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The Art of Appreciation: How to Bring Magic and the Mythical into a Room of Business Leaders (without anyone running for the door)

Last week my wife Debbie and I hosted a dinner. Twelve members and the President of a board she has served on for the past six years joined us to mark the end of her tenure.

This board does not deal with anything related to consciousness, leadership, or mission-driven non-profits. Most of our dinner guests don’t practice mindfulness or meditation; they don’t know anything about conscious leadership.

Early on, Debbie and I began the evening’s many toasts. We chose to speak and model the key components of appreciation:

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The Power of No

Dan and his partners run a successful technology startup. They've been growing quickly for several years, but now the bloom is off the rose: growth is slowing; the work is not as fun as it used to be; Dan is getting restive.

Being smart business leaders, Dan and his partners came up with a plan to reboot the business by developing a new line of products aimed at larger enterprise clients with complex problems that Dan and his team are uniquely positioned to solve. More clients, money, more interesting work — a brilliant solution.

And then nothing happened.

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Are You Leading From Your Whole Body Yes?

Mark called me for support in addressing infighting at his startup. Though Steve, his head of sales, was generating a rapid influx of new business, he was not a team player. He was often late to meetings or skipped them all together, raised his voice with colleagues who he felt were not meeting his customer’s needs, and complained regularly about his lack of compensation to whomever would listen.

Morale was low organization-wide. After interviewing the various teams it was clear that Steve was a catalyst for a lot of drama in their workplace. As CEO, Mark chose to invest in Steve by having us coach him to address his behaviors that were negatively affecting others.

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Everybody Needs a Coach

Fred Muller is one of the best golf club professionals in the world. Fred has been the head pro at Crystal Downs Country Club, one of the best golf courses in the world, for 39 years. He lives in his genius as much as anyone I know. He is a pro’s pro and he’s my pro.

Last night I wandered into one of my favorite local restaurants in Frankfort, Michigan where my wife, Debbie and I spend our summer. To my surprise and delight Fred was sitting at the counter having a glass of wine. Fred introduced me to his friends who were joining him for dinner. I took my seat at the counter to enjoy an evening’s meal and a little reading.

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Stop Gossiping and Get Unstuck

Recently a client—let’s call him “George”—complained to me that his boss had not appreciated him in years. George was resentful.

I asked George how many people he’d bad-mouthed his boss to over the years. “A lot,” he replied.

“Have you ever shared your feelings and thoughts about not being appreciated with your boss?” I asked. “No,” George answered.

Gossiping is a convenient way to avoid taking responsibility for our life’s circumstances. If we point the finger over there, we don’t have to own the results we’re creating from over here.

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The One Thing No One Says About Gossip

Gossip. We’ve all been a part of it one way or another. Maybe we were the person who had the big secret to share (by far the best role in any gossip situation) or we were the one who participated in it with wild abandon by agreeing with every word that was said and adding in our own judgments for good measure. At minimum, we were the one who “only” listened. There are lots of reasons that we participate in gossip, but the one big theme that seems to occur in all gossip situations is “comparison.” That’s right, good ‘ole fashioned comparison.

There are two types of comparisons that we typically make. One  is the “downward social comparison,” the other the “upward social comparison.” When we use a downward social comparison, we dismiss the “other” as not as good as we are. This is easy to do.

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How to Stop Issues from Recycling

Have you ever had the experience of an issue that keeps recycling? A recycling issue is one that keeps coming up over and over. It could be the trust issue between marketing and legal or the drama between your CFO and the EVP of Operations. It could also be specific issues like the quality of one particular product that never meets expectations or one customer that never seems satisfied.

Recycling issues are not just a professional problem; they’re personal as well. You and your wife talk over and over about her mother and every time you do an argument erupts. Your 10 year old just won’t do their homework no matter what you do. You keep recycling your own issue around exercise and weight loss.

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Are You a Candor Black Belt?

I’ve taught leaders about candor for many years and I’ve noticed that there are levels of candor mastery just like levels of martial arts. A white belt and a fifth degree black belt are both practicing Karate but with very different levels of proficiency.

Everyone who speaks candidly practices the three key components of candor: honesty, openness and awareness. But not everyone practices at the same commitment and skill level.

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Hard Work Hardly Works

I used to be a really busy guy. Two phones, back-to-back meetings, no time to pee. The only solution I could think of was sleeping less.

And I wasn’t alone. This recent story in the New York Times, documenting the rise in use and abuse of stimulants like Ritalin among professional adults, shows how crazy things have gotten in the executive ranks.

The pressure to be on 24/7 is so intense that one recent study found the few executives who do work reasonable schedules are careful no one at work finds out.

I finally stepped off the high-speed treadmill when I realized the 24/7 work style was not only counter-productive, but was also huge cover-up for my dissatisfaction, fear and loneliness.

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When Being Positive is Downright Negative

I did it again. Last Sunday evening, my son came in the room to tell his dad and me that his first choice college—the last one he was waiting to hear from—didn’t accept him.   I noticed that there was some emotion on his face, but chose to ignore it. Instead, I enthusiastically said, “But the good news is that you still got into UCLA which is such a great accomplishment.”

My husband wisely interrupted me and asked that I not skip over my son’s feelings.  We both paused in silence for a moment. Then my husband asked our son how he was feeling about the news.

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Investment Bankers, High-Stakes Decisions and EQ

Investment banks are not exactly bastions of touchy feely sentimentalism. They are no nonsense, hard driving, competitive and bottom line focused. The people who live in these worlds are some of the highest IQ people on the planet.   

So why did they invite me talk to a group of their high potential, next generation leaders about (pause for suspense) FEELINGS?

Why? Because they are part of an ever-growing group of leaders who know that IQ will only get you so far, and that EQ (emotional intelligence) can take you even farther. The EQ body of research has been around for several decades. Thanks to pioneers like Dan Goleman, the research has shown that EQ trumps IQ as a predictor of long-term success in a leader’s career.

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Are You Curious? It’s A Question That Takes a Village to Answer

Most of us are good at fooling ourselves into believing that we are more curious than we really are. This is why we need to enlist others to give us feedback as to how curious we really are.

One of the signal strengths of successful leaders is their commitment to curiosity
-- their ability to look at every situation and see it not in terms of right and wrong, or us vs. them, but to ask, "What can I learn from this?" It's a quality that allows them to adapt to changing conditions, to learn from adversity and turn adversaries into teachers. In the conscious leadership forums we hold across the country, we ask people to locate themselves as above or below the line as they discuss a specific issue in their lives. So far we have discovered that 80% of the time when people think they are above the line, their team or community says otherwise.

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The Do's and Don'ts of How to Become a Conscious Leader

Many leaders aren’t conscious, even a lot of the famous ones who get results. A conscious leader is one who is “here now in a non-reactive non-triggered way and therefore able to access greater IQ, EQ and BQ”. What a mouthful that is. The first key is being here now. Dr. Ellen Langer of Stanford University says that most of us aren’t here now, and we’re not here now enough to know we’re not here now. This is really true of leaders.

Instead of being here now they are in the future or the past. Instead of listening to the person right in front of them, they’re checking email or texting a client. Being here now is a cornerstone of conscious leadership. When leaders ARE here now they are often triggered and reactive. Being triggered and reactive actually gets them to be present. But they’re present in an ineffective way.

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Are You Fully Revealed?

The other day I asked a team of twenty, “Who is withholding thoughts or feelings from someone else on the team?” Every person’s hand went up. This is a typical response from most teams I work with. Companies rarely offer models to effectively clear up conflicts, resulting in a lack of willingness to bring up issues in the first place.

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5 Keys to Being Conscious in Conflict

In a recent executive coaching survey conducted by Navalent and co-sponsored by Stanford Graduate School of Business, Center for Leadership Development and Research 203 CEO’s, senior executives and directors said their greatest area of coaching need was conflict management. Specifically, when serving multiple constituencies, how do you navigate conflicting agendas and the relational conflict that ensues?

In our experience the need for conflict management skill is something all leaders encounter, including CEO’s. It is a master skill of all conscious leaders (and conscious people). We offer five keys to help navigating conflict if you want to be a transformational leader who moves themself and their team to a whole new level of effectiveness.

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For a Fresh Start, Try Curiosity

For Richard, life as director of the most important department in his global organization was an endless series of goals to meet, bureaucratic battles to win, and requests to fulfill. He was good at it, and was a major reason his organization was seen as a leader in its field. 

But the years were taking their toll, and when we first started working together Richard said he was tired, felt stale and wasn’t sure he was having the impact that he wanted. Richard was looking for a fresh start.

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The Value of Drama

At the Conscious Leadership Group we specialize in supporting leaders as they learn to shift out of drama and into leading from presence.  We believe this shift in consciousness changes the entire game, both personally and professionally.

But we also believe there is value to living in drama, or what we call “Below the Line.”  What are those benefits?

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15 Commitments to Change your Life and Leadership

If you asked a stranger to follow you around for a month and then asked them, “What am I really committed to?” what would they say? 

Don’t ask them to report what you say you’re committed to but what you’re actually committed to as evidenced by the results. Many leaders tell themselves they’re committed to one thing when the truth is they’re committed to something entirely different according to the results.

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Living with my Inner Brian Williams

I worked at NBC News for 17 years. For much of that time I was high on the intoxicating cocktail of truth-telling to a massive audience, collaboration with some of the smartest people on the planet, self-importance and adrenaline. 

It was exciting and important work that I allowed to envelope me – I didn’t just work for NBC, I felt I was NBC 24/7, whether I was at home or on vacation or flying off on assignment.

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A CEO Gets Fired, Puts Down His Sword, and Ends up Grateful
A true story from the CLG front lines

A CEO of 15 years called me a few weeks ago after being notified by the board that he was being suspended. This powerful and ambitious man was shocked and angry.  He revealed to me all of the critical thoughts he was having about the others involved, and acknowledged that he was plotting out his various revenge scenarios in his mind.  

I reminded him that his seeing the other partners as adversaries and treating them as such was one of the reasons he was in this situation. The bully he thought he was staring down was actually living within. I asked if he would be willing to focus on our commitment #13:

I commit to seeing all people and circumstances as allies that are perfectly suited to help me learn the most important things for my growth.

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Who's Apathetic Now? A Sure-Fire Cure for Federal (and all) Employee Disengagement

What does it mean when the White House has to issue a directive to the entire government to make federal employee engagement a top priority?

On the one hand it means the federal government is in pretty much the same place as America’s private sector employers: A 2012 Gallup survey found that just 30 percent of American workers are “engaged, or involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their workplace.”

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Culture Transformation at Athletico Spurred by the 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership [VIDEO]

Daphne Scott, Director of Leadership Development and Clinical Outcomes at Athletico Physical Therapy, explains how The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership have been instrumental in shifting Athletico from a culture of blaming and complaining to a culture marked by high levels of creativity, engagement and collaboration. Spearheaded with the support of CEO Mark Kauffman, senior leadership engaged with the commitments for years, and were then able to bring what they’d learned throughout the organization. Atletico was voted the #1 place to work in Chicago in 2013, an honor they attribute in large part to their work with The Conscious Leadership Group.

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Leading Authentically – There is No Other Way

I live in Boulder and have the privilege of being surrounded by an incredibly vibrant business ecosystem – mainly populated by early and mid-stage companies, as opposed to the Fortune 500. This means that both my “work” and social environments involve a good deal of conversation about how to (a) become a more advanced leader tracking with company growth; and (b) build out a team and various skill sets within that team to grow in all the right areas.

People seem to be searching for steps and formulas, and there is no question that the book The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership contains 15 very solid recommendations. For me, however, the “system” is fairly straightforward.

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The Sony Hack Reveals the Cost of Gossip and the Value of Candor

While “The Interview” may or may not be worth seeing, the hacking attack against its maker, Sony Pictures Entertainment, has certainly proved entertaining. Not only did the hackers release personal information about Sony studio employees, including their salaries and medical information, they also released details of upcoming movies, company financial information and other critical details.

The release of emails from studio executives garnered the most attention. That’s because they were full of catty Hollywood gossip – nasty words about Angelina Jolie, ill-considered comments about President Obama and lots of other snark that was never meant to see the light of day.

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Why Most People Don’t Keep New Year’s Resolutions

Today is Jan 5th.  By now most people who made New Year’s resolutions are already at risk of breaking them.

Most of us know that New Year’s resolutions are problematic on many fronts, but few of us look beyond the obvious reasons for our failure to maintain our resolve.  We can all blame ourselves for not being disciplined enough, or blame “time” for being scarce, or blame the pressures of the real world for limiting our freedom to do what it is we say we want to do.

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A Toast to Living in Completion

So what are Diana and Jim up to as 2014 comes to a close and 2015 peeks its head around the corner?  We’re up to the same thing we’re up to every year during this final calendar week.  Our ritual is completing.

For us completing is a way of living in integrity with our values, agreements and preferences – by completing, we strip away all that is not aligned with the way we want to live and tie up loose ends to bring what remains into alignment.

Part of living a life in a state of completion is to take the final days of every year to move through all the nooks and crannies of our physical, emotional and spiritual lives and see if anything is incomplete.

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How to Become a Conscious Leader

Many people are interested in becoming a more conscious (awake, present, engaged) leader. At the Conscious Leadership Group we believe there are three foundational moves that are the basis of all conscious leadership. If you want to be a conscious leader you must master these moves.

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The Art of Stop: A Lesson in Conscious Leadership from one of San Francisco’s Finest

I support my clients—many are workaholics—to create more balanced and fulfilling lives. Recently, it took more than one reminder by the same fine gentleman in blue for me to realize that I’d joined my clients’ workaholic ranks.

This year I revved up my pace to launch a book, website and consulting firm. I worked longer hours, stayed up later, checked my devices more, created lengthier to-do lists, researched all sorts of topics, and filled my days with meetings. I simultaneously watched as interest in other areas of my life waned.

Seduced by the excitement of creative activity, my mind didn’t seem to slow down anymore.

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A Thanksgiving Lesson for Uber on Appreciation and Other Commitments of Conscious Leaders

Thanksgiving is a holiday built on a commitment to appreciation. Perhaps we need a special day for this because we appreciate so little. One of the defining features of the unconscious leadership I’ve seen (and embodied myself) is an us-against-them attitude that blinds leaders to the good things their critics do for them.

The latest company to fall prey to this is Uber, the revolutionary ride hailing service that seems to be at war with the world these days. I like Uber for how it has made moving around easier and faster for me, and I wonder how appreciation and other conscious commitments could transform it from pariah to paragon.

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Feeling Your Feelings

The other day the top 40 leaders from one of the premier oil refining companies in the world met to talk about feelings.  How bizarre is that.  By and large these are hard-core engineers … facts and figures, data driven, head type folks. They spent a day learning about feelings because they believe that the leadership styles that have gotten them to where they are (wildly successful) won’t get them where they want to go (continued wild success).

They realize their decision making, problem solving, innovation techniques aren’t good enough.  Tried and true as they are they don’t match up to the speed and complexity of the world as it is.  In addition to what they have they know they need something more.

Their answer: FEELINGS.

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A First Date

Hi.

Seems like a good place to start.  A greeting.  Our first blog is a bit like a first date, a chance to meet and get to know one another.

Unlike most our idea of a first date is to dive right in, to tell you who we are at the deepest level and see if we fit, to see if another conversation is worth having.

So here’s what we’re up to, and  what matters most to us at the Conscious Leadership Group (CLG).  We call it our mission statement, but that’s just fancy language for what we are doing in the world.

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Aug 16, 2017
Jim Dethmer
Going Deeper with The 15 Commitments: The Dark Side of Discipline
Aug 8, 2017
Tim Peek
How I Nearly Torpedoed My Career with Meditation
Jul 25, 2017
Tim Peek
What could possibly be better than being right?
Jul 19, 2017
Jim Dethmer
Going Deeper with The 15 Commitments: 4 Questions Conscious Leaders Ask
Jul 11, 2017
Erica Schreiber
When F*cked is Funny: Humor as a Shift Move
Jun 27, 2017
Jim Dethmer
How To Get Back On The Wagon When You Fall Off
Jun 21, 2017
Jim Dethmer
Going Deeper with The 15 Commitments: What Is My Relationship To Money?
Jun 13, 2017
Diana Chapman
If You Really Want to Change, Rev Your Engine.
Jun 1, 2017
Daphne Scott
Words Matter. Context Matters More.
May 18, 2017
Meg Dennison
Three Ways Conscious Leaders Avoid a United Airlines Debacle
May 17, 2017
Jim Dethmer
Going Deeper with The 15 Commitments: How You’ll Know You’re Leading a Conscious Organization
May 16, 2017
Jim Dethmer
You’re Below the Line When IT’S Serious
May 2, 2017
Erica Schreiber
You Are the Map. Still, You’ve Got to Write it Down.
Apr 19, 2017
Jim Dethmer
Going Deeper with The 15 Commitments: Addiction and Conscious Leadership
Apr 18, 2017
Tim Peek
Following Your Genius: How Easy Can It Be?
Apr 4, 2017
Jim Dethmer
Time: Too Little, Too Much, or Just Right?
Mar 21, 2017
Diana Chapman
Allies Are Everywhere, Whether They Cheer for You or Sue You
Mar 15, 2017
Jim Dethmer
Going Deeper with The 15 Commitments: How to End Relationships from Above the Line
Mar 7, 2017
Daphne Scott
Practice the Commitments and Life Will Be Perfect
Feb 21, 2017
Jim Dethmer
Compete, Compromise or Co-Create
Feb 15, 2017
Jim Dethmer
Going Deeper with The 15 Commitments: Trust, The Transformational Secret Sauce of Conscious Leaders
Feb 7, 2017
Diana Chapman
Conscious Leadership Authenticity Hack: Fact Vs. Story
Jan 24, 2017
Tim Peek
Why It’s Cool to be Uncomfortable
Jan 18, 2017
Jim Dethmer
Going Deeper with The 15 Commitments: 4 Ways of Being with New Year's Resolutions
Jan 11, 2017
Diana Chapman
How to Create a Conscious Culture in 2017
Dec 21, 2016
Jim Dethmer
Going Deeper with The 15 Commitments: The Power of Inquiry
Dec 13, 2016
Daphne Scott
The Power of Story (Less Powerful Than the Power of Fact)
Nov 29, 2016
Diana Chapman
4 Types of Practices for Leaders and Organizations to Cultivate Self-Awareness
Nov 16, 2016
Jim Dethmer
Going Deeper with The 15 Commitments: How Much Feedback Can You Handle?
Nov 15, 2016
Daphne Scott
Say No More Often and Get More Done
Oct 19, 2016
Jim Dethmer
Going Deeper with The 15 Commitments: If You Want Resolutions Focus on Context
Oct 12, 2016
Diana Chapman
5 Ways You Are Making Yourself Tired at Work
Sep 20, 2016
Tim Peek
What if Work/Life Balance is the Problem?
Sep 7, 2016
Jim Dethmer
Going Deeper with The 15 Commitments: Co-Commitment is the Basis of All Great Relationships
Sep 6, 2016
Jim Dethmer
How You and I Are Just Like Donald and Hillary
Aug 24, 2016
Diana Chapman
Why Growing Companies Need to Grieve
Aug 10, 2016
Daphne Scott
What I Didn’t Say: A Practice in Integrity
Aug 3, 2016
Jim Dethmer
Going Deeper with The 15 Commitments: The Power of Clear Commitment
Jul 26, 2016
Jim Dethmer
Why I Love Asana
Jul 12, 2016
Diana Chapman
When Giving Feedback, Can You See That the Opposite is Also True?
Jul 6, 2016
Jim Dethmer
Going Deeper with The 15 Commitments: Conscious Leaders Embrace Discomfort
Jun 22, 2016
Tim Peek
The Dangers of Avoiding Your Genius
Jun 1, 2016
Jim Dethmer
Going Deeper with The 15 Commitments: Ending Personal Suffering
May 17, 2016
Jim Dethmer
How Do You Relate to People Who Are Unconscious or Don’t Get It?
May 4, 2016
Jim Dethmer
Going Deeper with The 15 Commitments: Taking Radical Responsibility
Apr 12, 2016
Diana Chapman
5 Steps to Create Win-For-All Solutions
Mar 8, 2016
Jim Dethmer
3 Keys to Conscious Performance Reviews
Feb 9, 2016
Diana Chapman
A Banker and A Chicago PD Officer Tell it Like it Is: Are We Ready to Listen?
Jan 14, 2016
Tim Peek
How I Got Hit with Abundance
Dec 29, 2015
Jim Dethmer
Seeking is the Cause of Suffering
Dec 2, 2015
Diana Chapman
8 Steps to Be Overwhelmed and Overworked
Nov 17, 2015
Tim Peek
Opposites Attract (Success)
Oct 27, 2015
Jim Dethmer
From a Distance, Nothing is Serious
Oct 21, 2015
Diana Chapman
Play Trumps Sex (Appeal) at 30,000 Feet
Oct 7, 2015
Daphne Scott
15 Commitments? Do I have to do all of these?
Sep 23, 2015
Jim Dethmer
5 Fears to Face Before You’ll be Willing to Do What You Love to Do
Sep 9, 2015
Diana Chapman
5 Ways to Use Appreciation to Create a More Satisfying Work Life
Aug 26, 2015
Jim Dethmer
The Art of Appreciation
Aug 12, 2015
Tim Peek
The Power of No
Jul 28, 2015
Diana Chapman
Are You Leading From Your Whole Body Yes?
Jul 14, 2015
Jim Dethmer
Everybody Needs a Coach
Jun 30, 2015
Diana Chapman
Stop Gossiping and Get Unstuck
Jun 16, 2015
Daphne Scott
The One Thing No One Says About Gossip
Jun 4, 2015
Jim Dethmer
How to Stop Issues from Recycling
May 15, 2015
Jim Dethmer
Are You a Candor Black Belt?
May 5, 2015
Tim Peek
Hard Work Hardly Works
Apr 30, 2015
Diana Chapman
When Being Positive is Downright Negative
Apr 24, 2015
Jim Dethmer
Investment Bankers, High-Stakes Decisions and EQ
Apr 16, 2015
Diana Chapman
Are You Curious? It’s A Question That Takes a Village to Answer
Apr 7, 2015
Jim Dethmer
The Do's and Don'ts of How to Become a Conscious Leader
Apr 2, 2015
Diana Chapman
Are You Fully Revealed?
Mar 24, 2015
Jim Dethmer
5 Keys to Being Conscious in Conflict
Mar 18, 2015
Tim Peek
For a Fresh Start, Try Curiosity
Mar 10, 2015
Jim Dethmer
The Value of Drama
Mar 5, 2015
Jim Dethmer
15 Commitments to Change your Life and Leadership
Feb 10, 2015
Tim Peek
Living with my Inner Brian Williams
Feb 4, 2015
Diana Chapman
A CEO Gets Fired, Puts Down His Sword, and Ends up Grateful
Jan 22, 2015
Tim Peek
Who's Apathetic Now? A Sure-Fire Cure for Federal (and all) Employee Disengagement
Jan 13, 2015
Daphne Scott
Culture Transformation at Athletico Spurred by 15 Commitments
Jan 12, 2015
Sue Heilbronner
Leading Authentically – There is No Other Way
Jan 7, 2015
Tim Peek
The Sony Hack Reveals the Cost of Gossip and the Value of Candor
Jan 5, 2015
Jim Dethmer
Why Most People Don’t Keep New Year’s Resolutions
Dec 29, 2014
Jim Dethmer
A Toast to Living in Completion
Dec 20, 2014
Jim Dethmer
How to Become a Conscious Leader
Dec 11, 2014
Diana Chapman
The Art of Stop: A Lesson in Conscious Leadership from one of San Francisco’s Finest
Nov 26, 2014
Jim Dethmer
A First Date
Nov 26, 2014
Tim Peek
A Thanksgiving Lesson for Uber on Appreciation