Monthly Archives: August 2015

Climbing the Ladder of Inference with Andrea Bocelli


Work colleagues get a lot of exercise climbing the Ladder of Inference.  We take action on our beliefs from stories that we solidify in our minds.  It is done within seconds.  This is especially dangerous when the ladder climbing is done by senior executives in snap judgments about colleagues at lower levels.  Projects are taken away, erroneous information is passed along, missed opportunities for professional growth and development (on both sides) take place, and more unfortunate circumstances happen.

When Italian opera singer Andrea Bocelli delivered his first performance in New York City several years ago, a critic wrote something along the lines of, Bocelli’s magnificence has clearly gone to his head as he failed to establish eye contact with his adoring audience. The critic had risen up the Ladder of Inference (see image below) by first selecting from the observable data the fact (or behavior) that Andrea did not establish eye contact. This part no one can dispute.

The meaning he applied to the behavior is that lack of eye contact signals megalomania. The assumption he drew is that anyone who is talented (or, in other cases, intelligent, beautiful, etc.) feels s/he is at a higher level than the rest and, thus, does not need to look anyone in the eye. The conclusion is that Bocelli was “full of himself” because he is such a fantastic singer that this clear talent gives him justification to act as though he is better than the rest. The critic’s belief is that Bocelli’s personality is a detriment to his talent.

If you know anything about Andrea Bocelli, you would then know that he is blind. Blind people have a considerable challenge to look anyone in the eye.



Here is one remedy to avoid this workplace hazard:

  1. DESCRIBE THE BEHAVIOR: Andrea, I saw you sing with your eyes closed.
  2. ASK FOR INTERPRETATION: Would you please tell me what that means to you?

(Colleague interprets behavior).

  1. EVALUATE: Based off of this information, you can decide whether Andrea merits a more favorable review for his outstanding performance.


Here is another remedy to avoid this workplace hazard:

The mentor conversation may involve impact.  It would sound something like this:

Andrea, I noticed that you performed with your eyes closed (BEHAVIOR).  The impact I had is that we are inferior to you.  I know that only I own my emotions (ACCOUNTABILITY), and I am concerned (FEELING) that others may feel the same way; so, I wanted to privately (PROFESSIONAL) offer you this feedback in an effort to support your success at our organization (CONSTRUCTIVE).  The culture here is about treated others as equals (MENTORING).”

Wait for response.  In this instance, the mentor might feel embarrassed upon discovering the reason; in other cases, the mentor may wish to co-create an action plan and follow up.

Mentor feedback focuses on behavior.  It is constructive feedback; not destructive feedback that would leave a colleague feeling as though he may have jeopardized his future at the organization and/or instantly alienated himself from colleagues.

Above all, AVOID LABELS (i.e. adjectives) and focus on behaviors.  Telling Andrea (or anyone else, for that matter) that he is snobby, big-headed, stuck-up, etc. does not help him get to where the larger system can benefit from his talent.  How can your words and actions move the organization forward?  Speak with the person who is worthy of your counsel and perspective.  That will lead you, and the other individual, towards much richer conversations and outcomes.


Rossina Gil, MSOD, MAIS, is a firm believer in growing and developing talent as a Global Leadership and Organization Development Practitioner, and is the founder of Corporate Looking Glass, LLC – a diverse consultancy of OD experts and strategic thinking partners.

We increase retention.  Visit

© Rossina Gil, 2015


Senge, Peter.  The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of the Learning Organization


Vocation Staycation


Theologian Frederick Buechner defines vocation as “the place where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.”  The root of the word is “vocare” – which means “to call,” in other words, your vocation is “a calling.”  (See also blog Purpose).  It comes from listening, or paying attention, to what speaks to you; what provides meaning and satisfaction for your existence.  It is not something you chase, it is something you already hold within you, and you build upon it to achieve greatness in generating positivity in others.

Sociologist Parker Palmer phrases vocation this way:

“What a long time it can take to become the person one has always been.  How much dissolving and shaking of ego we must endure before we discover our deep identity, the true self within every human being that is the seed of authentic vocation.”

Organizational Application

St. Thomas Health, a leading division of Ascension Health, is a medical system based in Nashville, Tennessee, which provides a vocational perspective for its mission.  Its Leadership Development program is called Formation, which includes leaders from middle management, executive management, C-Suite, and Board Members, and is delivered over the course of 10 months to 2 years (depending on level).

The leaders at St. Thomas Health follow what they refer to as the Spiritual Leadership Model, as opposed to the typical corporate or traditional leadership model, which is more pervasive across Corporate America.  The emotional impact of 9-11, the globalization effect of the internet, and the increasing influence of the Millennial/Gen Y generation are shifting some organizations (e.g. TOMS, Burt’s Bees) to drive engagement and productivity through their culture of giving.  The connection they establish between employee and the marketplace creates a synergistic effect that becomes profitable.

Traditional Leadership Model Spiritual Leadership Model
THEME I came, I saw, I conquered.

(Latin: Veni. Vidi. Vici.)

I was called, I heard, and entered in.
PURPOSE Unique: Different from others. Created & Interdependent
VALUE Doing Being
DIRECTION Outward; Exclusive Inward; Inclusive
MARKED BY Extrinsic: Materialism, Status Intrinsic: Depth, wisdom
MINIMIZE Failure; setbacks Nothing; all belongs

Individual Application

Mary Lou O’Gorman is the Executive Director of Pastoral Care at St. Thomas Health.  She describes her primary responsibility as “grief work,” since she deals with the passings and changes of circumstance for patients and/or their families.  Over the course of 30 years of service in this role, she has become adept at helping people begin the path of “What does it mean to not be who I was?”

Sooner or later we are all faced with this question…and at several junctures in our lives.  Mary Lou’s calling is a call of Compassion – one that involves helping others navigate through challenging, and often sudden, situations of change to the way things are from what they used to be.  Change Management, therefore, is a requisite in life; since change is the only constant variable with us from cradle to grave.

This path is not easy.  However, authentic leadership requires the ability to tap into one’s core identity and the deftness to support others in finding their own.  It is through this nurturing and strengthening of spirit that will lead you, others, and the organization as a whole towards quicker recovery and resilience during times of emotional fatigue and stress.

“Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.” — Max Ehrmann, “Desiderata

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

© Rossina Gil, 2015


Kearney, Jerry.  St Thomas Health, VP Mission Services

O’Gorman, Mary Lou.  Executive Director, Pastoral Care

Palmer, Parker.  Let Your Life Speak