Taking Your Own Medicine as Leader in 2023

Taking Your Own Medicine as Leader in 2023

As the CEO of a training, coaching, and consulting team, I believe strongly in taking my own medicine. What I mean by this is that, wherever possible, I take the same assessments and participate in the same training that we recommend to our clients.

Because of this, I know that my my Top 5 Strengths, based on the Gallup StrengthsFinder assessment, are Strategic, Input, Learner, Maximizer, and Relator. My Myers-Briggs type is INTJ, which stands for Introversion, Intuition, Thinking, and Judging. I show up as a Di (Dominance/influence) at work based on the DiSC assessment.

Last year, I participated in the first cohort of a 12-month DEI Executive Training program that we launched in partnership with Blue Ocean Brain. The program consisted of four progressive levels of DEI lessons curated from the Blue Ocean Brain platform. For each level, our cohort completed six 15-minute microlessons and met in live online group conversations to unpack the material with DEI master facilitator, Casey Tonnelly.

In addition to the 12-month 2022 DEI Executive Training program, we offered condensed summer and fall versions to give learners options that suited their schedules. Regardless of the length of the training, every participant gained confidence in how to break down the complexities of DEI and demystify things like how to put allyship into action. More importantly, we built strong connections with our cohort that we came to rely on for building best practices and encouragement as we applied our training on the job.

My fellow cohort member Nyra Botley, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Program Manager, with the Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines, posted these thoughts on LinkedIn along with her DEI Executive credential after completing the program:

[W]e came together at the beginning of this year as strangers, willing to talk and have BOLD conversations for 90 minutes every Friday on topics that may have made us feel uncomfortable. What I loved about our conversations was our willingness to be vulnerable, empathetic, to lean into the conversations, and listen and learn from one another, giving each other a space to feel psychologically safe. What a joy it is to know that while our journey in the program has come to an end, we built a FRIENDSHIP!

Taking my own medicine has helped me experience what our clients experience and empathize with what it feels like when I ask clients to reflect on their assumptions, perspectives, and experiences. Completing the DEI course in addition to knowing my Top 5 Strengths, my Myers-Briggs type, and my DiSC style has helped me to unlearn as much as learn what makes me who I am and what I take for granted.

Whether you’re leading a team, a project, or an organization, taking your own medicine – or not asking anyone to do something that you wouldn’t do yourself (even if you’re a D on the DiSC assessment!) – is a powerful way to understand how your decisions impact others.

Question: How do you plan take your own medicine as a leader this year?

Doing Well by Doing Good: 10 Companies that Got it Right in 2022

Doing Well by Doing Good: 10 Companies that Got it Right in 2022

The strongest organizations in the world achieve sustainable success largely because they understand the value of culture as a competitive advantage. Whether you nurture it or not, you have a culture. It may be empowering or toxic. Either way, the results are showing up on your bottom line.

Here are the 10 companies we featured in CEE News this year that show how doing well and doing good are not mutually exclusive. Fun fact: 8 out of 10 of these companies were lead by women CEOs when we featured them.

1.    Twist Bioscience, Emily Leproust, CEO

When Dr. Emily Leproust helped launch Twist Bioscience in 2013, she did so with the belief that synthetic DNA would be critical to solving many of the world’s biggest challenges. When SARS-CoV-2 became one of those challenges in early 2020, her team tapped into their guiding principles of Grit, Impact, Service, and Trust to fight the pandemic head on.

Headquartered in San Francisco, Twist produces synthetic viral controls that resemble SARS-CoV-2 variants to enable researchers to rapidly develop and validate diagnostic tests. Just weeks after the Omicron variant was identified, Twist launched a new control to match the need. [Read More

2.    Carbon, Ellen Kullman, CEO

When Comparably released its Top 100 highest-rated companies for Best Company Culture in 2021, Carbon ranked #10. The 3D printing technology company headquartered in Redwood City, CA, models the idea that diversity —not just of knowledge and expertise, but of identity—is a key driver of productivity and innovation. [Read More



3.    EQrx, Melanie Nallicheri, CEO

A 2021 study released by AARP found that “retail prices for widely used brand name prescription drugs increased substantially faster than general inflation in every year from 2006 to 2020.” For people who are already vulnerable, the cost of drugs ends up being a major obstacle to care that often leads them to abandon treatment midway or avoid seeking it altogether. That’s a wrong that EQRx Cambridge, MA) is determined to right. [Read More



4.    Wildbit, Natalie Nagele, CEO

The job of a CEO is to make sure that the time that employees spend at their job is net positive. That’s according to Natalie Nagele, Co-Founder and CEO of Wildbit. Since taking on the leadership role in 2004, Nagele has been committed to proving that you can grow a profitable company while prioritizing people. She has led the creation of multi-million dollar products while focusing on her belief that business should be human. It’s a people-first approach that is deeply embedded in the company’s DNA. [Read More


5.  Bitwise Industries, Irma Olguin, Jr., CEO

Bitwise Industries was founded in 2013 with the mission of uplifting people from disadvantaged backgrounds and/or coming from systemic poverty by creating pathways into the technology industry. Bitwise builds tech ecosystems focused on activating human potential in America’s poorest zip codes through three key areas: Workforce, Industry, and Infrastructure. [Read More



6.  Bobbie, Laura Modi, CEO

When Laura Modi and Sarah Hardy formed the organic-formula company Bobbie in 2019, they had two babies and two toddlers between them. The co-founders were not single 20-somethings pulling all-nighters in somebody’s basement. They were working moms who needed to create an environment in which working parents could be successful.

As Airbnb alumnae well-versed in rapid growth startups, they were determined not to prioritize growth over culture. The co-founders dedicated themselves to building a diverse and inclusive culture with amazing benefits. Hiring consumed half their working hours in 2021, as they grew Bobbie from 10 employees to 46 across 16 states. Of today’s 55 employees, 91% are women and 70% are parents. [Read More


7.  Textio, Kieran Snyder, CEO

While many companies have struggled with their return-to-office plans since the pandemic, Textio, an augmented writing platform led by CEO Kieran Snyder, leveraged the opportunity to go fully remote. That decision has paid off in higher productivity, greater diversity, and Best Company to Work for recognition by Seattle Business Magazine. Snyder, a self-described recovering academic with a PhD in Linguistics and Cognitive Science from Penn, admitted that she was nervous about making the shift to fully remote. But, in the first year productivity was actually better than it had ever been before. [Read More


8. Hims & Hers, Andrew Dudum, CEO

Digital health is an industry on a stratospheric trajectory. The coronavirus pandemic has only bolstered its ascent, lifting the prospects of companies that can offer virtual health services at a time when patients, and especially those at highest risk, simply can’t afford to go into a medical facility that’s filled with potential COVID-19 patients. Andrew Dudum was ahead of the curve on this one. While Hims (technically now Hims & Hers), began as a digital health startup geared toward men, it has since expanded its footprint to include women’s health via Hers, with telehealth services and products spanning mental health, primary care, and a variety of specific conditions ranging from erectile dysfunction to hair loss, acne, and beyond. [Read More


9. Bearaby, Kathrin Hamm, CEO

Four years ago, Dr. Kathrin Hamm was among the 68% of Americans who say they have difficulty sleeping. Hamm was working as an economist with the World Bank, and, due to an increasingly demanding travel schedule, she suffered from chronic insomnia. She was burning out fast, and decided to matters into her own hands. After reviewing medical journals, Hamm learned about how weighted blankets were frequently used to bring comfort to children with sensory disorders and autism. She ordered one from a medical specialty store and it worked wonders to improve her sleep, but it was far from perfect. So in 2018, she took an entrepreneurial leap and launched Bearaby, determined to make weighted blankets that were cozy, beautiful and breathable. [Read More


10.  Codility, Natalia Panowicz, CEO

Imagine that you are a recruiter who’s been asked to fill a back-end developer position. You work with the hiring manager to post a job description to match the skills and experience needed, and 33 applicants’ resumes are a match. Now what? How do you pare down the candidates to help the hiring manager choose from among the top handful of candidates? In a word – Codility. Codility was founded by an engineer who wanted to spend more time coding and solving problems than interviewing dozens of candidates. Thirteen years, 200+ employees, and $22M in VC funding later, that initial concept evolved into an entirely new way of approaching tech recruiting. That gives over 30,000 talented people each month opportunities – wherever they’re based and whatever their background. [Read More]

Kudos to all 10 of these amazing companies who understand the value of culture as a competitive advantage! 

Farewell and G’day to WD-40’s Outgoing CEO Garry Ridge

Farewell and G’day to WD-40’s Outgoing CEO Garry Ridge

6.5 years ago, when a San Diego-based client asked for our help to codify their core values, I immediately reached out to WD-40 CEO Garry Ridge. I was first charmed by Garry when I heard him speak at a leadership conference. His Australian accent, the catch in his voice when sharing a story about balancing the weight of leading a publicly-traded company while making time to be a good soon to his aging mother, the self-deprecating humor, made Garry one of the most approachable speakers I’d heard. And when I emailed Garry to ask if he would be willing to host my client for a “culture field trip” to WD-40, his response was an unqualified yes.

I explained to my client that in order to accelerate their work, I wanted them to experience what it looks like when a company’s core values are hard-wired into their behaviors and, ultimately, organizational performance. This basic connection is true for every organization. The key difference is that a few leaders like Garry Ridge take personal responsibility for codifying the connection between culture and performance. They don’t outsource it to HR or delegate to Marketing. They live it and model it every day.

When I showed up at the WD-40 headquarters with my clients to learn about this culture connection, Garry Ridge personally met us at the door and led us through a one-and-a-half-hour tour. Here are three of the top takeaways we heard from Garry on that culture field trip:

  1. Create a learning environment. When Ridge was promoted from within as CEO, he knew that growth was being held back partly due to deep silos within the organization. “Those who knew the most about how things worked guarded that knowledge, which gave them power,” Ridge said. He immediately set to work to define the concept of learning moments. Over time, he built trust in the concept by showing that no one would be punished for trying something new and sharing knowledge about what worked and what did not. At today’s WD-40, knowledge is shared and information moves easily.
  2. Personalize accountability and responsibility. In Helping People Win at Work, a book co-authored with Ken Blanchard, Ridge shares the unique WD40 performance review system. Employees develop measurable, achievable goals that will help the company reach its annual strategic targets. They describe what ‘A’ work looks like, rate their own progress each quarter, and review these ratings with their manager. The manager’s role is to help employees achieve all As. Ridge says, “If you help your people get As, your performance management system will ignite them to blow away your customers with outstanding service. Because people who feel good about themselves want to return the favor.”
  3. Get your values off the wall. WD-40 doesn’t just want good performers, it wants good performers who are also good citizens. Ridge believes that values must be at the core of your business model, not just words engraved in a plaque on the wall. Not only does the company have six, clear-to-understand values, but they are ranked in order of importance. He explained, “Life is about values conflicts. When these conflicts arise, people need to know which value to focus on.” Employees are taught the values at orientation, assigned to ‘tour guides’ to help explain values in action, and hold themselves accountable for demonstrating the values, which make up 30% of their performance review.

WD-40 Garry RidgeOn August 31st of this year, Garry is stepping down as CEO of WD-40 after 25 years of service. He plans to launch a consulting practice called The Culture Coach. I, for one, look forward to supporting Garry in this next chapter just as he has so graciously supported mine. So, farewell to Garry as WD-40 CEO and G’day to your new, exciting role!

Ten “A-ha” Quotes from My Work with  Clients This Summer

Ten “A-ha” Quotes from My Work with Clients This Summer

By: Sheri Nasim, President & CEO

This summer, I’ve had the privilege of working with teams from Ivy League Schools to government contractors to startups spawned from UC Berkeley labs. I’ve partnered with a 31-year old CEO/Founder to discuss how to build a leadership team, I’ve facilitated training for high-potential employees and senior leaders interested in mentorship, and I’ve worked with teams to refresh their 3-5 year strategic plans.

Regardless of what I’m asked to help with, leaders from organizations of all types and sizes are searching for answers to improving communication, getting better traction through aligned goals, and managing change. Throughout these meetings, there are usually one or two “a-ha” statements that serve as a catalyst for moving from what is to what is possible. Here are ten such quotes that have resonated with my clients, that may inspire you as well:

  1. If you have 100% of the information needed to make a decision, you’re not actually making a decision. You’re just stating a foregone conclusion.
  2. Your power as a leader does not lie in having all of the answers. Your power lies in your ability to ask the right questions.
  3. The need to change is not an indictment of your past performance but a recognition that you are farther than you have ever been but not yet where you want to go.
  4. Strategy without execution is meaningless; execution without engaged people is impossible.
  5. One of the hardest lessons we learn as change agents is that we have to change ourselves first.
  6. A change in a belief occurs before a meaningful change in behavior.
  7. Uncertainty and possibility are two sides of the same coin.
  8. People are down on what they’re not up on. Communication matters.
  9. Strategic goals are not aspirational. They’re about having the discipline to make good tradeoffs about what we’re going to do and what we’re not going to do.
  10.  Surround yourself with people of diverse perspectives who can disagree with you without fear of retaliation.

I hope you find a statement or two from this list that resonates with you. Write it down. Share it with your people. The lessons learned through others can be extremely impactful on your journey.

Feed Your Need to Learn with 15-Minute Microlearning Bites

Feed Your Need to Learn with 15-Minute Microlearning Bites

“There is a big disconnect between what science knows and what business does.” So claimed Daniel Pink in Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. One of the three elements of true motivation, Pink found, is the deeply human need to learn.

Our workplace training typically takes place in multi-hour or multi-day group settings. The minute we finish the learning, our chances of remembering starts to drop. Ten days after the training, our retention falls to 60%. By Day 20, it falls to 25%. By Day 40, our chances of remembering drops to just 10%. That’s an incredibly expensive and inefficient way of learning.

So, how do you find the time for learning and sharpening your leadership skills when faced with the urgency of work?  The answer, according to the Journal of Applied Psychology and Harvard Business Review researchers alike, is microlearning. Microlearning is learning that has been curated specifically to take advantage of your brain’s natural tendencies. Your working memory can hold only four to five key concepts at any given time. Microlearning, then, is designed to share only a few key concepts in any given lesson. This makes the transfer on learning to the desk much more efficient.

What’s more, microlearning greatly improves retention. Although science tells us how our brains are hardwired for learning, our workplace training still typically takes place in half-day or full-day group settings. The minute we finish the learning, our chances of remembering what we just learned begins to drop. Ten days after the training, our retention falls to 60%. By Day 20, it falls to 25%. Just 40 days after the training our chances of remembering drops to just 10%.

That’s why we’ve partnered with awarding-winning Blue Ocean Brain® to bring microlearning journeys to your laptop or smart phone. The platform is used by trusted brands like MetLife, Siemens, and Panasonic to deliver microlearning to give their employees globally-relevant, fresh, on-demand content.

For the price of a cup of coffee a day – and in less time than it takes you to drink it –  you could learn how Appreciative Coaching works, or find out Why Saying, “Good Job!” Really Isn’t that Great and what to do instead.

Coaching Others

Need to have a difficult conversation? Check out How Effective Leaders Deliver Difficult News, or How to Name the Elephant in the Room.

Microlearning topics like these helps keep you competitive in today’s market. You can feed your need to learn the right thing, at the right time, for the right reasons, and retain what you learn as you go.

Question: Where do your turn to get just-in-time solutions to your most pressing workplace challenges?

Driven by the premise that excellence is the result of aligning people, purpose and performance, Center for Executive Excellence facilitates training in leading self, leading teams and leading organizations. To learn more, subscribe to receive CEE News!

5 Key Steps to Giving Critical Feedback in the WFH World

5 Key Steps to Giving Critical Feedback in the WFH World

For two years, managers have been waiting for ‘the day’ when everyone goes back to the office. The expectation, back in early 2020, was that once the pandemic had ended, we’d all collectively resume our pre-Covid patterns of office-based work.

During that period of collective pause, managers leaned on the side of giving grace while their direct reports who were able to work from home (WFH) navigated the complexities and uncertainties of pandemic life. “My meeting link isn’t working,” “I’m recovering from my booster shot,” and “It’s not going to be a camera day for me today,” became familiar and forgivable lapses in engagement.

But, with the emergence of Covid-19 variants like Omicron, managers have abandoned the idea that there ever will be a day when we’re all permanently back at our office desks. That also means that critical performance feedback cannot be postponed and must be given remotely.

Giving critical feedback is one of the most challenging responsibilities of a manager. If you’re a manager whose team is working remotely, here are some key steps to update your approach to giving critical feedback in the WFH world:

1. Lead with curiosity. Ask open-ended questions to get your employee’s perception of their performance before expressing yours.

2. Point out their value. Show specific appreciation before laying out criticism. They’ll be more likely to be receptive to your feedback if they trust that you value them.

3. Partner for performance. State your positive intentions. Something as simple as “I’m in your corner” can go a long way.

4. Clarify and contrast. “I’m saying X, but I’m not saying Y.”

5. Close with their summary. Ask your employee to state their key takeaways from the conversation.

We’re all under long haul stress from the pandemic. Some of us are dealing with it better than others. Take care to deliver your feedback with clarity and sensitivity to help your team member focus on the reality of how their performance needs to improve, even in a remote environment.

Question: What are some ways you can update your approach to giving feedback in a WFH world?

Driven by the premise that excellence is the result of aligning people, purpose and performance, Center for Executive Excellence facilitates training in leading self, leading teams and leading organizations. To learn more, subscribe to receive CEE News!