Leadership and mindfulness secrets for Fortune 100 companies with Walmart leadership coach Lucy Duncan
“Being mindful of my emotions is what gives me power over my emotions. Taking the time to pause when something frustrates, intimidates, or excites me and dissecting why I feel that way helps me control my response. When I’m controlling my response, I’m able to pay closer attention to others’ feelings.”
Lucy has spent nearly a decade working at Fortune 500 companies. She specializes in facilitating leadership programs and coaching senior leaders to support organizational growth & development.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you please share your “backstory” with us?
Sure! My story begins with my first professional job, which I landed at the largest IT company in the world. I was enamored with my company, and I spent seven years excelling in implementing large-scale initiatives and progressing through different roles. What I didn’t know at the time was that I could be excelling in other skills — such as effectively communicating, providing valuable feedback, leading through change, or teaching and trusting others to do their jobs. As I became more informed that other companies investing in this type of development, I began requesting it — only to meet resistance and be told soft skills training wasn’t in the budget.
I began wondering, “What happens when a company doesn’t professionally develop its employees and only focuses on results?” That single thought became a catalyst to my unhappiness. Suddenly the drive that had led to my success was also the drive exposing that where I was could no longer meet my needs.
I spent a good deal of time considering what my values were and what I would need in an employer to feel motivated. I finally determined that learning and development need to be a part of the culture that I joined and began looking at other companies.
Today I’m more professionally fulfilled than I ever imagined possible. I transitioned from a Fortune 500 to a Fortune 100 and work in Leadership Development, where I facilitate the flagship leadership program and coach senior leaders to support organizational growth & development.
What role did mindfulness or spiritual practice play in your life growing up? Do you have a funny or touching story about that?
In the early days of my childhood, I wasn’t aware of the mindfulness you can direct into your spoken words. When I was in grade school my mom re-enrolled in college and obtained her master’s degree in communication. Her education completely transformed my family’s dynamic towards emotional intelligence and communicating thoughtfully.
I didn’t always know when she was implementing her studies at home, but one instance that sticks with me took place in our living room after she and my father had had an argument. She was calmly explaining, “If you would pause and think about things before you say them, my feelings wouldn’t be hurt as often.” Frustrated, my dad snapped, “Who the hell does that?!” My mom and I shared a moment where our eyes briefly met across the room and she paused, trying not to giggle. She gingerly replied, “Honey… Everyone does that –” He interrupted, huffing, “I don’t know a single person who does that!”
Thus was the environment she was tasked with changing: teaching us not only to manage our own emotions, but also to consider how our words impacted the emotions of others!
How do your mindfulness or spiritual practices affect your business and personal life today?
Being mindful of my emotions is what gives me power over my emotions. Taking the time to pause when something frustrates, intimidates, or excites me and dissecting why I feel that way helps me control my response. When I’m controlling my response, I’m able to pay closer attention to others’ feelings. Pausing to understand others’ perspectives nurtures a stronger relationship and gives me a better insight to the purposes, concerns, and circumstances of leaders and organizations that need help.
Do you find that you are more successful or less successful because of your integration of spiritual and mindful practices? Can you share an example or story about that with us?
The integration of mindfulness into my everyday life undoubtedly impacts my relationships at home and my relationships at work for the better.
I recently had the opportunity to practice this with a colleague who delegated a task to me. I scheduled a meeting with her to share my finished product and could feel my frustration building as she listed off items that needed to change. I paused before responding and simply asked myself, “What is it about her approach in this moment that frustrates me? I should be thankful for this feedback and use it to make my work stronger.” The answer was almost immediate: “I feel like she is telling me what to do. I wish she used this as an opportunity to ask what else I could do to make this stronger, and then the work would still feel like it is mine.” Recognizing that I felt like my independence was being challenged (and was the sense of my frustration) changed everything. My colleague wasn’t challenging my independence! She was being task-focused. This allowed me to respond in the way a task-focused individual wants: to the point; rather than responding as if my independence was being threatened.
After hearing my story most people might think, “I’m going to be pausing a lot throughout my day,” but I assure you that it gets easier. Consider this: what is going to be easier: pausing to mindfully consider your response, or rebuilding trust and rapport after you’ve snapped?
What would you say is the foundational principle for one to “lead a good life”? Can you share a story that illustrates that?
To be honest, I think it comes down to the Golden Rule: we must treat others the way that we want to be treated. When we’re stressed, running late, tried, overwhelmed — the way we treat others can worsen. If you’re anything like me, you aren’t successfully implementing this every hour of every day — but what if we did?
What if we spoke to others the way we hoped to be spoken to? What if we genuinely tried to see things from the other point of view? What if we showed respect for the other opinion? What if we smiled in the hallways rather than glancing away? What could the impact be on our relationships, our networks, and our personal brand?
It runs deeper than treating others the way that we want to be treated, though; each and every person has different styles, values and perspectives. To fulfill the Golden Rule we need to learn those differentiators so we can intentionally take them into consideration — the way that we would hope would be done for us.
Can you share a story about one of the most impactful moments in your spiritual/mindful life?
Yes, a few years ago my husband’s cousin was hit and killed in a vehicle accident. I learned the news before my husband and called him while he was at work. Our phone call seems very robotic and factual in my memory, but from the moment we ended our phone call I began praying as he was on his way home.
I strongly believe that one of my roles as a wife is to be my husband’s encourager. I knew that no matter how devastated I was feeling in that moment, his grief was greater than mine. I prayed for wisdom; I asked God to give me the words to speak.
When he entered our house a short while later, eyes red-rimmed and hair disheveled, I suddenly knew that there were no words: no words can make sense of a tragedy. The only encouragement I could provide was to be present with him.
When times are painful, we often worry about how to “show up” for the person who is hurting. We worry about dialing their number and what we’ll do when they pick up. We worry over what to put in the text. “What could I possibly say?” we wonder. But that’s just the thing: we don’t need worry over the perfect words, because honestly, sometimes there aren’t any. We simply need to put our discomfort aside and show up.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
As a Christian I believe that God has a reason for everything. I’ve benefitted from every mentor He has placed in my life.
I would say that the most serendipitous mentor I’ve had was a gentleman that I met at the farmer’s market: who happened to work at my company, in the job I aspired to do: facilitation and training. He told me to write down his name and contact him so we could talk more.
True to his word, he met me during work hours and took the time to learn about who I was and what was important to me. I was struggling with a realignment of responsibilities on my team and for the first time in my professional career, I had a coach. He went on to advocate for me when a facilitation position was open on his team, and today we are colleagues.
I can still remember the questions he asked the first time we met at work, and the thoughtful way he led me to draw conclusions on my own. I left feeling more empowered than I had in months! That feeling is what I want to share with the individuals I coach and consult with. I want to reveal to them how good they really are, how good they could possibly become, and that they are truly capable of high-level performance.
Can you share 3 or 4 pieces of advice about how leaders can create a very “healthy and uplifting” work culture?
There is a school of thought taught in positive psychology called Self Determination Theory, coined by Dr. Edward Deci. Deci theorized there are three basic needs foundational to motivation: autonomy, relatedness, and competence. The more I work with organizations, the more truth I find in this theory! Not only can leaders work to support these three needs, but organizations can work to foster them throughout the workplace culture.
Autonomy comes into play when we think about the way we complete tasks: we all want to have some level of independence. Associates should be able to tailor their approach to their work for their preferences and abilities. This provides a heightened sense of control, which can only benefit performance.
Relatedness is our need to care about and be cared about by others and to feel that we are contributing to something greater than ourselves. The workplace should host opportunities for associates to interact in a way that they feel they are contributing to something greater than themselves.
Competence is our need to feel effective in the way we accomplish tasks. Associates should feel that they have a way to effectively practice their skills, continuing to grow in their talents and apply themselves fully when using them.
If you take the time to cultivate three desires within your workplace, you will be blown away with associate satisfaction.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
You know, I have a ton of ideas. Don’t we all? But when I think about all of the religions within the world — all of the creeds, all of the doctrines — so many of them provide guidance towards how to treat others, and they’re more similar than not on this topic. It goes back to what I said earlier is the foundational principle for one to “lead a good life”: treating others the way that you want to be treated. Learn about the different expectations, beliefs and perspectives your friends, your co-workers, your in-laws, your partners have, and integrate that into how you interact with them. Just imagine how much stronger relationships at home and at work will be when you make this a priority!
How can people follow you and find out more about you?
Visit my website! I am available for leadership speaking engagements and professional coaching and can be contacted through there: https://lucyhduncan.com/
And of course I’m on LinkedIn. https://www.linkedin.com/in/lucyhduncan/
About the author: Jacob Rupp is a coach, author, speaker, podcaster, and rabbi. He is the founder of Lift Your Legacy, a community that helps people live a more authentic life. He has a regular, syndicated column that appears in ThriveGlobal and Authority magazine. To learn more about him or to listen to the Lift Your Legacy podcast, search iTunes or visit his site: liftyourlegacy.live
Leadership and mindfulness secrets for Fortune 100 companies with Walmart leadership coach Lucy… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.