2. 4. 6. 8 – Who Do We Appreciate?

I’m still not sure I believe in the universe, or god, or cosmic energy or Buddha or whatever. That said, whether or not he/she/it is real, one thing is certain – he/she/it has a sense of humor.

It’s like the universe has been saying, “Heather, you don’t have to believe in me or fate or anything — that’s fine — but I’m just going to keep tossing signs and coincidences your way, just to keep you guessing.” Continue reading “2. 4. 6. 8 – Who Do We Appreciate?”

Talking about suicide

I didn’t expect to write this, however, learning about Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain hit me hard. I’m going to get personal and go all over the map with this article – you’ve been warned. I’ve been aware of the link between depression and creativity since childhood. “Crazy” runs in my family (i.e. bipolar, multiple personalities, ADD, ADHD, depression etc.) so does creativity. People I love have attempted suicide, a few have succeeded.

For a long time, I assumed extreme emotional vicissitudes – fluctuations between highs and lows was simply the price of being weirdly creative. I tried therapy. For me, it didn’t do much and kind of pissed me off.

I eventually found my therapy in sports, friends and yoga + meditation. Continue reading “Talking about suicide”


Dual Monuments to Our Nation’s Creative Destiny

The George Washington Parkway is one of my favorite drives — for many reasons, not least of which is that it offers many fantastic views of our nation’s capital and scenic natural vistas.  It was during a pre-dawn commute on my way to teach a 6 AM yoga, that I found myself contemplating creativity and the chakras.

Watching the scenery flow by, I noticed the Washington Monument across the river before exiting to jump on 395 past the Air Force Memorial. Thinking about balancing our physical need and metaphysical needs – it struck me that there were few more perfect symbols for yang & yin — than these two monuments. Continue reading “Dual Monuments to Our Nation’s Creative Destiny”


Are you gig blocking your best employees?

“Everyone has a side-gig these days, I have a side gig!” Michael Dumlao, Booz Allen’s Director of Brand, exclaimed after his presentation on their re-branding efforts.  I was impressed with his response. I’d been skeptical when Mr. Dumlao described Booz, the grandfather of management consulting firms, as “a 100-year old start-up.”

I’ve been part of enough change initiatives with large organizations to know the difference between “talking” about being more creatively innovative and actually making it happen. Mr. Dumlao’s answer suggested that their brand transformation had indeed crossed the talk/do chasm.

Earlier that week I had been discussing potential opportunities at a well known consulting firm, let’s call it Firm A – only to discover it has a policy not to allow “side-hustles.” Needless to say, I was bummed.

I left my last company; let’s call it Firm B, because a similar policy left me feeling stifled and bored. My old firm had good reasons for its policy, it was risk-averse, and had strict compliance rules, especially relating to their audit work, and it makes sense not to allow employees to “compete” with the firm.

The reason the Firm A gave me for disallowing side gigs was that they expected all their employee’s energy to go to their work. (As a creative consultant I have to say, that logic reflects a lack of understanding and appreciation for the creative process.) For firm A’s policy to make sense, there has to be perfect alignment of interests between the firm and the individual and very probably perfect information exchange, as well as a shared view of risk. While I can imagine this to be possible, I think it unlikely.

These policies mitigate both value & risk

I remember reading once that in Silicon Valley, investors should look at what programmers work on in their spare time. Looking at these passion projects makes sense. Whenever I was assessing pilots and proof of concept pitches for the data innovation group, I found that the enthusiasm of the data scientists and programmers was a significant indicator of a project’s success, exceeding even the impact of senior leadership’s enthusiasm, and far exceeding expected financial gains. IMO, passion projects are incredibly efficient in terms of time management because folks access flow – an optimized often generative energy state. Also,

People learn by doing

Restricting side projects to a “hobby” – i.e. you can’t test out market viability, means that your best people can’t test and calibrate their impact. Such policies are disempowering and kill entrepreneurial drive. This is a problem if you want to retain “impactors” – a term I lifted from Jenny Blake’s book NYT best-selling book, “Pivot.”

Off the top of my head some benefits for allowing employees to engage in side-gigs

  • Potential cross-pollination of ideas – across industries
  • Empowering under-represented groups to understand their impact
  • Helps employees mitigate financial risk
  • Encourages employees to think like an owner
  • Mitigate “boredom” and develops new skills
  • Encourages external networking
  • Allows impactors to “test” out ideas without the constraint of firm oversight or approval

Lastly, and most obviously, side gigs are rapidly becoming the new norm. According to Upwork, it’s estimated that 50% of millennials are engaged in the gig economy and that number is only expected to grow. I suspect that the most prestigious firms will find that side-gig restrictions will hurt their ability to attract and retain top talent.

Interested in understanding how side-gig can factor into your career habit?

Connect with us by taking the career habit assessment.




The Future is Feedback 

Blind-sided, crushed, devastated, hurt, frustrated, confused, that’s how folks have described the feeling of an unexpected negative annual review.

Communicate like an adult

Long before I became a consultant I came up with the fundamental rule with roommates. “If you don’t tell me something’s wrong – you can’t be annoyed.” It’s a solid rule that has held up in multiple aspects of life and is increasingly important for the relationship economy. I had learned the hard way that if you don’t establish clear expectations, i.e. no dishes in the sink, no borrowing my shoes, no cheese fondue parties chaos reign and issues build up that ultimately wreck your friendship, sexiest coral pumps, and sweet pad.

Continue reading “The Future is Feedback “

Pushing back on “Lean In”

Mary Rose McCaffrey, Vice President of Security at Northrup Grumman did not hold back in her keynote address to McLean High School Women Leaders. In this age of #metoo, she reminded the young women assembled that there are still be plenty of men who will block you and tell you women can’t do the work. Her advice?

“Smile and do it anyway.”

Taking questions from the audience, her gaze alighted on one impossibly slender hand thrust up from the crowd.

The girl, no more than sixteen years old, stood up. Her voice strong as she aseked.
“Can you tell us about a time you had to deal with bias and how you overcame it?”
Mrs. McCaffrey, a veteran with over 31 years in organizations like the CIA, National Intelligence Agency and Dept of Defense laughed softly – as did many of the other mentors in attendance.

We all have stories.

“Honestly, I’ve spent most of my career, not focusing on the folks who wanted to hold me back.” She began, then paused to consider.
“There was a time early in my career. I was assigned to a team, and I was the only woman, which was normal for the time. I knew working with this particular director would be rough, and it was. He would send me to attend the de-briefs he didn’t want to attend. In those meetings, however, they needed decisions from our team. So I made them, and…”
She paused then explained how when she went back to the team, the same director would overturn every one of her decisions. Not for any real reason. It was clear that his goal was to undermine her. Basically, he was being an unreasonable pain in the ass and this happened again and again. 

Her solution? Document it. She kept track of ever occurrence for well over a month. When she had more than enough examples she went to his boss with her evidence.

Long story short, he was removed from that position and she took over as director. I’d like to report,

The crowd went wild.

Well as wild as a bunch of high school girls on their best behavior can be. It was the sort of encouraging Lean-In kind of story that women need to hear to take on the world.

Still, I was uneasy, sitting there with over twenty years of work experience, the story made me pause. Frankly, I resent the need for CYA maneuvers. I admire Mary Rose McCaffrey, her poise, her stoicism and her strength. I don’t think I could have done what she did. The truth of the matter is,

I wouldn’t want to. 

I’ve been in similar situations and have not handled them with such grace. By the time I realized just how biased and messed up the situation was, I didn’t feel like it was worth my effort to document it all. During the networking fair that followed the speech, I mentioned my response to another mentor. She reminded me, 

“She’s the one telling the story– the actual story may have been a lot messier.”
That gave me pause. Women hear these kinds of pithy success stories – all the time. But we often fail to think of the broader context, the white space around the story. There are often numerous assumptions taken for granted that lead to that particular success. Things like:
  1. Objective Power. She had enough perspective and “power” to recognize that her director was gaslighting her. Too often as junior members of a team, without explicit power, we’ll defer to authority – and conflate objective truth with subjective difference. That got me thinking about where her power comes from.
  2. She was married. Clearly, she is extremely talented, but it also helps that she is married. As women put off marriage fvariousous reasons is important to consider what impact this will have on mobility. I remember a 2002 Women in Management leadership panel I attended right before business school, specially that 5 out of 6 of the women panelists were married. All of those that were married credited their success, at least in part, to having a supportive spouse. As a single woman this struck as kind of scary – truth be told it still does.
  3. She was committed. She wanted to be where she was, which speaks to her grit, but also that she had some agency. She was fortunate to have selected a field which was aligned with her strengths. All of which combined to make it more likely that she would put up a fight. Unfortunately, I see too many under-employed folks getting stuck, depressed, and disengaging.
  4. Luck. Finally, there is some modicum of luck having a supportive male leadership. All of which was helped on by her talent, her reputation and frankly her stoicism, which is typically a male style of leadership.
This dissection is not meant to take away from Mrs. McCaffrey’s extraordinary success, talent, and grit. Rather it is to acknowledge that there is a lot more that goes into success than simply grit, and documentation.  If hard work was the answer, we’d have a female president.
We need to learn to listen to this leanin type of stories with a grain of salt. The truth is women are still vastly underrepresented in leadership. It’s not lack of talent or determination or even “babies” that hold women back – let’s face it, it’s bias. If the current systems are too distorted to properly value talent, that talent must create new systems and organizations that will make proper use of it.

Women need to cultivate their personal power on their terms.

That includes figuring out their finances and learning how to make their own money early, so that can eschew and push back on the gender tax (currently at about 25% for white women + one degree).  Women also have a unique advantage when it comes to building deep, trusting connected networks. Women should be empowered to tap into these “softer” strengths authentically and help each other build and sustain opportunities.  In fact, men should as well. We need an inclusive powerful approach to leadership that is not male or female but human and humane.

Career advice is not one size fits all.

If you are interested in taking control of your career take this five-minute assessment and sign up for a complimentary 30-minute review to get you on track!

Imposter Syndrome just IS

Things got a little spicy at last week’s panel discussion on “Imposter Syndrome (IS).” This was not entirely unexpected – as Robert Dempsey explained in his intro, he’d purposely put together a diverse mix of forthright folks who weren’t afraid “to go there.” With that kind of permission, how could we not? All four panelists, myself included, are upwardly and have experienced feeling “outside” the norm – be that by gender, economically or culturally.

The inmates are running the asylum

Danielle Smalls, the moderator asked what role “fitting in”, had in our experiences of Imposter Syndrome. Taking a step back, it should be acknowledged, the need to “belong” and “fit in” isn’t in our heads. The desire for connection and understanding is fundamental to the human experience. As nearly every teenage movie. from Mean Girls to  DrumLine, reveals, dominant groups, i.e. those with “power”, often actively exclude those on the “fringe” – either out of fear, jealousy, or bias. Rivals or new entrants are given absurd, often contradictory feedback and assignments to prove themselves. Which is really just say they are submitting to the leader’s view of reality.

How this plays out in the workplace

As an example much has been written on how women are given conflicting feedback and put in the double bind or the tightrope dilemma, that specifically that they are both too tough, and unlikeable AND also too passive and lacking in confidence. It’s so common that when I asked the women in the audience if they had experienced this – all the hands went up. A fact which seemed to startle the men on the panel.
Most women can relate to the frustration of feedback which is basically telling them to “act like a man”, or worse “we wish you were a man.”  At the same time, many of us have watched as our male peers are applauded for being kind and empathetic, while we are asked to suppress those instincts.
This “double bind” as Adam Galinsky points out in his Ted Talk , is not about “gender” or race or socio-economic differences – it’s about power.
Once you understand that, it’s easier to not take actions quite so personally. We still need to deal with it.

Release the Kraken Feminist!!

Of course, even those of use with the best of intentions can appear to fall into this trap. Towards the end of the discussion, Rob, applauded the male panelists for being vulnerable and empathetic. (To be fair, our male panelists were incredibly forthright about dealing with depression and anxiety.) I had to point out, however, that he inadvertently illustrated the point that women are often expected to possess the ability to be vulnerable and empathetic – it’s almost taken for granted, unrecognized and unrewarded. Still it helped that we had such a safe space to discuss it, in real time, candidly. It also helped that I know Rob fairly well.
I knew he did not disagree and I trusted him. He is actually the first one to agree that vulnerability and compassion are undervalued leadership qualities. It also helps that I understood the context for the comment. A big part of Rob’s personal motivation and focus is helping men unwind the effects of toxic masculinity. As a coach, he actively works on his own blind spots and helping other male leaders safely explore their own. In fact, that’s how the panel came together.

Some of my takeaways from the panel

  • Imposter syndrome often makes you feel like you are alone, or isolated. One counter to IS is to actively seek out and actively cultivate and maintain a trusted tribe, who can give you the right kind of feedback.
  • IS seems to affect innovators and folks creating their own path — with that in mind one can consider it to be a part of the process.
  • IS also seems to affect those who are humble and possess a modicum of humility — as a coach or a manager, it should be considered a GOOD sign of an intellect that is confident enough to question themselves.

Final takeaway

Diversity and inclusion is a big area of interest for me, especially now in the political climate. Having worked for some fairly conservative clients, I’ve rarely been so forthright and candid about my values and those things that I know to be true – including many gender and social inequities. At the end of the panel a few young women, including those of non-white backgrounds, thanked me for saying the things that would have been uncomfortable saying. It reminded me that there is power in simply stating the truth out loud and repeating it. Making folks aware of our different realities, and their blind spots (like how everyone has been put into the double bind position) — is the only way for folks to acknowledge and deal with these problems.

The Career Habit

Sign – up for the May BETA LAUNCH 

What is “The Career Habit”

An affordable coaching option that will empower people to take control of their career; to have an impact – in a way that is both kind and direct.

What’s the problem

Legacy career coaching services (either through school or even one-on-one career coaches) is often “one size fits all.” Career coaches often make assumptions, and frankly aren’t very empathetic or “human-centered.” It’s frustrating that their advice and facts/figures do not account for diversity and 1st generation challenges. Also, old-school coaching often is dated and does not take into account the future of work or the current research on positive psychology.
Career maintenance is like an MBA for your career. It prepares folks for an on-demand future with non-automated skills (robots and AI) and mindset tools for confidence, decision-making, networking and leading.

So what services are actually included in the “program”

  • Career assessment
  • 30-minute 1-1 review of your assessment results with custom recommendations.
  • Career Maintenance Workbook (pdf)
  • Career Maintenance Strategy E-book (August)
  • Video Lessons
  • Weekly Challenges
  • Facebook Group
  • Weekly Q&A with coaches


Q: What’s this cost?

Typically an hour of one-one coaching goes for $100, $200, $300 & up. A typical “career coaching package costs $800 and up and is little more than a resume edit and cover letter review.

Value is not based on price.

Instead of fixating on “how much” career coaching typically costs (in terms of money, time and effort). Really think about the value coaching can create for you. Ask:

  • How much is it worth to you to feel confident navigating your career?
  • How much would it be worth to be able to negotiate a higher raise?
  • How much is it worth to get a promotion faster?
  • To be happier in your current job?
  • To understand your worth and claim it?
  • To launch a side business?
  • To find your business partners and collaborators?

Q: Ok, but seriously what is the cost?

A: The beta program will be DONATION BASED. Meaning if you are accepted into the beta cohorts you can choose how much you pay. Beta participants are expected to be engaged and provide kind but honest/direct feedback on content!! Also be a bit forgiving! Finally, they are expected to refer other adventurous, kind, impact-driven people.
Eventually, this may be a subscription service (probably between $10 – $25 a month). The goal is for participants to get a full year of group coaching and on-demand support for less than 2 hours of “normal” one-on-one coaching.

Q: So can we pay nothing?

A: Nope – you do have to pay something. For good reason, according to studies, when people pay money (even $1)  they are more likely to engage and put in the effort that will actually make the process a success.
Additional benefits in addition to bragging rights (obviously)
  • Early access & the ability to offer “priority” invitations
  • 1-1 coaching discounts to recommended coaches
  • If you sign up during the beta period – your “price” will ALWAYS be donation based – even if this thing blows up and we become the size of Netflix.
  • Finally, you will get sneak previews of new material and events!

Q: Where can I sign up



Event Facilitation

Graphic facilitation and illustration is a way to document meetings and create a visual artifact of key learnings. Uses for Graphic Illustrations:

  • Promote Learning and Recall
  • For use in External Marketing materials and proposals
  • For use in Training
  • As visual reminders

2020 Power to Fly Diversity ReBoot Summit (Virtual)

2017 TEDx Indianapolis Women

What Gertrude Stein taught me yesterday afternoon

I blame Amy Cuddy, having recently finished her book Presence I’ve been keyed into body language. So when I came across feminist icon Gertrude Stein’s “portrait” in the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, I was struck by her pose – specifically her lack of a power pose.

According to the blurb, the artist created it very intentionally in the shape of the Buddha, which is something I can appreciate – but still. My first impression was of a sad old woman, I stood above her as she looked down her face shaded, her back stooped.

I frowned. I wanted to see her enlivened, powerful!

And then –I’m not sure why — I did something weird.

I got my knees and I looked up.

Screen Shot 2018-03-16 at 10.43.42 AM.png

As you can see

That changed everything.

It reminded me of teaching early in my career at Philadelphia’s University City high school (shoot out the Black Bottom). I was working with a student on her college applications – and she told me about another student who didn’t want my help and how she thought that was crazy. (I’m sure it was meant as a compliment).

Yesterday, I was reminded again because clearly, I needed it, that sharing knowledge is an act of grace. To learn requires admitting you don’t know everything, to teach is to learn, and to offer wisdom to those who need to be willing to accept it on faith.

The Artist and Fundamentalist Battle in Modern America

Growing up across the river from Washington, I hated politics. I thought social studies was “boring!” Looking back what has always bothered me about politics is how power makes people act like assholes. Studying history it all seem so — inefficient – all that arguing didn’t matter until you do the right thing and stopped being selfish jerks. My younger self had no patience for the long arc of history to arrive at justice. Frankly, I’m not sure if my old self does either.

I left the D.C. area after high school and returned after nearly two decades. It’s a crazy time to be living here during the Trump years, although I suspect it would have pulled me back in no matter where I was in the world. It’s impossible and irresponsible to eschew politics these days.

My heart is breaking, watching our country tear itself apart. Blame the media, fake news, foreign trolls etc. I think what’s going on,

Is bigger than that.

We are witnessing the growing pains of a significant shift not just in U.S. politics but in humanity. It is the transition from a survival-focus to a growth-focus.

Stepping beyond the veil of “survival”

In his book, “Deviate” Beau Lotto observes the human mind has evolved for one primary reason – “survival.” For most of human history – all our systems and organizations and power has been constructed to ensure our physical survival.

In a survival mindset, the mind is focused, alert and primarily concerned about the physical self, the ego, and the tribe. In contrast, a growth mindset is relaxed, curious and expansive. Once basic physical needs, food, shelter, physical security are met and money is not a concern – a growth mindset is achievable.

Hippy Translation: If you’ve ever meditated on the chakras, you understand that it is the balance (chakra 4) of our humanity (chakras 1,2,3) and our “divinity” (chakras 5,6,7) – and alignment that is ideal.

Where the problem lies

That survival “game” is only the preliminary phase. Unfortunately, the winners of that “game” are reluctant to give up their power (money, status, political etc.) rooted in the physical world in favor of a more inclusive game with new rules and new values.

Those folks are locked in survival mode. It’s a narrow, dimmed focus, that “cannot afford to be kind.” Kindness, art, love, generosity, global community is a luxury for the delusional, pampered and weak.

That point of view is limited and sad (ugh — I hate how Trump ruined that world).

The world reflects what we give it. If we give it war, scarcity, and cruelty, it will reflect war, scarcity, and cruelty. In other words, whether you believe in survival or growth you are right.

Moving forward

“I didn’t even think about being happy,” was the feedback several top clients gave Marshall Goldsmith in his New York Times best-selling book, “Triggers.” It’s a sentiment that seems to be more prevalent among older generations. You work to live and to provide for your family. You can be happy when you retire or die. (If you think that sounds absurd, you are probably an artist, born after 1980, or European.)

What do warriors do when there is no war?

We need our warriors to stop fighting old battles and to give up the fight for the status quo or a reversion to an era of inequity (#MAGA). We’re better than that.

Our fight for survival has been a warm-up for our fight for understanding and growth.

Staring into the depths of the universe, into the tabla rasa of our understanding is as daunting as fighting for survival.

I think it’s a far more interesting and worthwhile game – and I suspect we’re going to need that creativity for this next phase as we discover how to live sustainably.



See Also:

The negative cycle of underemployment

I worry about writing too much about bias and gender equity. Frankly, in my experience, talking about these topics has been career limiting. It’s why women stay silent, why they ignore it and push through. It also explains why we haven’t made any substantive headway on this issue in the last decade. I first heard about the mediocre man phenomenon, at my first Women in Management panel in 2002 in New York City.

Indra Nooyi, who is now the CEO of Pepsi (how is that for a name drop) was on the panel. She, along with all the other women, joked about how guys apply when they are half qualified and women when they are overqualified.

Haha… Er … it’s been over 14 years now, why does it feel like the jokes on us?

How has nothing changed?

Building on the discussions that emerged from these kinds of workshops. I pulled together a journey map of sorts to demonstrate why the qualifications gap and perception bias really is a problem and how it destroys value and perpetuates bias.

The table below shows how the Nina’s of the world, the well- and over-qualified, get screwed.

Screen Shot 2018-03-10 at 8.54.12 PM

As you can see from the example above “Finn – 50%” has earned the promotion, but the truth is “Nina-90%” is wallowing in the shallow end and bored. Her value and contributions are being wasted. Unless those without power can break the negative cycle (either getting a manager to recognize them and/or have the will and coaching to break the cycle and create their own opportunities), the Nina-90s are destined to become fodder to be leveraged.

Maybe she really should go off and pop out a couple babies.


Of course, not everyone wants to be engaged or in a state of flow. Some women actually find “relaxation” ideal while they raise a family. Unfortunately, that choice is often made for them.  Do I even need to suggest this is wrong? Organizations need to have that discussion rather than assume that preference.

It’s frustrating being told to “lean-in” – especially considering how in the example Nina did lean in – taking on additional work, job crafting to demonstrate value, that was overlooked. You could argue that Nina should have held out for a better job or applied for a job that she was only 50% qualified but that assumes that there is no bias in the hiring process and that Nina does not perceive bias in the hiring process, which would be naive given both her experience and the evidence.

It also assumes she has the financial luxury of holding out (money being another form of power). This example plays with gender power dynamics, but the truth is it could also be played with racial or socioeconomic power dynamics.

Yes, we need to coach our women to be brave not perfect however that is only part of the equation. We can’t keep putting the onus on those without power. Organizations need to step up to plate. They need to use analytics to recognize, reward and empower their talent in a way that mitigates power from compounding and perpetuating bias.


  • Calibrating talent internally and externally – they also need to look at impact through the lens of equality of opportunity
  • Hiring in “pools” – interviewing for strengths and inclusion – as opposed to interviewing based on an outdated perception of confidence
  • Hiring that is forward-looking, based potential as well as AIQ and EIQ for cultural fit.
  • Measuring and recognizing job-crafting contributions
  • Using analytics to set “alerts” for potential system and organizational bias
  • Creating an atmosphere where folks can manage their “engagement” based on their life stage (i.e. family obligations) and get back on the “fast track” when ready.

I mean, isn’t this obvious? What isn’t this more of a thing?