Keith Carlson: The New Story about Nurses

Keith.HiResKeith Carlson is helping shape the conversation today about nurses and the nursing profession for tens of thousands of his listeners and readers.

A nurse for over twenty years, he reaches his audiences through his two podcasts for nurses, as well as his regular blogs, writings, presentations, and ebook.

A gem from the interview:

“You’ll hear nurses say, ‘I’m just a nurse…this word  just comes up in the conversation so often, and I really have tried to remove it from many people’s vocabulary when they are talking about their careers.'”

Listen to these reflections on the show:

How it was for Keith to enter nurse as a man and how men in nursing are gaining more acceptance and recognition.

How Ms. Colorado stirred a huge controversy (and sparked a movement!) when she appeared in scrubs with a stethoscope at the Miss America pageant.

How nurses are the most trusted profession in America – but still not understood.

How the role of nurses is changing – especially as advanced practice nurses take on more and more work that used to be done exclusively by doctors.  Plus, there are a lot nurses working outside of the hospital and traditional venues, including many nurse entrepreneurs.

Why Ken Burns missed the boat when he didn’t feature nurses in his documentary on cancer treatment.

How nurses can talk with more authority and self-empowerment.

How Keith has made the journey into social media, and is helping others to do the same.

Some thoughts about the future of nursing.


And the full episode:



Or listen to episode 55 in ITunes (and please leave a rating and review!)

About my guest

Keith Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BC

Keith Carlson is a holistic career coach for nurses, award-winning nurse blogger, writer, podcaster, speaker, author, and popular career columnist for

With two decades of nursing experience, Keith deeply understands the issues faced by 21st-century nurses. Keith’s two podcasts, RNFM Radio and The Nurse Keith Show, offer inspiration and practical support to nurses seeking to create meaningful, satisfying lives and careers. Keith’s message of savvy career management and professional satisfaction reaches tens of thousands of nurses worldwide. Keith can be found on many social media platforms—including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Instagram—as well as at


The Show Notes

Book Keith recommended on the show:  From Silence to Voice what nurses know and must communicate to the public.

Keith’s website:

Keith’s podcast at RN/FM radio

Nurses savvy career coaching podcast for nurses:

Keith’s book:

Savvy Networking For Nurses: Getting Connected and Staying Connected in the 21st Century



Chris Farrell: Creating a new story about un-retirement

screen-shot-2016-04-22-at-9-19-59-amWe live within stories, some personal, some cultural.  One of those stories is about retirement – that supposedly magical time of life when one crosses over a threshold and leaves the work world forever. Yet for increasing numbers of us, that story doesn’t work at all.

Maybe we want to keep working because it offers us a way to stay creative and contributing. Maybe we need to work to finance our later years. Or maybe we want to pursue an interest we’ve always had, or pursue a new volunteer or service opportunity.

Maybe what we need is just a break.

Chris Farrell is creating a new story about working past sixty which he calls “unretirement,” the subject of his book by the same  name.

Drawing from his background as a journalist and an economist, Chris systematically busts up the prevailing gloom and doom thinking about what’s going to happen as baby boomers hit the social security age.  With persuasive statistics he debunks the idea that the boomers will bleed the economy dry and bankrupt social security.  Instead, he argues that working just a little longer (whether paid or unpaid) is good for individuals and good for the economy as well.

In this interview, Chris shares his informed and optimistic view of the future for baby boomers and what they can contribute to the economy.

A gem from the interview:

“If the majority of boomers can continue to work a couple of extra years…part time, halft time, t has a dramatic impact on the economy, it has a dramatic impact on the health of our communities and I think it has a dramatic impact on the health of the individual and the household, both financially and  physically and mentally.”

Listen to these reflections on the show:

How the fact that people are working longer is changing the economy.

Why so many people come back from retirement.

Where the unretirement conversation is taking off on a grassroots level.

What millenials and boomers share in common – and how expanding the economy for older adults expands it for all of us.


And the full episode:



Or listen to episode 52 in ITunes (and please leave a rating and review!)

About my guest

Chris Farrell

Chris has spent much of his professional life reporting and writing on economics and helping people make the most of their money. He’s currently senior economics contributor at Marketplace, American Public Media’s nationally syndicated public radio business and personal finance programs. He’s also economics commentator for Minnesota Public Radio. He writes regular columns on economics and public policy for Bloomberg Businessweek and on personal finance for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Chris is economics editor of Marketplace Money, a nationally syndicated one-hour weekly personal finance show produced by American Public Media.

He’s is the author of three books: Right on the Money: Taking Control of Your Personal Finances, and Deflation: What Happens When Prices Fall and Unretirement.

Chris is a graduate of Stanford and the London School of Economics.

After Stanford, he worked for four years as a merchant seaman working in the engine room, going through the Suez and Panama canals, steaming past the Rock of Gibraltar under a full moon at midnight, saving money to finance his graduate degree from the London School of Economics.


The Show Notes

Read Chris’ book

Unretirement: How Baby Boomers are Changing the Way We Think About Work, Community, and the Good Life

or website:



Reinventing the story about government: with Doug Nathan

We live within stories, some personal, some cultural.

Some we choose and some we inherit.

Some narratives empower; some don’t.

Our culture is full of narratives about government, many of which don’t do justice to the institution.  Doug Nathan is on a mission to change that, and a first step is the symposium he is organizing, “Expanding the Narrative,”  a conference which will happen May 24th in Seattle.

Sponsored by the King County Office of Alternative Dispute Resolution, the conference will highlight personal stories of government and public service.

Some gems from the interview:

We as government workers and people who care about government, need to start sharing the stories about what works in government….

“It’s going to take a lot of stories to expand the narrative into a more complete picture of what government can and is doing for us.”

 Listen to these reflections on the show:

What is the common narrative about government and why it needs to change.

Using personal stories about government as a way to support systems change.

Why focusing on the positive stories that happen at the individual level can reinforce and support what can happen at the systems level.

How government could improve operations and build partnerships by sharing more stories that inform and explain about its work.

Why exploring our stories is such a powerful tool in conflict management.

How Doug, who began his career as a poet and writer, has been able to bring these skills to his more recent work in leadership development and conflict management.


And the full episode:



Or listen to episode 49 in iTunes (and please leave a rating and review!)

 About my guest

Doug Nathan

Doug works with the King County Office of Alternative Dispute Resolution as a mediator, facilitator, trainer, coach and story catcher. His collaborative approach helps people learn from their differences so that they can face their challenges together, discover new options and move into the future with confidence.

He also uses the power of poetry and storytelling to teach leadership.

The Show Notes

Find about more about the “Expanding the Narrative: Personal Stories of Government and Public Service” Symposium here.  It’s open to friends of government as well as government employees.

You can contact Doug at or 206.263-2434.

Or, visit his website:


A Secret Tool to Help You with Difficult Conversations

2 - WHY - Troubled TeamIf you’re like most folks I’ve worked with, handling conflict, especially when it involves messy emotional conversations, is not your cup of tea.

Sure, conflict comes with the role of a leader – and it’s important to be able to have those difficult conversations around unmet expectations, performance standards, interpretations of commitments and tasks, etc. I bet you handle conversations well when differences are clear-cut, objective and technical. But do you (like many of my clients) run for cover when things become confrontational and feelings start flying?

Or do you just put off having them off all together?

In twenty-five years of coaching, I can’t remember one leader/manager I worked with who said, “I like working with conflicts.”

The trouble with difficult conversations is that, unlike fine wine, they don’t generally improve with age.

Putting off tough conversations doesn’t make them easier to have. But I have a new tool that can ease some of the stress: Improvisational theatre.

Improvisational theatre can make it easier to deal with conflict.

Mention improv, and many of us picture those incredibly witty, spontaneous and deftly clever performers we’ve seen on the stage or on TV. I love ‘em (still crazy about Robin Williams) but I can’t relate to those fast-paced motor-mouths – I mean, I could never even think that fast! But improv doesn’t require being uber-clever or talking a mile a minute.

The real key to improv is listening

(note to introverts: you’ll do fine)– and listening is the foundation for managing difficult conversations as well.
Sally's Images #2

Here are seven things improv can teach us about conflict:

1) Commit fully to the conversation.

A conflicted conversation becomes dangerous if one of the parties involved decides to “check-out” in the middle of it. That can leave you in high water without a paddle – with a lot of emotional and other fall out. But, when you know that you and your partner are fully committed to a conversation, the odds are much greater that you’ll make it through in good shape. When an improviser goes into a scene, she commits fully to that scene. Maybe she doesn’t know what the heck she’s going to do. No matter. She’s going to listen, follow the thread, and play the scene until it’s over. If her commitment waffles, the scene is dead. But because she’s committed, she hears things and takes cues and suggestions (“offers” in improv lingo) she otherwise might have missed.

2) Make your partner look good.

This is a cardinal rule of improv. No matter what your partner gives you, your job is to make him look great. This is nifty because focusing on your partner is a lot easier than having to look great yourself. It gives you something to do: listen for what you can do to validate someone else. That would be a great way to hold a tense and difficult conversation as well. Of course, you might not like your partner-in-conflict. I suppose this happens in improv as well (nobody says you have to be friends.) And maybe she gives you really dead-beat or weird offers to work with. Yikes.

It doesn’t matter.You’re going to keep listening and saying “yes.”

And, in a conflict, you are going to make sure that your “opponent” feels really heard. (OK, I will cut managers a little slack and say that if your partner is really acting like a jerk, you can compromise and just make them feel respected.)

3) Say “Yes, And.”

The skilled improviser builds on whatever his partner gives him. Even weird offers and details that seem off base can become wonderful fodder for a twist in the story or an interesting elaboration. The improviser is constantly building a scene on what just came before. And it’s never over until it’s over. The leader also thinks “yes, and” and “both, and.”

Saying “yes” doesn’t mean acquiescing or conceding a point.

Rather it means acknowledging what has been said (and the validation, however faint it might seem), using this as a stepping stone to build the conversation. Besides, your opponent may be expressing values that are important to your work together.

4) Have an objective, then adapt.

When an improv perfomer steps into a scene, she discovers or creates an objective: “Who am I? Why am I here, and what is the objective I am trying to achieve?” She can keep tuning into that objective, even as she follows, flexes and adapts to the twists and turns of the story. Leaders are unlikely to enter into a critical, conflicted conversation without advanced planning – including some background work – so that’s different from the improviser. However, improv can teach us how to hold on to an objective throughout a conversation while, at the same time, following it wherever it goes. This may sound like a contradiction, but it’s not!

5) Listen to more than the words.

A lot of an improvisational scene is carried in the non-verbals: the movements, the physical expressions and the emotional responses. This is true in a conflict conversation as well. People don’t usually fight about words, and rarely about the facts. They fight about what the facts mean, and because emotions get triggered. So keep listening for the meanings behind what you hear, and using all your senses to track on how your partner is reacting; pay lots of attention to emotional cues and non-verbal responses. When strong emotions come up, don’t run for cover. They’re just part of the scene. A leader listens for what is behind an emotional outburst while trying not to be triggered by it. And even those big, nasty emotional outbursts (I don’t like them, either), are just a twist in the story. Keep listening and hopefully those emotions can change.

6) Be specific – don’t generalize.

I hate it when people use words like “you never” or “you always.” Generalizations are deadly – and they can ignite defensive behavior. Specific examples and behavioral data, however, are much more useful in helping people see the impact of what they’ve done. Improvisers work to develop specific details in a scene: Who they are, who they’re with, where they are, what physical objects are around, what relationships are present, etc. And improvisers use language everyone understands. They’ll never use consultant-speak unless, of course, they’re doing a very funny satire on consultants!

7) Be willing to be vulnerable…and laugh.

Improvisers learn to be vulnerable…on stage. After all, they’re performing before others and a good part of the time their scenes will not be working as well as they’d like. In my first improv class, Matt Smith taught us to take a “Failure Bow” (watch his hilarious TEDx talk about the bow).

Failure can hurt, so we say, “ouch,” and the show goes on. Some leaders feel that showing any vulnerability means giving away the kind of power they need to “win” a conversation. But what if showing a little vulnerability was just the ticket to becoming more accessible, more human and more real to your partner in the conversation? That’s the groundwork you may need to hold a win-win conversation. You can dominate with status and power. But do you want to win the conversation or create a foundation for an improved relationship going into the future? In case of doubt, and throughout, laugh. Laughter defuses tension. Laughter brings us together. And improvisers laugh a lot – if only at themselves!

Now aren’t you ready to jump in and try some improv? Check out my upcoming free workshop, Navigating Conflict with Improv, August 19th with Julian Schrenzel of Improv-Alive!  Check out the event on our events page:

Unleash the Creativity Within Conflict!

combat on horsebackAs I began to teach about conflict, I saw a bunch of hesitant faces with those “do we really have to deal with conflict?” expressions.

Most folks I know don’t like to deliberately face conflict. Sure, they can handle objective, professional conflict – with some detachment and calm.  But stir deep emotion into the mix and they’re running for cover. 

But without conflict, we can’t harness the fruits of collaboration and creativity. 

Think a firm full of “yes” men and women!

We need conflict for creativity because conflict is about dealing with differences – and we’ll never get to the best solutions, and real innovation, if all we encourage is sameness.

We  want to encourage some tension in our teams between competing values.

In a hospital system, that tension may be called the conflict between money and mission. In other firms, it may show up as a fight between marketing and finance.  When we get down from our emotional high horses and stop fighting, it becomes clearer that we need to honor many diverse values in order to succeed.  to see that. Chances are we need to maintain all those values –

Often a conflict in values shows up as a personality dispute. When a team calls me in with a conflict, they are usually experiencing some ugly symptoms such as communication breakdowns and differences in styles.

What’s harder to see is how underneath the personality conflict are built-in differences in values that may never go away.  These are often polarities.

Manage the tensions that will never go away

Polarities are  tensions between interlocking values that will never go away – conflicts that are embedded in a system – because you can’t have one pole without the other pole.  Think yin and yang, day and night – we can’t have one side without the other.

I watched as an agency that always applauded individual achievement revised its focus and started promoting teamwork (while forgetting that individual achievement still mattered!)  Sure enough, after a few years, the technical specialists started feeling like their work wasn’t adequately respected – and started wanting to leave – because all the rewards were going to teams.

The solution is simple – yet sometimes difficult to achieve:  Think “both-and”: asking how do we honor both?

Some polarities we all know include the tension between balancing home and work.  If we ignore either side, we’ll feel the consequences.  Or trying separating our concern with our own self interest vs. our concern for others. Emphasize one without the other and you’re in for trouble.

Think both/and:  team and individual

Going back to our team/individual example, as we’re thinking about rewards, processes, and how we use training dollars, we can add one simple question:
Team working together

“How can we maximize team performance while encouraging individual excellence?”

Voila: our thinking is enhanced when we think both/and!

(And fyi –  polarities are everywhere!)

Our stories need conflict

As a storyteller, I listen for conflict. Think how b-o-r-i-n-g it would be to read “Young entrepreneur has a dream.  Successfully raises money. Builds team. Company succeeds – now she is rich.” (Alas, this kind of simplified story keeps being told!).

Instead, I want to hear about what really happened behind the scenes – the bumps along the way, the mistakes, the failures or almost-failures – everything that gives a story texture. Great stories always include some conflict. I want to root for a heroine who learns how to work her way through conflicts on her journey.  She’s my gal – not the one for whom everything mysteriously works out!

Healthy conflict is needed in any group. How about you? What do you do to manage conflict creatively – for yourself and with others?



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