Kathy Crosby, president and CEO of Goodwill Industries of Greater Grand Rapids, spoke on the tenet “Celebration & Joy” at the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce’s ATHENA Leadership Forum in November 2013. Kathy is a true beacon of what it means to be joyful during life’s challenges. And as we move into spring, a time of rebirth and rejuvenation, we followed up with her for advice on how to create and maintain joy and a purpose for celebration—in and out of the workplace.
Questions and Answers with Kathy Crosby:
How do you honor the ATHENA tenets Celebration & Joy, at work and in your personal life?
I’ve learned that to find joy as a leader, you don’t leave the real you at home. You have to bring your real self to work every day. My office reflects who I am: pictures, accessories, and M&Ms! There is a basket of handwritten notes from employees and friends in the community; I can reach for one and read it if I ever need a “lift.” I cherish my relationships with employees, just as I cherish friendships and family. For me, that means making moments to celebrate. Handing out M&Ms on the shop floor, lunch with small groups of employees, being the mystery reader for my grandson’s classroom, and shopping time with my daughter—they’re all celebrations of life! Sharing who I really am, being authentic with employees, family, and friends, allows for real moments of happiness, not contrived events or moments of compelled smiles. I’m happiest when Goodwill is well … when people are well … when those around me succeed.
What advice do you have for women who don’t work in a joyful environment? How can they create and spread joy?
It’s important to understand the source of joy in yourself and those around you. I quote the Dalai Lama occasionally: “Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions.” It suggests that to know real happiness is to know yourself and act with purpose. If the environment lacks a joyful feel, it is important to build on your own sense of happiness, being generous in your willingness to recognize others and be open to the experience of shared success. A single person can change the atmosphere of a workplace by bringing their own joy into that setting, not to overwhelm others, but to include others with genuine care and respect. We act with joyful expectation.
What helps to keep you joyful when life brings its struggles and challenges?
I believe there is joy in accepting the gifts of others. People around us want to extend caring and support. Too often, we may keep them at arms length, not wanting to appear vulnerable or less independent. But when I learned to accept the gifts of caring extended by others, I learned to find joy in challenging times. Friends, family, acquaintances, employees … if I’m struggling, it is their encouragement, shared stories, support, and care that bring a smile to my face and remind me how very much I have to celebrate!
How do you celebrate successes for yourself and team members?
I’m a big fan of cookies, myself! But we have a wellness program—so “goodies” are not the only celebration! We have all-staff meetings that bring us together to share and acknowledge the accomplishments of our employees; we plan special celebrations for employees graduating from college or other learning endeavors; we celebrate each anniversary of employment at Goodwill, and try to acknowledge contributions to key efforts like inclusion, wellness, safety, and others that have positive impact on all employees. I like to keep a stash of gift cards in the filing cabinet that I can tuck in a note card and send to an employee when they make others happy with their work. For myself, a personal celebration is having my husband, children, and grandchildren together. Whether for Sunday dinner or a weekend at the cottage, when our family is eating, playing, laughing, and relaxing together, it’s the perfect celebration!
Why are you supportive of the ATHENA program?
The ATHENA program encourages women to develop leadership in themselves and to honor other women leaders. It shines as an initiative that builds a cohort of women leaders in a community that share common values, common ground, and have evidenced a willingness to support the development of key leadership qualities in other women. The ATHENA program is a community resource that has the potential to positively influence community culture.
If you had a superpower, what would it be?
What a tough question! I think I would want “super hearing.” Listening really: the ability to really hear what people are really saying … the many sounds of the world around us. I believe it would increase understanding and lead to greater opportunity for shared growth and success.
Conclusion: A positive attitude and willingness to find joy—even in the little things—in life could help create and sustain a bright, happy atmosphere around you. See what positive changes you could make when you search for the silver linings. Creating a joyful atmosphere around and with others generates positivity through Collaboration, the ATHENA tenet being presented by Deb Bailey of Steelcase and Mindy Castañon of Spectrum on May 13.
Contributed by: Mercedes Cowper is program & events coordinator for the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce.