great idea,” said Michael! I handed him the dish and Karma’s leash and off the two went! A happy Hollywood dog story ending, right?


But it’s actually more than that. It’s a great example of what, as I define it, creativity is really all about:

Combining and synthesizing knowledge and understanding we have from previous experiences and putting them together in new and unusual ways.

Or, in other words, thinking about how to accomplish something using what I call “AND” thinking, instead of our normal “either/or” thinking.

Usually, when we work on solving a problem or figuring out how to achieve a goal, we tend to employ “either/or” thinking. For example, how many times have you heard the people you work with say “we can either have high quality services or low cost for our customers?” Or, “You can either have speed or accuracy…you can’t have both?” That’s “either/or” thinking.

Problem with “either/or” thinking is that it’s limiting. And today’s customers aren’t willing to accept those kinds of limits. Today’s customers want “luxury service at coach prices”; they aren’t willing to accept either quality or cost, they expect both. And we, as creators of those services, need to give them both:

That’s where “AND” thinking comes in. How can we give customers the quality they want AND price our services more cheaply than our competitors?

We do it by combining/synthesizing knowledge and understanding we have from previous experiences in new ways!

And that’s where Karma going out for breakfast meets creativity!

If I’d used “either/or” thinking either Karma could have gone to Michael’s house or he could have had breakfast. And at least one of my ‘customers’ would have been unhappy.

Instead, I used “AND” thinking to generate a novel solution that combined learning from previous experiences: have Michael feed the dog breakfast at his house. End result? Two very happy customers,

And that’s exactly what we want. Happy and satisfied customers. Who get everything that they want, not just part.

So, next time one of your customers asks for something, instead of using “either/or” thinking to satisfy part of their request, ask yourself “How can our dog go out for breakfast on this one?” Generate a list of all the things you know about the situation and see how you can combine them in new ways.

That’s what creativity and service excellence is all about!


If you’d like to learn more, I’ll be presenting a webinar on How to Coach for Creativity and Service Excellence, hosted by KaiNexus, on March 28th from 1 pm – 2 pm ET. You can sign up here:

Karyn Ross Consulting

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