Monthly Archives: January 2015

Powerful Leaders Don’t Fall into the Victim Trap

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One key aspect of organizational leadership is Emotional Maturity. Leaders who grow their Emotional Maturity deliver stronger results, develop their people better, and make overall stronger decisions. Companies that focus on growing and improving Emotional Maturity are making meaningful and important investments in their future.

Emotional Maturity is a hallmark of Emotional Intelligence (a.k.a EQ/EI). It defines one’s ability to understand and manage emotions, which drive performance. It is critical that Senior Leadership and the talent pipeline develop an ability to learn from life’s experiences/feedback, accept responsibility, seek out opportunities, and move on.


Resilience means a lot in the world of Emotional Maturity, especially in this day and age of rapid innovation. What works one day probably won’t work the next. Leaders can go from heroes to villains and back to heroes again in the course of one business day. Organizational leaders need to toughen up — for their own sake and for the sake of their people.

So, put away the tiny violins. It’s a given that no one leaves this planet unscathed. It has been said that life is tougher than school because in school the lessons come first, and the test follows; while, in life and work, the test comes first and the lessons follow. There is a plethora of publicized and successful examples of those who have either faced hardship, endured scandal, and have pressed on.

Let’s see if you can determine who these 10 individuals are below. (Answers follow at bottom).

  1. Father died of a heart attack, while subject was in high school. Married eight times. Suffered a major heart-attack, leading to quintuple by-pass surgery, and later stents in the coronary artery to remove plaque from the heart.
  2. Body dysmorphic disorder (the belief that one’s body needs to be fixed or hidden). Suffered child abuse (physical and verbal). Accused of pedophilia. Overdosed on prescription drugs and died of cardiac arrest.
  3. Poor student. Felt like a “third wheel” even on the wedding day. Private telephone conversations were leaked to the media. Mother-in-law wrote a letter asking for a divorce. Died in car crash at age 36.
  4. Father was assassinated, while subject was age 3. Mother insisted that the pursuit of acting as a career passion not be the path to take, but law. Failed the bar exam twice. Joked about refusing to believe a family curse. Spouse was on antidepressants within 3 years of marriage, and the couple started marriage therapy. Died in a plane crash, he was piloting (spouse and sister-in-law also perished).
  5. Parents divorced, when subject was age 9. Four unsuccessful TV shows, before making it big. Despite being considered one of the world’s most beautiful and sexy people and being married to another of the world’s most beautiful and sexy people, lost spouse to yet another of the world’s most beautiful and sexy people. Divorced, yet engaged, claims to want children and is in the late 40’s.
  6. After reaching the number one position in world rankings and the highest paid in the field, fell to number 58, and suffered a losing streak for 107 weeks. Despite being married to a model, had over a dozen extramarital affairs and was consequently dropped from several advertisers. Stakeholder loss estimate was $5-$12 billion. Entered 45-day therapy, divorced, and lost custody of two children to live alone (for a while) in 10K sq ft home.
  7. Triple threat (sing, act, model) married someone who had multiple run-ins with the law, and served jail time. Both got into heavy drug usage. This damaged the quality of voice and performance substantially. Divorced, won custody of one child. Found dead in hotel room, submerged in tub – toxicology report revealed cocaine, Benadryl, Xanax, marijuana, and Flexeril in the system.
  8. Born into poverty to an unmarried teen mom, raped at age 9, molested, pregnant at age 14; lost baby in infancy. The emotional turmoil eventually led to a weight problem.
  9. Born to unwed parents and given up for adoption. College drop-out after 6 months, but slept on the floor in friends’ dorm rooms, returned Coke bottles for food money, and ate weekly free meals at a Hare Krishna. Denied being parent to lovechild of high school sweetheart. Estranged from birth dad for rest of life. Forced to resign as CEO by the company the subject co-founded. Liver transplant. Died of respiratory arrest related to pancreatic cancer (pancreas neuroendocrine tumor).
  10. One of the highest paid in the field. Won two Razzies (worst performance) the day before winning an Oscar, making the subject the only one to have ever won best and worst in the same year. Hit head-on by a drunk driver. Had to go to court for two separate, crazed stalkers. Despite being twice selected as People magazine’s 50 Most Beautiful People, spouse after 5 years of marriage admitted to having had several extramarital affairs. Divorced, and adoption of child makes subject single parent.


Emotional Maturity builds resilience and heads off victimhood. At any point, and unless fate stepped in, any of the above characters could have given up and not contributed to the legacy they created. That choice is left in your hands. Pursuit of the legacy is leadership. Here are five steps towards owning your power:

  1. Avoid Labels. Naming others with adjectives such as “Disrespectful,” “Mean,” “Rude,” detracts from placing the focus of the conversation you want to have. Instead, State the Behavior. ..either something you saw (e.g. feet up on desk) or something you heard (e.g. “You can look it up for yourself.”)
  2. Seek another Perspective. Flex the mind to other possible interpretations of someone’s behavior/words.  Using the above examples, feet up could be an indication of the cultural preference for informality; while direct communication may be an indication of the cultural preference for individualism. The Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) Communication Model demonstrates how we filter information and act on it.

Ultimately, if you sense the person has malicious intent behind his/her actions, then remember that each person is fighting a personal battle. It could be a personal fear of rejection, losing, emotional discomfort, or being wrong. That’s theirs to own, not yours.

  1. Assume Accountability. Leaders will own up to the fact that certain behaviors can trigger unfavorable emotions. This is where Open Communication is crucial. Share, “When you said/did [verbatim quote or explicit behavior – without faces or tones added], I felt disrespected.” Any reasonable person will work to make a conscious effort to avoid that behavior, as you work to eliminate the triggers.
  2. Eliminate Drama. The open communication is held with just the person who has triggered a reaction. Avoid setting up allies with others in the workplace, just to feel validated. This creates a triangular effect of Victim, Rescuer, and Persecutor. (a.k.a. Karpman Drama Triangle).
  3. Legacy. Remember what your purpose, your identity is. No one individual can make you feel inferior/disrespected without your consent. You hold the power for that. Don’t give it away so easily.


Symptoms of organizational victimhood include passing the buck, scapegoating, conformity, ingratiation (brownnosing, sucking up), and a culture that entails Mark Twain’s quote, “Success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan.” It is up to Senior Leaders to utilize their Emotional Maturity to nip these behaviors in the bud by having an open, yet private, communication with employees about effective organizational behaviors.

Driving Emotional Maturity, first among leaders and then among employees, makes a significant difference in organizational success. There’s no time to start like the present. Think of a situation that you’re facing right now in your company that requires some more Emotional Maturity. Which technique(s) might you employ: Avoiding Labels, Seeking another Perspective, Assuming Accountability, Eliminating Drama, and/or Focusing on Legacy?


  1. Larry King, 2. Michael Jackson, 3. Diana Spencer, 4. JKF, Jr., 5. Jennifer Aniston, 6. Tiger Woods, 7. Whitney Houston, 8. Oprah Winfrey, 9. Steve Jobs, 10. Sandra Bullock

About Rossina Gil

Rossina Gil is a Leadership & Organization Development practitioner. She considers herself the Joe McHale (i.e. Talk Soup) of OD, where she synthesizes organizational concepts, and introduces them in laymen’s terms, often using pop culture and social media to make the concepts stick. Her expertise is in Cross-Cultural and Women’s Leadership.

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Leading Transitions


Change can be done in a moment’s notice.  It is an event.  We change cars, partners, and jobs.  Transition takes longer and varies from person to person.  It is a process.  This is the emotional aftermath incurred by the change.

While not all changes at work are unfavorable, there are usually a handful of employees who feel a sense of loss.  Almost all anxiety can be distilled down to two variables: 1) what we don’t know; 2) what we can’t control.

You may have heard about the social science experiment in which people were given the choice between an electric shock now that’s twice as painful as one they would receive randomly within the next 24 hours.  As you can imagine, the majority of people chose more pain now as opposed to less pain at some unpredictable time in the near future.  Generally speaking, we prefer to endure more pain for the sake of having control.

Mystery creates anxiety, especially when we feel we have no influence on the situation. But once you know the emotional building blocks of anxiety, you can begin to influence them.

Coping with Change: Grief/Feedback/Relocation

What do these three curves have in common?

Kubler-RossSARACross-Cultural Adjustment Curve

You should notice that all three curves take a big dip before rising back up to normal levels (i.e. homeostasis).  Much like a plant that is unearthed and “changed” to a different environment/location, a person can “wither” until s/he has a chance to recover.  As with plants, people require a nourishing environment to flourish.  Any hostile, cold, uncaring environment is unfertile soil to expect any flourishing to take place.

Organizational Application

Organizational Consultant William Bridges describes transition in terms of three stages: 1) Ending, 2) Neutral Zone, 3) New Beginning.   Some employees are primed to transition more readily towards the New Beginning, while others are not ready.  They may all be in different places, going at different paces.

William Bridges 2William Bridges 1

First Group(s) to Target

Using Sociologist Everett Rogers’ Bell Curve for his Diffusion of Innovations, the Early Majority (i.e. to the left of the bell curve) is the first employee group to target for transition support.  They are willing to embrace a new idea, as long as they understand how it fits in with their lives.

The Late Majority (i.e. to the right of the bell curve) is the next employee group to target for transition support.  They are the ones who adopt in reaction to peer pressure, emerging norms, and/or economic necessity.  Most of the uncertainty around an idea must be resolved before they adopt.


The objective is to have the Early Majority cross the chasm that separates it from those employees already in the New Beginning, and to shift the Late Majority out of the depths of the Neutral Zone to be more pragmatic.  This pull will either convince the Laggards, who are the skeptics, to move forward; or, those employees will recognize it’s time for them to jump ship.

Succinct Strategy

Moving an organizational transition forward must be accomplished through several group discussions.  If the change is a Merger & Acquisition (which carries roughly a 70% failure rate), then Cultural Integration experts should be brought in to assist the in-house talent who comprise the Transition Monitoring Team (TMT).  Here are some steps that the TMT should map out…

  • Develop Business Practices Statements by practicing Cultural Due Diligence (i.e. norms)
  • Develop Outcome Narratives. (Appreciative Inquiry)
  • Perform the Gap Assessment (“Right vs Right”)
  • Develop Prioritized Action Plans
  • Deploy Communications & TMT
  • Evaluate Progress and Identify Additional Actions

Most great creations are not built in a day.  They are created with passion, patience, art, and skill.


Rossina Gil, MSOD, MAIS, is a Leadership and Organization Development Practitioner, cultural integration expert, and the founder of Corporate Looking Glass, LLC – a diverse consultancy of OD experts and strategic thinking partners.  We increase retention.  Visit

© Rossina Gil, 2015

Seven Universal Emotions


Emotional Intelligence (EQ/EI) is awareness of your own emotions and those of other people (social awareness), and the ability to use the emotional information to manage self and others effectively.  Studies have found that the greater the EQ, the higher the organization can expect to have exemplary leadership performance.

In the 1970’s, through research on remote tribes of people in Papua, New Guinea, American psychologist Paul Ekman found there to be seven emotions which can be universally recognized.  He discovered this by showing pictures to the Guineans, who had never had exposure to any form of media and were geographically isolated; therefore, they could not have learned the meaning of expressions from other groups.  Ekman’s work was influenced by Charles Darwin’s theory, which was expressed a hundred years earlier, that emotions are biologically determined.


Seven Emotions

  1. Anger
  2. Disgust
  3. Fear
  4. Happiness
  5. Sadness
  6. Surprise
  7. Contempt

Though emotional expression is universal, emotional triggers vary by individual and culture, and “scripts” from the past can affect their intensity.  Ekman’s research proved that emotional triggers create new pathways in the brain.  In terms of controlling emotions, the objective is not to turn them off; rather, it would be effective to develop the habit of attentiveness (i.e. mindfulness), and learn ways to cool our emotional triggers in order to avoid destructive emotional episodes.

So, let’s describe and show you what each emotion looks like…

Anger: Brows down and together, Lips narrowed and pressed, Eyes glare

Di Blasio

NYC Mayor Di Blasio


Disgust: Upper lip is raised, Nose bridge is wrinkled, Cheeks raised


Sarah Palin, Tyra Banks


Fear: Brows raised and pulled together, Upper eyelids raised, Lower eyelids tensed, Mouth opened slightly and horizontally – stretched back towards ears

Agassi9-11_panic 1

Andre Agassi, 9/11 witness


Happiness: Eyelids narrowed, Crow’s feet wrinkles, Cheeks pushed up, Lip corners raised


Hillary Clinton, Marissa Mayer


Sadness: Upper eyelids drooped, Lip corners pulled down slightly


Mitt Romney, Mark Sanford

Surprise: Brows arched, Eyes widened, Jaw drops slightly


Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates


Contempt: Lip corner tightened and raised on one side of the mouth.

Joe Biden, George W. Bush, Simon Cowell, OJ Simpson


So, is she happy?


Mona Lisa

Rossina Gil, MSOD, MAIS, is a Leadership and Organization Development Practitioner, a complete Ekman fan, and the founder of Corporate Looking Glass, LLC – a diverse consultancy of OD experts and strategic thinking partners.  We increase retention.  Visit

© Rossina Gil, 2015


Charles Darwin. The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals.

Paul Ekman. Emotions Revealed.

The Executive’s Executive Summary, Part III


Don’t have time to read a blog, and just want the “Cliffs Notes” version?  Or, ready for a refresher?  Here is a synopsis of the latest 26 blogs:

  1. Cultural Appropriation. Nationality does not determine talent.
  2. A Day in the Life…of a Facilitator. A peek behind the curtain as to what it’s like to be a facilitator.
  3. Insider-Outsider Dynamics. Change agents can be both external or internal to affect change; however, Insiders can impact change more quickly.
  4. Purpose. Do what you are passionate about; don’t live your life for others.
  5. The Gratitude Letter. Forgiveness aside, just lift weight off of your heart and move forward to a healthier, happier, more productive stage of your life.
  6. Acronyms in Business Management. Acronyms are a form of mnemonics, and also become part of a company’s language.
  7. Johari Window. A cognitive psychological tool to improve self-awareness.
  8. EAP’s. Employee Assistance Programs are the human behavior and/or psychological experts who provide strategic analysis, guidance, and consultation throughout the organization.
  9. P2P Revolution. Peer-to-Peer Services; Collaborative Consumption; Collaborative Economy– straight person-to-person business dealing is so old it’s new.
  10. A Values-Based Language. We adapt our verbiage to match our values.
  11. Whistleblowers.  Wise organizations reduce the risk of whistleblower lawsuits by creating A) a system where employees can safely report misconduct, and, B) an ethical organizational culture which protects the employees from retaliation.
  12. Case Study: NYC Restaurant. When consumer behavior shifts, the successful company anticipates it and prepares itself to move with it.
  13. The Difference between Diversity & Inclusion. Diversity is the noun; Inclusion is the verb.
  14. Flow at Work. Flow theory holds that when a person has a challenge which completely engages his/her attention and the skillsets exist to meet the challenge, then s/he can reach a state of flow.
  15. To Be or Not to Be an Expatriate. There are four keys to career advancement which can be gained from serving as an expat.
  16. Difficult Co-Workers. Defense mechanisms, such as projections, rages, criticism, and blaming, may be attempts by co-workers to get you to feel their pain for them.
  17. Talent Retention. This is how to keep High-Potentials (i.e. Everybody).  
  18. Athletic C-Suite. Athletic executives know how to work on the task with talented colleagues by focusing on their colleagues’ capabilities; not on their personalities.
  19. Thanksgiving and Capitalistic Dysfunction. Americans are much more likely to work nights and weekends than other nationalities.
  20. The Power of Intention in the Workplace. A Connector is someone who is connected to the Source – a power of energy which surges and galvanizes Connectors to motivate, build up, and inspire others towards positive development.
  21. Sounding Board. A Sounding Board is one or more people who actively listen to your ideas and provide the wealth of their experience to your position.
  22. Giving 200%. Do you feel you need to give 200% just to compete? 
  23. Old World Models. The challenge is to shift old world paradigms to reflect modern society.
  24. Shock Value. Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel has passed a law that impacts more than 100 companies; requiring them to have at least 30% women on their supervisory boards.
  25. When to Say “Merry Christmas”. Tailor/Adapt your approach to best suit each individual.
  26. Highly Sensitive People.  HSP’s are the “Royal Advisor Class.” They tend to include academics, theologians, psychotherapists, consultants, and judges.

Thank you for reading.


Rossina Gil, MSOD, MAIS, is a Leadership and Organization Development Practitioner, and the founder of Corporate Looking Glass, LLC – a diverse consultancy of OD experts and strategic thinking partners.  We increase retention.  Visit

© Rossina Gil, 2015