I’m curious, you are a year or so into this digital transformation/culture change initiative… how’s it going?

Here’s a line of questioning you can use to check on the awareness, urgency, and the alignment of the executive team involved in both the big “T” and little “t” imperatives:

1- Goals. What is the business reason/goal for this transformation? What are the key metrics used to measure degrees of success in the execution of this transformation?
2- Progress. How’s it going? What are you most excited about? What are you most concerned about? How are you feeling about the transformation? Where are you now, compared to your baseline measures?
3- Consequences. What are the business consequences of not transforming successfully? On a scale of 1 to 10, how important/urgent is this? What if you don’t intervene and people just do (think, relate, act) as they have been doing to date? Specifically, if you don’t shift the culture, what is the impact on the two business units that generate the highest revenue/margin?
4- Ideal State. Do the executives who make up the leadership team have clarity about the ideal culture (vision) you are transforming to? Imagine if you woke up a year from now and found that the vision has come true and your goals have been accomplished. What does that look like? When culture change has taken hold, it makes it a lot easier and more likely to achieve your industry-leading/pioneering performance-level goals. How can you tell? What is different? What are some key habits and areas of mastery that you are excited about? What are people inside and outside your company saying about it?
5- Current State. Compared to this ideal, what is missing in the current situation? Do these executives have clarity about the current culture and where you are now? Do you have individual and collective diagnostic tools? From your perspective, how do people need to perform differently in the next X years in order to transform?
6- Culture Plan. Do the executives agree on the gap to close? Do they agree on the plan, priority, and sequence to close it? What have you done already? What is keeping you from closing the gap and shifting to the ideal culture? What are the identified blockers/obstacles?
7- Personal Impact. Why did you raise your hand for this? What matters the most to you? Why? What happens to you if you don’t accomplish the vision? Will you get fired? Will you be disappointed and want to quit?
8- Understanding. Does the leadership team have clarity, shared language, and understanding about how culture evolves and the impact of history on the current state? Have they identified causal factors (e.g., systems, structures) that are part of the work climate? Do they understand how they reinforce and shape the current culture and what may be levers for change in improvement plans?
9- Shared Learning. How well does the leadership team embody the ideal cultural attributes? How are they being supported? Are they first going to create a shared learning environment for both the technical and human dimensions of change?
10- Organizational Impact. How many people in the organization, beyond the leadership team, are being impacted by the transformation?

In addition to questions like these, leaders need a reliable, MRI level of detailed visibility into the invisible components of culture (and a simple model) to understand and discuss where you are currently as a culture — and where you want to be in the near future. You need to see clearly where you have anomalies of ideal culture success and current culture gaps. To have an effective culture strategy, you can’t afford to use anecdotes or guess about the gap to be closed. Culture isn’t declarative; it’s interrogative.

CXO, you got this.

In my previous article, I described how I understand disruption and the three main challenges I see organizations face when dealing with accelerated change. Regardless of the kind of industry, size of business or location, our experience shows us that disruption impacts individuals and organizations in the way you live, the way you engage with others, and the way you do business. Here I will outline the three antidotes to face disruption.
The three challenges, or “viruses” I spoke about were:
• Lack of responsibility or ownership to respond and the speed with which we act. We call this the “victim” mindset.
• Lack of curiosity, openness and acceptance of the status quo. We call this the “knower” (or “fixed”) mindset.
• The dangers of multitasking and not valuing the power of focus on a single task at a time. We call this the “multitasker.”

The “antidotes” or mindsets to “fight” these “viruses”

The player mindset focuses on your capacity to respond when facing a challenging situation, your “response-ability” — the shift in focus from what is out of your control to what you can control. It is present and future focused, while “victims” are often stuck in the past and attached to “this is how we’ve always done it.” The intent is to solve the problem at hand with agility and speed instead of pondering the past and looking for blame, which is counterproductive.
The learner mindset is the capacity to acknowledge that what we see and interpret is hinged on what we are capable of seeing based on our own story, beliefs and how we make meaning of the world around us. There are many different perspectives and a wide range of opportunities that arise once we open up with a humble attitude that allows us to learn new things. That way we can detach from the stories we tell ourselves and don’t believe them as if they were the ultimate truth. When you stop trying to prove others wrong, opportunities will appear for you to find an effective solution. The aim is to find a solution for the organization to be as effective as possible, not trying to be right.
Focus and presence is the art of paying kind attention to what is really going on. Although many people seem to think that being able to do many things at the same time is a great gift, I dare challenge that idea. I believe that it is really hard to see what is going on and embrace what is really happening unless you are fully present. There is research that shows how multitasking effectiveness is a myth because you are doing a little bit for each of the things you are working on instead of doing a lot and being fully focused on one task at a time. You cannot react fast if you don’t see the opportunities around you. I have experienced multiple leaders ask me, “How the hell didn’t I see this coming?” But deep down they knew the issue was always there. When we lose focus, we miss what leaders are supposed to see, what others don’t. Practicing our capacity of staying in the present moment seems easy, but it is not simple. I would take the risk of saying that once you try it, you’ll realize how much richness and clarity it brings.

So how can you start applying and making this happen?

  • Speak in the first person, own your opinions and emotions (and reactions to ideas), and recognize that you are the one who owns what you think and feel.
  • Invite others to express what they think and feel, and find what is right in it. “Make people right before you make them wrong.”
  • Make sure that you put in leadership meeting agendas a section on “what we might be missing” and “what can go wrong.” Allow people to brainstorm about this and see what emerges.
  • If after reading this you still think multitasking is useful and it is better than focusing on a single situation at a time, I invite you to watch this two-minute video and check if this doesn’t happen to you. Unless you start thinking in this way, it would be hard to create any change.
  • You need to develop these skills, as we have often learned the opposite. Incorporate a “pause” from time to time throughout the day, especially before important meetings. Did you ever try the power of one-moment meditations? Try this and see how effective “the power of pause” could be.

As you can see, building a more agile, disruptive and innovative organization requires us to challenge our mindsets and practice new skills we might not have developed yet. But if you want to see the change happening, you would need to take the first step. Are you up for it?

Disruption here, disruption there, disruption everywhere… It’s a buzzword, but what does it really mean?
I define disruption as the speed in which change happens, the acceleration it takes, and how fast it impacts other parts of the system. “The butterfly effect at the speed of light” — it alters the way you live, the way you engage with others, and the way you do business.
Disruption can be a threat to your business if you are the “disrupted” (think about Uber toppling the taxi and transportation industry), or it can be an advantage if you are the “disruptor” (at least, for some time). There have been many articles written about disruption, but I have found very few that talk about how to respond to it (especially if others depend on you as a leader).
Let’s refer to the iceberg model from one of my previous articles 

We believe the key to be able to respond to disruption is to look at our consciousness at the “being” level — gaining awareness of how we respond, when we are triggered or reactive, and how to recover faster when we are being triggered; identifying the triggers and consciously choosing how we will respond when new situations emerge. We will be tempted to think we know the answer, but we might be facing a problem we had not encountered before.
We need to be resilient (defined as the ability to recover faster and faster) at the “being” level in order to face and respond to disruption, as our egos will be challenged and at risk. How can you build a culture of resilience in your organization where egos or attachment are not getting in the way? Prepare your leaders and employees to face any situation they might encounter.
We will discuss three different “viruses” we see in organizations that work against building this resilience and the ability to respond:

  • Lack of curiosity, openness and acceptance of the status quo. We call this the “knower” or “fixed” mindset.
  • Lack of responsibility or ownership to respond and the speed with which we act. We call this the “victim” mindset.
  • The dangers of multitasking and not valuing the power of focus on a single task at a time. We call this the “multitasker.”


Lack of curiosity, openness and acceptance of the “status quo”

“I think there is a world market for about five computers.”
— Remark attributed to Thomas J. Watson, Chairman of the Board of International Business Machines (IBM), 1943
“We don’t like their sound. Group guitars are on their way out.”
— Decca Records on rejecting the Beatles
“Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?”
— Harry Warner, Warner Bros. 1927
What did you think when you read those statements? We can’t imagine our lives without computers. The Beatles became one of the biggest music success stories. And can you imagine movies without actors talking?
All of these examples disrupted their industries in a big way. Thankfully, there were others who believed in computers and The Beatles.
These statements all lack curiosity, which can be very dangerous. What if The Beatles had given up after speaking with Decca records?
Have you ever been in a meeting listening to the presenter and think to yourself “Wow, that will never work. What a stupid idea.”?
A good example of this is the Blockbuster story. Remember them? (Because many children today don’t!)  Netflix met with Blockbuster executives to propose a partnership, but Blockbuster laughed at the idea and didn’t agree. The rest is history.
Imagine how things would have been different if they had moved away from their “fixed” mindset and had been open to the partnership.
It is very easy to shut down others because we have a belief. That’s why the “knower” is a very dangerous mindset to be in. We believe our own opinion is the truth. We have been telling ourselves stories all our lives, but the danger comes when we start to believe our stories and are no longer open for other ideas to emerge.

Lack of responsibility or ownership to respond, and the speed with which we act

“Mommy, the toy broke.”
“The milk spilled.”
“He started it.”
For those who have children, you are probably very familiar with these statements or can think back to your own childhood. Now read the statements again. How do you think the toy broke? Who spilled the milk? Who started it? These are exactly the same as:
“The project got delayed.”
“The previous meeting ran late.”
“Accounting didn’t get me the report.”
On a bigger scale, this turns into a blame game, where the focus is on who created the problem. The BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is a good example of the different parties not wanting to take responsibility for what happened. And that became a PR disaster.
Blaming external circumstances for something that occurred without you being part of it or having any ownership in it might be a good short-term strategy to keep your ego safe, but it will not help your business at all in the long term.
While you are all discussing whom to blame, someone is looking for the solution you need, and they will probably beat you to it.
This level of complacency can put your organization at a disadvantage.

The dangers of multitasking

In 2015 alone, 3,477 people were killed and 391,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers.
During daylight hours, approximately 660,000 drivers use their cellphone while driving
These numbers are very big and very concerning. We all know it, and yet we still do it. How can that be?
In organizations, multitasking has become the norm and is no longer an exception. It’s often even valued as an asset. Do you recall your last meeting? How many people were listening and at the same time looking at their phones? Have you dialed in for a conference call and at the same time responding to emails?
I am afraid I have to burst your bubble. Multitasking might be very good for some things, but you can’t apply it to everything. Effective multitasking is a myth and also very counterproductive.
Take driving for example. At any given time, we need to focus on the road ahead, look in the rearview or side mirrors, control our speed, apply the right amount of pressure to the gas pedal, and maybe even look at the GPS for direction. We may have mastered this art, but adding talking on the phone, texting or having an argument with another passenger in the car is where you push the limit and it becomes counterproductive.
When does your multitasking go too far?

But what next?

My invitation to you is to reflect on these three viruses:

  • Do you observe yourself displaying any of these behaviors? What about people around you?
  • Can you think of any situation in which displaying these behaviors impacted people negatively or hurt the business?

In my next article, we will unpack the antidotes to each of these viruses.

In March the World Happiness Report for 2019 was published and the outcomes were quite discouraging. Negative feelings such as worry, sadness and anger increased by 27 percent between 2010 and 2018 and overall global happiness went down. One chapter of the report is titled, “The sad state of happiness in the United States and the role of digital media”. Happiness and well-being have been on a slow decline since 2000.
Several explanations, including decline in social capital and social support, as well as an increase in substance abuse and obesity, are cited as causes for the decline. This report and research suggest there is another explanation for this decline. Americans are making a fundamental shift in how they spend their leisure time. A large amount of time is spent interacting with electronic devices and this may have a direct link to unhappiness. Time spent in beneficial activities are now used for screen time. There is a decline in face-to-face time and sleep. This has caused a decline in well-being and may also explain the decline in happiness.
On a scale from 1 (unhappy) to 5 (extremely happy), how would you rate your happiness?
If you rated yourself below a 4 it might be time to give your life the “Marie Kondo” treatment. Marie Kondo or KonMari, a Japanese author and consultant, has taken the United States by storm with her book, “The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up” and the recent Netflix series, “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo.”
How can we take some of KonMarie’s lessons and techniques and apply them to life?
Marie suggests that, before you start tidying, you practice some gratitude. Here are some guiding questions:

  • What am I grateful for today?
  • What am I grateful for in my life?
  • Who am I grateful for?

The main premise of KonMarie’s book is to tidy up by asking yourself “Does this item spark or bring me joy?” If it does, you keep it and if it doesn’t, you say, “Thank you” and toss or donate it.

“To truly cherish the things that are important to you, you must first discard those that outlived their purpose.”

Let’s start!
As a first step, try to connect to your personal values. Values are principles or standards of behavior; they are one’s judgment of what is important in life.
Examples of values include: integrity, freedom, love, kindness, commitment, accountability, perseverance, etc.
Write down your top three values and then answer these questions:

  • Are you currently living according to those values?
  • Is your behavior aligned with your values?

Think for a few moments about your job, the work you do and ask yourself some of these questions:

  • What am I grateful for in this job? (Yes, we start with gratitude!)
  • Are the values of the company I work for aligned with my personal values?
  • What is the purpose of the company I work for and do I feel connected to that purpose?
  • Am I excited to go to work in the morning?
  • Does my work spark joy for me?

If you answered yes to all those questions, that’s awesome.
If you had a few nos, unlike KonMarie, who suggests you toss the items, I am not suggesting you should quit your job.
The purpose of this exercise is to give you some insight into where there might be some unhappiness. Now that you have identified the problem, you can take some corrective action and do something about it.

“If you are not part of the problem, you cannot be part of the solution.”

Social circle (e.g. friends and family)
Reflect on the people you surround yourself with:

  • What am I grateful for when it comes to my social circle?
  • Who are my cheerleaders and supporters?
  • Who might be holding me back?
  • Who are the friends who are always negative?
  • Which friendships are aligned with my values, and which ones aren’t?
  • Which of my friends bring me joy, and which don’t?

Again, I am not suggesting you end your friendships. All these people came into your life for a reason. This exercise serves as a way to take inventory of how and with whom you spend your time.
As a breast cancer survivor, this process happened almost organically for me. There were those who stayed with me throughout the process and those who became invisible and disappeared.
We just never seem to have enough of it. When was the last time you took a tally of how you spend your time?
Think about the last week and write down how your time was allocated each day. Working, exercise, family, volunteering, school, writing, etc.
In addition, if your phone has the capability, check how much “screen time” you had over the course of a week.

  • What am I grateful for when it comes to time?
  • What patterns can I identify in my time tally?
  • Is my time allocation aligned with my values?
  • Where did I “waste” time?
  • How would I like to allocate my time?
  • What time sparks joy for me?

Remember the self-rating about your happiness at the beginning of the article? Would you change it now that you have read this article?
Reflecting on your work, social circles and use of time is there anything that stood out? Anything you would do differently?
Here are some powerful questions to ask yourself about your happiness:

  • What will I stop doing?
  • What will I start doing?
  • What will I continue doing?

It’s a fact of business life. We spend most of our time in meetings. And from what most people tell me, meetings are not the highlight of their day. Too much time spent in conversations that seem to go on without end and only a few people dominating the discussions. Topics don’t get closure because discussions go off-topic, go on tangents, go down rabbit holes and swirl to no end. And some meetings end with no clear sense of purpose or what’s next. And then there’s the inevitable meeting after the meeting to discuss the meeting. At this point, people’s energy is low. Some may feel a palpable frustration and compelled to give voice to their thoughts, “This meeting is a waste of time!” But they say nothing because you are the boss and this is your meeting. If this sounds or feels familiar, then the question becomes how can you make the most of these less than satisfying meetings you and your teams have come to live with?
With each new day comes the need for people to get more done in less time and meetings play a significant role in fulfilling this need. But to do this, we would need to change the way we have meetings. So ask yourself, what if you could stop the “swirling” i.e., conversations that go on without end? What if you could drill down to what really matters more quickly? What if you could get buy-in more efficiently and align with one another more quickly? What if you could open and close topics, build consensus, and drive decision making more effectively? And perhaps most important, what if you could garner effective agreements from others while motivating everyone to follow through with commitment? What if meetings could leave you and everyone else feeling energized, focused, clear and ready to face the challenges that lay ahead? This is the goal of conscious meeting facilitation.
Conscious meeting facilitation transforms the meeting experience into one of achievement and motivation. But what exactly does “conscious” meeting facilitation mean? It means operating with a heightened awareness for mindsets and behaviors that impact a meeting’s outcomes. In fact, conscious meeting facilitation begins by establishing the right mindsets which in turn inform behaviors that result in more effective meetings. Conscious meeting facilitation helps people remain aware of their choices to adhere to these mindsets and behaviors.
Establishing Clear Mindsets, and Behavioral Expectations
In a book entitled “The Skilled Facilitator”, author Roger Schwarz proposes using a Mutual Learning model to inform the mindsets and behaviors of meeting participants. These mindsets and behaviors create the conditions for transparency, understanding, skillful advocacy, skillful inquiry and collaborative solution building.

The Mutual Learning model proports the need for participants to be operating from a common pool of information, to understand and respect different perspectives, and to clarify how decision making will occur prior to making actual decisions. The Mutual Learning mindset proposed by Schwarz has five core values: Transparency, curiosity, informed choice, accountability and compassion. These values, in turn, produce effective behaviors that are held in place via conscious meeting facilitation. These behaviors include, stating views and asking genuine questions, sharing all relevant information, explaining rational and intent, focusing on interests not positions, testing assumptions and inferences, and jointly designing next steps.
Conscious meeting facilitation establishes these values and behavior norms as expectations to be held by participants of one another. They are presented as ground rules to be accepted by participants. Once accepted, the meeting environment becomes a level playing field for ideas, perspectives, beliefs, and possibilities and the facilitator supports the participant’s adherence to these ground rules.
Ultimately, conscious meeting facilitation means that every aspect of the meeting’s design and preparation, as well as its facilitation, is conducted from a place of awareness of multiple dimensions from the physical to the cognitive to the emotional, all to produce a specific desired business outcome. Let’s take a look at each of these dimensions.
The Five Dimensions of a Healthy and Effective Meeting Experience
Conscious meeting facilitation is based on managing what can be called the 5 dimensions of a healthy meeting experience:

  1. Physical Comfort
  2. Time and Traffic Control
  3. Cognitive Focus
  4. Emotions Management
  5. Business Outcomes


  1. Physical Comfort

Human beings need to be in a position of physical comfort in order to relax their concerns and focus their attention. This means not only having a comfortable place to sit, a chair that supports your body and back, but also a meeting rhythm that parallels your body’s natural rhythms and needs for circulation, nutrition and heeding the call of nature. Great meetings allow for comfortable seating, but also for movement, regular breaks, and the right kind of fuel for focused concentration.

  1. Time and Traffic Control

Second only to physical comfort, the management of time and people’s interaction is fundamental to making meetings run more efficiently. Who speaks when? How long is too long? How much time does a topic or task need? How do you make sure everyone’s voice is heard? These are questions addressed by well-facilitated time and traffic control.

  1. Cognitive Focus

Dimensions one and two take care of the basics of meeting facilitation and by themselves can make any meeting better. However, to really take effectiveness to new heights it is necessary to manage the attention people give to discussions and keep their mindsets on track so as to focus on one’s ability to respond while staying open and curious. Know-it-alls and victims kill productivity.

  1. Emotions Management

Just like the cognitive focus of people and groups can be managed by a skillful facilitator, so can the emotions of participants. Emotions are our visceral reactions to the topics being discussed, the way they are being discussed, the environment within which they are being discussed and the individual’s reflection on how these factors measure up to their standards for what’s valuable time spent. Skillful facilitation constantly monitors the emotional state of participants and knows when and how to intervene to keep emotions healthy and in support of meeting goals.

  1. Business Outcomes

Finally, meetings are only as good as the business outcomes they produce. Skilled facilitators know how to keep meetings focused on the desired business outcomes. They understand how to manage the relationships between complex concepts without having to know all the details. They are able to keep conversations on business track, always keeping the greater business objectives in mind.
Meeting Modes
Most meetings, regardless of their appearance, really only have three purposes; to inform, to discuss, to decide.

Once we understand the purpose and desired outcome of each mode, a facilitator can more effectively manage interaction towards a meaningful outcome. Let’s take a look at each of the three meeting modes.

  1. To Inform

The purpose of this mode is to share information with others. Plain and simple, it is about relaying information, knowledge and/or concepts to participants for the sake of making them aware of the information. In this mode, what matters most is to make sure that all participants clearly understand what they are being informed of.

  1. To Discuss

The purpose of this meeting mode is to share and debate perspectives and to build on one another’s ideas. For this mode, it’s important to make sure that each of the participants have had an equal chance to have their voice and beliefs heard.

  1. To Decide

After people have been informed, and all the pertinent discussions have been had, there often comes a time when a decision needs to be taken during the meeting. The role of conscious meeting facilitation is to make sure that participants are consciously adhering to a decision-making method or model, decided upon before the decision is to be taken.
It may seem like a lot of knowledge and skill is required, but today’s increasingly complex business environments and challenges need a new type of meeting discipline to keep up with the pace and demands made by both.

Working with business leaders around the globe, one topic persists regardless of geography or industry. It’s the challenge of silos. The closed group and silo mentality challenges a business’s ability to coordinate, innovate and be more agile — three criteria for competing with disruptive movements in today’s marketplace. And just as walls can be built to form the silos, these walls can also be torn down.
Before breaking down silos and associated barriers to cross-group collaboration, we first have to understand why barriers and silos are created and/or exist in the first place. Here are four beliefs we hear regarding why silos exist and persist within organizations today:

  1. Knowledge and Certainty — People within silos come to believe they hold specific knowledge that is well known and understood within the silo and is not understood outside of the silo. The silo provides a safe place for their knowledge and certainty of how things should be done. Others outside of the silo “don’t get it” or don’t know.
  2. Belonging and Shared Purpose — Silos are micro entities with their own microculture within the larger organization. These micro entities often have a clear, shared purpose that makes belonging much easier. Associating one’s place and identity in an organization is much easier with silos than without.
  3. Fear and Scarcity — Fear plays a big role in the existence of silos. People fear a loss of perceived control over an area for which they are responsible. We can believe that resources and knowledge are limited and even scarce. This results in protecting the resources and knowledge of the silo for fear that “outsiders” will compromise them.
  4. Lack of Control — Many leaders believe it is much easier to get things done by running the smaller world of the silo than to integrate one’s area into a greater whole. There are fewer people to coordinate with, fewer people involved in decision-making and faster cycles — all things we believe we can and must control within our silo.

Knowing the key beliefs behind the existence of silos, we can learn how to replace them with new ways of thinking. New mental models will help us integrate people, ideas and action across multiple teams while making our organizations more flexible in their ability to respond to challenges. Here are four ways to break down silos and the walls between us at work.

  1. Shift From Certainty to Curiosity — Silos, by definition, are discrete areas wherein people brought together under a common purpose develop expertise that adds value to the greater organization. That expertise should be fundamental to the organization’s ability to thrive; however, oftentimes, that same expertise results in rigid certainty wherein the people within the silo believe they are the owners of what can be known about a particular subject. As such, they are not easily open to other groups that appear to have little or no experience in their area of expertise.

Busting the silo mentality requires having the same expertise but combined with a belief that the perspectives of others can be complementary; therefore, we should always be curious about what other perspectives and possibilities may exist. With an awareness that all people and groups have blind spots, a mentality of openness and curiosity allows us to collaborate and create value with groups outside of our own.

  1. Expand Belonging and Share a Greater Purpose — Just as having a purpose in common can hold a smaller group or silo together, expanding the purpose you and your group share with others can make working outside the silo easier. Oftentimes, we believe that sharing a larger purpose can mean it will be less meaningful for the individual. They may perceive their contribution as less because they have to share in a purpose larger than the one within their silo,

Therefore, it is important to explore and determine the impact each role has with regard to supporting a larger purpose, one that is outside of the group or silo wherein you work. For example, in a technology company, the internal engineering function that serves all employees and company needs has the specific purpose of supporting employees and initiatives with access and ease-of-use of the best technology. At the same time, the human resources department’s purpose is different still in that it exists to recruit, develop and retain the best talent. For these two departments to work together effectively, each will have to subordinate their individual group purposes for a larger purpose they both can share and relate to as both group and individual contributors.

  1. From Fear and Scarcity to Confidence and Abundance — Our experience shows that to the contrary, most groups within organizations work with a mindset of scarcity. This, in turn, creates a competitive posture for talent, resources and budget. A mindset of scarcity will avoid risks and will fear losing time or money. In contrast, a mindset of abundance believes that there is always more and as such seeks to build relationships and collaboration in order to realize more of what they seek. It is a mentality of thriving versus surviving.

However, believing in abundance requires having confidence in one’s capabilities. Confidence allows us to see more opportunity with fewer constraints. Poorly equipped teams lack skills and capabilities. This, in turn, reinforces their mindset of scarcity. In contrast, high-performing teams are always pushing the boundaries of what others believe are scarce. They see opportunity instead of problems. They see more instead of less. They believe in their ability to achieve new heights.

  1. From a Lack of Control to Focusing on One’s Ability to Respond — All situations at work are comprised of elements within our control and elements outside of our control. Silos often persist because we believe that elements outside of the silo are also outside of our control.

For example, human relations and interaction outside the silo can be more challenging than relationships within the silo. This may be true for a variety of reasons, including worldviews, beliefs, attitudes and education that are different than those shared within the silo. And yet, within the complexity of people and relationships lies the greatest leverage for busting silos. By exploring our ability to respond to the challenge of these relationships, we can design processes or road maps to organize the task being shared. Processes help clarify the actions people will take to fulfill a purpose. The clearer, more streamlined and agile the process the better. It then allows for people to collaborate with focus.
Silos exist because they support what we believe about ourselves, our work and our organization. When we believe we know something and others do not, we create silos. When we limit our shared purpose, we create silos. When we have a mindset of having a scarcity of resources, we create silos to compete for and protect our resources. When we seek to feel in control, we build walls that keep out whatever is outside of our control and, in turn, we create silos.
The answer to busting silos begins with shifting our beliefs about ourselves, our work and our organization. We can shift from knowledge with certainty to having knowledge combined with curiosity, wherein we believe the input of others outside our silo can be complementary and add value. We can expand our purpose to be shared with others, thus bringing down walls between us. We can build our capabilities so as to have the confidence required to see abundance and opportunity versus fear and scarcity. Finally, by focusing on our ability to respond, we can expand our impact on others and on the task at hand, allowing silos to open so collaboration can flourish across departmental lines.

Change is easier when…we can see our knower mindset not knowing a thing.

Our knower mindset is an UNSOBER mindset. Our knower mindset undermines our intentions, our values and our walk…because it creates an illusion of sobriety and a toxic fabrication of the truth.

Our knower mindset is more UNSOBER than when the mind is under the influence of alcohol, hallucinogenic drugs, psychoactive drugs, psychedelic drugs and other mind-altering substances. At least with these known intoxicants, there is some acknowledgment of our UNSOBERNESS.

Our knower mindset disguises an overvaluation about knowing (especially in the face of VUCA) and preserves a fallacy about the value of knowing (e.g., knowing about our cognitive biases is not enough to overcome them. See The GI Joe Fallacy).

In successful corporations, we value knowledge, expertise, best practices, proficiency, hiring people with answers, etc., — “knowledge is power,” as they say. So are you saying that “knowing” is bad?

Of course not. We believe that knowledge is fundamental to business success. The knower mindset has nothing to do with knowledge. The knower mindset (and corresponding ‘know-it-all’ behavior) is detrimental to effectiveness and sustainable performance; but knowledge, expertise and knowing about the business is critical and fundamental in any endeavor. Our companies need executives, managers and employees who really know their stuff. And at the same time, not being able to admit that there is a provisional condition where you ‘don’t know’ or you don’t have the answer is also critical. ‘Not knowing’ is a precondition to learning; it is very difficult to learn if you cannot be in a place of ‘not knowing’ albeit temporary.
Richi Gil, Co-founder Axialent

The knower mindset is often more about saving face. We often source from the knower mindset when our identity/self-esteem becomes unconsciously attached to our status of knowing. That makes it extremely challenging to admit you don’t know something. This attachment to expertise + certainty invites biases or blind spots that make us less effective, depending on the situational context. The knower mindset breeds passive-defensive norms, aggressive-defensive patterns, internal silos, perfectionism, avoidance and unhealthy competition. It is unconscious and ineffective; it is unable to elevate thinking or engage the energy of others.

We fluctuate back and forth between knower mindset and learner mindset. What if, in addition to being very knowledgeable, we also could be exemplars of learning at the same time? What if we could facilitate a high-performance culture that embodies the learner mindset: expertise + curiosity? What if we celebrated new standards of humility or NOT KNOWING just as much as KNOWING? What if learning and curiosity were viewed as acts of conformity? Wouldn’t that help accelerate our teams’ readiness to adapt to change? Wouldn’t that increase effectiveness and business outcomes in the face of increased change?

How much do our organizations value KNOWING over not knowing?

Here is a snippet from Dr. Robert Kegan and Dr. Lisa Lahey, gurus on adult development at Harvard, from one of their more recent book interviews:

“Let’s be blunt: In the ordinary organization, nearly everyone is doing a second job no one is paying them for — namely, hiding their weaknesses, looking good, covering their rear ends, managing other people’s favorable impression of them. This is the single biggest waste of a company’s resources. Now imagine working in a place that is sending the message, every day, ‘We hired you because we thought you were good, not because we thought you were perfect.’ We are all here to get better, and the only way we will get better is to make mistakes, reveal our limitations, and support each other to overcome them.”

“Do you worry more about how good you are or how fast you are learning?” asks Ray Dalio of Bridgewater, another company we studied.

But given the increasingly VUCA world of the 21st century (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous), we’ve come to believe that being a great place to work is not enough. Organizations need to operate as great places to grow. High levels of trust, camaraderie and pride are necessary but not sufficient.

Organizations need all of their people from the C-suite to the frontlines continuously developing and deploying higher levels of capability to match the rate of change going on around them. Changing your business model or value proposition, entering a new market, responding to a new competitor, developing a new product or service, restructuring your supply chain or service delivery process — these are all highly complex challenges.

Organizations face more of them now than ever before and at an ever-increasing pace. Meeting those challenges requires something more than smarter strategy; it requires smarter people — people who can overcome their blind spots, who are neither overly confident nor overly humble, who can stand on the field and get above it at the same time.

Peter Senge says that learning organizations are where:

  • People are continually learning to see more and expanding their capacity to create the results they truly desire.
  • New and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured.
  • Collective aspiration is set free.

Learning how to master our mindsets/biases more effectively is the No. 1 personal and business challenge from which all our other challenges are born. All of us in leadership (at home and at work) today are universally, somewhat “over our heads,” responding effectively to the rapid pace of change and need for constant adaptation. So in the face of new possibilities, we need to soberly shift into learner mode more often. Learning organizations, learning environments and learning individuals will quickly evolve into the most adaptive and anti-fragile communities of the future. Others will follow suit — or likely suffer unnecessarily.

Change is easier when we don’t miss the “burning bush” moments.


I wouldn’t mind a “burning bush” moment, but who am I? And who talks like that? I mean, besides Moses.
The other day, a Jedi friend (Vid) invited/dared a group of us to notice our way of paying attention — challenging us to really focus on the quality of our attention so that we don’t miss the reveal/the messages about our mission for next year, our calling for the next 10 years, or our purpose for the rest of our lives.
It is very easy to miss…we’re all so busy.
He went on to explain how it was actually the quality of Moses’ attention that allowed him (Moses) to notice the uniqueness of the burning bush, which then caused him to take interest and dared him to draw near. With a little more care, curiosity and concern, he became “exquisitely present” and therefore ready to learn about the new master plan that was in store for him.
I wonder how many burning bushes I continuously walk right past when the quality of my attention is compromised or because I’m not really even looking for it. We certainly can’t find what we’re not looking for. If the quality of my attention is not deliberately, exquisitely, evermore present, I’m likely to just keep missing it. Am I missing it on purpose? Maybe I’m not really open to a new master plan after all. Maybe I’m unconsciously just fine settling for the old reliable “Plan A” (keeping the status quo in place), delivering my current level performance. Maybe my strategy is to change very little and just keep hoping for the best. Maybe I’m not ready for the Red Sea moments that follow the burning bush moments.
“I sure hope 2019 is better than 2018,” a friend blurted out to me in passing.
“So what are you going to do differently in 2019 to make sure that it is better?” I responded to her question with a question, knowing all along that it was really directed inward, at myself. Then I kind of got in her face (my own face) and said, “Let’s get specific. Let’s build your 2019 plan.” I think this kind of annual year-end recap/reflection and next year/next level planning exercise (see questions below) is the closest I’m going to get to a burning bush experience. I’m no Moses. For a clear, actionable plan to be revealed, I have to slow down, take my shoes off, pay attention and draw near.
Only a very small percent of the population have clear goals/priorities let alone write them down. Yet when we do write them down, we are exponentially more successful at achieving our next level goals/priorities.
This post is an invitation to myself and others to slow down, take interest and dare to draw near. Let’s spark our own pseudo-burning bush moment. Use this list of reflection-provoking, planning questions below. Modify them, make them your own, or use a different list of questions to capture your thinking for an increased likelihood of success in 2019.
We don’t want to miss the burning bush moments. We want to draw near in order to be sent out more effectively — maybe even to become a burning bush ourselves.

2018 Current Year/Current Level Reflection and 2019 Next Year/Next Level Planning

2018 Current Year/Current Level Reflection

  • What did I love most about 2018? When was I happiest?
  • What am I most grateful for from 2018?
  • Which three moments were most meaningful?


  • Where did I really use my strengths?
  • How did I live out my values/purpose?


  • What were my biggest disappointments? …frustrations? …failures?
  • What were my biggest inconsistencies with my values/purpose/priorities?
  • What still makes me feel angry? …sad? …anxious? …scared?
  • What is the most honest thing I can say about my disappointments?
  • What is the most compassionate thing I could say to myself about my disappointments? (reframing)


  • What momentum did I start to build in 2018 that I want to take forward?

2019 Next Year/Next Level Planning
(A more complex spreadsheet template is available upon request for those interested.)

  • What do I love to do that I want to do more of in 2019?
  • What core values are most inspiring to me?
  • What priorities do I want to focus on in 2019?
  • What would be most inspiring for me to accomplish in 2019?
  • What would be my heart’s desire or biggest dream?

Mindfulness in leadership is becoming quite trendy.  I have been receiving Google alerts on mindful leadership for the past few years and I am excited to see an increase in interest and commitment to mindfulness practices by organizations. Why is mindfulness getting so much attention and how can it help you lead?
Jon-Kabat Zinn, the founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center defines mindfulness as paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally. I believe the interest in mindfulness is increasing because of the lasting physical and psychological benefits experienced by those who regularly practice. There are over 10,000 research papers now available on the subject and what once was seen by many as “woo-woo” or “out there” is finding its way into the mainstream. Companies such as General Mills, Google, Apple, Astra Zeneca, Aetna and others have implemented mindfulness programs.
Dr. Patricia Collard author of The Little Book of Mindfulness describes the benefits of practicing mindfulness as follows:

  • Increased experience of calm and relaxation
  • Higher levels of energy and enthusiasm for living
  • Increased self-confidence and self-acceptance
  • Less danger of experiencing stress, depression, anxiety, chronic pain, addiction or low immune efficiency
  • More self-compassion and compassion for others on our planet.

With the demands of modern life and the pressures of high performance, many find themselves in a frequent state of overwhelm and often experience heightened feelings of anxiety. When this state increases over time it can have a negative impact on relationships, physical and mental well-being may deteriorate and the ability to focus and make decisions diminishes.
My journey into mindfulness began seven years ago with the practice of yoga. After the stock market crash of 2008, my husband and I decided to transform our lives. Most simply, this involved both of us starting our own businesses while raising two young children and committing to live purposeful and adventurous lives. It was also a commitment to live with what I perceived to be greater uncertainty and financial risk.
My main intentions during this transition were to experience inner peace, create a sustainable marriage and family and leave a meaningful imprint on our world.  I also wanted to experience gratitude and joy and less feelings of struggle. I wanted to worry less and trust more.  Three mindfulness practices that have supported me are journaling to increase feelings of gratitude, guided meditation to learn to be in stillness and checking-in with myself to notice my inner state before responding.
The application of mindfulness can support a broad range of situations including leading an organization or business unit more effectively. A conscious business promotes mindfulness for all of its stakeholders. This means that employees are encouraged to contemplate their own selves and what brings them meaning, happiness and fulfillment. They also must understand the needs of their customers in order to bring them products and services that support their growth and well-being.
A simple way to begin experimenting with how mindfulness can help you lead is to pause when you are facing a challenge and walk yourself through the following centering practice:

  • Bring yourself back to the present.
  • Let go of any concerns or worries for the next few minutes.
  • Allow your eyes to close or just soften your gaze.
  • Breathe, notice your chest rise and fall.
  • Sense your feet, chair, and feel the support beneath and around you.
  • Notice where your body is particularly tense and let those places relax.
  • If you notice your mind start to wander, come back to your breath.
  • When you are ready, take a deep breath and come back.

Notice what happened. How is your inner state different? From this state, what alternatives are revealed?
Organizations change when the individuals within them transform. Mindfulness practices can support your personal transformation and increase your capacity to lead yourself, others and your organization more effectively through times of uncertainty and change.

How comfortable are you with your co-workers’ emotions? How comfortable are you with your own?
Emotions make us human. They have a strong impact on the success, collaboration and engagement of our teams. Research clearly shows that we are all critically affected by our emotions at the workplace. It also shows that the negative influence of frustration has a stronger effect on performance than the positive influence of optimism.
Emotions strongly influence decision-making, creativity and interpersonal relationships. And yet many leaders are uncomfortable with the topic of emotions or are unaware of its influence and impact on leadership, organizational culture and performance.
Conscious, courageous leaders are aware of the power that emotions hold. They harness it and make it work for them.
Let me be clear. Bringing emotions to your leadership is NOT the same as being emotional. Being “emotional” describes someone who is “sensitive” or reacts to circumstances in an intense way — when one takes things personal that are not personal. Being able to process emotions and using the powerful information they contain is a way to improve your capacity to look at the world, take action in it, and accomplish the results you are striving for. If you ignore your and other people’s emotions and the power they hold, then you set yourself up for unpleasant surprises.
The philosophy of Conscious Business regards emotional mastery as a meta mindset that underlies all other mindsets. Emotions deeply influence how we perceive the world and whether we are able, in a given moment, to choose responsibility over victimhood or curiosity over the need for certainty. The key is to consciously engage with emotions and leverage the power and energy they have. This means to engage with the power of all emotions — the so-called positive and negative ones — be it happiness, excitement, gratitude, pride, sadness, fear, anger or guilt.
Over 20 years ago, Daniel Goleman already declared emotional intelligence (EI) as a key competence of leaders:“After analyzing 181 competence models from 121 organizations, I found that 67 percent of key abilities were related to EI. Compared to IQ, EI mattered twice as much.”
Emotions arise from the stories we tell ourselves about what we observe and experience. These stories then consciously or unconsciously influence our actions. The more aware we become of our ability to influence our interpretation of a certain situation (i.e., the story we tell ourselves), the more we can direct our actions.
Have you noticed in emotionally charged situations that our good intentions often go out the window? We know how we would like to behave and show up, but we feel so triggered in the moment that we don’t care about reason or find we are not able to choose an empowering response. Instead, we react.
You can read hundreds of books or attend seminars, but emotional mastery is not about an intellectual understanding of how to lead or have difficult conversations. It is about being aware and equanimous in the moment and choosing a helpful response.
People work differently with emotions, and we recognize three different responses to emotions arising:explosion, repression or expansion of awareness, and management of the emotion. I am sure we all have experienced the harm it does when we or someone else “explodes” because of a strong, negative emotion. For the person showing the strong emotion, it may feel like a relief in the moment, but consequences for relationships and the outcomes they are trying to achieve are mostly negative. And after a short while, it doesn’t feel that good anymore either.
On the other hand, the more we try to suppress or control our emotions, the more control they have over our thoughts and behavior, not allowing us to operate from a higher level of consciousness and leadership. The secret is not to control our emotions but to balance, manage and align our emotions with who we are and how we want to lead. It’s key to productively use the energy the emotions carry to our advantage and become aware of the message it sends us so we can act in a productive way.
Let me share a five-step framework on how to increase your emotional mastery and leverage emotions in a conscious way:

  1. Become aware of the emotion. Feel it and label it. Do I feel anger or sadness? Happiness or excitement?
  2. Unconditionally accept your emotions and those of others. Don’t argue with what is. Accept without judgment and create space for the emotion.
  3. Regulate self and respond effectively to others’ emotions. Expand your awareness. Learn to respond and not react. Practicing equanimity and being able to use the power that emotions carry is a key element of emotional mastery.
  4. Inquire and analyze the story underlying the emotion. Be curious. Every emotion carries a message.
  5. Constructively express the emotion. Reframe and tell yourself a different, empowering story. Productively advocate for your own emotion. Productively inquire into other’s emotions.

Try this the next time you experience a strong emotion arising. Pause for a moment, take a deep breath, focus and spend a few moments to harness its power. Then consciously direct this power to support the people around you and the task at hand. I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ll feel better, too.