Category Archives: Lead Article

“Aren’t we so precious?”

By Greer Kirshenbaum, PhD


Earlier this year I had a memorable encounter where I was met with resistance to the importance of emotional wellness. The experience led to a meaningful dialogue, which has fueled my passion to support emotional wellbeing at all stages of life and communicate its importance. For a long time society has not valued emotional health. But the truth is, the health of our mind, our brain and our bodies is precious and it’s time to shift thinking back to this truth. 

I was having the usual meet and greet with a new person at a party, the classic icebreakers were exchanged: What do you do? -What do you do? I explained that I am a neuroscientist and a doula who educates and supports emotional wellbeing and brain health at many stages of life: in pregnancy, birth, infancy and adulthood. The person’s initial response was, “Well…. aren’t we sooooo precious these days?”, insinuating that my career is superfluous while mocking the people who seek out these types of services. I thought for a minute and confidently replied that the answer is simply, yes. Yes we are precious. And it’s not just these days. We have always been precious. Humans have always had emotional needs, complex emotions and brains that are wired to feel good with support from and attunement with other people. We have always been built to benefit from emotional intelligence and support.

For a long time the intelligence quotient or IQ has been celebrated and emotional intelligence or EQ has been buried, diminished and mocked. We’ve been told “don’t be so sensitive” “suck it up” “take it like a man” “don’t be a silly girl” “don’t get emotional” “its business not personal” and other permutations of these ideas. The idea of IQ over EQ, that we’ve been bombarded with, comes from a very early understanding of the mind and brain, before modern scientific discovery. For a long time society has believed that we should only value IQ to be successful.  This put us on a road to ignoring EQ and suppressing our emotions in all vital parts of life: school, work and even relationships.

Neuroscientist Antonio Damasio in his work and famous book “Descartes Error” was one of many scientists to change our ideas about EQ. His work, and the work of many others, provides strong evidence that IQ and EQ are both tremendously important for success. Moreover modern neuroscience has uncovered that brain areas for IQ and EQ are intimately connected and cannot function independently of one another. We have also learned that while IQ is generally difficult to influence, EQ can be highly flexible. We can meaningfully enrich our personal lives and work lives by nurturing and expanding our EQ. Psychologist Daniel Goleman brought many of these ideas to us in his book Emotional Intelligence. Finally EQ is intimately linked with our physical health. When we enhance EQ we get healthier.   

Now that we know that EQ is vital to our success and wellbeing and that we have been ignoring it for most of our lives, we have a genuine need for emotional education. In times where our emotional internal worlds have been silenced we have become sicker than ever, both mentally and physically and we have not been thriving in our relationships and work. We need to teach EQ to babies, children, adolescents and adults because yes, EQ is precious.

I discussed all of this with the person at the party and in the end we agreed that providing or receiving education about EQ and health is not a joke. As we got into our conversation the person disclosed that they had their own struggles and perhaps their initial comment was a type of defense mechanism; perhaps we all have to examine this knee-jerk reaction. In the end our conversation inspired this person to begin their own journey into emotional health and EQ.  We must be confident that our mental health is precious, our physical health is precious, our hearts, emotions, needs and experiences are precious.

For more information:

Antonio Damasio:

Daniel Goleman:

Gratitude And Anxiety: Competitors In The Fight For Safety

By Barry Walker


Several years ago, Ben came to see me in my role as a psychotherapist.He was 71 years old, but looked like he was ready to die. Really beat up. He said that he was a cancer survivor, and handicapped with PTSD. He was a veteran of the US Army, the CIA, and several news organizations having served in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other similar war zones. It happened that he lived in Oregon, near where I was spending the summer in Montana, so I invited him to meet with me over three days at one of the houses on our property.

We spent the first meeting on Day One reviewing his life story, much of it centered around being present when thousands of people were killed, including some of his close friends. He was full of stories: Memories of village elders, feeling at home with the Afghans, his friends in the Army he did Civil and community work with, being hunted by warlords, killing people.

He told his stories with a kind of detached humor, as if the memories weren’t quite real. Of course, they were real, and he was detached in that way PTSD causes. His body was kind of frozen and rigid, especially his diaphragm and breathing. Just the sort of physical reactions terror and fear will do to you. He was a man walking around in a fear seizure.
On the second day, we sat on the deck of the house and looked out over fields and mountains. Lots of Angus beef cattle wandering over for a drink from the river running by us. Hawks, Eagles, Herons, Swans, Ducks, Cranes. He gradually went silent, watching the whole unfolding performance of Mother nature. I said nothing. At least two hours went by, interrupted only by drinks of water and tea.

After these hours, Ben began talking about his friend, Bob. He said that he and Bob had been friends for several years, working in the same Community Liaison unit of five solders. “Bob was shot in the head in a village square while he was standing right next to me.” He turned and looked at me with a blank stare, but visibly trying to compose himself.

I said, “You lost your closest friend in such a horrible way. Tell me what your friendship had been like.” Ben proceeded to tell numerous small stories and memories of touching moments. Finally, he looked at me and said, “I really miss Bob.” Tears began to roll down from his eyes, and he began to speak to Bob, as if he were present: “Godammit, Bob, not much made sense after you died. Going to the elder meetings wasn’t warm and meaningful anymore. I missed our trading stories at the end of each day. But, you know, as much as I miss you, I am deeply grateful for having you as my friend. You taught me a lot about how to talk with people. You were right there with me for all those years.”

He cried, and then laughed as some unspoken memory popped. And then cried again. His breathing was open as he quietly sobbed. Rocking a bit in his chair. Then, he looked up at a small group of ducks and said, “Thanks for being there, guys. I love you Bob. See you soon!” Cried and laughed. The rest of that day, and most of the next, we walked along the river. Ben kept stopping to point out small creature trails, flowers, second-growth
grasses, nest, and the history of stones lying around. He was alive. Again.

He wanted to show me what he knew. And he wanted to give me his books, and pieces of art. Mostly he gave himself life again. The PTSD shrank as his heart with gratitude opened up. Thank you Mother Nature.


Everybody agrees: Gratitude is a good thing. Lots of testimonials to the wonder of ‘Gratitude’. And, it truly is a wondrous feeling and awareness. For me, it’s what love is. “I am so grateful for you” is what I mean when I say “I love you”.

The great news is that Gratitude is always present in our lives. It is a fundamental organ of consciousness. It is love, forgiveness, tenderness. And Empathy. If only we could allow it to have its voice. To sing its song. To guide our lives.

As I said above, we do not have to go in search of Gratitude; it lives within us all the time. The real question is: “How come we don’t feel it all the time?”

The answer: “Anxiety gets in the way”. Reduce the toxic impact of anxiety and Gratitude will be there most of the time. There is no work to do to initiate Gratitude. Perhaps there is work, like journaling, that can be done to keep Gratitude fueled up, especially when anxiety wants to run you. But, in the end, the work is with anxiety. Your anxiety. At whatever level you live with it.

So, here’s the core question, vexing though it is: “How do I get more gratitude in my life?” “Or, in the lives of our communities, our societies?”

The answer is, “Reduce anxiety and fear”.

“How do I reduce anxiety without a lot to medications?”

The answer:  Pursue Safety. Become intimate and conversant with your own anxiety. Tell the truth, Reveal yourself.  Notice when you are anxious. Say so.

At first blush this ‘Reduce Anxiety’ pathway to Gratitude may seem simplistic. For sure, it is simple. Indeed, if it’s right, it’s elegant. Instead of seeking ways to amplify Gratitude, we will find the pot of gold that is Gratitude as we do our work to reduce anxiety.

There is no pill that can do this, apparently. Although there are some meditations and ‘mindfulness’ practices that can help us towards Gratitude. (Medications that are intended to be ‘anti-anxiety’, like Xanax and Ativan relieve only the symptoms of anxiety, at a cost.)

There is plenty written about using the power of personal intention to notice and reflect on Gratitude in each of our lives. Keeping a ‘Gratitude Journal’ is high on the list these days. Oprah says so. ‘Gratitude arrives as a heart-based fuel in your life as you seek to allow it in’. Being grateful begets more life satisfaction. Being deliberately grateful stokes the fires of well-being. All good. And true. Until anxiety gets in the way.

In my experience, ‘getting anxiety out of the way’ is a learnable task that can be added to mindfulness practices in everyday life.

While acknowledging the expanding and sophisticating explorations being done in the worlds of neuroscience, psychiatry, spirituality, and philosophy, I can offer the following from my vantage point as a psychotherapist.

Have you ever had a life-threatening experience, or deep fear of loss? Many have. At least, you’ve seen people who have had such experiences. Almost universally, if the threat goes away, or is suddenly relieved, potential victims break out into ‘love for life’, Gratitude for being safe, determinations to ‘live life being of service’. And so on. This happens in part because in these ‘survival’ events anxiety is suddenly removed from current experience. And what pops into consciousness is gratitude, safety, love, compassion, empathy.

I have watched people for decades finding Gratitude as the result of experiences in nature, for example. The wilderness offers opportunities to become one with nature. Gratitude follows. As well, the urge to share the experience with others.

I have been present in therapy session with couples when one of the partners reveals a secret which has been held in fear. I’ve seen those people break down in combinations of relief and agony as they choose life in the open rather than life in fear of being found out. I have seen shame overcome by the simple act of being revealed in truth. Often love and understanding have followed. I have seen business partners tell the truth to each other, scary though that might be, and then seen their businesses grow and evolve.

What I am saying here is that anxiety and fear suppress our natural inclinations towards gratitude and empathy. Remove, or reduce, the anxiety, and gratitude emerges. Remove the anxiety without diluting presence. Gratitude is as natural a state as breathing. On the other hand, anxiety and fear squash gratitude and love into small corners for safety.

Imagine the impact on the world of psychotherapy if we had tools to actually remove anxiety from people while they considered their lives? Hardly any of us realize the extent to which even everyday anxiety distorts our experience. We have become habituated to anxiety. Much current psychotherapy happens in the midst of the haze of anxiety. Medications to reduce the anxiety simply create a different kind of haze.

“How can I speak with such certainty about how gratitude happens?”, you might rightly ask. Life’s experiences, both personal and professional.

Anxiety, too, is a natural state. As organic beings we need anxiety just to survive. Alertness! Our senses provide us with safety information. As they should. Are intended to do. But, that same anxiety becomes exponentially elaborated and intense when we have been wounded emotionally while in vulnerable states, traumatized through violation or the horror of war. In severe events of anxiety, our bodies freeze, our blood flow retreats towards our organs, our breathing goes into panic mode, or stops altogether. This kind of fear leaves a wreckage which frustrates our ability to feel secure and safe. Fear can crumple everyday life into a semi-lifeless wasteland devoid of joy, and certainly without gratitude. In this state, some of us contemplate suicide. Some of us use anxiety medications like nicotine, alcohol, opioids. Others of us retreat from life into depression. Depression, after all, is a good antidote to anxiety.

In the end, there is, currently, a world of interest in Gratitude. Saying it one more time, I believe that Gratitude is a natural state of being. I also believe that anxiety is a natural state of being. But Gratitude disappears when anxiety becomes too much, for whatever reason. You will find Gratitude, and Love, and Empathy, and Kindness, as you are able to reduce the Anxiety in your life. The implications are obvious.

In another paper I will discuss some cases where Gratitude emerges as Anxiety recedes.

Barry Walker@2017. Barry Walker is a practicing Psychotherapist and teacher in NYC.

Money: A Lifelong Relationship Starts Early

by Chip DeLorenzo, M. Ed.


Learning to manage money is a skill. It can be taught. Like most learning, experience is the best teacher (and maybe the only teacher)! We learn what we do, and we learn from our mistakes and our successes. To help children learn about money they need to experience successes and mistakes from an early age so they can develop lifelong decision making skills. To insure this, children need an environment where the consequences of their actions are manageable and developmentally appropriate. Waiting until after college to learn about money can lead to some unmanageable consequences!

A number of years ago a friend of mine and I were having a conversation about money at a baseball game. He told me that his parents had provided everything for him when he was growing up. He didn’t have to work, and his time off was spent traveling, playing sports and engaging in recreational activities. He went to camp in the summer, and was sent to college with a car and a credit card – all expenses paid- and lived close enough to home that he could bring home his laundry on the weekends!  After college he was hired for his first job and his parents helped him get set up in an apartment. Soon after starting his job he was informed by his parents that he was on his own, financially.  It was time. After a week or so of work my friend ran out of clean clothes, so he brought all his dirty clothes to the dry cleaners. You can imagine his surprise when he received the bill! He had begun a long journey to becoming financially responsible. Unfortunately, the stakes were much greater for his mistakes, and he was very overwhelmed at the prospect of learning how to make healthy decisions with money when the consequences were so high.

Don’t wait! The more that children learn about money from an early age the more likely they are to make sound and mature decisions as they get older, both at home and when they leave home. Allowances from an early age can really help children learn to manage money for the long haul, if used to teach life lessons. However, how allowances are used in the family makes all the difference in the world.

Before we discuss the “do’s”, let’s discuss a few “don’ts” when creating an allowance structure for your children. Allowances should not be used for punishments or rewards, or in connection with chores. Using allowances as leverage for behavior puts the adult in the position of being the judge and jury and creates an opening for arbitrary and inconsistent decision making, and this invites power struggles, arguing and manipulation. Chores are contributions to the family, and if children are paid to make basic contributions to the family, then they learn that they should be paid to pitch in (see opportunities for earning money below).  The purpose of an allowance is to teach a child how to manage money.

Here’s how an allowance can work to teach money management and develop decision making skills in children. Develop a plan to give an allowance to your children every week; the same amount at the same time. Give your children the responsibility for spending and saving it accordingly. (Some families structure the allowance so that a certain percentage of money comes off the top each week to save and to give to charity.) The children are responsible for bringing their money with them if they want to buy something, or putting it away in a “piggy bank” or a real bank to save.

Developing Money Management and Decision Making Skills with an Allowances

  1. Take time to show your child what happens to money when you save it.
  2. Teach your children about budgeting before they have difficulties.
  3. Avoid rescuing children when they run out of money. Allow them to experience the limits of their ability to spend (this is a lesson that many adults need to learn, no?). Life is filled with limits, and successful people learn to work within defined limits and then see beyond them.
  4. Don’t give advice! Just ask reflective questions when they run into problems (be truly curious). Examples: What happened? What caused that to happen? How are you feeling about that? What did you learn from this? What’s your plan for next time? What can you do differently to avoid this from happening again? and etc.
  5. Avoid giving loans, but if you do: Set clear terms for the loan, make a definite plan for repayment (deducting a certain portion of their allowance until repaid), be sure that the amount that you lend can be repaid successfully and only one loan at a time.
  6. Be careful not to confuse your priorities with theirs!  When we try to force our priorities on children they either rebel or become passively compliant. This does not make for teaching good problem solving skills – children need to make their own mistakes.
  7. Set a schedule for raises based on age.
  8. As children get older (adolescence), consider the areas in which you spend or budget money for your children. Create a budget for them and give them an according allowance. For instance, if you plan on spending $700 per year on clothing for your child, give them a clothing allowance for that amount, and help them develop a plan on how to spend it that year. Other areas to consider for these allowances are: Grooming (hair, nails, etc.), Activities (lessons, sports, etc.), and lunch money.

Saving Lessons

  1. Use a piggy bank with younger children and put a portion of their allowance in the bank each week.  From time to time count it together and discuss what is happening to the money.
  2. Make a list of things that a child might want to save for and help them create a plan to get it.
  3. When children hit their savings goals, take time to use reflective questioning (above) so they can learn from their successes.

Opportunities to Earn Money

Earning money is an incredibly important life lesson. The reason, again, that we don’t connect allowance to chores, is that chores are simply a contribution to the family. We do chores because we belong to the family and have an according responsibility, and the benefits from contributing are gaining a sense of social/familial responsibility, belonging and significance. However, learning to put in a day’s work and make a day’s pay is also rewarding and vital to developing autonomy and financial independence.

To help younger children learn to earn money, simply make a list of “extra jobs” around the house that you normally do, that they can do for money. Put the amount that you are willing to pay next to each item. When your child asks you for something that it beyond their ability to pay for, just ask them if they’ve checked the “extra job” chart to see what they can earn.

Finally, as your children are able to work consider eliminating allowance and encouraging them to find a part-time job or start their own business (lawn care, shoveling, house cleaning, elderly help, etc.). This can be the first step in developing true financial independence. Many businesses have found that hiring recent graduates who have worked while in school do not have to learn basic skills such as timeliness, time management, resilience (not calling in sick when they have a sniffle), ability to take constructive criticism, and responsibility to coworkers.  As an employer myself, I weigh work experience while in school even higher than grades or extra-curricular activities when making hiring decisions (I have learned this the hard way).

The benefits of teaching children to manage money not only last a lifetime, but like most constructive parenting approaches, makes for a smoother ride as a parent, and children who are competent and confident. When children have predictable access to money and a home environment where they can learn from their mistakes and successes, then behaviors such as stealing, manipulation, lying and whining are greatly reduced. Had my friend been given these opportunities he would have saved a few hundred dollars in dry cleaning bills.

‘Whole Self’ Culture Key to Thriving Organizations

By Mike Robbins

How does a culture of healthy, high expectations, balanced by nurturance, enable individuals and organizations to achieve greater fulfillment, competitive advantage, and success? How can companies create an environment where their employees feel safe and encouraged to take risks, give more of themselves while maintaining balance, and deliver results? And, what does it mean to individuals to bring their ‘whole selves’ to their work?

My new book, Bring Your Whole Self to Work, is scheduled for release in May, 2018. In it, I examine what I’ve learned over seventeen years as a researcher, writer, and speaker regarding workplace dynamics and how an environment of authenticity, healthy risk-taking, and support helps both individuals and companies thrive. I gave a TED talk about this a few years ago.

When we enthusiastically challenge our employees to bring their best—their whole—selves to work, we and they reach new, higher levels of creativity and performance. Individuals’ passions and talents are engaged. They connect—with their own aspirations, and with others. As they do, teams and organizations push farther. Reach higher. Grow and succeed.

But, individuals need to feel safe to bring all of who they are—and that takes courage. My experience and research has shown that when we nurture and support employees, their fulfillment influences those around them to aim higher for the organization’s collective success.

Consider implementing these steps to help attract and retain employees committed to personal and organizational growth and success.


1. Encourage your employees to embrace their vulnerability. We erroneously think being vulnerable is a sign of weakness. It’s not. Vulnerability can be scary, but it’s essential to encourage healthy risk, change, creativity, collaboration, growth, and results.

Dr. Brene Brown from the University of Houston says, “You can’t get to courage without walking through vulnerability.”


2. Encourage your employees to have ‘sweaty-palmed’ conversations. A mentor once said to me, “Mike, what stands between you and the kind of relationships you really want is probably a ten-minute, sweaty-palmed conversation you’re too afraid to have.”

Too often we avoid conflicts with others because we’re afraid of the consequences that come with speaking up. Yet, when we muster the courage to start those sweaty-palmed conversations we strengthen our ability to resolve differences while deepening our connections, building confidence, and contributing to collective success.

Remind your employees to:

3. Stop trying to survive. When we do things that truly matter to us, it’s tempting to hold back and play it safe. Don’t!

I learned this playing baseball over eighteen years at the college and professional levels. Some of the most disappointing moments I had weren’t when I failed, but when I held back—due to my fear of failing. Encourage your employees to let go of their obsession with survival and instead take risks. Go for what they—and the company—want and need to succeed. As one of my coaches pointed out: “Mike, you’re living your life as though you’re trying to survive it. You have to remember. No one ever has!”  

Whether you run a business, manage a team, or simply want people around you to feel safe and empowered to bring all of who they are to their work, there are two components to creating an atmosphere of authenticity that leads to greater levels of engagement, performance, and success:

  1. Healthy, High Expectations. High expectations are essential for people to thrive. We almost always get what we expect from others, but if we demand perfection many may fall short. Employees will feel they’re not set up to succeed. Healthy, high expectations challenge people to do their best, without pushing for insatiable, unhealthy perfection.
  2. High Level of Nurturance. People want to feel they’re seen, heard, and valued—not just for what they do, but for who they are. A high level of nurturance creates a safe space for employees to make mistakes, ask for help, speak up, and disagree. Nurturing environments are filled with compassion and empathy. People feel supported.

We often think in order to have a high bar we can’t be nurturing. Or, we think if we nurture people, we can’t expect a lot from them. The goal is to do both, and to do so passionately.

Asking our employees to bring their whole selves to work, and creating an environment that allows them to do so, is no small feat. It takes courage on everyone’s part and can, at times, go against conventional wisdom. However, technology companies must do all they can to attract, develop, and engage the best people in today’s competitive global economy.

Creating an environment where employees feel safe and encouraged to flourish will help your company attract individuals committed to your organization’s success.  

Mike Robbins authored the forthcoming book, Bring Your Whole Self to Work (May, 2018). He also wrote three previous titles: Focus on the Good Stuff; Nothing Changes Until You Do; and Be Yourself, Everyone Else is Already Taken. He’s an expert in teamwork, leadership, and culture. He delivers keynotes and seminars, and consults with top companies across the globe – including Google, Wells Fargo, Microsoft, Schwab, Genentech, Gap, eBay, State Farm, the NBA, the San Francisco Giants, and many others.  


Taking Control By Letting Go

By Bonnie Marcus, M.Ed.

letting-go-real-lifeI’ve always been an over-achiever. That’s how I managed to work my way up to run a national company from an entry level position. It was no easy feat and certainly not easy as a single mother with two young children. But I persevered. Never took no for an answer and always found ways to overcome any obstacles. I was a fighter who took control my career, and it worked.

That is, I thought it worked. I believed it was the best way to be successful and in fact, I’ve coached hundreds of women using this model for success.

But then everything changed overnight. Everything changed one year ago when a spider bit my foot and subsequently gave me Lyme disease. Little did I know then that my traditional approach of taking control and tackling any obstacles in my way would no longer work for me. In fact, I discovered that the only way to take control of my situation and my health was to let go.

That’s a novel idea! Taking control by letting go.

Of course it took me a while to realize this. My revelation didn’t happen overnight. I stayed in my comfort zone and tried all my well-worn approaches to solving the new problem that I was sick. I took the antibiotics but refused to accept the scope of my illness. I attempted to work and kept my travel schedule to deliver keynotes. I denied reality and continued to work out, run, and spin until I hit a wall, a very formidable wall and wake-up call that this approach wasn’t working. And it wasn’t until I let go and accepted my new reality that I started to heal. It was then that I learned a new approach that would help me going forward; practicing mindfulness and starting each day with meditation, journaling, the expression of gratitude each evening, and celebrating every accomplishment.

Adopting these practices helped me take control in a new way, by letting go. These practices will not only reduce your stress, but will help you move beyond the distraction of your negative limiting beliefs and outlook to achieve greater success.

Mindfulness and meditation

Google, Monsanto, Marie Claire, National Grid, have discovered many positive results from mindfulness training as outlined in this article from Wharton. Mindfulness has helped employees make better decisions and let go of their negative judgments about themselves and others. Companies such as General Mills and Target have found that employees that practice mindfulness have more compassion for others, are more productive. The many benefits of mindfulness for employees and business are well documented.


There are some surprising benefits to journaling that go beyond mindfulness. These include improving your communication and writing skills along with boosting self-confidence and memory. Julia Cameron recommends “morning pages” to spark your creativity. For me, journaling has been a path to healing each morning. Both meditation and journaling provide a refreshing way for me to start my day; to renew my energy, optimism, focus.


Scientists have studied the effect of a gratitude practice on our well-being as well as our relationships. The benefits are many including blocking toxic thoughts and improving our attitude about our lives, our careers, and relationships. A regular practice helps us to see the glass half full instead of half empty and see the opportunities in failures and disappointments. By calling out my gratitude each day, I have moved beyond beating myself up for being sick to a more open acceptance of the life lessons I am learning.

Celebrating your accomplishments

When we are stuck in a negative mindset for whatever reason, keeping a success journal is a powerful way to silence the dangerous negative self-talk that holds us back from reaching our full potential. I have recommended this practice to my clients for years with great success. A daily entry of a minimum of one thing you’ve accomplished that day and then a weekly review of your entries helps you to focus on your value and strengths. It quiets the inner critic that undermines your success and boosts your self-confidence. You begin to see your life and career through a new positive lens that supports your continued progress.

When I was first diagnosed with Lyme, I beat myself up daily. Why wasn’t I writing more? What was going to happen to me if I couldn’t work out or run? I was focused on everything I couldn’t do rather than what I was learning about myself. We are all guilty of this negative thinking. We all have certain patterns of behavior that may no longer be effective but we’re comfortable with them. We expend useless energy hitting our head against the wall, which only makes us feel worse. In my own journey of self-discovery, I uncovered ways that not only helped me heal, but in the process, I learned new methods to better understand and connect with my clients as well as myself.

Sometimes success is more about letting go than taking control; letting go of what is no longer serving us.

Bonnie Marcus, M.Ed., is an internationally recognized executive coach, speaker, and author of The Politics of Promotion (Wiley 2015). She is a contributing writer for Forbes and many other publications.

Hiring an Executive Coach Changed My Life

by Jackie Kindall, CPC

executive-coaching-officeMy wish for all leaders is that they have the benefit of working with a certified professional coach. My personal experience with an executive coach changed my life. That is a powerful statement, I know. But it is sincere. I am truly overjoyed by the impact that partnering with an executive coach had on my life.

Before I continue I must give a disclaimer: I am also a certified professional coach. That is not, however, why I am such a believer in coaching. Please allow me to share my own personal story about the impact coaching had on my life. I will also highlight a few coaching success stories about executives and organizations around the world.

For years, I dreamed of becoming an organization development consultant. I wanted to work with organizations and leaders in a highly impactful way that super served their growth and development needs. My desire to start my own business was strong.

Despite my conviction, passion and sense of purpose, it was years before I took the leap.

Whenever I found myself close to doing so, I talked myself out of it by telling myself that I needed more knowledge, more experience, more certifications and degrees, more time in my current position, and so on and so on and so on. I stalled for more than 15 years. I enjoyed my career and the organizations I worked for, that was not the issue. I climbed the corporate ladder and loved the people who I was fortunate to work with. But it just was not enough.

It wasn’t until I obtained my professional coaching certificate that I realized I too needed a coach to help ME get unstuck. With the support of my fantastic coach, I successfully moved fear out of the way. I was then able to see my blind spots, get very clear on my goals, implement a plan and eventually succeed in reaching my goal – starting my own business. I will admit it was a process that did not happen overnight. But it was well worth it.

After 27 years in corporate America, I am now running my own coaching and consulting practice. It’s been up and running for 16 months and I am elated. The alignment of my passion/purpose and my work exceeds my wildest imagination. And I truly owe this to my executive coaching experience.

Many other leaders around the world have experienced significant improvements in their life and work performance by partnering with a certified professional coach. The International Coach Federation (ICF) has this to say about coaching:

“For many it’s a life changing experience that dramatically improves their outlook on work and life while improving their leadership skills. It helps people tap into unknown potential unlocking sources of creativity and productiveness. ICF defines coaching as partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential even in the face of growing complexity and uncertainty which is common in many workplaces today that are struggling with the war for talent.”

Research shows that when organizations provide coaching to their leaders, the organizations achieve positive business results such as increased employee retention, highly collaborative and creative teams, improved productivity, and attainment of peak performance. Over time, leaders become more effective at building high performing teams and organizations that thrive. Coaching recipients have reported increased job satisfaction, improved relationships, higher goal attainment, and improved personal satisfaction, to name a few.

According to the ICF, Genentech created a coaching culture in their IT department and experienced a 50% increase in communication, collaboration and conflict management. The IT department also went from being regarded as the worst department in the company to the No. 2 Best Place to Work in ComputerWorld Magazine.

In another example, Roche-Turkey, a subsidiary of a global pharmaceutical company, implemented professional coaching in response to a low company rating from an outside firm. They trained high-potential leaders to become internal coaches and then provided coaching to 45 high-potential employees who could use either internal or external coaches. Within 2 years, Roche-Turkey went from being evaluated as having “lackluster” employee engagement levels to being rated as a “high performing company” with an 11% increase in employee engagement levels. They also saw a 22% increase in the employee talent pool, higher levels of trust and improved communications because of coaching.

In a third example, a large public sector employer of 14,000 employees uses trained coaches. The research found that coaching increased confidence levels, performance and productivity. The study also concluded that organizations and managers are well served when they create a strong coaching culture.

These are just a few examples of the effectiveness of professional and executive coaching. The success stories are rapidly increasing as organizations continue to integrate coaching into the organizational culture.

Coaching is a remarkable journey for those willing to put in the work. If you are looking to unlock your potential, I encourage you to partner with a coach.



Jackie Kindall is a gifted leadership and organization development executive with over 27 years of experience. Her passion is helping leaders and organizations evolve by providing dynamic executive coaching and consulting.

She is currently the CEO of Kindall Evolve Consulting, LLC where she works with leaders and organizations who are deeply committed to achieving their strategic vision but struggling to get there.  She helps them shine as leaders, build high-performing teams and experience extraordinary transformation. The transformation is achieved through one-on-one executive coaching, team development training and facilitation, strategic planning and related consulting services. 

She previously held the position of Senior Vice President, HR and Organization Development for Radio One and has also held senior level positions at companies such as ETRADE Financial and Barclays Global Investors.

Ms. Kindall holds a Master of Science in Organization Development and Leadership (MSODL) from Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, PA.

She is a Certified Professional Coach (CPC) through the College of Executive Coaching, an International Coach Federation affiliate.

She is certified in the Hay Group Emotional and Social Competency Inventory (ESCI), Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI®), CPI 260®, FIRO-B®, Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI®), Strong Interest Inventory®, and a host of other assessments.



Edwards, J., Snowden, M., Halsall, J.P. (2016). Coaching Works! A Qualitative Study Exploring the Effects of Coaching In a Public Sector Organization. The Journal of Social Sciences Research, 2016, 2(5): 88-92

Happiness – Being Gifted & the Movie “Gifted”

Middle Age Couple Laughing by flickr user Cindi Matthews

by Art DeLorenzo

Frederic Lenoir wrote a short book retitled HAPPINESS for English readers but originally entitled Du Bonheur: Un voyage philosophique for his French readers. In it, he moves his (me included) readers on a walk through this intriguing topic. For example, in chapter 1 he opens with a quote from Jean Giono (30 March 1895 – 8 October 1970) who was a French author who wrote works of fiction mostly set in the Provence region of France. Her offering was quite simple and sets the stage for subsequent chapters. Here is her thought.

There’s no human condition, however humble or wretched it may be,
that doesn’t have a chance for happiness offered to it every day: to
achieve it, all that one need is yourself.

In terms most of us fully understand there are differences in our happiness barometer. When we are happy, or satisfied overall, there is a balance where our future expectations and our current feelings of calm and self-assuredness are solid, where we experience happiness. Conversely, when we are swamped, feeling overwhelmed and there is little life-work balance, we sense an abundance of instability or as Lenoir says “emotional or social failure”.

In the following few chapters, he drills down on how important pleasure is in the feeling of happiness, and how it differs not whether the individual seeking pleasure is a tyrant or a good human being. It is simply a critical element in the experience of happiness. Another thought he makes is that when sated with a great meal, as we eat, the happiness declines to the point whereby no matter what tempting delicacy is presented to us when we are full, the temptation of being happier with this treat is nonexistent. So happiness needs to be fed and we are the right people to make that happen going back to Jean Giono’s quote.

Another quote that asks us to appreciate or be grateful for what we have as we explore being happy, comes from the French philosopher, Voltaire.

“I have told myself a hundred times that I should be happy if I were
as brainless as my neighbor, but yet I do not desire such happiness.”

He suggests that as much common sense as this seems to have, there is a lingering question. When being overwhelmed knocks on the door or the blissful do they experience unhappiness? The answer is yes. It appears there is no immunity from this because of a previous time of blissfulness.

Lenoir moves further on his journey of explaining happiness by quoting recent (last 30 years) sociological studies on happiness. He summarized them with 3 distinct thoughts.

“There is a genetic predisposition to being happy.
External conditions (geographical environment, place of
residence, social standing, martal status, wealth or poverty, and so on)
do not have much influence on the matter.
We can be happier or less happy by modifying the perception
we have of ourselves and of life, and by modifying our view of things,
our thoughts, and our beliefs.”

Does money make us happy?

If you read no other chapter(s) read chapters 9 and 10. The short answer is no. Seneca the Younger, fully Lucius Annaeus Seneca and also known simply as Seneca, was a Roman Stoic philosopher. His quote says it all.

“No one will be happy if tormented by the thought
of someone else who is happier.”

If you have been through our EQ Not IQ: Mastery™ program or witnessed any of our presentations, you know how diligent we are at explaining the biological impact that the chemistry of the brain has on us. We literally teach people how to change their brains so that they have a life experience that comes closer to experiencing happiness. Dr. Rick Hanson, is a neuroscientist, who offers practical self-help resources to overcome the brain’s negativity bias and find more happiness, self-worth, love, and peace in your life. Here is his quote to lead off chapter 10.

“If you can change your brain, you can change your life.”

In wrapping up this month’s lead article, we highly recommend that you watch the new movie Gifted. It is about a young girl who is gifted and is being raised by her uncle. Her mother, a suicide victim was tormented by her gift and she did not want her daughter to be exposed to the same challenge. In his attempt to steer her away from the notoriety that her being gifted was bringing to her, he took her to hospital for a special experience. After waiting for hours near the maternity door it opened and out danced a man who yells for everyone to hear, it’s a boy. The uncle leans over to her and whispers, to her that this what her mother wanted for her. To experience the joy of her gift for sure but to also balance it with the gift of happiness

Good Stress

RockClimbingBy Greer S. Kirshenbaum PhD

Decades of research have taught us that high levels of stress can damage our body, brain and mind. As a neuroscientist I spent years observing how long-lasting stress leads to physical illnesses like heart disease and obesity, changes in brain function and structure, and poor mental health like anxiety, depression and addiction. Given that most of us experience unavoidably high amounts of stress on a daily basis, this information can make us feel hopeless about our health, happiness and success. Fortunately I have some exciting research to share. It flips around the view that all stress is bad, and could make us feel better about our experience with stress. Amazingly, some new research shows that by changing our minds, specifically the way we understand and view stress, we can protect ourselves from the perils of stress. We need to start thinking that stress can be helpful.

Understanding that the stress response is necessary to accomplish tasks is the key to protecting ourselves from some negative effects of stress. Stress motivates us and drives us to overcome and meet the daily puzzles and demands of life. It mobilizes the muscles in our body and the circuits in our brain, so we can respond quickly and appropriately to life’s challenges. Without stress, we would not get much done, so we should actually be grateful for it. The physical sensations of stress, including increased heartbeat and breathing, narrow vision, racing thoughts and stomach butterflies prepare our body, brain and mind to respond to our environment. Next time you feel the sensations of stress, however unpleasant, think about how the response is helping you to meet the demands in your life. Understanding that stress is helpful and necessary can protect your body, and perhaps your brain and mind from being hurt by that same stress.

An exciting study measured the cardiovascular responses and cognition of people performing a stress-inducing test. One group was taught what we reviewed above; that the physical sensations of stress are not harmful and they have evolved to help us respond successfully to challenges. A second group was taught to ignore their feelings of stress and shift their visual attention to a neutral object. A third group got no instructions. Incredibly, the first group, who had the knowledge that you have now, showed the healthiest cardiovascular response and best cognitive performance during the stressful test.  Knowing that stress can be positive benefited the performance of the heart and mind.

Another study looked at beliefs about stress and mortality. People who believed that stress was harmful and experienced high stress, had an increased chance of mortality. However, people who believed that stress was not harmful and experienced high stress did not have an increased chance of mortality. This is more evidence that the belief that stress is positive and adaptive can protect us from harm.

These studies are just the beginning of inquiry into this phenomenon. I am curious about what factors inform beliefs about stress being helpful or harmful. I wonder if an individuals’ lifetime experience with stress biases their view of stress. Take a minute to examine your own thoughts and influences; what are your ideas about stress and health and what has influenced them?

I also wonder if understanding that stress is helpful can impact mental health. If you are inclined to take up the challenge, and embrace stress as helpful, then notice if your mood changes over the next few months. Does this shift in thinking improve your life?

The idea, that if the mind views stress as helpful, it benefits the body, is a powerful example of the profound influence of the mind over the body. Once a crazy idea, we now see that our thoughts and perceptions physically change our brains and bodies. We are living in an astonishing time. Science continues to provide incredibly helpful and useful tools that can enhance our life and our health. So, remember, it really is mind over matter. Stay tuned for the next idea!


More information

I got the idea for this article from a TED talk by Dr. Kelly McGonigal


Studies I mentioned

1) Jeremy P. Jamieson et al., “Mind over matter: Reappraising arousal improves cardiovascular and cognitive responses to stress,” Journal of Experimental Psychology, August 2012

2) Abiola Keller et al., “Does the perception that stress affects health matter? The association with health and mortality,” Health Psychology, September 2012

Emotional Intelligence and Ethical Decision Making

Dr. Andrea Silva McManus


First, I want to thank fellow Alum of Castleton University Art DeLorenzo and a founding partner for MYT LLC for giving me the opportunity to write an article for Maximize Your Talent’s March Newsletter. I’ve chosen to focus on my interest in Emotional Intelligence and Ethical Decision making. Proper ethics training I believe reduces stress around complex decisions and increases productivity.

When I teach ethics courses I start with two fundamental concepts I want my students to learn and carry forth in their personal and professional lives The first is the concept of Emotional Intelligence and its role in ethical decision making and the second a concept developed by my Doctoral Advisor at the University of Vermont the Moral Conversation which states that how we talk to each other is as important if not more important then what we are saying to each other. The moral conversation allows you to be an equal participant regardless of the level of knowledge you have or the ability you have to express it.

Like leadership, I believe emotional intelligence comes more naturally to some then others. It can however be cultivated through using MYT’s content and Nash’s Framework for Ethical Decision making. I love to cook and I taught Ethics, Leadership and Philosophy and Food courses among other subjects at the New England Culinary Institute. The best metaphor I can think of for this framework is it is a recipe for ethical and moral decision-making. When done well you have a great ethical decision, just like when you cook well and have your Mis En Place in place, a French term for everything in it’s place and it is the center stone of all professional kitchens. All your ingredients prepped on hand, a firing list of when to cook what all results in an excellent dish. Using your emotional intelligence to help you make ethical decisions is like having your proverbial ducks in a row. You know what you want, why you want it and what influence it will have on others around you.

Making crucial ethical and moral decisions, even leadership decisions requires a deep understanding of the emotions and the feelings that are behind these decisions, how they formed in our families, workplaces, religious institutions etc. Finally, we have to understand what the greater impact of that decision is going to be in the greater world around us.

I am of the opinion that most Ethics training is devoid of opportunities to explore deeply ones own personal beliefs, which drive the ethical and moral decision-making. If we don’t know how we feel about something how then can we really make a good ethical and moral decision. This is the central theme in my ethics teaching. Time and time again my students tell me this was some of the most self-reflective work of their college careers. I still get contacted years later from students telling me about the latest ethical dilemma they’ve faced and how they used Nash’s Framework to make a decision they thought was best.

Ethics, most people would agree, are an important part of professional and personal life. Unfortunately, ethics are often only paid lip service as we get caught up in the rat race of day-to-day life and the desire to outperform those around us. Ethics, or the lack thereof, are only mentioned as a sound bite or cursory comment as we move onto the next issue. I believe ethics and ethical training need to be incorporated meaningfully into daily life now more than ever.

You have to know what your background beliefs are, how they formed and how they will have an effect on others to make the most informed ethical decisions possible. You have to know yourself before you can even begin to understand or relate to another in the best spirit of the moral conversation. And, again this requires emotional intelligence to seek the spirit of a barn raising in our conversations rather than a boxing match, which is so prevalent in Higher Education and many corporate cultures.

As a faculty member who teaches ethics to undergraduates I see an urgent need for ethics training in professional fields When, I ask a basic question of my students such as “Do you know what underlying values and principles guide your ethical decision making?” I get blank stares. A few students look at the floor or out the window and ultimately someone blurts out an answer to break the uncomfortable silence. Then they get angry that nobody has asked them this question before. Students tell me they are angry because they haven’t had these discussions anywhere in their educational experience. I truly wonder how many people reading this article have experienced this kind of ethics training.

They want to know why they haven’t. I tell them these are good questions to ask. I tell them I was angry too because I didn’t study ethical thought until I was a doctoral student. This is where my motivation to teach ethics originated. I believe we aren’t educating students fully if we don’t equip them with the tools to think ethically to face our complex world rich with ethical dilemmas. I assert that we can’t truly be pluralists or appreciate difference until we develop these skills and self-knowledge.

.           Students come to the classroom as champion arguers and debaters with a skilled knack for verbally knocking each other out to make their points. They yell. They gesture. They roll their eyes and sigh. They shut down. They do not enter as moral conversationalists, but at the end of the semester, they leave with a foundation of ethical thought and how to converse about difficult topics, which again requires emotional intelligence. Pleasingly, I’ve heard often that this was their favorite class of their undergraduate career. Is it my teaching? Maybe in part, but I believe this was the first and possibly the only opportunity they have had to engage in such deep and meaningful conversation and to recognize their own EQ levels.

They learn that body language matters and that their job in the classroom is to make the other student look good; in doing so, they look good. I take this a step further and say they are doing ‘good’ when they listen more than they speak and are able to draw out stories and meaning from each other that helps them better understand difference and varying points of view. These are essential skills to have in our complex world.


Concluding Thoughts                                                                                                             

Ethics training, including ethical decision making and the ability to engage in the moral conversation are crucial for both undergraduate and student affairs professional practice programs. Current world events and the increasing interconnectedness of cultures around the globe all necessitate that students and professionals know how to talk about difficult topics in a reasoned calm matter. They need to seek to understand the other first searching to find common ground before disagreeing, to know how to use their emotional intelligence wisely. They need to learn to agree to disagree and change the subject if common ground is not found. Given the growing diversity of higher education, including religious pluralism and our more prominent commitment to social justice, I believe it is unacceptable and illogical to neglect the realm of ethics any longer.

Dr. Andrea Silva McManus lives in Moretown, Vermont where she continues to teach, provide ethical trainings and consultations, write and provide care giving to Senior Citizens. She can be reached


Nash, R, J. (2002). Real world ethics: Frameworks for educators and human service professionals. New York: Teachers College Press. 39.

Nash, R. J. (1996) Fostering moral conversations on the college classroom, Journal of Excellence in College Teaching, 7(1), pp. 83-106.

Nash, R, J. (2002). Real world ethics: Frameworks for educators and human service professionals. New York: Teachers College Press, 39.

Fight or Flight: Setting the Emotional Agenda

athleteBy Alan B. Bernstien, LCSW

A number of years ago, David Brooks quoted the philosopher Reinhold Neibhur: “Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we are saved by love. No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as it is from our standpoint. Therefore, we must be saved by the final form of love which is forgiveness.” This quote intrigued me deeply as it came close to a perspective I have been exploring for a number of years: how to express ourselves emotionally in an active rather than a reactive manner.

Let me explain: when someone is rude to us, for example, we have an instinctive desire to respond in kind. This is rooted deeply in our primitive emotional makeup. We do not “choose” to be rude in response, what occurs is a spontaneous emotional reaction. Similarly, if someone accuses us of something, especially if the accusation has elements of distortion or misreading, we instinctively feel defensive and reactive. There does not seem to be a choice—we spontaneously experience ourselves as being taken over in response. Without miring our discussion in biology, we could argue that the experience feels so “natural” that it is biologically based in preserving our safety. We spontaneously sniff the surroundings to decide whether to fight or flee.

So why would anyone explore what feels spontaneous and natural? And why would anyone—even if they wanted to—control an impulse?

The reason I bring this up is based on my belief in psychotherapy as an avenue for studying and exploring ways to expand our opportunities for making choices in our lives. This is not to diminish spontaneity. Instead I see “choosing” as an expansion of character where spontaneity can coexist with setting an emotional agenda.

Let me give you a recent example from my personal life. I go to a yoga studio which is friendly and low key. Having forgotten my shorts one day, I asked if there was a pair I could borrow or buy. There was none for sale, but the young lady at the front desk suggested I look in the laundry room as frequently people left shorts behind. Alas, there were none, but another member of the studio had an extra pair which he lent me. The next time I returned to the studio, however, the owner confronted me aggressively, saying no one was allowed in the laundry room and he didn’t want his shorts lent out in any case. I was both stunned and dismayed by his tone and approach—after all this was a “friendly” place. I began to react defensively but decided to hold off. I merely assured him that I hadn’t intended to use his shorts. However, after I returned home I began to rethink the encounter. If I defended myself the next time I saw him, and pointed out the mistakes in his understanding of what had taken place, I would be prolonging a state of discomfort for myself—and probably for him as well. In fact, my connection to the studio as a place of comfort and nurturance would be disturbed.

I decided that the next time I saw him I would reestablish the pleasant rituals we ordinarily followed and see what happened. As I said hello and shook his hand warmly he seemed visibly relieved. He apologized for his outbreak and we slid back to our usual connections of yoga related duties—signing in and paying for a mat. He informed me that others had “borrowed” his shorts in similar circumstances and not returned them and that had predisposed him to jump into action. As I thought about our encounter I surmised that he had been nervous about his behavior and not sure about how to approach me. By restoring a tone of civility I enabled both of us to find our true voices. In effect, rather than responding “instinctively” through defensiveness and sarcasm, I had the opportunity to reset the emotional agenda to one that was truer to our connection.

As I understand Neibuhr’s comment, the more we approach our impulses as guides to action, rather than commands, the closer we come to operating in a state of thoughtfulness, and potentially, love. This requires the desire—and the skill—to operate with a tolerance and interest in our impulses as well as the maturity to choose ones which bring us closer to our emotional agendas.

Alan Bernstein, LCSW, has written about careers and transitions and served on the faculty at New York Medical Collage and New York University’s doctoral program in psychotherapy.