If you don't know what to say, start by checking in🚦

A tool to lead empathetically during challenging moments

8 Dead in Atlanta Spa Shootings, With Fears of Anti-Asian Bias
Asian-Americans targeted in 3,800 hate incidents in the past year

I read these headlines and felt sick to my stomach. I'm an Asian-American woman, my family lives in Atlanta.

Watching the press conference and the coverage unfold made it worse. I was oscillating between rage and fear and grief when a calendar notification popped up: Team Stand Up in 30 minutes.

I hadn't gotten out of bed, showered, or eaten. All I wanted to do was hide under the covers and cry.

Then the anxiety hit — What do I say to my team? We had only been working together for 7 weeks, we'd never even met IRL. Is it appropriate to bring up traumatic events during a team standup? I didn't feel like I had the tools or the language.

At that moment, a friend sent me a DM in response to a few tweets I'd shared.

The hottest topic on the future of work these days is community and belonging. Tech companies are upstaging each other with community building activities — X company held a virtual wine tasting, Y company put on a magic show, Z company sent everyone a Peloton!

While sending all your employees fancy things can be fun, it's not what really moves the needle when it comes to fostering belonging at work. After decades of research, Gallup has identified 12 elements that build an engaging and productive workplace culture. One of the key elements is "My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person."

When a traumatic event happens to someone on your team whether directly or indirectly, and no one acknowledges it at work, it can lead to greater feelings of isolation.

But how do you show your team you care personally? It's unrealistic to expect leaders to follow every breaking news headline and know exactly what to say immediately.

Then it struck me, it's not about learning new tools or finding new language. It's about acknowledgment, and creating space for empathetic listening. And I already had a tool to do just that — Red, Yellow, Green🚦.

Red, Yellow, Green🚦is a stoplight analogy for everyone on your team to honestly check-in with ourselves and each other. It’s a way to share how you really are in this moment.

  • 🟢 Green means we are here and we are present.

  • 🟡 Yellow means we are here, but maybe our head is somewhere else.

  • 🔴 Red means we are here physically, but our minds are completely elsewhere.

We typically practice Red, Yellow, Green🚦once a week, and everyone on the team checks-in with a color round-robin style. Sometimes folks add more detail as to why they're a certain color, other times they don't. It’s important to tell your team that no one color is better than another, and no one is pressured to ever explain why they're a certain color.

By using Red, Yellow, Green🚦 with my team weekly, we had already built a practice for empathetic listening, today I could use the same tool for acknowledgment.

We often reference this quote by world-renowned writer, speaker, and activist Parker Palmer:

My hope is we can humanize the victims of the Atlanta Spa Shootings, and bear witness to our human souls. I hope as a community we can continue to see, hear, and acknowledge each other. As leaders, it is critical to show we care personally. It is our responsibility to create a new norm of listening and lead with empathy first.



Honor Your Team's Dreams

Join the next Becoming an Effective Manager Quest facilitated by Mindy Zhang and Cristina Georgoulakis

Dear Grand Fam,

Our next Quest on Becoming an Effective Manager kicks off in April, and we’re so excited to welcome Mindy Zhang as a facilitator.

Mindy Zhang is currently the Director of Product at Oscar Health and formerly a Group Product Manager at Dropbox. She’s been a member of The Grand Community since Fall 2020. From our first meeting, we’ve been impressed by Mindy’s authentic leadership style. Read on, and you’ll see why we love Mindy and her management philosophy.

Tell us about your career path, how did you become a product leader?

In college, I was most drawn to consumer psychology classes and studying how human beings work. That led me to concentrate in Marketing. From there, I joined Microsoft, and then Dropbox. A pivotal moment was my decision to join Dropbox, I chose it because I was so drawn to the talent and people. Dropbox is where I grew up in my career. I spent six years there, grew into a lot of responsibility, and led the New York product team. More recently, I joined Oscar Health, to work on expanding affordable health care, which is a mission that I am really excited about. At Oscar, I found my footing as a leader. I manage all women, which is mind-blowing, because it's the first time this has happened. We have a lot to learn both from and with women in tech.

What did it feel like when you first became a manager?

It was a sudden transition because I replaced my previous manager and went from managing no one to managing five people at all different levels.

I believe when we transition from being an individual contributor to people management, we often see it as the next rung in the career ladder. So when it's difficult, there's a tendency to get down on ourselves because we've gotten so used to excelling and being good at each rung in the career. In reality, being a manager is a whole new job itself. You have accountability for someone's performance without having control over their outcomes – it's insanely difficult.

I had to learn how to give myself the patience to learn something brand new and approach it with a beginner's mindset.

It's easy to think there's maybe a playbook that we can follow. You can read blog posts or books but that only gets you 10% of the way there.

90% is doing it, and fielding all of the different exceptions that come your way. Finding a community where you can vulnerably and honestly share these experiences and learn from other people's case studies is really important.

A lot of managers face imposter syndrome. I remember my partner telling me, “You’re always doing your first role for the first time. That's literally how it works. Before Barack Obama was president, he had never been president.” That helped me a lot.

How do you invite feedback from your direct reports and team?

When a new direct report starts, I give them the book, Thanks for the Feedback. It really anchors my direct reports in the right mindset for giving and receiving feedback. I also have a designing the partnership conversation with each direct report, in which I talk about how you like to receive feedback and why it's important to you.

When you do receive feedback from your direct report, consider:

  1. What is your track record for showing immense gratitude for the feedback?

  2. How do you actually act on it?

Your track record is going to inform how often your direct reports give you subsequent feedback.

I always try to express both gratitude and action. I’ll say, “I want to take the time to process this, I really appreciate you bringing it up. While I think about how to incorporate it, the most helpful thing you can do is point out to me specific instances and nudge me toward the right behavior."

What have you learned from your managers, and how did you find your management style?

I've realized to be the best manager that I can be, I need to find what's unique to me.

The Gottmans are these famous psychologists, who study primarily romantic relationships. They say that to build a strong relationship with your partner, it comes down to four words, which is “Honor your partner's dreams”. When I think about all the great managers I've had, that is so true. They've honored my dreams.

When I would say something in passing I might be excited about, my manager would pick up on it, and encourage me to lean into it. They would call out my strengths and say, “This is your superpower. This is what I hear your dream is. Let's combine those to figure out what the next opportunity is for you.” That's something all of my best managers have in common.

Mindy will be facilitating the next Grand Quest on Becoming an Effective Manager alongside, Cristina Georgoulakis, Operating Partner at 776, and one of our most beloved, veteran facilitators. Only five more spots available.

Apply Now

Thank you Mindy for sharing your own journey and insights with us! We hope this conversation helps new managers out there see that you are not alone and the best way to learn is together, with community.


Rei and Anita

The Power of Ritual In Our Lives And Communities

How personal and community rituals can help us to rediscover connection, meaning, and purpose

Hi Grand Fam, 

When every day feels like Blursday, we crave ritual and community. The following Q&A was from our February Grand Time with the one and only Casper Ter Kuile, co-founder of The Sacred Design Lab, Ministry Innovation Fellow at Harvard Divinity School, and author of The Power of Ritual: Turning Everyday Activities Into Soulful Practices.

From Tech Sabbaths to shared rituals, Casper shared inspiring insights with The Grand community.

How do you define a ritual and how is it different from a habit?

Rituals have 3 defining characteristics: you do them with intention, they require your attention, and involve repetition.

I think a really helpful way to distinguish a ritual from a habit is that routines have a functional purpose. These include taking the dog out for a walk because it needs to pee or brushing your teeth because you want good oral hygiene. A ritual draws you beyond the action itself and has a meaning associated with the behavior. Unlike habits, rituals don’t need to have a functional purpose. By ritualizing something, you are adding a layer of evocation or symbolism or have storytelling to a particular action. Rituals help set apart the sacred from the routines of our everyday. Take circumcision, for instance. If you think about ritualized circumcision, while the act itself can be like very, very unpleasant, it carries a strong symbolic meaning, and so it’s done for that purpose. 

Can you tell us about one of your favorite rituals and how you created it? 

One of my favorite personal rituals is my Tech Sabbath. It’s been my most consistent spiritual practice and one that I’ve been able to continue during the pandemic. When I moved to America, I had a bunch of Jewish friends and classmates and ended up reading a wonderful book, called The Sabbath by Abraham Joshua Heschel, a great theologian and rabbi of the 20th century. In it, he describes the Sabbath as a moment when we get a taste of heaven, where we enter this palace in time, and what our work lives should be in service of. So during the Sabbath, we should do things like eat delicious food and be with loved ones. When I looked at my own life I was like, well, I’m not Jewish and I’m not going to celebrate a traditional Jewish Sabbath. But I know that I cannot get in that state of mind that Heschel speaks of when my phone is around, because for me, it feels like an addiction. And so I started at sundown on Friday turning off my phone and laptop, lighting a candle and singing a Dutch summer camp song.

It felt like going on vacation. Because suddenly, although the world hadn’t changed, my experience of the world had changed.

Rituals don’t make the world different, but they help to make it more real. 

How do we create a ritual in our own lives?

A lot of our rituals were disrupted from the pandemic due to the changed context of our lives, so we really have an amazing opportunity to create new rituals.

Start by taking a look at the places in your life that have the most meaning already - maybe it’s a recipe that you love cooking, a painting that you have, a song you sing, or a book that you reread every year.

Then start to build some intention, attention, and repetition around it. Ask yourself, what’s the thing you want to hold in your heart or mind, as you engage in this practice? Then find a way to pay attention while you practice it. Stay present and try to engage your multiple senses around the practice. And finally, repeat this practice over time. This might be every day,  every week, or every year on a particular day. But that triptych of intention, attention, and repetition layered onto an existing moment of meaning...that is where a beautiful ritual is created!

Tell us about the power of shared community rituals. 

I believe rituals are an underused tool of bringing people together with a shared purpose. When we're practicing a ritual together, we are acknowledging the values that this ritual represents and also being shaped by it as a collective.

These rituals don’t need to be complicated - they may involve circle dancing (like at my wedding), sitting in silence, going on a hike together, and all sorts of different practices. 

How can communities co-create rituals together?

One of the best ways to create community rituals is through creating a community ritual calendar. As a community, you can map out moments in the year when you know significant moments are going to happen, whether it’s Ramadan or the Oscars, and celebrating them together. Chances are, people in your community may already be doing them, so elevating and enabling them is a worthy pursuit.

Celebration is a great way to give a sense of rhythm of life for the community. Rituals are formative to community life.

Join me in thanking Casper, for sharing these ideas and stories on creating joyful lives of belonging through personal and community rituals in our lives. We hope this conversation inspired you to fuse ritual into your own life as a way of creating greater meaning and purpose. 

The Grand community is here to provide support and guidance as you’re navigating big decisions. Join the upcoming Grand Quest on Becoming an Effective Manager 

Join The Grand



Explore The Space Between the Notes 🎶

Jeanette and Minn's one year anniversary

A year ago, I met Jeanette and Minn.

Anita and I had just introduced The Grand Quest. Jeanette and Minn were among the early applicants, and the very first two people I would be having a conversation with about our product.

This is one of my favorite moments on the product journey, an inflection point where a product goes from being a model to being a real thing experienced by real people. It's illuminating for me because it always leads to a deeper understanding of what our core value proposition actually is.

Prior to this moment, I assumed our audience for The Grand Quest would be people who knew they wanted change careers, and the value we'd provide would be to help them take action towards finding a new job.

In my first conversation with Jeanette, her story aligned with my initial hypothesis. Jeanette recently left her role as Director of Marketing at a tech company and was seeking a clear path to transition. She had mapped out her goals, and wanted to join The Grand Quest to reconfirm her values and find greater alignment between her values and desired career.

In my second conversation with Minn, I realized our core value proposition was something different. Minn is an investor at an early-stage venture firm. She felt privileged to enable founders to bring their ideas to fruition via capital and to be able to invest with amazing teammates. What she was looking to gain from The Grand Quest was greater courage and clarity of purpose.

Minn was a former competitive violinist and she shared:

One of my previous orchestra conductors used to talk about the importance of the "space between the notes." That space, sometimes an almost imperceptible breath or unbearably long, anticipates what's next. It signals to our brains that something is on its way, and therefore makes landing on the next note all the more fulfilling. I'm hoping the Grand Quest will help me navigate that space, I don't want to rush...I hope to land with grace and certitude.

The Grand Quest at its core is a space. It is a space outside of work and home to gain clarity on purpose. In our busy lives full of responsibilities and obligations, it provides a dedicated pause — a time, space, and structure for you to reflect and navigate your landing. What makes music beautiful is the distance between one note and another, and what makes our journeys meaningful is the pause we take between acts.

One year later, Jeanette and Minn have completed their Quests. Jeanette is now Chief Marketing & Communications Officer at Kapor Center and a Lead Facilitator with The Grand. Minn was recently promoted to Principal at Bloomberg Beta. Both have gained greater courage and clarity, and landed with grace and certitude.

Give yourself space, and join us for the next Grand Quest. Applications are open until Tuesday, January 19th. I can't wait to read yours.

Join The Grand Quest



P.S. I'd love to hear, what discoveries have you made when you’ve taken space to pause?

Discovering My Anchors 💫

The Grand Quest - Making A Career Transition Applications Are Live!

Today’s newsletter is guest written by Serena Bian, Community Strategist at The Grand and member of The Grand Quest on Making a Career Transition. Serena is staffed on the National Day of Service Team for the Presidential Inaugural Committee after leading a national coalition for the Biden Campaign. She’s the co-founder of The Social Healing Collective.💫

2020 was the year that personal lives, social structures, and political systems unraveled before our eyes. Speaking personally, 2020 was a year of anxiety-provoking career transitions, painful ruptures within my family, and uncomfortable reckonings with our unjust economic and justice system. Yet, it was also a year of tremendous growth and self-discovery. I embarked on a journey away from VC, towards political organizing and launching a fellowship for young social healers. I organized for Black Lives in my predominantly white neighborhood, spoke out against ageism, and made strides towards living a values-based, spiritual life of service. 

What got me through it all? My personal anchors. Anchors offer themselves as sources of stability through unsteady times. An anchor could be a wise friend you lean on during an uncertain time, a simple, grounding ritual of daily walks through the neighborhood, delicious Sunday morning pancake breakfasts with family, or quiet meditation. They ground us through uncertainty with their gentle wisdom and the clear light they shine onto our lives.

I’d read before that career changes are notoriously difficult. Yet going through one myself, during a pandemic no less, granted me a new level of empathy for those navigating. I had to juggle intense existential questions, along with the uncertainty and loneliness of life, without all the structures I usually rely on.

How do you uncover new career paths, when you can’t even leave your house? Should I just “sit and wait” this pandemic through, before doing the self-discovery work required to build a meaningful, fulfilling career? 

Joining The Grand Quest immediately grounded me. To my immense relief, I wasn't the only one asking these questions. These questions also weren’t only asked by 24-year old tech workers like myself. My comrades-in-questioning - a new father, recent retiree, teacher in Taiwan, and lawyer (to name only half of my group) - became my anchors. Every two weeks, we took a holistic approach to helping each other find professional meaning. We worked from our personal values to sculpt a career we could devote ourselves to. Bearing witness to others in the program through their transitions informed my own sense of purpose.

Our society desperately needs more people pursuing their Ikigai, “their reason for being”. I caught myself wishing that everyone could go on such a quest. If we all felt we were pursuing ikigai in our careers - how much more harmonious, caring, and just could our society be?

Like the best anchors, The Grand Quest, a 14-week group coaching experience, helps to stabilize this uncomfortable, lonely period of change. If you, or anyone you know, is considering a career transition (or wanting to step back and re-evaluate your professional path), I hope you’ll consider joining The Grand Quest community next month.

Sign Up For The Grand Quest

We are accepting applications for the next cohort until January 19th, and we’ll embark on our Quest on the first week of February. Will you join us, or pass this opportunity to a friend? 

As Mary Oliver wisely says in her beloved poem “The Summer Day” - Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? 


Serena and The Grand Team

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