Five Ways to Find My “Solid Ground”

Mountains depicting solid ground

In the workplace and in life we sometimes enter a phase where we feel as if we are standing on uncertain ground. We become disoriented and struggle to find our balance in order to regain equilibrium.

Sometimes it can be a new job, or a promotion, or even a transfer. It can be a change in the team around us, or it can be the way others might view us, using a different lens for a new role we have taken on. Whatever the cause, each of us can experience it.

As a new vice president at a Fortune 50 company a number of years ago, I remember walking into each meeting with trepidation. I had been promoted ahead of a number of more senior people. As a result, at times I felt like an imposter, at other times as if I was being judged, and most often as if I was somehow out of my league. And each time an issue was raised I felt as if I had to have the answer and take ownership of anything my department touched.

Most importantly, I looked at the other vice presidents and more senior leaders with a mixture of amazement and, honestly, some disappointment, as I saw their efforts at navigating corporate mazes. Some would use “buzz” words which tended to set up smoke screens. Others would commit to an action and then change their story at the next meeting. The most adept open field runners would pivot (I even saw a few pirouettes!) in the middle of meetings as they saw which way the company “wind” was blowing. The drama and uncertainty I felt as I observed those things was palpable to me.

I was fortunate to work with a coach during my career who helped me learn more about myself and how to change how I approached such situations. I know that helps me serve my clients because each has experienced times when the “ground” under them seems to be uncertain.

Here are five perspectives to help you find solid ground again:

1. Perspective – As we get enmeshed in corporate life, we can sometimes begin to think that the company and its goals are the most important things in the world. They’re not. The actor Richard Burton once provided this perspective on his career, “Give it all you’ve got but never forget it’s just a bloody movie, that’s all it is. We’re not curing cancer.” Most of us from corporate life would do well to heed his words about our own endeavors.

2. Understanding – Look around the corporate boardroom table and don’t look at titles or the personas that might be displayed by the other leaders. Just look at them as fellow human travelers on a journey. They’re doing the best they can in the world and it doesn’t help to be overly impressed or at all judgmental about their behavior. Be curious about what they know and don’t worry about what they don’t. Be empathetic – you will learn from everyone that way.

3. Gratitude – “The struggle ends when gratitude begins,” is a quote by Louie Schwartzberg. Each day we have much to be thankful for. The job provides us monetary compensation and self-actualization. And yet there is so much more to appreciate in life. A wise person once said, “Remember these three priorities in life: First, take care of yourself so, second, you are able to take care of your family. And only then worry about your job.”

4. The Calm in the Center of the Storm – Find the calm in yourself and then pass it on to everyone! That doesn’t come from having all the answers – it has to do with being able to step out of the chaos and then attending to others, feeling comfortable with expressing your thoughts when necessary, listening a lot more than you talk, and continually exuding a calmness and kindness to others.

5. Prayer, Meditation, and Mindfulness – Every client with whom I work spends time in quiet reflection – some in prayer, others in meditation, and all in some sort of mindfulness exercise. Opening up to something outside of yourself is both humbling and energizing at the same time. We can never navigate this world alone.

Ship captains seldom get seasick. They aren’t special human beings. But they have a secret: They keep sight of the horizon, not the waves. That makes all the difference for them. The waves come and go, but the horizon – the long-term goals and who we are as people – that will always be there.

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The 6 Processes That Make or Break Your Change Efforts

As organizations begin to implement their change initiatives and re-establish the way they do work, I cannot help but think about the body of knowledge I worked with during my time in graduate school around covert processes at work. Robert Marshak describes six dimensions that impact any organizational change plan that need to be addressed to ensure the success of that effort. In a previous article, I discussed the different themes organizations need to consider as they set up their ‘return to office’ (or not) strategies. In this article, I will be covering Marshak’s work on hidden covert processes that you will need to keep an eye out for and consider to ensure your organizational change plan is implemented and managed successfully.

To start, what are covert processes?
Unlike overt processes, which can be observed, covert processes are hidden, unspoken, and unacknowledged. They are the collective unconscious dynamics that exist within organizations that regularly impact the interactions and responses of people within the organization. If change management leaders do not account for them in their plans, these processes or dimensions can impact the workflow and stand in the way of achieving organizational goals and change objectives. It is important to know that covert dynamics occur outside of our awareness and you and your employees can be engaging in them without knowing it.

The 6 dimensions of change
Marshak lists six dimensions of change: Reason, Politics, Inspirations, Emotions, Mindset, and Psychodynamics. The first is the only overt dimension out of the six whereas the latter 5 are covert. Read More…

Establishing your return to office strategy can feel daunting. Here is where to start!

Return to the office themes

Over the last year, business leaders and organizational development experts have been emphasizing the strategic priority of figuring out what the ‘return to work’, or more accurately, ‘return to office’ is going to look like. We heard about ‘hybrid models’, ‘permanently remote models’, and ‘rotating shifts models’. While all of these ideas might be great in theory, the specifics still seem fuzzy to most. With restrictions being eased and more and more people getting vaccinated, the pressure to have ready-to-launch plans that answer all of the diverse workforce needs is on more than ever.

I recently attended an interactive seminar on change leadership with a group of 30 or so organizational development experts and HR leaders to explore how real-life organizations will need to address the challenges of returning to the office (or not). We huddled up and discussed actionable change management plans we would implement to make the transition successful. My colleagues in the virtual room had brilliant ideas to share, and it was evident that while there was agreement around some aspects of the change management plans, people had very different ideas of what needed to be done. And they all seemed like really good ideas. Read More…

Will We Ever Return to Our Offices?

The world of office work changed in March of 2020. The question is, did it change forever – and more precisely – for good? I have experienced a number of webinars and scanned more than a few articles in recent months that have declared the office as we know it as dead.

“It’s gone and will never return again,” is the gist of what I have heard.

I’ve been on the planet long enough to know that any declaration filled with such certainty is bound to be either wrong or only partially right, depending on your viewpoint.

To be sure, the workplaces we knew in early 2020 will likely not return as we knew them. But then again, the offices of 2010 never came back, did they? Nor did those of 2000, 1990, or 1980. Having the memory of the “ancient world” of offices pre-computer, I can tell you that none of us – including me – would recognize the world of typewriters, carbon paper, and even dictation machines that were part of the office years ago. A 200-baud fax machine was state-of-the-art back then!

To be sure, in spite of the tragedy and challenges of the past year, there have been great advances in science and in the technology of communication. The various video platforms we now routinely utilize have improved on bandwidth, fidelity, and functionality by leaps and bounds. And many of those who were reluctant to use such technologies have embraced them and now see them as essential tools of communication. So, to that degree, we have seen a significant shift in how we communicate – and that is a good thing. As one of my Boston Executive Coaches colleagues notes, “It serves a purpose in a time of need.” Read More…

How to Leverage Your Culture to Weather Any Storm

If we were to ask leaders of organizations around the world what was the most disruptive event or thing to have happened in 2020 that impacted their business, the overwhelming majority would point their fingers towards COVID-19 and the pandemic. However, disruption is a tale as old as time and an inevitable part of any maturing organization’s life cycle. One of the key antidotes to surviving the disruption that was 2020, is the same as it has always been: A strong, healthy organizational culture.

Before we get into that, I’d first like to ground the word disruption into something more tangible. Disruption is not always a world-wide pandemic pushing organizations to pivot to remote work and to adjust to rollercoaster-like fluctuations in the economy. Disruption can be a natural change in the markets, it might be a change in an organization’s structure, a merger or acquisition, a change in leadership, or even a change in strategic direction. If you are a five-person team, disruption can be losing or gaining a single team member.

While there are different approaches to managing change, one thing experts seem to agree on is that it is hard. Regardless of its nature, managing change requires a significant amount of attention and resources. It creates instability and fear for people within the organization, and if it is not tended to, it can negatively impact the change process, leading to its doom. Read More…

Yin/Yang Leadership: Seeking Balance

Yin Yang Leadership

When I woke this morning, I laid in bed for a moment realizing the quieter start of our days and thought through the agenda for the hours ahead. I took a moment to figure out what day it was, marveling at the perception of time. Days are flying by, yet it feels like we’re standing still.

I was struck by a thought I had, and that it was the exact same thought I had the day before, and the day before that. It’s a thought that comes to me with such clarity, such simplicity, and urgently. “This is so weird.”

We will be going through our day without leaving the house (except to take another walk around the block ), without interacting with other people (except for our neighbors from an awkward distance across the sidewalk), and without physically connecting with our friends and family outside of our home. Now, more than ever, I am grateful for technology and video conferencing.

I wonder, when will I wake and say, ‘this is normal.’ Or not have any thought or judgment of the day at all. And what I’m learning is that it isn’t without the other experiences that I’m able to truly observe my current reality.

Without a sense of normalcy, I wouldn’t be able to see this current reality as weird. As I reflect on the changes and differences and losses of today, I can see more clearly all the things that I perceived as normal. Read More…

Podcast: Leading Culture Change in Global Organizations

gothamCulture Podcast

In this episode of the gothamCulture Podcast, Chris Cancialosi interviews Dr. Daniel Denison of Denison Consulting.

A lot has changed since the topic of organizational culture popped onto the collective radar in the 1980s as a way to drive organizational performance. In this episode, we talk with Dr. Daniel Denison about how globalization and technological innovation has created new challenges, and opportunities, when it comes to culture. Dan discusses the critical dynamics of culture in global organizations and practically, how habits and routines can be at the heart of culture change. Dan expands on these thoughts in his book titled “Leading Culture Change in Global Organizations: Aligning Culture and Strategy.”

Released: April 9, 2020

Show notes: Dan refers to a book about how habits can change culture titled Tiny Habits by BJ Fogg.

Organizational Agility And Resilience – Two Critical Sides Of The Same Coin

Agility and Resilience

In a world where longstanding business models are being disrupted (many at the hand of a staggering rate of technological advances), you won’t get ten paces without hearing terms like agility and resilience being thrown around. This dynamic has seen the rise of brands like Amazon/Whole Foods, Netflix, and Uber as well as the demise of others like Kodak who failed to see and respond quickly enough to changes in the market. If you’re reading this and thinking that this isn’t something that applies to you, you’re sadly mistaken. Even historically stable industries are being disrupted in ways that require the ability to adapt and transform in order to thrive.

The belief that organizations must master the ability to innovate and drive new products and services to market in order to beat out the competition has contributed to the focus on agility as a critical success factor. These organizations must “fail fast”, quickly learn from mistakes, and adapt to changing market conditions in order to outperform their competitors in the long-term.

Read More…

The Art Of Unlearning What Works


As an organizational psychologist and a firm believer in continuous development, I have often found myself in the position of advising people on creative ways to keep learning throughout their careers. I have worked with clients seeking to become “learning organizations” – where individuals and teams are continuing to figure out what works through learning in order to outperform their competitors. Research, experiment, succeed, fail, learn, improve, repeat.

As someone who has dedicated his professional life to the topic of organizational culture, I realize that groups of people, over time and through collective experience, figure out what works and what doesn’t. Doing so allows them to begin to bake into their organization’s systems and processes methods for repeating successes and minimizing failures (or they cease to exist). Doing so allows members of these organizations to routinize processes and behaviors that lead to success so they can utilize their mental capacity on other things. Easy enough in theory.

The real challenge presents itself when the old ways of doing things that once yielded success stop working (or stop working as well as they once did). It is during these times that I often get people reaching out to me to help them figure out what to do in order to right the ship before things go too far afoul. In all of these situations, some common realities have bubbled up that are important to acknowledge.

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Occam’s Razor or Beware of the System Complicators


I bought a disassembled propane grill one time.  There were at least a thousand parts (well, maybe not that many) and the directions were about 20 pages long.  I began a long, tedious process of following each step and carefully assembling every subcomponent.

About an hour into the assembly, the idea slowly dawned on me that something was missing: simplicity and common sense.

The factory technical writers might have thought they were helping the consumer build the grill, but they had focused so much on the minutiae of the assembly process that no one told me that there were only perhaps five or six basic steps.  What I call a “Systems Complicator” had somehow infiltrated the factory and had written the instructions. They had focused on so many details and the “micro,” of the assembly that they never told me the “macro,” or what we all call the big picture.

They forgot good old Occam. Read More…