In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

August 25, 2022

Nurse manager shares how she intentionally lives the principles of joy each day

By In the Loop

Karizma Maxson, nurse manager in the Family Birth Center and Special Care Nursery at Mayo Clinic Health System in Southwest Wisconsin, shares her thoughts on creating a joy-filled workplace nurtured by connection, trust and strong relationships.


Having studied employee satisfaction as part of her doctoral program, Karizma Maxson, D.N.P., a nurse manager at Mayo Clinic Health System in Southwest Wisconsin, reflects on joy, explains how it comes to life on her team, and discusses why the much-talked-about concept is not just about "feeling happy."

Here are some thoughts on joy, in her words:

Joy lights a flame in our soul.

Happiness and joy are different. Happiness is fleeting and impacted by what's happening in the moment. Joy is something we choose each day no matter our situation or environment. It lights a flame in our soul and sustains us on good, bad and neutral days. As a leader, I try to dig in and foster that light in my staff so they can transfer that to our patients. It's not always easy or perfect. My joy comes from recognizing goodness around me and remembering why I am here (my purpose, my team). Each morning, I think of three good things I'm grateful for in my life and at work.

Joy is listening and learning.

I listen and check in with staff because I want to make sure they feel engaged in their work. From their very first job interview to bi-annual performance reviews or weekly one-on-ones, I use those as opportunities to have open dialogue with staff. It gives them a chance to reflect on their interests, their strengths and where they hope to be in five or 10 years. Learning what staff love to do teaches me where to foster more of that love. Doing what we love fosters long-term joy.

Joy grieves the past and moves forward.

I'm grateful to work for an organization that values connection and allows leaders the space to try new things. When I first started my leadership role at Mayo Clinic Health System in Southwest Wisconsin, I shadowed the team for one month so I could learn first-hand every piece of the practice, get to know the people, and identify the intricacies of the team. In that time, I identified what joy looked like for staff and how we could all bring more of it into the workplace. I observed their history and saw some hurt from changes that had taken place over time. Not long after, I gathered the team and held a COVID-friendly candle-lighting ceremony outside as a way to remember and mourn the past so we could embrace a new team vision and move forward.

Joy begins with the basics.

As we infused joy into our work conversations, the team felt empowered, started to act on their ideas and have some fun. It started with some basic things like having a centralized team newsletter with staff and patient examples of joy. One of our team members loves to design. On Father's Day, she makes cards with tire tracks for our new dads on the floor. On Thanksgiving, they make turkey signs, and everyone takes time to reflect, write and post what they are thankful for each year. Over the holidays, I dress up in a Santa Claus costume and take pictures on the floor. I've taken countless photos with patients, families, bellies and newborns. Not one patient has turned me down so far.

Joy is the birthplace of the Sunshine Committee.

The Sunshine Committee has been a part of all of my work units. Each month one staff member is responsible for organizing special activities on the team, such as buying small gifts to welcome new staff, and celebrating staff birthdays and milestones. We acknowledge important moments that matter in our work and personal lives. It's our connection to one another that makes us stronger as a team.

Joy is giving to the Kindness Cupboard.

The Kindness Cupboard started when we received patients from the Afghanistan refugee program in Wisconsin. It started with an idea from two of our nurses on ways to help support refugees who were expecting. They reached out to colleagues and friends across Midwest sites for new and gently used baby clothes and supplies. It didn't take long to fill our closet with much-needed items for babies and moms. Our cupboard is full, and the gifts keep coming, so we continue to offer new items to new moms in need.

Joy is trust and accountability.

As a leader, one of the most important things I've learned is that staff want follow-through on expectations. They want to know they have a manager who has their back and someone who will help them bring their best self to work. I wouldn't do my job if it wasn't for the teams I've been gifted to lead. They're amazing. I also encourage their feedback so I can grow as a leader, too. I'm thankful to work alongside them — even on the hard days.

Joy is conversation and leading with love.

Stepping into a leadership role doesn't mean being friends with the people you're responsible for. I think stepping into a leadership role means you have to love the people you're responsible for. That means empowering them. When you love someone, you are willing to have the hard conversations and push them to be the best they can be. Joy starts with conversation and creating a safe space for staff to bring new ideas forward and act on them. When we connect with staff, we can better connect with the needs of our patients. Joyful employees reflect in positive patient experiences.

Joy is reading.

I love to read and credit these three books for shaping my views on the topic:

  • "Dare to Lead" by Brene Brown.
  • "Find Your Why: A Practical Guide for Discovering Purpose for You and Your Team" by Simon Sinek.
  • "Reality-based Leadership: Ditch the Drama, Restore Sanity to the Workplace, and Turn Excuses into Results" by Cy Wakeman.

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Tags: Staff Stories

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