“Kindness in the Workplace” with Lourie Close-Abadia
“In the process of showing kindness to others and encouraging their ability to sparkle we discover our own superpowers. This world will only shine brightly if there is a shared effort to glow.”
As a part of our new series about cultivating kindness in the workplace, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lourie Close-Abadia.
Lourie Close-Abadia is the Founder of Living Up Close; an organization helping women and men elevate their lives through emotional development and coaching to identify their passions and achieve their goals.
She also manages Treasury Operations for Qwil PBC, an automated global payments and liquidity solution headquartered in San Francisco, that allows SMBs & freelancers to get paid how, when, and wherever they choose.
When she isn’t working you’ll either find her finishing up her upcoming book, ‘Showing Up’ due to launch this summer, painting or exploring one of the beaches or redwood trails of Northern California.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn more about you. Can you share some of your background with us?
All of my life I have operated best when I feel I am making a positive impact; improving an existing situation for myself or others. I am happiest when I can help others get excited about their own abilities and opportunities. We are all capable of so much more than we think we are.
In my early career, this was expressed primarily through my continuous focus on process improvement, implementing efficiencies and, most importantly, being a constant learner and advocate for my staff.
There were times in my life that I thought that growing up in a low-income home with a single mother with mental illness was a handicap but it wasn’t. Over time, by continuing my own emotional work, I’ve discovered that the perspectives I gained, even from the most painful experiences, have given me an incredible capacity for compassion, gratitude and optimism not only for myself but for others.
My grandfather’s answer to almost every challenge was simple: “Why not?” It may seem silly but it’s good. If we can put aside fear for just a moment, or even better: embrace it and use that energy to move us forward, we can surprise ourselves with our own capacity.
Applying that ethos of eliminating fears, along with a gratitude practice every day, has brought me to my current treasury position in a company inspired by a need to help others and with a continuous focus on impact as well as to my coaching business, built with the goal of helping others step into their most joyful lives.
What does kindness mean to you? And why are you so passionate about cultivating kindness in the workplace?
Kindness is the foundation of all genuine connection. Whether you work for me, alongside or are a client of mine, kindness shows up as respect for where you are coming from and listening fully to understand where you want to go. Outward goals may seem different or difficult to understand but active appreciation for the contributions others bring to the table will only build better connections and help us find the goals we do share.
In the workplace those connections are what create a safe space to bring our best selves to the work. We aren’t competing but, instead, collaborating and complimenting each other’s efforts. Truly vulnerable collaboration, knowing that no one is at risk of criticism, is what allows us to find the strongest aspects of your ideas and mine so that we lift each other up rather than leaving either behind.
In my coaching, these connections through kindness manifest as helping clients clear outdated beliefs about themselves or exploring their curiosities and disappointments to uncover the goals that truly excite them, the passion project they’ve been unable to pinpoint or begin on their own.
In both contexts, allowing kindness to lead the conversation, teammates and clients connect more completely and the work can find its own momentum. Productivity skyrockets, employee retention issues are resolved and client expectations can often be exceeded.
How can other leaders cultivate a kindness-centric workplace?
If I strive to lead with kindness, transparent communications whenever possible and a quest for genuine understanding, the person sitting across the table now has an opportunity to tell me their truth. They will tell me what they want and what they don’t; what they are good at and, if fear is removed, I will also see more clearly what areas need support. With all of that information we can work together efficiently to create an effective roadmap.
As a leader of people, that will ultimately drive how well you meet your objectives: Did you convey the goal clearly to avoid wasted effort? Did you activate peoples’ strengths to effectively reach the objectives? Did you mitigate risk by identifying or cultivating skill sets that were lacking? Did you develop your team into a cohesive unit that could excel together and problem solve with agility?
It’s difficult to accomplish any of those goals without cultivating kindness first. Kindness and transparency will outpace intimidation every day, in my experience. Data is important in decision making but staff that fear their management will never fully invest themselves at the level they would if they are accepted and included with kindness.
I was drawn to work at Qwil PBC specifically due to their drive to create positive impacts in the world and their outspoken gratitude practice. I had come to recognize that those aspects needed to be present in my workplace for me to continue to feel rewarded. It is a completely different professional dynamic than is traditionally found and it has proven that, even in larger or remote teams, it can be profoundly productive.
Beginning a team meeting with a conscious and shared gratitude practice opens the room to exactly the collaborative, vulnerable and inspired energy that creates true progress. Active and regular statements of gratitude for others and ourselves reminds us that we work with great people, do rewarding work and that we are individually impactful contributors. With that, we are compelled to contribute even more. With that, we can surprise even ourselves.
What books, podcasts, or other resources inspire you to be a better leader?
I am a podcast junky and an active reader. Continuing my emotional development and cultivating my ability for vulnerable interactions is a constant priority for me. Brene Brown is especially inspirational. ‘Daring Greatly’ is impactful from both a personal and leadership perspective. She has recently begun a podcast as well: Unlocking Us.
Recently I found ‘Girl, Stop Apologizing’ by Rachel Hollis to be a straight talking and relevant hall pass to let go of some traditional behaviors that no longer served me.
I tend to seek out podcasts, especially when life doesn’t provide time for reading, that focus on creating emotional resilience and digging into my personal narrative to see where it no longer serves me.
So much of our generational stories and childhood shows up in our daily lives no matter our age or context. Learning how to effectively re-process my early experiences with the intelligence of an adult has allowed me to manage myself more effectively and therefore lead more effectively but it’s a practice, not something with a finish line.
Is there a particular person who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I mentioned my grandfather earlier. He was an entrepreneur and extremely active in social causes. He was an example of how setting aside fears can become more comfortable when in the service of others, either for the benefit of his employees or people in the diverse communities he volunteered with. The lessons he taught me about the power of empowering others are probably some of the strongest foundation behind the joy I feel when I help someone get excited about their own abilities or uncover their own voice.
I haven’t been fearless in my life, I have a long list of them, but in serving others I know we have a method to distract ourselves from fears and move forward anyway. Ultimately, we forget to be afraid or we can realize that the fears give us an energy we can use as a propellant. The results are that we help others and ourselves.
In 2019 my family grew smaller by one. My sister passed away of kidney disease and her daughter and I were the primary caretakers in her final weeks. My sister and I had been raised to compete heavily and the result is that my sister became my abuser through my childhood and even much of adulthood until I stepped back from her.
Making the decision to be a caretaker to one of my primary abusers with kindness and compassion forced me to dive deep into my fears and find the perspectives that would serve me and my tiny family best.
The process of saying goodbye to her with genuine compassion, setting aside fears and resentments to let her go with love and appreciation even while she continued to reject me, changed who I am and how I run every aspect of my life. My sister inadvertently became an inspiration. In loving her and grieving her loss kindness became paramount.
With everything that is happening in the world right now, what are some of your hopes and dreams for either your company or the team that you manage?
For the world I hope that we have the ability to reconnect and minimize the damages that the current social climate is causing and find a way to mitigate the massive health and economic threat that COVID-19 has become.
My hope for the team at Qwil is that our shared contributions will continue to facilitate the success of other small businesses just as we have always strived to do and that we can keep cultivating the safe space that we have created to share and develop our biggest ideas. We know that we are unique and capable of creating an impact and it’s needed now more than ever.
Those hopes apply to my coaching, speaking and writing as well. Kindness is the starting point for all of us to connect with each other, uncover our strengths and realize our personal superpowers. Now more than ever, supportive connectivity is vital to our well being and ability to grow through this as individuals, families and professionals to become more than we thought possible.
How can our readers follow you online?
I invite you to connect with me to continue conversations on kindness via social media:
Thank you so much for joining us!