Team of climbers reaching the summit of a rock pinnacle.

The buzz words in today’s workplace are work style and workplace values.  Recruiters focus on whether the interviewee has a collaborative attitude, indicating their ability to work well with others, and giving them an edge in workplace culture today.  Interview questions in this competitive setting are intended to weed out the hopefuls from the stars by testing intellectual ability, analytic skills and whether one can master the delicate balance between confidence and humility.  Potential candidates are viewed through the filter of “good fit” and whether they can adapt to the common mission and motives to create mutual understanding with others.
To achieve a winning level of effectiveness, it’s essential to include the skills of collaborative intelligence in one’s repertoire.  Code Black, a new TV series this fall, is a perfect example of highly trained medical professionals who are compelled to rely on each other’s strengths, experience and abilities to save lives in a trauma/emergency ward.  While in this environment, everyone is a rock star, the willingness to collaborate, share and learn transforms the individual doctors into a superstar team.  This is a milieu where every situation allows smart people to ask other smart people challenging questions, thus enabling people to do what they do best and become better at it.
New Perspective:
Truthfulness and trust are the basis of a healthy conversation and collaboration
Situations of unresolved conflicts, lingering frustration, anger or fear are not uncommon in the workplace.  L
earning collaborative skills to manage emotions before they drive us to a negative response is a powerful way to contribute value to the organization.
  • Candor and openness plays a role in elevating our capacity to work through difficult challenges with others by activating parts of our brain which allows us to think strategically, have empathy, foresight and good judgment when dealing with uncertainty.
  • Becoming part of a team means managing the transition, taking an inventory of what we bring to the process and asking for feedback to gain valuable tips and advice from one’s peer group.
  • The ability to dialogue well can serve not only to defuse one’s own tense feelings when a situation is stressful, but it can lead the way to expressing constructive emotions.

Even when those around us are seeing the world through a negative frame – we can choose to trust, listen and follow our own inner guidance.  

Change begins inside each person. Often, we unknowingly prevent change from taking place.  By being curious and open we discover what is true and that’s a great beginning.
Creating an environment of trust and safety allows smart people to ask other smart people challenging questions, thus enabling people to do what they do best and become better at it.
I first discovered Gustav Klimt’s lavish paintings, in my twenties, and knew then I would not easily forget the beauty and compelling surreal energy they evoked. In due course, I purchased and framed several prints first sold at the Vienna Art Nouveau Exhibition held at MOMA in the 1980s.  You can imagine how delighted I was when The Woman In Gold movie (a true story about a Klimt portrait) came out last month.  I was compelled to see it.  While the movie focused on the ownership of the Adele Bloch-Bauer painting, there was a story to be told, of justice and hubris.

Several Klimt paintings, including the “Adela” portrait were stolen by the Nazis from a prominent Austrian family.  In 1998, the last surviving family member, Maria Altmann, traveled to Vienna to reclaim the “Adela,” a portrait of her aunt, which was then on view in the Austrian National Gallery.  What ensued was an exhaustive legal battle with the Austrian government lasting several years.  At first, the negotiations were amicable but fruitless.  Ms Altmann tried to compromise with the Austrians. She was willing to allow the portrait to remain in Vienna but wanted the government to admit the paintings were not theirs.  Unfortunately, the officials involved were so entrenched they repeatedly ignored all her subsequent correspondence which made Maria mad.

Maria Altmann was a Jewish woman in her 80s living in Los Angeles; a Holocost survivor and now on a mission for justice.  But officials would not relent on Austria’s continued complicity in Nazi-stolen art under the guise of “national treasure.”  If that was the case, why not pay the owners of stolen art the market value outright?  Eventually this ballet went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court which allowed Ms. Altmann to sue the Austrian government in Vienna.  Her lawyer understood that the Austrian people were a dichotomy of those who were ashamed of  their history and those who denied it happened or felt justified to own stolen property. In court, her lawyer judiciously argued to the Austrian people’s better nature, which may have sounded naive and glib, yet convincing the judges to rule in Ms. Altmann’s favor.

After her win, Ms. Altmann was approached by one of the officials who had repeatedly denied herappeals and with nauseating hubris asked her to leave the Klimt portrait in Vienna, after all, it was a national Austrian Treasure, for which she would be compensated.  She replied, “Before, I was willing to have it remain in Austria for an admission that it was stolen art… but now I will take it with me.”  

She eventually sold the “Adela” to R. Lauder for $135,000,000 with the stipulation that it would remain in the Neue Gallery in New York, its permanent home.

                                                                                    Altmann with a reproduction of “Adela”

New Perspective:

Hubris gets in the way of justice each and every time.  There is merit in humility and persistence.

“Hubris calls for its own nemesis, and in one form or another it’s going to get it, not as a punishment from outside but as the completion of a pattern already started.” –Mary Midgley, The Myths We Live By

 “Through pride we are ever deceiving ourselves. But deep down below the surface of the average conscience a still, small voice says to us, something is out of tune.” –C.G. Jung

 “All men make mistakes, but a good man yields when he knows his course is wrong, and repairs the evil. The only crime is pride.” –Sophocles, Antigone

While the new batch of college grads are now ready to make their entrance in the work force, employers admit that college doesn’t fully prepare young workers for many of the real-world challenges.  In a recent CareerBuilder survey conducted by Harris Poll, employers most often cited problem-solving skills as the interpersonal skill most lacking in new graduates.  For at least the last thirty years, employers have invested in their people assets with soft skills training – a standard for quality management. But characteristics of each generation shifts with societal changes and learning must be fine-tuned to address these changes.  Now, the need is even greater for interpersonal skills, as Millennials are practically born tech- savvy making their interactions with devices much more skilled and comfortable than their interactions with humans.  Unless the new graduate has mastered critical thinking skills perhaps by participating in a debate society, a team-centered club, volunteer work, or internships, the former student will be ill-prepared for the challenges of workplace culture, politics and conflict.


Whether you have a graduate in your family you can advise, or have some input in the hiring practices of your organization, your company will benefit by having an interview process that include“what would you do” scenarios to reflect competencies such as teamwork, leadership, conflict resolution, analytical and interpersonal skills.  In today’s world, even entry-level positions have a more complicated interview procedure.  Companies are more skilled at determining who is the better fit for their organization.

Graduation is the most important day of your career.  But four years of education, these days, is not enough to land a professional job.  One must start with an interactive approach to being prepared.

New Perspective:  Advice for Millennials:

  • Research has proven that students who write down their plans for the future have a higher success rate than those who don’t.  You will gain focus and clarity of purpose.  It doesn’t matter if you change your course in the future.
  • Gain real-world experience with an internship or part-time job and remember to emphasize this experience when on  interviews.
  • Check your online presence to make sure potential employers will see a favorable profile.
  • Research companies to determine whether they’re a good fit for you and whether your skills are a good fit for them.
  • Increase your ability for advancement with a well-rounded education.
  • Practice interview skills with trusted advisors and seek feedback.
  • Keep your technical skills competitive.

“A year from now you will wish you had started today.”  – Karen Lamb

“Destiny is not a matter of chance; it is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.”- William Jennings Bryan

 “No matter who you are, no matter what you did, no matter where you’ve come from, you can always change, become a better version of yourself.”- Madonna

In a recent article on VitalSmarts blog, a reader asked, “I don’t respect my boss.  Should I try to fake it?

What I hear in that statement is an unwillingness to navigate any further.  No matter how many boundaries this frustrated worker might put in place to have a good working relationship with his/her boss, it may require a great deal more energy than he/she is willing to put forth.  At that point the decision to leave is usually made.  It is easy and tempting to blame and trash the boss for the decision to leave, but this attitude will only keep the frustrated worker lingering in victim mode instead of taking responsibility for his/her actions.

Taking a self-inventory at this time will clarify the knowledge that the boss is universally like all of us: riddled with flaws but also has a potential for greatness (I don’t discount that there are truly evil individuals in the world – gratefully that is not the norm).

I admit that the qualities I don’t like most in myself, I too readily see as the weaknesses I disrespect in others.  In such instances, I ask myself, can I own that my disrespect is based on a distorted version I have of the other person? And do I wish to sustain it?

I am not negating the really bad behavior of a horrible boss.  I am saying that our actions should be based on owning our side of the problem.  We tend to view people as honest or dishonest, in control or out of control.  But here’s the thing, whatever attributes we assign to another’s behavior, this does not define the whole person.  We hold on to a person’s flaws for dear life because it validates our opinion.  We have no desire to put our egos in jeopardy.  In fact, we often mistake humility for humiliation and avoid seeing any redeeming qualities, virtues, or good, “the boss” has done because we fixate on their bad points, bad choices and weaknesses.  In my experience, people tend to focus on what’s wrong.  I wonder if we are hard-wired to do so as a survival mechanism and haven’t learned to disengage from this impulse when it’s not appropriate.  With my own understanding and training, my approach has been to use Appreciative Inquiry methods in business settings, and with personal interactions as well, by asking the question, what is working well right now and start from there.

New Perspective:

Faking it (being a phony) while making it easy on one’s self, is ultimately disrespectful to one’s own values and integrity.  It is a choice and like all choices, it has consequences.   I have seen hostility between individuals thrive for years in some workplaces.  When neither party feels respected, safety and trust is non-existent.

  • Creating safety is crucial to any conversation and a beginning to any dialogue.
  • Meeting people where they are (flex and not try to fix) engages them.
  • Introducing a small amount of trust is a position of openness and an opportunity to test the response.
  • Setting boundaries sets the stage for respect.

Acknowledging the wisdom of Joseph Grenny, one of the authors of Crucial Conversations, and other related books..

“Every time I assign a negative meaning to what takes places in my life, I become victim of my own thinking.  The way life unfolds is the plan.” – Anonymous

In our cynical culture of back-biting politics, posturing and sound bite diplomacy, it seems naïve to believe that humankind’s basic nature is anything other than aggressive and susceptible to greed.  Is our essential nature one of cooperation or domination?  In aboriginal cultures, the highest value is cooperation, while competition is a low value, and competition beyond certain boundaries is considered mental illness.  So, how would our society’s norm of blood sports, or TV shows, such as “Survivor,” or “The Apprentice,”  fare in a culture that thrives on cooperation?

Are we competitive by nature? Or is it a value inculcated in our way of life?  Your experience may produce some doubt, yet the basis of our nature is cooperation.  It’s in our DNA.  Empathy is strong in our collective humanity.  You observe it every time there’s a natural disaster or horrific destruction. Of course, there are sociopaths in society, but this is not the norm.  We are wired to have a sense of community and a compassionate response to another person’s anguish.

As trite as it may sound, what we do on an individual level effects the global environment.  We live in a participatory world.  We are all connected.  The reality is that what happens on another continent does impact us. There is consequence to people starving, to genocide.  We normally don’t see the connection until the outcome impacts us economically.  Yet, for the most part, our better nature does rise to the top.  A TIbetan Buddhist nun, Pema Chodron said, “fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth.”  There are many examples of courageous individuals who have embraced their fear to stand up for their truth and they have impacted our world immeasurably.  When one becomes fully conscious of one’s true nature, there is no other choice.

New Perspective:

When you change your perception, the world changes.

Nothing in nature takes more than it needs.

When surrounded by negativity, love is a powerful force.

What’s right with the world is that more often than not, we do remember our true nature, cooperation is the force that brings groups together, empathy is a healing influence and embracing fear does bring us closer to the truth.

 “Leaders must be willing to go places where they are not certain they will succeed.”

Ask anyone and they’ll each give you their opinion of what constitutes a great leader: the will to lead, courage, emotional maturity, and a hundred more attributes, even including ruthlessness and arrogance.  It’s all very subjective.

Yet, a leader is expected to provide a steadying hand and guide the organizations through its struggles and good times. Leaders provide support and serve as an example and rallying point to their organizations.  They articulate vision and direction, and help motivate people who might not be fully invested or understanding of the goals and values at play.  They are the self-starters who provide guidance and inspire.

They are used to being the objective hand, the achiever and source of dynamism and resilience within a group. So what does a leader do when his/her own path becomes shadowy and uncertain and is in danger of losing his/her way?

New Perspective:

Self-awareness is at the top of the emotional intelligence pyramid and the trait most often checked-off when describing a great leader.  One cannot manage relationships successfully without first knowing his/her own biases and personal filters.  It’s much easier to be negative  – there’s the reward of being right and making the other person wrong but that leads to no other gain but an overweight ego.  Start the new year “clean” with your dealings.  Tell the truth to yourself, if not to others.  Give yourself the opportunity to begin with integrity.  Ask yourself, do the ends justify the means?  Experience might give you an answer but the actions you take will determine quality of character.  A great leader acknowledges his/her own truth without lament or justifications.

How might you be contributing to a climate of mistrust?  Most of use don’t believe we do – but try to imagine how even your thoughts can play a role in creating an atmosphere of wariness and doubt.  Relationships grow in trust when the interaction is transparent and boundaries are clear.  Relationships also grow in doubt and distance when truth is omitted, distorted, or misrepresented for one’s own purpose and sometimes there is little consciousness of action (people come to believe their lies).   

Being conscious of others’ behaviors and motives is a place to hone one’s self-awareness. 

  • Make the effort to find common ground  and articulate it
  • Take the step to trust first and test the outcome later
  • Measure to what extent you are willing to accept repercussions of mistrust
  • Make the choice to trust to the level where trust is not broken

What is your  X factor of what makes for a great leader?  Leave your comments on my blog Chart Your Change.

New Offer

Be the force you envision for the world and create powerful results. Take my step by step guided coaching approach to reveal your personal power and release your compelling energy. Access to the best coaching tools, profiles and techniques to super-size your awareness

Register now for your complimentary session.

We’ve just started 2015 with a bucketful of possibilities, so how will you go forward?
  • What worries or upsets are you willing to leave behind?
  • What choices will you make to produce a mindset shift?
  • What risks will you take to empower your everyday relations?
  • What negative factors will you remove to improve your home and work environments?
  • What investments will you make to further your development?
  • Which mindset will you choose to shape your days and months ahead?
  • Finally, who will you have become at the end of 2015?

Are you willing to embrace a re-imagined and remarkable you in 2015 and are you willing to be more powerful than your fears? Make 2015 your breakout year and allow your superstar qualities to shine brightly.

New OfferingBe the force you envision for the world and create powerful results. Take my step by step guided coaching approach to reveal your personal power and release your compelling energy. Access the best coaching tools, profiles and techniques to super-size your awareness skills, and establish and express your personal brand in business.  Register now for your complimentary session and get coached on your particular topic: maybe, a career reboot? Taking charge of your promotion?  Or how to influence work relationships effectively?  Or perhaps, how to eliminate self-sabotaging behavior?

Sign up now.  

PS – Empowerment is about balance and giving.

In some way, in your lifetime, others have given to you. Make a contribution to another person, a cause, or a need, by personally giving of yourself. In continuing the cycle, you empower yourself.  Be the person of quality and grace that attracts others.

winter_landscape.jpgHAPPY NEW YEAR!

Turning Points 2014 /  New Dreams 2015

Put on your “I have greatness in me” hat and consider all you have accomplished in your personal and professional life in 2014, big and small – jot it down.  You should fill an entire page of things like making new friends, taking a trip, creating something new, learning a new skill, an accomplishment and more – and feel good about  what you’ve done and make peace with any sadness and hurt.

  • Reach for your inner vision and imagine with excitement, a full year ahead of you with new goals, dreams and actions to take – think big!
  • Think about what you want in your life, not what you must do next and, remembering what it took to overcome your challenges and accomplishments this year.
  • Make a list of the blocks or difficult times or tough decisions you had to undertake and ask yourself what qualities did you evoke within yourself to move forward? Endurance, persistence, humor, courage, grace?
  • Remind yourself of your strengths and all of the greatness within you and bring this awareness with you into every day of 2015!

Wishing you a joyful, peaceful, and prosperous New Year!

sepia_stacked_hands.jpg Trust is the key to great workplaces.  This fact is based on 25 years of research by firms such as Gallup and millions of employees surveyed.  It’s virtually impossible to accomplish great things without it.  People will say, it’s not necessary, yet our own experience and history dictates otherwise.  My own history in the workplace taught me that when I was able to establish a relationship of trust with my boss, I could rely on his support for my professional development.  I also had experiences where trust was broken and I had to gauge to what extent I could trust that person.  Some people become cynical when their life experience reflects a series of broken trust situations.  The alternative is to begin with smart trust.  Provide individuals the opportunity to do what they say they will.  Trust is revealed in behavior.  Behavior is the key to the quality of truthfulness.  Consistent behavior reveals the scope of truthfulness or lack of it.  We either trust people to behave honestly or we trust them to behave deceitfully, in varying degrees. Either way, their behavior informs us to take the appropriate action.

New Perspective:

Self awareness is key to a good start.  Be aware of your biases  and personal filters.  Notice if you’re “clean” in your dealings or whether you rationalize that the end result justifies those well constructed means.  Perhaps you are also contributing to a climate of mistrust.  Relationships grow in trust when the interaction is transparent and boundaries are clear.   

  • Make the effort to find common ground  and articulate it
  • Take the step to trust first and test the outcome later
  • Measure to what extent you are willing to accept repercussions of mistrust
  • Make the choice to trust to the level where trust is not broken

“Leaders must be willing to go places where they are not certain they will succeed.”


The fun theory: Check out how Swedish ingenuity persuaded people to take the stairs vs. the escalator!

Your personal management style is based on a combination of three needs: to achieve, to dominate, and to affiliate.  Throw into the mix your personality traits and you are either setting yourself up for success or failure.  The difference is your level of awareness of how you impact your relationships, whether it matters, whether end results justify means, and whether positional power trumps collaborative power.

Setting up for failure:

  • You may have a high need to achieve with an equally high need to dominate.  With this combination, you will want to be too involved with details, micromanage, be too demanding, while your delegation skills will be impaired by your need to control.
  • If your need to achieve is too focused on individual gain, teamwork will suffer, as well as, your ability to see the big picture.
  • If you’re the “I work alone” type with a need for dominance, you’re likely to not cooperate with colleagues, demand strict allegiances and put up walls to maintain independence and control.
  • If your greater need is dominance with a capacity for aggression, you will likely exhibit a warlord mentality with an abusive management style.  You will tend to push through decisions that lead to quick fixes and reap resentment and lowered performance from staff.

Dominance, with an appropriate combination of achievement and affiliation, and with attuned personality traits can prove to be a winning mix.  As an example, if you’re low on deference (giving respect), you will experience tension between yourself and your boss vs. having high deference for others, thus making a success of relationships.

New Perspective:    We each have exceptional strengths to counter our self-sabotaging tendencies.  Becoming more aware of our strengths, needs and traits helps us to make improved choices.    

Setting up for success:Heightened awareness of responses (tone of voice, abruptness, impatience).

Confident enough to ask for help when needed.

Ability to pull together a group of people to act on shared goals.

Evaluate information more carefully (use SWOT Analysis and SMART Goals).

Develop the ability to see multiple solutions.

“It takes more work (emotionally, mentally, spiritually) to be a Collaborative Leader, but it’s worth it — both for the organization’s sustainability and the leader’s personal growth.”