Lila Kee is the General Manager for GlobalSign’s North and South American operations as well as GlobalSign’s Chief Product Officer providing operational direction in the Americas and driving the product vision for the global organization.
Can you please share your “backstory” with us?
As a busy working mom with heavy global travel schedule, I looked to all the typical places to keep up my fitness and find some stress relief from many long hours at the various software companies I worked at over the years. After a decade of heavy running, body-pump classes, and other typical gym options (weights, stationary bikes, etc.), I found my fitness regime boring, ineffective, and at times painful! Once I turned 50 years old, a nagging back issue coupled by a genuine desire to get off the proverbial and literal treadmill, I knew it was time for a change.
What role did mindfulness or spiritual practice play in your life growing up? Do you have a funny or touching story about that?
As the youngest child of a of family of five, by the time I was old enough to attend Sunday school, my parents found the church they had attended (and my grandfather actually ministered at) for over 30 years unrelatable. Growing up with the resulting religious void I was envious of my church-going friends, whom seemed to find great joy out of faith and community their religious institutions provided them.
As I was still fairly young, I was unaware that, as my parents moved away from attending church, they had both turned to their mutual love of nature, especially wildlife.
Then, years later when my mother’s health was declining, which often left her immobile and on oxygen, she would still manage to summon enough energy to scatter leftover toast, cookies or any remaining crumbs in our backyard. This is especially poignant to me because, despite her growing health challenges, my mother was still able to find the joy in her love of nature. I think I drew lots of strength from that.
To this day, the memories of our collective excitement watching all types of New England birds including blue jays, cardinals, and chickadees, swoop in on the bounty still brings a smile to my face. Years since the passing of my parents, I connect with nature and wildlife at an almost spiritual level.
How do your mindfulness or spiritual practices affect your business and personal life today?
Yoga, meditation, and hiking deeply affect my business and personal life. My husband and I hike every Sunday in the early morning with a group of dedicated friends. Even though we live in the Boston area we are committed to hiking year-round and have seldom skipped a hike due to bad weather. My connection to nature, people — and my inner self — has only deepened because of hiking. Despite the fact I work in the security industry, the truth is that disconnecting from electronics has had a profound impact on how I think, sleep, and connect with people in all aspects of my life.
My routines include practicing yoga on the mat at least five days a week and mediate in some form daily. Applying a variety of deep breathing techniques both in and out of the office is a quick and effective way for me to de-stress, center, and view issues with a clearer mind. I rely on this “tool” daily. As the day goes on, it’s easy for my mind to fill up with variety of “clutter” that can distort priorities, make problems seem bigger or more complex than they really are, or cloud the best way forward. I’ve learned to apply deep breathing (with my eyes closed whenever possible) even for 30 seconds, when I feel overwhelmed or a bit stressed. This very small, yet powerful technique which helps me see issues and situations with much more clarity whether it’s parenting, engaging with friends, or interacting with colleagues and business partners. As a result I’ve become much better at listening, accessing and responding to challenges.
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?
I have found mindfulness has made me far more successful in navigating life in general. Having the awareness to lead less with ego, and more with empathy has allowed me to connect more deeply, build trust, and a create a foundation for successful outcomes. I feel I can bond with people far better, as I try to be a better listener and recognize each individual member of the team brings their own uniqueness. One example of successfully applying mindfulness is in the office is making connecting with staff at a personal level a priority. Less group emails, and more one-on-one meetings, even if only for 15 minutes at a time. This enables me to address concerns, shape career advancements, and generally have a much better awareness of priorities.
What would you say is the foundational principle for one to “lead a good life”? Can you share a story that illustrates that?
I truly believe the foundations to leading a good life revolve around staying true to your values. Mine happen to be centered around family, personal integrity, and a hearty work-ethic. I also believe that taking responsibility for your own physical and mental health is of the utmost importance. One example is my unabashed prioritization of finding time for yoga in my life. I know very well a bad back and stressed mind is unhelpful to me and those around me. As a result, just about every Tuesday, after I lead a yoga session at our office, I proudly bolt work early to catch a 4:30pm class. In turn, both my action and encouragement through a variety of mechanisms at our office (weekly meditation sessions, wellness committee, soccer team, etc. ) send a clear message that mental and physical health are a top priority. GlobalSign extends maximum flexibility to allow staff to engage in healthy activities.
Can you share a story about one of the most impactful moments in your spiritual/mindful life?
I guess to this day, I’m not fully over the loss of both parents. I suppose one never is. Prior to fully appreciating mindfulness, I would hide behind a busy and cluttered mind at all cost to avoid facing the grief that was deeply seated in me. Now I use quiet reflection as a way to find joy and gratefulness of all the beautiful memories I had the good fortune to have made. If anything, yoga has taught me the true meaning of gratefulness, and focusing on how lucky I was to have such great parents, versus focusing on my loss. It truly has really changed my outlook in a very positive way.
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?
In fact, yoga has become a family affair especially since my adult daughter became a certified yoga instructor. She credits me for a bit of inspiration, but it’s really her who has deepened my practices with guidance around focusing on form over ego when in a pose. So now I grab a block, bend a knee, and focus on my pose and breathing. As athletes, even my son and husband practice as they reap the benefits of stretching to avoid injury.
Can you share 3 or 4 pieces of advice about how leaders can create a very “healthy and uplifting” work culture?
- Create a culture of well-being by making well-being inclusive and accessible. Starting with weekly office stretching — i.e. Getting a weekly or bi-weekly routine is the #1 priority. From there, build other ‘mindful’ practices into your organization.
- Give the person who is speaking to you your full attention (eye contact is crucial!); Listen intently and talk less.
- Let everyone on the team know their contributions matter, their voices are heard, and role is part of a bigger mission.
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. 🙂
Create time and space for staff to meditate. Provide a facilitator to those who are new to meditation or just enjoy meditating as part of a group.
Office stretches and healthy snacks are a bonus.
I should add that I’ve been very pleasantly surprised to see how successful our mindfulness programs have become. It’s a great stress reliever for the 70% of the company the participates. Mediation and stretching not only provides much needed mid-afternoon stress relief, it has connected staff members who seldom have an opportunity to talk and share.
How can people follow you and find out more about you?
I occasionally write for our blog. My posts can be found here: https://www.globalsign.com/en/blog/securing-energy-it-networks-for-grid/
My email address is: [email protected]