Why We Need Community in the Workplace

At the end of the day, work is still about the bottom line, producing, networking, and climbing the ladder (sound familiar?). Despite the behind closed door conversations and hard work we put in, I deeply believe that we need each other. No one got to where they are today alone. Community in the workplace is imperative to succeeding in the office and is why building relationships are so important to your career.

To Tell Me When I Have Pizza on My Face

I’m not going to know if I have pizza on my face, unless you tell me. A trusting community of people who care about each other, and who gives each other permission to point out blind spots, helps us to narrow the gap between our strengths and weaknesses. To not get stagnant or complacent, it is important to hold the bar high on being “for” one another with the goal being for everyone to up their game. As I always say, iron sharpens iron. Use your community to improve yourself, ask for honest feedback, and trust that the feedback is being given from a place of respect.

To be Re-Inspired By

We all have our creative genius. Some of the best ideas come out of impromptu brainstorming sessions. While you are analyzing numbers for your job, or struggles with customers, ask your community for help. Having a new set of eyes to look at your situation could offer a very simple solution that you weren’t able to see. (And we all like to have influence and be a value-add in someone else’s life.)


To Celebrate With

When things are going well, having community around builds you up. It gives you a group to celebrate the wins with. Remember the last time you all went out after work to the bar down the street for happy hour because your sales team surpassed your goals? Signing big contracts and picking up new clients doesn’t feel as good when you’re alone. Be careful to not pass up the opportunity to celebrate your colleagues successes, so when it’s your turn the entire team will be cheering alongside you.

To Get Messy With

Relationships are messy, which can only mean building a community at work will get messy. There are times that you are going to be angry with your community or want to quit because of something someone said or did. Community requires trust and openness. Everyone in the group needs to be selfless, making decisions that benefit the group. This is a lot to ask of individuals and as with every relationship you will need to extend grace. Accept that the messy times are there for the opportunity to build the relationship deeper.

Community is vital. If you don’t have it, find it. Create it. In order to be a highly successful leader in your industry you need to build community. You need to connect with your colleagues, employees, and co workers on deeper levels than just “I’m Fine.” Don’t quit when things get messy, and don’t settle on only celebrating the good times together. Encourage your community to get outside of their comfort zone together, to help build each other up, and support each other in both your personal and professional lives.

Women: Some of the Most Unforgiving Leaders

“If a woman can only succeed by emulating men, I think it is a great loss and not a success. The aim is not only for a woman to succeed, but to keep her womanhood and let her womanhood influence society.” – Susan Brogger

“Keep her womanhood.” What does that mean? Keep it? Why, where did it go? Have we given it away?

I believe we give away our womanhood, which includes a combination of power and gentleness, when we lower our personal integrity bars. What I am referring to in this article is the fact that women in the workplace can be some of the most unforgiving, insensitive, and unsupportive leaders in Corporate America. The more I speak to and work with companies and executive teams, the more I am amazed at the amount of cat fighting that goes on among our own kind! Have you experienced this? Have you participated in this? Maybe your first step is to raise your personal integrity bar of how you treat and speak to/about other women.

And let me add: Men, you don’t get off the hook for this one. You too have your own pettiness that needs to be addressed. (You think we don’t see or feel it? Seriously?) However, for today and the purpose of this article, I’m speaking directly to the women.

Student on an interview

“The more women help one another, the more we help ourselves. Acting like a coalition truly does produce results. Any coalition of support must also include men, many of whom care about gender inequality as much as women do.” – Sheryl Sandberg

Women think with facts and figures. That is a fact. Another well known fact is that we use our heart, emotions, and personal connections to build mutually respectful relationships. This I would argue is one of our main strengths and what Fortune 500 companies need more of.

Dr. Brené Brown is the author ofDaring Greatly, and a groundbreaking researcher into the topics of shame, worthiness, and courage. She is quickly becoming one of the most followed female leaders of our time. If you are not familiar with her, please watch her amazing TED talks. Her combination of head and heart speaks to audiences of both men and women. I recently heard Brené at Willow Creek Leadership Summit in Barrington, IL, where she shared how vulnerability and courage is the new definition of leadership.

People need 3 basic things: To be seen & loved. To belong. And to be brave.

Connection is why we’re here.

Every human being is neurobiologically hardwired for connection, and, relationships in general can be messy. We know that – especially when we’re fully engaged in what we’re doing, and doing it with passion. So why try to avoid messiness if we know it’s going to happen? In order to share our thoughts and feelings, so to be heard and attempt to not put people on the defense, we need simple communication tools used in an intentional, structured way. Easy-peasy? Well, no, not always. Not until you get the hang of it.

Have the courage and take the risk to live full out – to speak our truth in what we want and what we believe. Women are incredibly intuitive. Let’s not put that light under a bushel a moment longer. Let’s all vow – men and women, to commit to living and speaking from a place of courage. So we bring messiness into the world – at home and work, because we care. If done right, messiness can bring people closer together – not further apart. Brené ended her talk with, “If you’re contributing more than you’re criticizing then you’re being brave.”

With all of the great opportunities arising for women, why are we still the first to judge when another woman walks in the room? We are the toughest on a new female co-worker, and are the first to gossip when we hear the latest secrets circulating around the office. We are only making our relationships messier, and our reputation for being catty – only stronger.

My challenge to you:

  1. Step up as leaders, CEO’s, and women.
  2. Speak up about stopping gossip.
  3. Actively avoid the unhealthy closed-door conversations.
  4. Respect your female counterparts enough to have face-to-face, honest conversations.
  5. Support each other.
  6. Keep communication open.
  7. And for goodness sake stop backstabbing each other.

Together is how we will make the biggest impact on our workplaces. Let’s be real. We’re all so imperfect. Let’s quit pretending like we’re not and that everything is “just fine.” Speak about what’s bothering us, what doesn’t feel good, or seem right. Let’s continue to share what we’re scared about, or why we’re angry. Face-to-face with the person. Come on ladies!

Women are changing the world.

I believe this. Do You?


3 Things I’ve Learned From Speaking to Groups


One of my most favorite activities in life is to speak to groups of people about topics I’m passionate about. (I know – weird.) I love speaking and interacting with groups, not because of the rush of excitement I feel walking out on stage or the high energy exuding from the hundreds of attendees. I love when I’m in this space because I have the opportunity to learn and grow through each of the attendees I meet. The authentic interactions I have with complete strangers during and after my talks often leaves me humbled and tender. I’ve listed below 3 areas where I’ve become more self-aware, continually learning from taking risk, walking into my fear, and speaking to/sharing myself with a wide variety of audiences. Here we go!

1. Never stop asking questions

These days, I’m surprised with the line of people waiting to ask follow-up questions after my talks. Individuals want to know how they can go deeper on the subject, what actions they can start today, and what are the best tools to get them there fast. I can so identify with these eager beavers/life-long learners/I want-to-be-the-best-I-can-be kind of people. I believe life is more fun…and colorful…when we go after life and are willing to fully express and share our own experiences and learn from each others stories, and then take action!

I am inspired by the passion of the groups I work with who desire to learn and grow and keep their brain functioning at a high level. Asking questions does just this. It helps you to fight boredom and keeps you in touch with the world. Your brain doesn’t go on autopilot, rather it challenges, pokes at, and strives to improve your world, which then affords you the chance to help improve others.

2. Helping others, ends up helping you

After I speak to a group of people I receive multiple emails about how I helped them think through a situation or address a relationship differently. I have files full of testimonials about how their communication has changed, and how the tools I shared are now helping them not only at work, but also at home in their personal life. They sincerely thank me for giving them the courage to step up and out, to take a risk, and to break an old pattern that isn’t working anymore. They are able to find their voice…”to sing my own song,” as one woman wrote, I love being used in this way.

The ironic thing about receiving these emails is that the writer has no idea that they are helping me grow. Every email or question I get challenges me to think differently, to sharpen and expand my toolkit. After my presentation I get to hear personal stories one-on-one and so often I am certain I am staring at myself in a mirror. Something they say or a realization they had, that they were willing to share with me, often becomes the answer to the very problem weighing on my own heart. I love that.

3. Community matters

If you are a speaker, then you’ll know what I’m talking about: when you walk into the room to speak, whether there are 5 or 500 people, there is a spark in that room that is clearly present. The energy from everyone fills the room and ignites the conversation, with another individual or in your heart.

While one-on-one you can have deep and honest conversations, in large groups with only one person speaking, there is also a magic that happens when you are open and mindful of the in-the-moment experience. There is an accountability and camaraderie that comes with being a part of a larger group, experiencing that specific tender or hilarious moment together, which again, if you’re mindful, you’re aware it will never happen again. We are making big changes together. I love those moments when I’m on stage and my eyes lock…with many of yours.

The Culture Group Featured in Modern Luxury

We are excited to share with you our most recent feature in NS Modern Luxury, one of the premiere luxury lifestyle publishers in the United States.
Here’s the article, feel free to read the full magazine, or skip to page 72 to read Communications 101!

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Culture Chat with Star Ladin

1. What do you want us to know about you?

That Star Ladin is a spiritual teacher, a mother, a wife, a leader and an entrepreneur who believes deeply that with freedom and privilege comes great responsibility to help others. I lead a group of humanitarian entrepreneurs, who use their success in business to make the world a better place. www.wegs.org

2. How do you know Jeanne?

The moment I met Jeanne, I knew that she was very special.  She is someone who makes people feel like they are the most important person in the world, when they are with her.  She is a precious jewel. We met and became genuine friends and now Jeanne is a trusted resource for me personally and professionally.

3. What drives you to be better?

Possibility and Potential.

There is so much suffering in the world. I am driven by the desireindeed the challenge to do all that I can to shine the light of joy and spread a little happiness to others. I believe that it was no mistake that my mother named me Star.. “one that shines light” I feel  that is what I was born to do.

4. Your clients/people in your network have experienced great success in their careers. How have they gotten there?

The journey to success is both external and internal. (99 percent internal 1 percent external) and the biggest mountain to conquer is truly internal. There is no shortcut around the work…Everyone has to do the work. I have observed that the people who achieve true success have these qualities: they know how to focus with single pointed concentration, are disciplined, have clarity, grace, patience and humility, have the ability to think positive, are giving, possess the ability to transform adversity, imagine the possibilities and are wise.

5. When you’re helping to brand entrepreneurs, what do you look for?

In one word “alignment” it all has to work in flow. When things are working in flow the brand is working in truth and everyone experiencing the brand wins. Customers, business associates, employees, vendors…everyone wins.

6. Why is creating a healthy workplace culture important?

Because all else is affected by this choice. Creating balance in the workplace is critical. When you create a culture based on common values you are creating something larger than any one individual. It provides a “way of being,” drawing in others with similar goals and values.

8. Star, in your opinion and experience, what makes a healthy workplace culture?

Alignment of values of the business, clarity of purpose and mission.

9. We know you’ve joined Jeanne in being a heart spreader. Tell us a story.

I carry them in my wallet and when I am moved to share, I spread a heart. It makes people feel good to be seen and appreciated and makes me feel good for sharing…

10. We love how you’re empowering successful women. Could you tell us how you do that?

I hold the space for female entrepreneurs to discover their best self and their best business.

My organization, WEGs connects like-minded female entrepreneurs who network, learn and grow into their potential. We offer high level networking opportunities and provide world-class trainers who share extensive expertise with members. We teach skills and share inspirational real life stories of the down and dirty of how business, the humanitarian way really gets done. I hold the space for women who use their business to serve others and in turn serve the communities and themselves. I love what I do.

Speak the Truth in Love

Truth is a tough topic to discuss and so often it’s avoided. Even in our most truthful moments I would dare to say we are still holding back that last 10%.

The truth about truth is that…. it’s scary.  Without it we can’t begin to build trust.  Trust is vital to honest communication.   Without honest healthy communication in the workplace environment everything will fall apart – quickly, or with a slow erode.  Do you see where I’m going with this? It’s all tightly connected and grossly intertwined. Without truth, trust, and communication, our teams at work will not survive.

Today we touch on truth: the good, bad and ugly.

What does truth look like?

  • Self-awareness

  • Risk-taking

  • Seeing the “gift” in it

Two people can be looking at the same situation or be listening to the same conversation and come to different truths. Our truth is based on several factors, with a main one being our past experiences and how we chose to interact in the world.  (Digging deeper into that important topic is for another blog post).

How do you deliver the truth with love?

Truth can catch you off guard.  If spoken in the “wrong” tone or from the “wrong” person, at the “wrong” time, it can be detrimental to a relationship. Depending on how you control your words and manage your emotions, truth-telling can be labeled as bullying behavior, especially at work.

Let’s use the seemingly harmless truth statement, “You missed the meeting Monday morning”, as an example.

Scenario 1

Your boss comes to you in the private of your office with genuine concern. You’ve worked for him for two years and have built mutual-respect and trust in your relationship. He approaches your desk and immediately says “You missed the meeting Monday morning” and follows it up with “Is everything ok?”. He inquires about your personal life, with a look of care on his face.   He reminds you that if you’d like to talk, his door is always open.

Scenario 2

Your company just had a change in leadership less than 2 months ago. You aren’t yet sold on your new boss, mostly because in your opinion he hasn’t worked to gain your trust and seems to throw around his authority too often. So yes, you were late for the Monday morning meeting, yet you have a very good reason.  It seems you weren’t missed though as no one has said anything to you.  However, in the lunch room sitting with 6 of your colleagues, the boss yells across the room “You missed the meeting Monday morning”.  From your vantage point and belief system, you can only assume that he’s trying to embarrass you, otherwise, according to your relationship “rule-book”, he would have asked you in private.  Yow.  What a jerk.

The truth about truth

Both bosses use the same statement about missing the Monday morning meeting.  Yet, look at how this simple truth can come off very differently depending on who says it and how it’s delivered. The boss in scenario 2 may not have meant to embarrass his employee, but due to a lack of trust in the relationship (and most likely old baggage for him), the employee instantly jumps to blaming his boss for bullying him in front of his co-workers.

Can you see how a more difficult statement such as “You sabotaged my last sales deal” or “You screwed me on that last promotion” quickly escalates and creates a new drama of persecutor and victim?  If these type of accusations are not re-packaged and delivered with integrity and care, another snowball of ill-will, dislike, and finger pointing oozes and spreads throughout the company.  I get a pit in my stomach as I type this kind of scenario.  It’s messy, and it happens all the time.  It doesn’t have to.  It’s time to stop.

Our Communication Groups meet monthly to come together and discuss relationship and communication issues.  During these regularly scheduled meetings, each group member is committed to their own and each others personal and professional growth.  Unchecked stories we make up in our heads, get checked out- the kind that build resentments brick by brick and create havoc.   We have found that for business relationships to stay clean and clear, and if the desired outcome is for trust to be built and retained, a foundation doing a reality check around the stories we tell ourselves, of  speaking-the truth-with-love type of communication is key.

Are you open to hear and see the “gift” that is present when a person risks to share their truth – the truth of how your actions or behavior impacts them?  This type of relating requires time, commitment, and a desire to become more self aware.  It also requires becoming more vulnerable.  Communication is encouraged and truth sharing is met with positive forward movement.

How do your leaders share the tough truths at work? Or is that last 10% still being ignored?

Grow Up Mr./Ms. Bully

We learn at an early age about the power of bullying from our time spent on the playground. It’s seen as a game, as the stronger kids tease and belittle the weaker and less popular classmates. At such a young age they don’t understand the longterm effects this verbal and physical abuse will have.

The problem we are seeing in the office is as these child bullies move into the workforce they are creating a culture that intensifies stress symptoms such as high blood pressure, migraines and anxiety. David Shrank, Founder and CEO of Empowerment Behavioral Services, states that “Those bullied as a child can be especially sensitive to comments as they become working adults, and can become bullies themselves.” The assumption that adults always have adult behavior is a common misconception, and childhood issues can affect the level of maturity an adult has.

Who is the bully in your office?

If you are lucky enough to not have an office bully, congratulations!

For the rest of us, there is probably at least one co-worker, manager or partner who uses their power to dominate, antagonize and intimidate you and the rest of the team.

If you can’t think of who the bully is – consider it might be you. And consider that you probably aren’t a “full-time” bully, but how about a “part-time” or occasional mean girl or guy? Take time to remember your conversations with your team/members and how you spoke to them.

Characteristics of a bully at work:

  • Takes all the credit for successes
  • Critical
  • Disrespectful
  • Self-interested
  • Withholds information, uses information as power
  • Often gives out verbal and written warnings without justification
  • Creates fear and uncertainty among team members
  • Passive-aggressive behavior

How to talk to the bully in your office

1.) Confront them in privacy

When you confront the bully in your office, be prepared for a tough conversation. You don’t want the bully to feel ganged up on and take the defense, yet you also don’t want to come off as weak and say “You hurt my feelings”. This is bullying fuel for them. Work to understand why they have targeted you. The manager who is giving you such grief might not even realize they are doing it. In a lot of cases these intimidators were either victims of bullies in school, at home, or were one themselves. This might be the only way they know to communicate and get things done around the office.

2.) Don’t add in your own opinions

Tell them the indisputable facts of what the behavior is, how it is affecting your work, and what you won’t tolerate in the future. Say it and be done. Let the bully take time to mull over your feedback. It’s often said that a bully confronted toe-to-toe comes back and thanks the person for their bravery because so few stand up to them If they decide to not listen it might be time to involve more people. Remember to continually ask yourself: “Is this the kind of workplace culture we want to have?”

3.) Keep calm

Control your emotions during your conversation and avoid letting the bully see that their words are getting to you. Slow your speaking down and take breaths in between thoughts. If your anger and frustration rise so will the bully’s and your words won’t be heard. (Note: These steps are also helpful for bullies in our personal lives.)

4.) Ask for help

You’ve tried to talk to the bully, maybe multiple times and nothing seems to be improving the situation. I encourage you to discuss the actions with your boss or HR and agree on action steps to end the problem

Most likely you aren’t the only one in the office feeling victim to a bully. Don’t make excuses and permit them to continue pushing people around the office. Have the tough conversation today and stand up for yourself and your co-workers. It’s time!

Culture Chat with Sam Watson, CEO of Cool Springs Life LLC

Sam Watson Photo (1) copySam Watson is Co-Founder, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Cool Springs Life, LLC and Cool Springs Financial Group, LLC. Based in Franklin, Tennessee, the company is engaged in providing life insurance to wealthy Americans and foreign nationals through proprietary premium finance platforms.

He is an established veteran in the life insurance industry and is the architect of over a half-dozen premium finance platforms that have financed in excess of $7 billion of life insurance face amounts for affluent clients all over the world.

Sam created the BeOne Foundation, after his daughter, Lara, returned from a service trip abroad and informed him that she wanted to spend the rest of her life rescuing, feeding, clothing and educating impoverished children. The platform’s design provides wealthy individuals with a vehicle to fund annual donations to BeOne and other favorite charities without the donor ever writing a check.

We are honored to get to know Sam more in our most recent Culture Chat, highlighting what motivates him, his biggest obstacles with creating a healthy culture and his thoughts on the most important leadership qualities.

How did you meet Jeanne?

I met Jeanne a few months ago at the Inheriting Wisdom Conference in Chicago. Jeanne took half of the group to Lou Malnati’s Kitchen where her husband, Marc confirmed what I have always known, I can’t cook! :) I also learned a bit about The Culture Group, and how it can help executives communicate better with colleagues and employees as well as how to create a culture within a new or existing business. I was instantly impressed with Jeanne.

Name a person who has had a tremendous impact on you as a leader. Why and how did this person impact your life?

The most influential person in my life was my father Bryant Watson. From the time I was a child my father taught me that I have the choice to either be a positive influence to others or a negative one. He was clear that positive people are happier than negative ones, who doesn’t want to be happy?

What motivates you?

Being the best I can be. I am very fortunate and I have already lived an extraordinary life, especially given that I was told by many that my decision not to go to college would keep me a middle income person at best. Well, they were wrong. Since I was young I was told we are to do our work for God and not for men. That makes me strive harder in business and in all that I do.

Sam Watson Interview

What’s the biggest obstacle when creating a healthy work culture?

Personalities and Politics. Sometimes regardless of what you do it seems some people just cannot respect each other and when that happens someone has to go. I usually choose to keep the positive and hardest working person. We have a saying at our company “Be Good or Be Gone”! It’s not hard to be good at your job, it simply takes dedication. I’ll bet if I spent more time with Marc I would learn how to make a MEAN PIZZA! Or not. :)

What’s one characteristic that you believe every leader should possess?

Heart. Things aren’t always roses and when times get tough the tough get going. Every GREAT LEADER knows that they MUST LEAD BY EXAMPLE.

What does honest communication look like to you?

The truth, good or bad. I was an expert witness last week and spent a day giving a deposition. When it was over the opposing counsel said I was the most truthful witness he had ever encountered. I was flattered of course. Our team at Cool Springs Life know that the one thing I will not tolerate is being given inaccurate information. If someone doesn’t feel that something is handled properly they know I expect them to speak up, otherwise, how else can we solve problems.

What is it about your company culture that excites you?

Our team loves each other and our clients are like our extended family. If you don’t naturally have a deep rooted love for people when you join our firm, you will obtain it or be gone. We solve major financial issues for wealthy Americans and that is exciting, but when a client dies their heirs are the most important priority in our business. Our firm rally’s around the family to let them know their loved one had planned ahead for this day with them in mind.

What do you want to be remembered for?

Be a follower of Christ, He provided the perfect example of love. I can only hope that when I die people will say “that man loved Jesus”.

Thank you Sam for the honest answers and great tips.

If you would like to connect with Sam you can contact him through Cool Springs, LLC  or his charity BeOne Foundation


Relationships Are Messy. Life Is Messy.


Messy. Many believe that heaven forbids messiness. I don’t think so. The actual word – messy – falls into the category of swear words – especially if they are talking about messy in relationships.

Hear ye! Hear ye! There is hope for messy, conflict-ridden, or conflict-avoidant relationships in your life. Whether at home or at work messy means that, as human beings, when we try something for the first or second time (like speaking up and saying what clearly needs to be said) mistakes may be made. Feathers may get ruffled. We don’t know what the outcome of a difficult conversation may look like. Expressing what we really think or feel is scary. I’m here to challenge you today. So what? Do it anyway.

In business, there are people. Where there are people, there is relating. Relating means relationships. And with relationships comes messiness. It’s just the way it is.

Instead of whispering behind people’s backs there are times we must go face-to-face with a person around a heated issue at hand. Consider these 5 steps:

  1. Be clean, clear, and current. (Direct and on point.)
  2. Take full responsibility for your part in creating the issue.
  3. Both parties take turns expressing thoughts and feelings until both feel heard and understood.
  4. Commit to wiping the slate clean and having a fresh start.
  5. Decide what action steps need to be taken to move forward

It’s only when we step out of what’s familiar and allow a little disarray that learning and growth begin to happen. The most successful organizations in the world are the ones who work together, play together, and get messy together – feeling the safety and invitation to express themselves fully, with respect. It’s how adults are supposed to relate. Anything else is child’s play. Why are so many top leaders who seem to possess such childish behavior running our nation?

Cocktail Culture

cocktail hour culture

Does your office look like a healthy workplace culture, encouraging happy hours, and weekend ball games together?

Over the past years we have been reading about the top companies to work for based on ping pong tables in the office, extra vacation days, and boasts of a work/life balance.

These cultures aren’t created in the workplace, they are created in a fantasy work world. They try to convince their employees that they should be happy based on how much fun and freedom is offered during the work day.

Instead of talking with the employees and spending time digging to the core of the frustrations, they cover them up with doughnuts in the AM and free gym memberships “to promote health.”

Without communication, no happy hour will be able to fix the long-term struggles your culture will create. Encourage your team to open up with honest complaints and constructive criticism. Build time in your week to discuss what’s going on in each other lives and strive to understand on a deeper level the people in the cubicles next to you.

The office can be an exciting place when the leadership believes in clear communication and creates the space where their team doesn’t feel fear of contributing or speaking up.

It takes more effort than weekly office parties and offering an extra day off every now and then, but I think our employees are worth it. Do you?