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Dr. Kathy Scott of L3 Fusion: “The power of laughter”

The power of laughter. During the pandemic, I found myself becoming way too serious, too introspective, with some of the perceived burdens I was experiencing. I grew duller and duller. I missed laughing out loud with others. I missed laughing at myself. Laughing is really about living in the present — enjoying what’s before us and not taking […]

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The power of laughter. During the pandemic, I found myself becoming way too serious, too introspective, with some of the perceived burdens I was experiencing. I grew duller and duller. I missed laughing out loud with others. I missed laughing at myself. 
Laughing is really about living in the present — enjoying what’s before us and not taking ourselves too seriously. It’s good for the soul! I learned that I had to protect myself from too much ugly — too much bad news, too many conversations with angry people, too much time on “hold,” too much focus on what was missing, and too much worry about the future. I vowed that I would focus on the more positive and humorous side of life. This took some effort — I limited my time reading or watching the news, increased my contact with family, reflected on the positive, watched funny movies and laughed out loud, deleted many emails before reading them, and read inspirational works that brought me joy! This effort was well spent. I got my humor and my mojo back, realizing more than ever that I can make choices to lighten my load and improve my mental, spiritual and emotional fitness.


With the success of the vaccines, we are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel of this difficult period in our history. But before we jump back into the routine of the normal life that we lived in 2019, it would be a shame not to pause to reflect on what we have learned during this time. The social isolation caused by the pandemic really was an opportunity for a collective pause, and a global self-assessment about who we really are, and what we really want in life.

As a part of this series called “5 Things I Learned From The Social Isolation of the COVID19 Pandemic”, I had the pleasure to interview Kathy Scott, PhD.

Kathy A. Scott is President and Chief Executive Officer of a firm she established in 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona. Her name-sake firm specializes in healthcare working with executives and teams to transform traditional leadership and clinical-business models to alternatives that will thrive in a highly competitive environment.

Dr. Scott holds a Ph.D. in Healthcare Administration and Organizational Systems, a master’s degree in Public Healthcare Administration, and a bachelor’s degree in Nursing; and is a Fellow in the American College of Healthcare Executives. Her doctoral research served as the science behind her new book “Stupid Gone Viral — When Science and Reality Collide,” which is focused on reframing the way we live, lead, and learn during times of chaos and complexity.

Her expertise was gained through multiple chief executive roles (nursing, operations, innovation, integration) in academic and community healthcare systems. Kathy is a recognized expert in transforming organizations through reliability science, preparing them to quickly adapt to the unexpected, create cultures of justice, and achieve sustainable results. She is also a noted speaker and author on contemporary leadership, large-scale organizational change, clinical transformation, and patient safety. She does all this with a flair for engaging her audiences with candor and a sense of humor.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers like to get an idea of who you are and where you came from. Can you tell us a bit about your background? Where do you come from? What are the life experiences that most shaped your current self?

I started out as a Midwest girl in Detroit, Michigan who wanted to be a nurse. Over time, I did just that and worked for many years as a critical care nurse taking care of the sickest of the sick. Eventually, I became a healthcare leader with a focus on healthcare operations and nursing practice. While inspired by so many patients and healthcare nurses and providers, I became very discouraged by the inhumane “systems of care” that were so prevalent in healthcare. I determined that if I was to stay in healthcare, I would need to become a transformer, challenging the status quo and creating better conditions for patients, families, healthcare workers, and providers. This began my executive and consulting journey, fueled by my doctoral education and research, into transformational leadership and the innovative design of the delivery of healthcare — a journey of creating safer and more humane systems-of-care.

I currently live in Phoenix, AZ with my husband and consult across the U.S. in the healthcare and leadership transformation space.

Are you currently working from home? If so, what has been the biggest adjustment from your previous workplace? Can you please share a story or example?

Yes, I am working from home! Before the pandemic, I was working from my home office as well, was out of the office space frequently due to my traveling and consulting work. There were many adjustments to be made while being home full time and working exclusively remotely! I think the biggest adjustment was the routine of being home 24 -7 and all that comes with that from an every-day-living perspective. Taking the time to plan, shop for, and create healthy meals three times a day, day after day after day, for my husband and other family members. This seemed particularly onerous in the beginning. And then figuring out when to take breaks from the technology and zoom calls was equally as challenging since I could now technically work all day and evening across multiple time zones. I had to become more creative and disciplined with taking time outs and interjecting non-work activities into my day. And while I knew these inconveniences were so trivial compared to the sacrifices of so many others, I also knew it could wear me down if I let it.

What do you miss most about your pre-COVID lifestyle?

Two things:

I have been a healthcare leader “in the thick of it” for decades. Every major health event, I was very involved in leading the team through the chaos — HIV/AIDS, SARS, Ebola, the year 2000 computer updates, social threats, tornadoes, power outages. This time, I was not. Healthcare systems were locked down to bare essentials, and most consultants were put on the sidelines. This was very difficult for me in the beginning as I looked for ways to meaningfully contribute. And quite frankly, over time, I became very grateful that I did not have to be front and center in the midst of the COVID crisis.

I missed in-person conversations and meeting up for a cup of coffee or a glass of wine with colleagues, family, and friends. Like most of us, I have become a zoom/google-meet/go-to-meet expert, and while I am very grateful for these platforms, I find them lacking when it comes to connecting heart-to-heart.

The pandemic was really a time for collective self-reflection. What social changes would you like to see as a result of the COVID pandemic?

This list is long and I would say the #1 social change I would like to see is more mental health support for all ages. Mental health care needs to be much more accessible and integrated into physical care because our mental health always impacts our physical health and vice versa. The pandemic certainly exposed the dearth of resilience in today’s society with the significant increase in anxiety, depression and suicide.

That brings me to another significant social change needed — unearthing the values, behaviors and systems that support and feed discrimination and bias of all kinds, without going over the ledge and over-regulating compliance to new norms. Compliance will not get us there. Increased awareness through informed and facilitated dialogue will help, but this must be followed by redesigning the systems in which we live and work to enhance and incentivize justice and respect for all human beings.

Lastly, I would love to help facilitate a social movement that drastically changes the prevailing model of leadership seen today. In times of change, diversity, and complexity, a new way is not just wanted but is also desperately needed. Today’s world needs leaders who value people as much as they value getting results. Both are needed. This type of leadership demonstrates respect for others and expects their team to walk that talk as well. This type of leadership drills down on the culture and the structures that promote unhealthy environments and work with others to create something better. This is the type of leader we all want for our children and grandchildren.

What if anything, do you think are the unexpected positives of the COVID response? We’d love to hear some stories or examples.

I think a significant impact of COVID was that it helped bring many families back together again because of the need for social isolation. I have heard so many stories of how families learned to play more together, take walks together, volunteer together and create together. On a personal note, my family played so many more games together — everything from poker to chess to “tacos and burritos.” We had such a good time. I also got to know more of my neighbors as I spent more time walking and hiking outdoors. It started with a smile (no masks outside), then a wave, and eventually conversations made easy by the common experience of COVID. It’s amazing what a smile or wave can do to boost the human spirit.

How did you deal with the tedium of being locked up indefinitely during the pandemic? Can you share with us a few things you have done to keep your mood up?

I must admit, I had my ups and downs during this time which surprised me. I consider myself to be pretty resilient and yet there were days I wasn’t so sure. What helped me most was finding ways to meaningfully contribute during this time. I had just launched a new book and business right at the beginning of the pandemic. My co-author and business partner and I quickly needed to pivot to other ways to provide our services related to leadership development. We wrote many blogs to hep people through the times (they’re on our website), created inspirational videos for nurses working in the trenches, and shared these messages with nurse executives and their teams. We also did “shoutouts” and “giveaways” to heroes in the field, and created virtual services appropriate for the time. This helped me tremendously.

On the home front, I read a lot — an eclectic mix of books and publications that entertained, inspired, and/or educated me. My husband and I put many challenging puzzles together — he did the hard parts; I did the easier sections. I watched funny movies with my family (favorites being anything with Melissa McCarthy in it), took some cooking classes with friends (with masks on and social distancing), had local family dinners and card games. And, every day I went on a 3-mile walk or hike with our boxer. These walks were technology-free and became my time for reflection.

Aside from what we said above, what has been the source of your greatest pain, discomfort, or suffering during this time? How did you cope with it?

The source of my greatest pain began when my husband had a head-on collision in April of 2020. He was hit by an impaired driver who crossed over three lanes of traffic and collided with him head-on. Both cars totaled, all airbags deployed, all involved ending up in trauma hospitals. The great news was that my husband did not have a head or spine injury. The bad news, my husband was crippled with a crushing injury to his right foot and ankle. After his stint in the hospital (no, I couldn’t go in), he came home and gradually graduated from wheelchair to walker, to slowly walking unassisted. His driving days are over as a result of his injury, which is a huge lifestyle change for both of us. I became a nurse again. I found myself exhausted as a 24–7 caregiver. Others pitched in, but due to COVID, they had to pitch in from afar. In spite of all that, I was inspired every day by my husband’s attitude and determination to recover.

I coped by doing all of the things I talked about above. And when I behaved badly (yes, I had some moments), I shared it with a friend and apologized (usually to my husband or son). I reminded myself that “all work and no play” is not a sustainable lifestyle — and then I would try to do something that would make me laugh and not take myself or the situation too seriously.

Ok wonderful. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Learned from The Social Isolation of the COVID19 Pandemic? (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. The power of kindness over rightness. In a time of unprecedented hardship, anxiety, depression, and suicide supported by a famine of empathy, kindness is needed more than ever. Kindness can change the trajectory of a conversation or situation positively and quickly. Many of our personal ideas, feelings, and beliefs about important things such as love, politics, freedom, justice, and beauty (just to name a few) are impacted by our personal experiences and the culture we’ve been exposed to. And, as a result of this, we think our truth (our view of the facts and reality) is the truth and we vigorously defend it. Before we know it, we defend until we “win.” It’s not “truth” that’s the problem, however. There is a virus in our midst — the virus is ugly negativity that insists that my truth is more important than you
    When defending our truth is more important than extending kindness to the people impacted by this truth, we are prioritizing our ideology over people, even when there’s no doubt about our rightness. I saw this play out so many times during the pandemic — negative interactions in the grocery store, while on hold, during a zoom call, on the news, and with neighbors as they put out their campaign signs. And I also saw how just a small act of kindness could quickly change the trajectory of the situation — simply being friendly, gracious, understanding, and considerate, and curious about where another person is coming from. I saw how something as simple as a smile, a laugh, or a courteous gesture could quickly diffuse a situation. I noticed how kindness touches the human spirit even when there are opposing views. One of our neighbors put up numerous campaign signs in his yard during the elections. Many of the neighbors got pretty riled up due to the amount and size of his signs, to also include his sign that said “don’t let your dog pee here.” And I must admit, I was not one of his biggest fans. One day while walking past his house just after the recycle waste truck had been there, I noticed his empty bin on its side with the top open. I quickly reached down, stood it up, closed the lid, and kept walking. All of a sudden, I heard “Hey, lady.” I thought “Oh great, I touched the crazy guy’s property and got him all wound up.” I stopped and turned around as he said “Wow, that was such a nice thing to do. Thank you.” Ever since this very small act of kindness, he waves and smiles whenever he sees me. And I must admit, my attitude toward him has changed for the better as well. It’s important to note that demonstrating kindness does not imply that we must accept or adopt someone else’s viewpoint. It simply means we take the time to invest in, be considerate of, appreciate, and/or recognize the person behind the views.
  2. The power of overcoming perfection. In times of change and chaos, perfection is not an option. When things are changing all around us, it is important to be able to go through the messy process of learning how to do things differently, becoming a novice again. And yet, fumbling and bumbling around as we learn something new, can be quite intimidating and even threatening to our self-esteem. So many of us, particularly women, struggle with living and leading out of a perfection mindset — the pursuit of striving for the appearance of flawlessness in our actions, appearance, and performance. Many of us were socialized through a variety of messages growing up about being nice, pleasing others, going along to get along, and moving forward with caution to avoid risk. This is exacerbated in an age of ubiquitous social media where we can become seduced by the invisible pressure of personal and professional perfection. Ugh. When we do this, we are focused on impressing others. Secretly, however, we focus on our weaknesses and deficits and end up feeling like an imposter — empty, guilty, not enough. During the pandemic and time of social distancing, we all got to experience a healthy dose of real-ness as we were able to have more authentic glimpses into each other’s home spaces — see the kids running by, the spouse in their PJs or underwear, and let’s not forget the barking dogs and the cats on the table. We also experienced the awkwardness of learning new technologies, workflows, and work procedures, struggling as we go. 
    One memorable and long moment was the time I hung up on a zoom audience to which I was speaking. Instead of muting my mike as I had intended so that the audience wouldn’t hear my dog ferociously barking at the UPS guy, I disconnected completely. Feeling very stupid, I managed to get back on the call, apologize and then try to figure out where I left off. This is teaching me to give myself permission to slow down, tinker with it, figure things out. I have become more comfortable with not knowing, asking for help, working it out. It hasn’t killed me. In fact, it has been quite liberating.
  3. The power of laughter. During the pandemic, I found myself becoming way too serious, too introspective, with some of the perceived burdens I was experiencing. I grew duller and duller. I missed laughing out loud with others. I missed laughing at myself. 
    Laughing is really about living in the present — enjoying what’s before us and not taking ourselves too seriously. It’s good for the soul! I learned that I had to protect myself from too much ugly — too much bad news, too many conversations with angry people, too much time on “hold,” too much focus on what was missing, and too much worry about the future. I vowed that I would focus on the more positive and humorous side of life. This took some effort — I limited my time reading or watching the news, increased my contact with family, reflected on the positive, watched funny movies and laughed out loud, deleted many emails before reading them, and read inspirational works that brought me joy! This effort was well spent. I got my humor and my mojo back, realizing more than ever that I can make choices to lighten my load and improve my mental, spiritual and emotional fitness.
  4. The power of routines. Prior to COVID, each of my days had a significant degree of unpredictability which I seemed to thrived on. I believed this was part of my basic nature, always working in the thick of it, thriving in roles that dealt with a tremendous amount of change and chaos — critical care nurse, healthcare executive, innovator, entrepreneur, transformer. Reflecting back, I believe I carried a small fear inside me that I would crumble into the banal, the ordinary, without my daily jolts of craziness, just as I needed my daily jolts of caffeine. But instead, I found the opposite to be true. In the midst of the COVID pandemic, I was comforted by the routine — and by the fact that we were all in this together. 
    I began to thrive on the repetition of the day — staying home, taking a hike, planning meals, getting online, taking breaks, watching a favorite show. I found myself valuing the structure that created a predictable rhythm and actually found the daily rituals somewhat liberating. I found myself experiencing small but new things — noticing more, learning something new, writing more, becoming more purposeful with how I spent my time. Then as the world started opening up again, I began to feel that familiar sense of urgency in my gut — the urgency to “do” and return to the rat race of business, leaving all this behind. I started to feel “routine fatigue,” growing tired of the same ‘ole sameness but also sad that I was feeling this way. 
    There is so much I have enjoyed in this cocoon we have created. I know I don’t want to stay here, nor do I want to return to my prior state. The lesson for me here is to be more discriminating in my daily activities — more purposeful, more intentional as I move forward — keeping the healthy routines that have become habits, and avoiding the urge to return to “doing” simply for the sake of “doing.”
  5. The power of leading with grit and grace. Now that the genie is out of the bottle, leaders will need to adapt their current ways of doing business to meet the new demands of their constituents — both employees and customers. A seismic shift has occurred over the last several months. 
    The unexpected has become an all-consuming way of life. The workforce has responded with creativity, adaptability, and perseverance, navigating through the evolving complexity and changing situation.
  6. In the crisis, people stepped up! Employees quickly responded, absorbed, and adapted to disruptive events. In many situations, the leader’s role changed from a top-down decision-maker and compliance manager to harnessing the best thinking and contributions of the many to solve the unexpected quickly and creatively. The leaders who were able to do this were so much more successful than those who did not. And now that our employees know it can be done, their expectations have changed. Why spend long hours in boring meetings or commute to work in heavy traffic when other options are available? Why sit in the corner unnoticed when you have something worthwhile to contribute? At the heart of leadership moving forward, is the ability to manage people and complexity. This type of leadership is not the top-down approach with the elite few making all the decisions. 
    It is not business as usual. It is about promoting more freedom to the members (lighten up on anything you can) while providing leadership, direction setting, and essential controls. It requires grit — the ability to stay focused on the desired outcomes as we remove or dodge the obstacles. And it requires grace — the ability to touch the human spirit, recognize the worth in others and inspire them to get more engaged and motivated to contribute their time and talents. I knew this before the pandemic. It was the reason for writing the book “Stupid Gone Viral.” But the pandemic shined a light on the leadership crisis and has created a greater sense of urgency to move away from the status quo. We need more grit and grace.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you during the pandemic?

I have many life-lesson quotes but I’ll share one that I went back to over and over again this past year as I found myself too often ruminating on the negative:

. . . whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things. — Philippians 4:8 NIV

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

The person who most comes to mind in the wake of the pandemic is Louise Penny, a very entertaining and thoughtful Canadian writer of fiction with an amazing sense of humor. Many of her books focus on murder investigations but in a most unusual way as she weaves in themes of justice, psychological safety, goodness, non-judgmental curiosity and community. Her stories bring hope and humor in a world where people too often feel lost and vulnerable. I would love to get to know more about the real her.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Please check out our website at www.L3Fusion.com which includes contact information, our firm’s services, resources, blogs, videos, and book information for our Amazon best-seller titled “Stupid Gone Viral — When Science and Reality Collide.” And I’d love to hear from you directly at [email protected] or through direct messaging on LinkedIn.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this. We wish you continued success and good health.

Thank you for this opportunity!!


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