166: Leaders with Heart Cry Too

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In this episode, Heather has a heartfelt conversation with Kara Westurn, Regional Director at CharDonnay Dialysis/CDI Health, where she is in charge of overseeing dialysis centers in correctional facilities across the country. This episode is so inspiring, authentic, and real, and is the first episode that has led to tears.

Kara Westurn is the poster image for what a Caring Leader is – but she wasn’t always this way. Kara is incredibly transparent in this episode about all the challenges she has faced and what she has learned along the way. She has had every reason to give up but has always chosen to persevere. As a single mother of 5, her resilience is something that she hopes to pass onto all of her children. Tune into this inspiring story about a woman who woke up one day after 18-years in an unhealthy marriage and decided to turn her life around.

Key Takeaways:

  • You have the power to break the cycle, show up and be different than the adults you had in your life. 
  • You can’t just be aware that there needs to be a change, you have to be ready. 
  • Employees should never be scared to come to you. 
  • Tragic events can be the best building blocks.
  • Open-door policies create safe spaces at work and at home.
  • It’s never too late to start over.

Kara Westurn is Regional Director at CharDonnay Dialysis/CDI Health, where she is in charge of overseeing dialysis centers in correctional facilities across the country. She is a registered nurse with an incredible story of how she got to where she is today. Kara is the mother of five children and is a true inspiration. 

Throughout her life, she has faced many obstacles – one of her biggest was leaving her 18-year marriage and raising 5 children as a single mother. She had poor credit, no rental history, and hadn’t worked in over ten years – but she knew she needed to make a change. This decision changed her life forever, and her ability to flourish under such unfavorable conditions was when she realized that she could do anything.

Daughter’s Story

Kara’s daughters in Middle School and one day she got a call from the school saying, “I think you should know what your daughter is doing everyday lunch”. At first, when Kara heard this she was a bit defensive because she knows that her kids are generally well-behaved, but then she realized that they were actually calling her about a very touching act of kindness that her daughter had been doing for the past 2 years without anyone knowing.

  • Her daughter and her friends started making plans/helping this little girl who did never had lunch have a well-rounded meal by bringing her food every day
  • The teacher noticed and sat down right with them and had lunch with them, even though they were breaking small covid rules like sharing food – the teacher showed caring leadership and decided to join them instead 

I know work isn’t going to throw anything at me that I can’t handle. – Kara Westurn #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Turning Adversity Into a Positive

  • Her daughter/kids grew up in a difficult environment with attempted suicide, drug abuse, verbal and mental abuse, they had every reason to be rebellious and bad, but they learned how to be the opposite of what she saw.
  • Her terrible marriage was the driving force for her strength.
    • She decided to start nursing school after her ex-husband’s behavior became too much and was unacceptable. She actually had to have guards outside her campus apartment because of her ex-husband’s threats, but she continued to push through and graduated college. 
  • She attributes her children’s resilience and caring heart to the fact that they saw everything she went through, watched her make decisions to change their lives, they even saw her break down crying at her college graduation – the transparency she had with them led to such caring children and taught them how to stand back up when things get hard.

When talking about people not seeing the answer right in front of them she says, “There was a time when I didn’t see it either. I was in that marriage for 18 years. But when I was ready, I was READY. – Kara Westurn… Click To Tweet

My background has prepared me so much that when I walk into a situation that maybe is scary or maybe is um you know, not a great situation, I am prepared. – Kara Westurn #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Work-life

  • “My job is to take care of people.” She believes that because of all the challenges that she went through, she is able to show up to work and know that nothing is impossible. 
  • Since she became a nurse, she is always asked after 3-5 months at the job if she wants to step into management/leadership positions, and she attributes that to her natural tendency to be a leader and show her peers that they can work through whatever the obstacle is. 
  • She believes that the difficult things are what helped her build that strength.
  • Her employees never have to worry about retaliation for coming to her with concerns regarding anything – they know they will be supported.

I have a very open-door policy when it comes to employees, we can talk about anything that they want to talk about. – Kara Westurn #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

You sure can make sunshine and roses, but you know it doesn't have to always be that way, things can be hard and we can walk away from them learning a lot and growing a lot. – Kara Westurn #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

If it wasn’t for really hard things I would never be the person that I am I would never be so I can only be thankful for really hard things. – Kara Westurn #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet


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