Category Archives: Leadership

What Business Leaders Are Getting Wrong About Bias Training

Adapted from Disrupt Bias, Drive Value: A New Path Toward Diverse, Engaged, and Fulfilled Talent (A Rare Bird Books paperback original; November 14, 2017. by Sylvia Ann Hewlett, Ripa Rashid, and LauraSherbin.

It’s perhaps the most famous case study in the young history of attempts to combat bias. In 1952, the Boston Symphony Orchestra introduced “blind auditions”: to reduce gender bias in hiring, orchestra directors held auditions behind a screen.

As the legend goes, the intervention appeared at first to have a surprising result: that there was no bias in the audition process. The screen made little difference in who made it past the first round of auditions. Then, suspecting that the click-clack of high heels permitted judges to identify women as they entered, the hiring committee asked the musicians to take off their shoes.

Suddenly, the judges could focus on the music itself — and far more women made it through to the second round of auditions.

Other orchestras began adopting the Boston Symphony’s approach in the 1970s. By the 1990s, many saw increases in the number of female players. The New York Philharmonic, for example, reached 35 percent female musicians by 1997 — a dramatic increase over having zero female players for decades. One study of eleven major orchestras found that up to 55 percent of their increase in new female hires could be attributed to blind auditions.

The broader impact of blind auditions has been revolutionary. Not only have they spread across the music world, they also serve as a parable for bias busting in business books.

A sure sign of a legend, parts of the story even appear to be mythical — we couldn’t trace the high heels detail past secondary sources. High heels or no, the tale of the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s blind auditions — and peer-reviewed research about their impact — has helped many business leaders understand the enormous role bias plays in how they hire, evaluate, and promote employees.

Unfortunately, the insights many have drawn from this intervention neglect its most important lesson. Rightly convinced that bias exists and that it must be largely unconscious — most business leaders must tell themselves that they’re choosing the most qualified person for a given position — organizations have invested heavily in bias awareness training. The idea is to make us all aware of our biases so that we can recognize them and resist acting on them.

Yet, there’s little evidence that bias awareness training accomplishes its goals. There’s even evidence, in fact, that it may do more harm than good. And the focus on bias awareness ignores the Boston Symphony’s most important lesson: that you must pinpoint where bias is happening, and then create a system (such as a screen and shoeless musicians) that mitigates that bias or prevents it from influencing decisions.

Taking the path that most bias-busting programs have missed, our approach begins not with cultivating awareness of bias among leaders, but with studying the experience of bias among those who are led.

Awareness of bias isn’t enough to stop it.

Asking individuals to fix their own biases fails, as a standalone intervention, to address systemic pressures that reward “fast thinking” or “gut” decision-making, pressures that ensure current leadership archetypes remain in place.

When we interact with another person, whether as a coworker, subordinate, supervisor or interviewee, we make countless “fast” decisions and judgments that add up to our opinion of that person. It’s impossible to expect people to constantly call out their own bias, accurately note it, and appropriately compensate for it throughout an hour-long interview or promotion committee meeting, much less throughout the months or years that make up a working relationship.

What would an effective solution consist of? The answer, we posit, is not to expect every individual to successfully identify and alleviate every possible instance of unconscious bias that they may exhibit. Instead, we identify conditions that cool down bias where it counts the most — when employees feel misjudged by leaders on their potential to succeed.

With its blind auditions, the Boston Symphony Orchestra didn’t discover a way to get audition judges to recognize and compensate for all of their biases. It found a system that prevented those biases from influencing their judgment.

Unfortunately, for most decisions being made in corporate America, there’s no way to create the equivalent of a blind audition.

In most organizations, the solution set will have to be more complex than putting up a screen and asking applicants to take off their shoes. It will have to target both manager behavior and the culture that shapes the employee experience. And it first requires individuals to understand precisely where bias is felt, so that organizations can map, measure and disrupt it where costs to individuals and their organizations are the greatest.

“There is something truly insurgent in saying, ‘Hey, let’s go look at the people who are impacted by bias, listen to them and then figure out solutions based on that,’ instead of starting top-down,” Philippe Krakowsky, executive vice president and chief strategy and talent officer at Interpublic Group, told us after we shared our methodology with him. “In the past, we’ve known bias exists, we’ve known that it permeates institutions, and yet we’ve approached it in a way that is very process-oriented — and not very connected to its effects on the individual.”


Executives of Yesteryear Would Have Scoffed At These 4 Critical Leadership Skills

There’s a particular brand of humor conjured by “Mad Men” and other retro workplace dramas. The outdated office culture — from the way women are treated to the nonstop drinking on the job — provides a throwback reason to snicker and commiserate about the “old days.”

Add in the prototypical business leader of generations past (rigid, fierce, gruff and intimidating), and you’ll see a picture that’s completely different from the modern corporate climate.

Today’s successful business leader is an emotionally intelligent, collaborative visionary. Explain that to your grandpa, and he’ll likely have a good laugh. But if you want the bottom line on what it takes to be a business leader today, read on.


Empathy is the ability to feel what someone else is feeling — to put yourself in his or her proverbial shoes. When your middle manager, Caroline, tells you her son is sick, you know she needs to pick him up from school because she’s a single mother. An empathetic person immediately understands the stress and frustration Caroline must be feeling, and validates it. The empathic leader approves her request to leave early. In addition, the empathic executive empowers Caroline with the option to work from home during the next few days so she can tend to her son.

Business leaders of the past would have been indifferent toward Caroline’s situation, feelings or options. Today’s successful leaders recognize the critical nature (and bottom-line business impact) of taking care of their employees. They know that when employees are happy, they’re more likely to be engaged — and engaged employees are more productive.

Gary Vaynerchuk described it this way during a recent episode  of his “DailyVee” program: “You work for your team — they don’t work for you. How many times have you sat down with [them] one by one for three hours and asked them what they care about in life and how can you help them? That’s the answer, bro. How do you get your team to care? Care for them first.”

Data-driven decision-making.

Data-driven decision-making means relying on analytics to guide every business decision. Data-based evidence leads to insights, and executives then can turn those insights into actions that position the business for success.

Back in the day, technology limited the amount of available data. It made sense to make decisions based on a combination of gut feelings and past experience. Today, however, the truth is out there, and 60 percent of companies regularly analyze four or more internal data sources before making decisions.

“Every company has its problems, and often data-driven methodologies can help solve these problems,”explains Eran Levy of the business-intelligence (BI) platform Sisense . “Whether it’s high customer churn rates or ballooning operational costs, data analysis can help you understand where your business is stumbling as well as suggest possible causes and solutions.”


To succeed in business in the past, you had to succeed on your own. Success, power, raises, promotions and market share resulted from what you could do better, faster or cheaper than the next guy. Building, inspiring and motivating a team didn’t make sense.

Today, we value the power of accomplishment in groups. We know we can get more done if we work together. The Larry Tates of the world never would have asked direct reports for ideas or direction. He was the boss, and he dictated thusly. In his mind, lower-level employees were supposed to work their way up and respect their elders.

Today, however, successful executives are not only comfortable relying on their teams for new strategies, they actively foster a culture of collaboration.


Corporate transparency is a commitment to informing employees about what’s going on in the company, whether it’s positive or negative.

In the past, business leaders kept this information to themselves. Only those in positions of power needed to know the score. Today’s leaders understand that being transparent about company goals and earnings makes employees feel more valued.

Corporate-culture consultant Glenn Llopis reinforces the idea that transparency helps cultivate trust . “If you are transparent, especially during the worst of times, you actually strengthen your leadership as people begin to trust you as person and thus will respect you more as a leader.”

Be today’s leader.

Although business leaders of the past did help us get to where we are today, let’s stop relying on them for inspiration. It’s time to turn over a new leaf and embrace the modern executive.


You’re Not a Regular Boss, You’re a ‘Cool’ Boss — Would Your Employees Agree?

As an entrepreneur who started a midsize company (and recently sold it), I can tell you that every business owner wants to be a cool boss. And by cool, I mean likable.

I don’t think anyone starts out as a manager or business owner saying, I’m going to be the boss that people dread seeing at work every day. Unfortunately, it’s very hard to be a cool boss. It really is.

Have you ever seen (or been …) a parent who is losing his cool while his kids run around, slightly out of control or throwing a tantrum? That is very similar to what its like as a boss. When you’re in a high-pressure environment, or people make mistakes, or clients are upset, it can be so easy to lose that cool.

So, how do you overcome those tough moments? Try to imagine yourself as a parent who speaks calmly instead (I know, easier said than done …). It’s important to remember that you’re there to lead people, and part of that means training them, too. You need to find people you can rely on, create structure and cultivate a culture that produces great work.

On top of it all, the term “culture” within the context of business has been consistently one of the most discussed topics in the last few years. Recent research by Deloitte in its 2017 Global Human Capital Trends report shows that isn’t going to change anytime soon, with organizational culture and employee satisfaction still remaining a priority as we head into 2018.

It’s not really a surprise that organizations are prioritizing their employees’ experience at work. In many ways, you could even argue that this emphasis on ensuring that people are comfortable in their office is long overdue.

So, how can you — either as a manager, or the supreme leader of the company at large — create a pleasant work environment while fostering a productive and open environment with your employees?

Firstly, breathe. Don’t let the craziness of the day get to you. I know a lot of executives who meditate each morning for 15-30 minutes (although, in all honestly, I personally can not manage to do this). Now that you’ve got that off your chest, below are a few things that have helped me be a better, cooler boss.

1. Lead by example.

Of course, one of the first things you think about when someone asks you if you’re happy in your current role is probably whether your manager is doing a good job. What you determine as “good” is entirely up to you, but from a manager or CEO’s perspective, there are a series of things that might help ensure employees are not only satisfied but feel empowered to produce the best work they can.

The most important ways to demonstrate this is through leading by example. Demanding tasks get done may actually get them done, but it won’t answer the “why” behind the action, or the many questions your employees may have. Instead of barking orders, take the time to teach employees the proper way to complete projects. Not only will it ultimately get you better work, but your employees will appreciate you taking time out of your day to support them the way they support you.

Another way is to not be afraid to “get dirty” — one of fitness studio SoulCycle’s core ideas. All new employees — including any level of corporate employee (yes, execs too) — notoriously  work the front desk of a studio several times before starting their actual jobs. This idea of anyone being willing and able to complete any task fosters a work environment filled with camaraderie.

2. Hire for longevity.

As a manager or CEO, you can do yourself (and your company) a big favor by hiring for the future and selecting employees based on culture-fit, rather than specifically whether they’re good at hard skills required for the role. This might have sounded crazy years ago, but has been proven effective by some of the world’s largest and fastest growing companies.

Organizations are now placing a higher priority on placing in LinkedIn’s  top employer rankings than anything else. At the top end of these rankings, you’ll find companies that value their workers, and offer more than a monthly salary. You need only look at Netflix’s culture manifesto  for inspiration  when it comes to ways you can determine which employees to choose for longevity rather than short-term success.

To accomplish this, Away co-founder Stephanie Korey follows the sage advice of another CEO, Neil Blumenthal of Warby Parker: Hire slow. “At the end of the day, you’re much better off juggling extra work for a bit longer than you were hoping than bringing on a new team member who isn’t perfect for the culture you’re building and role you’re filling,” she told  Taste The Style .

3. Empower others to step into leadership.

Part of being a strong manager is knowing when to take a step back and let others shine. While you may be a control freak or like things done just so, sometimes its best to let an employee run point on a big project. But, by empowering others to take initiative, they’ll be more likely to think critically, work harder and brainstorm more ideas in the future, as opposed to feeling boxed into their dull daily duties.

4. Create a positive working environment.

Moods are extremely contagious, and as a manager, it is ultimately your role to drive the mood in your team or office. Creating a positive working environment isn’t an easy task, but it shouldn’t be rocket science either.

Express gratitude to your employees on a regular basis. In addition to the frequent “thank you,” ensure you offer some motivational encouragement that will support your employees in all aspects of their career.

Finally, positive reinforcement is a powerful tool for managers. Giving your employees the scope to make a difference, and thanking them for doing so, are two of most compelling positive reinforcement techniques that you can use as a manager.

5. Welcome constructive criticism.

Although you might be higher up on the professional food chain, it doesn’t mean you — or the company — doesn’t have room for improvement. All employees of all levels should be welcome to share their opinions on policies and procedures and pitch new ideas.

Firstly, you never know where the next great idea may come from, so why not empower everyone to be thinking big for the brand? In addition, the idea of being open to constructive criticism creates a sense of partnership between you and your employees; that you both want the best for each other, and for the company.

Try taking a cue from Procter and Gamble CEO David Taylor, who hosts regular “Straight Talk” sessions where employees can give candid feedback for constructive and positive company change, according to Chief Executive.

6. Learn how to handle the heat.

Setting aside the organizational factors that impact how employees perform, and removing generational factors from the equation, if you want to be perceived as a “cool” boss, then you have to be able to handle not just the good, but the bad and the ugly. Hiding from responsibilities when things get tough in the office will only damage your chances of having your employees on your side throughout the rest of the year.

Additionally, there’s something to be said for finding a balance between being a supportive figure, and a manager in charge of ensuring that company targets are met each month. It’s good to be understanding, grateful, kind and motivational, but with all that comes an increased requirement to be a manager first and foremost.

Forming an organizational strategy that enables a culture-first approach to hiring will massively help you and your company in the long run. Couple that with easy-yet-progressive leadership techniques, and you’ll get the most from employees that are happy to commit their efforts toward you and your company for years to come.


7 Ways Modest Leadership Increases Team Success

When we imagine the traits of successful leaders, whether they are managers, high level executives, CEO’s or owners of successful companies we typically view them to be strong, charismatic, enthusiastic and visionary. The one important trait often overlooked in great leaders is modesty.

To be great, leaders need more depth than a loud mouth, the power of persuasion, and over the top self-confidence. This type of leadership is top-down, wedging a great divide between leaders and their team members or colleagues. Leaders who possess an air of modesty have shown to produce higher quality work and to drive higher quality performance in the following ways.

1. Inclusive

Modest leaders have no need or desire to be better, separate or above those they lead. They take an egalitarian approach to their leadership. They welcome and are open to hearing the thoughts, ideas and opinions of others. Rather than seeking others to approve of them, they are more interested in seeing how others can help them improve the overall culture of success. These types of leaders are effective because they place such a high value and making decisions which are in the best interest of their team. They are clear that no one person has all the answers, especially themselves. People work harder for leaders who value what they have to contribute rather than having their opinions ignored and/or dismissed. Modest leaders are comfortable asking for input but can be equally as decisive when the situation calls for it.

2. Other centered

When leaders are genuinely concerned for the well-being of their team members, it makes sense that team members would show higher quality performance. Their leader is viewed as among them, as “on their team.” This doesn’t indicate the leader has to babysit or micromanage their every move; rather, the work environment, as a whole, is based in caring and teamwork. No one is left alone to struggle. Unassuming leaders used positive acknowledgement as a motivating force, as they know people cannot be demeaned or beat-up into producing quality work. It has been shown time and again, that productivity is much higher when team members believe their leader is consistently looking out for them.

3. Accountability

One of the key makers of modesty is the ability to admit wrong. It is difficult for team members to be transparent and open when leaders make themselves emotionally unavailable, immune to being wrong or to making critical mistakes. This creates an oppressive, causing team members to work in fear and to hide mistakes whenever possible.

As human beings, we all make mistakes. When our leader is self-effacing and open about their own missteps, how they deal with and recover from them, team members learn to trust their leader more deeply and to see him/her as more understanding and approachable. This inspires team members to openly seek guidance and receive feedback when needed. People don’t typically feel compelled to follow a leader who has never suffered. The greatest compliment to a great leader, is the trust of their team members.

4. Composure

Modesty brings composure. Effective leaders are able to accept ambiguity instead of struggling for the need to control. They accept that not everything can be perfectly anticipated or predicted. When humility is present, leaders show the composure to wait and see how uncertain factors fall into place before making decisions. Many leaders want to control everything. Reality is, there are simply some things that absolutely cannot be known upfront. The composure to wait takes self-control, and helps leaders to more accurately know when to step in and take charge, and when to give things a bit more time to marinate. These types of leaders are great models for letting things go instead of trying to force things in place. There is great value in being able to admit that the best answer or course of direction isn’t always available until more information becomes available. This skill is exactly what they want to teach and see emulated in those they lead.

5. Personal growth

Modesty is best developed through investing in our own personal growth, as modesty doesn’t come easy to everyone. The large majority of effective leaders engage in daily journaling and reading to keep themselves focused and well managed. They examine where they’re succeeding, and the areas in which they need improvement. By documenting what they do well in their interactions and how they could have communicated better enhances their perspective on where they are in need of some improvement. They encourage their team members to also actively engage in their own self-reflection, so as to increase their capacity to succeed.

6. Value independence

Overcontrolling leadership kills morale, longing and high-quality performance. Humble leaders take a vested interest in hiring good people, in training them and then getting out of their way so as to allow the people they’ve hired the freedom and independence to do their job. Modest leaders are able to admit that their way is not the only way and that some of the people they hire are more effective than themselves in certain roles or with certain responsibilities. In being able to accept these truths it allows team members to offer the best parts of themselves to the whole, creating an environment of comradery and team cohesion. When people are given the freedom to utilize the best of their skills to any job, and they feel valued for their part, teams succeed.

7. Optimistic

Optimism is the driving force that supports team members to be as successful as they have the potential to be. Modest leaders demonstrate the depth of their own self-awareness along with the awareness they have of each individual team member. They use this knowledge and insight to treat each team member according to their unique needs.

Optimism makes team members want to perform up to standard or above. The better they perform, the more positivity they contribute to the overall work environment. When the leadership is pessimistic, the trickle effect is that the negativity infects each and every team member, taking morale down and increasing tensions and conflict. It takes steadfast modesty to stay positive, even when things aren’t perfect.



5 Ways to Be The Leader Your Team So Desperately Needs

It’s no coincidence that the top ten grossing films year over year lately are dominated by the action/adventure genre. In fact, it’s a cultural statement. We need heroes in our lives, and we look to them for inspiration.

But, these films are fantasy, and the problem is that we live in a time when the real people we once looked up to are continually letting us down. I’ll leave off the lengthy list of names, but the truth is that no matter our perspective we don’t have the mentors and idols we once had.

It’s in the news every day. We’re let down every day. And every day, we search for heroes to no avail.

 So we turn to fantasy to find our heroes. These films fulfill our desire to find the good in our leaders, to feel motivated by their purpose and to revel in their success. When it comes to our heroes, fantasy has replaced reality.

And yes, fantasy might work in some cases, but it doesn’t go far at the workplace . . . that’s where reality sets in as we go about our daily tasks. To accomplish our goals, we need to find the good in what we are doing, we need to feel motivated by a purpose and we need to feel successful in real time, not in a time machine.

That inspiration and motivation can come from within but there’s also one other really important place…a leader. And that leader should be you. You can be the hero that your team so desperately needs at work, steering them toward success. At work, everyone needs someone to look up to, someone to guide them, and someone to reinforce the good that they are doing. That someone needs to be you.

Here’s how you can be the hero your team so desperately needs.

1. Provide a vision.

No matter your role and no matter your level, you should provide vision to your team. I run a global marketing agency and my team relies on me to set the vision for how we are going to move forward. As a team leader, you too can provide the vision for what your team needs to accomplish. Set a guidepost for what the team should strive for, and they will follow your leadership. By setting the stage, you will be cementing your role as the hero that your the team needs.

2. Engage the team.

Once you set your vision, make sure you engage your team in how they will contribute to the vision you’ve set. Make sure they understand their own role in attaining those goals you’ve set, and make sure they understand what they need to uniquely do to help the team to succeed. By engaging them right at the beginning, they will immediately see you as the hero for the team.

3. Dig in.

Continually show the team what you are doing to contribute as well. You can’t just set a vision, engage the team and then walk away. Your role should purposefully demonstrate that everyone should be in it to win it. Inspiration comes in the form of daily perspiration as the team will look to you to not only set the vision but also be a role model on how the work gets done. Sit with the team, not above them, in hitting the milestones that will accomplish your mission. That’s how you act like a hero on a continual basis.

4. Celebrate the milestones.

As you dig in with the team, make sure you celebrate every success along the way so everyone can see the progress that you are making. Toast to the team at every corner, and they will feel motivated by your leadership and literally feel what success is going to look like when you reach your goals. Heroes make people feel good about the good they are doing.

5. Fail forward.

The team is going to make mistakes, both individually and collectively. Create an environment that encourages risk taking and facilitates learning. That’s what a hero would do! Rather than making an example of a failure, make it an opportunity for the team to learn. Move forward from your mistakes, and take them on as a team. Chances are those mistakes won’t repeat themselves as a result.

Think of yourself as the hero that your team needs, and act like the hero that your team needs. But, at the same time, make them the heroes in your success as a team, because at the end of the day, they truly are the heroes . . . you’ve just inspired and motivated them to be up for the task!


4 Tactics to Transform Obstacles into Opportunities

“In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” ~ Albert Einstein

Entrepreneurs who own businesses also tend to own the obstacles, challenges and problems associated with those businesses as well. Luckily for most of us entrepreneurs, we are problem solvers at heart despite the fact that not all problems are created equally.

While some problems are seemingly insurmountable and won’t be resolved by any individual or organization (e.g. climate change, the current opioid epidemic, sustainable energy generation…etc.) there are a few tactics we can engage to help us identify and understand the opportunities that exist within the difficulties we face, which can drive innovation and positively impact the marketplace.

I worked for an employer that had a disastrous relationship with a unionized employee base that our entrepreneurial leader had to work through when past leaders failed miserably. Here are the tactics he and his leadership team used to transform those obstacles into opportunities.

1. Visualize the end, then reverse-engineer solutions.

The company was a regulated utility that over the years had paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in state-mandated penalties resulting from poor customer service, sub-par performance metrics and delays in service outage restoration. A key reason for this situation was an adversarial relationship between senior management and the leadership of our customer-service technicians’ union that had deteriorated over several years.

Our then new-CEO had an informal closed-door meeting with the leader of the union where they went over the projected future revenue trend and penalty payments. It was grim. If things didn’t change, the company would be insolvent within 10 years. Our corporate boss was able to convince the union leader that their fates were joined as were the economic futures of their respective constituents.

That common ground allowed them to course correct, reverse the catastrophic trajectory they were traveling and entertain the possibility of collaboration going forward.

2. An impasse may require a complete reboot.

Perhaps the most critical outcome of that meeting with the union head was that our CEO was sensitized to some of the managerial personalities on the negotiation team that were obstacles to advancement.

As a result, he completely disbanded the corporate team that had been ineffectively negotiating with the union for years, and he reconstituted the managerial negotiation team with well-respected leaders and former union personnel who had advanced into corporate middle management positions.

This reboot tactic stunned all parties, but it effectively reframed the entire process for all involved.

3. Take a different perspective.

That reset at the negotiation table enabled both sides to see all of the issues they were considering in a new light, from new perspectives. My supervisor at the time was the newly-named lead corporate negotiator. Her refreshing approach to the situation inspired all parties, simply because she came to the situation with fresh eyes and ideas.

It also had a disarming effect that allowed for trust and empathy to spread into a situation that had previously been characterized by antagonism and animosity.

4. Affect what you can control.

Because my supervisor was able to empathize with the rank-and-file and consider the terms from the union’s perspective, she was able to identify more meaningful concessions that would resonate to the base without hurting the broader organization or shareholders.

To be clear, the management negotiation team could only propose a contract to the union negotiation team—it was ultimately up to the rank-and-file to adopt it. However, the aforementioned tactics resulted in a viable union proposal faster than ever in the company’s history as well as a single-ballot passage of the contract by the union membership.

Within the first year of the ratified union contract, all service metrics were surpassed and the company has not paid another service-related penalty in the years since.

While few entrepreneurs or start-ups will have to deal with labor contracts, cantankerous negotiators and disgruntled union members, if these tactics effectively transformed longstanding obstacles into opportunities within that instance—imagine what they might be able to help you achieve.


Who You Are in Tough Times Reveals Your Strengths as Leader

In this series, Open Every DoorEntrepreneur staff writer Nina Zipkin shares her conversations with leaders about understanding what you have to offer, navigating the obstacles that will block your path, identifying opportunity and creating it for yourself and for others.

In her role as CEO of Kidbox, a growing clothing subscription service, Miki Berardelli is on a mission to provide new clothes to to families who need them most. For every kept Kidbox, the company outfits a child in need, and since its launch in 2016, through a partnership with with Delivering Good, the company has donated roughly $1.6 million in clothing.

CEO of a startup is a brand new challenge for Berardelli, who has worked for major brands over the course of her career. Prior to joining Kidbox in 2016, she served as president and chief marketing officer at Chico’s FAS, chief marketing officer at Tory Burch and senior vice president of marketing at Ralph Lauren. She also serves as chairman of the National Retail Federation CMO Council and was a member of the first Google Retail Advisory council.

So why would Berardelli leave behind a career at such storied brands to join an startup? The ability to craft a company culture from the ground up was a thrilling opportunity, she says.

“Culture has to withstand the test of time. Self-awareness is paramount to effective leadership,” Berardelli tells Entrepreneur. “I feel like culture, at its most valuable, is something that creates accountability, self-awareness and glue that binds people together in pursuit of what they are trying to build.”

Berardelli shared her insights about making self-advocacy a part of your muscle memory, how to build confidence and why you can’t value success without failure.

Can you talk about a moment in your career that you had to advocate for yourself? How did you approach it?

At a certain point after becoming an executive, I felt like I hit a point where I needed to become an advocate for myself. I really just approached [negotiating for myself] like it was a business case, as if I was going to a CFO asking for more marketing dollars to fund a marketing initiative. I spelled out the contributions that I made. Then because I laid out the business case on how I was functioning in the organization and the decisions I was a part of, then I was able to negotiate the title and therefore the salary. It didn’t have to become a conversation about money — it became a conversation about contribution, being with that particular organization for a number of years and establishing a solid track record.

But to say that it was easy for me to switch into that gear of self-advocacy was not easy. I was more uncomfortable probably than I’ve ever been in any other business meeting. But once that was accomplished, you have more bravery to do it more often. And after a while it’s expected. Not necessarily self-advocating a new title or a salary but just advocating in general and making sure that your point of view and your voice is heard. And then after a while it becomes muscle memory. And it’s much more comfortable. And you also start noticing how many other people are doing it around you. That’s been my experience.

What was a mistake you made and how did you move forward from it?

I would say almost all of the mistakes that I’ve made in my business career certainly were when there was a lack of speaking up when I felt very strongly that a decision was being made in the wrong direction or a decision was being made that was not in the best interest of our customers. My whole career has been in retail and digital so I’ve always had a very customer-centric perspective. And that lack of speaking up has been a pretty consistent theme. I don’t do it anymore but when I think back to mistakes it was usually what I didn’t do vs. what I did.

How have you grown and changed as a leader throughout your career?

Certainly owning gravitas at the table has become much more comfortable, but it’s been an evolution for sure. Making the switch from a C-level executive — in my case I was chief marketing officer — to a president and CEO. It made it clear that I had to show up a little differently than I had in the past. Being a member of the executive team that supports the CEO is very different than being the CEO. That team that reports into you expects a certain level of confidence and stride in your step. Because that allows them to feel where you’re leading them, they can feel confident in that destination.

It’s a really important skill to learn to shut down conflict in a productive way quickly in the spirit of problem-solving. And I think that’s the gravitas that you have to bring. You have to have a way of explaining why you’re making decisions so that people get on board and they walk out of the room even if they weren’t in agreement. But they walk out of the room and it’s now their decision too.

Over time, how has your view of success and failure changed?

I’m much more open to failure because I think you learn faster. It’s almost like talent development or leadership development. When people come to me and they talk about how they’re not inspired by their manager or their boss, I always say the important thing is to know that you’re going to learn as much if not more from someone you don’t want to emulate than from someone you do. Sometimes that’s an example of failure. I think failure is super important because it’s really hard to celebrate success when you haven’t been on the other side of it.

Is there a piece of advice a mentor gave you that you still take to heart today?

I had an amazing mentor during my years at Ralph Lauren — she still remains a mentor to this day. And when I was leaving to join Tory Burch as chief marketing officer she said there are builders and there are maintainers. She said: “You are a builder. The minute you stop building you’re bored. Know that about yourself and make sure every position that you pursue has a long road of building tied to it, because that’s also where you are in your zone.” And it was really profound advice to me. I like evolution. If things are moving incrementally I’m not excited about my work. I embraced [the advice] right away, but in terms of truly understanding it, that’s been a longer journey.

What do you say to yourself to keep going during tough moments?

I exercise more and I meditate a little more and I try to get more sleep. You have to do things for your health to keep you in that positive state of mind. I’m a big believer in, especially as a CEO, that who you during difficult times resonates much more loudly than who you are during times that are easy. I try to stay very in tune with how I’m showing up and be consistent, whether it’s at a time of great success or a more difficult time. I try not to let my persona change when I’m facing difficult times.

You’ve gone from working in legacy companies to leading a startup. What would you say to people who are about to make a career shift?

I always look at my career as a mosaic that’s not done yet. And so I’ve tried really hard to make sure that every role I take builds upon the last in terms of responsibility and in terms of experience but that also adds a new dimension. If my career is a geometric shape, there’s a new surface created by that experience. Joining a startup has been totally different because the pace is totally different, but I love that pace. Your agility is forced to be different because you don’t have the resources of a larger organization. The opportunity to join a startup at its inception and be a CEO who’s passionate about culture who will build the team from the ground up and define the culture from the very beginning is a really unique opportunity. So I guess the advice would be identify the opportunity in your next pursuit — that’s where the magic is.



Why Some Employees Don’t Like Having Freedom at Work

Many leaders are, by nature, entrepreneurial. But that doesn’t mean the workers they manage share a drive to think for themselves and solve problems. Some tasks simply don’t have room for it.

Some types of work require problem-solving and risk-taking, while more rote, structured jobs have less room for creativity. For workers in the first camp, having the freedom to dream up and experiment with new ideas is crucial to getting their jobs done. But those who aren’t responsible for creative solutions might be frustrated or confused when given autonomy.

study published in the Journal of Organizational Behavior concluded that empowering workers — letting them work without monitoring, asking for input and giving them a role in decision-making — does not always translate to job satisfaction, skill-building and productivity. In some cases, employees may feel uncertain about how to proceed or even resent leaders who empower them.

Researchers from the University of Exeter Business School, Alliance Manchester Business School and Curtin Business School conducted the study. They examined the performance of 8,500 workers from 105 companies around the world in a range of industries and found that employees responsible for routine tasks do not respond well when presented with autonomy by their boss. Instead, many suspect a boss is dumping his or her own higher-level responsibilities, such as decision-making, on them. In turn, these frustrated workers are less productive day to day.

Conversely, empowerment encourages those responsible for more creative tasks to work harder, help others and be proactive.

What’s more important than granting everyone the independence to manage themselves is trust-building between bosses and employees, the researchers note. Sometimes, empowering a creative worker can backfire if a boss tries to have it both ways, saying they’ll let the worker make their own decisions but not giving them the authority to actually do so — or not being there for employees when they inevitably want to discuss ideas from time to time.

Meanwhile, workers have to prove to their bosses that they can function productively without close monitoring.

“Workers have got to feel that their boss supports them to take risks when empowering leadership is being used,” says Allan Lee, a senior lecturer at the University of Exeter Business School who led the research, in a summary of the findings. “But bosses are also vulnerable when they manage people in this way. People could take advantage of the trust put in them. Trust is a powerful factor in how effective empowering leadership can be.”

Lee and his fellow researchers also made a counterintuitive conclusion about whether managers should give new hires more freedom: It turns out people who are new on the job both respond and perform better when empowered at work, compared to employees who have been on board longer. Even though they don’t know the ropes as well, they may be less cynical and more willing to experiment, the researchers note.



Understanding the Risks of Wall Street Investing

As individuals, we have little to no control over the investments made with our money on Wall Street. That said, when we do have the opportunity, wouldn’t we like to make the best choices and decisions as to how it is invested?

Understanding that there’s no such thing as a perfect investment, I think you’d agree that it’s only prudent to learn about some fundamental strategies to improve your odds of winning on Wall Street. Let’s consider three key concepts: drawdown, decumulation and sequence of withdrawal.


Drawdown is the historical loss of an investment that’s calculated by subtracting that investment’s lowest value from its highest value over a market cycle. (It’s important to note that the recovery from drawdown isn’t linear, which is why the average rate of return of an investment can be markedly different from the real rate of return.)

As the definition states, recovering from a loss isn’t linear — it’s exponential. So if I lose 50 percent and then earn 50 percent, I am not whole. I need to earn 2 x 50 percent, or 100 percent, to make up for a 50 percent loss.

The other thing that’s important to note is why it’s more reasonable to accept more risk when you’re younger. With more time to recover, your returns can be much smaller but will still grow your investments. For instance, let’s say you were about to retire in 2008 and the market crashed. You could have lost 50 percent of your retirement nest egg right before you planned to access that money. Many people did find themselves in that exact situation and had to postpone their retirement as a result, hoping the market would recover in the next five years and the value of their accounts would be restored. But, that would take a 20 percent return every year for each of those five years. Do you know how many times the stock market earned 20 percent for five years in a row? Never! What if you don’t have time? What if you’re going to retire and need to spend down your nest egg?

To illustrate the reality of the stock market, Wall Street uses the expression “No tree grows to the sky,” meaning the stock market doesn’t go up forever. Eventually, it goes down, referred to as a “correction,” and what that means is you lose money. Drawdown has a profound impact on earnings. The problem is only exacerbated if you make withdrawals. This situation is referred to as “decumulation.”


Decumulation is a condition whereby investment withdrawals occur while, simultaneously, the principal remains invested. Therefore, as withdrawals are made, there’s still potential for ongoing gains. There’s also the risk of ongoing losses.

Decumulation is what every retiree faces with their retirement nest egg. After all, one has to take some risk. With no risk, there are no earnings, no rate of return. We need to invest with Wall Street. It’s almost impossible to avoid it. Yet, even modest losses at the wrong time can blow up a retirement plan completely over a short period time.

Can I paint a bleaker picture? Of course I can. Let’s talk about one last concept: the “sequence of withdrawal” risk.

Sequence of Withdrawal Risk

If an investment isn’t protected from losses while withdrawals are made during a down market, that investment is subjected to profound negative effects, which are exacerbated by those withdrawals. If one takes withdrawals and simultaneously experiences serious losses, then there’s very little chance of recovery and the investment will likely be depleted entirely over a relatively short period. That’s the sequence of withdrawal risk.

The solution to this problem is simple. Simply, never choose to retire immediately prior to a market downturn. As long as you can predict the future accurately, then you can avoid the sequence of withdrawal risk altogether.

But, unless you’re a fortune-teller, there’s no way you can correctly predict just what will happen in the market. So now you’re probably asking yourself, “What the heck should I do about investing in Wall Street?”

  1. Be smart and do your homework. Understand the true risks involved with your investment options.
  2. Be realistic and understand that there’s no such thing as the perfect investment.
  3. Plan ahead, creating a long-term financial plan to better under­stand your financial needs and the time horizon you face.
  4. Do something, because doing nothing will guarantee failure. Get involved, learn and be willing to take an appropriate amount of risk.                                                                                                                                                                          Original

Don’t Lose Good Employees to a Bad Commute

Most of us are familiar with the idea of flexible work because we’ve experienced it firsthand. Whether it’s checking emails from home in the morning so that you can come into the office a few hours late or booking a WeWork when you’re on the other side of town for a meeting, the daily routine for what people consider a productive employee has changed.

While employers have embraced flexible work trends, most haven’t paid much mind to the commute and how it’s impacting employee productivity, happiness and even retention.

New York’s governor declared this past summer the “summer of hell” for commuters, voicing the national disdain for frustrating commutes. And the commute conundrum is more than a personal annoyance — it’s also a business problem.

Already, 10 percent of employees spend their workday commuting and nearly 80 percent of people drive to work alone, according 2013 U.S. Census Bureau data. Time spent traveling continues to increase with commute times in 50 of the largest U.S. cities jumping by 3 percent between 2009 and 2014 and the average commute jumping 20 percent since 1980. More notably, the long commutes are on the rise. According to data from Pew Charitable Trust, between 2010 and 2015, the number of people who commute 90 minutes or more to work has skyrocketed.

There is a huge pool of untapped potential and lost productivity locked up in these commutes. Imagine this: A 45-minute, one-way commute equates to 1.5 hours a day on the road and over two full weeks of the year commuting. These added minutes come with added consequences with 17 percent quitting their jobs because of the commute, according to a survey by

It’s time for companies to rethink the daily commute.

How employees are getting to and from the office every day isn’t something most businesses spend a lot of time thinking about, but that could change soon. With employees’ new expectation for flexible work and the toll that commutes are taking on productivity and retention, it’s an issue that can no longer be ignored.

Offering free transportation to public transit hot spots not only shortens commutes and supports environmentally friendly modes of transportation; it also allows businesses to set up their headquarters in more locations.

With car ownership estimated to taper off over the next decade, perks like complimentary parking are no longer appealing or possible in metropolitan cities where parking space is limited.

Subsidizing commutes, whether on public transit, car-sharing services or free shuttles, takes some of the pain away. In some cases, when employees aren’t behind the wheel it allows for more time to take calls, work on projects, check email or simply relax.

Businesses should get ahead of these changes and set up the right protocols and technology to ease commuting pains. Most importantly, businesses need to consider their surroundings — what is most efficient in San Francisco may not succeed in Seattle or New York.

However, 80 percent of the country still drives alone to work every day. In some cases, employees may need to continue to rely on personal vehicles to get to work. If so, business can make employees’ lives easier and their days more productive by tweaking hours to avoid rush hour. Other options include allowing employees to work from home on certain days, providing satellite office access or compact workweeks.

With today’s pace of change, businesses can’t afford to hold on to outdated management structures and workplaces. As the workplace is reshaped and companies pursue new efficiencies, the best place to start is with one of the most inefficient aspects of workers’ lives — their daily commutes. Companies will thrive if they can adapt to the changing demands and habits of today’s workforce.