COEUR d’ALENE — The word “hope” is displayed on the desk of Linda Coppess, as is the book, “Mindset.” Sleeping soundly under her desk is her black lab, Charlie.
It’s all part of creating an environment in the office of the Coeur d’Alene Regional Chamber’s president and CEO that is upbeat, positive and exudes positivity.
“I’m so thrilled by the people I have on my team right now, I don’t want to get in their way,” she said.
The chamber puts on dozens of events throughout the year, and you’ll usually find Coppess there before and after. If a banner needs to go up, or decorations on a table, Coppess wants to be there with her team.
“I want to be the first person who’s there and the last person who leaves,” she said.
December will mark two years since Coppess came on board to lead the chamber in her hometown, selected from a field of more than 100 candidates.
Under her guidance, it has grown to about 850 members from 725. She oversees a staff of five, the largest since she arrived.
There is vitality and energy in the chamber that wasn’t there before. Upbeat Breakfasts are just that. Meetings are marked by smiles. Gatherings bring out big crowds.
Coppess, who worked 24 years at Microsoft in Seattle, says her leadership style is simple: Lead by example.
“I think it’s really important to model behavior for your staff. If you're willing to do something then they get more connected to the cause,” she said. “If they feel like you’re in the trenches with them, it’s inspiring and motivating.”
While it might sound like a contradiction, it also builds a safe place where it’s OK to take risks.
Coppess speaks of “growth mindset,” the power of the word “yet,” and the abilities of humans to change and learn.
“Every day is a new day, a chance to learn something new,” she said.
She offers an example of someone who admits they don’t know how to do something, then adds, “yet,” meaning they will.
“All of a sudden it opens up possibilities,” she said.
Such a mindset lays the foundation for risk, which Coppess said is necessary for growth and continued success.
Coppess is a big believer that proper sleep, diet and exercise are necessary for someone to perform at their highest potential.
“Use that energy and positivity to influence perception for good, to try and help people come together," she said.
She also wants an enjoyable work environment, such as allowing dogs to join their owners at work.
“Create a culture where people want to be here,” she said. “It puts you in a different mindset and able to do your job really well.”
It's important to “learn it all” versus being someone who is a “know it all.”
A leader must listen well.
“Take a step back and listen, be open to different positions,” she said.
One strategy of being a good leader is to dig deeper than the obvious choices before you to find opportunities and solutions.
She’s also a fan “positive self talk.”
“I have to be my own biggest cheerleader,” she said.
Coppess notes that people spend a third of their day working with others, and in that time and space, they need to find grace and understanding.
If help is needed, they can count on colleagues to give it.
“We need to support each other, on the field and off the field,” she said. “All of those things come into play.”
Change, while not always welcome, is a must.
“I don’t think we can stop change. We just have to figure out how to do it in the most responsible way,” se said.
When she took over as chamber president and CEO, she met with some 70 key players in the community to find out what was working and what wasn’t.
She didn’t talk.
Listening, Coppess said, is how you find strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
“The more you listen, the more you prioritize what needs to be done," she said.
While some don't want to hear negative feedback, Coppess sees it as a gift.
“That makes you really successful in the long run,” she said.
But her trademark is a commitment to excellence that challenges staff while having fun, and recognizing a job well done.
Set goals. Measure success. Celebrate it.
“When somebody just hit the ball out of the park, we celebrate big,” she said.
Even in those times she must have a difficult talk with someone, she makes it positive.
"The way I try to tackle those meetings is ‘How can I help? Tell me what’s going on?' Give them an opportunity to assess the situation," she said.
Coppess said while some are resistant to change, there are ways to overcome that resistance, starting by involving them early in the process. Don't keep them in the dark, as that creates fear.
"They become part of the connection to that cause,” she said, rather than feeling like an outsider looking in.
Communication is the key to successful change.
"You have to communicate clearly, concisely and often. Over and over and over," Coppess said. "Tell them what you’re going to do, remind them this was the plan. It’s important to give updates throughout the process.”
“You have to attach the 'why,'" she added. "Why are we doing this? If people can understand why, they become so much more willing to embrace the change.”
Service for those in need is necessary because it develops a sense of appreciation for what you have.
"When you come at life with a spirit of gratitude, I think it’s infectious," Coppess said.
She said she loves being home in Coeur d’Alene and serving the community.
“All I feel is grateful. My hope is that gratification just pours out,” she said.