About Cathy Berggren

Entrepreneur, Nonprofit Coach, Life Coach, Executive, and Idea Shaper

The Everyday leader: Your Story of Influence

What is your story? The story of YOUR life. We all have one.

Most likely your story is one that is filled with all kinds of chapters. Good times, bad times, times when you have been hurt or hurt another, times of failure, times of success, times of strength, even times of shame. All of those experiences make up YOUR story, the story that is totally unique to you. It is this storyline… the storyline of your life that has made you into the everyday leader that you are.

We have often heard our past shapes and mold us. Did you know that the way we are driven is often from the uniqueness of our own stories? It is this story that gives us an incredible understanding and compassion to see the lives of others in a whole new way. Our story serves a purpose and it is never in vain. This purpose empowers and enables each of us to make a difference in the lives of others. To hear and understand their stories in a way only we can after having walked that path ourselves.

Tragedies, celebrations, tears, smiles, regret, shame, broken dreams…all of these things make us who we are. These are the things that make our stories real and help us to connect and to inspire and influence those around us.

How often to you hear of someone doing something huge because of something in their past? How about the Adam Walsh story? Imagine the loss the parents experienced when they lost their son in the blink of an eye! They now spend their lives helping other families find kidnapped children and help to locate criminals. This tragedy was a chapter in their story that has driven them to be passionate in helping others that face similar circumstances. The stories of our past give us passion. They also make us the everyday leaders that can and do make a difference in the lives of those we encounter.

Do you have a chapter you would rather simply keep quiet about? Even those chapters that you would rather forget – are part of what make you, the unique you, that God has created.

Sharing your story means being intentional to help those around you. It means accepting your story and using it for the greater good. It may even mean embracing your story; knowing that God uses all things in our lives for a bigger purpose than we can ever know, even the chapters that don’t make sense to us.

The everyday leader, living intentionally, using our stories to make a difference.

I want to be that person. To embrace all of the chapters of my life. To use my story for His glory.

The Every Day Leader: The Farmer in all of US

One of my favorite Super Bowl commercials this year was Paul Harvey in “God Made A Farmer”, advertising the Ram truck. You had to look hard to see exactly what the product was that they were actually advertising. It was subtle throughout the short clip, but the Ram truck was there, standing strong and dependable helping the farmer.

Growing up on a farm, this commercial got me right from the beginning. It drew me in and kept me until the very end. I know what it is like to get up early, plow fields, milk cows, all the while being resourceful, caring for family and the community. I watched my parents model all of those things to me – day in and day out as I grew up on our dairy farm. Though I haven’t lived on a farm for many years, those lessons that were instilled in me never went away… there is a bit of a farmer in all of us.

This commercial was a beautiful tribute to those who work the land but also to all of us who share those same values: pride in our work, dependability, reliability , trustworthiness, and community.

As leaders we need to strive to embody those values and display them to all those we influence. One of the main values stressed in this commercial was dependability.

It didn’t matter if a calf was be born at 2 am and chores started again at 6 am…my dad would be there. Despite the business of the farm, if a neighbor needed us, we were there. If you were tired, you didn’t stop for an afternoon nap – too many things depended on you.

Dependability seems to often to be missing in this day and age. People are quick to say they will do something and then don’t. As leaders dependability is seen in our consistency to lead in the right ways, it is showing our staff and those we influence that we have their backs.

Yes there is a bit of farmer in all of us and if we let it…it just may come out.

Every day leaders are dependable, even when we are tired or stressed.

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click picture to watch video

The Every Day Leader: Being Real

As I sit at my desk I am looking at an ad for a conference called the  “The Super Summit”. 

I think about what that means. It seems we are always striving to be super and not just super at one thing but at EVERYTHING!

I think about the conversations I had this week with people trying to be super and even how I can get caught up in that image. In reality we are made to rely on God.  We are called to live authentically.  Deep down we know that  all God calls us to be is ourselves.  To do the best we can – but to be real.

I wonder why we think we must all be the Super Women or Men – having it all together, doing it all – home, work, friends, church, community…. never allowing ourselves to be anything less than that super person in the eyes of others.

To be honest it feels good to think we can do it all, it feels good to have others respect us and look to us, and to be needed.

The danger of this entire superman living is that it can’t last. Sooner or later it catches up to us and if we let it, it will destroy us.

In the end, we aren’t super human – but for some reason we have the expectation that we should be.

We think we should be able to manage at work giving 100%.  We think we should be able to manage at home and being the all to everyone.  We think we should be involved in our community and our church.  We think we should reach out to others.  All of the expectations we put on ourselves don’t allow us to be anything but super humans.  We get so caught up in the things we should be doing that we somehow forget to live.  We don’t have time to enjoy the blessings of the day.  And in all this we strive to meet the expectations that others have on us.

We don’t give ourselves the freedom to hurt, struggle, or be sad because there is no room or time for the messiness that life often brings. We rarely have time to laugh and to appreciate those who truly care about us and want our best.

Many of us have the same expectations of ourselves as leaders.  We don’t allow ourselves to have messy lives, to struggle or to have anything less than perfect. We strive to show those around us that we are super human and life is good all the time with no mess.

We allow people to see only the productive side of things, all the outside stuff, never allowing them to see the mess backstage (which, is a well-kept secret).

Somehow, we think what really matters to everyone and to us is what can be displayed on the outside – productivity.

Leaders know that life can be messy.  We know that it can be hard, and if we are honest we also know that we are not made to be super human.

We know that being real, allowing people to see who we are and who we are not, opens the door to influence another.  We know it allows them to see us walking the journey one step at time. Our story allows others to relate to us.

Every day leaders don’t have to be super human to make a difference in the lives of others.   They understand that leading a life of influence means that we allow people to see us – not who we think we should be – but really see who we are.  We know that when we allow others to see the real us as we walk the journey  that we can have a  lasting impact on those around us. 

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The Every Day Leader: Rising Above

In 1931 a gentleman name J.T. Lang gave the term “tall poppy” to those on government salaries that earned a high amount.  A tall poppy is referred to someone who is successful in their field.  From that, folks from Australia have coined a new phrase over the years called “the tall poppy syndrome”.

It is a term referred to one pulling another down that is more successful – especially if they show the slightest bit of imperfection.

It somehow makes us feel better about ourselves.

I didn’t know the term until many years ago – but I have known people to do this, known what it feels like to have it done to me and also know how easy it is to get pulled into being a part of it.

The tall poppy syndrome shows it face when someone appears better at something than you…we become jealous.  When we can find a flaw in that person, it becomes an instant way to bring them down a notch…maybe even down to the level we are at.

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Sometimes, all that is needed is awareness that we are capable of doing this.

Can you think of someone now that you are just a little jealous of?  Their skills?  Their looks?  Their position?  How do you handle that?  Are you the one that points out something negative about them or do you celebrate with them?

Ever since I have heard of the term, I have been more conscious of thinking of the tall poppy.  Someone may be a better communicator, a better leader, a better dresser…a better anything.  I am instantly reminded of the tall poppy.

Leaders intentionally celebrate the gifts of others.  They congratulate, they encourage and they look up to them, rather than bringing them down to their level.  We know the importance of not only our words, but our thoughts. Thoughts lead to actions.

When we are intentional even in our thought life, we are better people.  We have new opportunities to influence another. 

We know to celebrate the tall flowers that come up, knowing that God has made us all unique.  It’s what we do…celebrate others success.

Next time, when you are tempted to critique the tall poppy that is doing something better than you…may you be reminded of the beauty they bring, as well as the beauty you bring. 

Every day leaders share successes, knowing that we make a difference when we celebrate together.

The Every Day Leader: Railroad tracks and Frequent stops

Do you ever feel like there is no end in sight?  That perhaps the hard journey you are on will keep going and you wonder if you can make it? 

I would venture to say that you are not alone.

Hard times in our lives are like that.  Even if we know there is an end ahead, it feels like it is so far away that we want to give up.  We  are weary and want to rest.  We are discouraged. We are heartbroken.

I look at the railroad track that seems as if it goes on forever.  What I love is that even though it goes for miles and miles, it stops at destination points.  It picks up or delivers the cargo.

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Our journey in life is much the same.  There are destinations in the midst of our trip that provide respite, where God is at work caring for us.  It may be a caring friend, kind words from a coworker, someone checking in us…little bits of encouragement along the way.  It is the times when people invest in you.

It is those times, those destinations along the way that keep us going.  This is especially true when the journey is long and hard.  It is when the journey has unexpected twists and turns that are difficult to navigate alone.

Every day leaders not only provide those respite times for others on their journey, but they also recognize and embrace those that provide it for us.  Both of these opportunities are times when we have to choose. We have to be intentional to let others be that rest stop and speak encouragement into our lives.

We have to choose to be the refreshment for someone else.

The  train goes along and stops here and there.  Just as our lives go along and has stops here and there.  We have to choose to get off on the stops.  To refresh, not only ourselves but others.

Every day leaders know it is what we all need.  We know that our intentional choices make a difference in the lives of another on their journey of life.

Guest Post: Singing Happy Birthday to YOU

On January 17th not so long ago the world was changed. It might not have been noticed right away but the world definitely became a kinder place. A sweet little girl was born.

A little girl was born in Nebraska to a dairy farmer and his wife and to four awesome sisters.

little c copyThis pure bundle of joy would go on to help disadvantage kids at school and later become one of the top nonprofit Executive Directors in south Atlanta.

139Thank you Cathy for all you do and for all you have done to make this world a better place. We are so proud of you. We are proud to call you friend. Thank you for your heart of gold, your smile and laughter that lights up every room, and for being there to help so many through such hard times. Thank you for having such a huge heart of compassion.

Today on this very special birthday your friends wish you tons of blessings but more importantly we pray God will use you in even grater ways:

That He will stir up the fire of passion within you to accomplish even greater things for Him

That the dreams He gave you so long ago will be fulfilled this year

That you would have even more of God’s anointing to fulfill His call on your life

That He would bring you out to even deeper waters of knowing who He really is and His love

That you would feel loved. Loved like you have never felt before

Happy Birthday to you!

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The Every Day Leader: Life in the Rear View Mirror

I love to go for drives…one of my favorite drives is in the mountains. Nothing compares to the scenery!  I find myself looking not just in front of me but often glancing to see what is off to the sides.  There is always so much to take in!  We all know that we are to glance in our mirror from time to time to be aware of our environment…but we know that when we do we might miss something ahead!

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When we look back we miss what’s in front of us

If we would spend all of our time looking at what’s behind us, we wouldn’t just miss what’s ahead, we would not be able to proceed forward!  If we did, we would not likely make it very far.

Funny thing is that we often do this in life.  We are so concerned about the past, dwelling on what happened yesterday, that we miss the beauty of today.  Much like in the car, it would be impossible to move forward when only looking back – in fact it would be disastrous.   If we spend more time looking behind us, we miss out on the blessings of today.

The flip side is if we totally disregard the past we will not learn from past mistakes.  We would not understand the effect the past has had – both good and bad on our lives.  We would not be the same person if we totally ignored the past.

Just like driving, looking in the rear view mirror helps us be aware of our surroundings.  A wise driver will look back every so often but not stay there.

How about you?  Where are you looking? 

Are you stuck looking in the rear view mirror – unable to move forward?  Are you forgetting to look in that mirror altogether maybe because of something painful you would rather forget? 

Being a healthy person means we take the time to see the past.  We are willing to  learn from it, deal with the hurts, delight in memories and be thankful for all that God has done.  It also means to be willing to move beyond it.  To embrace the present – really embrace the moments God has given us.  It also means to hoping for tomorrow, knowing God has our tomorrows in the palm of His hand.

Everyday leaders work on this balance – to be our best selves.  To be able to move forward, making a difference every step of the way.

The Every Day Leader: Seeing the BIG Picture

All week I have had a cardinal trying to fly through my window…not just once but several times a day!   For the life of me I cannot figure out what it is that he may see on the inside.  It seems so futile…and on top of that, it seems that he would learn from the first few times of hitting the glass!

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I was struck with the thought of how much we can be like the Cardinal.  How often do we see something we want – or think we want – trying desperately to get it, over and over and over, but to no avail.

Could it be because we are so stubborn that we refuse to see what we need to see?  We keep trying the same thing over and over hoping for different results.  Wishing for change.  We are not willing to learn, to take the time to look at things differently  and change our course of action, so we keep hitting the glass.

Do you have something in your life now that you feel like you are hitting a wall over and over again? 

In our home, the door is right next to the window, but the cardinal is unable to look at the bigger picture and see the door as a possibility.

Leaders know that if something isn’t working we may need to try something else, look for another option and see the overall picture. It may take some time to study the situation, look for alternatives; and try another way.  We know that patience and diligence will pay off in the end. 

It’s what every day leaders do.

What wall are you running into?

Step back.  Study it.  Look for another way. 

It’s what Every Day leaders do.  Rather than get frustrated they are willing to reevaluate.  It may take time, but it is worth in the end…and not nearly as tiring!

The Every Day Leader: A Year in Review

I just finished reading my last Christmas card…the day after Christmas.  I wanted to take the time to sit down in a quiet space and catch up with the notes and letters from old friends and far away family.

I read and wondered where the year went.  I thought about the many times I would get through some big event, only to have another something “big” ahead to tackle.  The days come and go seeming long at the time.  Yet, somehow the year goes by so quickly! 

The days are long, but the years are short

I couldn’t agree more.

This year, I am vowing to manage my time, just a little bit better.   Knowing that I am the only one who can do that.  I know too, that if I don’t, it affects every part of my life.  Each day offers many choices…and by saying no to some, it allows me to say yes to others.  I am learning that everyday leaders must be intentional in their choice.  I want my choices to be about making a difference, about investing in others, about being the person God has called me to be.

Today I had to make one of those choices.  I was looking forward to some time alone  and looking forward to the time to regroup.  Then the email came.  Someone needed help.  I longed to save my time for me, but also knew I would still have it.  It was an older gentleman, no food, alone, family was all away, no transportation.  Somehow, there was extra food from yesterday – even an extra ham to share.  When I stopped he was uncertain.  We talked and I gave him the items.  When I left, I had the privilege to pray with him.  I watched as he held his face with his hands, I noticed  the tears that slid down his cheeks. 

I cannot imagine what it must feel like to have been a strong provider, strong believer and yet now, finding one in a place of desperate need and feeling so alone.  I wondered if the next door neighbors had any idea, and if they did would they do something?  I wondered how his life got to this point.  I am reminded the gift we each have of time, of the opportunity to influence the life of another, to love one another.

The days are long – yet they never quite seem long enough to fit it all in.  We have good intentions, but the actions don’t always make it.  Before we know it the year is over once again.

How was your year? 

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Every day leaders savor the moments that we have been given.  We know that we must choose how we spend our moments, to balance it all out and to make our days count. We know it also means to take the time for the unexpected opportunities and the privilege to invest in another.

Every Day Leader: ‘Tis the Season

The lights are twinkling, the tree is decorated, presents are wrapped…all the things we do at Christmas. There are parties and gatherings, all with a twinge in the back of our minds wondering where did the year go?

For may of us, this is a very busy time. Our days are spent trying to get everything done in anticipation of the holiday and the end of the year. We somehow mean to take time to reflect on what Christmas is about and about the year …. but somehow those intentions get crowded out with a long to-do list.

Tis the season…

I went to a barn the other night and watched the Christmas story acted out with live animals. Somehow in the midst of the smells: the sheep, donkeys and the manager, all the other things like the cookies and the sights of twinkling lights and presents did not seem to be so important. I was reminded to be still and know that I am God.

Be still.

Why is it so hard to do? Our minds continue to race even when our bodies stop to rest.

Every day leaders know that taking time to be still, to listen, to pray, and to reflect are all part of becoming better people. It is during that time each day where we not only quiet our souls, but we seek to know God, to really know him… not just a “30 second toss-up a prayer and be about our business” know him. We see His hand in our lives and we seek to hear His voice.

Be still and know that I am God.

Where are you? Are you frantically trying to get it all done? All the things that seem so important?

Take time today. Be still. Get to know God. Quiet your soul. Embrace the moments that you have been given. Be reminded of why we celebrate Christmas each year.

Every day leaders are intentional in how we spend our time. Knowing that the times of being still and seeking God equips us to make a difference in the life of another!

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