Human Dignity... on the daily

I have this client who, over the years has also become a close friend. Passionate about buying and wearing Brunello Cucinelli (luxe Italian designer), she's spoken of the interplay of his sense of Italian style and quality along with his commitment to outstanding customer experience whether in person or ordering special items from Italy. Although his clothing is out of my price range even when on sale, I was fully aware of his sense of style and commitment to quality; but I was not aware of his philosophy about work. Believe me, it is worth knowing about.

We could all learn from Brunello Cucinelli...

  • His company and his philanthropy have amost single-handedly restored the town of Solomeno, Italy

  • His emphasis is steadfastly on the moral and economic dignity of the human being

  • His father's message to him growing up remains at the foundation of his daily existence: "the only thing that matters is for you to be a good man"

  • His workers are paid well

  • Work stops at 5:30pm because “overwork steals from the soul”

Yes, he is the owner of the company; plus you might say to yourself he's a billionaire and can do anything he wants. All of this is true. Yet I share this today to ask you to reflect and ponder, "What can I do?” What might you do to transform the experience you are having at work? What might you do that will make a difference to the people who work in roles directly under your management. Most people today are overworked. Their exhaustion and malaise is demonstrated by global statistics found in Gallup and Deloitte Touche annual surveys. I hear, as I am sure you do, comments like “above my pay grade” and “the powers that be are only concerned about money.”

I am asking you this weekend to ponder and reflect on the statement, “moral and economic dignity of the human being,” and to do some soul searching. What kind of visceral reaction did you have when you heard or read that phrase? What small thing might you introduce into your life this week to support yourself or another. If each of us agrees to take a step in the right direction each week, I know we can transform the world of work. And... If we do that, we know we can transform the world.

*In case you are interested, here is a recent piece that CBS' Sunday Morning did on Bruno Cucinelli*

Do I Need a Coach or Consultant?

It's human nature to periodically get stuck, frustrated or stale in our business. Whether a managerial leader of a mid to large corporation or a small business owner, in today's world of rapid change and uncertainty it's easy to get stale or stuck which results with staying within our comfort zones. What this does is actually shield ourselves from new opportunities and ways of thinking; and provide the feeling that one more new thing, or decision could be the straw that breaks the proverbial camel's back. This is why I want to share with you an innovative and unique program to help you and your business.

The Strategy and Inspiration Infusion

The Strategy and Inspiration Infusion provides an unprecedented opportunity to go deep to ignite the light inside you that perhaps has been under a bushel, afraid to shine brightly; an opportunity to become unstuck, move forward and create your own change; an opportunity to work with a pair of fresh and expert eyes providing new insights and identifying manageable action steps for the business issues in which you've been too enmeshed.

With the Strategy and Inspiration Infusion you'll get:

  • A solid block of time to think and express emotions (3-3.5 hours)

  • Focused attention of a master consultant/coach

  • Topics identified by you (for example: a management issue the company is grappling with; a difficult employee; building a team; needing to get re-energized or refocused)

  • Wisdom, knowledge and intuitive insight

  • Truth telling

Not only that, you will also walk away with clarity, fresh perspectives, new ideas to research, and a plan of action with substantive action steps.

This Infusion regularly costs $999.99. However, you have the opportunity right here to book your own Infusion session at a special discounted price of $850, now through close of business on May 23rd. (And, we make paying easy--we take Veem and Paypal, checks or cash!)

Let’s get started!

Are You Up For An Experiment?

I was reading a feature story about Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube in Sunday’s NYT’s Business Section when I came across the phrase, “living in a crisis of trust…” attributed to Marc Benioff, Chairman of Salesforce. It got me to thinking.

My work resonates with this phrase. It’s nice to hear that the Chair of a major company is also grappling with this issue. I truly think we are living in an era where the concept of trust has and continues to erode. I ask you, without trust what do we as a people have?

I am not sure if there is an agreed upon definition of trust in the English language. My Macbook Air’s dictionary says the verb to trust means: “to believe in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of.”

At the core of my mentor’s work, Dr. Elliott Jaques was building trust inducing work systems. As many of you know, his body of work known as Requisite Organization informs much of my organization development consulting. In the Revised 2nd Edition of Requisite Organization, A Total System for Effective Managerial Organization and Managerial Leadership in the 21st Century he defines trust as “the ability to rely upon others to be truthful and to do as they say, and to follow established rules, procedures and custom and practice.” I love this definition. Its specificity is not only helpful to employed people but allows for dialogue on clarifications and applications to specific aspects of work.

The erosion of trust in large work systems is attributed to a confluence of many factors. Some fairly recent like the steady decline of employee engagement, the impact of the home mortgage debacle and recession on working people, and the spark that may have ignited it all traced back to the late 1970’s when Milton Friedman’s article articulating corporations’ primary responsibility was investor returns. The Friedman article was latched onto by Wall Street and is only now being touted as having a deleterious impact on corporate America and our society as a whole.

Lack of trust breeds discontent, uneasiness and puts workers off balance. This goes back to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Security is at the base of his pyramid.

Below are some suggestions for you to experiment with both privately and with your teams.

  1. On a scale of 1-10 where do you peg the level of trust in your organization?

  2. On a scale of 1-10 where do you peg your own level of trust in your group?

  3. At a staff meeting ask everyone these same two questions. Assure them their response to Q1 will remain private, unless they choose to share it. Then ask them to write down anonymously and hand in for tallying, where on the 1-10 scale they think the organization falls (Q2). If you feel courageous, ask them to indicate where your group falls.

  4. Have a member of the team talley Q2 parts 1&2. Post on a whiteboard or large easel pad and encourage reflection.

  5. Set rules for responding. Like using a talking stick for example. Ask everyone who would like to say something to say something. But at this time do not allow rebuttals. Only allow questions of clarification.

  6. Ask people to think about what they hear overnight and over the next few days, and jot down some notes for themselves. At the next staff meeting ask people to share.

  7. Ask people to suggest ways to move the score, moving the needle to 10.

  8. Do this exercise with your team on a quarterly basis.

This exercise is intended to help you begin a constructive dialogue with your staff and perhaps get an honest reading of what people think about the company and your unit; to move forward and to BE their best. Ask people to share concerns; and have someone chart responses on a whiteboard or large easel pad. Ask for suggestions to improve.

Building trust is no easy task, but it is essential to a well functioning workforce be it under ten, in the hundreds or thousands. Trust is earned. It can erode in an instant, requiring months or even years of rebuilding over time. I’d love to hear how you did.

Mastering Those Difficult Conversations

We have all been there. Needing to have a conversation with either an employee, an independent contractor or a vendor we are not pleased with at the present moment. I am sure each of us can name multiple situations when faced with this. It could be someone’s work has fallen off and is no longer at the standard it used to be; or it could be someone just not responding in the same timely manner they used to; it might even be a feeling that your work has slipped in the hierarchy of the individual’s priority.

First of all, say something at the very first inkling that something not going right. Ask if everything is ok. The person may say, “Yeah, why are you asking?” Then you can say what you’ve noticed. They may or may not respond. If not, just keep noticing and even making some notes to yourself. In fact you can create a notebook and write down thoughts, ideas, and feedback for each employee or independent contractor with whom you are working. Notes should include all the positives as well as that which needs improvement.

Sharing the positives is always much easier. It is sharing what needs improvement that is often most challenging. If you wait too long to say something, your list just keeps on growing, and you wind up with a pile of things with which you are dissatisfied. It’s like telling a spouse or child to hang up their clothes at the end of the day. If you wait until weeks go, they’ve created a very big pile and you are really annoyed. As a result, your comments are much stronger, and you might even explode.

It is much easier for a person to receive needs improvement feedback in small doses. They can then take specific action steps, some of which may be your suggestions, to improve. In the long run this builds trust as the person realizes you are not out to get them, but rather are coaching them to be an outstanding employee.

Although independent contractors are not employees, this is also true when working with them. All too often, people just say I won’t hire them again. Sometimes it is worth the extra effort to let them know where improvement is necessary. Wouldn’t you like to know if you were in their shoes?

My best tips when preparing for these discussions:

• Keep a list with specifics dates, times, situations

• Check in with yourself—did you provide the needed information or parameters?

• Be willing to own up to the person if you didn’t share the responsibility

• What is the best outcome you can imagine, or what do you want to happen?

• Take at least three deep breaths before scheduling, and then again before having the conversation with the other person

I’m open to hearing any additional suggestions you may have. Please share your ideas here, or reach out via the Contact Us page. I’d love to hear from you.

Are You a Good Manager?

There are generally so many working parts to an organization that it can be difficult to pinpoint what exactly is going wrong when morale is down, employees jump ship or business suffers. When these things happen, one of the first places to look toward should be management.

Management, unlike leadership, has a rigor associated with it. While leadership, on the other hand has a more amorphous quality. Perhaps one of the most important aspects of management is accountabilities—being accountable for the outputs of those who work directly for them. And being a good manager means taking such accountabilities very seriously.

Of course different managers have different management styles. That we can all agree on. But we may not agree on what it is that makes a manager good or bad at managing.

Whether it is a Fortune 500 company or a small start up, bad management is bad management. And, bad management impacts everyone and everything in an organization. It is entirely possible for a large, multi-tiered company to experience dissatisfaction and turnover among its ranks or a financial slowdown, while that start up is cruising happily toward success—and with a happy staff. But it can certainly be the reverse as well.

All types of organizations, big and small, have their share of both good and bad managers. Where do you fit in?

A demanding job—which many of us have—can be both frustrating and fulfilling. The frustrating part might come into play when you have less control over your own actions, how you do your work and what you do to fulfill your responsibilities. Inevitably this causes stress; and stress can lead to exhaustion, anxiety, and even depression.

This is where a good manager comes in offering perhaps a different perspective, support and/or autonomy. A good manager is one who understands what helps vs. what hurts employees. Meanwhile a bad manager is what stands between happy and productive employees, lower turnover and business success.

What other accountabilities do you think managers have? What quality to do you find important in a good manager?

Stand Up & Lead

Martin Luther King was the epitome of true leader, a great leader. A driving force behind (and in front of) the civil rights movement, Dr. King’s legacy extends far beyond the fight for racial equality and human rights. Dr. King showed the world that you can indeed stand up in peaceful protest with tremendous impact. The effects of his leadership will continue to be felt for generations to come.

This weekend, people are gathering throughout the United States for the second Women’s March. Women everywhere galvanized since the election of our current president; the many accusations of sexual harassment and violence led to the #metoo movement; and the actions of singer R Kelly has caused advoceds to rise with #MuteRKelly and such movements.

Leaders emerged. Leaders have and continue to emerge in response to so many important issues. The young survivors of the Parkland High School shooting are now outspoken advocates on gun control; new leaders have come out in response to the immigration injustices; new environmental leaders are stepping up to help our planet. I can go on and on. People today are really energized by what they believe in. Strong new leaders are emerging to step into their own leadership.

If asked, I am sure we could all name leaders we greatly admire—civil rights leaders like Dr. King, activists, former presidents, community leaders, business leaders, spiritual leaders, and so on—all of whom have different passions, leadership styles, priorities, etc. It seems during this tumultuous period of American life that we are in, new leaders emerge in all sorts of capacities, for a myriad of reasons and from communities all across our great country.

Just as life and social changing movements require great leaders, so too does business. Without strong managerial leadership, a business will certainly struggle.

What leader has impacted you? What are you doing to stand up and be a great leader?

Indeed we all have a lot to think about and reflect upon this long weekend.

Do Ritual!

We are 11 days into the New Year and I like many of you I just finished the first full work week. Last week I shared with you a challenge I was given and also talked about some new behaviors I am incorporating into my life. I am consciously designing my daily experience. This got me thinking about ritual.

Late last spring, I was meeting with someone in Chelsea. In an effort to waste some time I went into a store called Ritual. At first I wasn’t sure what type of store it was, but what had caught my eye were some clothes. I walked into a store that was calm, beautiful and comfortable--an oasis from the hustle and bustle moving outside on the street. After making a small purchase I left. The experience lingered with me and when asked what I wanted for Christmas, I mentioned Ritual.

I received a beautiful “deluxe” box of their products. Products of Ritual.

The concept of ritual got me thinking. More often than not we all are extremely busy. Each of having many demands on us simultaneously. We get caught up in doing. We lose a sense of being grounded, often feeling untethered to ourselves. In fact, I've just had a day like that myself--energetically disconnected with my body, mind and spirit.

What if we spent a few minutes throughout the day tuning into ourselves? Checking in to see if we are grounded in that moment. By grounded I mean are we actually in touch with all of ourselves, our bodies in particular. Each of us has the ability to create a simple ritual which can make all the difference in our lives.

Those of you who have read my white paper, know that self-care is one of the four elements essential to transforming a person’s effectiveness, experience and happiness at work. I have come to appreciate more deeply the fact that creating little rituals throughout the day is a wonderful way to keep oneself in the present. It can be as simple as having an aroma candle lit while you do deep some pondering on an issue, or setting an alarm every few hours to remind yourself to take 5 deep breaths or get up from your chair and gaze out the window. I know it sounds a bit corny but it does work. If you are interested in learning more about the four elements mentioned above, reach out to me on my Contact Us page to receive you own copy.


Today is the anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Prior to September 11th, 2001, this was the day of the most deaths of Americans on our own soil. An official day of remembering, we honor lives lost and families who lost loved ones. This week the country also mourns the death of our 41st president, George H.W. Bush. The news of his death was broadcast late last Friday evening, and the entire weekend and past week was subsequently characterized by reflection, looking back on his life and legacy. Not a political “junkie,” this past week I learned a lot about “41” as I heard all about his life of service, his accomplishments and the values that shaped his legacy and our country.

While we all may not agree with many of President Bush’s policies, we can look back on a leader who cared deeply about his country, and understood the importance of compromise, coalition-building and respect. Some of the words and phrases that stand out for me during this week’s coverage, include: Youngest pilot in the Navy; Flew 58 combat missions; Shot down and rescued by a submarine; Married 73 years; Lost a daughter, Robin at age 3 to leukemia. President Bush experienced many losses--runs for Senate, the presidential nomination in 1980, and a second term as President in 1992. A class act, his niceness was interpreted by many as weakness.Yet he was a man of toughness, fiber, courage, prudence, character and faith. He simply was not afraid to show tears or tenderness. The last of the “greatest generation,” he served the country with ideals, and he strove for a kinder, gentler nation.

It’s the holiday season. For Catholics, it is Advent, a time of darkness and anticipation of the coming of our Saviour’s birth. A new year on the liturgical calendar. It is a time of watching, waiting and preparation; quite different from the frenzy of shopping, gift giving and partying. It is a time to prepare for what is to come.

I may be going out on a limb here, but I’ve decided to use remembering as the backdrop, to ask you to reflect on your own new year, your values and behavior. How do you live each day? How do you go about managing your employees? Are you teaching your children values in your actions as well as your words? How will you be remembered? Please ponder and reflect on these questions and If you feel comfortable enough, please share with me.

The Key to Conflict-Free...

Thanksgiving is upon us—a time for giving thanks and a time for family gatherings. As we get ready to gather ‘round the table, lets pause and see that we can indeed have a nice, relaxing and conflict-free holiday.

Think of it like this… Do you realize how your actions impact those around you? Or perhaps how it is that you are impacted by the actions of others?

We’re all guilty at least sometimes—of just sort of doing our own thing and not realizing the impact we may be having on our colleagues, our friends and even on our family. But what if we did realize it…

Realizing it, being aware of ourselves and our behavior, and our impact on others—that’s all a part of your emotional intelligence. And this is just the tip of the EI iceberg.

Not only can emotional intelligence help you enjoy a conflict-free holiday but it will also help you be more successful in meeting your goals, bringing in more revenue and improving your standing in business overall.