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Creating Authentic, Supportive Workplaces for Women to Thrive

Jenean Merkel Perelstein is a Sociocultural Anthropologist who has implemented change strategies that have saved lives and made fortunes – from the prisons of India to the boardrooms of the United States. In this work, she has discovered a lot about how the male-defined structure of the workplace has stifled women’s creative genius. As she says, the way we force women to prescribe to an environment that was not built for their success is “like taking a champion swimmer and asking them to go swim a race with one hand tied to their side.” And companies are missing out… on revenue, on productivity, and on experiencing the true power of female leadership.

We had such a lovely chat. There is such a beautiful intersection between my work and hers.

Click HERE to listen to the interview

Some of the topics we dove into are:

  • the validation and relief of realizing and understanding Patriarchy Stress Disorder
  • why confronting the patriarchy is the only way to level up from surviving to thriving
  • how we are grappling with the wounds created by the women before us not being allowed to realize their complete potential
  • how patriarchy manifests in the subconscious of companies and organizations
  • how the idea of professionalism is created around masculine ideals and how feminine traits are labeled as unprofessional
  • how women are subliminally instructed that they cannot show up as their true, authentic selves in the workplace
  • how to identify where you’re playing the old game, and imagine what playing the new game will look like
  • how successful hormones oxytocin and adrenaline shows up in the workplace, and how this chemical affects women vs men
  • how workplace structures have been built to support men but not to support women, and what the optimal workplace situations are for women’s success
  • how patriarchy flies under the radar of well-meaning male leadership and why it’s such a loss to companies when they don’t support women’s authentic gifts
  • the mechanisms that lead women to adrenal fatigue and how to shift the tide, and why women aren’t necessarily aware of the effects of patriarchy until they burnout
  • the unique pressures of being the token female in a leadership position at a given company
  • how Jenean is successfully shifting and balancing workplaces, decreasing burnout by introducing an emphasis on emotional intelligence and soft skills
  • how companies can increase revenue by valuing women more (and putting them in leadership positions) and becoming less toxic
  • what psychological safety – physical, mental, emotional, spiritual – in the workplace plays out, how it is undermined, and how companies can create it for their employees so those employees can fly



Click HERE to listen to the interview

5 Common Mistakes of Workplace Recognition Programs

There’s a lot of buzz these days about recognition programs in the workplace and for good reasons. Recognition programs can make fantastically positive contributions to your workforce and your workplace culture. But, like many things in life, the devil can roost in the details. Let’s talk about FIVE common pitfalls that can unwittingly take a program raised from good intentions and positive feelings and watch as it undermines productivity, unravels cohesiveness and poisons your workplace culture.

1) Nonexistent – The first pitfall that companies and organizations run into when they attempt to recognize their employees is…well, many organizations simply don’t have one! Their recognition program is nonexistent. Not having a recognition program can diminish empowerment, reduce productivity and lead to employee turnover.

All of these outcomes are easily traced back to far greater financial losses than it costs to create and operate a program in the first place. When evaluating your organization’s philosophy on the spectrum between the carrot and the stick, not having a recognition program plants your organization firmly in the stick camp. Without a conscious carrot program all that is left from an HR point of view is progressive disciplinary actions. Stick, stick and more stick when we know, on the carrot end of the spectrum, that recognizing employees, when done well, when done right, can be an asset to creating a positive workplace culture where employees feel good about where they work everyday.

2) Too infrequent – The second thing that some companies do in recognition programs that can cause more harm than good is to apply the program too infrequently. If formal recognition comes up only rarely, it fails to embed the benefits of a recognition program into the overall culture. We know in studying workplace cultures that those organizations that are more innovative, more profitable, and truly more productive have cultures motivated by the carrot, motivated by recognition, by empowerment, and by positivity versus negativity. Recognition programs must be felt frequently enough so that people do not feel like they are steeling themselves for the long slog between recognitions.

3) Big Wins ONLY! – The third mistake that some workplace cultures make is in only celebrating the Big Wins. Celebrating only the big wins creates two problems. One, it excludes those people who are working hard on the everyday tasks. They need recognition, just like the people who are hitting the home runs. Two, it accelerates burn out. If you’re holding off on recognition or a celebration for the big, long haul, people get burned out along the way. Also you miss the opportunity to champion everyone through the minor steps, the smaller wins along the way where you can say, “Hey, I recognize you. You’re doing a good job.” People, when they show up in any organization, want to feel valued. They want to feel trusted and they want to feel respected. If managers and leadership within the organization are not articulating that value and that respect on a regular basis, people will feel burnt out and they will let the daily grind overcome their sense of joy. When you don’t have a sense of joy in the workplace, productivity suffers every time. And, that’s when people begin to prick up their ears for other opportunities for employment – elsewhere!

4) Prejudiced – The fourth mistake that some organizations make in their recognition programs is to provide recognition only to the leadership, to supervisors or managers or C-suite employees. An excellent strategy for rescuing your program from being a top only program is by building in the opportunity for peer recognition. When you feel trusted, valued, and respected amongst your peers, you also stand up a little taller in your work. You enjoy being at work. You want to get good things done. People like to be recognized AND they also like the opportunity to recognize others. When we practice gratitude and generosity with other people, we feel good. It becomes a win-win situation. Peer recognition also helps raise the joy level, the positivity level, and it helps undercut some of the negativity that may dwell in your workplace culture.

5) Stand Alone – Then the fifth and final component that I see people misunderstanding with their recognition program is believing that this is the ONLY element needed to create a positive and productive workplace culture. Yes, it is an important component. But please know that it is not the only component. If you have a negative or toxic workplace culture in any area, in any way, and you layer on a positive recognition program, it will ring false. It will seem hollow. The recognition program has to be supported by creating a whole workplace culture that is positive, productive, and profitable.

The driving force for your recognition program has to be system-wide integration with your operational practices. It has to be integral with your processes, with your programs, and with your workplace culture. It can not be a stand alone, easily forgettable or easily ignored program. There have to be ties between the recognition program and other calendar and operational events that trigger its use – consistently, democratically and sincerely.

Take the time to look at your culture through the lens of how are people being recognized. 1) Does it exist? 2) Is it frequent enough? 3) Is it both big and small? 5) Are people recognizing each other? 6) Is it part of a consciously positive workplace culture? Ensuring that your program provides positive answers to these questions will help you navigate around the most frequent pitfalls of implementing a workplace recognition program.

Are You Craving The Personal Touch?

Our world is so full of automation and technology these days that we’re constantly interacting with people through the filter of whatever technological platform you may be using. Are you limited to 280 characters in your tweet? Are you foregoing tone and body language in your emails and texts? Or perhaps you’re only communicating in pictures on Instagram or Snapchat.

The truth of our world today is that the above list of insulated communication tools represents only a fraction of the technological tools we use these days to interact with people. The Technology of Things, where our tech now interacts with another layer of tech to make our lives easier  layers even more distance between ourselves and other human beings.

As I witness workplaces around the country, what I experience frequently is people craving the authenticity that can only come from true human connection. I believe that people in the world today move through their day feeling a deep absence of something that they can’t quite articulate. I know, after having helped many to fill that void, that they are missing the true authenticity of other people being real and making a connection.

There’s something incredibly special about feeling seen, heard, and known by another person. And though we often get that deep connection with our close friends and significant others, the small, daily, mini or micro connections are waning with our deeply layered and automated world. We  experience fewer and fewer smiles and opportunities for knowing one another on a human, emotional level.

Like water carving a canyon, the loss of human connection slowly and quietly occurs over a long period of time so that we do not even know it is happening. But in truth, we connect with acquaintances and strangers much more seldom than we used to as a culture. That loss of connection affects us on a basic level creating a sense of longing that can lead to feeling like something essential is missing. It is!

As humans, we are social creatures. We are meant to experience feelings along the entire tapestry of human emotion and we are meant to share with other people. When we share our feelings and subsequently, our reactions to those feelings, we connect deeply with others building relationships that weave into the fabric of our culture. This basic connection is universal and its absence is disturbing in the “modern” workplace.

So, the next time you consider automating an entire sequence in your workplace, ask yourself where you can insert more connection – the old fashioned way. Consider doing a pop-by just to see someone and let them know that you were thinking of them. Hand write a note and leave it on their desk. And yes, this does work within the workplace. Let people know that they’re still important even though your day is full. Create time for connecting in ways that excite you.

These connections don’t need to be time consuming or lengthy, they just need to provide impact. Take a moment to pause your multitasking  when you are actually in the presence of another smile. Force yourself out of auto-pilot and see if sharing a moment with a stranger doesn’t brighten your day. Cumulatively, over time, you’ll find yourself loving the connection and experiencing joy more.

The Healing Power of Silence

My mentor told me a story last summer that rocked my world. Over the last few years we have all read about and been advised to the benefits that come from creating a meditation practice. I make an effort to carve out small blocks of time in my routine to practice…most days. I quiet most of the chatter, ignore the itch on my neck, and truly focus on my breathing.

The bold move my mentor shared with me was her retreat into the forest for a three day silence cleanse by herself. She was guided into the wilderness with a tent, sleeping bag, journal and water and left by her retreat guide to be picked up three days later. Her instructions were to stay within sight of her tent (so she wouldn’t wander off and get lost!) and to just Be.

As she tells the story, she had been a bit nervous about her inability to meditate. She is a high performing badass in her work-a-day world and quieting her mind has never been her strong suit. What her guide told her had a huge impact on her. And also on me. And I hope for you too.

She said, “Don’t worry about meditating on the mountain. After a while the mountain will meditate You!”

I was profoundly moved by this story because it made me think about how seldom I experience long stretches of true silence. Sure, I set aside time every day for my meditation “practice”, and am a huge advocate for the daily routine. But upon hearing this story I wondered, when was the last time that I really claimed the space to make sure that there wasn’t any information or stimulation coming into my brain?

It just so happened that a week after hearing this story I was set to travel to San Diego for an event. I had an option to fly, which would take me two flights and about 5 hours of time, or I could drive there in about 7.5 hours. With my new found inspiration to find time and space to quiet my mind, I chose to drive with the discipline to be in complete silence – no music, no audiobooks (my normal routine) no phone, just silence.

The first two hours were terribly upsetting as my monkey brain jumped from one thought to the next. I worried that I’d never be able to settle into a “positive” experience. But the magic happened somewhere around Gila Bend where my mind ran out of things to fret about and it just Was. The calm washed over me and I began to smile for no particular reason. Just as I had heard would happen; the road began to meditate me. For the next five hours I felt blissed out and carefree and went to my event with a glow that I hadn’t felt in years. The long trip went by in a flash and I couldn’t wait for the return drive where I could experience more, delicious silence.

In fact, I could swear that the return drive only took me about an hour and a half total. Time deferred to my happiness and the long drive that previously seemed like a chore became a powerful means of infusing my life with joy and ease that lasted a long while after my trip.

This week, I had another opportunity to travel to California, and once again, decided to drive through the desert in silence. As I write this from my hotel in Costa Mesa, I wonder why it took me so long to carve out another silent adventure. I feel as if I’ve pushed the great, big, energetic reset button. I feel happy and alive, while I’ve left my worries and bothers on the roadside of Interstate 40.

When was the last time you unplugged and didn’t have any information purposefully directed at you? When was the last time you practiced true, isolating silence? What would it take for you to be able to “justify” the time to do exactly that? And who would you need to justify it to? Your team? Your family? Yourself?

I’d like to invite you to give it a try.  Press your own reset button and see what magic comes from emptying your brain and letting go for a longer while. See if, in silence, the world meditates you.

The Top Three Reasons You Need To Be Focusing On Your Workplace Culture

Recently, I was visiting a client in the Dallas- Ft. Worth area where I often use the wonderful services of Uber to get around. I don’t know if you know about the traffic in Dallas, but you’d want to avoid driving too if you had a choice!

While I was there, a pattern arose among the drivers. They all asked me why I was visiting the area, which in turn evolved into a conversation about what I did for a living.

“I help companies with their workplace culture,” I said with pride. They all had the same response. It usually sounded something like this:

“Wow! That’s awesome!…..What does that mean?”


New year new look, outlook that is

It’s a new year and if you’re like me, you may be looking for ways to start the year off on the right foot so that we can all make this year one for the history books. I’ve found one of the easiest ways to do this is to change the lens through which we see the world. Let’s talk about gratitude and how creating a habit of gratitude can change our perspectives and also our lives.