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  • 16 Sep 2018 3:38 PM | Irina Hoffmeister (Administrator)

    Suzanne Copeland

    So many trending topics in workplace dynamics suggest the diminishment of the role of leaders--the gig economy, where everyone is their own boss; leaderless matrix teams assembled for projects; flat organizational structures; and leaders coached to lean back, ask questions, and let their teams call the shots. Are we on our way to a leaderless workplace?

     Maybe. But I predict it won’t work and it won’t last.

    Human nature is the only thing that has never evolved. Humans may physically look different than our ancestors and we certainly use more sophisticated tools and have a more complex man-made environment than ever before, but we are still social creatures. Much like ants and bees we don’t merely desire social structure, we require it to survive.

    One of the more interesting aspects of human nature, however, is our strong aversion to our nature. We resist our social structures. Take a look at our animated movies about ants and bees. Those story lines are always about how the lead character breaks out of their assigned role and goes in their own direction. We value non-conformity in spite of our strongly conforming nature. This explains why those in assigned leadership roles are often met with lack of support and even outward hostility. Who doesn’t have a bad boss story? No one. 

    It is therefore understandable that leaderless organizational structures appear to be superior. But, if those leaderless structures are examined more closely in practice, I believe it would become apparent that leaders emerge in those situations regardless of the desire to work without them. It just takes longer and is likely more frustrating for everyone in the early stages of the process while the group struggles for a leader to emerge.

    Having a leader, therefore, remains critical for getting any group of humans to work together toward a common objective. Being a leader is an art, a science, and on some days a magic trick, getting results in spite of the odds against you. Yes, you have to engage the team, and many times defer to the expertise of others, to get the best results. And, yes, you need to do more listening than talking. But, someone needs to have the vision for the future state and guide others to get there. And, it needs to be clear to the team who is in that leadership role. Like it or not, it is just how humans are wired to operate.

    What does this mean for your company? Invest in developing leaders. Strong, effective leadership will always deliver a good return on your investment and, more important, leadership is never going out of style.


    Suzanne Copeland specializes in maximizing the effectiveness of your workforce. Suzanne’s success in developing employee communication programs and leadership initiatives stems from her accomplished career as a marketing executive. She has been at the helm of marketing for both market leading and rapid growth financial services companies. As CMO, she also spearheaded culture change programs to educate and engage the workforce to align with and embrace the strategies of the organization. She has founded highly successful leadership initiatives in corporations for many years. Her programs deliver a curriculum of personal and professional development topics, networking, and leadership skill application opportunities. Her approach, influence, and emotional intelligence in delivering programs aimed at employees have had a significant impact on the success of the companies and the individuals with whom she has worked. Suzanne's firm, Copeland Collaborative, provides employee communication strategies and leadership development for companies, executive coaching for individuals, keynote speeches, and group workshops.

  • 1 Aug 2018 6:56 PM | Irina Hoffmeister (Administrator)

    Tom Rottenberger

    Like in the Indian folktale The Six Blind Men and the Elephant, where each man touches a different part of an elephant and comes up with a different description of what an elephant is, there are many definitions of leadership and descriptions of what makes one a great leader. 

    On any given day, you can scroll through your LinkedIn newsfeed and find various different metaphors for leadership and a recipe for becoming a great leader based on that particular construct.

    The most common metaphors that I have come across tend to fall into three categories:

    • The Leader as military general– the emphasis here is on devising the right strategy vs. the competition and then driving the execution of that strategy with efficient processes and disciplined practices. 
    • The Leader as star athlete– here leadership is viewed as a basket of must-have competencies. The more of these key competencies a given leader possesses and the greater the degree of mastery of them they exert, then the stronger leader he/she is - much like a "five-tool" player in baseball.
    • The Leader as social worker– in the construct of this metaphor, the leader is focused on the needs of the people in the organization. The strong leader is the one that effectively develops and nurtures individuals and is there primarily to enable them.

    And just like in the folktale, each of these has something to offer a view of leadership. However, each alone is insufficient to define the nature of leadership.  The critical defect common to all of them I believe, is the exclusive focus on the leader.  Leadership is a practical art and it is impossible to look at the qualities of a leader without addressing the particular situation and environment in which they must lead. Thus, none of the metaphors above can adequately explain why the same leader may be a stunning success in one role be recruited to another, and fail miserably.  The same person would have the same strategic ability, the same set of competencies, and the same nurturing traits in both circumstances.

    I propose there is a better metaphor for leaders, The Leader as Artisan.  An artisan is defined as a person skilled in an applied art.  Someone who produces high quality, distinctive products, in small quantities, usually by hand

    I believe this metaphor suits a leader well. The notion of “high quality” places the emphasis where it should be, not on the leaders themselves, but on the organizations that they shape.  The qualities of being “distinctive” and produced in “small quantities” realistically reflect the situational nature of leadership.  There are no cookie-cutter situations.  And finally, “by hand” highlights the importance of a leader being hands-on and close to the activity of the organization.

    Adopting the Artisan as metaphor for the leader will get us closer to the whole elephant.  It will help foster an appreciation for the situational dynamics at play in organizations and move us beyond narrow, paint-by-number solutions.

    Tom is the founder of Artisanal Leadership LLC, a boutique consulting effort that engages and activates organizations by working with leaders to shape healthy and balanced operating environments.  He is the creator of the SPACE™ framework of leadership and organizational effectiveness and has had more than twenty-five years’ experience, working with CEOs and senior executives to successfully execute strategy and achieve results. Prior to launching Artisanal Leadership, Tom was a Senior Partner in several consulting firms, as well as holding such C-Suite and Senior Executive corporate roles as Chief Human Resource Officer, Senior Vice President of Organizational Change & Leadership, and Chief Learning Officer.  Additionally, he has served on the coaching faculty for the Stanford University International Executive Residency Program. 

  • 26 Jun 2018 3:27 PM | Irina Hoffmeister (Administrator)

    Irina Hoffmeister

    I had the pleasure of attending a wonderful evening organized by the OD Network of New York. I listened to the inspiring Dr. Donna Hicks share her thoughts and insights about dignity in the workplace, its impact on team dynamics and especially its importance in creating an inclusive and healthy work culture. Her impressive 20-year background of facilitating international conflicts across the world as well as her approach to honor dignity, which she defines as, “inherent value and vulnerability,” made this night a passionate conversation amongst the ODN of NY community members.

    Why honoring dignity in the work place is key to a healthy work culture                                                 

    Today’s most successful organizations understand and value the critical contribution people make to their success. The most essential part to an organization are its people; they keep the company and its mission alive. They bring skills and competencies to the table that make the organization function. And finally, they provide work and effort that result in services and/or goods that an organization puts out in the marketplace.

    That being said, while many leaders show strong IQ coupled with technical knowledge, Dr. Hicks raised the question if there is enough understanding about ‘the human’ and our emotions amongst today’s top leaders. If we understand that people are the key to success, why do some organizations struggle to build a culture of dignity? Way too often, employees find their dignity violated at work leading to demotivation, a fear driven culture and poor interpersonal dynamics. Dr. Hicks discussed the importance of leaders modelling trust, vulnerability and dignified behaviors to build a culture of dignity that fosters an inclusive work environment where employees strive to be their best. Honoring dignity has also proven to give employees more energy at work, boost productivity and most importantly strengthen the sense of belonging to an organization. When dignified actions are modelled, dignified relationships are built and employees become more emotionally skilled to create a healthy emotional infrastructure in an organization that feels safe for its people.

    The impact of dignity violations                                                 

    Dr. Hick shared the interesting finding about how we experience the violation of dignity.  When a person’s dignity is violated, the brain receives signals in the same location that gets triggered when a we experience physical injury. Thus, “when dignity is impacted it literally hits the core of humanity.” Dignity violations that occur in the workplace amongst people pose an imminent threat to its culture being toxic, spreading quickly from team to team resulting in a culture of dysfunction. In order to drive a culture of dignity, it is useful to understand the ten elements that honor dignity. Dr. Hicks shared that list with the group and it includes: acceptance of identity, recognition, acknowledgement, inclusion, safety, fairness, independence, understanding, benefit of the doubt and accountability. These elements derived from many years of her work with parties in conflict across the world. Her research showed that safety was the most violated element in today’s work environment often leading to employees not speaking their mind and feeling disconnected from the organization’s mission.

    Dignity is connection, connection, connection….  

    Looking further into the breakdown of dignity when implementing change in an organization, Dr. Hicks classified three focus areas: connection to our own dignity, connection to the dignity of others, connection to the dignity of something beyond self.

    To create a functional culture of dignity, the people of an organization firstly need to be able to connect to their own dignity. If feelings of depression, failure, insecurity or worthlessness are detected, the process of change needs to start with the individual. Secondly, the connection to other’s dignity is a vital piece of driving strong interpersonal connections through acknowledgement and understanding of others. Thirdly, only if people are connected to their own and others dignity, can an organization create a culture where individuals connect to something beyond themselves such as a mission or a work environment.

    As the night went on, Dr. Hicks guided us through a journey of her incredible experiences and told many stories of fascinating and eye-opening events she collected throughout her extensive journey across the globe. This evening was a great investment in one’s personal and professional development, created amazing dialogue among the ODN NY community and provided guidance to implement new strategies at people’s work places in support of dignity.


    Irina has led Learning & Development as well as Talent Management for over 10 years globally across 3 continents (Asia-Pacific, Europe & North America). As a Talent Leader, she has consistently pioneered new L&D and Talent Management initiatives, built positive employment cultures, coached top performers and built new L&D functions from the ground up. Irina holds and MA and BA in international business and is fluent in German and French.

  • 11 Apr 2018 7:43 PM | Silvia Orna (Administrator)

    Silvia Orna

    When you think about leadership development, what are the competencies that come first to mind? If we use as reference the five levels in which the 28 leadership competences are commonly divided, we think of competencies related to managing self, managing projects, managing people, managing programs, and leading organizations. Depending on the industry, when selecting new leaders --or developing them, we focus on identifying a handful of specific competencies within these levels. Some professionals chose to identify areas of improvement to level them, and others focus on areas of strength to continue to develop those. While the purpose of this blog is not to argue which approach is better, it is to bring to your attention an often-overlooked competency which is critical at the present time.

    Conflict resolution, emotional intelligence, and the practice of dignity

    A critical skill for managing people is the ability to manage conflict: to encourage creative tension and differences of opinions; to anticipate and take steps to prevent counter-productive confrontations; to manage and resolve conflicts and disagreements in a constructive manner. However, managing conflict is not exercised in a vacuum. Although leaders are often called upon to adjudicate when members are in conflict, conflict management also involves having the ability to either avoid or resolve your own conflict situations. Furthermore, it is necessary to do so while understanding and leveraging diversity: diversity of thought, gender, gender identity, race, age, and experiences. Does this experience sounds familiar?

    At this level the competency of emotional intelligence gains an additional layer of visibility. If emotional intelligence is our ability to communicate at the emotional level, to understand emotions and emotional situations, and be in tune with our own emotions; then we recognize that a leader does not just stand in the outside of a conflict as the traditional conflict resolution model suggested mediators to do. Much work has been developed in the last decade to recognize the emotional involvement of those mediating conflict, therefore emphasizing the need to develop self-managing competencies on any individual managing conflict. 

    People are not divorced of their humanity in the workplace yet work structures and dynamics force individuals to conform to traditional norms and expectations to guarantee advancement, often insinuating avoidance to verbalizing emotions and experiences particularly if individuals are female, people of color, or a member of any minority group. These work practices have led to regular and often institutionalized dignity violations that are now being acknowledged, and fortunately, there are powerful movements gaining momentum demanding for a much-needed change.

    But what is dignity and why do we need this additional perspective in the workplace?

    Often confused with respect (respect is earned, dignity is a birthright), dignity is a construct that we all “feel” but we don’t often are able to verbalize. In over 20 years of mediation practice in some of the world’s most intractable conflicts: Israel-Palestine, Sri Lanka, Colombia, United States-Cuba, Northern Ireland, and others, Dr. Donna Hicks experienced first-hand “the power behind deep listening and observed the power effects of seeing, hearing, and acknowledging others for what they have suffered.” She learned that “a major source of anger, resentment, and bad feelings among people who had to work together could be traced back to incidents in which individuals felt that their dignity had been violated.”

    Dr. Hicks developed a Dignity Model, that “put[s] a name to experiences that had made [people] upset, even ready to quit, but that they had not been able to adequately articulate their reasons for being upset. Once they understood the language of dignity, they felt relieved and validated.” Dr. Hicks’ experience in the experimental application of her Dignity Model illustrates that “[l]earning how to be in a relationship so that both people feel that they are seen, heard, understood, included, and given the benefit of the doubt can make weak relationships strong and a relationship that works reasonable well work even better.” Experiencing this success, Dr. Hicks decided to make her dignity model available to the business world, organizations, schools, and families – for anyone interested in improving the quality of their life and relationships. After collaborating with Dr. Hicks, I can attest to the transformational experience of her approach. Dr. Hicks’ Dignity Model is basic fundamental knowledge for anyone working in developing people and organizations.

    The ODN of New York invites you to invest in your personal and professional development and meet Dr. Hicks to experience first-hand the power of her dignity model. We invite you to participate on this skill-building engagement, to connect at a human level, and to develop a new understanding and new language that will enable you to improve your professional and personal relationships; to create a dialogue around new strategies to implement at your workplace in support of dignity; and to develop skills to coach executives in becoming better leaders. The ODN of New York invites you to experience transformation and become a dignity partner.  

    “We know the full value when we see our own dignity reflected in the eyes of others.”

    Dr. Donna Hicks

  • 22 Mar 2018 9:53 AM | Kayla Festa

    Kayla Festa

    If you were asked to describe your 2018 priorities in one word, what would that be?

    On March 13, senior Organization Development (OD) leaders from across industries, disciplines, experiences and backgrounds kicked off the first Organization Development Network (ODN) of New York live event of 2018 by sharing their thoughts. Transformation, digitization, simplification, and culture are the top areas of focus this year for the panelists.  

    Digital transformation

    The world is changing, and digitalization is creating vast opportunity for organizations. For OD professionals, the unprecedented, accelerated change we are facing is impacting the way in which we plan for, attract, engage, and develop employees.

    With seasoned Learning professionals on the panel, we wanted to understand how their organizations and learning experiences are being impacted. Particularly, as we move forward in the face of disruption, how do we equip our employees to grow and develop future-focused skills while being successful today?

    Understanding and embracing emerging technologies is important. One panelist spoke to the group about her organization’s move toward micro-learning. Employees are demanding more control of their own development, and micro-learning helps put the control in the hands of the employees to drive what, when, and how they are learning. Through this change, they’ve embraced artificial intelligence (AI). By shifting from a learning management system (LMS) to a learner experience portal, they are leveraging AI to deliver customized content in short and easily digestible ways.

    A common challenge for OD professionals is that we often focus exclusively on our client’s development and readiness for change while completely ignoring the need to have that same focus within the talent/learning organization. One panelist shared with the group about a realized need to step back and look at transformation as it relates to the learning department. By undergoing a learning transformation challenge, the department was tasked with rethinking every step they take in their learning processes – including challenging their own fundamental beliefs such as the decision to develop a program for any and all learning needs.


    In the face of change and uncertainty, organizations are requiring their workforce to work faster, smarter, and more productively. New technologies are helping employees share information and collaborate better, but even with these tools, knowledge is not always shared extensively throughout an organization.

    We asked our panelists what their organizations are doing to support collaboration, and even further, develop talent with cross-functional collaboration skills. One executive shared an anecdote about his organization rethinking the overall organizational structure. In this company, a typical vertical organizational structure exists. An example of this is a brand within a portfolio that operates independently from the other brands or a marketing department where power emanates top down.

    In order to enhance collaboration, they are implementing horizontal structures in addition to the verticals. With this model, individuals with similar career paths (i.e., IT professionals across the businesses or sommeliers from various restaurants) become their own workgroup. By creating these horizontals, they are able to share best practices and leverage the collective knowledge of the group to be more innovative and responsive to change.

    Organizational change and culture

    As organizations change, so does the culture of the company. OD professionals play an active role in guiding the transformation of the culture. This is particularly true for one of our panelists who spoke about his role at an organization that recently underwent a massive transformation. Engaging the employees in developing the culture was critical, he shared. By successfully involving people across the organization, at all levels, and ensuring they know how to carry out his or her part is central to the transformation’s success.

    Connecting matters!

    During a time when the only real constant is change, connecting with others who are navigating new realities is critical. Around 50 OD professionals and students were not only able to hear from these leaders directly but also build on the discussion around what the future may bring for talent and learning professionals during a lively networking event.

    The ODN of New York provides curated content on topics relevant for the OD community. With monthly webinars, quarterly in person events, virtual book clubs, and mastermind groups, there is an opportunity for you to connect, grow and contribute within our community. With all of the disruption prevalent today, now is the perfect time to engage with the ODN of New York community and stay up-to-date in the dynamic field of OD!


  • 15 Mar 2018 2:36 PM | Patricia Gorton (Administrator)

    Tricia Gorton

    I was recently on a 10 day bike trip in New Zealand with 19 other more experienced cyclists. I was not an experienced biker going in but after 10 days of support, leadership and coaching, I became a more enthusiastic biker as well as a better version of myself. This got me thinking, coaching is not only impactful but an essential catalyst for boosting performance and taking others to the next level.

    • Leadership Context – Leaders build more effective teams when they coach vs. delegate.  Building a coaching skillset takes conscious focus, practice and input from our stakeholders so we know how we are doing. 

    • Coaching Goal – I had a goal - bike over 300 miles during the trip with three 100km days (around 70 miles). I did not know how I was going to achieve those goals but I was determined!    

    • Coaching Moment – Day 3 was the first 100km day featuring over 1,800 feet of vertical climbing. A panic attack nearly overwhelmed me, however, during breakfast I received some much needed coaching.

    • Coaching Framework – As with a well-known coaching model, GROW (Goal, Reality, Options, Way), the good news was they all knew my “Goal” which is where effective coaching starts. The skills needed are include active listening and effective questioning.  As the coachee, I could tell how focused they were no listening and asking the right questions to support me.

    I realized that I received differing styles of coaching, all of which I needed to help me achieve my goal:

    Style 1: Someone I could relate to and aspire to be. A woman named Pat, an experienced biker, offered a supportive mood and this coaching question, “What support do you need today on the ride?” And she was totally willing to offer that support.    

    Style 2: Someone to quiet the voices. Pat’s husband, Jon, who offered me a ‘buck up’ approach. He asked me, “What are the voices in your head telling you?” Once I vocalized them, he helped me quiet those voices of doubt. And this helped me to buck up!   

    Style 3: Someone to give me permission to fail. The guide, Laura, offered her approach. Her question was, “What is the worst that can happen?” This led me to realize that failure was not the end of the world. And even if I did fail, I would still learn from this experience - and that motivated me to try.   

    At the end of Day 3, due to this coaching, I successfully completed 100 kilometers and was one of three people who completed all the rides up to that point. 

    Does this inspire you to develop your coaching skills to enhance your team’s performance? What coaching style do you use to help others GROW?

  • 9 Mar 2018 8:06 PM | Tom McLaren

    Tom McLaren

    Career development and ambitions are often based, prompted, or fed on stories of audacious risk taking; living on the edge, being ruthless and shrewd in the pursuit of success. Whether it be Richard Branson making business decisions early in his career without the backing of his partners or access to the necessary finances, to someone like Henry Ford making a product that customers would seek, rather than making what they would request - "If I asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses". The same goes for Steve Jobs - who seriously wanted or could see the need for a product that equated to a cross between an insanely small laptop, and a large cumbersome mobile phone. I was absolutely not sold, and resisted for years...but like a proper sucker, I've been converted, and an iPad is exactly what this post was written on.

    Redefining risk

    While we look on in awe, replicating the Branson-esque kind of 'putting it all on the line' mentality can be hard to practically apply in our own lives. Having always struggled with this transfer, I read, with comfort, a text book a few years ago that contextualized risk and risk taking. The premise of its argument was that audacious risk means something different to all of us, especially introverts. If your idea of the perfect Sunday afternoon is with a book and a glass of wine, more than likely on your own (ahh, heaven), then your audacious risk may be as simple as going to that (highly social) networking event and playing the role of an extrovert, or being daring enough to introduce yourself to your CEO in the lunch line. Maybe your risk is actually saying hello and entering into a brief conversation with the people in your office that you have simply smiled at and mouthed 'hello' to for the last three months every morning as you've walked in. Yep, this is my life; living on the edge of being social. It feels like I am somewhat forcing myself to 'adult' at times - scary stuff. The take home message is…be brave enough to take that big [small] audacious risk!

    Redefining challenge

    A common definition of career development is "...the lifelong process of managing learning, work, leisure, and transitions in order to move toward a personally determined and evolving preferred future". A simple sentence, which is horribly vast, and scarily rigid. 'Managing learning, work, leisure, and transitions' equates to living; balancing needs and wants, and handling the emotional and physical roller coaster that is life - that is not a simple nor static task. An oxymoron then exists with the wording 'personally determined' and 'evolving preferred future'. Focusing on a predetermined image of the future can blind us to opportunity. We change, we grow, and with this in mind, we should continually question and assess what value we are bringing to our work, and what satisfaction our work is bringing to us. If our current work situation does not provide a challenge, then monotony is not far away - excitement cannot be drawn from the mundane.

    Redefining you

    You define big, and you define audacious. No one size fits all. Contextualize risk, and have the courage to be vulnerable, to potentially be embarrassed. Daniel Kahneman teaches that 'rational or not, risk provokes fear, and fear can be debilitating'. He also professes that we overthink risk and apply uneven biases in preparation and review - "Losses are weighted about twice as much as gain in several contexts". Career development is often viewed in isolation, and success determined using an increasing 'position status and reward' scale. However, career development is simply an outcome of self-belief, confidence, happenstance, satisfaction, and maturity.

    William Shedd famously stated "A ship is safe in harbor, but that's not what ships are for". Don't let anyone else define risk for you; and don't be afraid to set sail for an unknown destination, one small risk at a time.


    From a Year 4 school report that included the statement - "Thomas doesn't see the need to spell", to winning a national writing award in Scotland, and an invitation into an international honor society for scholastic excellence at university, my journey from rugby player and sometimes reader, to avid reader and writer has been a meandering and interesting path.   Further colorful feedback from a Year 8 school report - "Tom has verbal diarrhea", led to putting pen to paper and has provided a creative release.   With a career ranging from sportsperson, to designer, to manager, matched with a keen interest in cognitive psychology, social psychology, and behavioral economics, my non-standard and sometimes anti 'management rhetoric' posts may provide interest to some.  

  • 4 Jan 2018 9:14 PM | Tom McLaren

    Tom McLaren

    Living in Newcastle Upon Tyne in England, circa 2003, I was fortunate enough to stumble upon a random article hidden in the middle of our local newspaper, a story/life lesson that has stuck with me ever since. It was a tale about a gentleman who had just been awarded his PhD in an innovative scientific field. However, that wasn’t the crux of the story; he had worked at Starbucks for many years to fund his study and what was he going to do now that he had finished and a financially rewarding career was beckoning? He was going to continue to work at Starbucks because he had come to the realization that he loved meeting people and being a part of their lives; knowing their names (and vice versa), their struggles, their successes, and being able to make them smile every day. He was part of something bigger than just himself. He decided that he would live his driving life theme during the day, and dip into what he studied (his second love) of a night time and on weekends. Two life themes working in tandem and guided by intrinsic, not monetary, reward. Now that is a fulfilling life! 
    Identifying, and perhaps questioning, your ‘life theme’ (as referenced in my last post; with a special thank you to Mr. Savickas) can be a simple comforting and confirming exercise, or a brutally confronting experience - ‘Wow, why have I been doing that for the last twenty years of my life?’ Whether the former or the latter, an honest result can only come from courageous self-reflection. From arbitrator to artist (a theme that I would like to claim but that I certainly do not live), caregiver to competitor (guilty as charged), educator to explorer, performer to preacher, life themes can vary greatly, but always remain intimately individual. David Brooks (a brilliant writer whose works include The Social Animal, and The Road to Character) suggests that a true test is to consider both our ‘resume virtues’ and our ‘eulogy virtues’. Do they even remotely align? Are we really who we profess to be? Would those closest to us confirm our claims? Life events and a world of influences have led us to where we find ourselves at this very moment. We have grown and matured, sometimes struggling to stay afloat in the meandering and choppy waters, as we have maneuvered our way through life. We adapt, we change. Something that once may have provided satisfaction and seemed right may now not. The scariness that comes with starting a new job challenges and pushes us, but in time a fine line between comfort and monotony can swell. Brooks encourages us to consider whether we are ‘living in an unconscious boredom, indulging ourselves in self-satisfied moral mediocrity - has a humiliating gap opened up between our desired self and our actual self; are we sleepwalking through life?’ 

    We can avoid this accidental self-condemning and regressive career spiral by living in accordance with our life theme (or themes) - experiencing true, and ongoing, satisfaction. It is perhaps articulated best in the unattributed romantic quote: “It is a beautiful thing when a career and a passion come together”. Take comfort in the fact that you know more about yourself right now than you did at any other time in the past.
    Brooks preaches that in order to find true fulfillment, life must be organized around vocation. When vocation and life theme are in unity something bigger happens, something magical; personal contentment bounds into realizing sense of purpose and meaning. Viktor Frankl (author of Man’s Search For Meaning) questions: ‘Do you have enough to live, but nothing to live for; do you have means, but no meaning?’ Identifying your (as Dr. Martin Seligman puts it) ‘signature strengths’ can help with pinpointing your life theme. What are you good at? What makes you smile? What achievements are you most proud of and why? What are your hobbies, and why are you limiting them to being just your hobbies? What are the big study and career choices you have made to date, and why? What values do you hold dear?       

    Daniel Pink tells us that the search for meaning is a combination of external circumstances and internal will; so understand both, and challenge yourself to remove any barriers that exist. Brooks elevates life theme and fulfillment even further when he tells us that understanding what we are good at and want is not enough. He preaches that you need to also find out what the world needs of you. What hole are you meant to fill, or what ding in the universe or the lives of others are you meant to leave? 


    From a Year 4 school report that included the statement - "Thomas doesn't see the need to spell", to winning a national writing award in Scotland, and an invitation into an international honor society for scholastic excellence at university, my journey from rugby player and sometimes reader, to avid reader and writer has been a meandering and interesting path.   Further colorful feedback from a Year 8 school report - "Tom has verbal diarrhea", led to putting pen to paper and has provided a creative release.   With a career ranging from sportsperson, to designer, to manager, matched with a keen interest in cognitive psychology, social psychology, and behavioral economics, my non-standard and sometimes anti 'management rhetoric' posts may provide interest to some.  

  • 20 Oct 2017 12:36 PM | Melissa Lopata (Administrator)

    Nancy Halpern 

    If you were near Wall Street on a recent Tuesday evening at the end of a late fall workday, and happened to stroll by The India House, you might have been drawn up the stairs and through the heavy wooden doors because something about those deep navy walls and burled bar spoke to you. But I suspect what you were really being beckoned by, what you were really hearing, were the words of someone who isn’t just a pioneer – she’s a prophet.

    Dr. Bev Kaye is an international best seller and a leading authority in the world of modern workplace performance. She’s a perfect match for a revitalized ODN of New York, whose mission is to help members build and nurture the connections that help their organizations thrive. Throw into the mix a former cartoonist who graphically represented the evening’s conversation, and you had an event like no other.

    Bev calls herself a career connector – and she helped us, in our own circle of peers, make connections while exploring which passions were rock solid and which skills we could use for another’s advantage. This initial exercise set the stage for what was to follow: 40 years of wisdom miraculously condensed into 40 minutes of actionable steps and cutting-edge philosophy.

    Rethinking career mobility has always been a cornerstone of Bev’s thinking. With remote workers and a gig economy, mobility and agility are more critical than ever. There are five key elements that today’s workers should be aware of to succeed: self-awareness; brand awareness; trend awareness; mobility awareness and action awareness. And the conversation, for all of us, must begin to shift from what we want to be to what we want to do?

    The most radical part of the presentation was the discussion around unlinking career satisfaction to title progression, and how lateral moves might be the next best step in building the solid skill sets needed in today’s portfolio careers. We’ve undergone a huge paradigm shift where patterns overrule paths; enhancements trump advancement and forward and toward is far more important than onward and upward. To sum it up as only Bev can: “We’ve grown from telescopes to kaleidoscopes”.

    So how do you advise your clients to achieve this kind of career in a world that can’t stop moving? Here are Bev’s best advice on devising, and implementing, a plan of action:

    • Look for short term experiences
    • Move sideways so that you can keep moving up
    • It’s okay to step back if it suits your long range or even short-range goals
    • Be sure the grass really is greener when you or a team member want to leave
    • Experiment in small ways with job rotation or time limited projects

    Up, down, across or a combination of all three – if you want to learn more about how to navigate the uncharted waters of future work, there is no better guide on the plant than Bev. Who else could preach talent revolution in high heels and a smile?


    Nancy Halpern has been advising leaders and their teams for over 20 years, for clients such as Bank of America, Novartis, Dow Jones, Conde Naste, and The World Bank among others. A frequently quoted expert in her field, she's appeared in Fortune, Forbes, Fast Company, HuffPost, CBS News and other media outlets. She's a volunteer coach and mentor for organizations that support the U.S. Military, former prisoners from Rikers' Island, and newly arrived immigrants seeking asylum. Nancy received her MBA from Yale, her BA with highest honors from Brandeis and completed additional academic work at Oxford University in England.

  • 9 Sep 2017 8:51 PM | Anonymous

    Tom Mclaren

    It is important to view career development as a continuous cognitive process, not as a discipline, a learned skill, something to which proficiency can be achieved, or a fixed path. Career is a behavior, it is not a linear, or sometimes even logical, sequence of events. So hold on; learn, grow, and enjoy the ride. &nbs

    The good news is that you hold the key; you have ultimate control. Career development is your responsibility, not your employers, your parents, or your teachers. Only you can fully appreciate how you have morphed, matured, and adapted; you change, you control your now, and you control your future. To quote Muhammad Ali - 'A person who views the world at fifty as they did at twenty, has wasted thirty years of their life'.

    When working as an Industrial Designer/Product Developer at a specialist rotational moulding company (circa 2005), a very important design law was that plastic products expand and contract with heat. So, a plastic seat will actually grow in the sun, and contract when cooling. This goes unseen with a standalone product but if two parts were conjoined post moulding, or attached to something like a metal frame (which is the case with a floating pontoon), then this can become a real issue. Add to this that the metal frame will be expanding and contracting as will we humans! Pryor and Bright (2011) provide a succinct summary when they state that - ‘To live is to change’.

    My own career has been a bizarre sequence of events. From the disappointment of having not achieved the lofty sporting goals that I had set for myself (which led to a fear of failure for many years), to a creative industry that I loved, but unethical management practices that I could no longer stand, to a decade as a newcomer in the incestuous world of aviation (where people are born and bred with fond family affiliations), to a brand new job again in a different creative industry here in New York. If my short career to date had been a carefully planned storyline then it would surely have been a fanciful work of psycho fiction, written by a deluded mind. However, if you believe in happenstance then you will always fall on your feet; as you will read below - "luck is no accident".

    Early career development theorists like Parsons and Holland proposed the notion of 'true reasoning' and 'matching', where an individual's skills, aptitudes, abilities, and interests were paired with those required for a specific occupation. This rigid 'trait and factor' analysis has obvious limits, particularly when a role includes more than mandraulic tasking i.e. where duties require creative thought to deal with changing conditions - where any human interaction is involved!

    Patton and McMahon (2006) reinforce the 'controlling your own destiny' paradigm when they comment that 'the individual has now become an active agent in their own career development; the employee definition of loyalty and expected reward has undergone significant transition'. A shift that coincides with a renewed acknowledgement of the importance of social interaction, and an appreciation of the fact that life is a social construct - 'a series of success and satisfaction cycles' that are built on interaction and personal interpretation.

    The working world has changed, as have our views on career development.

    Change naturally leads us to chance. Most recently, career development theorists like John Krumboltz (with books titled 'Fail Fast, Fail Often: How Losing Can Help You Win' and 'Luck is No Accident: Making the Most of Happenstance in Your Life and Career') have emphasized and embraced chance. Capitalising on chance occurrences is based on readiness, understanding context, and conscious decision making. Krumboltz (1999) preaches that career development is an open system, and that in order to take full advantage we should remain:

    • Curious - explore;
    • Persistent - never give up;
    • Flexible - be open to change;
    • Optimistic - see potential; and
    • Open to Risk - be brave, not uncertain.

    Pryor and Bright's (2011) Chaos Theory of Careers model is founded on appreciating uncertainty, interconnectedness, and wisdom - focusing on patterns, not predictability. These sentiments mirror the views of career development guru Mark Savickas, who brought us Career Construction Theory, in which he promotes the ever-increasing importance of 'adaptability' within the field of career development, particularly with the unfathomable rate of technological change in today's world (I grew up in a house with one home phone, located in the lounge room, with a six foot 'no privacy' cord, and a rotary dial - try explaining that to someone under the age of 35!).

    Savickas professes that 'individuals have one or more life themes that guide career choices - individuals impose meaning on the work they do, and that meaning helps them live out their lives to that theme'. So......what's your theme, and does your current situation align with your theme, your heart?

    Read more about life as a social construct, happenstance, as well as other organizational development topics, and connect with me on LinkedIn -


    From a Year 4 school report that included the statement - "Thomas doesn't see the need to spell", to winning a national writing award in Scotland, and an invitation into an international honor society for scholastic excellence at university, my journey from rugby player and sometimes reader, to avid reader and writer has been a meandering and interesting path.   Further colorful feedback from a Year 8 school report - "Tom has verbal diarrhea", led to putting pen to paper and has provided a creative release.   With a career ranging from sportsperson, to designer, to manager, matched with a keen interest in cognitive psychology, social psychology, and behavioral economics, my non-standard and sometimes anti 'management rhetoric' posts may provide interest to some.  


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