Category Archives: Reflections

The Authentic Workplace + A Personal Note

Sometimes we think of work as a separate section of our lives, cordoned off by location, hours, job descriptions and roles. As the workplace has evolved, our definitions and expectations are shifting shapes. The formal and somewhat rigid business boundaries that we see depicted in films set in the 1950’s through the 80’s seem antiquated. Here in casual California, the business suit is no longer the requisite attire for men. Changes in our social culture and the positive influence of many, many more women working have contributed to a more holistic workplace. In short, we are becoming more comfortable being our whole selves at work. We can celebrate our personal hobbies and our children’s achievements, acknowledge family responsibilities, personal crises, and health challenges. I, for one, am glad of this evolution to a more authentic world of work where we are not one dimensional. I see evidence that the complex, holistic, yet still intelligent and intensely focused companies often outperform the more formal ones. When people can be more authentic, they bring more of themselves to the workplace, and have more to give.

Food for Thought ~

Leadership in this new era is a far greater challenge than in the hierarchical management era and in the organizations that still follow that model. Those are indeed simpler to manage. The holistic organization with its collection of real, multi-dimensional human beings presents a far more complex set of leadership issues. I believe the rewards are well worth the effort.

Question of the day ~

How would you describe your workplace? Are people able to be authentic and multi-dimensional? What leadership challenges does this present for you?

On a Personal Note ~ In memorium:

My mother, Mildred Smiser Vyverberg, gently passed away on June 11. She was a teacher at two universities, my first and foremost role model, and a peach of a human being. Thanks, Mom.

Lesson in Progress

I believe that for the most part, I do not take my good health for granted. I am grateful to be strong and healthy, and make a concerted effort to stay that way. Even so, I certainly get beset by various conditions, mostly temporary, including recently a very tenacious virus. As I am rounding third base, heading for home and full recovery, I have been surprised by a loss of my voice ~ not completely, but certainly significantly. And because I speak as a part of my work, this is no small matter. Although my work is roughly 80% listening and 20% speaking, that 20% is essential. What I am learning is that I do take speaking for granted! The need and the desire to communicate is powerful, and the give and take of listening and speaking is a big part of my life. I am adding being able to speak to my list of things for which I am grateful.

Special Thanksgiving Edition

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, for many reasons, but especially for the focus on hearth and home with loved ones and the opportunity to remember all the things that we are grateful for in our lives. One of the things I am grateful for is my work. I make my living doing something I love – helping good people be successful. The people I work with are business leaders, and when they are effective, their companies grow and thrive. In turn, their successful companies provide jobs, economic activity, produce important products and services, and share their talents and resources with the community. This is the mission for my business.

With my fondness for Thanksgiving, I was curious about the origins of this holiday. Included below is a very abbreviated (and likely incomplete) version of the story of the first Thanksgiving and a short history of the evolution of this national holiday. I hope you enjoy them.

This season of Thanksgiving is the perfect time to express my appreciation for your friendship and goodwill. May your holidays be warm and wonderful and the coming year be bountiful.

The First Thanksgiving

Life was hard in the New World for the Pilgrims. Out of the 103 who emigrated from England in 1620 and crossed the Atlantic in the Mayflower, just 51 people survived the first winter. After the first harvest, Governor William Bradford declared a day of thanksgiving and prayer. The gathering took place outdoors in the Autumn of 1621. It was a 3-day event. Along with the Pilgrims, there were 90 Wampanoag Indians who had helped the colonists get settled. The Indians brought 5 deer to the celebration and along with the venison, they all feasted on roast duck, roast goose, wild turkey, cornbread, squash, berries, maple sugar, wild plums and pumpkins.

A Short History of the Holiday

In 1789, President George Washington issued a proclamation naming November 26 a day of national thanksgiving. For many years, there was no national holiday, although some states observed a yearly Thanksgiving holiday. In 1863, President Lincloln proclaimed the last Thursday in November as a day of thanksgiving, a tradition that was followed by presidents every year for 74 years. In 1939, President Franklin Roosevelt moved the date up one week earlier to help business by extending the shopping period before Christmas. In 1941, Congress ruled that the fourth Thursday in November would be a legal federal holiday. Thus, we have Thanksgiving, the holiday.

The Story of Stuff

I am grateful to have had the opportunity to hear Annie Leonard, the creator and producer of the acclaimed video “The Story of Stuff,” speak recently. Her short film has been seen by over 12 million people around the world since it was released in 2007. Her message is that we have three problems: We are trashing the planet. (Most of the developed world consumes too much stuff, yet, there are millions of people who have virtually nothing.) We are trashing each other. (Not only with war and aggression, but with toxic chemicals that pollute our bodies and our environment.) We are not having fun. (The happiness/life satisfaction index is declining.) She has recently released “The Story of Electronics,” and “The Story of Stuff, Season Two” comes out in January. However, her message is not one of doom and gloom. Her motto is “Solutions Abound!” We need to be change agents for activism, environmental protection and social justice. Check it out at and be prepared to have your mind expanded.

Think global, buy local

I have been following the work of Michael Shuman ( who is a pioneering researcher and advocate for the critical importance of a “local living economy.” Contrary to conventional economic development practices in most communities, where municipalities and/or chambers of commerce extol the virtues and pony up major subsidies to bring new businesses to town, investing in already-established local businesses actually brings far more jobs and dollars into the community. As a consumer, I very purposefully shop in locally-owned businesses, not only supporting my friends and neighbors who own the business or work there, but appreciating the fact that roughly 3 times the economic benefit stays in my community vs. going elsewhere. For every $100 I spend, $45 stays in my community with a locally-owned business, vs. just $13 with a chain/big box store.

Contingency Planning

Let me tell you what happened last Friday. In the greater scope of what constitutes a crisis, this story will not qualify. But on the “BIE” (Business Interruption Event) Richter Scale, this definitely registered. My DSL service was “disconnected in error.” I learned that it would be 3 – 5 days before it was corrected. Hmmmm…. consternation ensued. With email at a standstill and a website launch in its final phases, the timing was seriously inopportune. The emails will receive delayed attention in due course, but the website launch must go on. The upside is that I am working on the launch project with a very resourceful and exceptionally cooperative technology whiz. With a combination of laptops and flashdrives, and the WiFi connection at my health club, we cobbled together a contingency plan, including production of this missive.

To my mind, it is virtually impossible to be prepared for all eventualities. For example, this is certainly not something that I would have ever predicted. But we can have in place at least the skeleton of a back-up plan for our essential business systems. In this case, my relationship with a professional colleague has proved critically important. The greater the risk on the BIE Scale, the more you need to develop contingency plans.