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Category: Katie Rasoul

Katie is the Chief Awesome Officer for Team Awesome, a leadership coaching and culture consulting firm. Find out more by visiting or join the Team Awesome Community for awesomeness coming straight to your screen. Follow Team Awesome on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Fear and the Problem of Doing Nothing; An essay from Katie Rasoul

I have come to truly appreciate the importance of surrounding yourself with people who motivate and inspire you. Through cultivating a vibrant network and saying yes to most opportunities, I often find myself in the room with people who are badass changemakers. Although I am not suggesting comparison, it often does compel you to examine where we do and do not take action in our lives.

When you are surrounded by people who are not just talking about it, but DOING it, it makes you question any moment of your existence that you were wasting on meaningless work. This is often the lesson of the old or dying; regrets about spending our time in a way that was for someone else or on something unimportant (e.g. e-mail). We long to live a life without regret. A life that we spent being true to ourselves, supporting the ideals we believe in, with the people we hold most dear, on the work that is part of something bigger than ourselves. Yet, why do so many of us go about our daily lives not willing to ignite change?

What holds people back from making change? 

It’s simple. Fear.

We stay somewhere we aren’t entirely happy in our own lives because we are afraid of the unknown, the risk. We stay in jobs that drain our spirit because we fear what a step “back” might mean about us. We post on Facebook with “outrage” about a social justice topic, but do nothing to change the daily systemic atrocities that got us there. We do nothing because we are afraid that rocking the boat means we will have less.

The detriment from our inaction is the erosion of our own happiness and fulfilment, and the wearing away of our trust in each other to work and live together for better lives in the future. Like anything that requires maintenance and attention, if we allow fear to cause us to do nothing our relationship with ourselves and others will go from “fixer-upper” to downright uninhabitable.

Now is the Time

We are in a time now where taking action must have its spotlight. Here is how I can tell that the tide is turning towards action right now:

  • This Burger King PSA (yes, you read that right) about bullying went viral. The fact that they made this is amazing, but the statistic of how many people did something when they saw bullying is, well, not.
  • Alleged harassers like Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey are being called out, fired, and dropped. People are speaking up and taking action.
  • A record number of women took office in congress in the 2018 election. Emily’s List shows over 49,000 women expressing interest and readiness to run for public office.

We are in a terribly divisive time in our political context right now, but what that does mean is that there is motivation for more people to participate in the conversation instead of sleeping through it. What an opportunity this can be!

A “Do Something” Starter List

Looking for some inspiration to start doing something where you were silent or stuck before? Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Respectfully speak an opposing viewpoint at holiday family dinner this season
  • Visit websites, donate, or give time to areas of social change rather than just “like” or repost about them
  • Have open discussions with other changemakers in your community, like On The Table
  • When you see bullying, misogyny, racism, or harassment, say something in that moment
  • Ask for what you deserve at work (Time with your boss? That promotion? Flexibility?)
  • Take a step, however small, towards something that sets your soul on fire and repeat weekly

So often, we feel compelled to try and solve the WHOLE problem and then freeze because we are overwhelmed. We can’t do everything, so we do nothing. Instead of knowing all of the right actions to take, just know the next small step that can lead towards the intended result. 

I am not perfect, but in every small choice to take action, I attempt to make the choice to make an impact. The small actions matter, and add up (big actions are welcome too). The problem of doing nothing is that it means we have finished what we’ve set out to do. If your life ended today, would you feel like you did all the things?

All is not lost, friends. Take heart, and take action.

About the author:

Katie Rasoul is a leadership coach, keynote speaker, and Chief Awesome Officer for Team Awesome, a leadership coaching and culture consulting firm. She is a TEDx speaker alumna, author of the best-selling book, Hidden Brilliance: A High-Achieving Introvert’s Guide to Self-Discovery, Leadership and Playing Big, and co-host of The Life and Leadership Podcast.

Find out more by visiting or

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Four Conversations to Change Regarding Millennials; An essay from Katie Rasoul

I read a lot of articles and commentary regarding generations and the workplace because, well, that is a big part of my work. I have long been a proponent of changing the narrative around generations, particularly on how we describe Millennials, because what I read and hear is incongruous from what I see in the real workforce and the world at large. As part of changing how we view and discuss nearly 80 million people, I have noticed a few key trends that are underrepresented in the ether.

From one Millennial to the world, here are four things to consider viewing differently if we want to foster a world full of belonging, progress, and leadership.

Stop Claiming Millennials are “Killing” Things

I am going to have to adjust my Google Alerts because I receive a daily Millennial alert that lists endless articles about Millennials killing things. Enough with the click-bait that a whole generation of young people have systematically murdered retail, restaurants, banking, wine, real estate, napkins or straws. You name it – we ruined it. Perhaps there are other factors we should consider, such as 30 years of doing business the same way being a reasonable lifecycle that ends in change. For every study that Millennials don’t want to buy homes, there is another one saying they do. Let’s give a little latitude here and call it what it is: human preferences changing over time due to economic and societal changes, and being driven by the speed of technology and innovation. By the time with get to Gen Z with this old argument, I am concerned we will be blaming them for actual murders. An alternative way of viewing this could be seeing the huge opportunity to innovate looking forward.

Interested in reading more? Check out What Will Millennials Kill This Year?, by S.J. Velasquez via

Replace the Word “Millennials” with Humans

Like the old “kids these days” adage, we love to throw around the word Millennial for just about anything. What if, and hear me out, we replaced the word Millennials with the word humans? How would the headlines read? Often not reported is that at the macro level, what the Millennial generation wants is the same for humans of all ages. Gen X and Boomers benefit from finding meaning in their work, that is not just a crazy idea for the youth. While the “how” and the “why” may vary over time, the time to remove the word Millennial from quests of basic human needs and enlightenment has come. We can just say humans.

On the flip side of this, because of the overuse, there is a sort of negative connotation attached with the term “Millennials.” Try this litmus test – if you say something about the Millennial generation, and then replaced it with another group of humanity (e.g., Gen X, Baby Boomers, people of color, LGBTQ) would you still feel okay saying it? If someone said “Old people are so entitled, they want everything handed to them,” how would that make you feel? I just inserted the phrase “old people” in where I often hear “young people” or Millennials. Just writing it makes me feel like a jerk, so this is a great example of how it can be harmful to lump any group of people together, even Millennials, to make a negative claim.

Millennials Probably Don’t Read Headlines about Millennials

Because we are feeling a bit battered and bruised from reminders that were killing everything and that we are the worst generation to ever walk the planet, many Millennials don’t even associate themselves with the word. In fact, a 2015 poll showed that two-thirds of Millennials don’t actually identify with that word. As I see headline after headline discussing Millennials, I often feel like everyone is talking about me rather than to me, and they are often written without input from an actual Millennial. I love seeing more younger voices reporting viewpoints, but they are often labeled as the “Millennial” contributor, as if their input couldn’t stand on its own. We rarely label a 60-year-old male writer’s work as the “Baby Boomer” perspective, it just is what it is.

Read more about the power of connotation: Millennials: The generation that 66 percent of millennials would rather not associate with, by Hunter Schwarz, via The Washington Post.

Are Millennials Ready to be Leaders?

Sometimes we are so busy shaming Millennials that we forget that the whole generation is getting older. Older Millennials (depending on how you define the years they were born) could now be up to 37 years old. As a 36-year-old Millennial myself, I have been a home owner for over eight years, I have children, and have been in leadership roles for well over a decade. I think we are underestimating the capabilities and accomplishments of a generation by questioning if we are just now arriving at leadership competency.

This Forbes article caught my eye recently because of a visceral reaction that I had reading the title. To be fair, the author lays out averages – such as the average age of first time managers being 30 years old. But for high-performing older Millennials, this feels like old hat. Many in their thirties are leading in executive level roles, starting their own businesses, or running companies. If we just now think they are ready, that means we promoted them already without any support or training, or we have totally underestimated them and possibly failed to get them ready for their succession planning. There is value in providing emerging leaders with the resources and coaching they need, as well as the latitude and understanding that yes, they are going to do it their own way.

Read the article here: Millennials Are Ready To Be Leaders: Here’s How They’re Doing It, by Larry Alton, via

I don’t intend to be the rebellious voice of a generation, but these gaps I see are pervasive in the conversation around Millennials. The world I see has young leaders ready to disrupt and innovate to meet the disruptions. I see young leaders who are willing to be the voice of what they believe in (not because they wanted to be, but because they were the there). I see young leaders desperately seeking to make a difference, not just autopilot their life a way. I observe closely because I feel as if I can learn so much from my peers and the generation coming up behind us.

I know that we can do better, and offer open arms to a group that represents 80 million people and the largest percentage of the workforce. We have to do better, with stakes that high. Everyone’s future depends on it.

About the author:

Katie Rasoul is the Chief Awesome Officer for Team Awesome, a leadership coaching and culture consulting firm. She is a TEDx speaker alumna, author of the best-selling book, Hidden Brilliance: A High-Achieving Introvert’s Guide to Self-Discovery, Leadership and Playing Big, and co-host of The Life and Leadership Podcast.

Find out more by visiting or join the Team Awesome Community for awesomeness coming straight to your inbox. Follow Team Awesome on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

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The Triple-Threat Challenge: Owning your time, energy, and money; An essay from Katie Rasoul

There are three buckets of resources that we have the opportunity to manage that make all the difference in our experience here in this now life; time, energy, and money. At different seasons of our lives, we may have more or less of each of these categories, or place a higher premium on one over another. For a period of my life when I had less time and more money, it made sense for me to pay for services that gave me time back in my day, like landscaping or cleaning my home. All three of these categories work together and inevitably impact each other. For example, if I enjoyed cleaning and it gave me energy, it might be worth it to me to complete that task myself. It doesn’t, so I don’t. To each their own. 

In my observations, it seems as if one of these buckets never has a surplus because we are really good about spending more than we have in that category. For me, that has always been energy. I have a knack for spending energy in ways that don’t suit me because I think that I “should” or I made a commitment. For the first time in my life, I have begun to counteract this by repeatedly slashing my “To-Do” lists and time commitments and cutting anything that wasn’t a “Hell Yes.” It’s not to say that things don’t slip back in or preferences don’t change, so this process is repeated frequently. What a gift it was to realize that I am in control of managing my own energy, and then take the responsibility to do so. For others, that drained bucket might always seem to be money, or time.

I know, you may be thinking that some of us don’t always have a choice and have to do things we don’t want to do. Yes, of course. But I would contest your thinking on this and invite you to view it from the lens that nearly everything is a choice. Sometimes they are shitty ones but they are, in fact, choices. And when you recognize that the crap you don’t want to do is in fact a choice you are consciously making to do anyways, it doesn’t seem like such martyrdom anymore.

I am issuing a challenge for all of us. Find ways to make conscious decisions about how you will spend your time, energy and money. This may mean planning and budgeting, or perhaps even just pausing to make a conscious decision before automatically committing yes to anything in the moment. If you reserved two hours for doing this mental cleanup, what would be the payoff be energy and joy? I am willing to bet, WORTH IT.

Ways to Get Started

If you need some help getting started cleaning up how you spend your time, energy, and money through the end of the year, here are some ideas:

Make a list of things to stop doing. I mean clubs, organizations, or other recurring commitments that you just keep doing even though they no longer bring you joy. Make room for something you love. Even if you love watching The Big Lebowski (again) on the couch. No judgement here.

Identify three things that you would normally trudge through, and make your plan to kindly decline them this year. Usually go to five holiday parties? Pick three. Feel the need to pack the weekends with activities? Plan for down time and don’t give it away for anything.

Spend even as little as one hour planning how you will spend your money. How much will you donate? How much will you spend on stuff versus experiences? If you only have $100 to donate, pick your organizations and how much, and cross it off your list of things to think about or spend on for the rest of the year.

Look for things that are a good total value to you. This means that you might spend time, but get money AND energy in return. Or you donate money which means you can decline volunteering and save time, and it brings you energy because you love the organization you are supporting.

Write down three things that give you energy, and three things that drain your energy. Plan more of the good stuff, and less of the soul-sucking things. The awareness alone will be a fascinating discovery.

Bonus! Keep track of the changes you made to how you spend your time, energy, and money, and review it afterward. How did it feel to you? Who else noticed? How do you want to spend your resources going forward?

The permission to take control of how you spend your time, energy, and money this year might be the best gift you’ve given yourself for a long time. If you had a choice (and you do), how would you rebalance your three buckets?

About the author:

Katie Rasoul is the Chief Awesome Officer for Team Awesome, a leadership coaching and culture consulting firm. Find out more by visiting  or Find Katie on LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

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A Manifesto On Community; An essay from Katie Rasoul

I had the distinct privilege to spend most of 48 solid hours in a room with some crazy smart and heart-centered people a few years ago with the purpose of discussing and clarifying the idea of “Community.” The group included entrepreneurs, HR practitioners, consultants who make the world a better place to work, a futurist, and experts on inclusion. It was a life-changing discussion that knocked something loose inside of me. Ever since this conversation, I have been obsessed with the idea of belonging. It is something I have been studying, trying to define and understand ever since.

On the topic of community, here were some of the key questions that we collectively tried to answer, or at least, consider:

  • How do we define community?
  • What unique characteristics show up in community?
  • How does a community differ from a group or organization?
  • What is needed to create community, and what destroys it?

Often, we first think of community as a physical place like the city where you live, the church you attend, or some other physical representation. But I would challenge you to look beyond the physical, beyond the obvious. I am certain you have been in plenty of places and spaces that did not feel like a community.

After careful consideration, here is how I see community.

It is not a place, but a feeling. You feel a sense of community when the key defining factors come together and elevate a group of people from simply a group experience to being in community with one another. There are factors that create the sense of community, and any one of them on their own might be used to describe a group, or family, or organization. However, when combined together and elevated to a higher level, the synergy that is created becomes a sense of community and something deeper than just a collection of people in the same place, at the same time, with something in common.

Some of the factors that might be a part of the community equation are:

  • A feeling of belonging
  • A feeling of trust
  • Human caring
  • Commonality of some sort between participants
  • Crucible, shared experiences
  • Self-awareness and social awareness
  • Commitment to the community from members

When we can elevate these factors and create synergy, a sense of community is possible. 

I see it as a type of ecosystem. Communities are dynamic, meaning they always adjust when people come and go, and as things in the community shift it can stay intact. It supports the needs of the individual and maintains equilibrium for the community simultaneously.

This does not mean we should only be with people who are “like us.” It does not mean that we don’t listen to, and consider varying points of view. It does not mean that we dig our heels deeper into our side of the argument. By doing these things, we are closing ourselves off to the open-mindedness and possibility that we must bring to the table in order to find and receive a sense of community. Without this trust and willingness, you may think you are searching for community, but will wonder why you can’t quite find it.

What erodes a sense of community?

Although the ecosystem of a community is flexible to change, it is not invincible to breaking down. So, what causes a sense of community to erode, or fall apart?

  • A lack of trust: When those in community no longer feel as if others have their back.
  • Members lose their sense of belonging or commitment: When commonality or individual needs change so drastically that they no longer resonate with the community.
  • Balance of power does not support the community as a whole: When the interests of one supersede the interests of the community due to power, the system loses balance.

In a time when we are searching for belonging and understanding more than ever, it can be valuable for us to dig deep and truly understand where our own sense of community comes from. This can help each of us find what we are looking for to live a life of shared purpose and fulfillment that comes from community; elevated beyond simply groups or organizations.

Belonging and Community at Work

After looking at community from all angles, I became obsessed with the element of belonging. It has led me to study groups that often feel cast on the outside. I have discovered so many fresh perspectives on the topic that have informed my work, but haven’t yet solved the puzzle. I have deliberated over what belonging feels like exactly, and how we recreate that feeling particularly in the place we spend the most time – at work.

How do we bring this sense of community to the workplace? This is a place where we spend a significant portion of our time, and when we describe our most engaged employees we can often see the factors of community coming to light. If we could create more of that, people would feel belonging at work, be committed, and want to stay. Yet in so many of our organizations, we are missing the mark.

I encourage you to view your own workplace and review what factors might be missing to creating a sense of community. Inclusion and engagement are insufficient; people look to experience belonging and love. What would need to change to achieve that elevated state? And what would that even feel like to create a true sense of community at work? I venture to say it would feel like practical magic.

About the author:

Katie Rasoul is the Chief Awesome Officer for Team Awesome, a leadership coaching and culture consulting firm. Find out more by visiting  or Find Katie on LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Find our glorious podcast on iTunes

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This Applies to You; An Essay by Katie Rasoul

I have noticed something in recent years about where we place our attention that I want to examine here. Are you willing to stay with me as we sort this out? Please stay, this applies to you.

With the amount of information flying at our faces every day, it is no wonder that as humans we tune into some data and not into others. In fact, it is a necessary brain function that we discern (either consciously or unconsciously) what to focus on and what to let pass by us. We couldn’t possibly hold all of that information in our heads, or all of the consequential emotion in our hearts. We would explode (here is an article the outlines the staggering amount of information humans take in every day, in case you are wondering).

I want you to visualize a moment. The moment when you see a news story or someone you know recounts an experience to you, and you feel affected. Something happens in your body, and your cells react in some way. What is it? How would you describe that feeling?

Now I want you to consider another moment. Imagine you are scrolling through Facebook, and someone shares in their status that they have been struggling with an illness. You think to yourself, that is too bad, and then keep scrolling.

Why is it that we take in some information that affects society as a whole and feel as if it applies to us, and some things we feel do not?

In the book The Hidden Brain by Shankar Vedantam, he tells a fascinating story about the amount of outrage, money and attention that went towards rescuing a single dog that was left behind on an abandoned ship in the Pacific (you can read more about that story here). In contrast, the world collectively did very little eight years earlier during the Rwandan genocide where hundreds of thousands of humans were dying. The point is that our brains simply turn off processing issues at mass proportions because it feels overwhelmed. When we can affect one person, in one situation, we feel more capable to make a difference and we take action.

I have seen flashes of outrage about a sensational news story (e.g. rich people scamming their way into USC) but little outrage about other systemic ways some students do or do not have advantages (e.g. students of color with access to college application support). Both are worthy of our attention, but one gets more. Our brain believes one does not apply to us because we can only do so much, or don’t know where to start, feel overwhelmed about getting involved or whatever the reason we shut it off.

What if we looked at things through the lens of this question: “How does this apply to me?”

Let’s examine the #Metoo movement as an example. As we began to have more conversations in our society about what is or is not appropriate behavior towards women, I noticed a trend in conversations I was having with men in my life. We can all agree that the egregious behavior in the news is inappropriate. But I often saw men turning off the rest of the conversation because it didn’t feel applicable to them, as they would never do what Harvey Weinstein did, for example. I asked questions of friends: Have you ever whistled or shouted out of a car window at a woman? Have you ever talked with your guy friends in high school or exaggerated on whether a girl “puts out”? Even in my thirties, what seemed tolerated (albeit still gross) in my youth no longer feels acceptable. In this lens, then yes, the conversation of how women are treated applies to you. If you are a woman, know a woman, have a daughter/sister/mother, work with women, or live in society with women or men, then this applies to you.

When I am responsible to recruit diverse slates of candidates for a job but do not examine the inequitable resources for students of color to access college, this applies to me. When a man wants to take paternity leave but feels fear of retaliation or career regression, this applies to me. When my fellow humans are not seen, loved, or understood, this applies to me. We are all in this together, and inextricably connected.

I struggle with this personally because I am empathic to other people’s struggles, and it is overwhelming when I feel all of the feels from other people’s struggles, watching the news, or reading current events. I feel as if my survival depends on shutting some information out. There are times when I have done nothing because I felt overwhelmed or didn’t know what to do (even this very second).

How do we move forward and maintain our sanity while taking the world view that yes, this applies to us? Here are a few ideas:

  • We can ask ourselves these questions:
    • How does this apply to me? Our community? To society?
    • What do I choose to do in this case?
    • What can I learn from this moment?
  • We can temper outward outrage, and save energy for inward reflection and personal action
  • We can identify one potentially polarizing or large-scale topic that we have previously set aside and look for how it may apply to our lives or those around us

I am not asking for a complete overhaul of how our brains work, or what we think is important in our lives. I believe that we are all doing our best to live our lives according to what we most value. What I do want us to consider is when the big stuff comes up, that we contemplate how it does affect us rather than take the automatic response that it doesn’t apply to us. If we all increase our discernment and consciousness by even ten percent, that could alter the course of the world and how we interact as humans.

Start by identifying one topic to examine with a different lens than you may have used in the past. Do you see anything differently?

About the author:

Katie Rasoul is the Chief Awesome Officer for Team Awesome, a leadership coaching and culture consulting firm. She is a TEDx speaker alumna, author of the best-selling book, Hidden Brilliance: A High-Achieving Introvert’s Guide to Self-Discovery, Leadership and Playing Big, and co-host of The Life and Leadership Podcast.

Find out more by visiting or join the Team Awesome Community for awesomeness coming straight to your inbox. Follow Team Awesome on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Find our glorious podcast on iTunes

Join the mailing list. You’ll hear from some cool folks, we promise

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How I Moved from Warp Speed to Allowing for Blank Space; An essay by Katie Rasoul

I used to move a mile a minute. I had only one pace because I was always headed somewhere to do something. Move with purpose; that was how I rolled. One time at lunch, a coworker stopped and said, “I just can’t do it!” I asked, “Do what?” She had been racing me to see if she could eat faster than me, and without me even knowing or trying, she couldn’t do it (cue embarrassment over eating like an ogre). I remember walking through the mall on the weekend and my husband (who is nearly a foot taller than me) asking, “Why are you walking so fast? I almost can’t keep up.” I had stuff to do, people.

“Why are you walking so fast?”

Over the years my days became so packed that I no longer had time for creative thinking, blank space, or frankly, time to appreciate the journey. Here are a few other absurd things that I did at work, in case any of these sound familiar:

  • Drank eight ounces of coffee, and literally nothing else all day
  • Forgot for three hours (frequently) to go to the bathroom
  • Ate entire meals in the elevator traveling between floors

I had spent years of my life fine tuning my calendar in the name of “work-life balance” and while I packed my days full I failed to see the bigger picture that I was not allocating my energy to the things that mattered most in life. I now think not just about managing my time, but managing my energy is practice even more valuable. Until I took this new approach, my life never really felt balanced despite the black-belt calendar management.

One of the changes that I have made in my life is to slow. down. I have created space in my day for productive time, creative time, and restorative time. And do you know what happened? I am more productive than I have ever been. Allowing yourself the down time you need can fuel your productive time, and allow for reflection on where your energy is most needed.

In any given week in the past between meetings and “have to’s” I estimate that I only had about six hours in the week to sit with myself and do any meaningful work (these six hours also reflected elevator meals and no bathroom breaks). If I could get my work done in six hours surrounded by meetings and conference calls, I could get it done in the same time surrounded by intentionally planned time. So now, I choose to plan my calendar with blocks of project time, restorative walk breaks or workouts, or even an hour where I get to read or research something that interests me.

Here are some ideas for creating more black space on your calendar:

Block the time off: Use calendar invites to block the time you need for you so others don’t see it as available for the taking.

Create a goal (Google Calendars): If you use Google calendars, create a goal for yourself and set your own frequency and length of time, and your calendar automatically keeps that block but moves it around if you place a conflict over it.

Remove the clutter: Question everything on your calendar as to, “Do I need to attend this?” or “Is this meeting necessary?” No need to sit in meetings where half of it is deciding the agenda that could have been prepared in advance.

Use micro-spaces of time wisely: I often would have meetings where the other person was a few minutes late. Just enough time to read a few HBR blogs and news articles, I say.

Pick one thing to say “no”: Find one thing that you can just get rid of. Just one. Then, make sure you spend that time on what you really want to do. (Make sure you don’t waste it checking email or trolling Twitter, you won’t feel that sense of accomplishment you are looking for.)

Easier said than done, right? Try one new thing, or a few. Give behavior changes time to sink in, and be “listening” for the change in how you feel about how you are spending your time. Maybe you can even eat that banana while going for a walk outside instead of in the elevator.

About the author:

Katie Rasoul is the Chief Awesome Officer for Team Awesome, a leadership coaching and culture consulting firm. She is a TEDx speaker alumna, author of the best-selling book, Hidden Brilliance: A High-Achieving Introvert’s Guide to Self-Discovery, Leadership and Playing Big, and co-host of The Life and Leadership Podcast.

Find out more by visiting or join the Team Awesome Community for awesomeness coming straight to your inbox. Follow Team Awesome on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

See more about Katie’s keynote presentation on this topic, “Manage Your Energy” here.

Find our glorious podcast on iTunes

Join the mailing list. You’ll hear from some cool folks, we promise

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“Outliers” and the Sense of Belonging; An essay by Katie Rasoul

For decades, we have talked about the need for our organizational cultures to enable the engagement of its employees. If you haven’t seen the value in that yet, we may have bigger problems on our hands. But assuming you are on that boat, another way of considering engagement is not looking at it from a sense of engagement in the work, but from the perspective of seeking belonging in a community.

This is not the first time I have argued the value of belonging. Previously I discussed using good communication as a means to create belonging, rather than leaving employees out of critical information. There are countless opportunities to create a sense of belonging in your organization, and communication is simply one way to do that. And on a day-to-day basis, that is all that culture is. A collection of teeny-tiny moments that add up to a feeling. Culture is the cumulation of every small decision you make as a leader, how it is perceived, and how you represent yours and the company’s values at every small opportunity to do so (whether you are consciously choosing to or not).


The inverse of feeling belonging is feeling like an outlier. It doesn’t always have to be black and white (as emotions never are), where you either feel entirely part of a group or not. It usually presents itself in much subtler gray tones. Perhaps you love your company and coworkers, but some part of you notices that you are the only woman in the board room. Maybe you are in a meeting with a group of people who like to talk things out as they go, rather than having planned an agenda as you would do. Sometimes addressing outliers and belonging is as obvious as the inclusion efforts for people of color, LGBTQ employees, young people, old people, you name it.

If we listened closely enough, we would be amazed to discover the larger subcultures of outliers. Banded together by the mutual experience of feeling like “the other,” we begin to question what is true for us. Because what is true for us seems to go against the grain of what is true for everyone else. We have all felt this at some point in our lives. We’ve questioned what was happening around us or if we were in the right place, with the right people. We have felt out of alignment with ourselves, but couldn’t quite place why that was. In most of these cases, that feeling of misalignment you feel as an outlier is rooted in being at odds with something you value. If you feel a sense of belonging, then all of the important parts of you, your values, are generally being honored.

Sense of Belonging

For companies looking to retain their talent resources, we have to take a mental picture of what belonging feels like, and what it feels like to be the outlier. And then, bridge the gap for the humans with whom we spend our days. Think to yourself for a moment. When was the last time you felt belonging? And what did it feel like to you? Often in my experience if feels safe. It feels whole. Like home. And none of these are words that we ever use to describe work.

Not sure who might feel like an outlier? Here’s a list of possible scenarios that go beyond race, color, gender and sexual orientation to get your brainstorming started:

  • Introverts around pontificators
  • Questioners around “yes” people
  • Young, high-potential leaders in a “this is how we’ve always done it” culture
  • Salespeople around creatives
  • Seasoned employees around a Millennial-aged workforce
  • Parents around non-parents (and vice versa)

Think of it as a club that you can only be in based on something you can’t change about yourself. People feel belonging when they feel heard and understood for who they are at the core of themselves, and cannot change. I will always be an introvert, a parent, and a woman, and these have all been both a source of belonging and feeling like an outlier for me.

Your Next Move

As a leader, here are a few questions to help you do just that:

  • When do you feel like an outlier?
  • What are some situations when others around you may feel like the outlier?
  • How can you create a sense of belonging for those on your team?

Once you have an emotional understanding of where you are, and where you want to go you can begin to make small but frequent changes to encourage a sense of belonging on your team. Remember, culture and belonging is made of a collection of small moments, not one event you can check off of a list. They have to be micro-small, consistent changes made over time. Here are a few ideas to consider for creating belonging on your team:

  1. Walk life milestones together: Celebrate babies, birthdays, weddings and soberversaries. Band together over funerals, breakups and hard stuff. People will only share these with the group when they feel safe to do so.
  2. Learn a lot about your team: Learn what they like, what frustrates them, how they work best, and how they respond to stress. Share the same about you with them. Choose actions that create an optimal environment for your fellow humans.
  3. Drop any judgement: Ask your team where they do and do not find belonging from their perspective, and ask about their experiences. Listen without attaching any right or wrong, good or bad to their responses, simply learn a new perspective.

You’ve experienced what it feels like to be an outlier. But have you identified when you have caused that experience for someone else? What small changes can you make to create belonging and an inclusive environment for your team? After all, it’s just a series of tiny decisions and actions.


Katie is the Chief Awesome Officer for Team Awesome, a leadership coaching and culture consulting firm. Find out more by visiting or join the Team Awesome Community for awesomeness coming straight to your screen. Follow Team Awesome on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

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My highest and best use; An essay by Katie Rasoul

I usually write about business, personal development or some other (hopefully) helpful topic. This one is mostly just about being human.

I recently brought a new baby girl into the world, and she is perfect. We have been waiting for her. And I am doing everything in my personal power not to squander this moment that is terribly fleeting. She will never be this little again, and I make efforts to be as dialed in and present as possible during our time together. In fact, this is my one main goal of 2019; to be present.

Some days are hard. Particularly torturous are the days when you have not nearly enough sleep to fuel any sort of patience, and my four-year-old stomps around like a Clydesdale while doing the very thing you just asked him not to do five times.

Sometimes the joy is overwhelming. I can be rocking my little girl to sleep on my shoulder, checking in the reflection of a nearby window if her eyes are closed yet while dripping tears of joy from my face. These moments are so short, ever changing. Good or bad, I know whatever it is it will be different in a matter of weeks or even days. Those without children wonder why all us parents ever do is complain about our children. It is because we simply cannot find the words to adequately describe the joyful moments. So, we ineloquently huff around instead about the minor annoyances we can articulate.

When I had my first child, I was a different person. As a result of coaching and a lot of personal development, one unexpected side effect has been that I feel more alive and experience emotions with greater force. Not only sadness or frustration, but also joy and love. Before I had dulled my emotional awareness with busy schedules, fear of failure and “shoulds”. Now that I can experience every emotional direction much deeper, I feel like I am living life in technicolor. If I am coloring with bold markers now, I must have been using pastels before without even knowing it.

I now have space to just be. I am living in the present and letting the joy and love settle in. I have memorized the path on the floor to walk that has the least creaks to not wake anyone. I use the quiet moments in the middle of the night when it is just me and baby girl, rocking and feeding her, as my mindful and most present moments. No Facebook, no Amazon Prime. Just me soaking in the moments knowing that one day they will be gone without much notice. As she grows older, I already find them to be a rare treat to be soaked up. (All this coming from a person who is convinced sleeping is her greatest superpower)

It is challenging to take a break from your work. Partially because some part of you still thinks you “should” be working, advancing, grinding. And partially because your heart is in it, and it is hard to hit pause on heart-filled momentum. Sometimes I feel grateful to take a breath and hit the reset button in this moment away from work. There are some moments when I feel “benched,” as a lot of working parents do when you watch others accomplish things you would like to do while your biggest “accomplishment” for the day is coaching a tiny newborn to lift her head a little more.

Yet I know better. I often preach in leadership that it is important to do the work that only you can do. This means delegating things to others, letting things go that aren’t meant for you, and hiring people to do their best work for the things that aren’t yours. The work that only I can do (and parents, I know you get this) is be Mom. That will always be the job I won’t outsource (or want to). I appreciate this moment to walk my talk and live to my highest and best use.

I will blink and all of the sudden I will be buying prom dresses and drivers licenses, and in the business world that seems such a flurry of “busy” I am certain nothing is all that different now that I am back in the game. Companies still need help with their culture, leaders still want coaching, and the world of organizations still have plenty of fixin’ to do. If there is one thing I learned in the corporate world is that people are so busy doing their “stuff” that they barely notice when you are gone for 12 weeks. What has been some of the most memorable weeks of my life are barely a blip on the collective radar, so I’ll be damned to waste it.

For now, parents, you are not benched unless you’ve decided to bench yourself. Whatever you are ready for is ready for you. If you need me I will just be over here trying to find the best way to bottle baby snuggles, so I’ll get back to you when my highest and best work is done. Until then, let’s all enjoy the ride.


Katie is the Chief Awesome Officer for Team Awesome, a leadership coaching and culture consulting firm. Find out more by visiting or join the Team Awesome Community for awesomeness coming straight to your screen. Follow Team Awesome on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Find our glorious podcast on iTunes

Join the mailing list. You’ll hear from some cool folks, we promise

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