Published: Dec. 14, 2023 By

“Conflict becomes a liability on the balance sheet of the company.”

Keith GruenKeith Gruen's journey from the vibrant city of Boston, Massachusetts, unfolded as a symphony of both musical notes and conscious leadership principles. He danced to the rhythm of his own aspirations, pursuing classical piano and business during his undergraduate years at Gordon College. However, the melody of his passion was not discovered in the spotlight of performance but in the intricate orchestration behind the scenes. Initially a concert promoter and tour manager for university orchestras, Keith discovered his passion and career resonated with supporting nonprofits in Boston. Drawn to those with remarkable missions who struggle with basic business challenges, Keith struggled to choose between furthering his arts and music education or pursuing a Master in Business Administration (MBA). After finding his passion for conscious leadership through helping nonprofits strengthen their basic business principles, he pursued an MBA from the University of Colorado Boulder Leeds School of Business. Keith graduated in 2013 with a dual focus in marketing analytics and organizational change.

Captivated by the allure of Boulder, Colorado's community, Keith chose to make it his home and pursue his passion by venturing into the wellness industry. Engaging in personal development work, he not only contributed to the community but also underwent significant self-discovery by facing his fear of conflict and deciding to make a career out of it. In 2016, Keith became one of the visionaries behind MeetMindful, a revolutionary dating app catering to individuals seeking connections in the wellness realm, like Tinder for singles who shop at Whole Foods." In spring 2016, this venture led them to be accepted into the prestigious Techstars Boulder Accelerator. This program became a catalyst for funding and company growth. Navigating various roles, Keith seamlessly integrated the facets of his MBA education.

Navigating Uncertainty  

“The majority of people have no idea what they're doing. There’s an attitude, especially in undergrad, where you have to know exactly what you are doing.”

Kieth notes that he had a plan, and that plan blew up. So did Keith’s second plan, third plan, fourth plan and so on. Through the ups and downs, Kieth continuously asked himself: “What are the things that bring me energy, and how can I do more of those?” Looking back, Kieth notes that that is the theme running his entire career. Kieth describes himself as having five or six different careers. Although unconventional, the idea of trying something out and finding something new, talking to different people and experimenting with what he likes and did not like was exciting and valuable. Keith says,

“Coming out of the MBA program, even with all the amazing connections and networks we meet through there, I applied for 106 jobs and got one. As long as something fit within my skill set, I was ready to learn and ready to apply myself. Be open and curious about what you can learn about any situation you get yourself into. Even that first job, that meeting, that interview that didn’t go well, what was that there to teach you?”

Embracing the unknown became a guiding principle for Kieth, turning setbacks into opportunities for exploration and self-discovery. In a society that often pressures individuals to have their entire lives mapped out, Kieth's journey defies conventional norms. His willingness to pivot, reassess, and embrace diverse career trajectories has taken him to a career he loves today. Through each transition, Kieth's determination to find what energizes him propelled him towards uncharted territories, unveiling experiences that ultimately shaped his professional and personal life. Kieth urges young individuals to find what they love and not settle for less, even in a wave of rejection.

Embracing Conscious Leadership through Mindful Decision-Making and Conflict Resolution

Keith Gruen speaking to a room of students about his expereincesMindful leaders acknowledge their behaviors and invite feedback from others to help guide their decisions, this is called conscious leadership. For Kieth, conscious leadership is not just a role, it is a dynamic practice fueled by an awareness of himself and those around him. Through his journey with an intensive job search, Keith’s guiding principle was finding a career that energized him and gave him a purpose. Kieth's love for conscious leadership began when he decided to support nonprofits that were failing due to a lack of fundamental business principles. His journey brought him in contact with a facilitator and coach in the world of conscious leadership. This realm, based on the insightful book The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership by Jim Dethmer, Diana Chapman and Kailey Klimp, inspired a new chapter in Keith's narrative. As Coach in Residence for Boulder Techstars, Kieth helps startup founders and entrepreneurs figure out how to build great companies. This starts with learning to be great leaders, who are aware of themselves and the people around them. Keith says one of his favorite parts of working in this role is meeting entrepreneurs, like himself, who had a similar journey of struggling with conflict.

 “A world without conflict is like going through life with an I don't care attitude. You check out of life, and you don’t actually get to experience things. You can’t experience all of the joy you potentially have if you don’t also experience all of the sadness and conflict in life.”

To Kieth, conscious leadership is about leveraging this awareness to craft a reality that aligns with his vision for a better world. Yet, he acknowledges the challenges inherent in this journey. In a world where many of us find ourselves caught up in the whirlwind of day-to-day routines, practicing mindfulness can be demanding. The art of staying present in the whirlwind of life requires intentional effort. Kieth's evolution is an illustration of this conscious leadership journey. A self-professed conflict-avoidant individual in his earlier years, he would instinctively retreat when faced with disagreements. Fast forward to today, and Kieth has become a beacon in conflict resolution. He now guides individuals, who, like his past self, yearn to confront conflicts head-on. Through his work, he advocates for the power of self-awareness, encouraging others to navigate life's challenges with authenticity and resilience. Kieth has two pieces of advice for readers who want to practice conscious leadership in their own lives. The first is not to try to avoid conflict, but to become aware of our actions when conflict arises, and practice navigating it in a healthy way. The second is to learn the difference between facts and stories and empathize with how those facts and stories translate differently to the people you are with.

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