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Recently, I have come across two profoundly interesting workplace culture and status quo examples of how social media is forcing organizational transparency and working to shift the balance of power a tiny bit more in a candidate’s/employee’s favor. There is a lot of fear around speaking the truth and spotlighting the bad behavior or clearly poor executive decisions that most of us encounter [or have encountered] in a lot of workplaces – regardless of industry. But there are some brave “voices” that are no longer willing to tolerate the despotic and gnarly culture too many organizations and “executives” dole out and that the masses [zero-charisma sheeple] passively accept.

A Bold & Fearless LinkedIn Post

Two weeks ago I was scrolling through my LinkedIn feed and came across a very interesting update from someone who spoke about her “worst candidate interviewing experience“. Katherine Dumanoir, a Recruiting and Branding Consultant summarized her experience interviewing with WeWork with a couple big red flags:

  • WeWork employees trash-talked other companies during the interview process;
  • They couldn’t get their technology to work and left her in the interview room for an extended period.

According to Ms. Dumanoir’s update, the mission statement of the company intrigued her and what they were doing appealed to her so – she overlooked the issues and accepted an extended job offer. She received their employment contract and reviewed it and had others review it on her behalf and there was a condition included that states that “any ideas before WeWork, during employment, and after“, belonged to WeWork. Seriously? She questioned the recruiter about this portion of the contract and he responded that they encourage side projects. She explained to him that she’d been working on some projects in the “UR space” that were not competition for WeWork. The recruiter responded those were fine along with a smiley face. A day later, WeWork rescinded the offer via email because of her “concerns with the Restrictive Covenant agreement“.

As of this morning Katherine’s post has 11,300+ likes and over 1300 comments. Most of those comments are – strangely – negative, remarking that she is unprofessional to post a screenshot of the email from Brian Snodgrass, WeWork Senior Manager, Technical Recruiting telling her that the offer was being rescinded. Plenty are chastising her for “naming and shaming” and airing her “dirty laundry” on LinkedIn.

It’s beyond bizarre to me that so many people (1) comment negatively on someone’s perspective or story and (2) are choosing to defend a huge organization who [let’s face it] treated someone poorly [and whose contracts are objectively unreasonable] over being empathetic to a fellow human being who is simply sharing their point of view, emotion, and evidence. As of today, from what I could see, WeWork – who undeniably has a larger and more powerful social media presence than Katherine’s – has yet to issue an apology or publish a counter-argument to Katherine’s update. In my opinion, WeWork has confirmed as “loudly” as they possibly could their culture and their position on people priorities.

I – personally – applaud Katherine’s post and bravery. I admire people who possess the intestinal fortitude to share, in an authentic and raw way, the truths of their experiences. The culture of silence that most of the commenters are advocating is a massive problem. Not to mention, a critically moldy and anemic mindset. Executives, human resource “professionals”, and recruiters are still able to treat candidates poorly [and are comfortable doing so] because of the inherent power they hold over people and exercise – every opportunity they get. Ten years ago, it was absolutely possible for corporations to manufacture a brand image, but [thankfully] today…everyone has a voice and platforms in which to use their voice. I certainly have shared stories [here and here] about my experiences as a candidate, both good and bad.

There IS Such A Thing As Bad Publicity

On March 25, 2019, The Intercept, published an article “Inside the Hectic Last Days of Gymboree’s Retail Bankruptcy” written by the brilliant David Dayen. This narrative is fascinating and indicative of what type of culture – unfortunately – exists in a lot of corporations. It is definitely worth reading the entire article. Dishonesty and the lack of a moral center are rampant and an accepted norm by most. But a couple brave people have spoken up for what is right. Here are some of the key points that stood out to me:

  • Mera Chung – VP of Design for Crazy 8 – was told in mid-January 2019 by the then-CEO and the HR Chief that her severance package was terminated [she was told in December of the imminent bankruptcy]. Her employment agreement allowed a severance package equal to that of a year’s salary in the event the company went belly-up.
  • The trend of rapid-fire bankruptcies and store closures emptying malls across the country is largely due to private-equity firms destroying otherwise profitable companies.
  • Gymboree’s board triggered “Article VII” of the severance plan, essentially, a self-destruct button that enabled the company to terminate the plan “at any time in any respect” via a majority vote from the board of directors [most companies have legal language that gives them the option to terminate this benefit]. The final CEO for Gymboree Shaz Kahng, who was also a member of the board, told Julie Thompson, a vice president of product integrity and compliance for Gymboree, that “it wasn’t our decision. Goldman Sachs is running the show now, we couldn’t do anything about it.”
  • However, the severance package termination didn’t apply to everyone – a few executives would exit Gymboree with gold parachutes of disguised severance. Those select executives received paper checks with a “retention bonus” equal in value to their severance payouts. The recipients of the retention bonus were told by the board, which includes representatives from hedge funds and private equity firms, to deposit the checks immediately.
  • Gymboree echoes other recent retail bankruptcies in which executives got a large payouts/bonuses while everyone else gets a whole lot of nothing. [Toys “R” Us and Sears were approved for millions in executive bonuses].
  • Shaz Kahng pronounced – upon joining the organization that Gymboree needed to be a “disruptor” like Apple – but failed to deliver on that vision.
  • The Intercept reached out to Gymboree general counsel, Kimberly MacMillan; Chris Lu, general manager of Crazy 8; human resources chief Bridget Schickedanz – none would stand behind their actions and comment for the article citing policy or other excuses.
  • In February, the U.S. bankruptcy trustee for the eastern district of Virginia, where Gymboree’s bankruptcy was filed, objected to a motion to approve an additional $2.2 million in incentive and retention bonuses to 52 key employees. The U.S. trustee, a neutral governmental party that operates in the interest of the process cited “These employees comprise less than 0.5 % of Debtors’ total workforce of over 10,000 employees, many of whom – the true rank-and-file and hourly employees – are literally working themselves out of jobs in connection with the Debtors’ going out of business sales“.
  • The final paragraph of this exceptionally well-reported article ends with a quote from Ms. Chung, “You are going to have to answer to scrutiny for being a scumbag. I’m not going to walk away until your face is on a fucking billboard.“
Reputation Is Earned

It takes tremendous courage to challenge the status quo. More people need to speak up and take back some power in the workplace as both candidates and employees. I have to believe that more people than not want to learn and know the TRUTH of a company and its executives before they make a decision to join it.

I frequently, when contacted by an organization for an opportunity, reach out to my network on LinkedIn for their point of view; I read Glassdoor reviews; I Google the vision and values of the company to see if the reviews and/or my experience matches up or if they are in direct opposition to them. I mentally catalog red-flags during the interview relationship with the executives I speak with and weigh those against the “pros” when assessing if I want to move forward in the process. I want to know that the executives and leadership team I work with values integrity, relationships, and that they have a moral compass that is in alignment with my own.

Smart, savvy, growth-minded, creative and competent people who are looking for more than a paycheck do these things when they are in the beginning stages of a working relationship and throughout their career journey. It is only fair to have all the information available in order for a person to make a wise and well-educated decision to determine the fit and viability of a successful, well-balanced, and potentially enduring relationship.

As someone who follows some executive careers closely, it is not without notice that there are lots of “executives” that bounce from company to company leaving destruction in their wake. However, since most companies employ a pathologically immature and impotent talent strategy – they just want to bring someone in based on their professional pedigree…someone who has had the “title”, the “experience”, and a previous list of “desirable employers”. Their legacies at those previous employers be damned. Until they destroy this current brand…then they initially assign the blame to shifting consumer habits and/or Amazon. Follow the leader! Consumer spending habits are not the problem. Amazon is not the problem [in most cases]. The recycling of ineffective and dangerously self-centered leadership IS the problem and then – exacerbating the already enormous problem – they bring their posse of “yes men” with them.

It’s time to infuse common sense, kindness, humanity, and a fresh, modern approach to executive leadership, customer engagement, and employee engagement strategies into companies that wish to stay relevant and sustainable.

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Let’s Work Together!

My current L&D | Culture project concludes on July 20th, 2019. Following this lovely project, I am seeking a permanent position with an organization that values warmth, competence, curiosity, and creativity in their talent. After three and a half absolutely fabulous, growth-filled years of consulting – I am eager to find a great organization where I can make a difference in a permanent role.

Consulting To A Permanent Role – Why?

Out of the last 1160 days, I have been on the road 635 of them. I have been extremely lucky to work with 19 different organizations in six different countries. Now, I am interested in joining an organization where I can have a positive and long-term impact on the culture and the business strategy, performance, and growth. There is a significant amount of turnover in most organizations and I frequently find that 6-12 months out of a project approximately 60% of my business partners have moved on to other organizations or separated from the organization we worked with. It makes it difficult to measure long-term impact. Long-term progress is critical to my professional satisfaction.

My professional pedigree is absolutely unique and different from the “average” candidate that most organizations find oddly comforting…but my vast experience [retail, hospitality, entertainment, direct-selling, restaurant, education, career platforms] and accomplishments are valuable, relevant, and relatable to a variety of industries.

Roles I Am Open To:
  • Learning & Development Director
  • Retail Regional Leadership
  • People & Talent Strategic Leadership [Operations or HR]
Locations I Am Available For:
  • Greater New York City Market
  • Greater Chicago Market
  • Los Angeles|Orange County areas
Unique Accomplishments & Transparency

I can deliver examples of my work via this blog, publications, podcasts, and interviews – these platforms showcase real examples of my ability to communicate, motivate, and inspire change and professional growth.

Through my blog, anyone can clearly view my professional values and priorities for leadership development. I can introduce clarity and direction to a blurry culture or a muddy, ineffective talent strategy.

I fiercely and unapologetically challenge the status quo. Because of my commitment to deliver exceptional results I have been able to compile my aggregate impact/results over the last three years from 18 projects:

  • Revenue Increase of 9%
  • Employee Engagement Increase of 16% [27% in Employee-Led Learning Environments]
  • Employee Retention Increase of 12% [high-performing employee retention focused]
  • Employee Brand Advocacy Increase of 19%
  • Client Growth of 5% [through focus on Customer Experience]
  • 23% Increase in execution of company directives
  • 13% Increase in Internal Promotions
  • 22% Increase in Year 1 Retention [where we implemented a logical and engaging Onboarding Strategy]

My most valued competencies – in addition to the ones outlined in the first paragraph of this post are kindness, integrity, common sense, possessing no hidden agenda, and – without exception – honoring my commitments.

Excellence In Retail Blog

I am both honored and humbled by over 2.36 million visits to the Excellence In Retail Blog [as of 3/5/19]. The average life of a blog is 100 days. Excellence In Retail has been up and running for approximately 1160 days. It’s truly been a labor of love. I do not impose my content on anyone – I consciously made the decision not to have a subscription option for Excellence In Retail. It is voluntarily accessed and used by many different organizations [primarily retail]. I do not monetize or accept advertisers on my blog to maintain it’s integrity as a resource for leadership & workplace culture learning and development. I have stayed true to the standards I established for it when I launched it in January 2016.

I am extremely proud and privileged to have some my favorite retailers named as those that most engage with my content [via LinkedIn – these are the Top 15 in the past 6 months]:

  • Bath & Body Works | White Barn Candle
  • Old Navy
  • Amazon
  • Apple
  • Target
  • Ralph Lauren
  • Nike
  • Gap
  • The Container Store
  • Kirkland’s
  • Carter’s | OshKosh
  • Sur La Table
  • Williams Sonoma
  • Crate & Barrel
  • Vans
Let’s Connect & Chat!
  • Cell #; 646 246 1380
  • Email: beth@excellencein-retail.com
  • Skype: ElizaParkCoop
  • LinkedIn: Click Here
  • Twitter: Click Here
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If you are anything like me, you were glued to the Michael Cohen congressional hearing on Wednesday. It was fascinating in a salacious, terrifying, bipartisan way. It was the most interesting and worst of today’s politics. One thing really stood out to me and it was that there were stores and situations that Cohen offered up that absolutely begged for follow up questions but questions were never asked. UGH!

This lack of curiosity is fascinating to me and it absolutely made me recollect a few experiences I have had surfacing questionable people, behavior, and/or practices to various corporate bodies and it has – essentially – fallen on deaf, disinterested ears. I have a relatively high tolerance for corporate nonsense but recognizing that there were very obvious questions that were ripe for the picking and just not asked – my interest was piqued around why people choose to be deliberate obtuse.

How could someone raise an issue and the human on the receiving end of the message not care enough to respond or find out more? Are they part of the problem? Are they meshugga? Are they that profoundly lazy? Are they terrible at their job? Are they willfully ignorant? I suspect they are all of these things, most of the time. But I had to find out more.

Cognitive Dissonance

Cognitive dissonance is the psychological concept of the feeling of tension or anxiety that happens when someone holds two conflicting beliefs, ideas, or nuggets of information at the same time. It occurs when someone performs an action that contradicts personal beliefs and also when someone is confronted with new information that contradicts their already existing beliefs and values. When there is an inconsistency between your belief and your behavior, this inconsistency is known as dissonance, whereas the concept of conflicting beliefs and actions is known as cognitive dissonance. Something must change in order to eliminate this dissonance because cognitive dissonance involves personal internal conflict. It’s one of the primary reasons that people can’t handle the truth.

The Truth Is Like A Big, Warm Hug From Your Best Friend

No…wait, that’s not the saying – the cliché goes – “The Truth Hurts“. Our brains hate receiving information that threatens our self-esteem, shatters our preexisting notions, makes our professional or personal life more difficult/complicated, or threatens our character. Admitting that we’re wrong about something, or even partially to blame definitely isn’t easy. When the truth hurts, we want to protect ourselves from the mental agita and so we find a way to shut down, ignore, repel the information, or otherwise resist digesting what doesn’t align with our happy place of nescience.


When I think of some of the most curious minds – people like Stephen Hawking, Isaac Newton, Leonardo da Vinci, Albert Einstein, George Carlin all come to mind for me. It’s because of their curiosity and action that we have knowledge of certain things that most people took, and continue to take, for granted. These people were deeply passionate and curious and continue to inspire a lot of people to be curious and creative every day.

My experience with most people I meet and interact with on a very surface level is that they display a frightening lack of curiosity. Most people are simply moving through time, going through their daily routine, and keeping busy with pedestrian, uninspired, and predictable “stuff” [that they think makes them look interesting or unique on social medial platforms].

Far too many of professional environments I visit with and the majority of “executives” I speak with have the desire to extract curiosity out of their people. They want obedient workers – people who are just smart enough to execute directives or do the paperwork. And just dull and compliant enough to passively accept it. We tell people what to learn, when and how to learn it, and rarely provide real moments for them to offer suggestions or question how these assignments fit in with the business strategy.

Curiosity is a basic element of our cognition but one that is widely ignored when it comes to assessing leadership acumen and effectiveness. We talk, ad infinitum, about a leader’s ability to build and direct high-performing teams and organizations by displaying skills, such as good judgment, integrity, alignment of vision and values, confidence, charisma, and political savvy. All of these are great and necessary for competent leadership. Yet the fundamental ingredient of leadership that has been neglected is a leader’s intellectual curiosity to truly understand the business, the people they are supporting, and the clients they serve and how to make everyone’s experience…better.

Benefits Of Curious People

A common contemporary view of curiosity is that it’s a special form of information-seeking distinguished by the fact that it is intrinsically motivated. These information seekers are driven to gather information and seek out better, more effective ways of doing things. It should be every organization’s primary goal to find people who are intrinsically compelled and reward and recognize them, frequently.

Information allows for better choices, more efficient search, more sophisticated comparisons, and better identification of relevant elements. Acquiring information, of course, is the primary evolutionary purpose of all our sense organs. Complex people actively control their senses to maximize intake of information.

  • Curious leaders are open to new experiences, which enables them to approach people and challenges in a less impaired and cautious way. In fact, one of the top things that companies can do to promote true diversity and inclusion is to hire leaders with high curiosity scores. They are not just more willing to understand and connect with people who are different from them but they also create and value more diverse teams and inclusive cultures. Conversely, when leaders lack curiosity they will hire to their own image, creating homogenized, safe teams where differences are stigmatized and ridiculed.
  • They are more tolerant of ambiguity. This helps them manage the nuances and complexities to cope with the uncertainty we deal with in today’s world. Most of our everyday decisions are carried out under sub-optimal conditions. Real-world challenges tend to be ill-defined, and lack a simple solution. Regardless of the situation, a curious leader will be more likely to consider a wider range of options, and pay attention to data and facts, before deciding. They will also be more willing to accept their mistakes – as opposed to assigning blame or making excuses if things go wrong. However, leaders that lack curiosity require a significant need for closure, which can result in a tendency to make categorical, and over-simplified interpretations of reality, propelled by their discomfort with uncertainty. In fact, incurious leaders are more interested in maintaining a positive self-image than in actually understanding truth. Their desire to shut down any version of truth that doesn’t jive their preconceptions, or beliefs is a strategy they frequently employ to validate their own beliefs.
  • Curiosity brings excitement and enthusiasm into an ordinary day. The life of curious people is far from boring. It’s neither dull nor routine. There are always new things that attract their attention and stimulate their senses, there are always new “toys” to play with and new ideas to learn. Instead of being bored, curious people have an adventurous life. One of the benefits that their share with their colleagues is they are able to nurture this excitement of learning in others through conversation, support, and time. The incurious are clock-watchers and people that speak in “hopefully”. The curious mind knows that hope is not a strategy and they will deliver thoughtful, innovative results and solutions.
Tell-Tales Signs Of A Curious Mind
  • They Listen Without Judgement
  • They Ask A Lot Of Questions
  • They Seek Out Moments Of Surprise & Delight
  • They Are Present
  • They Admit When They’re Wrong
  • They Aren’t Afraid To Say “I Don’t Know”
  • They Don’t Dwell On The Past
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Traits of Unique & Fabulous People

I have always been a strong advocate of unique personalities in the workplace. I love rebels and legitimately innovative [even disruptive] individuals. I love ambition, transparency, integrity, and humor [yes, these are very unique traits in most workplaces]. I love people who are authentic and real human beings with passion, enthusiasm, and honorable intentions. I love people that are a little kooky and quirky and who go out of their way not to be like everyone else. Most of these qualities are not something that the average organizations seek to find in candidates. And when these traits present in a new person, the organizational culture tries to squash them and, instead, encourage conformity by talking about “fit”.

There are some other qualities that – strangely – are signs of an interesting, authentic, and unique person but that are frequently overlooked as valuable by most colleagues and organizations. Though not all of them – these are some of my favorites that I look for when inviting people into the organization.

14 Traits Of Great Talent

They Are A Person Of Their Word: While being a person others can count on should be a great thing, the masses are intimidated and turned-off by the idea that you do what you said you’d do. This frequently makes others look bad because let’s face it, more often than not, people manage their commitments poorly or capriciously.

They Solve Problems: Most people love to sit around and be a victim of circumstance. They also love to tell you what they CAN’T do. When someone comes along who is driven and ambitious they don’t allow obstacles to slow them down nor do they find themselves getting “stuck”. People who enjoy being sedentary and lack the mental elasticity to create solutions are left behind by people who solve problems and deliver solutions.

They Are Candid: Average people don’t like people who are candid or call them on their poorly managed performance. They love to be treated with kid-gloves and exceptions to be made for them. Those who say what they mean and mean what they say means there is no way to misinterpret the dialog or communication. Everyone knows where they stand and how they effect the culture.

They Abhor Complainers: People who sit around and complain about their lives, instead of getting up and living the life they want, aren’t worth your time. Fabulous people know that it is important to walk away from people who have nothing better to do than kvetch about life. People who possess enthusiasm, vision, and drive are intimidating and confusing to the uninspired masses and people typically fear what they don’t understand.

They’ve Done Your Homework: People who are confident and courageous know when to speak up and know when they don’t have enough information to contribute. Strong and resourceful people can walk into a room and assess it for what it is and can see how they fit into the dialog [or not]. The average person speaks with little understanding, often regurgitating someone else’s position and words on the topic at hand – simply just to be heard.

They Are Strong-Willed: People with conviction and courage will often stand their ground on issues they are knowledgeable and confident about. Most people are easily influenced and weak-willed and just seek to blend in with the majority. One of the reasons these people are such good problem solvers is that they don’t take “no” for an answer, and if you believe there is an answer to be found or way to perform the task better, they will find it, no matter what.

They Keep An Open-Mind: Most people live in blissful ignorance to the world around them and don’t care to learn more. The best people maintain an open mind and are happy to entertain dialogs presenting various perspectives on a topic. They seek to learn and grow and would never be so obstinate not to learn from others.

They Loathe Ignorance: Above all else people who possess the unique trait of ambition and personal drive find it incredibly difficult to tolerate people who are ignorant or who embrace intransigence. Deliberate and willful ignorance is the WORST. Someone who should know better but chooses to believe the worst thing(s) they hear without questioning it for themselves just solidifies their own stupidity and toxicity.

Small Talk Is A Bore: Most people who are ambitious and driven want to exchange more than shallow platitudes. They want to know more and when they ask how you are they truly want to know. Their time is important and they want to learn and evolve based on dialogs. They usually have an ambitious agenda for the day to accomplish as much as they possibly can. The go-getters attitude is guided by their desire to achieve objectives and exceed their goals. This is a foreign concept to the average person who just seeks to ride the line.

They’re Optimistic: That is because they control their own destiny, their own happiness, their own results. They maintain a positive attitude because they set out each day to be the best version of themselves and that means trying to find the best in others and the circumstances around them. Let’s the masses play the victim. Truly unique people don’t allow challenges to define them, they are motivated and propelled by them.

They Don’t Gossip: We work with people every day who are so compelled to gossip and spread rumors as if it’s build into their DNA. The best people firmly state their position – that they are only interested in conversations with substance. They quickly identify these gross characters and freeze them out. This leaves time for meaningful and important work and conversation with others that will support advancement.

They Don’t Seek Superficial Attention: Leave that to the policticking mediocrity. The truly unique seek recognition that is tied to real and true accomplishment. They speak when they have something important, and of value, to share. They leave the icky management speak to those who lack intelligence and substance. Superficial attention is fleeting and – frankly – meaningless outside of the moment it is given. Unique people seek to be recognized for their complexity, depth, action, and results.

They Are Kind & Human: They treat everyone and speak with everyone they interact with as an important business partner and human being. Decency and kindness is a common practice and requires no thought – it is built into that person’s character, naturally and without exception to those that show they are deserving of respect.

They Believe In The Power Of Proximity: Much like the greatest predictor of cultural fit is the alignment between a person’s and the organization’s values – truly fabulous people know that they must align themselves with other’s who share their convictions and principles in order to be the best version of themselves each day. They know they they want to support other’s who are positive and motivated and they don’t waste their time with the weak, anonymous, zero-charisma, simple herd.

As companies work to evolve their talent selection processes I would encourage them to identify, discover, and find value in the skills, traits, and competencies that make people uncommon and even though their professional pedigree may be different from the “typical” hire, they have the courage to take a chance on someone who has the ability to make the organization better, stronger, more sustainable, and legitimately diverse and inclusive. With the added benefit of being more interesting and exciting as a brand who values high-potential and high-productivity individuals over the mediocrity of the “safe” hire

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Professional Pedigree

A few weeks ago I wrote a deeply personal blog article about my experience being recruited by Tory Burch for a fantastic role only to be told, ultimately, that previous luxury experience was very important to the Senior Vice President – who I had a delightful dialog with. Strangely, this executive never asked me about my shopping habits, what retailers I admire and follow, and/or who I’ve worked with as a consultant.

I wish I could say that I have put behind me the fact that my background was likened to that of the backwoods locals in the movie Deliverance. I wish I could say that my self-confidence didn’t take a huge blow when I was told I wasn’t worthy to represent their brand. I wish I could say I stoically digested that feedback and haven’t obsessed about why I was contacted and presented as a candidate in the first place if THAT was the singular criteria that identified the “winner” of that job opportunity. Unfortunately, I can’t say any of those things.

I have always had a massive interest in stratification, the lack of a level playing field, and the profound absence of common sense and humanity in most businesses. It’s fascinating to me how people get sorted into groups or categorized to determine their ‘fit” or lack thereof. I graduated high school one month after turning 16 and started working immediately as my parents thought I was too young to start college at that age. The instant I started working I recognized this odd inclination to stratify people but lacked clear understanding as to why. It was both bizarre and fascinating to my 16 year-old self..many years later it is still as mysterious and compelling to me. However, it has since taken on a new and detestable form with the crass adoption of technology [specifically Applicant Tracking Systems] and poor hiring decisions that place senior and executive level leaders in roles they are not courageous enough to reinvent or boldly redefine.

Being a candidate for a job opportunity immerses one into the organization’s ecosystem where we are forced to compete for status and visibility. That competition and experience eventually effects how we see ourselves and – let’s face it – it’s where we learn how the world sees us – worthy or unworthy.

Today companies frequently communicate how they are seeking a “unicorn” or the “best and the brightest” to join their “team”. But in lieu of defining merit that is linked to performance|accomplishment or the ability to produce examples of extraordinary ambition and/or how the candidate can make your job easier, or their unique ability to solve issues for the company…mundane “executives” assign merit to surface amenities that closely presume “sophistication” or a safe and aligned pedigree to their brand. Put bluntly, candidates without chic credentials [even if they lack true accomplishment] or other evidence of a covetable surface pedigree – tend to have slim chances of earning an offer. Even organizations that claim to be highly evolved fail at possessing a mature enough talent strategy when assessing candidates against the impulsive criteria or whims of one or more “executives”.

The definition of “merit” as related to hiring for many of the highest-status positions in the country is influenced deeply by cultural and structural elements, not based exclusively on objective measures of individual ambition and talent.

The Truth About Candidate Bias

There is growing evidence that the United States is now more of a class-based society than traditionally class-focused nations, such as: England and France. That’s difficult for us to swallow because the ‘bootstrapping’ mentality is so ingrained in our collective consciousness. But there are events like talent selection and recruitment that – today – strongly support that contention.

Candidate “Pipelines” and False Opportunities: A few proactive organizations invest in a pipeline made up, almost exclusively, of candidates from the most desirable background(s) that are dangerous carbon copies of all the other employees in the organization. Very frequently I am finding that companies are increasingly biased toward sourcing “cookie cutter” candidates instead of finding a diverse and unique assortment of talent and their candidate pool reflects this disproportion. Ironically, while these companies convey a public image of wanting to diversify hiring and inclusiveness, access remains limited for truly diverse and extraordinary candidates from ‘non-target’ sources. As I have stated before, most companies are still stuck requiring institutional or traditional stamps of approval for employment consideration – They just simply don’t care what real talent or potential looks like. This creates false opportunities for most enthusiastic and one-of-a-kind candidates because the emphasis is firmly focused on hiring to a safe and predictable pedigree.

Mirrored Merit: Ineffective interviewer training and a profound lack of understanding of what type of talent the position requires means first level interviewers or recruiters eliminate or pass candidates to the next level of hiring manager based largely on subjective perceptions of candidate quality. Interviewers look for a sense of personal connection|camaraderie, often seeking potential ‘friends’ rather than those with the best actual accomplishments or job-relevant skills. In my circle we refer to this as the “Island Assessment”: this means that a lot of interviewers support candidates with whom they believe they would enjoy being stranded in a deserted island with. Most interviewers define merit intuitively in a way that validates their own and most precious traits and experience [i.e.,extroverts seek extroverts, ambitious seeks ambition, and affluent interviewers prefer candidates with a similar personal pedigrees], whether they admit it [or realize it] or not.

Creative Storytelling Trumps Actual Experience|Talent: Many recruiters and hiring managers prefer candidates who tell stories that feature the candidate as tenacious protagonist, with story lines emphasizing personal decisions over fortuitous circumstance. This is preferred, regardless of their ability to translate this great story into actual results and action in the position. The best candidate(s) should be able to show BOTH.

Compensatory Credentials: On a rare occasion we can interact with someone who “gets” us and who finds value in what makes us unique and a likely asset. It’s extremely rare – but sometimes serendipity plays a role in our interactions and we find someone who sees what others would take for granted and brush off as insignificant and they see whatever we possess as a beneficial cultural resource that could support growth in the company and they will champion your candidacy.

And A Fiercely Protected Status Quo

I have – for two years – been speaking to the dangers of functioning within and protecting the status quo in today’s business environments. Surfacing the topic of how counterproductive professional pedigree and elitist requirements are for employment in some companies, I hope to – at least – be the catalyst for dialogs around the inherent problems with the current system most organizations employ. The current hiring system and candidate journey is extremely costly for both the company and especially the candidate and does not necessarily identify the best potential employee(s).

According to Gallup, 82% of hiring processes don’t pick the right talent

Most people I speak with desire to see a change to the system, whether by targeting a broader, more inclusive, criteria for a stronger pool of talent, involving HR|Talent Acquisition|Hiring Manager’s more deeply in the hiring process and understanding how the open role fits into the vision and strategy of the business, putting less weight on a list of previous employers, and developing more systematic and evidence-based processes for assessing skills, values, and competencies during the hiring process. Passivity and fear of innovation [challenging the status quo] is one barrier; the lack of counterexamples is another. People don’t want to risk failure or a stain to their reputation so – they wait for others to innovate and then attempt to plagiarize [and subsequently bastardize] a new and potentially successful program. Most companies tend to think their hiring practices have worked “okay” so far, so there’s nothing really to fix. It will take tremendous courage on someone’s part to try something different. It’s time.

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It really goes with out saying – but here I am saying it – that successful people are ambitious. Those of us who dream of more need to be intrinsically motivated to reach for more – whatever that “more” is. It is THAT intrinsic motivation that propels us to try harder, work harder, and press on after experiencing setbacks.

Ambition is a great trait. It’s one of those things – along with humor and integrity – that I look for when aligning myself with people, both personally and professionally. It always strikes me as odd when people are offended by or frightened by this trait. People who are self-motivated are few and far between and they are highly-valuable. Some people have a spark and a drive to achieve but that doesn’t mean that their intentions are nefarious or purely self-serving. They are often compelled to produce results that set an incredibly high standard for performance and excellence. It is a shame that so many “executives” and “leaders” are so terrified when the trait of ambition presents in a candidate or a colleague, instead of embracing it – people either dismiss it or attempt to squash it.

There are times when life is an exercise in both marketing and public relations for one’s self and you need to speak up and declare your ambitions. There is a frequent need to explain your character and sell yourself to new people – especially in the professional world. However, something I have learned in the last two years is that most people prefer you keep your ambitions to yourself. People and organizations {except for the truly fabulous ones] are easily scared by ambition – even the kind that will benefit the organization.

Healthy ambition should be to build a long and successful career full of continuous learning, acquiring new skills, connections, and taking on more responsibility and being of genuine service to your colleagues.

Habits Of Ambitious People

“People with a high degree of healthy ambition are those with the insight and strength to control the blind forces of ambition, shaping it so that it matches their interests and ideals. They harness it so that it fires them without also burning them or those around them.” – Neel Burton, psychiatrist and author of Heaven and Hell: The Psychology of the Emotions

On average, ambitious people attain higher levels of education and income, build more prestigious careers, and report higher overall levels of life satisfaction. Copious numbers of great achievements are the products [or accidents] of someone’s ambition. Judge and Kammeyer-Muller define ambition as, “The persistent and generalized striving for success, attainment, and accomplishment.”

  • They Are Risk Takers: Ambition takes a level of willingness to step into uncharted territory and be a rebel, at times – facing their fears and anxiety of the unknown. Ambitious people are generally more courageous, committed, and/or driven, and can minimize the fear in pursuit of their objectives. They act with purpose, while allowing themselves room to explore, experiment, make mistakes, and discover.
  • They Expose Themselves To New Ways Of Thinking: The world is rapidly evolving. The trait of ambition makes most people extremely resourceful. It is not uncommon for ambitious people to find themselves in something of a crisis and manage it well and to an appropriate and excellent solution. They do this by constantly speaking with and learning from others. Ambitious people seek out different points of view on a variety of topics, consistently.
  • They Understand The Power Of Proximity: As I mentioned earlier, I seek out ambition in people who I choose to align myself with in any setting. I love rebels and risk-takers…they energize and challenge me. There is an absolute power of proximity. When we surround ourselves with people that inspire and motivate us – by possessing our most valued traits – we learn and grow from these people.
  • They Are Hyper-Focused On Action & Execution: Ambitious people are exceedingly goal-focused and are constantly striving towards their next level of accomplishment. Healthy ambition involves keeping your goals private. The most ambitious recognize that their greatest competition is themselves. Most people spend the bulk of their time building their skills set and endlessly mentally weighing solutions & possible outcomes. While it’s wise to create a strategy for your important objectives and the outcomes you are working to achieve, ambitious people pour their energy into taking action and getting things done. After all, if their execution is poor, nothing matters.
Why Some People Are More Ambitious Than Others

A few of the underlying factors identified that result in ambition are: conscientiousness, extroversion, a low-level of neuroticism, general mental ability, birth order, and parents’ occupational prestige. Some addition circumstances that contribute to one’s ambitions:

  • Ego–Driven Ambition: When someone has a reason to prove themselves and they possess the intestinal fortitude to do it, they become extreme in their drive to accomplish objectives and set new priorities for the future in pursuit of their grandiose goals.
  • Our Desire To Communicate Our Worth: Often, the desire to prove to oneself that you are worthy can be a catalyst for ambition and striving be our best selves consistently.
  • Self-Confidence: When an individual is confident in their abilities and they believe that they can reach their goals and get the things they want, they are likely to be ambitions. It’s intoxicating to accomplish goals that others only dream of or that they poo-poo when they hear other’s speak about their vision.
  • Ambition From Insecurity: When someone identifies an insecurity in an area of their life, it can put that person under a lot pressure, which generally leads the masses of average people to opt out and state how unfair life is. Far fewer people are invigorated by overcoming their impediments to find success. THOSE are the people I love. They are hungry, inspiring and determined
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I have worked with many organizations in a variety of industries over the last few years and I always carve out time to really assess the reality of the culture when I am involved in a project. One of my favorite things to do is to take the top performer in the company and the bottom performer in the company, separately, out to lunch to get their perspective of the workplace culture.

It’s always interesting – and almost without exception – that the high-performer feels a greater sense of accountability and expectation placed on them from their leadership team than the worst performer. They also feel less confident about their career stability and trajectory – in their current company – than their sub-par counterparts. I, essentially, guide our lunch dialogs in the same fashion and ask similar questions to solicit open and authentic conversation so I can work through the framework of the exchange and find the variables and any similar threads. Usually, there is quite a lot to unpack after these interactions.

It is, also, almost without exception that the average organization loses their most productive people at a significantly faster pace to their most terrible people . The fact is, that productive people can easily find [or feel] that they aren’t welcome in their current role, because their elevated productivity and drive upsets the bromidic energy of the rest of the team. A weak or blurry culture allows for that and leaves great people feeling underappreciated and overworked. We, all of us, deserve to work for a person [or persons] who recognizes our talent and show they are actively appreciative through their behavior and support. Leaders need to be grateful for EVERYTHING about their top performers…their brains, their hearts, their talents, their results, their passion, their commitment, their uniqueness…

None of us want to think that we aren’t adequately appreciating and valuing our most productive team member(s). But few of us actually do it well. Then we pour salt on the wound by treating the poorest of performers better [because we aren’t holding them accountable for their terrible productivity and lack of results]. Here are some most common issues that inspire your top performers to seek recognition and reward elsewhere:

  • As they complete their projects quickly – they’re given more work: It happens consistently and there are a lot of managers who do it [and even some who are grasping their pearls as they read this, saying “I would never do that!“] to their best people. All this does is create an incentive for your most valuable people to slow down or not complete their work flawlessly.
  • When someone is hyper-competent – they earn the messiest, ugliest, most difficult issues to solve under the guise of a “reward”: The moment a great person resolves a difficult issue, they earn an even messier one to fix. I have seen it, ad nauseum. Yes, it can be great to assign a challenge to intellectually stimulate our best and brightest – but believe you me – it is NO FUN for the assignee to claw through operational and bureaucratic muck where most of the grossest problems are positioned, with no recognition or reward at the end of the notorious and proverbial tunnel.
  • Highly-productive people are usually targeted to work on special assignments or given added tasks – again, without additional reward [aka compensation or special treatment]. Inevitably, their output and/or their quality fades when they realize they’re doing this with no benefit to them. Strangely enough their “leader” has no problem approaching their top performers and telling them they aren’t delivering at the level they should be – all while letting the worst people [making the same amount of money] continue to be a financial and cultural drain on the organization.
  • Great employees often share the fabulous competencies of creativity an curiosity – they can usually solve the unsolvable and make lemonade out of a gigantic mountain of corporate lemons. Because of that, their colleagues look to them to support them when they get stuck. So, now they are not only doing their work but supporting their co-workers professional hiccups.
  • Here’s a not-so-secret tidbit: People want to be recognized and rewarded for their hard work and results by being given more money or a promotion [or both]. But, all too often, fantastic people are blocked in their efforts to get to the next level in their career. Usually because of an ineffective or clueless manager [or agglomeration of clueless managers] who knows losing this person would mean more work for them and they may not shine as brightly if they need to replace their best person/people.
  • Ultra-effective people are really great at finding better, smarter, faster ways to get their work done. And then comes along the command-and-control throwback “manager” who gasps in horror at learning of a new and better way of working and says something stupid like, “But that’s not how WE do it here“. For those of you that don’t believe this unevolved-morale-killing-monster still exists – I heard that sentence last week at a Fortune 500 company. Within 60 minutes, the person who was the recipient of this insane statement had contacted two recruiters and was actively looking for a new job.

I consult with companies all the time that do these things listed and then lament that they keep losing their most productive people and blaming it everything but themselves when they ARE absolutely, undeniably the problem.

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In late-November I was contacted by a recruiter for an exciting opportunity with Tory Burch for a truly fabulous role. I love Tory Burch and have been a very committed client and brand ambassador of theirs since 2013. I had a delightful interview with the Senior Vice President of this organization and a few days later emailed the recruiter for feedback and follow-up. The recruiter called me later that day and told me that the SVP loved our conversation, loved my energy and vision, he communicated to the recruiter that I was “impressive” but his concern was that I lacked luxury retail experience and that is “very important to him”. Fair enough – in any of my traditional roles that is absolutely correct. However, I have worked with three European based luxury organizations over the last two years as a consultant. MY concern was that this was never surfaced to me during my 60 minutes [I even asked the in-house recruiter when we met for coffee if there was anything in my background that I should focus on. The answer: “Not at all.”] with the SVP and had I known it was a point of pause for him, I would have been able to articulate my involvement with luxury retail as a consumer and a consultant. The SVP never asked me questions about this…nor did he ask me about the retailers I shop with, the retailers I follow and admire. He never asked me about my clients, what CEO’s or CLO’s I have worked with or partnered with. Assumptions were made about who I am, my scope of knowledge, my socioeconomic status, and my ability to deliver results and leadership development to a well compensated, luxury brand workforce. This wasn’t the first time I have been underestimated, nor will it – likely – be the last.

I am one who thrives in the face of adversity and use it to fuel my successes and most people I know do as well. However, there are those who can’t carry that weight and allow it to define their lack of accomplishment or progress. It is my position, though, that facing adversity and being underestimated is one of the best ways to reach success.

It is extremely easy for someone to glean one small fact or make assumptions about another person and immediately underestimate them without even realizing it. Because of this, so many people are often underestimated.

Understanding Our Worth

When I was told that the one concern that Tory Burch – who reached out to me – had was that I don’t have luxury experience…I heard that I wasn’t worthy of their brand [as one of three candidates]. I felt as judged as Julia Roberts shopping on Rodeo Drive in Pretty Woman. I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel bad about that feedback. I knew at that moment that the candidate(s) with a more desirable list of previous employers would be considered over me. Fueled by reviewing three years of accomplishments over the following few days I was able to shake my feeling of disappointment but still feel a twinge of some emotion I have a difficult time labeling when I pass by a Tory Burch boutique whilst shopping.

After all, can other candidates produce examples of when they were published? Can they produce evidence that over 2 million visitors to date have used their learning & development/culture blog as a tool and resource for career/performance improvement [along with over 200 positive comments]? Can they produce real and full examples of their work and style of communication over and above just what they say they can do? Can most candidates produce Forbes and Huffington Post examples of their content being used for podcasts and other’s blogs? Can they say they have been invited to speak at some of retail and L&D’s most respected conferences worldwide? Can they deliver interviews [both written and podcasts] they’ve been the guest of? Objectively, most candidates cannot.

Knowing and believing in our worth is the easiest, most straightforward step we can take to keep negativity from devouring us. It is, however, one of the hardest things to actually put in to practice and perspective. When people – essentially [or outright] – tell us that we aren’t as valuable as we know we are, it can be easy to begin to believe them.

When People Underestimate You – Here’s What To Do

You have to deliberately and consciously remind yourself how valuable you truly are. Here are a few ways to bring this abstract, but hugely important step in to the practical:

  • Compliment Yourself: Certainly there are more times to be humble than not – but when you are faced with someone telling you that you are good enough to be a customer of theirs but not good enough to be a agent of change and business partner of theirs, you need to recollect and congratulate yourself on your accomplishments. Things that make you unique and valuable – these are the things that define you. Not someone’s assumptions about your abilities or status. Someday, someone will see your value beyond a laundry list of paper-based, subjective facts.
  • Take Time to Marinade In & Celebrate Your Accomplishments: The third day following the disappointing feedback that Tory Burch found me to be too banal and bourgeois for their brand, I decided to celebrate my accomplishments as a consultant and someone who took serious charge of their career three years ago. We all have things that make us special and most people don’t celebrate them for us. WE need to honor those accomplishments, risks, wins, commitment of time, and failures that taught us how fabulous we truly are. Honor them in a vivid, robust, and fun way. We owe that to ourselves.
  • Educate People Who Don’t Understand Your Value: There are many people out there that are just ignorant, misinformed, or that default to making assumptions about others. They’ve never interacted with someone hyper-competent and driven and they feel safer with the most parochial option. Sell yourself – in this case, I did not do this well. About a year ago I stopped mentioning my most unique accomplishments because I would get the impression that most people (1) just simply didn’t care or (2) thought I was bragging. Most people can’t conceive of doing something bold or inspiring outside of what is considered average so they can’t fathom how that makes someone unique or increases their value. I love people that work outside the status quo, THOSE are the people that have value today. Most companies are still stuck requiring institutional or traditional stamps of approval for employment consideration – what this means is that they simply don’t know what talent or potential looks like. They have have immature, outdated, and flawed talent strategies. Today – real talent comes in all forms and truly innovative organizations know to ask questions to find out who the best candidate is. Everyone has a story, and it can be therapeutic and sometimes necessary to open up and share it. Sometimes you need to take a chance to bring someone a perspective that may not have been known before. You absolutely do not have to share your life story with anyone, but misinformation and lack of understanding plays a role in the under-estimation of others.
  • Prove Them Wrong: Here’s the thing, the person(s) who are doing the underestimating think they know something about you that you don’t know about yourself. You, however, know more about yourself than anyone else ever can or will. Give yourself a couple days to have a spectacular mope and then get back to being great – with a vengeance.

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Emotional Terrorists are EVERYWHERE. There is no hierarchy to emotional terrorism. A manager can be a jerk to their colleagues or their people and a subordinate can be a bully to peers as well as upward to organizational leadership and business partners. Regardless of the position they hold, they inflict a tremendous amount of damage and chaos into the environment and hurt the brand – usually on a large scale.

The good news, though…surviving these emotional terrorists is a craft, not a science. People are either good or bad at it. If they are bad at dealing with these toxic people, they absolutely get better at it. There is also a chance [if/when we lack or lose self-awareness] that we could be the emotional terrorists in the workplace. We have to take responsibility for the jerks in our lives, and self-awareness is key to recognizing that the biggest jerk in your life may just be – us at times.

What Is An Emotional Terrorist?

Robert Sutton, a psychology professor at Stanford University, defines these people in this way: An emotional terrorist is someone who leaves us feeling demeaned, de-energized, disrespected, and/or oppressed. In other words, someone who makes you feel like dirt. There are costs associated with inviting or keeping these people in the organization. They drive out the best people, undermine productivity, creativity, etc. and create chaos in their wake with each interaction. When it is a junior level employee inflicting their emotional terror to their colleagues and upwards through the organization they consume significant time and energy that should be going to the best and brightest in the organization. This frequently leaves top talent feeling ignored or underappreciated.

Terrorism is typically regarded as any type of action or effort made with the express or indirect purpose of causing fear and terror in other people as a result of those actions.

Emotional Terrorists/Jerks/Bullies come in two forms: temporary ones and certified ones. There are certain situations that can turn most of us into jerks, and we have to be aware of that and work on developing techniques to manage ourselves and reflect on how we are behaving and what impact our behavior can/will have on our environment.

Plato famously argued in The Republic that a tyrant, however powerful, ultimately suffers in the end by corrupting his own soul. We can make a similar argument about the emotional terrorist/jerk/bullies in our lives; they may win at life but they fail as human beings. Most of my friends, acquaintances, and colleagues have all worked with and for people like this. I certainly have. However, in 2015, I made the conscious decision to push back when I encounter these people or walk away from them depending on the situation.

Why Are Some People Like This?

According to Researchers from Mount Sinai Hospital in New York bullies’ brains are wired to get enjoyment from picking on others. According to the researchers, “bullying is motivated by a neurological disorder, whereby the brain activates a reward response to aggressive activity“. The study essential shows there is a faulty neurotransmitter which reduces activity in the part of the brain that usually creates an aversion to violence.

If you’re an emotional terrorist, you’re a failure as a human being because you promote unnecessary suffering – all in the name of your personal pleasure.

Workplace bullies often operate from a position of power; in fact, studies show that 80% of bullies are in a position of authority. Often bullies target their peers, their subordinates or others below them in the organizational hierarchy. However – as I surfaced at the beginning of this post – sometimes roles are reversed and the subordinate harasses the supervisor. This is the person that is rarely spoken about. When I think about this junior level emotional terrorist, one person comes clearly comes to mind. This person and their immediate supervisor were constantly in a battle of wills. This person was a manifestly profound liar, terrible with the customer, and seriously cancerous to their district and region in every way. They would abandon their store following mid- or senior-level visits to file complaints with the DOL and EEOC to create a protected status for their behavior. I was asked to intervene once as an objective third party at the request of Human Resources – who, ironically, tended to take a very hands-off approach to people behaving badly issues, to identify the root cause of the problem as they couldn’t make heads or tails out of the chaos. At the conclusion of my dialogs with everyone involved, it was extremely clear that the previous District Manager in this market had hired a legitimately horrible and diabolical person who knew exactly how to manipulate the system, The current DM was stuck and simply trying to work through the dumpster fire they’d inherited.

Dealing with emotional terrorists is more complicated than simply saying they are someone who doesn’t care about other people. In fact, a lot of them really do care … they desire to make you feel hurt and upset, they take pleasure in it.

There was nothing that could be done to support or help this under-handed and nasty excuse for a human being and HR was unwilling to take any action. So, I gave the District & Regional Managers who had both been victims of this intensely gross…person, the only options that were available to them or to anyone who is required to deal with emotional terrorists in the workplace.

Options Around Dealing With The Emotional Terrorist In the Workplace

Objectively, this jerk’s/bully’s inability to get along with anyone will also – eventually – be their downfall [as it was in the case of the monster that always comes to mind when discussing this topic]. The problem anyone has is surviving long enough that their career and reputation is not affected negatively by this person. Always keep in mind the bully’s primary goal is to have a corrosive effect on the people around them.

Create a plan: Collect the evidence you need to support this person’s plainly terrible behavior. Pathologically document any/all insubordinate actions, unprofessional conduct, theft of time, and unacceptable work from these people.

Gather a posse: The more people you have that will articulate their experience with this person and that have the intestinal fortitude to speak up, the better.

Freeze the jerk out: This is easier in some industries than in others but coaching people who have experience with this type of person to have the least amount of interaction with them as is possible will help to communicate that they have a very limited audience [and that collectively you are on to their nonsense]. This takes the wind out of their sails. [There are a few strategies that I share to do this in a smart and professional manner.]

Have a partner that will be a witness: In the case of the example bully, I suggested the DM/RM to never visit this person’s location by themselves. By going alone the bully has an opportunity to create a false narrative about their interaction. If you go in with a partner or have three-way calls with a partner, the bully will not have the ability to create fictitious stories about what was discussed [this was what ultimately led this jerk to quit…they couldn’t manifest any more lies because there was always a witness to the visits – they’d lost their ability to create stories about how they were treated or what was said – and it only took about two months for them to realize they weren’t able to wreak the havoc and chaos they’d so enjoyed inflicting on their colleagues and leaders. Suddenly, it was no longer fun for them].

Understand they have a disorder: This doesn’t mean give we need to give them latitude to be horrible people, this just means that you have to know who you are dealing with and it’s – likely – not really that personal. They are ill and they are driven by this disorder to behave poorly. There are costs associated with being a jerk/bully in the professional world. Now this person had to start off at square one creating chaos in a new company and building an initial coalition of people to buy into their chicanery. This takes time and energy for even the most evil of characters. Most people today are socially astute and aware. It can be a tough professional road for certified bullies in most workplaces.

Communicate organizational values and reward collaborative behavior: Obviously this doesn’t apply to the jerk as they are about fracturing teams – but when you create a culture of collaboration and other values that support team work, integrity, honesty, and productivity you will find that people that share those values will support your initiatives and help you weed out those that are not invested in cohesion or building rewarding relationships. They will help you create a bully-free zone because they will refuse to be aligned with the jerks and they will out them every chance they get.

Conversely there are a few items I encourage people never to do when they encounter a emotional terrorist in the workplace:

  • Do not appeal to their personal agendas: This is exactly what they want, and if you give in to this – they’ve won. You can’t reason with a bully/jerk. They seek to be held to a different standard than others. In the example I shared, this person didn’t want to have to work their schedule, they didn’t want to adhere to the standards of operations that were required, and they didn’t want to produce results. They actually repelled business. Their personal agenda was to be absolved of any responsibility or standard of expectation and to happily allow others to pick up their slack while they terrorized the people who had to work with them.
  • Never engage them in a power struggle: Doing so will allow them to be the victim of you and the organization. Partner with Human Resources when you are dealing with a bully [even if they report to you]. Let those you report to know what is happening and what your plan of action is to manage this person through the process. Again, you need to pathologically document insubordinate actions, unprofessional conduct, theft of time, and unacceptable work from these people for record.
  • Don’t give up trying to be right: You know what right is and you need to maintain standards of excellence for yourself and your colleagues. It’s easy to give up with this type of character, but don’t…it’s what they want. With a Machiavellian personality, the only thing they usually understand is a display of force. If that’s the case, the best way to protect yourself is to fire back with everything you’ve got and by being ready at all times. Do not give them ammunition to use against you. Be objective, be calm, be prepared, and be strong when dealing with them.
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Genuinely Great Leaders Are Humble Leaders A ProSocial & Collaborative Leadership Quality

A few weeks ago I shared a story about an interaction with a VP of Strategic Planning that was so profoundly bizarre and unpleasant it has consistently popped into my mind as it relates to how toxic that person’s leadership style must be with their team and how damaging they are to the culture of their company. In my first and only meeting with this person they spent 18 of our 25 minutes together detailing how important and revered they are and have been in all of their roles. It was an introduction I have never heard the like of before – it was filled with hubris and a flagrant disinterest in anyone other than themselves.

Following this odd experience I performed a complete post-mortem on this person’s strange 18 minute monologue. It was then it occurred to me that this big issue was that this person lacked any humility or self-awareness. The impact that the lack of this important leadership virtue can negatively have on the culture, organization is huge and it is frightening how – when humility is absent in a “leader” – it can, literally, squash any/all innovation, collaboration, and/or cohesion.

Why Is Humility Important?

Humility has been linked with stronger job performance, and leadership excellence. Humble people have better social relationships, avoid deception in their interactions, and they tend to be forgiving, grateful, and cooperative. A recent set of studies also shows that humility is a consistent predictor of generosity. People who are humble tend to be more generous both with their time and their money.

No one likes dealing with egomaniacs or show-boaters. There are few things as insufferable as people who view themselves as being better than others or who believe that social norms don’t apply to them. A lack of self-awareness is a quality that most people who behave badly have in common. More often than not, the perpetrators of these tone-deaf [or even aggressive] behaviors are motivated by subconscious drivers and fail to understand the damage they inflict on their relationships and organizations.

Signs You Are Humble

In a world where we are taught that fortune favors the strong and bold, modesty is often identified as a weakness. Delivering excellence, making a name for ourselves, achieving [or wanting] elevated visibility is today’s version of “survival of the fittest” – and for that reason, kindness is often under-valued and frequently misunderstood. A big part being truly humble is knowing our own limits, our strengths and weaknesses and being honest enough with ourselves and those around us to articulate those things and work on the areas where we may not be the strongest. Additionally, when individuals are self-aware enough to recognize their mistakes, others tend to be pretty forgiving and that is something that should be the cultural norm for organizations.

HAPPINESS IS A JOURNEY: Studies have shown that we tend to achieve happiness more when we’re not actually pursuing it. Humble people – who already place their focus outward – tend to just naturally take this approach.  As stated before, one quiet benefit of humility is generosity. People who are truly humble seek to be of genuine service to those around them in order to support positive relationships and collaboration.

THE EXCEL AS LEADERS [THEY PROMOTE & ACKNOWLEDGE OTHERS]: Leaders with humility act as a source of encouragement, support, and guidance for helping their team achieve their full potential and bring their best, most productive selves to work each and every day in order to be highly-successful. These leaders amplify the voices of others that deliver excellence and share the recognition they receive with the people who deserve the attention and kudos.

THEY BUILD STRONG RELATIONSHIPS: While humility may sometimes be viewed as an inferior trait, objectively, most people don’t want a narcissist for a friend or colleague – and the ability to posses modesty, authenticity, and graciousness towards others can significantly strengthen social bonds. According to the American Psychological Association, humility creates a sense of “we”, in lieu of “me”, in relationships. Being humble means possessing a stronger capacity to form symibotic alliances – a critical component in strengthening connections.

YOU HAVE INTEGRITY: Most people aren’t inspired by arrogance and flashy egos. People need to see action supporting every word spoken and commitment made by leadership. They need to be confident that how you do business and treat others is something that they believe in and admire. Earning respect through humility and integrity has a long term impact on your people because they can trust that you are a person of your word and your actions support that. You’ve earned your reputation for being credible by delivering on your promises, consistently.
Leading With Humility

BE WILLING TO ROLL UP YOUR SLEEVES: The people in your charge need to know that you are fulling invested in working together with them. They cannot feel as if you aren’t willing to work for and with them. A great leader supports their people in any and every way. There is no job beneath you when you lead with humility. If everyone knows that you are genuinely willing to work side by side with them, there is nothing they won’t do for you. They will be fiercely loyal, and their appreciation will be evident in their productivity and engagement.

BE OPEN TO OTHER’S OPINIONS: Humble leaders seek input from others to ensure they have all the facts and are making decisions that are in the best interest of their whole team, the organization, and the objectives of the business. No one person has all the answers. When we think we do, it’s definitely time to step back and assess. People want to work for people who value their opinions rather than ignore, dismiss, or make fun of them. Effectively humble leaders are comfortable asking for input but can just as easily be decisive when the situation calls for it.

THEY ADMIT MISTAKES: It’s tough to be transparent and open all the time…even those who consider themselves humble don’t want to look like they’ve messed up. But, as human beings we all make mistakes. [I make them daily.] When you’re willing to share your own blunders, and how you dealt with and recovered from them, you earn trust from people and create a safe place for them to make [and recover from] their own.

THEY ACCEPT AMBIGUITY: Many “managers” want to control everything. But some things can’t be known up front or beforehand. Great leaders know when to take charge – or when to let go and not try to force everything to bend to their demands. Sometimes, it’s important [and humanizing] to admit that you may not know the best answer. Strong leaders and those committed to personal development then set out to collect the necessary information to make the right decision.

LET PEOPLE DO THEIR JOBS THEIR WAY: People with an ego problem want to impose their way of working on everyone – after all – they’re brilliant, right?? [At least what they’ll constantly try to tell you.] Micromanaging kills morale and dehumanizes people [and it’s super annoying] – and it isn’t very humble. Choose great talent to invite onto the team, develop them, give them the meaning & purpose of their role to the overall business objectives, and then get the heck out of their way and let them do their jobs. It takes a level of humility to admit that our way isn’t the only way or even that some people are objectively better at certain functions/tasks/assignments than us. The humble and gracious leader accepts these truths and allow other’s strengths to work for the good of the group and/or organization without interference.

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