Before You Fire Anyone..

In today’s vlog I speak about the superpower of CEO Satya Nadella, who in just three and a half years has generated $250bn in market value for Microsoft.

In the transition from the industrial era to the VUCA world, another major shift has occurred. These days employees want their ideas to be valued and used.

If you are a leader today, your most scalable course of action is taking responsibility for developing the superpower and the conditions to engage the talents and intelligences of your people, and then letting them pour into their work. Today’s employees have a natural desire to create and contribute, and some conditions are conducive to it and some aren’t.

Becoming a contemporary leader is both challenging and easy. Challenging because you will have to let go of long-standing beliefs that are not useful today, and easy because once you get the hang of how engagement works, you will further your business vision with much less effort. What leader wouldn’t want that?

Music: Jacob Ter Veldhuis
Piano: Sonsoles Alonso

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Sonsoles Alonso – I help CxOs and Founders Build Highly Efficient Happy Teams in 6 Months or Less with the Right Hires, using Systemic Tools and Serious Games.

Are you in tech? I recently teamed up with top-rated instructor Mark Farragher for our online course ‘6 Tools To Improve Your Tech and Leadership Communication’.

Check also my 5-week online masterclass:

And my online class on Team Delegation and Leadership:

Would you like to read some other posts? My most successful one so far is The War Against Talent, with over 100000 views.

Fierce Funnelism: The Road To Nowhere

It was one of those gorgeous sunny California afternoons with reasonably little traffic back in November. I drove my rental car from Pleasanton to San Rafael to meet with Team Coaching International’s CEO Phillip Sandahl. Sitting on an outside table at Starbucks, we quickly bonded over life experience, systems coaching, global business, and a love of music. But most strikingly, I was thrilled to see him nod in agreement when bringing up a disturbing pattern I had been observing across the coaching industry.

I am referring to what I call ‘fierce funnelism’. I am not talking about building a sales funnel, which we all need to build. I am talking about treating the funnel like a narrow tunnel, resembling a secret escape route from a prison, and then guarding it as if you were a prison inmate. In that tunnel there is fear, and mostly, little business. Who goes to a prison to do business?

As someone who for over 15 years was part of different networked organisations in The Netherlands, seeing artists build careers with international projection successfully by designing intelligent social funnels, the doings of the coaching industry look plain bonkers.

In this post, I am going to tell you how Dutch artists design their funnels. Replicating that system can bring you success in business and your career. But before, let me tell you what I have observed in the coaching industry.


What is wrong with the coaching industry

Here is what I see most training institutes do:

1. They look at their graduates as students, and not as entrepreneurs and business accelerators.

2. There is no training on selling, just like traditional universities.

To give the plot a darker twist, they make you sell their product in order for you to get your certification, while at the same time guarding their tunnel by not helping you. Basically what they say is: I suffer, so I will make you suffer.

3. They don’t get social media.

They don’t follow their students, because remember, they are ‘students’, not business owners and business developers. They do not engage in conversations on social media, failing to leverage the power of their network.

4. They hire people who engage in groupthink.

In a time when scaling businesses requires doing things differently, opportunities for innovation go out the door in favour of sameness and groupthink. Institutes that train coaches to go into companies to tell them how to innovate have broken organisational cultures themselves.

Regarding coaches, here is what I see most of them do: zero collaboration towards business development. Enough said.

In the meantime, I see many coaches who are not thriving, and besides, most of them are selling training, not actual change processes to help transform actual organisations.

Now, you might say that an artist has no idea about what it takes to thrive in today’s volatile world. In fact, nothing is further from the truth. As a Dutch artist, I lived in an uncertain ecosystem way before the financial crisis hit the world, developing along the way the flexibility, adaptability and sense of agency to thrive in that volatility.

As a pianist back in 2010, performing with Electra New Music in The Netherlands


Uncanny resemblance between the VUCA world and the Dutch Arts

Around the year 2000, the world of the arts in the Netherlands started its own digital transformation. It is not that computers were being used for e-mail or word processing to manage projects. To paraphrase Jeff Gothelf, IT gradually stopped being simply a service provider and started becoming inherent to the business need: musicians either coded or literally plugged their instruments to pickups and computers, developing new software in close collaboration with software developers. Government policy dictated that most funding would flow to projects involving (live) coding. If you are curious what electronic music looks like, here is Marko Ciciliani’s score of Dromomania.

But the thing that really shaped musicians was shrinking budgets and increased restrictions. By the time the financial crisis hit, making the world become the way it is today, a whole bunch of Dutch artists had been honing a sense of agency for quite some time that allowed them to thrive.


The Dutch Artists Way

1. Everyone is a pro at their instrument and a pro at driving performing opportunities, aka business.

When entering the performing scene, a Dutch modern artist becomes, in the words of author Kenneth Mikkelsen, a Neo-Generalist, someone who teaches himself a number of skills besides playing an instrument. By working with other neo-generalist performers, business grew exponentially.

2. The focus is on outcomes.

When doing a production, Dutch artists are paid only after they give the amount of performances they have committed to. They have two choices: doing something or not doing something. There is not much room for egos, drama and politics. If a project fails the entire ensemble is going to suffer from financial penalties, which makes the need to perform an existential issue. It makes the team invested in the outcome of the project, creating an environment that self-selects on performance and productivity. 

The world is moving towards a model of cooperation that models the modern arts. Fixed income and job security are slowly vanishing, to be replaced with flexible teams that come together, work on a single project, collect payment and then disband to work on other projects.

2. Get social selling.

Dutch artists focus on the meaningful and powerful rather than merely the easily measurable. They focus on building relationships across the board and creating spheres of infuence, being valuable to and appreciative of more than simply the current, active stakeholders.

As systems thinkers, they are aware of the power of social selling, realizing that all the people in their extended network are continuously influencing each other.

3. Get social media.

Dutch artists are on social media posting, and engaging in conversations with audiences, policy makers and concert bookers. They are having conversations, and the conversations are 360.

4. Get the global world.

Commissioning new pieces by foreign composers and working with ensemble members from other nationalities were two of the common gateways towards performing in other countries. Crowdfunding campaigns on global platforms served the dual purpose of raising funds and achieving international promotion.

If you are a coach entrepreneur today, you don’t want to be dependent on any single local economy. Who are your gateways to the world?

While you may not realize it, your business’ greatest accelerators can be right there among your fellow coaches. Think about each of your colleagues as a significant part of your global business community. When it comes to sharing content, exchanging ideas, answering customer inquiries, or inciting insightful conversation, you can act together as a global team to achieve international visibility.


Call To Action

I am building my career as a team coach by replicating what I did to become a successful pianist.

Are you passionate about business development across the globe and a non-fierce-funnelist? I would like to get to know you. Drop me a note and say hi!

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Sonsoles Alonso – I help CxOs and Founders Build Highly Efficient Happy Teams in 6 Months or Less with the Right Hires, using Systemic Tools and Serious Games.

Are you in tech? I recently teamed up with top-rated instructor Mark Farragher for our online course ‘6 Tools To Improve Your Tech and Leadership Communication’.

Check also my 5-week online masterclass:

And my online class on Team Delegation and Leadership:

Would you like to read some other posts? My most successful one so far is The War Against Talent, with over 100000 views.


Emotional Data Is Part Of The New Oil

The well-oiled workplace

Unless you have been living under a rock, you know data is the new oil. You can improve what you can measure, and nothing beats opinion like good data does. If innovation is relevant to scaling your business, then collecting data will allow you to make decisions with less bias.

Yet, in our new ‘data economy’, the focus tends to lie primarily on numbers and facts.
What if I told you that reading and collecting the emotional data of your workplace, the “emotional field”, will contribute at least as much to the achievement of your key business objectives?

This post came about after coaching a young leader in the industrial sector. As a corporate coach, I like to engage the client where the client is. So if my client loves data, I also work with data. The turning point in our conversation was the realization that there was hidden data in the emotional signals of her team members. She had been unaware of these signals, and by ignoring them, it prevented her from connecting to her people and have them fully trust her. So from now on, besides collecting facts, she will focus on uncovering the hidden information in these emotional signals as well.

This article is about the value of all data today, and that data’s network effects. It is also about pursuing conscious leadership by actively seeking an awareness of everything that lives under the surface in the workplace, including dissent and conflict. When handled skillfully, conflict can lead the way towards a transformation that will make you and your team productive today. The kind of transformation that will help organizations evolve from withholding information and creating silos, to a new paradigm of trust so you can design a well-oiled workplace.


Scaling Your Culture: Trust, the nature of data and the leap towards the 21st century

In the early 20th century when Standard Oil started becoming too dominant, it was split into an assembly line of 34 companies. Would splitting Google, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft into smaller chunks today be the solution to taming the enormous power their access to data gives them?

No. The biggest value of data is not its size, but how it behaves in context. Breaking up any of today’s tech giants into smaller companies would not stop network effects from reasserting themselves. Over time, one of those chunks would simply become dominant again. The antitrust solutions of the past do not work today.

Whether being active on Facebook, ordering food, or simply going for a run, every activity on the net creates a digital trace, while at the same time pouring more raw material into the giant data-churning machine. Networks will interact and reassess themselves over time anyway, so why not focus on reading the emotional field? Improving the quality of the interactions between you and your people is worthwhile focusing on today.

Collecting emotional data will allow you to make decisions with less bias, especially if scaling your culture is relevant to your goals. Are you thinking of firing John? Are you fantasizing about replacing your entire team? Nothing beats opinion like good data does.


Reading and Unfolding signals

By collecting data, companies like Tesla and Google continuously improve themselves.

Tesla is to self-driving cars what ‘Engaged and Productive Workplace Inc’ is to self-driving teams. Google is to self-informed employees what ‘Engaged and Productive Workplace Inc’ is to self-organizing teams. Being the Tesla or Google of leaders these days could mean that the more emotional data you read today, the better it can make you and your team at driving your business success.

What are signals? A signal is an unopened packet of information. When coaching teams and executives to unfold signals, I like to use ProcessWork where the goal is to unfold those signals in a sensory-based way. Is the team leader always looking at his phone during meetings? Is someone always sabotaging different projects? Instead of making a stand-alone interpretation of what that could mean, ProcessWork would focus on discovering with the team leader what is truly behind his behavior.

Signals are doorways to new information, and unfolding them is about following and giving expression to the information embedded in them in a bias-neutral, non-interpretative way. ProcessWork facilitates opening that packet of information without judging its content based on its external appearance.


ProcessWork for constructive conflict and comfort with ambiguity

ProcessWork is a methodology and an invitation to scout all the info present in your team to leverage the power of relationship. Instead of preventing self-expression in order to gain control over your company, ProcessWork helps leaders and teams to facilitate high-quality interactions. If you acknowledge that something is always going to be happening in the background of your organization, whether you are acknowledging or not, ProcessWork will help you and your organization evolve from silos to trust.

ProcessWork neither condemns nor mistrusts what is happening in any given situation and never looks down on the team members involved. Instead, it discovers the missing power of transformation in the tension itself and in people’s behavior. Within the frame of ProcessWork, conflict itself is the fastest way to community and team collaboration. Conflict becomes the organisation’s own healer.

A lack of conscious leadership is the reason why many of today’s troubled organisations end up being their own worst enemy. They assume that conflict is wrong and must be avoided at all cost. In fact, the opposite couldn’t be truer. When handled skillfully, conflict and discomfort can become catalysts for scalable and healing transformations.

Would you like to become a conscious leader? Drop me a note.


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Sonsoles Alonso – I help CxOs and Founders Build Highly Efficient Happy Teams in 6 Months or Less with the Right Hires, using Systemic Tools and Serious Games.

Are you in tech? I recently teamed up with top-rated instructor Mark Farragher for our online course ‘6 Tools To Improve Your Tech and Leadership Communication’.

Check also my 5-week online masterclass:

And my online class on Team Delegation and Leadership:

Would you like to read some other posts? My most successful one so far is The War Against Talent, with over 100000 views.


The 9 Lives Of A Leader

Today’s post is about the inner work of a leader, about you being the change you want to see in your team or organization in the era of adaptability.

It is about using the wisdom of the Alexander Technique, Tao, professional athletes, and cats, so you can land on your feet and enjoy the 9 lives you will need to stay in business today.


Are you laughing enough? Being the change you want to see in your team

One of the threads going throughout all of the different stages of my life has been wanting to gain an awareness of how my body works, and how to use it efficiently and productively. For that reason, chiropractors, physiotherapists, orthomanual therapists, Rolfers, Tai Chi masters and all kinds of body workers around the world have been some of my best teachers throughout the years. In fact, I could speak about different world cities in terms of the body workers I have met.

The other day I paid a visit to Fernando Rosa, a physiotherapist, athlete and board member of the Skyrunning Federation (ISF). He asked me about my smile, and I said it’s not easy to smile when you are in pain.

And then, boom! He said it, just like that: you just need to laugh more! The man I was hoping would fix my cervical pain so I could laugh and smile again, was actually telling me to do the exact opposite, to laugh so my neck would get better!

It reminded me of a time when I practiced Healing Tao with a woman called Ka Wah Choy in Amsterdam, in a studio overlooking one of the many canals of the city. All of a sudden, she would start laughing, gradually making it louder and bolder, and inviting all of us to join her. It was contagious, and its effect on the room, measurable. In just a few minutes the energy of the space would have shifted and we would move on to the rest of the practice still in the same physical room but from an entirely different inner place.

I have been putting Ka Wah’s and Fernando’s advice to good use. I have made it my mission to laugh boldly and loudly as part of a daily meditation. Lately, while leading a virtual team I also prepared for it by intentionally coming from a place of joy. I observed what laughter was doing, and today, 12 weeks later, a new global business is being born.

Laughing works. It creates a connection, brings down geographical and personal barriers, and propels people into getting things done.

As a leader, ask yourself: from which inner place am I addressing my team and how is it impacting the atmosphere in the workplace? I invite you to literally do what I did next time you have a meeting with your team. And if you do, drop me a note, I would love to see what 5 minutes of laughter meditation and intentional joy did for you and your people.


Leadership through the eyes of Tessa Marwick, Paul Westerman, and cats

Tessa Marwick, Alexander Technique – Awareness
Using just a chair in front of a large window overlooking another of Amsterdam’s many canals, Tessa Marwick taught me how to sit and stand using my body efficiently. I had a tendency to close my eyes to focus on the movement of the body. The work would only be complete when I could sit and stand efficiently while simultaneously tracking what was happening around me. I had the job of being aware of myself, of others, and of the environment, all at the same time.

Open your eyes and become aware of what is around you! Develop an interest in what is happening outside while simultaneously moving with flow! Tessa would say.

What do you have to become aware of as a leader? Being a leader today is no easy feat. Especially if you are in charge of a dynamic, global organization. You will find yourself in need of three key traits: self-awareness, other-awareness, and systems-awareness.

Self-awareness will mean having an understanding of how your emotions and behavior impact others. Being self-aware will help you create a safe workplace for others. Other-awareness will mean having an understanding of how others’ emotions and behavior impact you. Systems-awareness will help you keep track of and leverage the power of the interaction between team, customer, users and desired business outcomes.

Paul Westerman, Tai Chi & Alexander Technique – Whatever happens, whatever you do, do so with a soft flexible neck.
I met Paul at a time when I was still a pianist and working on an incredibly difficult piano piece by composer Willem Jeths. I would tense my neck, which would make the piece even more difficult to play. My job, Paul said, was getting out of my own way, so the music could play itself.

As a leader, could you perhaps be in your own way, preventing your team from ‘playing’ itself?

Could it be your job today to get out of your own way, so the team can organize itself?

Paul finished that session by showing me a photo of a cat fall and saying: whatever you do, do so with a soft neck. Whatever happens, be present with a soft flexible neck.

So, what about those cats? How can you as a leader provide your organization with a soft neck?


Falling like a cat in the era of market instability

In search of Organizational Agility? Combining Lean, Systems Thinking and Design Thinking could provide you with the 9 lives a leader needs to stay in business today.

Cats have a large body surface in proportion to their weight, helping them reduce pressure to their bodies when hitting the ground. What is weighing you down, and increasing pressure to your organization when experiencing setbacks today? Are you hitting the ground with excess weight? Have you considered becoming Lean(er)?

Cats spread their legs when falling, making their surface area even larger, and slowing their fall by increasing the air’s support on their bodies. What is detrimental about falling is how rapidly a body accelerates on its way down. A cat’s long legs allow cats to slow down, which reduces the seriousness of the impact. The more you are a systems thinker, the more variables you are aware of, effectively decelerating your way into the ground. What is supporting you? And, how long are your legs? How far do your design experiments reach? Did you know you can break down a project into core assumptions, tie them into hypotheses and design experiments so you can test the riskiest ones?

Cats are equipped with an aerial righting reflex, spinning themselves around if falling incorrectly, so their feet always face down when impacting the ground. Along the way, they keep a flexible back and neck, which is key to their survival. Is your team hitting the ground with their main shock absorbers? In a time of volatility, do you have a consistent Systems Thinking strategy that connects your team to customers, users and desired business outcomes?

See my vlog #3 Johan Cruijff – A Guide For Product Discovery where I tell how Lean, Systems Thinking and Design Thinking can help you today.


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Sonsoles Alonso – I help CxOs and Founders Build Highly Efficient Happy Teams in 6 Months or Less with the Right Hires, using Systemic Tools and Serious Games.

Are you in tech? I recently teamed up with top-rated instructor Mark Farragher for our online course ‘6 Tools To Improve Your Tech and Leadership Communication’.

Check also my 5-week online masterclass:

And my online class on Team Delegation and Leadership:

Would you like to read some other posts? My most successful one so far is The War Against Talent, with over 100000 views.

My 8 Weeks As Rotary Chairperson Without Buy-In

Are you perhaps a CTO pushing for technology-driven change without having buy-in? Or a high-potential pushing for a new direction, and not sure if others are on board? Are you running hard, yet doing so pretty much on your own?

Research by the Corporate Executive Board confirms that half of the executives promoted to the highest ranks fail within 2 years.

Two years is what it took me too to become a member and chairperson of a Rotary club. Yet a mere 8 weeks into my term I had to leave. That was a spectacular failure, one that would definitely qualify for Fuckup Nights.

This article is my very own self-hosted Fuckup Night. I failed, I learned a fantastic lesson about leadership, and I moved on. This is also a post about one of the most common traps of power: using it before earning it, thinking your positional power alone gives you authority.


Hitting the ground running 

Let’s back up 4 years when I was living in the Netherlands. I was under 40, a woman, and a foreigner. Very cool, I thought, when Rotary asked me to join, and shortly after, to become chairperson.

I wasn’t exactly sure how a bold thinker like myself would fit into a conservative organization, but I felt acknowledged for my previous successes, and my sense of adventure was definitely pushing me to go for it. This club was in the land where, for years, I had had the privilege of designing a truly quirky professional path. The Netherlands had been that kind of amazing place for me.

My plan was to make the club more agile while setting up new projects in the same manner I had seen succeed during my performing and producing career. On the way leading up to my term I organized several presentations in which I shared what I was going to do, and from there, I hit the ground running. Running hard, fast…… and completely alone.

In hindsight, I realized that the club preferred meals, presentations, and talks over actual action. They chose me as their chairperson because of my ideas, but when it became apparent that I was actually going to do what I had said I would do, all hell broke loose. I am not a talker, I am a doer, and apparently, that caught everyone by surprise.

After an unprecedented barrage of personal attacks on my person, I realized I could not continue in this environment and made the decision to leave.

Where had I gone wrong?


Using power before earning it 

I had perceived myself to have a mandate to repeat past success, without being fully aware of the context I was now in. I had embarked on a new initiative without having gained the trust of the club members. I needed buy-in, something that takes time and relationships to build. Instead, thinking that my role alone made me the leader, led me to actually losing my legitimacy.

I learned that authority is granted, not automatic.  When it comes to leading, it is not a matter of ‘or-or’, but of ‘and-and’. Leadership is leading the way and doing so with buy-in.

The moment I realized I was not going to be able to do what I was there to do, it was time to go. That was it, a mere 8 weeks into my term I was chairperson no more.


As a young performer receiving a prize from Princess Cristina of Spain.

Self-reflection and moving on

If you are a leader, you are probably a high performer. I myself was groomed to be that way ever since I gave my first performance at an age when my peers were still playing with dolls. Besides learning about leadership and power dynamics, the experience with Rotary taught me one more thing. I also had to learn how to create relationships with different people all operating at different speeds. Before, I had thrived in an ecosystem in which everyone else had an operating system pretty similar to my own.

As a leader, you have a choice to make when deciding if a certain organization is the place for you to be. I encourage you to make that choice consciously. But once you become part of that organization, it will be your job to design and uphold a working space that makes everyone feel part of it. A space that integrates and interconnects all of the different operating systems, while helping you further your vision.

I got to work, and found the answer in Processwork, a powerful and creative framework for individual and group development that increases overal team performance while tracking how rank dynamics play out in group conflict and organizational life. Training for 2 years to become a processwork-based Organization and Relationship Systems Coach helped me in two ways: by making me a better leader, and by providing me with the competences and skills to help you become one too.

Just recently I also became certified in Coaching for Power Intelligence. I now use a 360° developmental tool specifically designed to help you lead effectively in all directions. In fact, I am using it right now with a high-potential at Bosch.


Power doesn’t have to be a taboo anymore

Power is hard to get right. Yet, the good news is, talking about it makes it possible to gain the awareness and the skill to use it well. When issues of power are left unattended, two things will most likely happen: conflict will increase and productivity will diminish. If swept under a rug, power issues will most probably find their way out in the form of political games, political alliances, endless arguing, gossiping and personal attacks. Just like I had to endure during my Rotary days.

If you are in a position of power or about to be in one, be mindful that stepping into a position of high rank affects how we think, feel and do. As a leader, it is your job to design and uphold a working space that creates and leverages quality interactions among all.

Would you like to master Power, the skill of the 21st century? Consider this Power Play or the shorter, a New Paradigm of Power.

Or you could drop me a note at I can help you talk about power and see your productivity increase while handling conflict in a constructive way. Been there, done that.


* * * *

Sonsoles Alonso – I help CxOs and Founders Build Highly Efficient Happy Teams in 6 Months or Less with the Right Hires, using Systemic Tools and Serious Games.

Are you in tech? I recently teamed up with top-rated instructor Mark Farragher for our online course ‘6 Tools To Improve Your Tech and Leadership Communication’.

Check also my 5-week online masterclass:

And my online class on Team Delegation and Leadership:

Would you like to read some other posts? My most successful one so far is The War Against Talent, with over 100000 views.

The War Against Talent

Did you say War for Talent?

The other day, Pablo, a data scientist with international experience, an impressive cv, and a passion and capacity for learning, posted on LinkedIn. He had had an awkward but unfortunately commonplace experience with a recruiter.

Many organizations and recruiters go around screaming terms like ‘skills gap’ and ‘fighting the war for talent’ from the rooftops, but for starters, they aren’t even capable of acquiring it. They wouldn’t recognize talent even if it fell on their heads.

Today, it looks as if recruitment has effectively embattled itself in a war against talent.


The phone conversation

Here is the call between Pablo A. Rosado and the recruiter:

HR: Hello, I’m calling you from [company name] regarding your application for a data scientist position (…). Do you have experience with Hadoop, Spark, R, or Tableau?

Pablo: No, I don’t, but I would be happy to learn those tools, and I believe it would not take me long to get used to them.

HR: Then what do you know about data science?

Pablo: Well… Since I started my Ph.D. in 2010 I have been doing research in gravitational waves and radio astronomy, fields in which data science is crucial (…). I am fluent in mathematical modeling, Bayesian statistics, signal processing, analysis and visualization of big data sets, I have some experience using machine learning (…). I use Python (and libraries like Numpy, Scipy, Matplotlib, Scikit-learn…), Mathematica, Matlab/Octave, SQL, Fortran, Unix shell, Git (…). I have attended a dozen international schools and courses on data analysis applied to astrophysics. I have experience working in big, international collaborations including LIGO, which has recently been awarded important awards, including the Princess of Asturias, for the discovery of tiny signals buried in long, noisy time series, using sophisticated matched-filtering techniques (…).

HR: [Silence]

Pablo: Hello?

HR: So you don’t know Hive?

Pablo: … ( ‘-_-)


So, what went on in that conversation? – The translation

The recruiter is calling about a position in data science and is asking about Hadoop, Spark, R, and Tableau. These are software tools typically used by data scientists. Pablo happily admits he doesn’t have any experience with them, but then goes on to list a huge number of similar tools, some of which are much more complex than anything the recruiter was referring to.

Pablo also cheerfully mentions that he is an astrophysicist who has worked on several international collaborations, all of them requiring a deep understanding of data science. This is very relevant because academia is, in fact, the birthplace of data science.

But all of this goes completely over the head of the recruiter, who stubbornly continues going through his keyword list, triumphantly ending with Hive, a much simpler tool than anything our data scientist holds in his toolbox.

Wouldn’t it be great to have a time machine so we could see Pablo’s face when the recruiter asked about Hive…What?!?! Did you just listen to anything I said?


There is a gap

Can you imagine Jamie Oliver not getting a job as a chef at the Cheesecake Factory because he never made a cheesecake before? No. You’ll want to hire him because not only do you know that he will make great cheesecakes (or anything else for that matter) but because you are also looking forward to seeing how his extensive experience with cooking will contribute to the unique cheesecakes he will make for you!

Yet, being overlooked is what happens all the time to many of today’s brilliant employees.

Contrary to what recruitment wants the world to believe, there is no skills gap, that is unless we speak about recruitment itself lacking the skill of understanding what is available and what is needed.

There are brilliant and capable people everywhere you look. Get real in your hiring, stop blaming imaginary talent shortages for your problems, and start talking to the amazing, living, breathing job-seekers around you right now.
– Liz Ryan, CEO Human Workplace

Besides, now more than ever, in a volatile world of ever changing variables and requirements, employers need the sorts of employees who can confidently dive into messy business situations (a messed-up database migration, an overloaded tech-support function, or an ever-slipping product launch) and sort it out. If you don’t want employees who are capable of solving these kinds of problems, you probably shouldn’t lead a business in the first place, because business is all about solving problems.


How to talk to a recruiter: Be a Diane Lockhart 

If you find yourself in Pablo’s shoes, here is what you can do.

In The Good Fight’s episode Requiem for an Airdate, ballistics expert and Diane Lockhart’s love interest Kurt McVeigh has to give a talk about the future of ballistics. According to him, the subject of the talk is the impact of interferometers on 3D renderings. According to Diane, who is helping him prepare for the big day, the subject is 3D technology in ballistics. Watch here the dialogue between the two so you too can get ready for your next ‘talk’ to a recruiter.


Here is a list of things you can consider:

  1. Go through your regular vocabulary and do a narrative makeover just like Kurt McVeigh did. Watch him on the stage HERE
  2. Reverse think. You want recruiters to understand you. Make it you who wants to understand recruiters. Why is a recruiter naming certain tools? What does that say about the job? What does it say about what the recruiter is looking for? If a recruiter insists on Hive, is that recruiter seeing you? Would you want to put your future in that person’s hands anyway?
  3. Help your recruiter talk to his or her customer by becoming proficient at putting yourself in other’s shoes, in all directions
  4. Don’t talk to a recruiter the way you talk to your buddies. You can tell your buddies that you don’t know a certain tool because they know you, but when you are talking to a recruiter, don’t happily admit what you don’t know until you understand what the recruiter needs
  5. Use keywords, by all means, you want to be found. Just make sure you adjust them to the position or at least industry you are interested in

Practice, practice, practice. And if none of that ends up landing you your dream position, at least you will have learned a new way of communicating that could help you not only professionally, but in all of your social interactions.

It can be very helpful to talk to a career advisor. Larry Cornett can help you get ready for your own war against recruiters! He has helped many people in situations similar to yours. Join his Facebook Group Brilliant Forge to find out more.

You can also consider moving away from traditional recruitment altogether and approaching your job hunting in a design thinking kind of way, having prototyping interviews with real people with real problems in real businesses of your interest. Drop me a note if you’d like to know more about that.


Recruiters, this is how you talk to candidates!

  1. Understand the purpose of the tools/keywords you are working with, and put them into context. What do they do? How do they serve the need of your customer? Could the tools in your candidate’s toolbox serve your customer’s need?
  2. Stay curious and mindful. You have others’ future in your hands. Handle with care
  3. Be a facilitator between offer and demand, continuously translating back and forth between what both candidate and client tell you. Be a Diane Lockhart too!
  4. Don’t hire for skills, hire for attitude. Skills can always be taught. Or you hire the likes of the Pablos, who teach themselves, the only thing being needed is for you to give them a problem to solve
  5. And since we are at it, revitalizing our current market would enormously benefit from enterprises hiring employees with different experiences from different industries

If you want to renew and re-energize an industry, don’t hire people from that industry.
– Arkadi Kuhlmann, CEO ING Direct USA


* * * *

Sonsoles Alonso – I help CxOs and Founders Build Highly Efficient Happy Teams in 6 Months or Less with the Right Hires, using Systemic Tools and Serious Games.

Are you in tech? I recently teamed up with top-rated instructor Mark Farragher for our online course ‘6 Tools To Improve Your Tech and Leadership Communication’.

Check also my 5-week online masterclass:

And my online class on Team Delegation and Leadership:



Are You A Disruptor?

What my father’s illness taught me about the threat of the high performer

Somewhere in my early twenties, when I was a student in New York, my father, who was living in Spain, was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis. The condition was chronic, and judging by the doctor’s comments and the life a friend of the family with the same condition was living, the future didn’t look bright. Overtime pain would definitely increase and mobility would definitely diminish.

My father was not much of a pill popper and I had always had an interest in natural health, so my first instinct was to learn about the condition.

I was thrilled when I came across Norman Cousins ‘Anatomy of an Illness’. Cousins, a doctor himself, had cured his own spondylitis with a combination of massive vitamin C intake, and the power of the mind, something my father definitely had a lot of. He had to read the book! Only one problem, this otherwise well-read man didn’t speak a word of English.

After weeks of hesitation and different calls with Bantam Books assuring me they didn’t have any plans at that point in time to make a Spanish edition, I decided to translate it myself. I didn’t own a computer at the time, so armed with a stash of white sheets, a pen and patience, I started handwriting the translation of the book in my student room on New York’s West End Avenue. Harold Nicholas, my hospita and one half of the fabulous tap-dancing duo The Nicholas Brothers, would be in the living room firmly put in front of his beloved TV. But back to the book. Each time I visited Spain for holidays, I would bring a bunch of papers, several translated chapters at a time.

My father didn’t seem to respond much to what I was doing, but I kept telling myself that it would really happen once I had finished the whole book. Except that didn’t happen. When I handed him the last batch, my father unceremoniously put the whole thing together, and locked it away in a closet without uttering a word.

The few times I inquired about it, he cut-off the conversation abruptly, and when one day I mentioned a ‘thank you’ would have been nice, he spelled it out loud and clear for me: that was never going to happen. Things had just gotten odder.

That was one of the weirdest experiences of my whole life.


What happened? The inner workings of disruption 

My work as a leadership and team coach has given me an understanding of what happened back at home, and what happened back at home has helped me become more skilled at coaching teams and bosses. Because yes, for the purpose of this blog post I am going to liken my father to a boss, and myself to the disrupting employee. What happened with my dad was the unfortunate clash of two different planets. I saw a situation I could advance, he saw a loss of rank.

Are you a CTO hell-bent on using GANTT charts and your direct report on using Jira? This is not about dethroning you, this is most likely about Jira being better suited for software development in a volatile world.

Disruption does uproot and change things. It changes how we think, behave, do business, learn and go about our day-to-day, but its life force is producing something new and more efficient and worthwhile, it is not altering existing dynamics for the sake of power games.

What is the solution to working successfully in the midst of disruption? Radical collaboration. Cherish your Jira guy!

But where issues of power are involved, simply adopting the mindset of radical collaboration isn’t simple at all.


The prerequisite for radical collaboration is feeling significant and competent enough

Becoming more skillful at radical collaboration can be learned though, and it has two layers. The 1st layer is about developing both Self-Awareness (Emotional Intelligence) and Other-Awareness (Social Intelligence).

When we are self-aware we understand our emotions and their impact on others, and we are self-motivated. When we develop other-awareness we understand the impact of others’ emotions on us, and we motivate others. This is why from the perspective of collaboration, and where organizations are standing today, EI and SI are becoming not just nice-to-haves, but must-haves.

Self-awareness grants us the personal power to appreciate ourselves and what we bring to the plate, and having other-awareness makes us appreciate what each person brings to the plate as well. This is the place of mutual success. This is the place where there is both me, and you plus me. Developing EI and SI is a way of increasing our personal power regardless of the positional power we hold within an organization.

The 2nd layer is about copying the cool mindset of radical collaborators. This is 3 Things Radical Collaborators Do And How To Get There.


Empowerment for both bosses and high-performing employees

Are you a boss feeling threatened by your high-performing employee? Here are 3 things you can do:

  1. Ask yourself, are you a manager or a leader? Do you see others’ successes as a threat or do you see your people’s success as your success?
  2. Would you consider training in today’s hot skills of EI and SI?
  3. Would you consider learning about power and healthy use of it?

Are you a high-performing employee being sabotaged at work? Here are 3 things you can do too:

  1. Be proactive showing how your recognition benefits both your manager and the company
  2. Keep in mind your problems at the office could have to do with the unfortunate clash of two different planets operating on entirely different building blocks. Be proactive clarifying your intentions
  3. Sometimes empowering yourself means leaving your current company to join one that appreciates you


Final thoughts: For talent retention, cherish your high performer

Leading today’s knowledge workers requires a different skillset than in the past.

Is someone being a disruptive force at the office? Change the way you look at things. Consider your disruptor is someone who advances things, because that is what he or she does naturally. Remember, I didn’t help my father because I wanted to rise above him. I helped him because well, I wanted to be of help.

In the battle towards talent retention, help yourself and your employees see how the benefits of collaborating with high performers can outweigh the threats, so your high-performers don’t feel sabotaged, and leave. You could make the Disruptor 50 list, with the likes of WeWork, 23AndMe, or GitHub.


* * * *

Sonsoles Alonso – I help CxOs and Founders Build Highly Efficient Happy Teams in 6 Months or Less with the Right Hires, using Systemic Tools and Serious Games.

Are you in tech? I recently teamed up with top-rated instructor Mark Farragher for our online course ‘6 Tools To Improve Your Tech and Leadership Communication’.

Check also my 5-week online masterclass:

And my online class on Team Delegation and Leadership:

Would you like to read some other posts? My most successful one so far is The War Against Talent, with over 100000 views.

Stand In Your Power

The other day, one of my students posted a question related to the challenges he faces when interacting with his upper management. Steve, as I am going to call him, is a developer.

To me, it was clear all along that Steve is a good guy who wants to see things get better for all of his teammates. And my intention was to support his efforts by making him feel more powerful.

That didn’t go that well. As it turned out, Steve seemed to reject the idea of having more power. It became clear to me that he didn’t think he had any to start with.


So, what happened? – My conversation with Steve

Me: To answer your question I am going to focus on the part where you say you find it a challenge to convince upper management they need to support these activities on the clock, the reason being that this course is exactly about empowering YOU, so you yourself become an outstanding leader!

What you are saying is that you would like to become more influential, more powerful. If you have watched the lecture about power, being powerful is exactly about being able to impact and influence our work environment. And learning about power is the first step towards becoming powerful.

And learning about the horsemen and their antidotes, is a way to work on our emotional and social intelligences, which if you have watched the lecture about power, in turn adds to our personal power.

So, my suggestion to you is that you shift the focus from what management is doing to what you yourself can do. Saying upper management ‘doesn’t get it’ sounds a bit like finger-pointing to me, it is saying ‘it’s them, not me’. A horseman behavior, remember? 😉

Here are things you can consider:

  1. Regardless of your positional power within your organization, who can you build alliances with that could support you in achieving what you want?
  2. Can you mention upper management’s specific behavior and formulate a request?
  3. Don’t make things personal, focus on what the working relationship with your upper management needs, instead of focusing on who is doing what to whom
  4. Look at the part of the situation you can become responsible for changing even if it is only a piece of the whole pie. Focus on HOW you want to be regardless of what others do
  5. When it comes to the horsemen of toxic communication, Practice, practice, practice!!! :), you could become very influential and be the one to turn things around!

I’d like to add one last thing. I agree with you that things are easier when upper management is on board. As a consultant I am always elated when it is upper management that brings me in.

Steve: To be honest, I am not seeking to elevate my own power.  I am right where I want to be career-wise, and do not wish to step into a role higher up the ladder.  I’m really not looking out for my own interest or desires here, I am looking at factors that demotivate an entire team and thus make it harder for the entire team to be successful.  So in that sense, it’s hard to limit the focus to just myself.  A demotivated team affects everyone in the company.

At times I wonder why more employees don’t stick their neck out and provide straight feedback as to what is wrong?  My teammates privately discuss how demotivating this is, but they don’t want to speak up.  Maybe sometimes I speak up a bit too often — I find myself playing the sacrificial lamb that speaks for the team more that I would like 🙂

As far as whether my suggestions are heard — I’d have to say sometimes they are and sometimes not. But it seems like a recurring issue in multiple companies I’ve worked in.  I just wondered if there was a more effective way of trying to overcome this.

Me: Good to hear you are working on this material with an open mind. It is all quite new, so give it some time to sink in.

It was clear to me from the start that you want things to improve at the office for the sake of your organization. And it sounds to me that you want to be influential, that you would like to be able to influence the colleagues who are not speaking up and impact your upper management. That’s why I said it is my job to make you more powerful, regardless of your position.

Let’s review a couple of things so that this becomes clear:

1. Power is our capacity to impact and influence our environment

2. Some of our power is external (provided by the position we hold within an organization), some is grown and developed into our personal power.

3. Our personal power goes with us everywhere we go, it does not depend on context. By increasing our personal power, we become more powerful. Said differently, we become more capable of influencing our environment. Developing our emotional intelligence (for instance doing horsemen work and learning about power) is one of the ways to add to that personal power.

You will be becoming more powerful yourself regardless of whether you want to go higher up the ladder or not. By doing the work in this course, you will be able to impact and influence your workplace in new ways. Another benefit from this material is that you can stop focusing so much on what others do, and focus instead on how you want to be and what you can change yourself. Not depending so much on upper management to shape the workplace you want, isn’t that powerful?


Where Steve’s misconceptions about power are coming from and how to do things differently

Steve’s bias against power comes from three widespread obsessions:

1. An obsession with a traditional definition of Power as ‘power over’.

I work instead with a new paradigm of power that sees it as a continuum of 5 different sources of power playing out differently depending on the situation we are in. Positional power within an organization and personal power are two of these sources.

2. An obsession with positional power even though it is not the only power.

High positional power doesn’t necessarily go hand in hand with personal power, and someone with lower positional power can be equipped with a high dose of healthy personal power, capable of having a positive impact in an organization.

3. An obsession with leadership being a rank or a position.

It isn’t. Leadership is a choice and a service to be given. And our dear Steve is a born leader! He just has to sort out his issues around personal power so he feels comfortable (and powerful) influencing his upper management.


Final Thoughts – 360° Influencing 

Look at your biases against power. If you think ill of it or even hate it, the worse your use of it will be. Make a distinction between positional and personal power, so that even if you do not wish to climb up the corporate ladder, you can make a positive impact on your workplace. Team health is contagious and spreading this new disease across your organization very well makes you deserve being acknowledged as a leader. You can be of service spreading your superpowers up, down, across, and outside your organization.


And before I go, I would like to plant a seed…of empathy…

Not owning your personal power is the place where a frustrated employee and a boss can be alike. Have you seen bosses who don’t take decisions, allow others to derail the agenda, refuse to make the tough call or hold people accountable, and avoid solving team conflicts? These are bosses who sidestep their authority. They are high on authority but low on personal power, effectively having a negative impact on team morale.

If you are used to obsessing about positional power, how is it to see that a boss doesn’t necessarily *feel* powerful? Does this change in any way how you look at today’s workplace? Do you now perhaps feel more powerful yourself?


* * * *

Sonsoles Alonso – I help CxOs and Founders Build Highly Efficient Happy Teams in 6 Months or Less with the Right Hires, using Systemic Tools and Serious Games.

Are you in tech? I recently teamed up with top-rated instructor Mark Farragher for our online course ‘6 Tools To Improve Your Tech and Leadership Communication’.

Check also my 5-week online masterclass:

And my online class on Team Delegation and Leadership:

Would you like to read some other posts? My most successful one so far is The War Against Talent, with over 100000 views.

Giving Your Team Permission To Solve Problems

Putting Creativity at the top of the management agenda. 

The ability to create something novel and useful is essential to the entrepreneurship that jumpstarts new businesses and keeps successful enterprises in business after they have reached global scale.

Why isn’t creativity then, at the top of the management agenda?


Intelligence Quotient (IQ) vs Creative Intelligence Quotient (CIQ)

In its purest form, creativity means connecting the dots in unique ways to solve problems.
When looking at how artists step into challenges, the artist sits back, observes as unbiasedly as possible, allows an idea of how things could be to take shape, and takes action towards shaping that reality.

Whether building a new social media interface, learning to collaborate effectively, or landing on Mars, being creative means, in a nutshell, being a problem solver pur sang, unaware of the existence of any box.

In Steve Jobs’ words:

“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people.”

Does IQ matter, then? IQ shows the ability to gather knowledge and search for solutions within that frame of what is known. Creativity, on the other hand, is the ability to go beyond the IQ frame, capitalizing on seemingly random connections of concepts.

Therefore, if innovation is important to scaling your business, deliberately creating a company culture that is fluid and creative will be key to your success as a leader today.


If you solve problems (you are creative), you alter existing power dynamics

So, if creativity means problem solving, just saying organizations need to become more creative is not really going to work. Problem solving is actually not allowed in many organizations, employees not being given permission to tackle actual problems.

Now that you have heard about the horsemen and power use, we can safely say, solving problems at work can be unsafe. You could end up being blamed when things go wrong. Or even if you do provide a brilliant solution, your boss or someone else around you, could feel disempowered by your contribution. You could expose yourself to risk if you alter the power dynamics in an organization unaware of its use of power.


Leaders! Safety is a prerequisite for creativity

A (development) team is an open system (a group of people in a relationship of interdependence among both themselves and outside variables) that eats information for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and produces innovation (novel and useful solutions). As I mentioned before, if innovation is important to staying in business and scaling your company, creating a company culture that is intentionally fluid and creative is key to your success as a leader today.

If you are seeking innovation and yet not getting the results you desire, could that be saying anything about the working environment you have or haven’t given shape to? Could blame be at blame (yes, I like puns, not blame) for the outcomes you are collecting?

In a blame-based environment, team members often resort to never trying anything new, doing the absolute minimum to get by, and waiting until receiving direct orders from you, so their tracks are covered and they can divert the blame towards you when results end up being disappointing.

For this reason, the first step towards building a creative culture that loves to experiment and solve actual problems, is to create safety. Safety is a prerequisite for creativity. It’s a powerful tool, fit for real business environments, that you can leverage to drive innovation, excellence, employee engagement and ownership.


Manager, in helping the team (and your customers), you help yourself

Contrary to widespread belief among most management cultures, a safe work culture is not something that is owed to you. It is something you as a leader are responsible for both shaping and upholding. It is your responsibility to ensure that your team is safe from your actions (that team members do not feel used as your preferred go-to emotional management tool), and that your customers enjoy safety when using the products you make. This mindset is not about others making you feel safe, but about you making it your mission to make others feel safe. In turn, you become protected too when this healthy mindset spreads across the entire organization.

I hear you say, hm…safety? Does that mean immunity, absolution when things go wrong?


The thing you have to keep in mind is, it is how you handle failures and mistakes that makes all the difference. Every time something doesn’t go according to plan, you and your organization have an opportunity to exercise your learning muscle. Whether you are facing smart, accidental or negligent failures, start by ditching the blame, and focusing on the learning and different possible responses.

See here a short guide on different types of failures and how you can handle them:

  • Smart failures: you want to expand the limits of what you know, and you plan actions and experiments carefully, keeping in the loop those who might be impacted by your actions. These are the mistakes that could propel you into leaving a memorable mark in the market, turning you into something better than you were before. You celebrate the team members that are able to experiment, fail, learn and handle recovery swiftly, and see them as an asset to your organization.
  • Accidental failures: they are part of doing business. Review what happened, derive action points to prevent these failures from happening again, and move on.
  • Failures caused by negligence or even malevolence: create a safe space and have a talk with the person in question. This could reveal unaddressed issues playing in the background. There should be consequences, but not from a perspective of blame. You focus your efforts on shaping a healthy and workable workplace.


Blameless Innovative Cultures

In blameless cultures, the focus is first and foremost on fixing issues, then making sure they don’t happen again. Team members readily admit to their failures and mistakes, and they feel safe to be transparent about both their strengths and their weaknesses.

Because no one is trying to save himself, learnings are shared across the company, and team members feel safe to share their weaknesses, employees raise their value to the organization as they go along.


A recipe for a creative environment

First, you sort out the safety issue.

Then add the following ingredients:

1. Darkness Principle (Watch my video)

The Darkness Principle says two things: 1. a single team member only has an incomplete model of a whole project, and 2. the best representation of a team is the team itself, with all of its parts, its members.

Besides, a team is an open system being impacted by a never ending list of external variables. For this reason, each team member will make you aware of a piece of the total complexity of a project that could otherwise go unnoticed.

The Darkness Principle is why you as a leader, want to be proactively interested in these 3 things:

  • Diversity – Think gender, race, ethnicity, personalities, styles, and different ways of perceiving and processing information.
  • Tapping ideas from all ranks – For the same reason. In a hyperconnected world in which employees have access to information from both within and outside of the organization, each team member will make you aware of a piece of the total complexity of the project that could otherwise go unnoticed.
  • Encouraging and enabling collaboration – Reality today is that most innovations draw on many contributions. Consider for instance the successful networked organizations of The Netherlands. They are not centralized and top-down. Team mates don’t do what they do because someone told them to do it. Contributing to an interdependent network is its own reward. And because each team member is exposed to different social networks, each one of them will bring an awareness of the total complexity of the project that is uniquely valuable towards the success of the collaboration.

2. Edge

Do you work out? In order for a workout to be effective, it has to hurt a little, it needs to take you away from your comfort zone. Do you want to master change, innovation and creativity? Become comfortable with the fact that discomfort is part of your success.

Providing your team with an effective workout doesn’t mean burdening them with insane amounts of work or unattainable deadlines. It means you want to provide your team with real challenges that are a little scary. As a leader you help your team find their edge by holding them accountable to big expectations while granting them a generous amount of autonomy to make their own decisions. The Darkness Principle will hep you create an atmosphere of resourcefulness that strongly supports creativity.

3. Reward risk-taking

Whether you are building your own company or someone else’s, you are taking a big risk. How about teaming up with mates who will take similar risks to help you further your vision?

Study the companies that inspire you. How many of them have achieved success by following tradition and sticking to the rules?

4. Encourage disagreement

Is the arguing in your workplace geared towards identifying the winner of a contest, or are you contesting to get to the essence of all the ideas present in the room?

Disagreement between team members is the foundation of debate and debate is exactly what you need to make sure your company is constantly putting its best foot forward.

5. Visually attractive environment

If you have worked on your safety and added the other ingredients in my recipe, splash with colour and personal expression! A drab-looking environment will not support your efforts!

How about costs? Experiments could be costly, I hear you think. Check my article ‘The Leader as a Service Designer: How to Deal with Uncertainty’.


* * * *

Sonsoles Alonso – I help CxOs and Founders Build Highly Efficient Happy Teams in 6 Months or Less with the Right Hires, using Systemic Tools and Serious Games.

Are you in tech? I recently teamed up with top-rated instructor Mark Farragher for our online course ‘6 Tools To Improve Your Tech and Leadership Communication’.

Check also my 5-week online masterclass:

And my online class on Team Delegation and Leadership:

Would you like to read some other posts? My most successful one so far is The War Against Talent, with over 100000 views.