The Edges of Lean — Ep 55 Continuous Improvement and Cancer Support with Kim Hamer

As a lean leader, you take “Respect for People” very seriously.  What happens when one of your colleagues, team members or employees is going through a serious illness like cancer? How should you demonstrate “Respect for People?” And what should you not say?  Kim Hamer joined me to share her insights and learnings from her husband’s journey with cancer, so tune in


Kim Hamer

On April 16, 2009, Kim Hamer watched her 44-yr-old husband take his last breath. During his illness and after his death, she was amazed by the helpful ways their coworkers, bosses, friends, and family supported them. Kim started calling their kind actions “acts of love”.
After the death of her husband, Kim, an HR leader, noticed how little guidance leaders received when navigating cancer, health crisis, or the death of a team member. She knew their lack of knowledge negatively affected morale, employee engagement, and productivity. She set out to change that. Combining her personal experience with her professional knowledge and leadership skills, Kim launched her business to support leaders and coworkers when cancer (or any health crisis) affects a team member.


 Key Topics in this podcast:

  • Kim’s career background
  • Her husband’s cancer story
  • How to support someone who’s dealing with cancer in the workplace
  • Why managers should avoid assumptions about sick employee’s capabilities and wishes
  • What managers can do to manage the situation the right way
  • Vulnerability is not a weakness
  • How your support greatly impacts someone who’s dealing with cancer 
  • What leaders and team members can do to avoid the sick employee feeling discriminated against, and better yet, still feel engaged
  • What your leader standard work should be in this situation
  • What not to say! 


  • Show Respect. Showing respect for your employees always shows that you value them and their contribution to the company. It also creates a more positive work environment for everyone.
  • Show Support. Employees who feel supported by their employers are more likely to be productive, positive, and engaged in their work, even if they are sick. 
  • Communicate effectively. By being an effective communicator, you will be able to create a strong foundation for your team that will allow them to thrive in spite of any challenges that may come up.
  • Understanding creates a big impact. if you have an employee who is facing a tough health challenge, make sure to let them know that you’re on their team. It will make a world of difference for them.
  • Create a positive environment. By creating a positive environment, you can help someone dealing with illness feel valued and appreciated, instead of marginalized.
  • Be flexible and ready to pivot. What your employee needs will change.  Incorporate frequent communication to understand changing needs in your leader standard work.  

Memorable Quotes From Kim Hamer


“When you can help your team support an employee with dealing with whatever crisis they’re working with, you are supporting their mental health and their well being. You are providing them with tools that they can take with them for the rest of their lives.”