The Artisan Creative a.blog explores creativity and culture for job seekers and employers alike. Here you can browse over 500 articles covering resume & interviewing tips, hiring best practices, staffing & recruitment, freelancing, and entrepreneurship as well as tips on productivity, networking, and more.
Celebrating Margaret Jung’s 28th year with Artisan Creative
March marks the 28th anniversary of our senior account manager, Margaret Jung, with Artisan Creative. It is a momentous occasion and cause for celebration. Working for the same company for over a quarter of a century is quite the feat, especially in this day and age.
Those of you who have been fortunate to meet Margaret, know that she enters every room with the biggest smile, loudest hello, and is filled with joy and enthusiasm.
Working for a company whose values are aligned with hers, the opportunity to create a difference in people’s lives and to build long-lasting relationships is what motivates her. Her energy, enthusiasm, and drive come down to one phrase: creating relationships based on trust.
She is a consummate business development professional, highly knowledgeable in the world of creative and marketing recruitment, and has a first-rate understanding of the design marketplace.
Margaret shares 28 lessons learned along the way to stay strong over the past 28 years.
- Stay positive
- Be open to change
- Be realistic
- Work with and hire the right people–it goes a long way
- Know you have a team to back you up
- Support your team
- Believe in the core values of your company and share the same philosophy with your team
- Be accountable to yourself and the team
- Be self-aware
- Know your capabilities
- Keep yourself motivated
- Have a boss who gives you constant encouragement and advice
- Lead by example
- Have the mindset of being your own boss (especially in a remote business model like Artisan Creative’s)
- Have good communication skills with both internal and external stakeholders
- Understand that things aren’t always black and white
- Compromise when needed
- Don’t be afraid of having difficult conversations
- Sometimes you need to just pick up the phone to get your point across (emails and/or text can get lost in translation)
- Follow-up, follow-up, follow-up…
- Control what you can control and what you can’t–move on
- First impressions are lasting impressions
- Stress can be managed. It’s not the end of the world
- Be true to yourself, know your limitations and stick with it
- Having the 3D’s- drive, determination and discipline
Having Empathy for others especially since we are in the “people” business
Be good to yourself – take breaks and do what makes you happy- life is not always about “work”.
- Finally, life is so much better when you are laughing.
If you need help with recruitment to hire a position on your team, reach out to Margaret. You’ll see what we mean.
Thank you, Margaret, for an amazing 28 years. Here’s to creating even more impact and new relationships in 2023 and beyond.
Tips for a Successful Video Interview
The ease of technology and virtual offices have made video interviews a necessary step in the overall interview process. Sometimes a video interview can pose additional challenges due to technology mishaps or the inability to see the other person’s reaction well, adding to the pre-interview anxiety.
No need to worry! Whether it’s Zoom, Teams, or a pre-recorded video resume, the tips below can help create success in your job search.
The main intention of any interview is to do your best so you can advance to the next stage.With over 25 years of helping candidates prepare for these types of interviews, we’d like to share some best practices with you:
The Video Interview
- No matter the technology used adhere to this mantra: Test, and Test again. Test your device’s audio and video connections before the actual interview. Don’t wait until the interview day to download!
- Confirm time zones in case the interviewer is in another state or country.
- Practice ahead of time on screen and record yourself if possible. Pay attention to your posture, voice, lighting and background and adjust as needed.
- Check the lighting and move your computer as needed so that your face is illuminated without any shadows. Get an external light such as a ring light if the room lighting is low.
- Make sure your head and shoulders appear in the video frame – don’t get too close or move too far away from the camera.
- Position the camera at eye-level and make eye contact with it! If you only watch the screen itself you’ll look like you’re not making eye contact with the interviewer.
- Research the company, follow on social, and look up your interviewer’s Linkedin profile. You may find some things in common!
- Ensure that you are in a quiet place.
- Make sure your device is fully charged or plugged in during the interview
- You’ll be using your voice and tone to communicate— be sure to speak clearly and succinctly.
- Be friendly and smile while talking.
- Be prepared to ask engaging questions about the company culture and the team.
- Have your resume close by so you can refer to it.
- Listen well and avoid talking over the interviewer.
- Don’t discuss salary or benefits at this stage.
- This is your first opportunity to connect and shine.
- Dress and groom as if you were interviewing in person. Dress for the job you want!
- Pay attention to your surroundings—especially the background. Select a clean, neutral, and distraction-free backdrop like a wall, or screen.
- If you live with a roommate let them know you’ll be on camera to avoid unexpected noise or interruptions.
- If applicable, have your portfolio loaded on your desktop in case screen sharing is needed. Make sure you have a clean, uncluttered desktop and if needed, change your desktop wallpaper to something creative but professional.
We wish you all the best in your next job interview! Be sure to check out all our interview tips on our blog.
Prepping for your next Interview
Interviews can be a nerve-wracking experience! Preparation helps calm those nerves. In order to help you through your next interview, we’ve compiled a list of things to consider to get that job offer.
- Do Research
Being prepared for an interview is a given, but how well do you really know the position and the company? It’s useful to make notes and bullet point any relevant information before your interview. Do your research and check out Linkedin, reviews and social media posts to learn a few facts about the company. This shows your interest in the product offerings and culture of the company
- Watch your Body Language
We can’t stress how important body language is. If you don’t believe us, watch this TED Talk by Amy Cuddy (it has over 22 M views!!) We are not saying you should walk or Zoom into an interview with attitude, but what we are saying is that subtle language such as posture and hand movements can make all the difference between appearing shy or confident. Sit up straight, make eye contact and use open hand gestures. Check out our Zoom interview best practices blog too.
- Be Grateful
Gratitude can go a long way so thanking the interviewer for meeting with you and following up with a thank you note will show how interested you really are. You could be up against several candidates and if you’re the only one to follow up and thank them, you’re already ahead of the rest.
Even if the interviewer has answered everything for you, ask another one! There’s nothing worse than being in an interview and not having any questions prepared or forgetting to ask something. Take in a list of questions and refer back to your notes when they ask you. If they truly have answered everything, at least they can see how prepared you were, but make sure you leave knowing as much as possible about the job and company.
- Stand Out
How can you stand out – what is your unique ability? Winnie Hart of Twin Engine branding has a wonderful series of e-books to help define what makes you stand out. Whatever your unique skill set, ability, or qualification, bring it up as a topic of conversation to help the interviewer remember you.
- Avoid Negative Talk
This one is absolutely a key point to avoid using negative language. Refrain from saying “I’m not” or “I can’t” and say phrases such as “I’m strong with” or “I can”. Also, avoid speaking negatively about a previous role or boss. Be truthful about why a role came to an end, however, do it with professionalism.
- Infuse Enthusiasm
Be sure to show your enthusiasm about the role, the company, and the opportunity presented to you. Everyone wants to work with people who share the same excitement and passion about a project or product, so show your personality, and communication style. This is one of our core values here at Artisan Creative too.
Job Interview Questions to Continue the Conversation
You get the email invitation for an interview with your dream company! First, give yourself a high-five, and then start planning!
Be sure to check out our blogs on interview prep as well as mastering the phone/video interview.
And then think about a few questions to ask the interviewer to help you learn more about the company and the role for which you are interviewing. The answers to these questions can provide you will solidify for you whether an opportunity is the right match for you.
If you need help with the type of questions to ask, below is a list of questions we’ve gathered over the years. Pick one or two of these and make it your own to ask during the interview to continue the conversation and learn more about the opportunity. Good luck!
Questions about the Role / Position / Department
• How would you describe the work environment?
• Can you describe a typical day?
• Can you share more about the department and the team I would be working with?
• How do you envision this department in 6 months / 1 year / long-term?
• How large is the department (how many designers, marketers, etc.)?
• What is the hierarchy/org chart when it comes to decision-making in my dept?
• What have been some of the most exciting projects we’ve worked on?
• What was your personal favorite project here?
• What are your expectations for this position?
• What is the growth potential of this role?
Questions about the Company Culture / History
• Can you share more about the company culture?
• Can you share more about the company’s history and/or clients?
• What is the hierarchy/org chart when it comes to decision-making in the company?
• How would you define the management philosophy of the company?
• How do you envision the company in 6 months / 1 year / long-term?
Questions about your Skills / Qualification
• What is most important for you in this position in terms of skills and qualifications?
• What qualities do you feel someone needs to be successful in this role?
• What are the metrics for success?
• How is success defined?
• What in particular in my background made you feel I was a good fit for this position?
• What do you foresee any challenges for me in this role?
At the end of your interview, don’t forget to ask one of our favorite questions which is “Do you have any reservations about my qualifications?” This is your final chance to sell yourself one last time and also iron out any concerns the interviewer may have about your experience.
Do you have any go-to interview questions you like to ask? How do you prepare for your interviews?
Creating 2023’s Vision
Planning for next year starts today.
We have an opportunity now to evaluate what worked, and what didn’t and to re-focus our plans and vision for the new year. Every year presents opportunities for learning, growth, and for eliminating what hasn’t worked. It takes reflection and then the implementation of a plan… both personally and professionally.
Each year our team at Artisan Creative works on a plan by creating a vision board. We present the boards to one another at the first meeting of the year in January. The boards represent our short and long-term goals and include both personal and professional aspirations. Many of our team members create physical boards, and others opt for a digital version using Trello, Canva, Pinterest, Jamboard, or PicMonkey.
We create accountability (one of our core values) by presenting the boards to each other as well as learning more about each other’s ambitions, dreams, and commitments. Some set a theme for the year, and then include specific action words and inspirational quotes. All have in common a shared use of imagery that inspires, tells a story, and conveys a message to create a powerful visualization tool.
In addition to sharing our vision and goals at the start of the new year, we review our boards mid-year as well as share a recap at our year-end meeting. This helps keep us on track during the course of the year, which can have many twists and turns. This activity is one of our strongest team-building exercises, as it stays “evergreen”.
Here are five tips to create your vision board and get started on achieving your goals!
- Choose a theme
- Select words and images that inspire and are true to your core values and positivity and inspiration for yourself and others.
- Imagine the integrated life/work you want to have.
- Create your board.
- Live your best life.
You can either divide your board into sections for business and personal or mix the elements together throughout. The important point is to create an integrated board where your personal and professional aspirations are represented.
Hang the board where you can re-visit it daily—read the inspirational messages out loud— and often! Mine is right in front of my desk, so I get to see it every time I look up from my computer.
Another key element is sharing the board with others. Having an accountability partner will help you get closer to achieving your goals.
If you choose to go the digital route, change your desktop to the vision board artwork so you can see it every day for inspiration and setting priorities.
- A large poster board to give you plenty of space to visualize your year, yet small enough to hang on your wall. We use the 22 x 28 size available from Staples.
- A good pair of scissors and a strong glue stick so the pictures stay on all year long.
- Variety of magazines to look through and find those inspiring words and pictures.
- (Optional) Markers/stickers to write on or embellish your board.
- Patience and Creativity.
- Time to reflect.
- Start in December and finalize by Jan 1.
- Select images and words throughout the month and calendar a day to create the actual vision board.
For some people, it’s easier to start with a theme and for others, the pictures and words shape the theme of the board. There is no right or wrong method, harness your creativity in any way that works best for you.
Happy 2023 & good luck with those aspirations!
Our annual Thanksgiving holiday blog celebrates and shares our collective gratitude for health, family, and friendship as well as gratitude for our clients, candidates, and teammates.
In addition, the Artisan Creative a.team has compiled the following 22 gratitudes:
Grateful for being happily employed and working with a fabulous group of people.
Grateful for relationships (both personal and business)
Grateful financial stability
Grateful for my five-minute journal
Grateful for reading The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz
Grateful for eternal love
Grateful for coffee!!
Grateful for California’s weather
Grateful for our pets, who are the best WFH companions
Grateful for spending more quality time with my family and seeing them more this year
Grateful flexibility and longevity with Artisan Creative
Grateful for releasing my audiobook
Grateful for the good health of our parents as they age
Grateful for morning walks
Grateful for traveling again
Grateful for sunrises
Grateful for democracy
Grateful for technology that keeps us connected
Grateful for the time saved on cooking by using my air fryer this year
Grateful that meditation and journaling practices helped me stay level-headed through trying times
Grateful for the balance my partner brings to my life
Grateful for 26 years of Artisan Creative
Happy Thanksgiving 2022!
We are grateful for you and wish you a happy and healthy Thanksgiving holiday!
Meetings with a Purpose
Have you thought about your meetings, lately? Are they purposeful? Do they create impact? Or, are they a waste of time?
According to master facilitator Priya Parker, it matters most to know why we are gathering. There are many reasons for meetings and bringing people together; sometimes to share ideas and brainstorm, other times to bond and create a stronger work culture, or to discuss new information and product launches.
In her book The Art of Gathering, How We Meet and Why it Matters, Parker outlines several best practices in defining purpose and outlining actions.
These three resonated the most with me:
Know the WHY of your gathering and don’t be swayed by other details.
Don’t mistake having an agenda with having a purpose.
Recently I was facilitating a gathering of approximately 80 business owners. The initial goal of our meeting was to share new developments and tools. We could have delivered the information digitally, however, once we determined that the WHY of our gathering was to bring people together to connect, create bonds and meet others from around the country after two years of Zoom gatherings, the meeting’s purpose and thereby meeting plan changed.
With a co-facilitator, we built the agenda based on the purpose of connection and structured the room in a way that allowed for smaller group discussions at round tables of 8. We rotated the groups throughout our time together to allow the attendees to meet as many other people as possible. We also ensured that plenty of breaks and free time were built into the agenda so people could socialize and connect. Without knowing that WHY, we may have structured the meeting in a classroom-style session, or not have planned for as much interactivity as we did.
Be an engaged Host
Don’t assume your gatherings, whether a business meeting or a party, is going to be self-managed just because people know one another. Don’t give up the opportunity to craft a great experience for everyone by being a “chill” host. Whether it’s a daily huddle that has its own rituals and cadence, or an annual offsite, sweat the small details from the location, to who is or isn’t invited.
Create a plan for engagement and connection exercises to set the tone and theme. Setting expectations even before the meeting starts by communicating with the attendees ahead of time and sharing any pre-work that may be needed. On the day of the meeting, be a gracious host by welcoming the attendees, interacting with and introducing everyone, and setting the tone for the time together.
Take advantage of Opening and Closing your meetings
Don’t start or end the meeting with logistics. That can come later, and take advantage of the opportunity to use the Close and Open timeframe to create the mood and momentum of the meeting. Remember, some people may be anxious about attending so plan how can you set up the opening to be a safe space for everyone to feel ready to participate.
Wrapping up your gathering presents a great opportunity to create memories, reflect on key takeaways, and provide “stickiness of content” so that people walk away energized and impacted, and remember what was discussed.
Whether you are now gathering in person or digitally these days, these best practices of having a purpose, being an engaged host, and having a memorable open and closing apply. For more info please read her book. It’s a fabulous read.
What specific rituals or best meeting/gathering practices would you like to share?
Avoid Doing These 6 Things During a Job Interview
Interviews necessitate that you make a good impression, however nerves or being unprepared can hold you back from presenting yourself in the best light. Here are six things to avoid during any job interview to ensure a successful conversation.
- Being unprepared. Anticipate questions about your resume and experience, and have answers for the most common interview questions. Do your research to get an idea of company culture, products, and where your skills may translate. A quick search of the company’s website and social media channels will prepare you.
- Being unprofessional. There are simple things you can do to solidify your impression as a professional. Arrive on time, say thank you, be respectful to all, and have a positive attitude. Dress professionally, and make eye contact. Turn off your phone and other notification so you can be present.
- Discussing salary. Don’t bring up salary in the first interview. Only discuss it if the interviewer asks you about it first. Otherwise best to focus on the role and company culture and discuss salary in follow-up interviews. If you are working with a recruiter, they will have shared your parameters ahead of time, so leave the negotiation to your recruiter.
- Being distracted. Let your friends or roommates know you are in an interview! Don’t get distracted by the chatter in the room. Pay close attention and listen! What is your interviewer asking you? If you’re not paying attention and either answer the wrong question or ask them to repeat it, you imply that your attention span or attention to detail is low. Show that you can follow directions and keep an open mind by simply listening. Listen well. Communicate even better by being concise, articulate, and to the point.
- Putting down a former boss or company. Even if your former employer was a nightmare to work with, nothing will make you look worse than speaking ill about them. You also never know who knows who! If a previous job situation was truly terrible, practice explaining what didn’t work for you in that position in a positive way.
- Being late. ABOT: Always Be On Time. If you don’t know where the company is, map it out before driving (or taking public transit or an Uber) so you know how long it’ll take to get there and can plan accordingly. Emergencies do happen, so if there is an outstanding situation for being late, like a car accident or a sick child, have `the hiring manager’s phone number so you can call and let them know what’s going on.
Good luck with your next interview.
Beyond Your Why
Katty Douraghy, Artisan Creative’s president was recently interviewed by Dr. Gary Sanchez of The Why Institute, on the importance of knowing your why, and how that impacts our work at Artisan Creative, as well as why she wrote her book The Butterfly Years.
If you haven’t yet discovered your Why, check out the assessment on WHY.os Discovery.
The WHY Of Trust: Hope, Life, Grief With Katty Douraghy
In this episode, we are going to be talking about the why of trust, to create relationships based upon trust. People with this why believe that trust is the most important thing and will work hard to create it. They will become educated as experts in a particular subject and demonstrate that expertise as a way of establishing trust.
They will do things right to demonstrate that they are trustworthy. They want to know that you believe in them and will go the extra mile to demonstrate with their actions, words, and deeds. In communication with someone with this why, you might read words along the lines of, “You can count on me.”
I have been looking forward to this, and we have been talking about doing this for quite a while because you are familiar with the 9 Whys and the Why.os and all of this. You have been doing this for quite a while. Let’s first learn a little bit about you. Tell us about your name.
It is short for Katāyoun, which is a fictitious princess’ name in old Persian folklore.
Where did you grow up? Where were you born? Tell us what you were like in high school, and take us on your journey.
I grew up in Iran until the age of thirteen. We immigrated because of the revolution in Iran. We immigrated first to England and then to the US. My high school years were tough for me. High school years were during the time that the hostages were taken. The last thing I wanted to do was be Iranian. I tried hard to suppress that side of me and my identity and shove it aside.
I can pass for many different cultures. I pretended I was Italian, Mexican, and Indian. You name it, anything but Iranian. It has taken many years to settle into who I am. For many years, I thought I did not belong anywhere. Now I realize that I belong everywhere. I’m a mixture of Eastern, West, and everything in between. That is me in and nutshell.
Were you in England during that time or during the hostage?
We were in England for a short time right after the revolution. By the time we moved to the US, it was around the time when the hostages were taken. High school was not fun.
Where was your high school?
My high school was in Northern California in a town called Cupertino, which everybody knows now because Apple is there. Apple was not there back then. It is the same high school that Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak went to, Homestead High School.
Did you know him?
No, they were before me.
Take us into what it was like back then. What was a day in the life of an Iranian girl in high school like? What was it like going to high school? Not having a security blanket allows you to put yourself out there.
High school was tough because I started high school in the middle of ninth grade. High school is not easy at any age, regardless of being a foreigner in the middle of the high school years. Add to that what was happening out in the world. At the time, many people did not know where Iran was, and they only associated Iran with the Diatoula or with hostages. It was a tough time.
The beauty of what was happening during high school was that my cousin also lived with us at the time. She immigrated, and her parents were still overseas. She came and lived with us. For the first three and a half years of high school, I had her. She was my security blanket, and I stuck to her closely. She graduated early and left to go to Texas.
For the last semester in high school, I had to figure out how to navigate waters. As tough as it was, it was good for me not to have that security blanket. It allowed me to put myself out there. My English was good. It was not great but it forced me to become great. I even became an English Literature major in college. Something happened during that last year.
It forced you to trust yourself.
Where did you go to college?
I went to college in Santa Cruz, also in Northern California. At the beginning of my high school years, I did not trust anyone else because I did not trust where I was coming from. It took me a while to recognize that, and I was on solid ground as to who I was as a person. By the time I went to college, it was when I had started to learn how to spread my wings.
It was a completely different story. I was out there. I had lots of friends, and I was incredibly social. I came out of this chrysalis. I have used the butterfly chrysalis analogy throughout my life. In high school, I was in this dark place. In college, I came out and was the social butterfly. I was everywhere. It came into my own and found my voice then.
It is interesting to think about somebody with a why of trust, not even in your circumstances but in general, having to go through high school. Nobody trusts themselves in high school, at least most people do not. I know I did not. You do not know where you are going and what you are about. It is challenging anyways but with the why of trust, seeing is the most important relationship with yourself. That can cause a lot of anxiety.
The whole notion of self-trust was not there. I questioned everything. I did everything I said. If whatever I said did not land well on someone, that little voice in my head was like, “You did this wrong.” That is such a difficult thing for a young person to go through. It can set the stage for self-doubt at later ages. I’m fortunate that because of the trust that I was able to gain later on in my college years, it did not end up having a lasting impact.
Off to college in Santa Cruz, you majored in English Literature. What did you do with that?
I did not do anything with it. I did learn how to speak English better, which I certainly needed for living here. This is home for me now. What I did after that was I went to the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising. I was interested in the fashion space. I ended up working in retail and fashion for several years.
This is an interesting story where I could see my why. I can see it now. I was not aware of it back then but where I could see how my why had impacted my career trajectory all these years. When I started in retail, I was a personal shopper. We would get into dressing rooms with people to help consult on the fit, color, shape, and analyze body shapes to be able to make recommendations.
There is nothing more intimate than being with someone who is trusting you to undress and allow you to give them some feedback as to what could be a stronger, better version of themselves. This is through clothing and fashion but when I look back on how my trust manifested itself, that was powerful to be able to do that.
How long did you do that?
WHY Of Trust: There is nothing more intimate than being with someone who trusts you for them to undress and allow you to give them feedback.
What happened after that?
My husband, Jamie, recruited me to come and work for his company, which is the staffing and recruiting firm that I own and run. He was like, “You have all this experience. You have managed these larger teams, dollar amounts. Come, I could use your help.” I did, and that was an interesting thing starting to work with your spouse. We had to define roles. That is where trust had to come into play. He trusted me that I could run this business that he had started and founded, and I trusted myself that I was not going to let him down and do things the right way to hopefully grow the business.
For the readers that are not familiar with Jamie, he is Katty’s husband. I have had him on the show before. Jamie has got a fascinating story about how he discovered his why down in Argentina. On his way back, he decided he was going to put you in charge. You became the CEO.
It is all because of the why. I should tell this story to your readers. Jamie went on this trip to Argentina and had an opportunity to discover his why while he was on this trip. He comes back and says, “I figured out my why. I know what I’m going to be doing next. I’m stepping out of the business, and it is all yours.” I was like, “You are doing what?”
It was the beginning of this beautiful relationship. As a couple, understanding our why and being able to communicate through that has been incredibly powerful. I can’t recommend it enough to anyone who has discovered their why to encourage their spouse and partner to do the same because it does impact how we communicate and show up for each other. Thanks, Gary.
It is interesting because you have the why of trust, and he has the why of contribute. That is a particularly good match, those two together. You want to make sure that you create a trust for him, and he wants to make sure that he contributes to you. It does not get any better than that. That seems to be the combination that I have seen over time work the best. You two happen to have that. What I do not know is how did you meet Jamie?
We met at a Halloween party. For your reader who knows his story, Jamie is a fencer. He was at this Halloween party in full fencing garb with his mask on his weapon and all dressed in white. I was a Persian cat, which is not imaginative. The party was at a restaurant that had closed down for that evening, and they had all these Halloween decorations everywhere. They had boards and pomegranates. That was part of the decorations. I love pomegranates. I’m a huge fan of it. I was like, “Does anybody want to share a pomegranate with me?” Jamie stepped forth. Even with his pristine white fencing outfit, he cut into this pomegranate. That was it. We met in 1992.
You took over Artisan Creative, and you have been running that for how long because I know now you have some other interests on top of that.
I have been running the business now since 2012. I’m passionate about it. My why shows up there every day. In the recruitment space, if you cannot establish trust between both hiring managers, specifically also with candidates, it takes a lot of trust for someone to leave a job and trust you that what you are presenting to them is a better opportunity for them. I see that come into play daily. Trust shows up in my everyday interactions.
I have been running Artisan for several years. I have a great team. I’m still involved, hands-on, day-to-day but I’m also passionate about a lot of other things. I’m passionate about facilitation, bringing people together, and creating a space so they can have a trusted conversation with each other. I’m active on that side. As you mentioned, a few years ago, I embarked finally on using my English Literature degree on this journey towards hope because of some personal tragedies that had happened in my life. I knew I had to tell the story.
You wrote a book called the Butterfly Years. What is the book about? Who is the book for?
The book is about my journey through grief. I lost my stepmother in January 2011, my father in February 2011, and my mother in April 2011. In 2013, I lost my cousin, Malise, the same cousin who lived with me for years. We went to high school together. I lost her as well as my uncle. That was compounded by the loss of my stepdad several years after that. For a four-year period, it was a pretty dark time.
This journey of grief was overwhelming for me. I was not sure how to navigate it. At the same time, as I was going through grief, life and love were around me. I was in this space of this duality of love and loss, death and life, and all of that. I had a hard time coming to grasp it. Once I did, I thought it was important to share that with other people. That is what I needed to get this story out. Story sharing was cathartic to put it out there. My goal was to be able to help others who were going through what I was going through, what I had gone through, and what I had learned.
The story initially was not intended to be a memoir. It became one. I can only assume that some people up there wanted to have their story told. The journal was intended to be the only thing I was ever going to create. I wanted a self-help manual for other people to navigate this journey. My story needed to come out first, and it did.
The reason that it took three years for me to write this teeny tiny little book was going back to trust. I needed to make sure that I honored the legacy of my parents. The book is specifically about my mom and my relationship with her but other people and their stories are in there, too. I was not trusting myself that I was telling her story in the right way.
I had several drafts that I crumbled papers, threw it out, rewrote, and cried through the whole thing as I wrote it because it was important to make sure that I was doing this properly. It was honoring and trusting the relationship I had with her, not just in life but in death. I knew her story was going to continue by writing about her, and it had to be done the right way.
What is grief?
Grief is a different thing for different people. My biggest lesson here is that there isn’t one way to grieve, to experience loss. What it was for me was a mixture of emotions. For some reason, I had read about grief and going through grief. I thought it was this linear thing that you went through anger, denial, and this and that. It was not that. It was this big ball of a mess of emotions that went back and forth between sadness and happiness.
Talk about self-judgment, trust, and self-trust. When I had a moment of respite, I would laugh at what was going on. I did it with guilt, and I was not trusting that I was doing this the right way. I kept questioning myself, “Am I honoring properly? Should I be grieving more? If I laugh, is it the wrong thing?” What grief is whatever anyone feels that it is for them. For someone, it has an external expression, and for others, it is an internal journey that they go through. Mine was a mishmash of everything.
What happened to you? What was the turning point? What was the learning point of figuring out how to handle your grief?
It was simultaneous. At the same time that death happened, life was happening around me. I had a hard time recognizing what was going on. Driving from the hospital to my stepdad’s house, this was April 2011. My mom passed away on April 17th, 2011. They were looking out the windows as we were driving. I pushed the button to lower down the window, and looking out the window was beautiful.
I had not seen flowers that vibrant ever. I had not seen grass that green ever. Something had happened to me. It feels like I woke up. While I was distraught, I was also recognizing that something was happening. The sun did come out the next day, which I was not expecting for it to come out. The loss, grief, and learning to live with it happened simultaneously, even though I did not see it at the time.
It took a few years to recognize that but that juxtaposition of love and loss, life and death, was powerful from the first moment. The colors were vibrant. The smells were too much. My taste buds were alive. It was a hard thing to describe. At the time, I was like, “I had never tasted this before because every sense was heightened.” This is my personal belief. I believe that I was living for other people because they could not live anymore. I think everything had come to me. They trusted me with living life for them.
Why do you think you had that revelation? Why do you think that happened to you?
If I could pinpoint what happened, I would have another book in me to be able to share that with others. I do not know what happened. All I can think about is at the moment when I watched death happen when I witnessed my mom take her last breath. For the first time, I realized how precious life was and that this was my opportunity to continue living and live it as I had never lived it before. I took over Artisan that same year, within a few months of the loss happening. The switch was turned on, and I was like, “I’m going to say yes to everything. I’m going to take life by the horns and go for it.” My only explanation is that witnessing death somehow sparked life within me.
What was the turning point that you had from high school to college, from the scared Katty to the outgoing, creative Katty? What was that moment that allowed you to switch?
It was having a belonging and a community that had acceptance. With that acceptance came the realization that I could trust myself and others. A big piece of it is in high school, I did not trust others either, but in college, I could. Everyone was from somewhere else. We were all starting at the same footing. Whereas in high school, I entered the middle of this tumultuous period that was happening in the world. In college, we all started the journey together but having this acceptance and being in the community, accepted and allowed me to trust myself.
You have all the challenges with the family members passing. It seems like you were able to start anew again.
That goes back to the community. As you know, I’m very involved with the Entrepreneurs’ Organization, EO. I had several opportunities through my volunteer work with EO to share my story and be part of a community that appreciated hearing it. I have other people come up to me and say, “No one has talked about grief like this before. Thank you.” To be able to have that and realize that we do not talk about death. No one wants to talk but it is the reality for all of us. Can we create a trusted and safe space to be able to talk about death and not feel that we are being judged? Talk about grief and not feel that we need to be rushed to get over it because we are all going to go through it on our own terms and pace.
In a certain way, all the challenges you went through and the death of your family members ended up being positive. However that happened, it was flipped from grief to life.
I read a proverb, which was the beginning of the journey towards hope. It said, “Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly.” That was a lifeline that I held onto it. During those darkest days, I would say, “I’m going to come out of this. This is darkness. This is a chrysalis. I’m going to come out of it and be a butterfly. I’m going take wing.” There were many days that I doubted that but that put one step in front of the next, and that is what has got me through.
When you are done with grief, is it over, is it still lingering, is it still pop up every now and then? How does that work?
It pops up all the time. I do not think it is over. There was a time that I thought maybe one would heal from it but I have realized that is not the case. We learned to accept and live with it but it is there. A smell, picture or memory triggers it all the time. At the strangest of times, it comes up. It is a beautiful thing. I do not mind it coming up. I don’t want to ever forget. It is a reminder for me, and that is a good thing.
From there, you and Jamie have started to work with couples in the EO organization. What is your focus on your couple’s work?
I spend quite a bit of time on communication on triggers. My secret sauce or power is to create a safe environment for people to have conversations. Trust as the dominant force is there. If I can create a space where people can trust that they will be safe and share whatever they want to share without judgment, I have done my job. That is what Jamie and I spend our time with.
Jamie speaks about the why, the communication between couples, and how important that is. A lot of what we do is also experience sharing because knowing what our whys are has been a huge transformation in our relationship. Back in the day, before we knew what we know now, Jamie would get a little annoyed with me, and he thought I would be dwelling on things.
“I dwell on possibilities,” on my walls is my favorite quote for me. He had a hard time recognizing why. It took me a while to get over things, the spoken word with someone, not necessarily with him but with someone or someone who did not do what they said they were going to do or me staying up until 2:00 in the morning because I had told someone I was going to do something for them. He couldn’t understand why I was taking as much time or not getting over it as quickly as he was.
When we went through our why discovery and recognized that creating relationships based on trust is what is my driving force, and then he understood. Since then, he has never once asked me, “Why are you still dwelling on this? Why are you working until 2:00 in the morning?” He knows that it is coming from a place where I have to do it.
I can imagine that you have taught him to create a safe space because he does that as well, at least, maybe not within his marriage because sometimes that can be harder for other people that know Jamie. That is what people say about him.
He does it naturally and because his why is to contribute. He does it from that point of view. He is creating a safe space because he is contributing to the greater good so people can have conversations with each other. Our end goal ends up being the same. How we go about it is different.
Do you work in larger groups? Is it five couples? What size groups do you work with, and what do you do with them? What do you call the workshops that you and Jamie do?
The couple sizes differ at anywhere from ten couples to larger. We have done it for about eight couples. Probably it is the smallest group that we have done it. We are not couples counselors. It is not a one-to-one thing with couples. What we do is give them the tools so they can communicate and talk about things that maybe they do not naturally talk about.
We are facilitating conversations and asking questions from a curiosity standpoint, so they can feel comfortable to be able to answer that with each other. Jamie does the discovering their whys with them, creating a space so they can have a conversation around that. We utilize some of the tools. I talk about triggers and how couples get triggered. Getting triggered is not a bad thing. It is how we behave after we are triggered. That is the bad thing.
A trigger could be a positive thing. It is part of some learning that I have had with Marshall Goldsmith about triggers and a variety of other things about listening. We talk a lot about listening and laugh about it too because we experience sharing. I’m not sharing anything with anyone that I have not gone through myself. There is a lot of humor in that.
Let’s talk about triggers because that is an interesting thing for me. I was a dentist for so long, and people would get triggered by the dentist. They would walk into the dental office, and they would get triggered by a smell, a look or whatever. Do you overcome a trigger? Do you roll with it? What is your advice for people dealing with triggers? It’s because we all are.
We all get triggered all the time. The first thing would be, and this is what I learned from Marshall Goldsmith’s teachings is, a trigger is a trigger. It is a stimulus. How we behave towards it is on us. If we decide and choose to change our behavior, what are the steps we can take? An example of that is my mom passed away from lung cancer. She smoked until the very end. The last week, when she was in the hospital, was the only time she did not smoke.
Every time I would walk into her house and smell the cigarette smoke, I would get triggered. In the beginning, I would get into an argument with her, “Why are you smoking? It is not good for you. Don’t you know you are sick?” She knows she is sick. I realized one day that her time was limited. If every interaction with her is going to be a negative interaction, that is the last thing I want.
I was still triggered by the cigarette smoke but what I learned to do was to change my behavior. I would walk into the house. I would smell the cigarette smoke. I would wait a few minutes outside the door before I went into her bedroom. I would wait until she was done with the cigarette and then walk in. She was not going to change smoking. The trigger was going to be the trigger but the only thing I could control was my behavior.
That is the only thing all of us can have any say in how we react to things, not the external stimulus. The external stimulus is going to be there. My brother is also a smoker. He and she would sit around together and have the best conversations because they were having a smoke together. That same stimulus, as negative as it was for me, was not a negative stimulus for him. Anything else was positive because they would sit around, have a chat, a cup of tea, and a cigarette together.
My perception of a trigger is probably inaccurate. What I have heard when people say, “I’m triggered,” gives me freedom and reign to blow up or react any way I want to react because I have been triggered. It is like my free pass to do whatever the heck I want to do because I have been triggered. The way you said it was different. Your trigger is a stimulus that causes a reaction but you can choose what that reaction is.
Driving is a trigger for me. I have paid attention to this. The environment clearly makes a difference. If I’m hot, late, traffic, it puts me in a bad mood. I’m triggered negatively. If I’m not late, if the AC is on, and I’m not hot, temperature and punctuality are triggers for me because of the trust thing. If I was late and it was not the right way either, I did not do what I said I was going to do. That is where it shows up for me. If I’m not late and have all the time in the world, you could put me in traffic, and I’m not triggered at all. I’m listening to music or an audiobook. All is good. I’m enjoying the extra time that I have but the traffic is the stimulus.
Last question for you, Katty. What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given or what is the best piece of advice you have ever given to somebody?
Trust yourself because it took me many years to get there and realize that it is similar to triggers. All the tools are within me. I just had to trust myself to be able to rely on those tools. I have sharpened those tools over the years.
The Art of Listening in the Digital Age
From an early age we are taught how to present and to speak better—whether it be debate classes in high school, or Toastmasters sessions as adults, there is a big emphasis in our professional world to be better communicators.
However, the art of communication indeed requires both the sending and receiving of information, and when was the last time we learned how to listen better?
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, communication is defined as a process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system of symbols, signs, or behavior.
The importance of listening skills in our post pandemic, remote, digital world is even more important as teams are dispersed across different time zones.
Artisan Creative has been remote for 11 years— and as a remote team we continually work on becoming better communicators with one another, as well as with our clients and candidates.
In fact, Clear and Open Communication as well as Building Trusted Relationships are two of our core values. And, for us embodying listening best practices in all forms of communication is paramount to embracing our core values.
Last month, the Artisan Creative team read the book “You Are Not Listening: What you are missing and Why it matters” by Kate Murphy. Her studies reinforce and support our efforts as a team to continue to learn, grow and improve together. Several of our team members are members of Toastmasters to seek new ways to communicate better as well as utilize improved listening techniques and communication skills in our internal and external processes.
The author explores quite a few fascinating studies on listening. Specifically, that 55% of communication is non-verbal. 55%! And that 38% of that nonverbal communication is communicated in our tone of voice.
What are we missing in that 55% when we can’t see or hear the recipient? What are we missing without seeing people and noticing expressions, body language and gestures? What happens when we don’t hear intonations and tone?
Digital communication has incredible benefits, there is no disputing how it has allowed for immediate connection, the ability to have remote teams, and to expand productivity and immediacy of action.
What is the potential impact of non-verbal digital communication (Slack, WhatsApp, email and social media) on culture, morale and connection?
It’s important to set parameters to determine the type of conversations we need to have and which conversations are okay via Slack; which require a phone call, and when is it best to hop on Zoom. On our team, we avoid long-winded texts/slacks to explain something—we set up a video call, pick up the phone, send a voice memo, or better still, record a Loom video as needed.
How are you incorporating more connection and listening in your digital communication? Please comment below.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our 601st a.blog.