August 14, 2019 4:00 am Published by

Episode 19:

Carlene Wilson got her start in leadership at a Steelcase dealership in Texas. After becoming co-owner, Carlene attempted to acquire the company from her business partner. When that didn’t pan out, Carlene uprooted her life, moved to Minneapolis, and started fresh as National Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Atmosphere Commercial Interiors.

Carlene climbed the corporate ladder once again, becoming President, CEO, and part-owner of Atmosphere Commercial Interiors. She understands the keys to successfully integrating work and life, as she juggles life as a woman leader with those of being a wife, mother, and stepmother.

What You Will Learn:

  • How to visualize challenges and roadblocks as paths forward, rather than just obstacles
  • The importance of “work-life integration” in finding peace and happiness in life
  • Why it’s important to never confuse your faith with difficulty and why one must never lose hope
  • The challenge of uprooting your life and how to cope with major changes and transitions
  • Purpose, core values, and goals, as well as how those things keep team members engaged and drive them toward success
  • Nourishing team culture within organizations to help define organizational culture
  • How intuition guides Carlene’s thoughts and influences her life decisions
  • Where to find inspiration within the tumultuous environment of life as a woman leader
  • Carlene’s life hacks to stay organized, efficient, and on top of things when she needs more time in the day



Women Leaders Should Trust Their Intuition to Overcome Obstacles

Carlene Wilson, President and CEO of Atmosphere Commercial Interiors, is a badass. She is a stellar example of a woman leader, owning and running a large and successful company out of the Twin Cities. She’s also a wonderful friend, one that I recently collaborated with on a panel addressing intuition as a superpower, where she blew the audience away with insights she’s gained over years as an instinctive, driven professional. She was also kind enough to stop by the Intentional Greatness podcast in an episode you CANNOT miss.Woman Leader | Seeing Obstacles as the Way Forward, with Carlene Wilson

You don’t get to sit in Carlene’s chair without roadblocks, and nobody knows that better than her. In situations where you just don’t know what to do, some of the greatest insights come from books by other incredible people. For Carlene, this wisdom came directly from Ryan Holiday in his book “The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph.” I won’t spoil the ending, but it’s a fascinating book on how we can turn adversity into advantage, an obstacle into an opportunity, and trial into triumph. The fact that Carlene loves it so much is a testament to her awesome character, which I am so excited to share with you.

Work and Life: Why They Shouldn’t Be At Odds

Carlene and I both agree: work-life balance is BS. Why should the two most important parts of our lives be constantly vying for our attention? The new answer, one that every successful woman leader should subscribe to, is work-life integration. It’s the idea that our personal and professional lives should work together in harmony to make us happy. Your professional life should benefit your personal life and vice versa. This secret is how a leader like Carlene remains adaptable to all of life’s crazy transitions.

One such transition came when Carlene had to uproot her whole life and move across the country, from scorching Texas to freezing Minnesota. Carlene had climbed the ladder at her Steelcase dealership and wanted to buy the company from her partner. When she couldn’t do that, Carlene knew a change was in order. With the support of her family, Carlene started over at Atmosphere Commercial Interiors in Minneapolis and climbed the ladder once more. This time, however, she didn’t stop at the top rung; she made a whole new ladder. She accomplished her goal of acquiring the company and now runs it like a well-oiled machine. How does she integrate her work and life when she juggles roles like president, CEO, mother, and wife? Read on to find out.

Habits of a Good Leader

As the head of an organization, Carlene has a direct hand in the company’s culture and how it runs. As a mother and wife, she does the same. Her years of experience in both realms have taught her that a positive culture starts at the individual level and moves up. Promoting healthy collaboration and group dynamics creates closely-bonded teams where cultures grow and flourish. Much like how families function from the unique contributions of family members, organizational cultures are built using individuals and teams to create cultures like building blocks. Easier said than done, right? Carlene is no stranger to tough questions and difficult decisions as a woman leader. Luckily, she knows that the skills she’s acquired as a president and a mother are powerful tools for any situation.

When faced with difficult decisions, Carlene has learned to step back, enjoy the things she loves, and trust her intuition. If reading a book, drinking some wine, and spending time with the family is what you need to do to get back on track, go for it. Carlene firmly believes you should “never doubt what you’re sure of”, to quote The Boss himself. Never feel guilty taking the time to center yourself, listen to your intuition’s voice, and reflect on your decisions and successes. With Carlene’s advice, you’ll have a lot of that second one.

In addition to trusting her instincts and doing what she loves, Carlene has a set of life hacks that any woman leader can use to stay on top of their game. Having trouble staying organized and efficient? Consider hiring an executive assistant; according to Carlene, her assistant is her lifeline. For smaller tasks, Carlene keeps a calendar and follows it as religiously as she can. Nothing feels better than knocking things off of your to-do list. Lastly, Carlene recommends you take some time to discover who or what inspires you. Is it a famous person? A story? Even a family member, like how Carlene’s mother motivates her? Whatever your source of motivation, keep it in the center of your life, draw on it, and you won’t regret it. This is Carlene’s formula for success, and it’s a formula I know we can all follow to be bold, confident, unf<kwithable leaders.

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