Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Engaging in Co-creating the Future

Change begins by creating a state of mind inside yourself, like a touchstone you can refer to every day to remind yourself how to live inside of a state of wonder and engagement, and how to use conversations to bring you back to your center when you slide off, to remind you how to turn breakdowns into breakthroughs, and to remind yourself how to be the change you want to create in the world.

These are such simple principles that you can practice every day. And the more you practice them, the easier they are to activate even in the face of difficult challenges. When the market dynamics change and you are faced with challenges bigger than you feel you can face alone, rather than retreat, turn to others to help you work it out. You alone don’t need to come prepared with all the answers. Instead, create them with others.

Here are three practices to experiment with.

#1: Find Excitement Inside of Ambiguity and Change
Change and ambiguity are what we as leaders face every day. We have many choices to make and the bottom line is that we must learn how to adapt to change in the competitive marketplace and successfully manage the impact of change on our business. For many of us, this requires moving out of our Comfort Zone, where we are certain about what to do, and entering our Discomfort Zone, where we face situations and challenges for which we don’t have all the answers.

Success patterns are difficult to change. When something has made us successful in the past, we like to re-create it over and over. Human beings will, in fact, stick with a pattern even after it has lost its ability to produce results. We become pattern fixated and come to love the pattern more than the end results—it becomes a part of our very identity – and the fear of giving it up is as big as the fear of losing a limb!

In the 1980s, IBM sold big mainframe equipment. They missed the small-computer market when other companies were responding to the customers’ cries for small, personal productivity tools. Levi Strauss, one of the largest jeans manufacturers in the world, missed out on getting into the designer jeans marketplace. They were fixated on work jeans and missed the move to designer jeans, leaving room for Calvin Klein and others to take the lead.

By contrast, Coach Inc. was known for making very traditional handbags and accessories. In 1995, their consumer research began to show that the buying trends of consumers were changing. The trend toward “business casual” along with women and even younger women’s desire for accessories for fun, fashion, and femininity created a wakeup call at Coach. The rate of growth slowed in a way that caused the executive team at Coach to do what they do best: turn toward the customer, embracing the feedback even if it meant a complete extreme makeover.

Through one of the most successful companywide efforts, the makeover has been breathtaking. Since 2000, the company’s compound annual sales growth has been 25 percent. Coach has become one of the most desired lifestyle brands, continuing to wow the marketplace going forward. Lew Frankfurt, the CEO of Coach, first decided to bring in Reed Krakoff from Tommy Hilfiger as his new creative director, with a mandate to rethink the product line. He then hired Keith Manda as COO, bring extensive industry expertise.

Soon the Coach organization was bringing to market a whole new line of lighter-weight bags, with the Coach logo to fill out the traditional leather bags. The line expanded into other accessories—and from a twice-a-year design schedule, they began offering bags every four weeks. Coach broke through their proverbial Comfort Zone by using extensive outreach to customers and inclusion with employees.

From the late ’80s, Coach had been interviewing customers and running focus groups. In fact, today they interview 10,000 customers individually every year to better understand how the brand is being perceived in the customer’s mind. Though this they are able to gauge how to readjust their production.

Coach does an extraordinary job in both its commitment to its customers and the inclusion of its employees. From the CEO out to the customer-centric teams, everyone takes part in creating the brand. Employees throughout the company participate in training and education regularly.

While my company has worked with the retail, wholesale, and operations teams for years, we are still impressed with the incredibly high level of commitment to learning, growing, and educating employees that takes place in this very people-centric organization. Coach executives not only listen to the customer—they fully engage the employees in creating the transformation.

Today, the company is headed into another year of explosive success; their stock has split twice since their IPO and their revenues now exceed $1 billion, and growing, annually.

#2: Expand Your Comfort Zone
In the face of continuous market changes, the people in companies that are most successful turn to each other and study change; they study the unknown, and make the unfamiliar familiar. They turn to each other to create a new capability for transforming fear into flexibility and resilience. Since companies are people, it is within people that the real shifts need to take place. There is no organizational change without personal change.

The most common reaction to change is fear; yet, when people turn to each other for support, they reduce the level of fear and increase the level of safety and comfort — and trigger the capacity to learn and grow.

From a brain standpoint, turning to others to strengthen relationship in the face of change, actually sends meta-messages to the brain or the parts of the brain that often engage in the face of fear – the Amygdala – the older reptilian brain. By comforting the brain through relationship, the brain becomes open to influence rather than closed and protective. The consequence is growth and openness to learn. Change becomes a friend, a catalyst for good things to come.

To expand your Comfort Zone, you need to reframe how you think about “comfort” and what it means to you. You may like your life the way it is and not want to change, particularly if your identity is intricately woven into the way you are now. You may like your habits and routines because they bring you the peace and comfort that comes with knowing what will happen next. Change of routine is often disconcerting to us, even on a small scale. For some people, navigating the unknown creates anxiety and fear, and even the brightest leaders may be resistant to change.

Instead, think about change in terms of the wonderful discoveries that you will make along your journey. Think about how wonderful it will be to live in a world full of learning, growth, and nourishment of your mind, body, and soul.

You are navigating and pioneering new facets of your life. If you don’t start, you may never discover all the incredible things about yourself!

When we live in our Comfort Zone and fail to challenge ourselves to grow, we create a status quo that reinforces our old patterns and routines. Right now, think of your Comfort Zone as discomforting, and think of living without risk as a signal that you have stepped back from something you really need to learn to do.

Ask yourself where you feel stuck or are living in a holding pattern:

  • What can I learn that will help me expand my leadership portfolio and my ability to influence others in positive ways?
  • How can I expand my people resources?
  • How can I expand my strategies and new ways of thinking?
  • How can I expand my moves and my opportunities?
  • How can I acquire and leverage new skills?

#3: Embrace What You Love
In the late 1970s my parents returned from Indonesia with a gift for me: a set of jaunting tools that batik artists and craftsmen use to design and create batiks on fabrics. I had a friend who was making silk batik dresses, and they were extraordinarily beautiful. She invited me to visit and watch her working at her craft. I fell in love with what I saw her doing. She looked enchanting working in silk, wax, and dyes, and I wanted to become what she was. From this experience I uncovered a desire to experiment and learn this new art form.

I explored fabric stores for waxes and dyes. I played and experimented with the materials and soon discovered I was teaching myself to batik. In the beginning, for every three I made, I tossed out two. As I practiced, I discovered I was learning to draw with my new tools, and soon found I could do simple things like flowers and birds. Later I found I could do landscapes and people. Over the weeks and months my confidence grew. A friend saw my work and found it quite unique. She told someone running an art show, and I was asked to submit my work. In two months I had to have forty paintings. I did them and half of them sold at the show.

Someone else saw them and suggested I enter a larger show. I did and then had to create twenty more batiks. They were bigger and more complex. I was asked to be a featured artist, and I sold half of my larger batiks. Someone else suggested another show, and I took first place!

Lee Keet, the person who bought my winning batik which I named “Jeremy’s Dream,” became my first corporate client. He loved my work so much he hired me to design his corporate marketing materials. He was the first CEO I worked with, and from that one opportunity my lifelong career in transformational consulting unfolded.

One small step—inspired by the vision of a friend and the encouragement of a business colleague—helped me step out of my Comfort Zone and shifted a fear into a desire. I released old assumptions about who I am and what I am capable of doing. I embraced what I loved to do. And this love embraced me and took me on a whole new journey.

Design Environments That Support Growth & Generativity
What kind of environment are you creating at work? Are you designing environments that trigger fear – or trigger our territorial instincts? Are your environments triggering self-interest or collaboration?

When we live in a state of fear, we are carrying that fear into every conversation, every meeting and every relationship. Our energy state is contagious – it’s the air we breathe and it impacts everything we say, think and believe. Your mindset towards change and transformation determines the environment you create.

Reflect on These Powerful Questions

  • Are you retreating into your reptilian brain, where fear dominates your mental state—and thus triggering that response in others?
  • Are you driving yourself and others into self-protective behaviors and, in doing so, cutting off your nourishment from the outside world?
  • How comfortable are you with change? How do you approach change? Do you withdraw? Do you get upset and angry with others and yourself? Do you blame those who are apparently creating the change? Change is filled with ambiguity; sometimes, when we are in the middle of it, we just don’t know how to interpret where we are. Are you willing to step up and challenge the direction a team is headed if you are the only voice—the only boat heading upstream?
  • How comfortable are you with learning new skills?
  • How comfortable are you with taking feedback from a superior who feels you are not turning your boat around fast enough?
  • How willing are you to change your behavior if you have been getting results by “ordering people around” and now you need to learn the softer side of influence? Do you feel that any form of influence other than giving direct orders is weak willed and makes you a pushover? On the other hand, when you are told to toughen up and be more assertive, are you willing to try it out even if you have never influenced people that way before?

Try This!

Over the next few weeks, live inside of these big questions – assess yourself and see where you stand in relationship to change. Make change your friend not foe. Remember to: find excitement inside of ambiguity and change, expand your comfort zone, and embrace what you love! Enjoy the journey.

Judith E. Glaser is the Author of two best selling business books: Creating WE: Change I-Thinking to We-Thinking & Build a Healthy Thriving Organization - winner of the Bronze Award in the Leadership Category of the 2008 Axiom Business Book Awards, and The DNA of Leadership; and the DVD and Workshop titled The Leadership Secret of Gregory Goose

Contact: 212-307-4386 - www.creatingwe.com


Change Your Mindset - Change Your Life

In 1986 I was asked to write a Business Dictionary for Random House. Truth be told, my colleague got the contract and almost gave up the opportunity because he thought it was impossible to do. The objective was to come up with 3,500 new business terms that were not in the mainstream dictionary. He thought it was impossible and too hard, I saw it as an opportunity to learn. He got ‘down about it’ and I ‘got energized.’

We took the project on based on my enthusiasm for the challenge. Then we started our project by an examination of our own mindsets. It was a curious way to start, however one that turned out to be very important to sustaining our work over the next six months.

Here is what we found out about our mindsets. When we lived inside a status-quo mindset, we saw the world as limited. When we lived inside a growth mindset, our world expanded. It was that simple, and so we both agreed to take on the project with a mind of an explorer, an experimenter, a “Sherlock Holmes” never knowing where the words would emerge – yet believing they would miraculously appear – and they did!


  • Probability . . . Comfort
  • Past Focus
  • Cause and effect
  • Fear
  • Scarcity
  • Knowing
  • Controlling
  • Uses energy


  • Possibility . . . Stretch
  • Future
  • Pattern interrupt
  • Courage
  • Abundance
  • Wondering
  • Expanding
  • Creates energy
Habits of the Mind - Shaping Your New Reality
The reality is that change doesn’t have to be hard, or negative. Too often we think of change as something to fear. Instead, let’s define change as a positive challenge that helps us grow. Let’s go a step further and define change as an opportunity to discover new possibilities for the future—opportunities that open up and expand our lives and minds in new and exciting ways.

Try This!!! Do Alone or with Others Exercise
You can do this exercise on your own or with partners. The goal is to break out of an old mindset, habit pattern and comfort zone, and to work with others as your Coach-Catalyst. In this exercise you will share your wildest imagination with others – and in doing so you will be focusing on developing the ‘aspirational’ part of your mind. Also, sharing aspirations with others helps you affirm your commitment to action.

Diagram Your Future
The following diagram will give you an opportunity to draw out how you think about your Comfort Zone. Draw a circle on the center of the page. Then around it a bigger circle. The goal is for you to see where your edges are in life, what you are holding on to, and what lies on the other side. These are the places where breakthroughs will occur for you.

Step 1: Explore the following areas. Identify situations in each, and place specific issues in either your Comfort Zone (the center) or your Desire (the outer ring). Remember: Desires are aspirations waiting to be born. Consider categories such as these:

  • Big Audacious Goals
  • Business Challenges
  • Aspirations
  • Leadership
  • Business Growth
  • Opportunities

Step 2: Identify the challenge you (or your team) are facing in each area.

Step 3: Identify three key steps you can take to move forward in each area.

Step 4: Identify three key resources you can rely on to move forward in each area.

Step 5: Identify three metrics for success: What result will give you the greatest satisfaction? How will you know when you are successful? How you will celebrate the milestones?

Step 6: Remember to repeat the steps again and stretch your aspirations.

Judith E. Glaser is the Author of two best selling business books: Creating WE: Change I-Thinking to We-Thinking & Build a Healthy Thriving Organization - winner of the Bronze Award in the Leadership Category of the 2008 Axiom Business Book Awards, and The DNA of Leadership; and the DVD and Workshop titled The Leadership Secret of Gregory Goose

Contact: 212-307-4386 - www.creatingwe.com


Shifting Mindsets – Creates Energy

I realized I wanted to be a developmental psychologist before I was 21. It was a life defining moment – we all have them. It’s when I head my mother, and my teacher, and my father all said in the same week, “You can’t teach old dogs new tricks.” Now having everyone say the same thing in the same week is weird in and of itself. Then having them say it in the same week that I in fact did teach my old dog new tricks, was profound and taught me a lesson that has energized my life and given me a primary mission that comes back to a singular focus: helping people embrace change.

Since my earlier years, I’ve learned to change my occupation every other year; one year I wanted to be a doctor, the next a dancer, and the next an artist. I’ve even imagined being a neuro-surgeon, a billionaire, and a president. Today I call myself an Organizational Anthropologist – in part because it’s such a big concept that offers me such room to grow.

You see changing your mindset doesn’t have to cause you psychotic reactions. Just the opposite, it provides your brain, mind, and your energetic system, the nutrients to stimulate new synaptic connections – changing mindsets is a growth-trophic activity. In neuro-sciences the word is called “plasticity” and it’s used to explain how the brain really works.

The adult brain is not "hard-wired" with fixed and immutable neuronal circuits. There are many instances of cortical and subcortical rewiring of neuronal circuits in response to training as well as in response to injury. Decades of research have now shown that substantial changes occur in the lowest neocortical processing areas, and that these changes can profoundly alter the pattern of neuronal activation in response to experience. According to the theory of neuroplasticity, thinking, learning, and acting actually change the brain's functional anatomy from top to bottom, if not also its physical anatomy.

Out With the Old – In With the New

As recent as a few years ago, even neuroscientists thought that genes fixed behavior for life. Toady, with the advent of incredible technologies for seeing inside the brain, seeing inside the cell and being able to map changes, we now know that we need to change our thinking about thinking. “People don’t change” or “You can’t teach old dogs new tricks” or “its nature or nurture” are very, very, very outdated beliefs.

The new truth about human behavior has exhilarating outcomes. We are all born with the ability to change throughout our life, and change takes place at all levels, from the micro-biological to the macro-biological. In fact, and here’s the big thought - our genes are ‘encoded’ to be impacted by the environment – that means that our development is coddled through engagement with the world around us. That is how we grow and change. We interact – we engage – and through that engagement our bodies produce growth serums, hormones and other luscious chemicals that we use to grow.

Life is about change. What gets in the way of this wonderful life long evolution, is the stuff we make up about it; the stuff that gets I the way of us noticing, and feeding, and supporting what we need to change every day. When we stop feeding a plant the nourishment it needs to grow – it dies. In the same way human beings stop growing, physically, mentally, and spiritually.

Judith E. Glaser is the Author of two best selling business books: Creating WE: Change I-Thinking to We-Thinking & Build a Healthy Thriving Organization - winner of the Bronze Award in the Leadership Category of the 2008 Axiom Business Book Awards, and The DNA of Leadership; and the DVD and Workshop titled The Leadership Secret of Gregory Goose

Contact: 212-307-4386 - www.creatingwe.com


Sunday, December 9, 2007

Creating We - The DNA of Leadership

DNA of Leadership - Move Beyond Fear to be Connected

Even though technologies enable us to dissolve boundaries of space and time and connect us in exciting ways, we still face the same old challenge: to dissolve boundaries among colleagues, to build trust, and to engage our people.

We-centric leaders lift people out of fear, frustration, and anger, which cause people to disengage from each other. They create a culture than enables colleagues to be connected, involved in living the values and vision.

When people fell disconnected, they become reactive, project their anxiety onto others, create more fear, blame others for what is missing in their lives, reject first to avoid being rejected and disengage. When colleagues work in concert, they learn from each other, develop higher-level skills and wisdom, meet performance goals, and turn breakdowns into breakthroughs. When leaders turn to others for suggestions and value them, they create a community that looks forward to coming to work.

Learn to manage three dynamics:

  1. First, put your ego behind you - what matters is what "we can do together" not what "I" can do.
  2. Second, learn to manage your own reactions - bullying, intimidating and micro managing don't get results; inspire others to higher performance.
  3. Third, let go of the past; focus on the challenges facing you and build healthy, mutually beneficial relationships.

Mastering these three dynamics changes everything. Your ability to lead will increase exponentially, and you will enhance your ability to create inspiring environments where people work together for mutual gain, growth and understanding. Rather than get tangled up in conversations about blame, fear and frustrations about what is not happening at work, you establish a positive context for transformation by engaging people in ongoing conversations about what has, can and will work to create a transformation. In doing so, you focus on what needs to happen to address the challenges and with that focus and commitment, you develop into the best company possible. Rather than trying to fix the past, you create the future with others.

Hardwiring New DNA

As a leader, you can shape the experiences people have at work by reducing fear and inner focus and creating cultures that facilitate enhanced sensitivity, mutual support, vital communication and engagement in the strategy. When we live in toxic fear-based cultures, we become unhealthy in mind and spirit. We can react like cancer cells - like cells that stop communicating with the immune system designed to protect the whole body, cells that start to grow all over because they have lost their sensitivity to other cells and cells that create roots and lock themselves in isolation, drawing nourishment from the body and weakening it.

When we live in fear, we withdraw, build our own "story" of reality, imagine others are out to get us and react accordingly. We stop turning to others for help and stop taking feedback and advice from others.

Universal fears include:

  • The fear of being excluded - so we create networks and exclude others first
  • Being rejected - so we reject first
  • Being judged unfairly - so we criticize and blame others
  • Failing - so we avoid taking risks and making mistakes
  • Losing power - so we intimidate others to get power
  • Feeling stupid - so we either don't speak up or speak too much
  • Looking bad in front of others - so we save face.

Universal desires include:

  • The desire to be included on a winning team
  • To be appreciated
  • To be successful and considered smart
  • To be powerful, influential
  • To be creative and to learn, grow and explore
  • To have a leadership voice
  • To have meaning and purpose

When we perceive the world through a lens of fear, our egos drive us into habit patterns of retribution. Over time, we incorporate defensive behavior patterns into our daily routines. We turn away from others when we are coming from protective behaviors, rather than turning to others for help in making vital changes in our lives.

Unleashing Humanity

Leaders create cultures where all team members can contribute their talents and potential. Potential is often invisible - yet to be discovered. It's born out of the healthy interactions of one person with another. As we interact, we trigger responses. Once you learn new strategies and techniques for rewiring your life, relationships, and workplace from those that are focused on fear to those that are focused on achieving outrageous possibilities, your life (and the lives of others who work with you) will radically shift.

When we live in a positive, inspiring, inter-dependent, catalytic, expressive workplace, we all share the power for turning a toxic culture into a healthy, we-centric, inclusive workplace. From this new vantage point, you gain a new perspective about what you can create with others.

Try This

When colleagues work together to discover Best Practices, they shift from focusing on the negative, refocusing on looking for the positive practices that help the organization grow to its potential. Best Practices represent what is good and what works, and it defines what it means to be a world-class company that attracts customers. Sharing Best Practices is a way of elevating the skills and talent of everyone. Create a Best Practices forum to change the focus from loss to gain.

Exercise Creating We

Bring a team together to discover and share Best Practices.

  • Choose people who work in different ways can raise the IQ for everyone.
  • Use the Best Practices framework to catalyze cooperation and teamwork among colleagues who come from different areas and work in different ways.
  • Ask team members to think of things they do that have a positive impact.
  • Ask the team members to describe what they are working on, what approaches they are taking, what impact they are having and how to transfer this knowledge to others.
  • Each member of the team presents these Best Practices to colleagues
  • The facilitator captures what each person is doing to create success.
  • Participants ask questions to clarify the Best Practices and to learn how to transfer them to other situations.
  • Outcome: The end result is that people feel heard and valued.

The hardest part of leadership is that everyone wants to play an important role and be recognized for their contributions. Sometimes leaders find it difficult to manage the relationships, the competing demands and needs and the lack of resources - and so territoriality arises. Sometimes we lose our sensitivity to others. We become so enchanted with our own notoriety and entrenched in our own successes that we forget to honor others for their contributions.

Leaders need to create a feed-back-rich culture so that everyone is open to feedback on their ideas and behavior. This way everyone grows. As a leader, you can promote mutuality by tapping into the vital instinct of growth. You can encourage everyone to be sensitive to personal and group boundaries, while helping them to see how personal growth can best be achieved by expanding opportunities for growth of the enterprise.

Leader Behavior

We often turn to turf wars, silos and territoriality when we fear we are losing what we hold dear. Fear drives us into our I-centric behavior, and we protect rather than partner. Health comes from creating environments that honor the seven universal desires we all have for making contributions, for expressing ourselves:

  • Audit yourself and see if you are creating environments that acknowledge the seven key universal desires. If you are not creating environments that encourage mutuality and support, are you open to feedback?
  • Identify your areas of strength. Continue to do this, because it creates healthy environments.
  • Identify your developmental opportunities - leader behaviors that you have not been practicing that create a supportive, healthy culture.

Create opportunities daily to experiment with the leader behaviors that you have not been practicing. Monitor your impact. Notice how you can reduce territoriality and increase positive energy and support. Being connected is a vital instinct and one of the healtiest and energy producing state of being there is. When you move beyond your fear and into a state of engagement and connectivity, the energy that results produces expoential results far beyond our wildest imagination!

Judith E. Glaser is the Author of two best selling business books: Creating WE: Change I-Thinking to We-Thinking & Build a Healthy Thriving Organization - winner of the Bronze Award in the Leadership Category of the 2008 Axiom Business Book Awards, and The DNA of Leadership; and the DVD and Workshop titled The Leadership Secret of Gregory Goose

Contact: 212-307-4386 - www.creatingwe.com