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Power Play Cousins Subs’ Christine Specht on building the family business one move at a time


Christine Specht, CEO, Cousins Subs



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Contents September • October 2019

Owned & Operated by Women’s Association, LLC Mailing Address: PO 3908 Suwanee, GA 30024 Editorial Contributing Writer: Kate Pittman 214.558.0295

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4 6 16

Founder’s Corner You are unique and so is your story Ambassadors Lead Up for Women visits the Music City and taught women to sing to their own tune!

18 24 30

Lead Up for Women discusses how giving back molds the futures for those to follow Constructing our futures 10 Tips for increasing your grit

Lead Up for Women General Inquiry: 602.730.5121



20 How Cindy Lefton, RN, Ph.D., brings nursing and organizational psychology together to create a more caring healthcare system


27 How Romari for Kids became the top 1% store in Etsy

28 Finding the grit within

Lead Up for Women


Founders Corner

You are unique and so is your story We are hard at work every day spreading the word about what Lead Up means to us with everyone we meet. We are traveling the nation educating women of all diversity, race, and culture about Lead Up for Women, and how our community of strong women and powerhouse leaders are now THRIVING! What’s their stories? Better yet, how can you meet them? Each week we interview women on our weekly radio show with Voiceamerica Empowerment channel Lead Up for Women: Speak Up to Lead Up. We have our bi-monthly magazine as a portal as well as our website, newsletters and #Thrive Thursday spotlights. This is just some of our many platforms that have been created for every woman to share her story, as the world needs to hear it! There is power in community and inspiration in our pasts that molded who we are today. And until we embrace where we came from we cannot write our story of where we are going!

We invite you to be inspired to lead without permission through the inspiration of our guests’ stories of overcoming adversity, how they WIN in business, and their celebrations of life in their community and in their personal lives.


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We have unlimited platforms and communication opportunities for you to achieve what you are seeking through our community of women. We exist to empower you to SHOW UP as YOU every day, but we know that’s not as easy as it sounds. No need to feel as if you are stuck behind closed doors anymore! We provide the support, and the tools, for you to remove the masks, leave the cloaks in the closet and be YOU, in all your beauty, all the time! We have been blessed to touch so many women’s lives through

our monthly luncheons that have spanned over 8 states thus far. We are hard at work planning our 2020 schedule and are looking forward to bringing our Retreats and Annual Summits to all of our members and many more women in the coming months and years. Did you know that as a Member of Lead Up for Women, you have the opportunity to market your business and your talents with our Members via a Zoom Conference Call? What better way to give back to others through your teachings of what makes September-October 2019

you so uniquely awesome. In June we launched our Webinar Series, #Teaching Tuesday, as an additional resource for our Members, and for all that would like to RSVP to join us for 1 hour, 1 day a month, to learn from one of our Member experts. These resources have been created for you to consistently have the support needed to live your best life! Have you tuned in to our radio show; Lead Up for Women: Speak Up to Lead Up yet? It is already Voiceamerica’s fastest growing new radio show, leading the way for their Women Series on the Empowerment Channel. Each week we interview the bold “Corporate America” survivors, influential women leaders, Entrepreneurs and those that can teach us how to laugh and love ourselves for exactly who we are. We invite

you to be inspired to lead without permission through the inspiration of our guests’ stories of overcoming adversity, how they WIN in business, and their celebrations of life in their community and in their personal lives. If you missed a live show, no worries, we stream live on our Lead Up for Women Facebook page and every show becomes “On Demand” because we realize that as women, we are busy, so listening on our terms and on our time is a must! We are passionate and focused on what we can do to Connect, Influence, and Lead every woman and know we all long to belong and to have a community that accepts and celebrates our identities. We have worked diligently to create an organization for you and all women looking to lead without permission,

be the badass leader that you know you are, and gain the courage and confidence through the strong support of our group of women so you can live your best life. We are here to show you how to tap into your greatest power, YOU! You are the only you that has ever been and the only you that will ever be. Be you and be strong, because you are brilliant and the world needs you. All of the members of Lead Up for Women are here to offer you support and sisterhood to leading your best life and the journey starts today. What are you waiting for? Join us.

Colleen Biggs

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Lauren Albrecht

Marilyn Brennan

Strategic Account Specialist LATICRETE International, Inc.

Associate Director of Business Development American/Interstate Signcrafters

Sawrie Becker

Kelly Burnette

Founder SBB Life Coaching

Senior Director, Business Development Illuminate

Aly Chally

Rebecca Easton

Manager, Store Planning and Design Aaron’s, Inc.

Founder Easton Law, PLLC

Gina Noda

Shannon Polvino

Founder & Principal Consultant Connect Source Consulting Group, LLC

PR and Account Manager Insight International LLC September-October 2019

Your Guide to

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Lead Up for Women hits the radio waves every week Whomever makes the statement that endless opportunity don’t exist needs to stop limiting themselves by the beliefs that exist between their ears. Our goal with Lead Up for Women is to empower as many women as we can to be the best version of themselves. Having a radio station allows us to do just that. Voiceamerica™ is the single largest producer of original internet talk radio programming in the world, with unparalleled scope and reach, which is why we teamed up with them. On March 27, 2019, we launched Speak Up to Lead Up with Host Colleen Biggs. Are you ready to lead without permission and take the steps needed to live your best life? Whether you want to start the business of your dreams, learn the steps you need to take so you can love what you do, or celebrate your present and future accomplishments, our radio show help take you there. Each episode dives into deeper subjects as we interview weekly guests who have already

walked in your shoes. Let the experts guide you for a clearer path to your most successful future. Our show is the perfect platform for all of our members to advertise their businesses, network and hear about upcoming events. We also recap of all of our monthly luncheons around the nation. With millions of listeners, we have the opportunity to pioneer change for women today, as well as in the future. We invite you to tune in to Lead Up for Women: Speak Up to Lead Up, as we celebrate the influence of women in business and beyond. Colleen speaks with guests who have stories to share, have faced adversity and are bona fide success stories in business, their communities and personal accomplishments. Join the strong and the brilliant ones and understand that the world is ready for you to be at your best. Listen to Lead Up for Women: Speak Up to Lead Up, live every Wednesday at 10 a.m. (PST) on the VoiceamericaTM Empowerment Channel. Visit show/3872 to bookmark the show and listen live each week. Do you have someone in mind that you feel would be a great interview on the show? Do you have a mentor, coach or sponsor? Have you been inspired by an amazing leader, entrepreneur, employer or friend? If so, we want to hear from you.

Please submit their name(s), contact information and why you feel they would be the perfect guest for the show to As the world’s largest producer of Internet talk radio programming, Voiceamerica™ can put your brand in front of millions of active listeners. If you are interested in getting your name out to millions of listeners, contact Tacy Trump, Executive Producer of Voiceamerica™ or 480.294.6421 for sponsorship package pricing.

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» 13-week sponsorship of show series » 30-second spot (production not included) played 2 times (1 during live broadcast and 1 during rebroadcast) » One live mention by host » Banner ad on host page » Banner ad on host personal/business website » Possible guest appearance by key person within company (subject to host approval)


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» 13-week sponsorship of show series » 30-second spot (production not included) played 4 times (2 during live broadcast and 2 during rebroadcast) » One live mention by host » Banner ad on host page » Banner ad on host personal/business website » Possible guest appearance by key person within company (subject to host approval)

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Christine Specht, CEO, Cousins Subs

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September-October 2019

Power Play Cousins Subs’ Christine Specht on building the family business one move at a time

Give us a snapshot of the Cousins Subs® brand?

Why do you do what you do?

Wisconsin-based Cousins Subs® is a family-owned, fast casual sub shop established in 1972 by cousins Bill Specht and Jim Sheppard. The company is driven by its mission to Believe in Better — both in the quality of food we serve and in the communities we support. Cousins Subs and our franchisees operate nearly 100 sandwich shops throughout Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana, providing guests with quality deli fresh and grilled to order subs and made to order sides using only the freshest ingredients. We serve East Coast style subs on our signature bread, which is baked daily with the right combination of tender and crusty, reminiscent of the bread our founders enjoyed in Atlantic City.

I enjoy carrying on the family legacy and creating a vision for how to grow Cousins Subs beyond where it is today. Business is different than when we started 47 years ago—we have different challenges. I enjoy addressing those challenges head on and creating strategies that will overcome them. I believe our brand will grow well into the future. It is my responsibility to set the vision for that growth. I also enjoy working with people and building teams. It is gratifying to watch people become the best versions of themselves through professional and personal development.

Tell us what makes Cousins Subs so unique? At Cousins Subs, we Believe in Better through the continual improvement in everything we do. While others seek to create value by cutting back, we choose to improve and offer more. When our communities are in need, we offer our support. Our core values— optimistic, grounded, purposeful and passionate—guide us in our continual pursuit of better. What started as a family-owned business is still a family-owned business. Carrying on my father’s legacy, I ensure our business operates with the same authentic family-business mindset—we listen to our franchise community, treat each other as we would like to be treated, and have fun and enjoy what we do.

When it comes to the food we serve, we believe that Quality Has No Substitute. That’s why after more than 47 years, we continue to serve Better Bread. Better Subs. — using only the freshest ingredients on our signature bread baked daily. We also bring the taste of our home state to guests by adding locally sourced products to our menu whenever we can.

What type of consumer/client are you targeting? Our target customers are modern-day parents between the ages of 25-35 years old. Our typical mom and dad hold a secondary education degree and have a household income of $100,000. They enjoy Cousins Subs with their children, who are typically in grade school.

What hurdles have you overcome being a woman in business? I have not faced setbacks because I am a woman—none that I am aware of. I remain focused on the objective and the end goal, and go after it. As I pave the way for our brand, I ignore the naysayers and those who might judge me because I am a woman.

What do you do to give back to the communities you serve? We give back to the communities we call home through our Make It Better Lead Up for Women


Foundation. Through the foundation, we address vital community needs like hunger, youth education, and health and wellness. To improve the lives of the communities we serve, we give hyper-local grants to nonprofit organizations that solve challenges and large grants to broad-reaching organizations such as Hunger Task Force and the Vince Lombardi Cancer Foundation—groups that make a statewide or regional impact. I am proud to serve as the president of our Make It Better Foundation board.

On a personal level, I give back by serving on a handful of boards, including chair of MRA – The Management Association; chair of the Concordia University Wisconsin Ann Arbor Foundation board; member of the Concordia University Wisconsin Board of Regents; and member of the First Federal Bank of Wisconsin board. I previously served on boards for the Community Memorial Hospital, Lutheran Living Services, Wisconsin Restaurant Association Milwaukee Chapter and Grace Lutheran Church.

As a proud mother of two, I am honored to also serve as a room mom for my son’s class. I volunteer when I can there. Additionally, my husband and I financially support organizations that are close to our hearts.

What are some of your biggest opportunities moving forward? It is a competitive time to be in the fast-casual dining space, but an exciting one. As we open more locations and expand our delivery capabilities, we are learning that first-time customers are surprised by how delicious our subs and sides are. I believe we can build upon this feedback by introducing more sandwich enthusiasts to our brand, which will help us exercise the best growth plan.

How do you stay connected with other women in business? I reach out and make personal connections. There are so many women doing amazing things. I love to connect with them to learn how they do what they do and, ultimately, enjoy their success. The great thing about connecting with other professional women is that you realize you are not alone. Many women balance work and family life, and it is nice to reflect on that together. Whether I’m meeting a peer for coffee or serving on a board with like-minded career-driven women, I never miss an opportunity to learn from them. I learn by focusing on how they present, ask questions, and lead others and strike the right balance to enjoy a fulfilled life. Women set the example for how to be successful by simply being who they are.

What mentors, sponsors, coaches have played an important role in your success? Being able to serve on several boards allows me to observe leadership at its finest. I am fortunate to work alongside leaders who I admire and who have successfully navigated challenges. I have also worked with executive coaches to learn more about the 12

Lead Up for Women

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power of emotional intelligence in the workplace. I believe leaders have a responsibility to grow their self-awareness so that they can effectively lead others. Coaches help facilitate that. Throughout my career, I’ve had many people offer words of support or provide perspective about various challenges. I think it is helpful to step outside of yourself and seek advice from people you trust and who are more experienced. Challenges in business are often not unique to you, so gaining perspective can be helpful when addressing them.

How do you stay current with today’s trends? While there are many ways to stay abreast of today’s trends, I find it impactful to present at and attend industry conferences and seminars to learn from my peers. I also read trade, national, regional and local publications to keep a pulse on what’s happening in the industry and within my community.

What’s the biggest item on your to-do list right now? To schedule time with our franchise community. One of my favorite parts of the job is meeting with our franchisees one-on-one. I go to their restaurants and chat with them about the state of their business, celebrate successes, and address any concerns or questions they may have. During the conversation, I also try to discuss their future with the company and the support they need from us to be successful. These hard-working business owners have invested in our brand and trust our product as a vehicle to build their dreams, and it is my job to ensure they know their partnership is valued and appreciated.

What’s the most rewarding part of your career? While every aspect of my job is rewarding, I cherish the time spent working alongside our store teams. As often as I can, I work in our corporate restaurants as a cashier. This affords me the opportunity to get to know our

“I play to my strengths. There are many people needed to make this organization successful. One person cannot do it alone. “ — Christine Specht team members. We talk about why they work at Cousins Subs and how the business is helping shape their future. I also chat with them about the store experience, and invite feedback about what is and is not enhancing the business. The information I am fortunate to gather is shared with our leadership team. Together, we can create a plan to make it better. Spending time in our stores keeps me grounded and completely connected to why we do what we do.

Describe a typical day. Rarely are any two days alike. After waking up around 4:45 a.m. to exercise, my husband and I get our kid up and running for the day. I may head to the support center for a meeting with my president or with our leadership team. I will then head to a restaurant to work a lunch shift or meet with a franchisee, or I might have the opportunity to be a speaker at a local chamber or other conference.

I also always need to squeeze in time for responding to emails or messages, as well as taking time to connect with people in our support center. A few times a month, I am in our test kitchen with my menu development team and we work on developing new product lines or improving existing ones. I am keenly interested in preserving the uniqueness of our menu, and any time there is a product change I need to be personally involved with it to ensure it meets the standards that were first put in place. After my work day is over, my husband and I get the kids settled for the evening, make sure any homework is complete, and they are ready for bed.

What is your secret to success? I play to my strengths. There are many people needed to make this organization successful. One person cannot do it alone. While I lead the company, it is my responsibility to recognize my strengths and weaknesses, and hire to compensate for any of the gaps. I am fortunate to work with an incredible leadership team comprised of passionate and talented individuals who drive the success of our company by leading with purpose, doing what they are good at and championing their teams to achieve our goals. Our business is collaborative; we work together to make it better for each other, our guests and our communities every day. Lead Up for Women


One-on-One with...

Christine Specht, CEO, Cousins Subs

Tell us about your family? I am a proud wife and mother. I am married to John (J.J.) Palmert. Together, we have two young sons. I am fortunate to also work with him. John serves as our Director of Franchise Sales. He has been with the company since 2013. My father, although retired, comes into our corporate support center regularly and has wonderful, long-standing relationships with many of the Cousins Subs’ staff. We all enjoy having him in the office and appreciate that he is still very interested in what’s happening with the business. My brother is a franchisee. He and his business partners own and operate five Cousins Subs’ restaurants. While my mom does not work in the business, you can find her at my home spending time with her two grandchildren, especially if my husband and I have a function to attend in the evening.

How do you balance your health, family and career? I am an early bird. So, I wake up around 4:45 a.m. to exercise. I am obsessed with tracking my steps and what I eat—even if it is not diet food. Because I wake

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up early, I also go to bed early. I try very hard to get seven hours a sleep a night so that I can set myself up for success by having a schedule and an organized house. I am also very appreciative of my husband, who cooks most of our meals and is a very active father. He and I will pick up where the other cannot and work well together. I also have a great support system, whether it is our nanny, other family members or the dedicated leadership team at work. I am very blessed to have a structure in place that allows me to live a full life.

What motivates you every day? The people around me build me up and make me the best version of myself. I strive to live my best life because it is not just about me. People, particularly my children, depend on me to be there for them. I feel an obligation to model the right behavior and show them that moms can be strong at home and in business. I also recognize what a privilege it is to run this company that was started by my dad and his cousin years ago. I am tremendously motivated to make it stronger, bigger and more successful than ever.

September-October 2019

How do you tap into your unique power, and how does that push you forward? I build on my strengths and use them to help me achieve my goals. I know what I am good at, but I also know where I will not be the most successful. While I can learn new skills and work hard to overcome my weaknesses, I prefer to compensate for them by having people around me who can do those things better. It is much more efficient.

Who inspires you? I am inspired by the team members who operate our restaurants. Sometimes their stories are heartwarming and other times they are tragic. I am humbled to run a business that employs so many unique people with whom I can connect with personally. After leaving a restaurant, I am determined to do better so the business can grow. With growth comes opportunities, and that can mean life changing results for so many people.

What inspires you? Witnessing generosity through philanthropy. There is a lot of need in our society and I am inspired when individuals or companies get behind a cause that is important to them. I believe it is part of our civic responsibility to help lift one another up. Lives are transformed one action at a time. If you believe in something, finding a way to help can make all the difference.

What’s the best thing a consumer/client ever said to you? I love when I meet guests in our restaurants who have enjoyed our subs since the doors to our first store opened in Milwaukee on 60th and Silver Spring. They talk about my dad and how Cousins Subs has always been their favorite sandwich. They almost always tell me that they love our bread, saying “Don’t ever change it.”

How are you mentoring/sponsoring others? I meet one-on-one with each member of our support center annually, usually over lunch. We discuss their career, what obstacles they are facing and how they are doing overall. Our conversation is focused on them, and how they can be successful in their career and in life. I also support leadership development throughout our organization. That might be sponsoring an individual for a year-long

education program or engaging individuals in executive coaching.

What does “Lead Up” mean to you? For me, to lead up means to build up. It is my responsibility to provide the tools for team members to develop their skills so they are prepared for the future. People need the opportunity to grow—emotionally and technically—in the workplace. Current leaders must provide the forum for that growth because as business changes, so will their needs. It will be important to be ready for those needs to capitalize on new opportunities those business changes bring.

What book are you reading now? I just finished “Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens. It is an unbelievable story about resiliency and perseverance.

What are your favorite hobbies? Besides having fun with my boys while on vacation or at the family cabin over a weekend, I enjoy golf. I do not play very often. When I do play, I try to walk the course, even if it is for nine holes. It is so relaxing and great to be outside. I also enjoy walking or running outside because I can accomplish both relaxation and fitness at the same time.

How do you like to spend your down time? Right now, there is not a lot of down time, but if it should come, hopefully it is on a beach somewhere, sitting under an umbrella while reading a book. I also think naps are highly underrated and I would like to take more of them.

What was the best advice you ever received? There is a bible verse, Matthew 6:34, that says, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” This aligns with advice I once received about living in the present. If we are constantly focused on the future, life before us will pass us by. Children have an amazing ability to live in the present and they do a great job keeping us focused on the important things. This is not to say plans should not be made, but sometimes taking a moment to appreciate where we are today can make all the difference in a person’s outlook.

Lead Up for Women



Lead Up for Women visits the Music City and taught women to sing to their own tune! We had strong conversations regarding mindset at the historic Scarritt Bennett Center as we engaged influential leaders with years of leadership knowledge and stories of bravery and confidence. Lead Up for Women welcomed Dr. Patricia Bagsby, Ph.D., Vice President, Organizational Consulting, Meredith Townsend-Howard, President/CEO Lifesource Training School, Speaker / Trainer and Advocate for Talk Meredith and Andrea Adams-Miller, CEO, Social Media Strategist & Executive Director, The Red Carpet Connection & Sponsorship Agency. They shared their experience and taught how business and personal success is possible for all women in our business and personal lives! And they certainly did not disappoint! Our founder, Colleen Biggs, shared that it’s time to embrace your past and where you came from in order to be able to move forward and write your story to live and leave a legacy! She inspired the attendees with her teachings of how shrinking back should never be the option in life! Showing up, really showing up in life as the true you is so freeing and makes living your purpose possible! Patricia, accompanied by her sweet husband, shared that she too had the voices in her head that spoke to her very loudly during the times she needed to listen to them the most, even though it scared her to death! She noticed that her voices had patterns and that it was time to recognize what those patterns meant. This particular story she told, the voices weren’t cutting her down, but they were introducing her to what her purpose in life would be that would require a career shift from the clinical psychology world that she 16 Lead Up for Women

September-October 2019

thought would be her lifelong career. Knowing that she spent her entire life in school obtaining her education to a doctorate level this was something she couldn’t ignore. She was introduced to Industrial Psychology, which is basically Psychology at work! She pushed through barriers until she was able to finally work in the field, as she stated to the attendees,“ I really just want to help people figure out who they really are.” What an inspiration and great reminder for us to take the leap to lead our lives and listen to the positive voices in our head! Meredith has been a serial entrepreneur from the age of 13, printing business cards and fixing neighbors computers, and grew up in a city where the only options for women in the neighborhood was housewife, barefoot and pregnant in the home. That wasn’t appealing to her and luckily with her strong parents that raised 5 brothers and sisters with the passion to do and be more, they pushed all of her siblings, including her, to pursue her dreams, no matter what! Her parents and all of her siblings are entrepreneurs today. But it didn’t come without a price. She had her struggles and faced her demons throughout the path and process of discovering her purpose and the futures that she would create for others! Today she teaches life lessons to her local community so they too can pursue their dreams! Andrea took us on a journey from her childhood of living in her books on her bed to the celebrities that she has graced their presence with. She has a strong energy and was never afraid to show all of her vulnerability to strengthen the women in the room. Andrea also shared the Keep Smiling movement story with the attendees so we can all learn how to spread love and joy through a simple smile! Remember to stop apologizing, talk straight, and be proud, proud to be YOU and start leading your life without permission. You can find photos and videos of the event on our website

To become a Member of Lead Up for Women, please visit our website to start your journey! As a community, we are here to support you in that journey so you too can tap into your greatest super power, which is YOU, and start leading your best life!

Thank You to Our Sponsors

Lead Up for Women



Lead Up for Women discusses how giving back molds the futures for those to follow

What an amazing space we were blessed to secure for our second New York City Luncheon this year! As we gathered in the intriguing Hafele, Lead Up for Women welcomes Katie Dalton, Executive Vice President of Audience Rewards and Laura Kozelouzek, CEO of Quest Workspaces to share their experience and teach how business and personal success is possible for all women, including YOU! Our founder, Colleen Biggs, shared that it’s time to embrace your past and where you came from in order to be able to move forward and write your story to live and leave a legacy! She inspired 18 Lead Up for Women

the attendees with her teachings of how shrinking back should never be the option in life! Showing up, really showing up in life, as the true you, is so freeing and makes living your purpose possible! Katie shared a very personal story about how her mother “recommended” she go on a diet at the age of 5. That was the first time she stated that she realized she wasn’t “perfect” in others eyes the way she thought she was. She shared how that drove her passion for the teachings of loving your body and yourself just the way you are through the foundation she chairs, The Movemeant Foundation (yes

it’s Move-Meant as we are meant to move). Katie shared with our attendees, why being on that chair and also as a member of Lead Up for Women is important to her as it supports her journey of being in community with other girls and women to have the conversations to mediate the negative voices, learn how to fail that fosters learning and growing from the experience as well as putting yourself out there where you learn how to be comfortable being uncomfortable! Laura led a conversation of how she enjoys her life today and it’s all about her written goals and how she wanted to lead as a Servant CEO! September-October 2019

She has had losses, rebuilds, restarting, and the prime WINS that molded the path she is on today. Her advice to the women in the room is not to bank on “luck� but find your path and execute on your decisions with placing fear aside! She stressed the importance of building your life that you want and your work around that, not the other way around. Be cognizant of how you speak to yourself and give yourself some grace! Andrea was unable to join us in New York City, so her colleague Ben Adler shared the Keep Smiling movement story with the attendees so we can all learn how to spread love and joy through a simple smile! To be involved with the Keep Smiling Movement follow this link

To donate to the Movemeant Foundation, follow this link Remember to stop apologizing, talk straight, and be proud, proud to be YOU and start leading your life without permission. You can find photos and videos of the event on our website To become a Member of Lead Up for Women, please visit our website membership to start your journey! As a community, we are here to support you in that journey so you too can tap into your greatest super power, which is YOU, and start leading your best life! Thank You to Our Sponsors

Lead Up for Women 19


A career in compassion

How Cindy Lefton, RN, Ph.D., brings nursing and organizational psychology together to create a more caring healthcare system

Jessica Lefton

Everyone knows there are only 24 hours in a day, but after reading the resume of Cindy Lefton, RN, Ph.D., it is easy to assume she has found a loophole. On an average day, you might find Cindy in her office at Psychological Associates, where she works as VP of Organizational Consulting. But you are just as likely to find her working at the Barnes-Jewish Hospital Emergency Department, where she serves as a Waiting Room Nurse. And don’t forget her roles as an associate editor for the Journal of Emergency Nursing, or pro bono Patient Experience Director at The DAISY Foundation™. 20 Lead Up for Women

Cindy and Bonnie visiting Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City

September-October 2019

Cindy is presented with the Friend of DAISY Award — a rare honor given only a handful of times over the past 20 years

All in all, she is one busy lady. If Cindy’s list of current jobs makes your head spin, she can even help you with that. She has spent close to four decades working in healthcare, a path that started as a paramedic for the St. Louis Fire Department EMS Bureau in 1978. The progression from paramedic to nursing was natural—and the role suits her. “In nursing, you have the opportunity to meld cutting edge science with genuine kindness and compassion to make a difference in someone’s life,” she says. “That’s what drew me to the field, and what keeps me here after all these years.” Perhaps a less natural progression, at least to the outside observer, was Cindy’s decision to pursue both of her master’s degrees (in human resource management and science research) and her doctorate in psychology. The daughter of a renowned organizational psychologist, Cindy

“In nursing, you have the opportunity to meld cutting edge science with genuine kindness and compassion to make a difference in someone’s life.” — Cindy Lefton, RN, Ph.D. recognized there were issues within the healthcare system that needed to be addressed. The work of caring for others is exhausting, and medical professionals are often plagued by burnout and “compassion fatigue” as a result. “When I went back to school, I was completely focused on positively impacting the culture in healthcare,” Cindy says. Once her doctorate was firmly in hand, Cindy set out to work with healthcare organizations and professionals to make meaningful culture change through her new role as a consultant at Psychological Associates. It was then

that Cindy met Bonnie Barnes. And the rest, as they say, is history.

The DAISY Connection When Bonnie and Mark Barnes’ son, Patrick, was diagnosed with a rare auto-immune disease, they were awed by the compassion and kindness of the nurses who administered his care. When Patrick passed away, the Bonnie and Mark knew that the best way to honor his memory was to find a way to say “thank you”—not just to the nurses who cared for Patrick, but to all of the nurses who provide extraordinary Lead Up for Women



comfort and attention to patients and families. Thus, The DAISY Award® For Extraordinary Nurses was born. By 2008, Bonnie and Mark had been at the helm of the DAISY Foundation for nearly a decade. The DAISY Award was a success—nurses cherished the recognition, hundreds of healthcare facilities across the country adopted the award, and it was clear that something special was happening. But it was hard to define what that “something” was. Just as Bonnie was wondering how to gather evidence to support and define the effectiveness of The DAISY Award, she met Cindy. They hit it off right away. Cindy was immediately drawn to the mission of the DAISY Foundation. “DAISY nominations—not even the award, but the nominations themselves—are a very strong form of positive feedback, which is a huge motivator,” Cindy says. Before long, Cindy had volunteered to lead the organization’s research efforts. Over the next several months, she and her team at Psychological Associates reviewed, coded and analyzed more than 2,300 DAISY Award nominations—each one a story of extraordinary compassionate care by nurses across the country. The review process was detailed and intense. Additionally, Cindy interviewed Chief Nursing Officers and DAISY recipients to understand the impact this recognition has on their organizations and nurses. What came out of those months and months of interviews and data analysis is a language for communicating the data-driven value of meaningful recognition through programs like The DAISY Award. When talking about their partnership today, Bonnie says that Cindy has created a bridge for us to the profession of nursing, giving DAISY a voice that is relevant in a powerful way. 22

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Today, The DAISY Award is not only available at more than 3,900 healthcare facilities and schools of nursing in the United States, but also across the globe.

A more compassionate future Today, The DAISY Award is not only available at more than 3,900 healthcare facilities and schools of nursing in the United States, but also across the globe. For 20 years, The DAISY Foundation has been shining the light on all the great work nurses do every day. Thanks to their collaboration with Cindy and subsequent studies, it is now clear that meaningful recognition, when delivered through programs such as The DAISY Award, not only improve nurse engagement, but also

enhance a sense of trust within a nursing unit. And nurses who have been nominated for the award report lower levels of burnout and secondary traumatic stress and higher levels of compassion satisfaction. It is through this work that Cindy is finally seeing the sort of cultural change she had always hoped for in healthcare. Today, there is a greater focus on meaningful recognition—on reinforcing all the right going on in healthcare and elevating outcomes associated with compassion. Not only does this help to create healthy work

environments, it also positively impacts patient experiences. “The DAISY shows us that those human connections benefit the patient and the family, but they’re also great for the nurse,” Cindy says. “That’s because when people know they made a difference, it helps them feel like they matter and they have a purpose.” For Cindy, that purpose is clear. Whether it’s in the emergency room or the board room, she wants to elevate the power of gratitude and meaningful recognition. Lead Up for Women



Constructing our futures By Denalee Karr

Years ago, I was like many women. I had struggled to find direction and meaning in my life. Married young and lost in a bad marriage to a man who would not get a job, I was constantly exhausted, working two or three jobs to pay my mortgage and provide for my seven children. It took an epiphany—one that each of us have all had at one time or another. For me, I realized that if I wanted to change my situation, I needed to accept responsibility and act. Having never completed my undergraduate degree, at the age of 40, I applied to my alma mater, only to be told I needed recent attendance before I would be considered for admission. Unsure of how I would handle the course load while juggling my children and work, I immediately enrolled in a nearby community college with a full load of 18 credits. There, I found encouragement from students and teachers alike, many of whom were the same age as some of my children. I developed better organizational and time management skills, all while maintaining a 4.0 grade point average over the following year. I began to cultivate a vision of and get excited about what my life might become. After a year of study and an intense course load, I was accepted at my alma mater. This posed new challenges, as it added over an hour and half of commute time to my already busy schedule. Ultimately, I overcame each of the challenges I faced, finalized my divorce and embarked, solo, on my newly embraced path of self-discovery and empowerment. 24 Lead Up for Women

Denalee Karr

I completed my degree in socio-cultural anthropology and then went on to secure an amazing corporate position a mere five days after graduation. But I could not leave learning behind, so I applied for and was accepted to begin my graduate work in psychology. Having studied identity construction during my undergraduate work, I was able to pursue it more fully while working on my master’s degree. At this point, after several years as a single mother, I had developed a fascination with the workings of the female mind, and how collective and individual forces help shape our self-views and values. I began to wonder about the ways in which I could measure the transformation a woman might go through when she began to think differently. If a new habit of positive thinking could be

introduced, how long would it take for quantifiable changes to be found? Many women already use and know the benefits of things such as positive affirmations, gratitude journals, motivational recordings or podcasts and even dressing for success as ways to more consciously shape our lives. But have you ever wondered just how much these exercises help improve our mindsets? Excited and propelled by a need for greater understanding, I decided to use my thesis to study the tools women can use to create a more affirmative and consciously chosen mindset. As part of my fieldwork I interviewed scores of ladies, and even some spouses, administered questionnaires, watched mentoring sessions and ran test groups. I had several women’s groups, known for their September-October 2019

more positive influences, participate in a national online survey. Hundreds of hours of fieldwork later, I had learned some very important lessons about women and the choices we make. The largest survey I conducted had 552 participants and I specifically asked the women if they believed positive affirmations were important. Ninety-seven percent of women said that these personal statements were necessary to their individual growth but only 59% were using them. Why? In many circumstances, it can be difficult to see the changes we make in ourselves and I wondered if this was one of the reasons more women didn’t use affirmations. I set up a group of test subjects to determine how quickly change could be measured. Using a group of 20 women, all of whom had taken a pre-study self-assessment and drafted their own specific affirmations, I

found that personal transformation began a mere 14 days into the exercise. At the end of their first two weeks, the women were given the same assessment. On average, the women exhibited a 17% increase in personality characteristics such as assertiveness, confidence, dedication, individual importance and positive attitude. Using the affirmations also led to an average 14% increase in self-awareness. One woman I interviewed said, “I am now aware of things about myself. I can self-assess. I can recognize what I can want and need to change. It’s empowering, but sometimes awareness is hard; it’s eye opening.” Another said that she moved from “conscious incompetence” to realizing that the more she developed as a person, the more she truly comprehended how far she must go to become the best version of herself.

Most of us have heard the phrase, “What you think about, you bring about.” How true. This is just one example of how I discovered firsthand that control over our mind and what we tell ourselves daily quite literally shapes not only our existence, but often the direction that our lives take us. Further, it is not just about how we think. What is also supremely important, is who we spend our time with.

Coming into our own We have entered a time when women are beginning to recognize their own strengths and power. Across the world, there has been an increase in women’s business organizations, networking meetings, as well as motivational and mentoring groups. Worldwide, the sisterhood is growing. This collective of women self-perpetuates as participants’ confidence and importance increases. These newly

Lead Up for Women



validated individuals then in-turn accord respect and esteem to others, thereby contributing to the value in each women’s identity and strengthening the group and its purpose. I used the national survey to measure many different qualities of the individual participants. I also used it to measure the impact of the collective, or social group, in each woman’s life. How did the women change once they began attending regularly? I asked the women to describe themselves prior to group attendance and after. The personal attribute with the lowest improvement of 16% was “hard-working.” The attribute with the highest gain, post social group attendance, was “positive” with an increase of 41%. It was an incredible opportunity to help women realize exactly how much control they had over their own lives and how much empowerment they could provide to others. The experience shaped and directed my own life as well. I determined that I wanted to impact more than a woman’s mind and belief system. As I thought about moving forward as a psychologist, I wondered if there was a way to have more influence in a woman’s life. Being a clinician allowed for only so much community involvement. How could I reach more ladies, but also positively affect the social, physical and cognitive aspects of their lives? How could I help women recognize and appreciate their value as well as facilitate the development of their more intentional identities? The path I chose has become one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I am able to help women think more positively about their

“We have entered a time when women are beginning to recognize their own strengths and power.”

— Denalee Karr

individual selves, develop and attain goals, become better mothers, professionals and friends and take control of their physical wellness. Ultimately, I learned that at the heart of becoming women who lead up is our willingness

to put ourselves in a position to help others and give back. In doing so, our own personal growth multiplies exponentially, and we are able to give and become even more.

Denalee Karr, Owner — Jabz Boxing Queen Creek; 480-865-6200; Denalee Karr has spent the last 40 years either expanding her mind, working in corporate America or immersed in her entrepreneurial pursuits. 26 Lead Up for Women

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How Romari for Kids became the top 1% store in Etsy Gaby Bigg's story is not necessarily unique, but the woman is. She moved to America in mid 2017 with her two teenage children, leaving behind an established life and stability. Most people would have been hesitant, cautious or afraid. But where some see problems and difficulties, Gaby saw adventure and opportunity. This attitude propelled her through the inevitable tough times and forged an entrepreneurial spirit out of a complete newcomer to the business world. Today, Gaby owns Romari for Kids, a successful clothing boutique targeting kids thru six years old. Starting her company about a year and a half ago, Gaby has already risen to the Top 1 percentile of ALL shops on Etsy. Few believed she could be successful in what some consider one of the most competitive markets around yet, amid the criticism and frustrating setbacks that would crush most people, she has carved a spot for herself.

I recall a specific story where Gaby’s CPA told her she would not have to pay taxes for a while because it would be at least three years, if ever, that she would turn a profit. She fired that CPA. The new one filed taxes on a profitable company six months later. When asked how she did it, Gaby said, "I worked harder than everyone else." The answer is simple and direct. She continues to work hundreds of hours researching the market, her competition, the most cost-effective ways to do business, and so many other things on what it takes to run a child’s clothing business. Is there a book in this experience? "I am currently in discussions to do webinars and am hoping to launch that in two or three months," Gaby says. Just another opportunity and revenue stream for the fierce entrepreneur. We asked Gaby to share three steps any small business owner can do to build success. Her answer was to offer the best product, best service and work harder than your competition. As if on cue, an order came in on her phone. Excusing herself, she took to the order without skipping a beat in our conversation. I was not sure if I was to be offended or impressed. While I have never had anybody stop in the middle of an interview, I do not think it even crossed her mind to ignore a customer for a second. Customer service truly is second to none. When I broached the subject of how she runs a household, grows company and manages two children, I was met with a confused look. Her days are filled with adventure and opportunity. Gaby is currently launching her own line on Amazon Prime and Shopify, as well as mulling over several offers to get into retail. Big things are on the horizon. Even I have become a satisfied customer. Offended or impressed? Take notice world, Gaby Biggs is just getting started. Facebook: @romariforkids Amazon: Romariforkids Etsy: RomariForKids Intagram: Romariforkids

Lead Up for Women



Finding the grit within By Kate Pittman

What is preventing you from accomplishing your goals or dreams? It has always been comforting in the past, for me to lay blame on circumstances or others for things that may have been undesirable within my life. Possibly, many of you see this within your own lives, whether you are willing to admit it or not. Maybe you have blamed someone at work who dropped the ball and prevented you from reaching your goals. Maybe there is tension at home that you say stems from exhaustion of the lack of help in all the duties of a daily routine with your children. Perhaps you have been telling yourself that you will never accomplish your lifelong dream because of your current position or the place within society that you were born. But there are plenty of inspiring stories about people who have overcome great adversity to find the rainbow at the end of the road. There is something within our humanity that is otherworldly and inspiring that helps us succeed. Some people are born with immediate recognition of it, but some of us, including myself, must learn to find it and master it. Grit is that raw force that we, as humans, have within that enables each of us to do nearly anything that we set our minds upon.


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September-October 2019

We have no one to blame but ourselves for not overcoming the challenges that have been set forth upon us in this lifetime. Each of us is on this earth to experience, failure, difficulty and hardships. But we are also meant to fight for what we believe in, to grow, to overcome and to taste victory so that we may find joy and peace. Grit enables us to experience the full breadth of life and get through each stage of our transformation. It is the force within each of us that empowers us to pick ourselves back up after a hard fall and keep on pushing ourselves towards a desired goal. Dreams give us purpose. When a dream is powerful enough to continuously

Grit is showing up to work, even when you wrote for eight hours the previous day and trashed it because you hated every word. Grit is going back to the drawing board when a client dislikes your latest scheme or when you pull yourself out of bed at five in the morning for spin class, even when you do not have the energy. Grit is consistently showing up for your children by engaging in their many questions and desired play when you are dog-tired and would rather let them watch television. It is calling 10 potential clients the day you were rejected from your biggest prospect after devoting a year on him calling and submitting proposals.

“Grit is that raw force that we, as humans, have within that enables each of us to do nearly anything that we set our minds upon.” — Kate Pittman remind us of its existence, I believe that that dream is part of our life’s mission to, at the very least, attempt at fulfilling it. There is something along the journey of pursuit of that dream that is important for us to experience and realize. The most important asset for us on our quest is grit. Within my own life, I have found that for the first time in my career, I am completely reliant upon myself to produce my work. I have no team to lean upon or blame if I fall short on my goals. All that I have to rely upon is my own ability to sit down to do my work when obstacles arise. I am daily plagued by self-doubt, resistance, fear of rejection and other blocks. But my grit is what keeps me showing up every day to persist, even if I only accomplish a small baby step toward my goal.

I think that becoming a writer is exactly what I need at this moment of my life. My grit’s strength is being tested. It is being put through the ringer and so am I. However, I understand the lesson that I am learning what I am capable of and I realize that I am fine tuning my grit. It will be worth the struggle that I have and will endure on this journey of the pursuit of my dreams for years to come because I will have found that powerful force that has propelled me to my success—I will have found my grit within. When we stop blaming others for our circumstances, we uncover a part of ourselves that acts as a powerful source of direction, drive and creative inspiration. We then can fully recognize that the only one standing in the way of what we want or believe that we deserve is ourselves.

Kate Pittman, a former architectural designer, business development director and corporate-ladder climber, is the driving force beyond Amen Sista!, a blog that lends a wealth of inspiration and encouragement. For more inspiration, visit

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Lead Up Tips



certain that you are 1. Make passionate about your

minor 5. Find accomplishments or lessons that you have learned in any failures along the way. a mentor example to 6. Find motivate you. your craft, do 7. Practice not expect for your first attempt to be the best.

dream or goal.


Find joy in the process, not the end-result.

positive about your 3. Stay ability to attain the goal. up, even when 4. Show things are difficult. 30 Lead Up for Women

the purpose of 8. Recognize the greater good within your goal and let that momentum carry you. cheerleaders close 9. Keep and call upon them often.

10. Believe in yourself. September-October 2019

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